Biden Staffers Celebrate Their Love with September Wedding — Complete with a Gift from the President

·3 min read
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper were both day one staffers on Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, joining the team shortly before the official launch. That their roles — Andrew as head of rapid response and Megan as campaign research director — would wind up being so collaborative was somewhat fortuitous.

"We often joked that our personal life became a perpetual response meeting," the couple tells PEOPLE.

Their connection eventually blossomed into something romantic that survived five moves, a handful of promotions and two campaign cycles.

Four years after their relationship first began, the two traveled to the California coast — a favored locale of the couple and the site of their first vacation together in 2017. As they revisited their favored haunts, getting seafood at Swan Oyster Depot and strolling through Lafayette Park, something was different than before: Andrew had a ring.

On the couple's first trip to San Francisco, they "bonded sitting next to each other in Lafayette Park, which is on a hilltop overlooking the Bay," Megan tells PEOPLE. "In the same area of the park where we'd sat next to each other in 2017, Andrew got down on one knee."

Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography

The couple's September wedding — held at Blue Hill Farm in Waterford, Virginia, in front of 100 family and friends — was a spectacle of romance, family memories and, of course, several notable guests. Naturally, the event included more than a few nods to their day jobs.

Andrew, who now serves as White House deputy press secretary and special assistant to the President, even began his evening toast with a classic Biden-ism, albeit with a twist: "I'm Andrew Bates and I'm Megan Apper's husband."

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Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography

Megan, who is now a senior adviser in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs at the State Department, describes the interfaith ceremony as "moving for both of us."

That's due in large part to the officiants, including Andrew's family pastor John Rights, who presided over his late father's memorial service and generously made the trip to help marry the new couple.

There were other family touches, such as a string quartet that played music composed by the groom's late father, and remembrances of other loved ones, including Megan's late grandmother.

Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography

And, of course, fun was also on the evening's agenda, with the couple's favorite D.C. '90s cover band, White Ford Bronce "bringing the house down" after dinner.

Among the special guests in attendance were former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, White House digital director Rob Flaherty, and White House senior adviser and special assistant to the president Remi Yamamoto.

Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography

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Senior adviser to the president Anita Dunn was also on hand — and helped gift the couple a special wedding present (which included a letter and a congratulatory gift the couple opened in private) on behalf of President Biden and first lady Jill Biden.

Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper
Andrew Bates and Megan Bates-Apper

Ken Pak Photography

As Megan and Andrew put it: "A lot can happen when you combine a rabbi, a minister, a '90s cover band, a bunch of beltway types, and an open bar."