The former first daughter shares the heartwarming story behind her engagement
Credit: Bush Family Photo

When Barbara Bush‘s new husband, Craig Coyne, asked her father, former President George W. Bush, for her hand in marriage, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in his response. In fact, the 43rd president “got so excited” that he almost ruined the proposal!

“Craig asked my dad for my hand in marriage, and my dad got so excited that he told everybody we were engaged, but we actually had not gotten engaged yet,” the former first daughter tells PEOPLE.

Barbara, 36, married screenwriter Craig Coyne, 36, on Sunday in an intimate ceremony that is exclusively detailed in this week’s issue of the magazine.

“They had a really long, wonderful talk for 45 minutes,” she says. “I started receiving text messages from people congratulating me on the engagement. Then, in slow motion, 20 minutes later, I would receive a text message from that person saying, ‘Oops, sorry! I meant to send that to somebody else.’ And so I had a suspicion we would get engaged.”

The wedding day
| Credit: Allison V. Smith

The couple often visited the Bush’s family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, to spend time with Barbara’s 94-year-old grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush. It was during one of these visits that Craig approached her father.

“I was really touched that when Craig asked for my hand in marriage, that [he and my dad] ended up talking for 45 minutes about spirituality, and children, and all sorts of bigger-picture life things,” she says. “My dad is very jovial, of course, and loves to joke. And you can imagine him being that sort of father-in-law that’s constantly joking.”

With his future father-in-law’s blessing, Coyne popped the question on a return visit to Maine on Aug. 25. But he made sure to do some important research first.

The Bush family
| Credit: Jenna Bush Hager/Instagram

Barbara, who was expecting a proposal in New York, was surprised when he dropped down on one knee at the exact spot — on oceanside rocks behind the Bush family’s Maine house — where her grandfather proposed to an 18-year-old Barbara Pierce 75 years earlier.

“I didn’t know Craig had found out the history. Of course, I cried — and our cousins were spying from the windows taking pictures,” Barbara says.

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

On his daughter’s wedding day, George W. Bush, a prolific painter in his post-presidency, once again revealed his softer side during his toast to the just-married couple.

“As I was thinking about this toast in my studio, I was looking at the portrait I made of Barbara,” he said. “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.”

For more about the wedding, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.


Heartwarming words like these are common for the former president. Barbara explains that her Dad has always been reflective — it’s a trait they both share.

“Every morning I wake up to a text from him that is a meditation that we both read every day,” she explains. “So that’s our daily habit of communication.”

She continues, “That’s a [habit] our relationship is built around.”