Weddings of the U.S. Presidents – Part One

In this two part series to honor President’s Day this month I thought it would be interesting to discuss the weddings of the Presidents of the United States.  For practical and logistical reasons I will select just a few of the forty-five Presidents ranging from George Washington to John Kennedy in Part One.   Part Two will follow later and will include information about the weddings of our most recent Presidents.  (also, please click on the link to another interesting posts regarding White House Weddings – Part One and Part Two)

George Washington – First U.S. President (1789 – 1797)

George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6, 1759 at her home, interestingly the property was known as the White House plantation and is located in Virginia.  It was a grand ceremony as befitting the social status of the couple and afterwards they lived at Mount Vernon, an estate that George had recently inherited, which was also located in Virginia.  Martha had been previously married to Daniel Custis and, as was customary during the colonial period, women frequently remarried often for financial reasons but in this case Martha was left a wealthy widow.  The couple had no children together but Martha had a son and daughter from her previous marriage which George would consider as his children.

“The Marriage of Washington” painting by Junius Stearns

After the American Revolution, General Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States in 1789.  Martha did not attended his inauguration but would later host events during her husband’s term as President.  (Special Note:  Although she was known as Lady Washington, the title of First Lady used for Presidential wives came much later)

At the time that Washington was President, the U.S. Capitol was located briefly in New York City and then moved to Philadelphia, George and Martha Washington never lived in the White House in Washington, D.C.  (Special Note: The permanent U.S. Capitol would eventually be built on land located between Maryland and Virginia and the White House would be completed in 1800 when President John Adams, the successor of Washington, took up residency)

After retiring as President in 1797, George and Martha returned to Mount Vernon where they lived a relatively private life despite the fact that many political leaders and foreign representatives often visited his estate to seek his advice on all types of matters.  In December 1799, after a brief illness, George Washington died at his home in Virginia and his final resting place is located on the property.  Martha Washington died in May 1802 and she is interred beside her husband at Mount Vernon in the Washington vault located a short distance from the main house.

Abraham Lincoln – 16th U.S. President (1861 to 1865)

Abraham Lincoln met Mary Todd at a cotillion in Springfield, Illinois in 1839, he was a lawyer and sharing an office space with John Stuart who was Mary’s cousin and she had recently moved there from Lexington, Kentucky to live with her older sister.  The couple became engaged in 1841 but then Lincoln broke off the relationship and, after reconsidering his decision, a wedding date of November 4, 1842 was set and the ceremony took place at the home of Mary’s sister.

A photograph of Abraham and Mary Lincoln taken on their wedding day in 1842

In 1844, Abraham and Mary Lincoln moved into their home in Springfield which was conveniently located near the new Lincoln-Herndon Law Office.  From 1847 to 1849 Lincoln served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, after losing re-election he returned to private practice for several years until he received the nomination from the newly formed Republication party as a presidential candidate.  Lincoln won the election in 1860 and became the sixteenth President of the United States.

Then, after his re-election for a second term, Lincoln was assassinated on April 12, 1865 while he and Mary were attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.  The nation mourned his death and his body was brought back to Springfield, Illinois for burial at the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln had four sons – Robert, Edward or “Eddie”, William or “Willie” and Thomas or “Tad”.  After the death of her husband and three of her children, Mary became increasing depressed in her grief.  In 1875, when her behavior became extremely erratic her oldest son, Robert had her institutionalized.  She was eventually released in 1876 and she went to live with her sister.  In July 1882 Mary Lincoln died and she is buried alongside her husband in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, IL.

Grover Cleveland – 22nd & 24th U.S. President (1885-1889 & 1893-1897)

President Cleveland was the only U.S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms and he was also the only President to be married while he was in office.  During his first term President Cleveland married Frances Folsom, he was 49 and she was 21 years old.  The wedding ceremony took place on June 2, 1886 in the Blue Room of the White House. (Special Note: For more detailed information regarding their wedding ceremony, please click on the link to White House Wedding- Part One)

Lithograph of the wedding of Grover and Frances Cleveland

Grover and Frances Cleveland had a happy marriage and went on to have five children – Ruth, Esther, Marion, Richard and Frances. After retirement the family moved to Westland Mansion located in Princeton, New Jersey.  President Cleveland died in 1908 and is buried in Princeton, New Jersey.  Five years after his death Frances married Thomas Preston but when she died in 1947 she choose to be buried alongside her first husband, President Cleveland.

