Wedding Site Was Chosen by 2-0 Vote


Windy Kaytis was just a toddler when her mother packed her off to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in 1973 to wait with other military families for a chance to greet then-President Richard Nixon, who reached out and shook her tiny hand.

Twenty-four years later, Kaytis and her fiance, Brad Horton, both of Orange, will be the first couple married in the Pat Nixon Amphitheater at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, dedicated this month by benefactors Bob and Delores Hope.

The couple will exchange vows Saturday, on the 57th anniversary of the Nixons’ wedding.

Kaytis, a film student at Chapman University, said she gets goose bumps thinking about their unique nuptials and the convergence of romance with politics, a passion she shares with her family--Nixon supporters, all.


“My whole family is very, very excited about it,” said Kaytis, 26. “We’re heavy-duty Republicans. It was so special that I got to meet him when I was about a year old. I don’t remember it, of course, but my mom always told me that story.”

Kaytis spent last week working on final preparations for the ceremony, to be held before about 175 guests. Their big day will be a bit different from that of the Nixons, who married June 21, 1940, in a private ceremony attended by family and a dozen friends at the presidential suite of the Mission Inn in Riverside. The Nixons were so strapped for cash that they hired a single organist for the ceremony but couldn’t afford a photographer.

The Kaytis-Horton event will be a bit more elaborate. A string quartet will play during the ceremony, joined by a nine-piece band during the reception. Guests will mingle at a catered buffet. Kaytis and her mother arranged 1,600 roses to decorate the grounds. The bride will wear a formal gown, complete with cathedral-length veil.

During the reception, guests will be invited to view the library’s galleries and exhibits and tour Nixon’s boyhood home, which was moved to the library grounds after the library opened in 1991.

The activity might seem odd for a wedding reception but Kaytis said she wants her guests to get a glimpse of the man revered in her childhood home for ending the war in Vietnam, rather than seeing Nixon narrowly as the only American president to resign from office in disgrace.

He did so after impeachment proceedings began over his role in covering up White House involvement in the 1972 break-in at the Democratic national headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington.


“You know, the Watergate thing was unfortunate,” Kaytis said. “I was always taught by my parents that he made a huge mistake, he did something stupid and he got caught, but he was dignified enough to say, ‘OK, I’ll resign.’

“The Nixon I learned about got us out of Vietnam, opened China, did the war on cancer and gave 18-year-olds the right to vote,” she said. “In high school, the only thing they talked about was Watergate and how horrible that was. But there were so many other things he did.”

Being married at the Nixon library isn’t necessarily a partisan proposition, said Noah McMahon, the library’s director of sales and events. There have been about 150 weddings there, with bridal parties drawn by everything from the rose gardens to the ballroom, which McMahon said is the largest outside of an Orange County hotel. The cost is $2,500 plus $2.95 per guest.

“People come here for many reasons, including Nixon,” McMahon said. “It’s amazing how many Democrats come for events like this.”

Horton, 27, has his own Nixon connection from childhood. He grew up in Whittier, as did Nixon. It was Horton who chose the Nixons’ wedding anniversary for their wedding date.

“I said, ‘That would be so neat to be married on their anniversary,’ ” he said. “Because we’re both Republicans, we said, ‘Perfect, it’s done.’


“It’s definitely different to get married like we are but it’s not the norm, and we like that,” said Horton, a part-time firefighter for the Orange County Fire Authority. “It’s being part of a little bit of history.”