You have to hand it to Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson: They pulled off the low-key wedding they wanted.
The former D.C. schools chancellor, 41, and the Sacramento mayor, 45, tied the knot in front of about 40 friends Saturday at a Tennessee mountain resort — almost a year after they canceled a more lavish ceremony that drew too much media attention for their liking.
This time, the much-watched power couple kept it under the radar: Even the mayor’s top aides were unaware until he showed up at City Hall on Tuesday wearing a wedding ring, according to the Sacramento Bee, which broke the news of the nuptials.
“The key to it was we did it very quickly,” Rhee told us Wednesday, on the phone from the California capital where she runs her advocacy group, Students First.
Why no announcement? “We were trying to see how long it would take to get around.”
Which is how they’ve always conducted the relationship, first forged through their shared ed-policy wonkery. Rhee and Johnson never officially confirmed they were dating until she showed up at a D.C. meeting two years ago flashing an engagement ring.
For their destination wedding, Rhee and Johnson picked Blackberry Farm, a hotel in Walland, Tenn., where they’d previously stayed — a location convenient for her two daughters, who live in Nashville with their father, Kevin Huffman. (Rhee’s ex-husband — winner of The Washington Post’s “America’s Next Great Pundit” contest in ’09 — was named commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education in the spring. Rhee lives there part time.) Starr, 12, was Rhee’s maid of honor, and Olivia, 9, was the flower girl. Johnson’s best man was his brother Ronnie West. The ceremony was performed by Pastor Alexis Thomas, the mayor’s minister during his days playing for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Washington guests included Rhee’s successor, Kaya Henderson. The bride wore a Monique Lhuillier gown.
Why wait so long to reschedule their vows? Rhee said the reelection loss of her ally Mayor Adrian Fenty — which precipitated her own departure — threw things into limbo, as she plotted her next step; then, she was busy getting Students First off the ground. Now “just seemed like the right time.”
Honeymoon plans? It’s up to the groom. “He’s surprising me,” she said. “I don’t know when we’re going or where we’re going, but he’s planning the whole thing.”