Last weekend’s wedding at the White House was just another day at the office for Bryan Rafanelli.
Well acquainted with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. from his days working for the Clintons and Obamas, the Boston-based party planner was the obvious choice to handle the arrangements for Saturday’s Naomi Biden/Peter Neal nuptials. (Naomi is the eldest daughter of Hunter Biden — maybe you’ve heard of him — and eldest granddaughter of President Biden.)
The 19th wedding ever at the White House — and easily the grandest since Tricia Nixon said “I do” there in 1971 — has sparked a minor controversy in the days since. That’s because the White House press corps was told the event was private, only to be scooped by a series of slick photos posted soon after the ceremony on Vogue.com. (According to the White House, the Vogue photos were actually taken a few days before the wedding.)
Details of the big day are scant and, perhaps due to the fallout from the secret Vogue shoot, Rafanelli, uncharacteristically, didn’t call us back to dish. As a result, we don’t know what the vegetarian option was or what sort of flowers were on the tables. But thanks to intrepid reporting by The Washington Post, we do know the bride and groom both wore Ralph Lauren — hers was an elegant lace number with a cathedral-length silk veil, and he looked sharp in a navy, three-piece suit — and the bride was walked down the aisle by both her father and mother, Kathleen Buhle, to “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by the Verve.
Since helping to orchestrate some of the better parties at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Rafanelli has established himself as the go-to party planner for Dems. He’s worked on several fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton and, in 2010, coordinated the wedding of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, a hush-hush affair held in Rhinebeck, N.Y. (Before the big day, to preempt complaints from neighbors, Rafanelli went door to door handing out bottles of white wine produced by a nearby vineyard.)
During the Obama years, Rafanelli worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama on holiday decorations and the bells and whistles associated with state dinners, which, it turns out, are more than just a tasty meal. For example, when then-president of China Hu Jintao visited the White House in 2011, Rafanelli told us he had to be mindful of the symbolism of certain colors and objects used to decorate lest he offend a whole nation.
Near as we can tell, Rafanelli played no role in the last White House wedding, in 2013, when Pete Souza, the South Dartmouth native who was official White House photographer for presidents Reagan and Obama, got hitched in the Rose Garden.