Theodore Roosevelt – 26th U.S. President (1901-1909)

Several years before becoming President, Theodore Roosevelt was married to Alice Lee in 1880 and they had a daughter, also named Alice, who was born in 1884.  Sadly, his wife died a few days after childbirth and his mother, Mittie, also died on the same day.  A distraught Roosevelt left his young daughter in the care of his sister and he concentrated on establishing his political career.

Two years later, Roosevelt married Edith Carow in December 2, 1886 at St. George Church in London, England.  After returning home from their honeymoon the couple sent up a home in Long Island, New York, and Roosevelt’s young daughter, Alice, came to live with them.  “Teddy” and Edith went on to have five children – Theodore, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald and Quentin.

After a career as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York and Vice President under President McKinley, Roosevelt became President when McKinley died in 1901.  He won the 1904 election but lost a re-election bid in 1908 and then tired another bid in the 1912 presidential election but was unsuccessful.

The adventurous Roosevelt traveled the world after leaving office and he continued to be influential in politics in the years that followed.  Roosevelt died in 1919 at his home, Sagamore Hill, and he is buried at Youngs Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay, NY.  Edith, Roosevelt’s widow, also remained active in politics until her death in 1948 and she is buried alongside her husband.

Theodore and Edith Roosevelt

(Special Note: Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice married Nicholas Longworth III in 1906 while her father was President.  The grand ceremony held in the East Room of the White House was the social event of the Washington, D.C. season.  For more detailed information on this wedding, please click on the link to White House Wedding- Part Two)

Franklin Roosevelt – 32nd U.S. President (1933-1945)

Franklin Roosevelt was the fifth cousin of former President Teddy Roosevelt.  Also related to the former President was Eleanor Roosevelt, she was his niece.  Eleanor had an unhappy childhood after losing both her mother and father and then her brother at a young age, she was never considered a beauty and she was extremely shy and introverted.  Franklin had a very privileged childhood which was often dominated and controlled by his mother, his father had died when Franklin was a boy.  In many ways Franklin was the complete opposite of Eleanor; he was handsome and confident almost to the point of arrogance.

Franklin and Eleanor married on March 17, 1905 in New York City at the home of Eleanor’s grandmother, Eleanor’s uncle Teddy gave the bride away.  The couple had a difficult marriage with Franklin having numerous extra-marital affairs and then contracting polio 1921 which left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.  Franklin and Eleanor had six children – Anna, James, Elliott, Franklin and John (another son, also named Franklin had died in infancy)

 The photographs above show Eleanor Roosevelt on her wedding day
and Franklin and Eleanor on their honeymoon

Franklin went on follow Teddy Roosevelt along a similar path into politics although they belonged to opposing political parties.  Franklin became a member of the New York Senate from 1911 to 1913, Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920, Governor of New York from 1929-1932 and then President of the United States serving an unprecedented four terms from 1933 to 1945.

Over the later years of his presidency, Franklin’s health continued to decline from complications of years of smoking and possibly the stress of dealing with matters pertaining to World War II.  Only three months after his re-election to a historic fourth term, Franklin died in April 1945 while he was visiting Warm Springs, Georgia.  After her husband’s death Eleanor remained active in politics and later served from 1947 to 1953 as the United States Representative to the newly formed United Nations.  Eleanor died in November 1962 in New York City, NY.  Both Franklin and Eleanor are buried on the Springwood estate in Hyde Park which has now become the Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site.  (For more information regarding the Springwood estate please click on the link.

John Kennedy – 35th U.S. President (1961-1963)

John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier were married on September12, 1953 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island followed by a huge reception held at Hammersmith Farm, the stepfather of the bride’s oceanfront estate.  At the time of the wedding, the groom was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and destined to become the 35th President of the United States and the bride was a reporter/photographer for the Washington Times-Herald.  The couple had two children, Caroline and John, Jr.

The photograph above shows John and Jacqueline Kennedy on their wedding day

Kennedy’s presidential years were defined by the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion and then later the tense Cuban Missile Crisis.  During his term as President the Peace Corps was created and it was also the beginning of the turbulent Civil Rights Movement.  As First Lady, Jackie oversaw the White House restoration and brought a wonderful sense of style and glamour to State Dinners and Foreign Tours.

Sadly, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  In the days that followed, Jackie showed strength and dignity as the nation and the world mourned the death of the young President.  Kennedy’s funeral was held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, D.C.

(For more detailed information, please click on the link to the Wedding of John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier)