1. Headline
  1. Headline
Kevin Frayer  /  AP
A Bhutanese staff member places a ribbon under a portrait of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and future Queen Jetsun Pema in Bhutan. The 31-year-old reformist monarch of the small Himalayan kingdom will wed his commoner bride on Thursday.
By
updated 10/12/2011 11:43:33 AM ET 2011-10-12T15:43:33

Children composed poems of joy, flight attendants and bank clerks practiced celebratory dances and the airwaves were flooded with wedding fever as the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan prepared for the marriage of its beloved fifth Dragon King.

The ceremony Thursday, while far less star-studded than the year's other royal wedding — of William and Kate — will be no less elaborate in its uniquely Bhutanese way.

Story: Royal weddings to commoners more common

"It's the biggest occasion I'll ever see in my life," said Tshewang Rinzin, 27, a loan officer.

  1. Stories from
    1. What We're Reading This Weekend: Celebrity Nonfiction
    2. Rachel Bilson's Boho-Chic Bump Style
    3. Aubrey Plaza to Voice Grumpy Cat in Lifetime's Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever
    4. Man Arrested for the Murder of Jill Halliburton Su
    5. America's Got Talent Winner Mat Franco: I'm No Longer Embarrassed to Say I'm a Magician

Time set by astrologers
The couple will be married by Bhutan's top Buddhist cleric at the country's most sacred monastery fortress in the old capital of Punakha at an auspicious time determined by astrologers.

During the hours of ceremonies, the 31-year-old king, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, will be adorned with royal scarves. His bride, 21-year-old Jetsun Pema, will present him a chalice filled with the ambrosia of eternal life that he will drink, and he will place a crown upon the new queen's head.

Slideshow: Fairytales do come true... (on this page)

"It's a very emotional experience, a spiritual experience as well," Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley told The Associated Press.

Yet there will be no foreign princes, no visiting heads of state, no global celebrities, just the royal family, thousands of nearby villagers and the rest of the country's 700,000 people watching live on TV.

"The whole theme of the wedding was to keep it a simple family affair, that is the Bhutanese family," said Kinley Dorji, Bhutan's secretary of information.

Long-awaited nuptials
Bhutanese have been waiting for their bachelor king to find a bride and start a family of his own since his father retired and handed power to him five years ago.

The Oxford-educated king is adored for pushing development and ushering in democratic reforms. His teen-idol looks — slicked back hair, long sideburns — his penchant for evening bike rides through the streets and his reputation as a laid-back, accessible leader, also make him the rare monarch whose picture adorns the bedroom walls of teenage girls.

"He's lovable, he's kind, he loves his people, he always interacts with us, he always makes us feel like we are his family," said Anu Chhetri, 14, who often sees the king pedaling through nearby villages. "He inspires us. He's everything to us."

His bride, the daughter of a pilot, has been on an introductory tour of the remote villages of the nation since the king told Parliament in May, "It's now time for me to marry."

Kevin Frayer  /  AP
A large banner of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and future Queen Jetsun Pema is seen on a storefront in the capital of Thimphu.

Buddhist kings had reigned supreme in the stunning, mountainous country until the current king's father established a constitutional monarchy and legislature in 2008.

The tiny nation began slowly opening up to the rest of the world in the 1960s. Foreigners and the international media were first admitted in 1974, and television finally arrived in 1999.

Still, only 20,000 foreigners are allowed in each year on heavily supervised, expensive trips, and society remains tightly controlled. Bhutanese say the gently paced reforms have allowed them to keep their culture and sovereignty intact.

The country has not had a royal wedding since the fourth king held a mass ceremony in 1988 with his four wives — four sisters he had informally married years earlier. The current king says he will take only one wife, so the country is unlikely to see another such celebration for a long time.

"It's a moment when the entire nation is coming together," said Dorji Wangchuk, spokesman for the king.

Countdown clock ticks
Bhutanese TV has been running a wedding countdown clock as it repeatedly shows footage of the royal couple on tour, including a puzzling shot of the royal bride hitting putts on a golf course as the king looks on. Local radio has been broadcasting endless greetings from government agencies hoping the wedding will bring "more happiness in this land of happiness" and "the light of hope and aspiration to all couples around the globe."

Phub Dorji, a flight attendant for the national airline, Druk Air, has been practicing four hours a day for more than a month for a dance exhibition he and his colleagues will perform for the couple at a mass celebration Saturday at the main stadium in the capital, Thimphu.

Slideshow: Will and Kate's royal wedding (on this page)

"The king and queen and royal family have done so much for the people," he said. "We wanted to give something back."

Students have composed poems to the couple — "the brightest stars in the sky." Their images adorn traffic circles and buildings across Thimphu, and every other person seems to be wearing a button with their official picture.

  1. More about the Royals
    1. Duchess Kate surprises young fan with touching letter
    2. London Mayor accepts Pippa's Ping-Pong challenge
    3. Duchess Kate (TM)? Charity wants to trademark royals’ names
    4. PETA to Queen Elizabeth: Stop pigeon racing
    5. Prince William's job saving people from 'edge of death' may end

Phub Dorji, 70, a retired soldier unrelated to the flight attendant, spent the relative fortune of 200 ngultrum ($4) to come to Thimphu for the wedding festival.

