HONOLULU – A couple getting married near President Barack Obama’s vacation spot in Hawaii learned the hard way that the big day rarely goes exactly as planned.
Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue Jr. – both U.S. Army captains stationed in Hawaii – were scheduled to tie the knot Sunday at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, a military course with ocean views near Obama’s rented vacation home in Kailua.
But after their rehearsal Saturday, they were told they’d have to move their wedding away from the 16th hole because Obama and his friends planned to golf, Heimel’s sister, Christie McConnell, told The Associated Press.
“They’re both pretty even-tempered and planners,” McConnell said of the couple, who met in 2011 while stationed in Germany. “I’m sure it was a little bit of stress, but they seemed fine.”
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The ceremony moved to another part of the course that offered better views than the 16th hole, she said, adding that some guests even caught a glimpse of Obama as he golfed.
After the ceremony was done and members of the bridal party were taking photos, Mallue got a call from the wedding planner asking permission to give the president his cellphone number, said McConnell, a bridesmaid. Then, Obama called and Mallue put the call on speakerphone.
“We all hovered around, all excited, listening,” McConnell said. Obama asked how long they had been “going out,” chatted about golf and apologized for disrupting their plans.
“He was really funny and nice on the phone.”
The newlyweds said they weren’t angry.
“We knew there were two things that could mess up the wedding. One was the weather and the other was the president,” the bride told NBC News. “I’m sure that his staffers didn’t let him know there was a wedding.”
On Monday, Obama was back on the green, this time at a private course a few miles away. Putting on the 18th hole, Obama offered a few compliments to his golf partners before attempting a chip shot as the sun set behind him over the Koolau Mountains.
Asked if he could have beaten the president on the course, Mallue paused briefly and then said, laughingly, “Probably.”
Typically, when Obama is involved in recreational activities like golf or hiking, the events are considered “unofficial” and not announced beforehand on his public schedule. Keeping the events a secret until they take place allows the Secret Service to minimize the costs and disruption involved in securing a location for Obama’s arrival, but it also makes it harder for the public to anticipate when a presidential visit might throw a wrench in their plans.
In this case, the White House didn’t know in advance that the couple was being told they had to move, said a person familiar with the chain of events, who wasn’t authorized to be identified publicly and requested anonymity. The White House declined to comment on the record.
This isn’t the first time Obama has faced questions about the timing of his golf outings. In August, Obama golfed on Martha’s Vineyard just after speaking to the nation on the Islamic State’s beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley. Obama later conceded he “should have anticipated the optics.”
For the newlywed couple, at least, there were no hard feelings about the change in plans, which was first reported by Bloomberg. McConnell said the phone call from the president made the wedding all the more memorable.
“There were no hard feelings about the move,” she said. “It was all a good thing.”