Sven Iversen and Kathryn Roe are in the final countdown to their wedding this weekend, but they still haven’t received an RSVP from their most important guest: President Barack Obama.
The soon-to-be newlyweds don’t know Obama, nor do they have any particular ties to his administration. But she grew up in Bethesda, Md., and the wedding will be at the Hay-Adams Hotel, right across the street from the White House, so the couple figured, why not?
“Logistically, we are about as close as you get to your wedding being in the White House,” said the bridegroom, a 27-year-old California resident. “If it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and he’s got nothing pressing to attend, maybe he’ll swing by. If it should happen, it would certainly be something we’d never forget.”
All over the country, couples are reaching the same conclusion. While there are no known studies ranking wedding guest popularity, the White House says it receives dozens of wedding invitations each week — which means hundreds, if not thousands, since Obama took office.
“It doesn’t even faze us when we see the Obamas on a guest list these days,” said District Weddings blog editor and event planner Devon Pearce. “We don’t even wonder why they’re doing it. It’s just another invitation to send.”
The White House has received a range of invitations, occasionally with a letter from or a picture of the couple tucked inside. Even save the dates have arrived. The White House typically responds with a congratulatory note stamped with an official seal that many brides covet as a scrapbook centerpiece.
But some, especially locals, say they are daring to dream for a little more than a letter. Pearce and other local planners say they’ve been cautious not to squash couples’ hopes.
“There’s a lot of glamour surrounding the Obamas,” Pearce said. “And they do socialize a lot and have this habit of randomly showing up to places where everyday people are.”
Some wedding planning websites encourage inviting celebrity guests — at least for the keepsake note.
Wedding planning website TheKnot.com is among several sites and magazines that provide soon-to-weds with addresses and instructions for the White House and other celebrities — even Mickey Mouse.
TheKnot.com Editor Anja Winikka says weddings are capturing some of the political excitement the presidential race stirred in young adults.
“Politics is sexy again, and this is a sign of the times,” said Winikka. “Obama also has this fairy tale marriage, and if you want to get married in light of that, ... inviting him to your wedding would be a reflection.”
First lady Michelle Obama generated a wedding trend all her own with the gown she wore to the inaugural balls. The Jason Wu one-shoulder white chiffon number could easily double for a wedding dress, sending brides and designers scrambling to create look-alikes for this summer’s wedding season.
But it’s not just the Obamas. Wedding experts say more couples are inviting other top lawmakers, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
It was the height of the presidential election when Pittsburgh bride and undecided voter Leslie Craven decided to invite both candidates to her wedding.
The Obama camp never answered, but John McCain did — big-time.
Craven had no personal ties to McCain. But not long after she sent the invitation, a box containing a decorative pewter bowl appeared on her doorstep, stamped with the Senate seal and engraved with the couple’s names and wedding date — and accompanied by a handwritten note signed by the senator and his wife.
“When I saw the engraving, I got such a laugh out of it. I was so surprised,” said Craven, who used the bowl as a display piece at the wedding. “It was money well-spent in a swing state — everyone at the wedding was talking about it.”
Rep. Bobby Rush, an ordained Christian minister, has received dozens of invitations to attend and officiate wedding ceremonies in his home state of Illinois. Between serving in Congress and preaching every Sunday at Chicago’s Beloved Community Christian Church, it’s more than he can do.
“We even [had] requests for this [past] weekend,” said spokeswoman Sharon Jenkins. “He mostly officiates at weddings of friends and family, but he also gets a large share of celebrity requests.”
Obama isn’t the first president to receive a wedding invite, but his predecessor apparently didn’t receive nearly as many. George W. Bush’s former Director of Presidential Correspondence Darren K. Hipp said the Bush family didn’t receive waves of wedding invitations — but that the president was often invited to attend graduation ceremonies across the country.
Obama has not made the guest list of Holly Jarecki and her fiancé, who instead are eyeing a member of his Cabinet: Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jarecki met her future husband while volunteering for Duckworth’s 2006 congressional run. Though the campaign wasn’t successful, the relationship was.
Duckworth, an early Obama supporter and Iraq war veteran, lost the lower part of both of her legs in 2004 when Iraqi insurgents fired on her helicopter. Jarecki says the couple has already scouted out a ceremony site that will be accessible for Duckworth.
“It would be really neat if she came,” said Jarecki. “We would love to invite Obama, too, but we don’t have the same personal connections to him.”
The political elite have also been known to wedding crash.
In 1998, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto surprised a couple holding their nuptials in the same hotel where they were attending an international summit. The leaders appeared with flowers and a gift for the couple.
And former President Bill Clinton struck an impromptu pose for wedding photographs taking place in the British hotel where he was staying during a European speaking tour in 2001.
At least one Chicago bride is hoping that the allure of a hometown wedding will be enough to get Obama to attend.
Bride Maura Buechner, a 27-year-old former Obama campaign volunteer from Illinois, says she has planned a somewhat modest ceremony in the city’s Loop downtown, followed by a reception near O’Hare International Airport.
She figures it could offer the president an evening escape from the Washington scene.
“Living in Chicago, weddings can be really opulent and insane, and I’m having a middle-of-the-road wedding,” Buechner said. “I’m not worried that everything has to be perfect, because Obama’s lived in Chicago before. I feel like he’ll be down for whatever we do.”