In the wise words (opens in new tab) of former First Lady Michelle Obama, "You really don't know what you don't know until you're here." As we approach the one year anniversary of the 2016 presidential election, we couldn’t help but take a look back at the rules and traditions that have made the White House, well, the White House—and how they've evolved over the years. Ahead, 50 strict rules and traditions the first family is *supposed* to follow.
The first lady must choose an interior designer to work with.
The Obama family chose Michael S. Smith and the Trump family chose Tham Kannalikham.
Family isn’t typically supposed to take on any formal roles in the administration...
...but President Trump has broken this tradition with the appointment (opens in new tab) of his daughter Ivanka Trump as assistant to the president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior advisor to the president.
The first family is able to decorate the White House according to their style...
...but rooms like the Lincoln Room (above) and Yellow Room are off-limits (opens in new tab).
Most changes can only occur on the second and third floors...
...to preserve history.
The first lady and children typically live in the White House with the President.
However, the Trump administration broke this tradition. Melania and her son Barron lived in their Fifth Avenue penthouse in NYC while Barron finished attending school.
They're not supposed to spend money on extravagant renovations.
The money Congress allots to spending on decor varies each year, but it’s often scrutinized by the American people. President Trump has spent (opens in new tab) nearly $2 million so far in renovations.
The money Congress allots to spending on decor varies each year, but it’s often scrutinized by the American people. President Trump has spent nearly $2 million so far in renovations.
...such as the grand piano and signature art works. There’s a White House curator in charge of this to make sure each first family cares for it.
There’s *always* a theme for the official White House Christmas tree...
...chosen by the first family. Jackie O started this tradition in 1961.
There’s also a Blue Room tree...
...which is just as important and decorated *equally* as fabulous.
Neither the president nor the vice president can decline Secret Service protection...
...but their spouses and adult children can.
They can’t open any windows...
...in the White House or in the car. Opening windows was Michelle Obama's post-White House dream. (opens in new tab)
Adding an addition to the White House requires special approval.
Like building this swimming pool (left), or a bowling alley. President Obama had the White House tennis court redesigned to double as a basketball court. 🏀
The first family can’t move in a minute sooner than January 20...
...and it has to be done within 12 hours.
They’re not responsible for utility bills and mortgage...
...but they are responsible for personal items like any average American.
The first family is supposed to pick up the tab for every meal they eat at the White House or Camp David.
In fact, former first lady Laura Bush recalls (opens in new tab) having to do this often.
They’re supposed to bring all of their belongings to the White House themselves...
...and cover transportation costs.
Every year they participate in the Easter Egg Roll...
...for a day of festivities on the White House South Lawn.
There’s a White House snowball fight every year...
...and the family is supposed to participate. The #FOMO is real.
Every year they host a Hannukah event and light the menorah.
No word on what a Trump Hannukah party looks like.
The president and the first lady are supposed to attend the White House Correspondents' dinner.
The Trump family refused to this year.
They're also supposed to host a dinner marking the end of Ramadan.
Trump broke this tradition (opens in new tab) this year.
The White House always celebrates Cinco de Mayo.
Oh look, another 16-year-long tradition (opens in new tab) Trump broke.
The President always pardons a turkey on Thanksgiving.
This year Trump may be pardoning himself. (opens in new tab)
Presidential pets are pretty much *always* a thing...
...to "soften" the first family's image (opens in new tab) and make them more relatable. Can you guess which family doesn't have one?
The first family always stays at Blair House, the Presidential guest house, before the inauguration.
A tradition (opens in new tab) President Trump did indeed follow.
Multiple bills and laws are normally signed into office within the first 100 days.
President Trump signed (opens in new tab) 28 bills into law, whereas President Roosevelt signed 76 bills and President Harry Truman signed 55. President Obama had a low amount due to major legislation surrounding low-income households and wage discrimination.
The first ladies always meet after the election...
Teach me everything you know. 😘
...And so do the past and current presidents.
"How long is this going to take?"
You're not supposed to plagiarize speeches...
...but ya know, it happens (opens in new tab).
They spend a lot of time at Camp David.
Though President Trump is never too pleased (opens in new tab) to visit.
They're supposed to recognize LGBT Pride Month.
The Trump administration has declined to recognize it. (opens in new tab)
They're supposed to ride Air Force One.
Trump declined to use Air Force One to meet President Obama at the White House—instead using his own plane (opens in new tab).
The president has to plan their funeral within the first week of their presidency.
Pretty morbid (opens in new tab), if you ask us.
The first children typically attend private school.
Only one U.S. president has sent his children to a D.C. public school in the last century (opens in new tab), and that exception was President Jimmy Carter with his youngest daughter Amy Carter.
They can't drive a car on a public road...
...or drive a car at all, for that matter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
They're supposed to maintain full transparency with the press.
Remember when reporters weren't banned (opens in new tab) from press conferences?
The first children are always accompanied by Secret Service...
...even after they leave office (unless they're over the age of 16 and they can choose whether or not they want to keep it).
While there’s a national disaster going on, the president isn't supposed to go to his private golf club.
Need we say more (opens in new tab)?
The president must always use a secure phone when making a phone call.
Two separate phones, like the cool kids.
The president can't go anywhere without the Secret Service.
Always watching. 👀
First children don't typically have any social media accounts.
Sasha and Malia Obama didn't have any while living in the White House, and before they became first children Twitter wasn't even a thing. 😱
Speaking of Twitter, the president isn't *supposed* to tweet every thought he has.
Because, you know, boundaries—and a little thing called top secret information.
For those in the family who do have a Twitter, they have to give up their official accounts...
...in order for them to be passed down to the next successor.
They always meet with the Queen...
The Queen has met with every U.S. President since her reign. However, she has yet to meet with President Trump, who has a petition (opens in new tab) filed against him from meeting her.
...As well as the rest of the Royal Family.
So far only Prince Harry and Melania Trump have met, and it was extremely awkward (opens in new tab).
It's tradition for the first lady to tackle important initiatives...
...like Michelle Obama's "Let Girls Learn (opens in new tab)."
The whole family attends the presidential inauguration.
No getting out of this one, Barron.
The president isn't supposed to comment on the jobs report...
...within an hour of its monthly release. Trump broke this rule (opens in new tab) twice.
The kids still have to do their chores.
At least that's what the Obama's told their children (opens in new tab).
Once the first family leaves the White House, they're free to do everything they're not *supposed* to do while in office.
Like live their best life on vacation. (And that's an order.)
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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