The caller wanted to make a reservation, she told him, “for some very special guests”.
The guests, it turned out, included Chelsea Clinton, the publicity-shy daughter of former president and the current secretary of state.
It seemed unremarkable at the time. But now, the dinner has become yet another morsel of evidence over the social event of the season: the impending marriage of Chelsea, 30, to Marc Mezvinsky, 32, an investment banker at 3G Capital Management and a son of two former Democratic members of Congress, one of whom served prison time for fraud.
The wedding, set for July 31, is so cloaked in secrecy that in Washington, where the mother of the bride holds down a day job running international diplomacy for President Obama, details are harder to ferret out than the president’s Afghanistan strategy. Even guests do not know the locale; invitations came with instructions to be within driving distance of Manhattan, plus a promise that specifics would be sent a week before the big day.
That has not prevented some educated guessing. The current betting is that the Chelsea-Mezvinsky nuptials will take place in Rhinebeck, at the Astor Courts, a 13,000-foot Beaux Arts pavilion built between 1902 and 1904. The Clintons have refused to confirm the reports. The mansion’s owner, Kathleen Hammer, a political donor to Hillary Rodham Clinton who made Chelsea’s restaurant reservation, did not return e-mail messages or calls.
Americans are eternally fascinated with presidential children, and perhaps none more so than Chelsea, who arrived at the White House as a gawky 12-year-old with frizzy hair and braces, and grew up before the nation’s eyes, under a cone of silence that she has broken only rarely, to campaign for her mother.
Within the tight-knit circle of New York wedding coordinators, some tidbits are beginning to leak. The wedding planner is Bryan Rafanelli of Boston, who has worked for Hillary Clinton. Artistic director of the Four Seasons George V hotel in Paris, who has a studio in New York, is handling the flowers. Jimmy Vali, whose website boasts that his clients include Glenn Close, is coordinating the music. None would confirm their involvement.
For other details, like the dress designer (reportedly Oscar de la Renta, but maybe Vera Wang), inquiring minds must wait. Clinton is not planning prenuptial media coverage. And, this being New York, the topic generating more speculation than any other is not the dress or the flowers, but religion: Mezvinsky is Jewish, raising questions about whether a rabbi will participate (likely) and whether Chelsea, like her mother a practicing Methodist, will convert (unlikely).
As to the guest list, one can only imagine the headaches. About 400 are expected to attend (although the Obamas aren’t). There is one criterion for making the cut: guests must have a personal connection to the bride and bridegroom.