Bhutan's king marries student, 21, in modest ceremony

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck marries Jetsun Pema
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI -- Not all royal weddings include long wedding dress trains, Rolls Royce processions and pomp, as Bhutan showed Thursday morning with the marriage of its popular fifth "Dragon King" to a 21-year-old student and daughter of an airline pilot.

The remote mountain kingdom has been abuzz for weeks over the big event, marked by a modest ceremony, hand-woven outfits and a distinct absence of VIPs, bling-bling film stars or foreign royals. Also missing was the usual flood of tacky commemorative tea towels and key chains, although there are plans afoot for a special stamp and coin.

After taking part in various purifications and blessings and prostrating themselves and praying, in keeping with centuries-old traditions, 31-year-old Oxford graduate King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck married Jetsun Pema, whose looks have captivated the Bhutanese public almost as much as they have the king.

[Updated, 6:34 a.m., Oct. 13: The wedding ceremony started at 8:20 a.m. after consultation with royal astrologers.]

The conclusion of the ceremony set off three days of celebration, dancing and drinking among a population of 700,000 that saw no roads until the 1960s and no television until 1999.

King Wangchuck, a keen basketball player and Elvis Presley fan, came to power in 2008 at the start of democracy in Bhutan.

The country has pioneered the use of a "gross national happiness" index -- a measure of people's sense of well-being, harmony with the environment and community ties -- rather than focusing on gross national product.

Several countries have expressed interest in borrowing the idea of measuring contentment. Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans for a "happiness index," although it will probably be a while before a British royal frock is hand-woven.

ALSO:

Britain celebrates the royal wedding

Monaco hosts its own royal wedding

-- Mark Magnier

Photo: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema after their marriage. Credit: Kevin Frayer / Associated Press

 
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