Wedding bells for Bush's daughter Jenna draw near

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush has been trying to cajole North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and tamp down violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but lately all that seems to be on his mind are wedding bells.

Jenna Bush, daughter of President Bush, poses with boyfriend Henry Hager in an undated photo. REUTERS/Kimberlee Hewitt/The White House/Handout

Bush has sprinkled references to his twin daughter Jenna’s wedding into most public appearances for the last few months, even seeking advice from a recent groom.

“I had to face some very difficult spending decisions and I’ve had to conduct sensitive diplomacy,” Bush told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in March. “That’s called planning for a wedding.”

Eschewing the glamour and media glare of a White House wedding, Jenna Bush will marry the son of a Virginia politician, Henry Hager, at a private ceremony with family and friends at the president’s Texas ranch on Saturday evening.

“I’ve never really lived in the White House,” the 26-year-old bride and school teacher said in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” last month. “And I’ve lived in Texas my whole life and so really what feels like home is Texas.”

The last White House wedding was in 1971 when President Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia, was married in the Rose Garden to Edward Cox.

Walking to board Air Force One to fly to the ranch on Thursday, Bush stuck out his right arm as if practicing walking his daughter down the aisle. Few details about the wedding have emerged, and the family has refused media access.

But the family has revealed one detail: Bush had a limestone altar built at his 1,600 acre ranch for the ceremony, which will be held just before sundown when the notorious Texas heat subsides.

“It’s really a special moment for them, and he, I think, is also going to make sure he gets a good night’s sleep tonight so he can stay up late the rest of the weekend and enjoy all the activities that are planned,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, referring to Bush’s penchant for going to bed early.

Gift shops in Crawford, a town of nearly 800 people that does a steady business in Bush souvenirs, were stocked with wedding memorabilia.

There were $10 coffee mugs with Texas wildflowers around a photo of the happy couple, $3 key chains and buttons as well as Christmas ornaments in the shape of cowboy boots and hats etched with their names and wedding date.

The bride and her parents have repeatedly denied being nervous about the big day, instead expressing excitement. “Neither one of us are nervous,” first lady Laura Bush told reporters this week.

The bride will wear an Oscar de la Renta gown with her twin Barbara as the sole bridesmaid, according to Vogue magazine.

The White House has tried to keep the media focus away from the twins, particularly after they developed a reputation as party girls during their college days when they were arrested for underage drinking.

Jenna has no great affinity for the press and was once captured in a photo sticking her tongue out at reporters from a presidential limousine. Even so, she has given several recent interviews to promote a children’s book about reading that she wrote with her mother.

Hager previously worked as a White House aide and on Bush’s presidential campaign. He is the son of former Virginia Lt. Gov. John Hager who is now the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party.

The two were engaged last August during a hike in the mountains of Maine.

The groom is expected to receive his masters degree in business from the University of Virginia next week, according to media reports. The couple plans to live in Baltimore, Maryland, where Jenna Bush will teach and her husband will work for Constellation Energy, the reports said.

Editing by Chris Wilson and David Alexander