By Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 2, 2010; 1:09 PM
Few guests will ever forget the sight at a certain wedding in Rhinebeck, N.Y., on Saturday night: A former president and the current secretary of state beaming as they balanced precariously in chairs hoisted above the dancing crowd.
Other permanent memories: The bride, Chelsea Clinton, helping the minister remember the next line of verse when the breeze flipped his page over too soon. And then later, trading her silk strapless Vera Wang wedding gown for a slinkier little white number as she took the floor with her bridegroom, Marc Mezvinsky, for a cutely choreographed dance to "At Last."
The wedding party was formidable -- a dozen bridesmaids and nearly as many groomsmen -- and so too was security: Guests needed specially issued ID bracelets to board a bus to the ceremony. A few sharply dressed crashers who tried to blend in with the crowd were quickly rebuffed. The party raged until 4:30 a.m.
Marc and Chelsea, at the altar under their floral chuppah. (Genevieve de Manio via AP)
But otherwise, the wedding of Bill and Hillary Clinton's only child was noteworthy for being, you know, just a really nice wedding. Large? Definitely (about 400 guests). Lavish? Sure (though a longtime family friend scoffed at seven-figure estimates floating through the media). But not over-the-top, and not crammed with celebs.
"It felt like a family wedding," one guest said. "It didn't feel like a big extravaganza."
Efforts to keep wedding plans under wraps may have failed, with leaks drawing hordes of journalists to the small Hudson River community this weekend -- but even after the fact, the families kept a tight lid on most of the details.
On Saturday night, the Clintons released a statement expressing their happiness, along with five radiant photos of the bride in her white silk organza and tulle gown with a crystal-encrusted belt -- three with her groom, one of the couple with her parents and one of her dad walking her down the aisle. But that was about it. Want to see more of Hillary's plum-colored Oscar de la Renta dress? Sorry, absolutely no more pics. And none on Facebook: Guests had to hand over cellphones and cameras.
So we had to piece it together for ourselves from there.
Guests line up at the Delamater Inn to be checked on a list before boarding a shuttle for the wedding. (David Goldman/Getty Images)
The outdoor ceremony at Astor Courts was dignified but lighthearted, a guest told us. Neither of the two celebrants -- the Rev. William Shillady and Rabbi James Ponet -- gave a formal sermon. Marc, 32 (a hedge-fund trader), and Chelsea, 30 (who is now pursuing a PhD at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service), laughed throughout, once when Chelsea seemingly dropped her groom's ring. He broke a glass underfoot, in keeping with Jewish tradition, and they stood beneath an immense chuppah made of woven willow branches, white roses and hydrangeas.
The reception was held on the same property -- not inside the Beaux-Arts mansion, but in a solid tentlike structure erected for the occasion. An 18-piece ensemble from New York (the orchestra of Jim Valli, a Clinton rep confirmed) performed big-band music. Bill Clinton, with an adoring look on his face, danced with his daughter to "The Way You Look Tonight." Later the Clinton parents danced together, with no fanfare and little attention, looking as ecstatic as they did at the 1993 inauguration. And yes, they also did the hora, which put Bill and Hillary up in the chairs; up too went the groom's parents, ex-House members Ed Mezvinsky and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.
The dinner: Catered by the St. Regis Hotel in New York, it was "okay," a guest said -- short ribs, Atlantic char, a vegetarian option, and gluten-free rolls. The gluten-intolerant bride also selected a gluten-free cake from La Tulipe.
The flowers: roses and hydrangeas, all purpley-pinky-blue. It was a hue that corresponded with the attendants' gowns, which we're told were actually wedding gowns dyed a plummy color, after they couldn't find a traditional bridesmaid-style gown they liked.
Hillary and Bill arrive at an afterparty following the rehearsal dinner in Rhinebeck Friday night. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
The guests: C'mon, did you really think Oprah was going to be there? That's the stupidest rumor we've ever heard. She didn't even endorse Hillary for president, remember? And this was an insider's-insiders crowd. Terry McAuliffe. Madeleine Albright. Vernon Jordan. Lots from "Hillaryland": Melanne Verveer, Maggie Williams, Capricia Marshall, Kelly Craighead. One of Chelsea's ex-boyfriends from Stanford, Jeremy Kane, attended; however, her former beau Ian Klaus -- so popular with her parents that they toasted him at his book party long after their breakup -- was not in evidence. Only a few big donors -- Alan Patricof and Steve Bing, but not Ron Burkle or Denise Rich. Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining magnate who has become one of the biggest backers of the former prez's philanthropy, made the list. But no James Carville, no Paul Begala. And for all the Clintons' Hollywood connections, very few showbiz types: Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen were the biggest names. Barbra Streisand was not there; neither was Steven Spielberg.
After the band wrapped up, guests moved to an after-party on the tennis courts, where a DJ played '80s tunes and current Top-40 fare -- you know, typical wedding stuff. Bill was on the dance floor; so was Hillary aide Huma Abedin with her new husband, Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Bill gave one of the toasts, of course, saying that ever since his daughter had been old enough to formulate a thought, he had "been outnumbered" in his household, two to one. Now, with a son-in-law, he said, "the playing field is even. I have someone else on my side." The kind of welcome that any old dad might give, at any old wedding.
This story was updated Monday morning to reflect other guests at the wedding.
See an extensive gallery of Chelsea Clinton wedding photos.
Read more stories about Chelsea Clinton's wedding.