The first White House wedding held outdoors was that of Patricia "Tricia" Nixon, 25, to Edward Cox, a 24-year-old Harvard law student, on June 12, 1971.
Many expected Tricia, a private person, to wed in a similar, quiet fashion. Instead, she wed in the White House to public fanfare, and her wedding was televised (you can still watch it on YouTube.)
Tricia's mother, First Lady Pat Nixon, was the one to suggest an outdoor ceremony. White House servants and staffers immediately warned the First Family that it might not be the best idea to hold the wedding outside, because summer weather in Washington DC is unpredictible and often rainy. However, the idea of a wedding in the beautiful Rose Garden was desired, so two weddings were planned: one in the Rose Garden and one in the East Room as a backup.
Four hundred invitations were sent out (including to former White House Bride, Alice Roosevelt Longworth) and preparations were made. The wedding dress, a pearl and lace-trimmed silk organdy confection with a low neckline that supposedly shocked Pat Nixon, was designed in Boston by Priscilla Kidder, the designer of Julie Nixon's gown. According to Life Magazine, the gown had its own first class airplane seat to make sure it arrived in Washington unscathed.
Rain fell on the wedding day, and apparently Tricia was given the choice to send guests to the East Room or two wait for a break in the weather. The president asked weather reports from the Air Force and learned the rain should let up around half past four in the afternoon, so Tricia decided to go with her original plan. Right on time, the rain stopped, the staff removed all the plastic coverings from the chairs in the garden, and President Nixon walked his daughter down the aisle.
|from Wikipedia Commons|
The rest of the reception was held in the East Room. The White House pastry chef, Heinz Bender, produced a six-tiered, seven foot tall cake to feed the guests as well as the 600 journalists covering the event. The bottom layer was decorated in sugar turtle doves and the couple's initials, P and E. The flavor: lemon. (The recipe is available here!)
By all accounts, the wedding was a beautiful, elegant affair. Many watched the ceremony on television and enjoyed learning all the details.
YOUR TURN: Do you love Tricia's dress as much as I do? It's stunning!
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of almost a dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.
Her newest release is The Reluctant Guardian.