From George W.'s Jokes to Cake Before Dinner: All the Sweet Details from Barbara Bush's Wedding

Barbara Pierce Bush had just five weeks to plan her intimate Maine wedding — but despite the short timeline, getting hitched went off without a hitch for the former first daughter

Photo: Allison V. Smith

Barbara Pierce Bush had just five weeks to plan her intimate Maine wedding — but despite the short timeline, getting hitched went off without a hitch for the former first daughter.

The 36-year-old daughter of former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush tied the knot with fiancé Craig Coyne in a secret ceremony at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Sunday — just a little over a month after Coyne popped the question on the property’s oceanside rocks.

After what were likely a hectic few weeks, the couple and their families settled in to enjoy a magical day full of love, laughter, “happy tears” — and, a wedding attendee tells PEOPLE, wisecracks from George W.

Welcoming his new screenwriter son-in-law to the family, President Bush joked at one point: “As the lonely artist in our family, I’m thrilled to have another sensitive soul with whom I can relate. Plus, it’s nice to know someone from Hollywood who kind of likes me.”

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


The former president, who took up painting after leaving the White House, struck a more sincere tone when he toasted his daughter on her wedding day.

“Barbara is named for a unique and strong woman — and rightly so, for she is unique and strong,” President Bush, 72, said of his daughter, who was named after his late mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.

“As I was thinking about this toast in my studio, I was looking at the portrait I made of Barbara,” he continued of his daughter. “I painted a beauty with dazzling blue eyes. In those eyes, I painted a compassionate soul who cares deeply about the less fortunate. I painted a woman who is daring and adventuresome — a woman who has fierce determination to make a positive contribution to mankind. I painted a kind friend and a highly intelligent person. I painted a loving person who loves man and cat alike. But most of all, I painted a woman who I love and for whom I have such great pride.”

His wife Laura, 71, also shared some heartfelt words about their daughter, saying: “I remember one summer night in Midland when you and [sister] Jenna were babies and already asleep in bed. Daddy and I were in our little backyard at twilight and I thought, ‘This is the life.’ Well, Barbara and Craig: This is the life.”

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

Barbara’s twin sister, Jenna Bush Hager, 36, was next with a tearful speech that included a love letter their grandfather — former President George H.W. Bush, 94, who was also in attendance on Barbara’s big day — wrote to wife Barbara on their 49th wedding anniversary on Jan. 6, 1994.

“Will you marry me?” the 41st president wrote in a letter addressed to Barbara Pierce and signed GHWB. “Oops, I forgot, you did that 49 years ago today! I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I am even happier today. You have given me joy that few men know.

“You have made our boys into men by bawling them out and then, right away, by loving them. You have helped Doro be the sweetest greatest daughter in the whole wide world. I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” the letter continued. “Mum used to tell me: ‘Now, George, don’t walk ahead’. Little did she know I was only trying to keep up — keep up with Barbara Pierce from Onondaga Street in Rye New York. I love you!”

Though the wedding was full of time-honored rituals — George W. walked his daughter down the aisle and the newlyweds had their first dance to “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke — the couple did break one tradition.

An attendee tells PEOPLE that the Bush clan cut the cake before dinner was served — so the flower girls (Jenna’s daughters, Margaret, 5, and Poppy, 3, and Coyne’s niece, Emma, 5) could eat cake before bedtime!

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