The White House: Three-Ring Wedding

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For her parents, at least, the marriage of Maria Hester Monroe was a huge success. That first wedding of a U.S. President's daughter in 1820 was confined so closely to the family that the ceremony was attended by only 42 guests and reported by the Washington press in 34 words. Subsequent White House brides from Elizabeth Tyler in 1842 to "Princess" Alice Roosevelt-who envisaged a "comparatively quiet family affair" and wound up with 1,000 guests in 1906—have sought with diminishing success to elude the tidal wave of publicity that inevitably engulfs a First Family wedding.

Luci Baines Johnson proved no exception. "I only want," she said last month, "as personal a wedding as possible in the circumstances in which I find myself." In reality, Luci's wedding to Patrick Nugent this week will be a semimonarchical event, a marital marathon to which, as Comedienne Edie Adams quips, "nobody is invited except the immediate country." It could hardly be otherwise in an age of ubiquitous journalistic surveillance and omnivorous curiosity about the day-to-day doings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And Lyndon Johnson has gone farther than most Presidents to share his progeny, pets, predilections and possessions with the nation at large.

For her part, if only by resolving to have the ceremony performed in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception—largest Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.—the President's younger daughter opted automatically for pomp above privacy. No one has ever been married before in the great hilltop edifice in northeast Washington, with its mosaic domes, 30 satellite chapels and ornate, still-incomplete interior that has had to be cleared of scaffolding for the occasion. Actually, it is normal Catholic practice for a girl to be married in her own parish church; Luci's happens to be St. Matthew's Cathedral, which is only six blocks from the White House and would thus have limited the wedding party's public exposure. (One rationale for not using St. Matthew's, of course, is that it would have evoked memories of John Kennedy's funeral.) Six of the daughters of Presidents who have become brides said their vows in the White House itself, while the seventh, F.D.R.'s Anna, was married inconspicuously in New York.

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