Inauguration Day

Viewers' Guide to Inauguration Day: Schedule, Performers, How to Watch

This ceremony will be largely scaled-back because of the coronavirus pandemic still raging across the country and security threats following the siege of the U.S. Capitol

On Jan. 20, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States.


The theme for Biden’s inauguration will be “America United,” an issue that’s long been a central focus for the former vice president but one that’s taken on added weight in the wake of the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Here's all of the information you need to know ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration Ceremonies:

When Is Inauguration Day?

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Where Is the Inauguration Held and What Time Is the Ceremony?

Biden will "solemnly swear" to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The formal inauguration ceremony is expected to begin around 11 a.m. ET. Biden officially becomes president at noon on Inauguration Day, according to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Who Is Swearing in Biden?

John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, will administer the oath of office just after the clock strikes 12.

Biden will rest his hand on a giant 127-year-old Bible when he is sworn in. The Bible, which is adorned with a Celtic cross on its cover, has been in Biden's family since 1893. The family heirloom has been used every time he has been sworn into office since he became a senator in 1973.

Watch presidents of the United States take the oath of office on their Inauguration Days through the years.

How Do I Get Tickets for the Inauguration?

Traditionally, Senators and members of Congress are the gatekeepers of tickets, with each lawmakers allotted a number of passes they can distribute to constituents, donors or special guests.

This year, however, the ceremony will be largely scaled-back because of the coronavirus pandemic still raging across the country and security threats following the siege of the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers will receive a ticket for themselves and a plus-one and public health protocols, including face-coverings and social distancing, will be in place.

The general public will not be able to get tickets for the event, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) announced in mid-December, and planners are encouraging Americans to refrain from traveling to Washington, D.C.

What Is the Inauguration Day Schedule and How Can I Watch From Home?

Biden will kick off the day by attending a morning church service at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. The top four congressional leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are expected to join him, NBC News reports. The Mass is expected to begin around 9 a.m. ET and will coincide with Trump's sendoff ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.

Biden will then head to the Capitol for the formal inauguration ceremony set to begin around 11 a.m. ET.

The day's events will broadcast on all major television networks, including this NBC station, and live streamed on our website and App. Watch live wall-to-wall coverage beginning at 7 a.m. ET.

NBC News will begin special coverage at 10 a.m. ET, while MSNBC begins special coverage at 6 a.m. ET. The Choice, a free streaming channel on Peacock, will host special coverage beginning at 8 a.m. ET.

For the first time ever, an Inauguration Day program made especially for children will be livestreamed from Washington, D.C. "Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans," hosted by Keke Palmer, will be livestreamed beginning at 10 a.m. ET.

A prime-time special will be broadcast live on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 20. It will also be streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNOW, DirectTV and U-verse.

The question of how many people attend a large event like Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, or a Black Lives Matter march, may appear to be a simple one. But even with a standard method for estimating crowd sizes that dates back to the 1960s, the calculus can be tricky — and political. NBCLX’s Fernando Hurtado explores how technology is making crowd size estimates more exact — and raising thornier questions about privacy.

Who Is Performing at the Inauguration?

Lady Gaga, who endorsed Biden and performed for him on the eve of Election Day, has been tapped to sing the National Anthem at the swearing-in ceremony. Jennifer Lopez will give a musical performance on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.

On Monday, Garth Brooks announced he will also perform at the inauguration.

“This is a great day in our household," the country music superstar said during a virtual press conference two days before Biden is to be sworn in. “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity.”

Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, will give the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

Actor Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special later that evening. Rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen are among the stars set to perform at the virtual celebration. They will be joined by Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Foo Fighters and John Legend, with actresses Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington introducing segments of the event. Actor-playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and starred in Broadway’s “Hamilton,” will appear for a classical recitation and former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also scheduled to appear.

Will President Donald Trump Attend?

President Donald Trump said he will not attend Biden's swearing-in ceremony, refusing to fulfill the outgoing president's traditional role in the peaceful transition of power.

Trump wouldn't be the first former president to skip the inauguration of his successor. Three outgoing presidents — John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson in 1869 — all refused to attend the incoming president's ceremony.

While Trump stays away, former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will be there to stand witness to the rite of democracy. The only other living president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has spent the pandemic largely at home in Georgia, will not attend but has extended “best wishes” to Biden. It marks the first time Carter will have missed the ceremonies since he was sworn in as the 39th president in 1977.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend the ceremony, NBC News reports.

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States is going to look vastly different than the ceremonies of his predecessors, and the most striking difference may be that outgoing President Donald Trump will not attend. George Washington University history professor Edward Berkowitz joined LX News to explain what usually goes down on Inauguration Day and why Trump's refusal to attend is so unusual.

Will There Be a Parade?

Yes, but it will be mostly virtual. Organizers have described the event as a "virtual parade across America” consistent with crowd limits during the coronavirus era.

After the swearing-in, Biden and Harris will complete the traditional Pass in Review inspection of troops from all service branches, a ritual that symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power to a new Commander in Chief. The traditional inaugural luncheon at the Capitol before the Pass in Review has been canceled because of the coronavirus.

Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Harris and second gentlemen Douglas Emhoff will later visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by former presidents and first ladies Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Biden will then receive a traditional presidential escort with representatives from every branch of the military from 15th Street to the White House. That, the Presidential Inaugural Committee says, will be socially distanced too, while "providing the American people and world with historic images of the President-elect proceeding to the White House without attracting large crowds." Parade viewing stands have been dismantled near the White House to discourage crowds.

