To friends, Bill Clinton jokingly complained about the cost of his daughter’s wedding, sounding rather like a sitcom dad all year. But the projected expense of the lavish event, estimated at well over $2 million, wasn’t a joke. As the location Chelsea had chosen Astor Courts, a 1904 Beaux-Arts mansion with a 50-acre estate on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck. That rental alone was over $200,000 for the weekend. The catering for over 400 guests was probably more than three times as much.
The July 31 wedding had become a source of friction not only due to the enormous bills but the problem of the guest list, which couldn’t possibly encompass the vast number of people in America and around the world who regarded themselves as close friends of the Clintons.
People who had done major favors for Bill Clinton—loaning him a plane, or donating millions to the library or the foundation—were offended to learn that they had not been invited.
And then there was Donald Trump, who had hosted a somewhat reluctant Bill and Hillary at his third wedding in 2005. The real estate mogul was the sort of person who, though not an actual friend, still aspired to attend Chelsea’s wedding, which he clearly considered a prestigious event. An avid reader of gossip columns, he had probably seen mentions of a guest list that was expected to include the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and Ted Turner (none of whom ultimately turned up). And having given Bill Clinton free access to his northern Westchester golf club, Trump National, where he proudly hung photos of the former president—and had even cleared the links once for the Clintons to play on Bill’s birthday—Trump may well have felt that there was simply no way he was not on the guest list.
So when the wedding invitation didn’t arrive, he called Doug Band with his characteristic self-assurance.
“I’m supposed to be at the wedding, Doug,” said Trump briskly, “but I didn’t receive the invitation, and I need to know where to go.” Band knew Trump wasn’t on the list, of course, and politely urged him to get in touch with Chelsea for directions. After a fruitless call to another Clinton staffer, Trump apparently gave up.
Conducted jointly by a rabbi and a Methodist minister, the celebration of Chelsea’s marriage was described as “a storybook wedding” by People magazine, with media coverage resembling a royal event. The bride wore a beaded Vera Wang gown, while her mother wore a dress designed by her friend Oscar de la Renta.
Following the ceremony, the secretary of state and former president released a statement: “Today, we watched with great pride and overwhelming emotion as Chelsea and Marc wed in a beautiful ceremony at Astor Courts, surrounded by family and their close friends. We could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate the beginning of their life together, and we are so happy to welcome Marc into our family.”
From MAN OF THE WORLD by Joe Conason. Copyright © 2016 by Joe Conason. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
Joe Conason is a veteran political journalist, founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo, and editor-at-large of The Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. His articles have appeared in Harpers, Esquire, The Nation, The New Republic, The American Prospect, Politico, The Guardian, The New York Observer and Salon.com. He is the author of It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush; Big Lies: The Right-wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth; and (with co-author Gene Lyons) The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill Clinton. He lives in New York City.