Texas prepares for Jenna Bush wedding

May 8, 2008 6:48:35 PM PDT
President Bush stuck out his right elbow Thursday, jokingly demonstrating how he'll escort his daughter down the aisle at her wedding this weekend. He made the gesture at Andrews Air Force Base before boarding Air Force One for the flight to Texas, where Jenna Bush will be married Saturday before about 200 guests at the family's 1,600 acre, secluded ranch. Asked if he was excited, the president smiled and gave a thumbs-up.

"He's looking forward to it," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters aboard the plane as it flew from rainy Washington to sunny Texas. "He's excited like any proud father is to see one of his daughters get married."

"I think he's also going to make sure he gets a good night's sleep tonight so he can stay up late the rest of the weekend and enjoy all the activities."

First lady Laura Bush is already at the ranch getting ready for the outdoor wedding on the 1,600-acre spread in central Texas. Jenna Bush, 26, is tying the knot with longtime boyfriend Henry Hager, who turns 30 on Friday.

The bride-to-be and Hager of Richmond, Va., opted for a more low-key affair, thinking a White House wedding would be too formal and stuffy.

The White House says it will be a closed affair. No details are expected to be released, although White House officials say the family might agree to release a photo or two of the wedding on Sunday.

"This is really a private event for the family," Johndroe said. "I think the activities of the weekend are going to be really a private celebration for Jenna and Henry's family and friends."

Marvin Bush, one of the president's brothers, and his family flew down with Bush on Air Force One. The group, along with White House advisers, hopped on the Marine One presidential helicopter with Bush, who hurried them up with a wave and a smile.

On Thursday evening, the president and Mrs. Bush drove about five miles from their ranch to dine at another ranch owned by Donald Ensenat and Joseph Canizaro, both from New Orleans. Ensenat, one of Bush's fraternity brothers at Yale University and a former ambassador to Brunei, stepped down after six years as U.S. chief of protocol, saying the job was taking a toll on his family and wife, who divided time between Washington and New Orleans. He went into business with Canizaro, a real estate developer, venture capitalist and Republican contributor.

On Friday night, the couple is hosting a rehearsal dinner; and on Saturday, a barbecue lunch is being planned.

Bush has joked that he has had little to do with the wedding planning - that he's mostly just expected to open his wallet. Vice President Dick Cheney noted that on Thursday when he visited one of the government's financial centers in Philadelphia where the economic stimulus checks are being processed.

"He's on his way to Texas for his daughter's wedding this weekend," Cheney said about Bush. "So you can bet he'll be writing a few checks, too."

Tricia Nixon, one of President Richard Nixon's daughters, was the last child of a president to get married at the White House. She married Edward Cox on June 12, 1971. Since then, other children of presidents have gotten married, but their weddings were not held at the White House.