The parade event will be televised and feature "diverse, dynamic" performances in communities across the country.

Are There Additional Security Measures in Place Following the Capitol Breach?

The inauguration is designated as a “national special security event," which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, like the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police.

Following last week's violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, officials are even more eager to reduce in-person celebrations and maintain high levels of security at the event.

Downtown Washington D.C. has been turned into an armed camp, with nonscalable walls and metal gates erected and streets closed. The National Mall is sealed to the public and the Washington Monument has shut down. 21,000 National Guard troops will be on the job on Jan. 20, alongside D.C. police and multiple federal law enforcement agencies. Authorities are so determined to keep people away that they're considered closing all the bridges from Virginia.

A rehearsal for the inauguration previously schedule for Sunday, Jan 17., was postponed due to an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” among  Trump supporters with extremist views calling for additional armed marches, including one on Jan. 17., officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News. The rehearsal is now planned for Monday.

Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and federal agents are working to secure Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

Biden will no longer be taking an Amtrak train to Washington for his inauguration, a decision that was likely not easy for the president-elect. Biden’s preference for riding the train during his 36-year Senate career was such a central part of his public persona that he rode Amtrak home to Wilmington, Delaware, on his final day as vice president, and he used a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign as part of an effort to appeal to blue-collar workers.

Lodging options for potentially violent protesters have also been limited. Several downtown hotels, including one which had become a favorite hangout of the militant Proud Boy faction, have temporarily closed and Airbnb announced it was canceling and blocking future reservations in the Washington, D.C., metro area to prevent people from going to the capital.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC the airline won't allow travelers flying to airports serving the Washington area to check firearms on flights ahead of Biden's inauguration. United, Alaska, American and Southwest also said they would prohibit checking guns starting Saturday. The ban will run through Inauguration Day until Jan. 23.

Will There Be Any Inaugural Balls?

No, Biden, Harris and their spouses won't be dancing the night away this time around. In lieu of inaugural balls, the committee announced a prime-time virtual celebration televised Wednesday night after Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president.

The show will include segments paying tribute to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsey, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial.

PHOTOS: First Ladies' Inaugural Ball Gowns Through the Years

What Other Events Are Scheduled Around Inauguration Day?

Jan. 18: "United We Serve"

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was marked with a National Day of Service. At 8 p.m., an MLK-themed special was broadcast.

Jan. 19: COVID Memorial

A memorial ceremony paid tribute to those killed by COVID-19.

Cities and towns around the country lit up their buildings and rang church bells at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 in a "national moment of unity and remembrance." A ceremony was also held at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool in Washington.

As the first event of Biden's inauguration, it signified a drastic change in tone from the current Trump administration to the future Biden administration. The President-elect has repeatedly attacked Trump's coronavirus response. Most recently, Biden vowed to improve the vaccination efforts that have so far fallen far short of their goal.

It was the first national vigil for victims of the coronavirus.

At a national memorial for the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris paid their respects to the victims. “To heal, we must remember,” Biden said. “It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal.”

Art Installation

A major public art display titled a "Field of Flags" has been installed on the National Mall. The display, which spans several blocks, features 191,500 U.S. flags and 56 pillars of light meant to symbolize every U.S. state and territory, and “the American people who are unable to travel” to the capital to celebrate.

Almost 200,000 U.S. flags are on display at the National Mall ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

When Will Trump Leave Town?

The swearing-in ceremony traditionally concludes with the ex-president’s departure from the grounds of the Capitol and a flight on one of the planes that serve as Air Force One to anywhere in the country.

Trump is skipping the event and leaving the White House Wednesday morning for his residence in Palm Beach, Florida, two people familiar with his plans confirmed to NBC News. He will be sent off with a departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.

Did you know Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration was so cold that the champagne froze? Or that Richard Nixon accidentally poisoned all the pigeons along his parade route? These are just a few of the weirdest moments in inauguration history. And because ice cream is a favorite treat of President-elect Joe Biden, we’re telling these stories through sundaes.

How Will COVID Affect the Bidens' Move to the White House?

Moving the Bidens into the White House — a stressful process even in normal times — will be more complicated this year.

There will be a top-to-bottom cleaning of the West Wing in the hours after Trump vacates the premises and before Biden’s team moves in. Government contracts and purchase orders reviewed by NBC News show that the cost of the additional cleaning totals nearly a half-million dollars. Public health experts say it’s crucial that extra steps be taken to mitigate the spread of the disease during that changeover.

One former official said the White House ventilation system, hardened against chemical and biological threats, poses less of a concern than in typical buildings, but the Biden team is not taking any risks.

“The two things to think about are cleaning off all surfaces, especially high-touch places like door knobs ... and transmission via aerosols and the possibility of aerosols lingering in the air between the two transitions if someone there is currently sick,” said Dr. Abraar Karan, a global health specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Having full air exchange, filtration and open ventilation will be important between the cleaning and the moving in of the new presidential family.”

Typically, the entire move is completed in about five or six hours, said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.” For security reasons, moving day is carried out by White House household staff -- an undertaking that enlists everyone from building engineers to kitchen staff.

“In the past, there’s literally one moving truck in the South Lawn entrance and one in the north entrance,” she said. “It’s very much an all-hands-on-deck situation.”

Laura Dowling says "The goal is to make the first family feel at home from the first day they walk in after the ceremony." Dowling also shares a previous White House tradition the Bidens might continue during their new administration.
The Associated Press/NBC
Contact Us