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The invitations came on thick, cream-colored stock embossed with a familiar seal and scripted in navy blue calligraphy. “The President and Dr. Biden request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their granddaughter …”
On Saturday, Naomi Biden will marry Peter Neal on the South Lawn of the White House. That much we know. With the White House treating the wedding of President Biden’s granddaughter like a top-secret mission, declining to provide answers to even the most general questions posed by The Washington Post, that seems to be about all it would like the public to know. (In a statement, the family did say that the wedding will be privately funded — “consistent with other private events hosted by the first family and following the traditions of previous White House wedding festivities in prior administrations” — so no, taxpayers are not on the hook for the cake and flowers.)
Most friends of the couple, sensitive to their life in the public eye, declined to respond to The Post’s inquiries about the wedding as well, or even the basic story of their courtship. That leaves reporters and the curious public to piece together details from the tidbits posted on social media by the couple and their friends. Here’s what we know about the couple and their big day.
A History of White House weddings
Who is the happy couple and how did they meet?
Naomi, 28, and Peter, 25, were set up by a mutual friend and met on a date in New York City in 2018, while Naomi was in law school at Columbia University. “These two fell in love after two days,” wrote friend Asha-Kai Grant in a caption for a photo of the couple she posted on Instagram last year.
Now, they live together on the third floor of the White House. Naomi is a lawyer focusing on international arbitration at the D.C. office of law firm Arnold & Porter, and Peter became an associate at Georgetown Law Center on National Security following his graduation this May from law school at the University of Pennsylvania. She went to Penn for undergrad and he attended George Washington University.
Their lives in D.C. aren’t too different from those of many other young professionals, save for the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home address. They traveled — Austria, Italy, Wyoming, Delaware — and made the party rounds on White House correspondents’ dinner weekend. They share a fluffy, brown dog named Charlie and have bonded with first lady Jill Biden’s cat, Willow. Naomi calls the president “Pop” and the first lady “Nana.”
Naomi is the eldest daughter of the president’s younger son, Hunter, and his ex-wife Kathleen Buhle. Her parents met while working for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Portland, Ore. Naomi was named after the president’s firstborn daughter, who died as a 1-year-old in a car crash, along with his first wife, Neilia, in 1972. Both Hunter and his older brother Beau were in the car and were hospitalized for months.
All three of Hunter’s daughters, Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy, went to Sidwell Friends, an elite private school in Washington, while their father ran his own lobbying firm and later became a consultant during the years that Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama. Hunter and Kathleen divorced in 2017, during a tumultuous period in Hunter’s life in which he was a heavy drug user, as he recounted in his recent memoir, “Beautiful Things.”
The bride has been active in her grandfather’s career. She called a family meeting in 2019, where she, her two younger sisters and their cousins urged him to run for president against Donald Trump.
She’s also friends with Tiffany Trump, whose own wedding was last week. They were in the same class at the University of Pennsylvania, and her grandparents attended the same graduation ceremony in 2016 as Trump. Tiffany posted a selfie of herself and Naomi in the Hamptons in 2018, decorated with two entwined hearts.
Wait, tell me more about the groom!
Peter was raised in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and is the son of two doctors: William Neal and Mary C. Neal. He has a sister, Betsy, and two brothers, Eliot and Willie. Like the Bidens, the Neals have experienced tragedy within their family. Willie died in 2009 when he was struck by a car in Maine while roller-skating. His mother has also had a brush with death — while on a kayaking expedition in Chile in 1999, she was pinned underwater by a waterfall for nearly 30 minutes. Her near-death experience (she says she was technically dead for a number of minutes) is the subject of her two books, “To Heaven and Back” and “7 Lessons from Heaven.”
Peter studied political communications in college. He was later a White House intern while Obama was in office and his fiancee’s grandfather was vice president. Since then, he worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, did a stint at the Atlantic Council and an internship at the Justice Department before landing at his current position at Georgetown.
There will be a South Lawn ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, and then a 7:30 p.m. reception with “cake and dancing,” according to the invitations. Some guests were only invited to the dessert portion of the evening. According to one guest, cellphones will be prohibited at the event — so don’t expect anyone to Instagram from the dance floor.
On Thursday morning, Peter posted a photo of the couple at the D.C. Marriage Bureau, posing below an arch of white tulle. His caption indicated they were there to pick up their marriage license, proving that even White House weddings are not exempt from bureaucracy.
Who’s planning the wedding?
Bryan Rafanelli, who is considered one of the nation’s top wedding planners, and who has staged numerous events for the White House, is doing the nuptials for the Bidens, according to Politico. Expect a blowout: dramatic lighting, lavish floral backdrops and romantic table settings by candlelight make up his magical signature look. Fireworks are a possibility. Rafanelli is no stranger to the White House grounds or protocol, having staged more than a dozen events for the Obamas there, including state dinners and holiday decorations. His Boston firm Rafanelli Events planned Chelsea Clinton’s posh wedding for 450 guests in Rhinebeck, N.Y. and she wrote the introduction to his book “A Great Party: Designing the Perfect Celebration.” Rafanelli, who requires confidentiality agreements from his vendors, would not comment for this story.
What do we know about the dress?
Well, we don’t know who designed it, but several designers seem to be in the running. Ralph Lauren is a classic American brand that the president wore to his inauguration. The bride has often worn the designer and attended the brand’s fall/winter 2022 fashion show in New York City with her sister Finnegan in March. Ralph Lauren declined to say if it was involved — which could very well mean the company was involved and delighted by the speculation.
The bride was once an intern for Tom Ford in the public relations department, and wore Valentino to her grandfather’s inauguration. Valentino is known for its bridal collections. She’s also fond of Christian Siriano and Veronica Beard. The first lady is close with Reem Acra, another well-known gown designer.
Gabriella Rello Duffy, editorial director of Brides, says people care about all the details of the Biden wedding. “I definitely anticipate that this will set some trends and whatever Naomi does will have an influence on weddings for the next few years,” Duffy added. Jill Biden’s dress will be copied by mothers of the bride and grandmothers of the bride, she says.
“We think it’s going to be another wedding milestone in history. Like Chelsea Clinton’s wedding or looking back to Grace Kelly and Tricia Nixon,” Duffy says. “This is going to be really, really special.”
Peter proposed to Naomi with an emerald-cut diamond ring created by Shah & Shah Distinctive Jewelers in D.C. Jeweler Colin Shah says the gem is approximately two carats.
When Peter was preparing to propose, “He brought both her sisters down from college, they came and looked at everything,” Shah told The Post. “He was really sweet throughout. He wanted to make sure he was getting a beautiful, high-quality stone. He wanted to make sure it was something she liked. He was excited.”
Peter also brought his grandmother’s gold wedding band, which was melted down and incorporated into Naomi’s band, Shah says. “He wanted part of his family to be carried over into their family.”
Peter proposed in Wyoming in September 2021, and both families were there to celebrate.
Look for close friends of the Bidens and, of course, the entire family. Jill Biden’s special adviser, Anthony Bernal, was key to the planning, alongside the first lady’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander.
Naomi’s friend Grant — a probable bridesmaid, if their social media closeness is any indication — is a producer for “Saturday Night Live.” Grant and Naomi attended the Sidwell Friends school together, and she has traveled to Jackson Hole with the couple, according to tagged photos on Instagram. On Wednesday, Grant posted an Instagram story of her and fellow Biden friend Mia Seder at a nail salon, and tagged Naomi with the phrase, “Let the festivities begin.”