George W. Bush's Daughter Barbara Ties the Knot in Secret, Sentimental Wedding Ceremony
Only 20 family members witnessed the simple yet romantic ceremony, which was held at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, in the backyard overlooking the ocean.
“A very short, sweet ceremony” is how Barbara, 36, described it to PEOPLE.
After Barbara’s father walked her down the aisle, the bride and groom exchanged vows in front of their immediate family, including former President Bush, 72, Mrs. Bush, 71, and Barbara’s grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, 94. Barbara’s twin sister, Jenna Bush Hager, served as matron of honor, and her daughters, Margaret, 5, and Poppy, 3, were flower girls along with Coyne’s niece, Emma, 5. Poppy did double duty at the ceremony, also serving as the ring bearer.
The bride’s aunt, Dorothy “Doro” Bush Koch, officiated.
Though Barbara’s grandmother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, died at age 92 in April, the bride accessorized her custom Vera Wang gown of ivory silk crepe with a sentimental reminder of her namesake.
“It’s really sweet. The ‘something borrowed’ that I’m wearing is this bracelet that my grandfather gave to my grandmother on their 70th anniversary,” Barbara told PEOPLE. Her “something blue” was a pair of earrings from Jenna.
The former first daughter also revealed that she and Coyne — who has acted in the 2005 hit Jarhead, as well as independent films such as Look at Me and The Snowtown Murders — tied the knot after a whirlwind, five-week engagement and in the same week when Coyne relocated from Los Angeles to make his new home with Barbara in Manhattan.
The couple, who have kept their romance under wraps until now, were set up by friends on a blind date last November and committed as a couple by New Year’s Eve — despite living on opposite sides of the country, with Coyne in Los Angeles and Barbara in New York.
Coyne, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is the son of Darlene and Edward James Coyne, Jr. The groom’s brother, Edward Coyne III, served as best man; his mother and sister Katie each gave a reading during the private, family ceremony, as did the bride’s mother, Laura.
“We’ve been excited to do such a small wedding with just our family,” Barbara says.
It was during a family gathering at Kennebunkport this summer, Barbara adds, that she and Coyne were walking along the oceanside rocks when he suddenly dropped to his knee in the same spot where Barbara’s grandparents got engaged almost exactly 75 years earlier, in August 1943.
“It’s just been a very sweet romance,” Barbara says. “And we’ve been long-distance for most of it — he’s been in LA and I’ve been in New York — but we’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together.”
While her more gregarious twin, Jenna, also 36 and a correspondent for NBC’s Today show, married Henry Hager in 2008 and had two daughters, Barbara has kept her love life intensely private as she devoted time to building from scratch a nonprofit group that trains and deploys young professionals to address community health problems in under-served areas in the U.S. and Africa.
As CEO of Global Health Corps, which she co-founded in 2008, Barbara revealed to PEOPLE in 2013 just how little her work allowed for time at home. In the past year she’d been to Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and several U.S. cities.
“I’ve spent so much time in Africa,” she said at the time, “I know the taxi drivers at the airports.”
During a September 2017 interview with PEOPLE at her downtown Manhattan apartment, Barbara was asked if she was ready to take a step back and make more time for a partner and children of her own.
“I’m definitely at a different place. It’s not a startup anymore,” she said. “I would love to have a family, if that’s right for me.”
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“I don’t think it’s either/or,” Barbara continued. “I still think there’s too much work to do and too many places to see and too much to experience in life.”
At the time, she was in the midst of what would be a year-long search to find her replacement as CEO. In January, Barbara announced that Daniela Terminel would take the reins as CEO while she would remain involved as Global Health Corps’ board chair.
“To be able to step away from something we’ve worked so hard to build means…that we did it!” she wrote in the announcement published on Medium. “Or rather that we’re doing it and that we’ll keep it up.”