Yet the procedure was hardly parliamentary, and so, on a cold, rainy Dec.7 afternoon Howard Baker Jr., 71, the former Tennessee senator and Republican majority leader, and Nancy Lan-don Kassebaum, 64, the popular retiring senator from Kansas, walked down the aisle of St. Alban's Church in Washington. It was the second marriage for Baker, whose wife Joy had died of cancer in 1993, as well as for Kassebaum, who was divorced 18 years ago. "We all sat there with tears in our eyes," says one of 80 friends and relatives who watched the two walk to the altar together. "We were so happy for them." After the ceremony, performed by former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, the couple sped off to a Republican-heavy reception for 180 at the historic redbrick White-Meyer house in Washington. Among the guests: George and Barbara Bush, Colin Powell, and Bob and Elizabeth Dole.
Although friendly in the Senate, Baker and Kassebaum hadn't seen each other in years when they were seated next to one another at a D.C. dinner party last winter. Soon, Baker invited Kassebaum to dinner, then to the movies. "He was pretty darn quiet," says his daughter Cissy Baker, 40. "But when he started going to Kansas basketball games with Nancy, I put it all together." The couple, who between them have six children and 12 grandchildren, will shuttle between his home in Huntsville, Tenn., and her dairy farm in Burdick, Kans. And they'll be traveling light: During courtship, the energized Baker took off 18 pounds.