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Chelsea Clinton's wedding: An instant guide
Bill and Hillary's only child has tied the knot (for real, this time). Here's what's known about the ceremony itself — and the months of feverish media speculation that led up to the event
 
Clinton might tie the knot sometime in July.
Clinton might tie the knot sometime in July.
Getty

After weeks of media obsession, wild guesses, and outright impatience, Chelsea Clinton and her groom Marc Mezvinsky were finally wed this past weekend in upstate New York. While the Clintons and their guests obediently safeguarded the details during the preparations, now all can be told. (Watch an ABC report about Chelsea's wedding.) Here, a brief rundown of the festivities themselves — and a Q&A guide to the months of speculation that preceded the event.

PART I: THE BIG EVENT

Where was the wedding held?

As expected, the event took place on Saturday, July 31 in Rhinebeck, New York, at the opulent Astor Courts estate, a private Beaux-Arts mansion on 50 wooded acres that overlook the Hudson River.

Who designed Chelsea's dress?
American designer Vera Wang, a Clinton family friend who was also a guest at the wedding. (See wedding photos.) The strapless style, tightly draped across the bodice and cinched with a gem-encrusted belt, bloomed into a voluminous, laser-cut organza-and-tulle skirt. Chelsea wore a full veil to walk down the aisle, and carried a bouquet of all-white moth orchids. For the reception, Chelsea changed into a Grecian-style gown with a narrow, black grosgrain belt. Groom Marc Mezvinsky wore a wool-mohair-mix tuxedo custom-designed by Burberry.

What did the bridesmaids wear?
Strapless bias-cut gowns made of lavender silk chiffon with plum-colored grosgrain ribbons at the waist.
 
How about Hillary?
The secretary of state opted for an embroidered Oscar de la Renta gown in a potent shade of raspberry.

Did Bill lose the weight Chelsea instructed him to?
And more. By cutting out junk food and exercising more, the overachieving former president actually lost more than 20 pounds, going five pounds beyond the goal Chelsea had set for him.
 
Who conducted the ceremony?
Duties were split between James Ponet, Yale University’s Jewish chaplain (Mezvinsky is Jewish), and Rev. William Shillady of New York’s Park Avenue Methodist Church (Clinton is Methodist). At one point, after a breeze prematurely flipped a page in Shillady's service book, Chelsea helped him remember his next line of verse.
 
What else do we know about the ceremony?
After the couple exchanged vows and rings, friends and relative read the customary Jewish Seven Blessings. They stood under an arch of twigs, vines, and flowers in a nod to the Jewish chuppah (wedding canopy). One of the couple's friends read a 1943 poem by Leo Marks called "The Life That I Have" that was used as "poem code" during World War II.
 
Were many famous names in attendance?
Fewer than expected. Recognizable faces included acting couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the almost inconceivably wealthy Warren Buffett, and former Democratic national committee chairman Terry McAuliffe. Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Barbra Streisand were all (falsely) rumored to attend.

Was security a big deal?
The road to the exclusive estate was blocked off for the uninvited and a no-fly zone imposed. In addition, guests were barred from bringing any device capable of texting, tweeting, taking pictures, or transmitting conversations of any kind.
 
Where exactly was the reception held?
The event, which included dinner and dancing for the 400 guests, took place inside a premium windowed tent lit by chandeliers. The tent's interior was transformed into garden-like wonderland — its ceiling and walls draped in fabric, its support poles festooned with flowers — with tables covered in gray-blue cloths and arrangements of pink, blue and lavender hydrangeas and roses.

And the menu?
Though the bride is vegetarian, the guests dined on locally raised grass-fed beef (short ribs) or grilled Atlantic char, risotto, salad, and dinner rolls, catered by the St. Regis Hotel in New York. However, all the bread served was gluten-free.
 
Did the cake, reportedly worth $11,000, live up to expectations?
It was certainly not modest. The eleven-tier chocolate cake — gluten-free in deference to the bride's allergies — was created by La Tulipe Desserts in Mt. Kisco, NY.
 
I heard Bill's toast to the bride was memorable — what did he say?
Perhaps his most quoted line addressed the battle of the sexes: Since his daughter had been able to voice her opinions, said the former President (not known for meekness), he has "been outnumbered" in his household. Now, with a son-in-law, "the playing field is even. I have someone else on my side."
 
What song did the couple dance to?
They performed a choreographed tango routine to the Etta James classic "At Last."

What was inside the gift bag?
A bottle of local Clinton Vineyards wine, a box of chocolates, pastries from the local Wild Hive Farm Store, and Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment.

How much did it all cost?
The final tally is not public knowledge, but most estimates hover around the $3 million mark.

Did neighbors to the Astor estate mind the commotion?
That remains to be seen. To preclude hurt feelings, they all received complimentary bottles of wine for their troubles.

Where did the couple go for their two-week honeymoon?
That, at least, is still a secret. For now.

Sources: MSNBC, New York Times, Politics Daily (2), The Guardian, Hollywood Life, CBS News, Washington Post

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PART II: THE MONTHS OF EXPECTATION

In the months and weeks leading up to the wedding, The Week kept a running account of the concrete facts, evolving rumors, and outright speculation about the event. Neither Chelsea Clinton nor her fiancé, Marc Mezvinsky, spoke publicly about their plans to wed, and Chelsea's tabloid-savvy parents offered few clues. Yet, America being America, the internet was abuzz with questions and rumors about Chelsea's upcoming nuptials — and the first glimpse of her "sizable" engagement ring on April 25 (not to mention reports that Bill's dieting) only fueled the speculation. Here are some highlights from the big build-up — as they were then reported:

Where will the nuptials take place?
According the Hudson Valley News, the wedding will take place under a tent at the former estate of John Jacob Astor IV in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The mansion dates back to 1902 and boasts an indoor tennis court and white marble swimming pool, according to a release. The property is now owned by Kathleen Hammer, a contributor to Hillary Clinton's presidential and Senate bids. Although the delivery of wedding gifts there last week and the building of tents there last weekend all but confirmed it as the location, the rumors were verified by the arrival of former president Bill Clinton in Rhinebeck on Friday.

