The Tale of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Untraditional WeddingOn October 11, 1975, two young law professors were married in their small and quaint early 1930s house on California Drive in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Guests at the wedding had no idea that this would be the marriage of the world’s most powerful leader, the president of the United States, and a future senator and presidential hopeful. Bill and Hillary Clinton, much like themselves and their personal relationship, had an unconventional wedding.
In 1974, Hillary packed up her bags and against her friends wishes headed down to Arkansas to be with Bill and taught law at the University of Arkansas. After a year she became antsy with the Arkansas scene and took off to tour Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago to see if there were any future possibilities. While Hillary was gone, Bill missed Hillary so much that he went out and bought a pretty little glazed-brick cottage that Hillary had made a passing comment about for $20,500 with a $3,000 down payment; Bill could buy the house with monthly payments of $174.00. Bill furnished the house with an antique bed and flowered sheets that had come from a Wal-Mart store. Hillary decided she would return to Arkansas and be with Bill, and when Bill picked Hillary up from the airport he surprised her by pulling up to the brick cottage. “Remember that little house you liked so much?” Bill asked Hillary. Hillary vaguely remembered making a passing comment. He pulled up into the driveway of the house and said, “I bought it. You have to marry me now because I can’t live there alone. So you’re going to marry me.”
Bill wanted a big wedding bash but Hillary wanted no fanfare about her wedding and no engagement ring. They compromised by having a small intimate wedding and a large reception. The most formal event was an engagement party in Hot Springs where many of Bill’s friends first met Hillary. Susan McDougal, an attendee at the engagement party remembers this about meeting Hillary, “..Bill was sitting in a chair, and she was sitting on the arm. She looked different than anybody else at the party. She didn’t have the cheerleader good looks. She had frizzy hair, the big glasses, no makeup – she wasn’t all dolled up. But she was very down to earth, quiet, and kind. They were holding hands and looked very much in love at that party.”
A small, simple at-home ceremony in Fayetteville is what Hillary envisioned. Bill’s mother, Virginia Kelley, dreaded the wedding. She and her fourth husband made the long mountainous drive up to Fayetteville expecting to see this elegant house that Bill told her so much about. Instead, Virginia found a cute little house with a chaotic mess inside. Paint buckets, light fixtures, and other home improvement items were found all over the house.
The night before the wedding, Hillary’s mother asked her what her dress looked like. Hillary responded, “What dress?” Hillary thought a wedding gown was irrelevant. Astonished, Hillary’s mother dragged her daughter to the Fayetteville mall and went to the only store still open, Dillard’s. Hillary picked up the first dress she saw – a $53.00 Jessica McClintock Victorian lace gown – and said, “This will be fine.”
The wedding was brief and un-ceremonial event that took place in the Clinton’s cozy living room. The wedding was performed by Vic Nixon, a local minister and Clinton supporter. The only tears were of Bill’s mother, who was upset that Hillary wouldn’t take Bill’s last name. Bill had not told her this news until the morning of the wedding. Virginia couldn’t understand such a thing and thought it was a new fad that Hillary had brought from Chicago.
The day after the wedding, the Clinton’s had a large wedding reception at the home of Ann and Morris Henry, two prominent young Democrats in town. The wedding reception quickly turned into a political pep rally, where Bill’s followers urged him to run for office again in 1976. Hillary upstaged Bill though when she announced she would keep her maiden name.
Much like their wedding ceremony, the honeymoon was equally as unconventional. Bill and Hillary took the entire immediate Rodham family with them on their Acapulco honeymoon trip. All six of them stayed at the same hotel.
Visitors can come to the Clinton House Museum and view a replica of Hillary’s wedding dress, pictures from the wedding, the wedding announcement, and other photos and memorabilia from Bill and Hillary’s time in Fayetteville, including rare footage of Bill’s campaign commercials from his congressional, attorney general's, and gubernatorial races. The museum also includes a gift shop with books, clothing, and other campaign memorabilia.