Bhutan's king marries student, 21, in modest ceremony
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.
-- Mark Magnier
Photo: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema after their marriage. Credit: Kevin Frayer / Associated Press