There’s nothing like the bliss of a springtime wedding: the flowers, the food, the warm weather and sunshine, the traditional visit to your favorite American leader’s presidential library as part of the bachelorette weekend. Tradition, after all, is an important ingredient in a marriage.
The “presidential library visit” tradition may be a previously unrecognized one, but it’s how Shelby Swartz, a 26-year-old New Yorker (by way of California) who works in BuzzFeed’s research department, wanted to spend her bachelorette party in Austin this past weekend. Swartz, who has no connection to Austin, is a history buff. Upon determining that she and her friends would be spending the weekend in Austin, she asked her maid of honor to plan the itinerary.
“I told her I wanted the weekend itinerary to be a total surprise, but that my only request was that we went to the LBJ Library,” she says. “I majored in U.S. history in college, and I find all the Cold War presidents especially fascinating.” (The only other rule? “And no strippers.”)
Swartz and her friends got very into the idea of spending the weekend in Texas. They each had t-shirts custom made, with a photo of their favorite iconic Texan on the front and a taco above the words “Texas Forever” on the back. Swartz’s, naturally, featured America’s 36th president, while others’ shirts favored Matthew McConaughey, Anna Nicole Smith, or Jessica and Ashlee Simpson. And while all of Swartz’s friends may not share her sincere interest in President Johnson, they were all happy to be part of the program. (For her part, Swartz’s interest is entirely earnest—she described looking at the pens that Johnson used to sign the Great Society bills into law as “actually quite moving.”)
“Everyone was so game. One of my bridesmaids was like, ‘My dad is so proud of us for doing this!'” she says. “All of my friends have quirky interests themselves, and are the type of people who like to learn something new. Everyone loved seeing the political ephemera and cultural artifacts from the sixties.”
The center’s staff was absolutely delighted to see the party arrive. “The women at the check-in desk asked to take a picture with me, and told me they would have let me in for free if the admission wasn’t already free for that day,” Swartz says. “Instead, they gave me a free Johnson bobblehead from the gift shop, which was so thoughtful. I told them I was happy I didn’t need to register for one anymore.”
LBJ looms surprisingly large in Swartz’s love life, too. She met her future husband in college, and they bonded over their shared love of history. “The night I met him, he was reading Lyndon B. Johnson and the Transformation of American Politics by John L. Bullion. I am not making this up,” she says. “Our first date was at the New York Historical Society Museum.”