With 45 years of marriage under their belt, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have a strong union that has certainly stood the test of time. Even though Joe knew Jill was the one almost immediately, it took the community college professor a little longer to realize she and Joe were meant to be together. In an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show, which will air on December 19, 2022, the president shares the story behind falling in love with Jill and proposing to her five times.
During their first encounter, Joe says he was smitten. “My brother set us up on a blind date, and when I went out with her the first time, I knew that this was the woman,” he tells host Drew Barrymore. “I really did.”
Since Joe felt a connection right from the start, he was set on spending the rest of his life with Jill, so he popped the question. The only problem? He had to propose four more times before Jill finally said “yes.” On the show, the president describes the fifth and final time he got down on one knee. “I had to ask her five times, and the fifth time, I was in South Africa, trying to see Nelson Mandela,” Biden recounts. “I came back, got off the plane in Philadelphia, drove straight to her apartment, knocked on the door, and she said, ‘Oh, Joe, come on in.’ I said, ‘no.’ I said, ‘You got my Irish up.’ And I said, ‘I’m asking you one more time.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to say when, but if. If you say no, I understand, and that’s it.’ I looked at her and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ She goes, ‘OK.’ Swear to God.”
According to Today, at the time, Joe was a single father of two sons, Hunter and Beau. His first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, and their daughter, Naomi, died in a car accident in 1972. Both Hunter and Beau were critically injured in that car crash. After the accident, Jill had developed a close relationship with the boys, and that connection was a main reason why she finally decided to marry Joe. “Later, after it was over, I call my sister,” he remembers. “I said, ‘What made her change her mind?’ She told me Jill fell in love with the boys.”
Jill previously told Vogue that she was hesitant to accept the proposal because she didn’t want Hunter and Beau to suffer another loss again. "I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet. Not yet,’” she said to the publication. “Because by that time, of course, I had fallen in love with the boys, and I really felt that this marriage had to work because they had lost their mom, and I couldn’t have them lose another mother, so I had to be 100 percent sure.”
While talking to Barrymore, the 46th president notes that his sons, who were six and seven years old at the time, were instrumental in facilitating the proposal. “I said, ‘What’s the matter, guys?’” he reflects. “Beau finally said, ‘Dad, we were talking. We think we should marry Jill.’”
The couple finally said “I do” on June 17, 1977, at the United Nations Chapel in New York. Beau and Hunter stood with the duo at the altar while they traded vows in front of 40 friends and family. After the ceremony, they held a reception lunch at the Sign of the Dove. Four years later, they became a family of five. Joe and Jill welcomed their first and only child together, Ashley, on June 8, 1981. They now have seven grandchildren.