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Bush tries on new role: Father of the bride

  • Story Highlights
  • President Bush's daughter Jenna will marry Henry Hager on Saturday
  • More than 200 guests invited to ceremony on Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas
  • Jenna's sister, Barbara, will be maid of honor
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Elaine Quijano
CNN White House Correspondent
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(CNN) -- President Bush briefly previewed the new role he'll be taking on Saturday: father of the bride.

Jenna Bush is set to marry Henry Hager during a ceremony Saturday on the Bush family ranch in Texas.

Before departing Thursday from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the president playfully stuck out his right elbow, as if he were escorting someone down the aisle.

The real event takes place Saturday night, when he is to walk his 26-year-old daughter, Jenna, down the aisle during a private wedding ceremony at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"He's looking forward to it; he's excited, like any proud father is, to see one of his daughters get married," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Texas. More wedding details »

More than 200 friends and family members are expected to attend the outdoor ceremony, which will take place near a lake before a cross built of Texas limestone. Dinner and dancing will follow under a tent.

Reporters will be stationed seven miles from the Bush ranch in Crawford. The White House said it may release a photo Sunday. Video Watch as Bush jokes about the upcoming wedding »

As is customary in Texas, Jenna Bush will have a "house party" of 14 women instead of bridesmaids. The first lady's office described them as guests of honor, with no role in the ceremony.

Jenna's fraternal twin, Barbara, will be maid of honor. The bride will wear a gown designed by Oscar de la Renta. Video Watch as the first lady details the wedding plans »

Jenna is marrying Henry Hager, a 30-year-old native of Richmond, Virginia, who once worked for Karl Rove, her father's former deputy chief of staff. Hager is the son of tobacco executive John Hager, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party and a former lieutenant governor.

Wedding facts

  • Bride: Jenna Welch Bush
  • Groom: Henry Chase Hager
  • Place: President Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford, Texas
  • Guests: More than 200 friends and relatives
  • Attendants: 14 women known as members of the "house party," not bridesmaids
  • Bride's gown designer: Oscar de la Renta
  • Ring: The diamond, a Hager family heirloom, reset in a ring that also features sapphires
  • Maid of Honor: Jenna's twin sister, Barbara
  • Ceremony site: At a cross made of beige Texas limestone erected near a lake on the ranch
  • Engagement: August 15, 2007, at Acadia National Park in Maine
  • Source: The Associated Press

    The two met while working on Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, and Henry Hager proposed last summer after asking the president for permission.

    "So the guy comes to see me, and he says, 'I want to marry your daughter,' " Bush recalled recently. "I said, 'Done deal.' "

    During the run-up to Saturday's wedding, the president has been making light of the planning process.

    "Please excuse me if I'm a little sleepy," Bush said at last month's White House Correspondents' Association dinner. "At 3 a.m. this morning, the red phone rang. ... It was the damn wedding planner."

    Jenna Bush is said to be more like the president -- gregarious and fun-loving -- than is her sister. Early in her father's presidency, Jenna got into some trouble when she was cited for underage drinking. In 2004, her mischievous streak was still apparent when she was photographed sticking her tongue out at reporters.

    But she has begun to carve out a different identity as a young adult. She has taken a leave of absence as a schoolteacher to work as an intern for UNICEF. She also has authored two children's books, including one with her mother.

    Like her father, Jenna Bush also loves her home state.

    "She's a real Texan, that has been an issue in the family -- are we from Kennebunkport [Maine], or are we from Texas?" said Doug Wead, a former aide to the bride's grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, and author of the book, "All the Presidents' Children."

    "Jenna's making that very, very clear," Wead said.

    Indeed, the first daughter has said she wants the wedding in Crawford and not at the White House because she feels more comfortable there.

    "I think the White House is a historical, beautiful building, of course, and place, but I wanted to have something more private and something that fit my personality a little bit more," she told CNN's "Larry King Live" last month.


    As the president prepares to give away his daughter in marriage, he also is learning to let go.

    At a town hall-style meeting last fall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Bush began to tear up as he spoke of his daughters. "It's been a blessing to see them grow up, and I'm real proud of them."

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