Texas Sidestep

Wedding Party Hit The Town Friday For Stealth Bashes

President Bush's daughter Jenna, 26, marries her longtime beau, Henry Hager, 30, on Saturday, May 10, at the president's ranch near Crawford, Tex.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, May 12, 2008; Page C01

Last fall, a woman named Lindsey Lineweaver contacted John Grainger Esch to reserve his Silver Spur Theater, in Salado, Tex., for her wedding dinner on May 9. It was a typical booking for the space, which Esch helped convert from an 1800s granary and feed store. Not until about three hours before guests arrived did he detect anything unusual.

That's when Esch says he heard a police officer outside utter the name "Jenna." Pretty soon the bomb-sniffing dogs arrived.

While White House-watchers were busy remarking on the highly secretive Saturday night wedding on the closed confines of President Bush's Crawford, Tex., ranch, the real cloak-and-dagger came on Friday. That's when the Hager and Bush families stealthily mounted a large-scale rehearsal dinner and major after-party -- virtually out in the open -- in an unsuspecting village more than an hour's drive south.

But first, some quick answers to the biggest questions of the weekend:

· Yes, Jenna Bush is now Jenna Hager, taking the name of her new husband, Henry.

· Yes, the president cried at the ceremony.

· Yes, Karl Rove danced. A bit.

Back to Salado, a town of about 3,400 residents on the distant outskirts of Temple and Killeen. Dave Hermann, the owner of the Range Restaurant, suspected that something was up with the rehearsal dinner for 100 he was catering Friday night at an event space called the Old Salado Springs Celebration Center. The mother of the groom seemed to be using aliases -- her deposit checks kept arriving in different names.

On Thursday night, he was informed that the hosts were actually John and Margaret Hager of Richmond, the former lieutenant governor and his wife, and the in-laws-to-be of Jenna Bush. (The Lindsey Lineweaver who made reservations at the Silver Spur for the after-party is Laura Bush's personal aide.)

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