As tiny Crawford, Texas, and surrounding towns emptied of wedding guests on Sunday, President Bush pronounced the weekend an “awfully special” one. And, by all accounts, an emotional one for the First Family.
“Our little girl, Jenna, married a really good guy,” the president told reporters on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One with First Lady Laura Bush and his parents for the return trip to Washington, D.C.
The ultra-private wedding on Bush’s gated ranch was the president’s first turn at playing Father of the Bride. In a suit and tie (Jenna, aiming for a more “natural” and casual affair, didn’t want black-tie), Bush walked his 26-year-old daughter down the aisle to a limestone altar topped by a 4-ft. cross where she and Henry Hager, 30, exchanged vows just as the sun set. The bride’s twin sister and maid of honor, Barbara, did a reading during the ceremony, as did their grandfather, George H.W. Bush.
The former president later joked that he’d had a whole speech planned. “It was supposed to be 40 minutes but they cut me back to 20,” he kidded reporters aboard Air Force One before stopping himself, noting that he had been told not to talk about the wedding.
Wedding singer Tyrone “Super T” Smith of Nashville evidently missed that memo. He happily told PEOPLE how Jenna and Henry gazed into each other’s eyes during their first dance, to Taj Mahal’s “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes.” And he described a poignant father-daughter dance to the Joe Cocker ballad, “You Are So Beautiful.” And when the band played “Sugar Sugar,” the president hit the dance floor again, Smith said. “He was right there. He got down. He got down!”
Asked at his Sunday appearance, just before noon, whether he’d been up late partying, the president just winked.
‘We’re Mighty Blessed’
“The wedding was spectacular. It’s just — it’s all we could have hoped for,” Bush said. “The weather cooperated nicely; just as the vows were exchanged the sun set over our lake and it was just a special day and a wonderful day and we’re mighty blessed.”
Back in Crawford and nearby Salado, where many of the guests had booked rooms at the quaint inns and B&Bs, it was time to pack up and clean up. One twentysomething man checking out of the Old Salado Celebration Center & Retreat, where Friday’s rehearsal dinner had been held, told PEOPLE: “The wedding was a great party. It was beautiful, incredible, outstanding.”
Jamie Burgess, who manages the Red Bull Gift & Gallery in Crawford, sounded like she was going to miss the nuptial hubbub. “We’ve had over 100 tourists and media people in here just in the last couple of days,” Burgess enthused. But in this one-stoplight hamlet that boasts not one motel, she added, “A lot of people say they wish they’d thought to rent out their houses.”