The Other Royal Wedding

By Francesca Dutra Africano


Photo Credit: IB Images

While most of the world is still honeymooning with Wills and Kate, another royal wedding is currently turning heads in the tiny Asian nation of Bhutan.  Although it lacked the worldwide publicity and fanfare of William and Kate’s nuptials, the country of just 700,000 celebrated King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s October 13th wedding for three full days.

The union of the 31-year-old Oxford graduate and constitutional monarch to the 21-year-old commoner was the first public royal ceremony to be held in the country.  The last royal wedding, that of King Khesar’s father, was held in 1979 when Bhutan was still without television, Internet, or even reliable roadways.

The now-crowned queen of Bhutan, Jetsun Pema, attended the ceremony in a kira, a garment customary to the wedding ceremony made of hand-woven silk, in keeping with the rest of the traditional proceedings.  The marriage rites were performed in a monastery in Punakha and included traditional purification rituals, blessings, and prayers.

A humble ruler by all accounts, King Khesar took the throne in 2008 when Bhutan became a democratic constitutional monarchy.  The country is famous for its unique measurement of the country’s progress, which they measure in terms of Gross National Happiness rather than by Gross Domestic Product.  This designation is just one of the ways in which the small nation resists globalization in order to preserve its culture and traditions.  One tradition the king has pledged to buck, though, is that of polygamist marriages like his father’s.  The Fifth Dragon King vowed to take only one bride

This new generation of ruler has already made an impact on the isolated nation as King Khesar has taken steps to rebuild trust with the ethnic Nepalese peoples, Lhotshampas, who reside in the Southern part of the country and were once persecuted by previous rulers.  In an address to the nation on a day that surely raised Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness meter King Khesar promised, “We pledge to serve our people such that together, as a family, we will bring up children who are better educated, more prosperous and stronger than us.”

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