When Ariana Austin, 33, met lawyer Joel Makonnen, 35, at the Pearl nightclub in Washington, D.C., she had no idea that a fairy tale was about to unfold.
“I said: ‘You guys look like an ad for Bombay Sapphire’,” Makonnen told The New York Times about his opening line to Austin when they met on the dance floor at the club in December 2005.
“Not even five minutes later I said: ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’ ” Hitting it off immediately, the couple started dating and as things started getting more serious, Makonnen hit her with the truth: He was, in fact, Prince Joel Makonnen, grandson of the last Emperor of Ethiopia and, according to legend, a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. (The 1988 comedy Coming to America starred Eddie Murphy as an African prince who poses as a commoner and falls in love with an American woman.)
“It’s unbeatable heritage and history,” Austin told the New York Times. “It combines sheer black power and ancient Christian tradition.”
On Sept. 9, Austin joined this royal lineage when she married Makonnen in an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony at the Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Temple Hills, Maryland. And she looked every inch the princess bride in a flowing, ivory Lazaro dress. The ceremony was officiated by 13 different priests, with the guests removing their shoes to stand in stockinged feet, reports the New York Times.
Hours later, the couple celebrated long into the night at Foxchase Manor in Manassas, Virginia, dining on platters of Ethiopian food and Guyanese black cake.
“I think we both had this feeling that this was our destiny,” Austin told the Times about the wedding, which was 12 years in the making after the couple’s careers took them to different corners of the world. “But I felt like I had things that I had to do.”
“It was a beautiful and historic union between an amazing couple and I’m glad to have been part of it,” wedding photographer Dontuna Vodeji posted on Instagram shortly afterward, describing the it as a “stunning event.”
Writing on their wedding website ahead of the nuptials, the royal couple described their romance as
“Old World aristocracy met New World charm.” “We’ve always believed that when it came to our love — it was written,” they added. “We’re thrilled to experience the next chapter unfold.”
Despite being royalty, Makonnen will return to his job in the international legal affairs department of Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka. His new bride, who grew up in Washington, D.C., and studied English Literature at Fisk University, works in philanthropy.
“You don’t expect to meet the person you’re going to marry at Pearl,” a bridesmaid Ramberan told the Times.
You also don’t expect that person to be full-fledged royalty!