Seeing the "for worse" hasn't scared Chelsea from the altar

Chelsea Clinton and her fiance, Marc Mezvinsky, will be wed Saturday.
Chelsea Clinton and her fiance, Marc Mezvinsky, will be wed Saturday.
Posted: July 29, 2010

From lawsuits to pantsuits, infidelity to electoral victory, Bill and Hillary Clinton's sometimes dysfunctional, always fascinating marriage is the stuff of American political legend.

Or the source of excruciating embarrassment.

That's why nobody would be surprised if their daughter was a little gun-shy about matrimony.

Yet Clinton, 30, and her fiance Marc Mezvinsky, 32, are set to exchange vows Saturday in a lavish ceremony in (we think) Rhinebeck, N.Y., that, naturally, is being touted as the wedding of the decade. One expert speculated in the New York Daily News that the cost could be anywhere between $3 million and $5 million.

That's a lot to invest in an institution that Chelsea's father so famously tarnished. But experts say that watching her parents work through their own problems might have given her a better chance at achieving marital bliss.

"I think Chelsea is amazingly grounded. She's maintained a very quiet, private life that's very successful," said Jeanie Snodgrass Almo, who went to high school in Chicago with Hillary Clinton and kept in touch with the current secretary of state until a move to Philadelphia in 1999.

These days, Almo is a psychotherapist and the founder of her own practice, Fairmount Associates on Brown Street.

Marital problems in general take a tough toll on kids, Almo said - not to mention the added pain of the media circus that surrounded Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"I think kids can either be burned by their parents' experiences or I think they can grow from it," Almo said.

But the Clintons' obvious love for Chelsea could have kept her sane. "I don't think Chelsea ever doubted that both of her parents adored her and supported her."

That said, someone who has witnessed such pain between her parents likely would take precautionary measures and establish some ground rules for her spouse-to-be, Almo said.

"I would imagine that she and he would have talked very clearly about what they do and don't want," she said. "Chelsea's a smart gal. ... I think she will probably be clear on what she expects."

Mezvinsky, who grew up on the Main Line, is no stranger to very public scandal, either. His father, Ed Mezvinsky, a former U.S. representative from Iowa, pleaded guilty in 2002 to cheating dozens of investors out of $10 million. And in the midst of the scandal, the senior Mezvinsky divorced his wife, former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who represented Montgomery County.

"Both she and her husband have gone through some of this negative notoriety," said Raymond McDevitt, a staff therapist at Center City's Council for Relationships in University City. "I think that in that way they probably get each other very well. I think there's an awareness and probably a determination not to go down that path."

That the Clintons ultimately stayed together despite one of the rockiest marriages in politics likely struck a chord with Chelsea, McDevitt said.

"I think it depends on what the outcome is," he said. "When you find people coming from situations like this that have resulted in divorce, really conflictual divorce, then yes, it can hold people back from marriage."

But the Clintons' more old-fashioned approach to marital strife - deal with it and move on - probably taught their daughter lessons in perseverance and forgiveness.

"I think her mother holds onto very traditional Methodist views, and this idea of 'for better or for worse' might serve Chelsea very well in her upcoming marriage," said Nichola Gutgold, a professor at Pennsylvania State University's Lehigh Valley campus and the author of Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton 'Won' in 2008.

People identify with the Clintons because they've dealt with the same problems many couples face, Gutgold said.

And America loves its political dynasties almost as much as it loves a good wedding. A simple Google search on "Chelsea Clinton wedding" turns up more than a million hits, with reporters staking out Vera Wang boutiques in hopes of glimpsing a dress and speculating wildly on who might be on the guest list.

"Here's Chelsea, 30 years old - we remember her as a young, gangly preteen. Now she's a beautiful woman getting married, and the nation's sort of swept up with that," Gutgold said.


Contact staff writer Aubrey Whelan at 215-854-4193 or awhelan@phillynews.com.

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