"I might die any time," he said. "I would have paid anything to see the wedding of the king and queen."

Now that the king is fulfilling their pleas for him to marry, many Bhutanese are hoping he will move on to his next mission: producing an heir.

"I'm eager to see the sixth king," Ugyen Gazom, 15, said with a giggle.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Royal marriages to commoners

loading photos...
  1. King Jigme of Bhutan and Jetsun Pema

    When people mention a commoner marrying into royalty, the most recent couple to come to mind may be Prince William and Kate Middleton but they're not the only royal/commoner pair to cause a stir. Here are a few other couples that found love outside their social class.

    King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan holds the hand of Queen Jetsun Pema, a 21 year old student at London's Regent College, after their wedding on October 13, 2011. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Prince William and Kate Middleton

    Britain's Prince William married Kate Middleton, a commoner with coal-mining roots, on Friday, April, 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London. Upon their nuptials, the couple were titled the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. (Alastair Grant / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Duchess of Alba and Alfonso Diez Carabantes

    Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James-Stuart, the Duchess of Alba, married for the third time at age 85 on October 5, 2011 in Seville, Spain. Her new husband is Alfonso Diez Carabantes, a 61-year-old civil servant. (José Manuel Vidal / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock

    Prince Albert II of Monaco and one-time Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock were married on July 1, 2011. The couple met when Charlene traveled to Monaco for a swimming competition in 2000. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling

    Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and her husband Prince Daniel meet the general public as they appear on the Lejonbacken Terrace after their wedding ceremony on June 19, 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden. The couple fell in love while Daniel served as Victoria's personal trainer. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Princess Sayako and Yoshiki Kuroda

    Princess Sayako Kuroda of Japan married Yoshiki Kuroda, a commoner, on November 15, 2005 and lost her royal title as a result. (Issei Kato / Pool via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Crown Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano

    Spain's Crown Prince Felipe kept his relationship with journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano under wraps until they announced their engagement in 2003. They were married on May 22, 2004. (Heribert Proepper / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby

    Crown Prince Haakon married single mother Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby on August 25, 2001. Mette-Marit's wild past in Oslo caused some concern among the royal family and general public but their opinion of her rose after she admitted to her past wrongs a week before the wedding. (Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Prince Nikolaos and Tatiana Blatnik

    Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Tatiana Blatnik, an event planner for fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, were married in Saint Nicolas church at the island of Spetses on August 25, 2010. (Studio Kominis / Pool via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. King Abdullah II and Rania al Yassin

    Jordan's King Abdullah II and Rania al Yassin met at a dinner party in January 1993 and were engaged two months later. The two married on June 10, 1993. (Nasser Ayoub / Royal Palace via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Crown Prince Willem Alexander and Máxima Zorreguieta

    Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands and Máxima Zorreguieta, an investment banker, married on March 30, 2001. (Carl De Souza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Donaldson

    Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wave to well-wishers from the balcony at Amalienborg castle in Copenhagen after their wedding ceremony at Copenhagen's cathedral on May 14, 2004. Mary, an Austrailian marketing consultant, met Frederik at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. (Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. King Hussein and Elizabeth Najeeb Halaby

    Born to an Arab-American family, Elizabeth Najeeb Halaby met King Hussein while working in Jordan on urban planning and design projects. She converted to Islam upon marrying Hussein on June 15, 1978 and changed her name to Noor al-Hussein. The two had a happy marriage until the King died of cancer in 1999. (Rabih Moghrabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

    Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, married Sarah Ferguson on July 23, 1986. The marriage didn't last and after four years of separation the couple filed for divorce in 1996. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly

    Prince Rainier III of Monaco met American screen legend Grace Kelly during a photo shoot in 1955. The two married a year later on April 19, 1956 in what the press called "The Wedding of the Century." They remained happily married for almost 30 years until Grace had a stroke while driving, resulting in a deadly car accident. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Image: Bhutan Celebrates As The King Marries
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (15) Fairytales do come true...
  2. Image: Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk together in Buckingham Palace in central London
    John Stillwell / PA / Pool via Getty Images
    Slideshow (44) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Ceremony
  3. Image: Royal Wedding - The Newlyweds Greet Wellwishers From The Buckingham Palace Balcony
    Oli Scarff / Getty Images
    Slideshow (31) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Royal fans
  4. Image: Ex-pats In Kabul Watch Royal Wedding
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Slideshow (18) Will and Kate's royal wedding - World reaction
  5. Image: Police officers walk down The Mall before the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton in central London
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Slideshow (9) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Security

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Patrick Semansky / AP

    NFL player retired to donate kidney to brother

    9/18/2014 11:36:43 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T23:36:43
  1. Claudette Barius / AP

    No McConaughey in 'Magic Mike' sequel

    9/18/2014 11:32:56 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T23:32:56
  1. Ed Suba Jr. / AP

    'Hero' bus driver sacrifices her life to save 10-year-old student

    9/18/2014 6:45:02 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T18:45:02
  1. Beverly Mitchell via whosay

    Too soon? Nah. From '7th Heaven' to 'Buffy,' we love these retro reunions

    9/18/2014 7:25:46 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T19:25:46
  1. Rafael Mantesso

    Fun photos of dog give artist new leash on life after break-up

    9/18/2014 8:09:04 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T20:09:04