- Young woman marries the love of her life and becomes an actual princess
- The prince and his bride had a lovely ceremony in with true royal flair
- The couple spent years apart, but their love led them back together and onto a path of happiness
We don't often hear about real fairy tales - a young, beautiful woman falls in love with a real prince and becomes a princess after a gorgeous ceremony and live happily ever after.
That's exactly what happened to Ariana Austin who met her prince charming in a club in Washington D.C.
Ariana, who has a fittingly princess-like name, met Joel Makonnen, the great-grandson of Ethiopia's last emperor, during a night out in the city.
Although the two of them were very much attracted to each other, their romance did not happen overnight.
But what fairy tale would be complete without a few obstacles to overcome?
For Ariana (33) and Joel (35) it was their focus on their careers. Joel is employed (yes, he actually works like a normal person!) in the legal department of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical.
Ariana works in philanthropy at the Executive's Alliance for Boys and Men of Colour. What a superbly fitting job for a woman who would become a princess.
Both of them wanted to pursue their chosen careers, but they stayed in contact and kept the fire of their romance alive as time went on.
It took the lovely couple almost 12 years before they finally stood side by side as husband and wife.
When they first met that fateful night in the Washington Pearl Nightclub, neither of them were looking for a relationship. Joel didn't tell Ariana about his royal blood at first.
Joel still remembers the pick-up line he used when he approached Ariana and a friend the first time. “I said, ‘You guys look like an ad for Bombay Sapphire,’ or whatever the gin was,” he recalls.
The prince focused his attention on Ariana immediately and even told her that they were going to end up together. Joel says, “Not even five minutes later I said, ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’ ”. How right he was.
Young Ariana was impressed with Joel's worldliness. At 23 he was talking about things that was what she calls "heavy" for someone his age.
“He talked about weighty things as a young man,” says Ariana. “He mentioned the revolution. Things that sound heavy for someone who was 23.”
The prince grew up in Switzerland, with his parents, Prince David Makonnen and Princess Adey Imru Makonnen, but was born in Rome.
His parents were living in Exile from Ethiopia. Prince David sadly passed away in 1989. As with all royal families, the Makonnen's family history is violent and filled with it's own share of strife.
The Makonnen family is part of The Solomonic Dynasty - the dynasty's rule ended in 1974 after a civil war had broken out it Ethiopia.
The 225th emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was deposed by a Marxist Derg militarian coup.
Selasie's rule over the country that was divided and he was called a spendthrift and 'out of touch'. The civil war ended in a coalition when rebel groups managed to overthrow the ruling government in 1991.
The emperor was then forced into exile in 1936 when the Italians invaded Ethiopia, but he got the British to help him win back his country in 1941.
According to Makonnen family lore, the family lineage can be traced back to King Solomon and the famous Queen of Sheba.
The latest addition to the family - Ariana - is in awe of her new family's history. “It’s unbeatable heritage and history,” she said. “It combines sheer black power and ancient Christian tradition.”
At first it looked like the couple would never end up together. They were just on such different paths. They were travelling around the world without each other.
But as it does with true love, they're feelings for each other remained ever present. Joel went to France for a year after graduating in 2006.
Ariana went to France as well for a 6 month internship. They remained in contact throughout.
In 2008 Joel returned to Ethiopia to start Alchemy World with his uncle. It is an organisation that helps provide the youth of Ethiopia with education and business opportunities.
In 2012 Ariana had gone to Harvard University to get her degree in arts education. That's when the two star-crossed lovers took a break from each other.
But fate was on their side and in 2014 they were back together for Valentine's Day. Joel showed up at her parents' home with plans to ask her to marry him.
Influenced by his nerves, he knocked too loudly and Ariana was frightened. She called her parents. “She thought somebody was trying to break in,” said Ariana's father, Bobby Austin. “And it was just the poor guy trying to propose to her.”
Ariana fondly remembers the incident. “He was aggressively knocking so I didn’t answer. He came back, and then I opened the door.”
Joel had a princess-cut ring in one hand and balloons in the other, and love undefeated in his heart.
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Joel says about the night: “I think I said, ‘Let’s take this journey together,’. When I proposed she was like, ‘It’s about time.’ ”.
Ariana says, “I think we both had this feeling that this was our destiny,”.
The happy couple settled in the Washington area where Ariana works in philanthropy and Joel in a legal department.
After all their time apart and the years that had gone by since they first met and fell in love, those close to the couple never doubted that they would end up together.
Joel's older sister, Sushama Austin-Connor says about the couple: “In many ways it feels like this day was written. Ever since I have seen them together they always have been connected to each other. They have a deep-rooted friendship beyond anything else.”
One of the groomsmen, Yaphet Kifle said, “You can tell they both value the same things: deep respect for families and their elders, and the value of marriage,”.
The beautiful wedding, held on September 9, 2017, was exactly what one would expect in a real fairy tale. The couple decided on this date to be as close as possible to the date of celebration of the Ethiopian New Year, 11 September.
The wedding guests included members from one of the oldest families in the world. There were many Washington council members, scholars and ambassadors as well as lots of family members.
The wedding took place in Temple Hills, Maryland. The ceremony was a "marathon" of lavish events that lasted from early the morning until very late in the evening and took place over two states.
There were 13 priests and clergymen as part of the ceremony. The ecstatic couple wore truly royal outfits - crowns and capes.
Although most of the ceremony had old-world and royal flair, there was also a candy table and a photo booth.
Prince Joel looked happy as he waited for his bride:
Traditional and beautiful Ethiopian Orthodox umbrellas decorated an already stunning wedding venue.
Ariana's face couldn't hide the joy she felt in her heart:
The beautiful couple, finally husband and wife:
Happiness all around:
The ceremony was a truly charming affair:
With their crowns and regal capes the couple were rocking the royal look:
Guests got to dance to classic hits by Marvin Gaye, Bruno Mars and Bob Marley.
Another stunning picture of the couple:
The love story of this enchanting couple is beautiful to hear as well as inspiring because the couple's love outlasted a decade of them being apart. It just goes to show - love conquers all.
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