A White House wedding has historically been the sort of rare event that can add a modern sheen to the dustiness of the presidency. It can — for an afternoon, at least — turn the press from restive to fawning. And it can give the president a needed feel-good story.
President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, might welcome another one: After Democrats performed better than expected in the midterm elections, on the heels of a lengthy trip to Egypt and Asia and on the day before his 80th birthday, their eldest grandchild, Naomi Biden, will marry her fiancé, Peter Neal, on the South Lawn.
Invitations have been distributed to guests, but the White House is taking a state-secret approach to much of the planning. The couple is “approaching the wedding as a private celebration for their friends and family,” according to a person familiar with their wishes.
Here is what we know:
Naomi Biden is the 28-year-old daughter of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden and Kathleen Buhle, who divorced in 2017. Ms. Biden, as the president often publicly says, was named for his firstborn daughter, who died in a car crash along with Mr. Biden’s first wife, Neilia, in 1972.
In 2019, the bride called a family meeting to urge her grandfather to run for the presidency against Donald J. Trump, who was seeking a second term. At the time, Mr. Biden was hesitant to subject his family to attacks from Mr. Trump. But Ms. Biden — along with her two younger sisters, Finnegan and Maisy, and their cousins — urged him to get into the race.
Mr. Neal, 25, is from Jackson Hole, Wyo., and is the son of Drs. Mary C. Neal and William C. Neal of Jackson Hole. He has three siblings, Eliot, Betsy and Willie, who was killed in a roller-skiing accident in 2009.
The couple share a love of politics. Ms. Biden was born into it, and Mr. Neal started his career in Democratic politics in 2015, while he interned at the White House during the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden was vice president. Later, he worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, calling the experience a “wild, wild” journey.
“Nothing comes easy, and no one understands that better than Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Neal wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post after Mrs. Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. “She has set the bar for what it means to be a public servant, and it’s time for all of us to take notes, buckle down, and follow suit.”
Ms. Biden and Mr. Neal, who did not respond to a request for comment, were set up on a date by a mutual friend in New York City in 2018, according to the White House. Mr. Neal proposed on Sept. 4, 2021. Ms. Biden is an associate at the white-shoe law firm Arnold & Porter. Mr. Neal graduated from law school at the University of Pennsylvania this year. He is an associate at Georgetown Law’s Center on National Security. They live in Washington — Ms. Biden and Mr. Neal live at the White House, according to two people familiar with their living situation.
Bryan Rafanelli, the wedding planner responsible for high-profile, political-world events including Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010, was hired to carry out the proceedings. He has been known to require confidentiality agreements with his vendors, which is something the White House also requires.
“This is how I run my business, protecting the privacy of my clients,” Mr. Rafanelli said in an interview shortly after Ms. Clinton’s wedding. Ms. Clinton, who wrote the foreword for Mr. Rafanelli’s 2019 book on party planning, emphasized that he had paid “special attention” to her family’s wishes throughout the planning of her wedding.
Mr. Rafanelli and his team initially agreed to an interview for this article to discuss his work but then canceled, citing personal reasons.
Aside from Mr. Rafanelli, the Biden family has entrusted several longtime aides — including Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director, and Anthony Bernal, her closest adviser — with keeping a close hold on the planning and shielding the president’s granddaughter from the news media.
Ms. Biden has a public presence on Twitter and Facebook, and has shared a few details about her preparations. In June, she posted an Instagram photo from the White House residence, documenting a wedding-planning session. The photo was later deleted.
The tension between public interest and the first family’s desire for a private White House wedding has existed about as long as the tradition itself.
When Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, married at the White House in 1906, The New York Times gently made a case for the public’s curiosity: “It would be a sorry specimen of humanity, be it man or woman, who did not find keen interest in the approaching marriage of a young woman in his or her own immediate circle. In this instance the young woman about to wed happens to belong to a family and a circle necessarily known to the whole nation,” the paper wrote, before wishing the couple well.
Mr. Neal proposed with an emerald-cut diamond in a setting that included the band of his grandmother’s engagement ring, according to the White House.
As the eldest grandchild, Ms. Biden is also in line to receive her grandmother Neilia’s engagement ring, according to a 2019 memoir written by the first lady, Dr. Biden, but it is unclear if the heirloom will be incorporated into the wedding jewelry.
According to people who know the couple, there is a short list of possibilities for wedding-wear designers. Dr. Biden is close with the Lebanon-born designer Reem Acra, who could be an option, people familiar with the planning said.
Ms. Biden is interested in fashion — she once interned in the public relations department for the designer Tom Ford — and she favors several designers, including Christian Siriano, Veronica Beard and Valentino, which she wore to Mr. Biden’s inauguration. Only one designer has been publicly and repeatedly associated with Ms. Biden since the beginning of her grandfather’s presidency: Ralph Lauren. Ms. Biden has made reference to the American designer on her Instagram page, and attended the Ralph Lauren Fall/Winter 2022 fashion show with her sister Finnegan Biden in March.
The president wore Ralph Lauren to his inauguration. The brand offered no comment when asked about its involvement in the wedding.
It is unclear how much the public will see of the wedding or the reception. The administration has not said whether journalists in the presidential pool will be allowed to cover the wedding.
Numerous outlets, including Vogue, have requested photos of the wedding events, but no decisions have been made, according to a person familiar with the planning. In the past, the photographer Annie Leibovitz has visited the White House and the family’s homes in Delaware to photograph the Bidens and their granddaughters.
The White House says that the Biden family will handle all costs related to the event.
“Consistent with other private events hosted by the first family and following the traditions of previous White House wedding festivities in prior administrations, the Biden family will be paying for the wedding activities that occur at the White House,” Ms. Alexander wrote in an email.
White House weddings — and receptions — held among presidential family members have been relatively rare. Altogether, nine children of American presidents and one president, Grover Cleveland in 1886, have wed at the White House.
The last reception was held in June 2008 to celebrate the wedding of Jenna Bush to Henry Hager after the two married a month earlier on President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Both events were private.
In 1994, Tony Rodham, the younger brother of the first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, married Nicole Boxer, the daughter of Barbara Boxer, the former U.S. senator from California. That event was also closed to reporters.
The last wedding ceremony of a presidential daughter was in June 1971, when Tricia Nixon, the daughter of President Richard M. Nixon and Pat Nixon, married Edward Finch Cox in the Rose Garden.
The first wedding ceremony on record was in March 1812, when Lucy Payne Washington, the sister of Dolley Madison, the first lady, married Thomas Todd, a Supreme Court justice.