Barbara Bush's intimate, seaside wedding with screenwriter Craig Coyne went off without a hitch — but their first date didn't go nearly as smoothly

By Tierney McAfee
October 12, 2018 09:00 AM

Barbara Bush’s intimate, seaside wedding with screenwriter Craig Coyne went off without a hitch — but their first date didn’t go nearly as smoothly.

In an interview for the new issue of PEOPLE, the former first daughter, 36, reveals that she and Coyne were set up by friends on a blind first date that went “hilariously” awry — and ended up including her twin sister, Jenna Bush Hager!

At first, Barbara, who lives in New York, and Coyne, 36, who was based in Los Angeles at the time, had trouble connecting, in part because Barbara was busy promoting her book with Jenna, Sisters First.

But when their book tour took the sisters to Coyne’s native Georgia last year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet.

“He ended up being in Atlanta visiting his family when we were on our Sisters First book tour stop there. And so we went on our blind date. I invited him to meet us at the hotel where we were staying for drinks,” Barbara explains. “But what he didn’t realize was that it was gonna be me, my sister, [publicist] Jimmy Franco, the book — and two other friends of ours.

“So it was a group first date, and they tried to give us our space but we were all seated at the same table.”

For more wedding details and an exclusive wedding photo album, pick up the new issue of People on newsstands Friday.

Even before that, things got off to an awkward start when Barbara, not knowing what her blind date looked like, approached two different men in the lobby to ask if they were Coyne.

“Luckily, a really handsome guy walked in, and I thought, ‘Please, maybe this one will be him.’ And it was him,” she says. “And so that was our first date, and he rolled with it.”

In fact, he rolled with it all the way to Barbara’s book event after a last-minute invitation from Jenna.

“This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. I said to Jenna, under no circumstances invite him to our book event,” Barbara recalls. “And of course, knowing my sister, we’re wrapping up and we’re heading to our book event, and she says, ‘Craig, why don’t you come to our book event?’ And I elbowed her basically, and so he came with us.”

Barbara’s dashing young date stood out in a sea of around 1,400 women who had come to see the former first daughters talk.

And much to Barbara’s dismay, he got a shout-out from the stage.

Jenna and the author Emily Giffin, who was moderating the event, announced to the crowd at the end of the evening that Barbara was on a blind date.

“Luckily, no one in the audience saw Craig, but that was that. And so we left and I gave him a hug and said it was great to meet him, and we flew off,” Barbara says.

“I thought it was hilarious,” she adds, “but I said to Jenna in the car, I was like, ‘I’m never going to hear from him again, but regardless, that’s a fun story to tell.’ ”

Of course, that was only the beginning of Barbara and Coyne’s love story. The couple ended up going on a “real date” a couple weeks later, when Coyne traveled to New York for work, and the rest is history.

Craig Coyne (left), George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush
Paul Morse

RELATED VIDEO: 5 Things You Need to Know About Craig Coyne, Who Just Married George W. Bush’s Daughter Barbara

Though the couple had just five short weeks to plan their wedding — they rushed to wed so Barbara’s 94-year-old grandfather, George H.W. Bush, could be there “while he’s still feeling good — the wedding was “beautiful,” Jenna told her colleagues at the Today show in a phone call on Monday.

“I’m crying 24 hours later…there were so many happy tears,” she said.