Sounds expensive.
It is. ABC News estimates the total cost for the affair could reach $2 million, and other reports say that it could cost as much as $5 million. The flowers alone could cost $250,000. (Watch a CNN report about the wedding costs)

Hold on. Didn't Chelsea already get married last August?
No. The persistent, decidedly false wedding rumors that flooded the media last summer (and also centered on Martha's Vineyard) drove the Clintons to distraction. As The New York Times reported, "It got to the point where spokesmen for the Clintons even offered to bet any journalist's source $1,000 that there would be no wedding (a wager no one took)."

Who's the lucky groom?
Marc Mezvinsky, 32, is a Goldman Sachs banker (a Private Wealth Management associate, according to a listing in the Spoke directory). He's known Chelsea since their teens. They met in Washington, D.C., and both went on to attend Stanford University. Mezvinsky is the son of two former congressmembers.

What's Bill Clinton think about his future son-in-law?
He seems sanguine: "My daughter is happy. I like and admire my future son-in-law, so I couldn't be happier about it," he told CNN's Candy Crowley in a January interview.

Is Bill helping mastermind the nuptials?
Yes, to a limited degree. Though Clinton told Ryan Seacrest in March that his role was limited to walking Chelsea down the aisle "and [paying] the bills," as of April 19, he was telling NBC that his daughter had opted to tap his world-leader expertise: "Chelsea has been good enough to include me in the decisions...so I love that." Still, Bill is making sure to keep the focus on the bride. "I am going to try not to cry because this isn’t about me, it’s about her. And if I am crying then it becomes partly about me and I don’t even want to be mentioned in the story except that I didn’t stumble walking down the aisle. So I am going to try but I may not be able to do it," he said at June's Fortune/Time/CNN global forum.

How have Chelsea's parents been dealing otherwise?
As of April, Chelsea had put her father on a diet to shed 15 pounds and ensure he "looks good," according to the New York Post. As for Hillary, when CNN's Crowley asked her which is harder — negotiating Middle East peace or planning this wedding — Hillary replied with a smile, "Well, I'd probably call it a draw."

Will the Clintons' political supporters be present?
Only those who are also close personal friends, reports New York. With the invite list limited to 500 names, Chelsea has apparently "instituted a strict no-strangers policy: She must personally know every invitee." Two people who definitely won't attend? Al and Tipper Gore. "The Gores are not attending the wedding," a spokeswoman said in a statement, quoted in the New York Daily News.

What celebrities will be attending?
Reports say
that Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and Ted Turner are among the 500 guests. [Note: None of these names actually attended the affair.] Originally, it was believed that President Obama would attend, but he reveals he wasn't invited. Also attending will be various members of the Clinton "inner circle," including former British Prime Minister John Major, former deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Democratic donor Denise Rich.

Are there photos of the engagement ring online?
Only a few members of Chelsea's inner circle had seen the ring until April 25, when she flashed her "sizable diamond ring" at the opening night of Broadway's "Promises, Promises." The media duly disseminated photos of the bejeweled bride-to-be on crutches.

Crutches? What happened?
Chelsea broke her heel, claiming she has no idea how it happened; a source tells People that she'll recover in time for her wedding.

Who designed Chelsea's dress?
It's a debate. "If family ties have anything to do with it, then all signs point to Oscar de la Renta," says Jessica Flint in Vanity Fair. He's Hillary's favorite, and also a close personal friend of the Clintons. However, reports in June indicated that Chelsea may have selected a Vera Wang dress instead. [Note: Chelsea did, in fact, opt for Vera Wang.]

What did Hillary Clinton wear on her 1975 wedding day?
"A beige muslin-y, linen Jessica McClintock number" that Hillary bought off the rack at Dillard's the day before her wedding, according to VF's Flint.

Will the ceremony be religious?
This is apparently a matter of debate. While Hillary is Methodist, Bill is Southern Baptist. Yet there's Mezvinsky's Jewish faith to consider. "The bride and groom have a range of choices, including conversion or a melding of their two traditions into one ceremony," reports the Associated Press. After all, Chelsea was spotted last year attending Yom Kippur services with Mezvinsky in New York.

Has there been any fallout over the high-profile event?
Yes. A Brooklyn teacher is angry because her wedding coincides with the date and location of Chelsea's wedding, making for traffic woes and security fears in the small town. "I know she's not doing it on purpose," Emm Haddad-Friedman told Yahoo's Shine blog. "But Chelsea Clinton has taken what was supposed to be a special day for me and turned it into hell." Security has already proven a problem as two Norwegian journalists were arrested and charged with trespassing for snapping photos at the estate's gate. As a measure to ward off paparazzi photographers, Federal authorities ordered the closure of airspace over the estate this weekend.

Sources: CNN (2), The New York Times, Huffington Post, People (2), New York Post (2), Vanity Fair, Associated Press (2) (3), New York, Styleite, CBS, New York Daily News, Newser, Wall Street Journal, Radar Online, ABC News (2), Yahoo! Shine, Hudson Valley News, Ecorazzi, AFP, The Hill

Note: This story, originally published on April 27, 2010, was last updated on Aug 2.

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE:
Growing up White House: From Chelsea to Obama's girls
Bill Clinton: Funniest president ever?
Flashback: What the JK Wedding viral video says about America

 

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