The wedding of former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky is this summer’s ultimate status invitation. There will be only 400 names on the guest list, a good size for a wedding by ordinary standards, but barely big enough to accommodate the people who slept in the Lincoln Bedroom during Bill Clinton’s presidency. So planning it has been a diplomatic problem of the highest order. “Donors are expecting to be invited,” says a major Clinton fund-raiser. Then there are the campaign, State Department, and Clinton Foundation staff, plus foreign dignitaries and both Clinton and Obama White House officials. These complexities, say bride-side sources, are one reason why Chelsea has instituted a strict no-strangers policy: She must personally know every invitee. (Of course, it’s also a way of giving her parents an out for donors who don’t make the cut.)
The secrecy has seemed more reminiscent of a giant military operation than a wedding. Early speculation was that it would be held on Martha’s Vineyard, but more recently sources have confirmed that the nuptials will be held on July 31 in a still-secret location within a three-hour drive of New York City. “The wedding planner will contact each guest directly a week in advance and let them know where it is,” says the fund-raiser, who speculated that the Hamptons are out because the L.I.E. can be a very long road. The smart money, then, is somewhere upstate, possibly in Westchester or Dutchess County—most likely on property owned by a Clinton supporter. “You really see who their closest friends are in this list,” says an insider. “It’s not a celebrity-driven wedding.”
So just who does that mean? Longtime Friend of Bill and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, who grew up in Syracuse, is said to be “very involved” in the selection of the location, according to one insider. Other invitees include Bill Clinton’s special assistant Doug Band, former White House social secretary Capricia Marshall, and top Hillary Clinton aide and former traveling chief of staff Huma Abedin. Probably not on the guest list, according to this source: Bill’s buddy Ron Burkle.
Most of the planning is falling on the shoulders of Massachusetts event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who has been Hillary Clinton’s go-to guy for Boston-area fund-raisers; he first donated to her Senate campaign in 1999, and according to prominent Boston philanthropist Barbara Lee, Rafanelli’s first Hillary event was a luncheon in 2001. During her presidential campaign, Rafanelli was an important bundler for her, earning the “Hill-raiser” designation for gathering over $100,000. Rafanelli’s partner, Mark Walsh, was Hillary’s adviser for LGBT outreach during her campaign as well. Rafanelli is a Bay State wedding force: He was responsible for Red Sox owner John Henry’s 2009 wedding, which took place on Henry’s 164-foot yacht, followed by a reception in Fenway Park with a performance by Maroon 5.
Adding to the complexity of Rafanelli’s labors, he’s also planning the August marriage of Congressman Anthony Weiner to Abedin. While information about these nuptials does not seem quite as classified, all that is known about the venue thus far is “somewhere in New York.” But before that, the future Mr. and Mrs. Weiner will be hosted by the Clintons at a party in Washington on June 29.