Life

An American Woman Met An Ethiopian Prince At A Bar—and They Just Had A Lavish Wedding

You have to see the photos of this real-life fairy tale!

Twelve years ago, an American woman named Ariana Austin met a handsome man at a nightclub in Washington D.C. Little did she know he would turn out to be her real-life Prince Charming. The man was Ethiopian prince Joel Makonnen, who is known as Prince Yoel.

Makonnen is the great-grandson of Haile Selassie, who was the last emperor of Ethiopia. Makonnen’s family ruled Ethiopia for nearly 3,000 years, and their ancestry is said to date back to King Solomon. As it turns out, Austin isn’t necessarily a commoner, either. Her maternal grandfather was a lord mayor of Guyana’s capital, Georgetown.

A Wedding Fit For A Princess

On Sept. 9, Austin and Makonnen married in a lavish ceremony—and you absolutely must see the amazing photos of this modern royal wedding.

Austin, who works in philanthropy, told The New York Times she’s always been dazzled by her husband’s worldliness. However, he did not divulge his royal lineage until they were already in a serious relationship.

“He talked about weighty things as a young man,” Austin told the Times. “He mentioned the revolution. Things that sound heavy for someone who was 23.”

A 12-Year Courtship

Ausin and Makonnen have been together on and off for 12 years, through graduate school, career changes and international moves. But in 2014, they were finally ready to commit to one another. Makonnen proposed at Austin’s parents’ house, balloons in hand.

“When I proposed she was like, ‘It’s about time,’” he said.

Three years after they were engaged, their beautiful wedding did perfect justice to both of their storied families. The couple was married in Temple Hills, Maryland, in an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony (Austin had just converted days before), complete with a full 13 officiants.

Foxchase Manor

Their 307-guest reception took place in Manassas, Virginia, and featured platters of Ethiopian food and pre-sliced Guyanese black cake, which looks like chocolate cake but is made from dried fruits such as currants, prunes and raisins that are often soaked in rum or port wine for up to two weeks.

Here’s a sweet snap of the couple on their big day:

Austin wore a Lazaro gown and her father walked her down the aisle—something she had to push for, as the custom is not common in Ethiopian wedding ceremonies.

The Times notes that the wedding was a “marathon day of events that lasted from 11 a.m. until late in the evening.”

Planned close to the Ethiopian New Year, the wedding also featured traditional Ethiopian attire and decor, like these ornate umbrellas.

But the wedding wasn’t all tradition. As you can see from the dazzling tablescapes at the reception at Foxchase Manor, there were definitely some modern decor elements.

The celebration also featured a photo booth, candy table and DJ who played songs by Bruno Mars, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye.

Wow. It’s all so beautiful—a true example of a modern-day fairytale. We’re sending Makonnen and Austin many good wishes for health and happiness in their new lives as a married couple!

Austin’s Instagram feed is full of travel shots from international destinations like Spain and Italy. The couple even took a trip to Ethiopia earlier this year—which she commemorated with the pictures below, thanking her then-fiance for “an incredible trip. We have a feeling their honeymoon will be somewhere special—and we hope to see the pictures!

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Haile Selassie was the last emperor of Egypt. He was the emperor of Ethiopia. We regret the error.