THIMPHU, Bhutan--When Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck said he didn't want a fancy wedding like other royal families in Europe, it seemed he would have enough pull to get his wish.
However, his subjects have other ideas for the wedding of Wangchuck, 31, to a commoner 10 years younger. The tiny Himalayan nation's big event will be held over three days from Oct. 13.
"While we understand his feelings, the king is a father to us," said Phuntsho Wangdi, the editor of the pro-government Kuensel newspaper. "There are no children who would not want to celebrate his happiness."
Bhutan's media has jumped on the wedding bandwagon.
For example, on the afternoon of Sept. 4, Sonam Dorji, 40, who lives in the capital of Thimphu received an e-mail message on his mobile that said, "Why don't you celebrate the king's wedding with your photo?"
The message was sent out by The Observer, an independent weekly magazine, with cooperation from a mobile telephone company.
Phuntsho Wangmo, 40, CEO of The Observer, said, "We have decided to allow every person to participate by creating a poster of the royal couple as a mosaic using the portraits of the people as a symbol of their feelings of celebration and loyalty."
A similar plan was first hatched two and a half years ago for the king's birthday. Portraits were gathered from 4,500 people and arranged into a poster of the king.
However, many people gave up on even applying to participate because of limited access to the Internet in a landlocked nation surrounded by tall and rugged mountains.
For the latest project, organizers plan to use ID photos registered with the government after obtaining the approval of the individual.
"The government at first rejected our request because officials said it was a commercial venture, but they finally gave in after we persistently explained that it was to express the feelings of the people," Wangmo said.
At the Jigme Namgyel Lower Secondary School in the capital, practices continue on songs and dances for a celebratory event.
The school put special effort in asking students to submit writings and art work. Teachers selected the best of the works submitted by the 1,100 students at the school.
Tshering Dukpa, the school principal, said, "We have put together some outstanding work."
Roshan Rajak, 12, a sixth-grader, wrote his composition while recalling what he had seen on TV about Wangchuck and his future bride, Jetsun Pema.
"The king is very handsome and dashing. The queen-to-be is also very pretty. I hope they will be happy."
Because tradition still plays an important role in Bhutan, many people wear traditional attire in their daily lives.
In public offices and events, officials and participants are asked to wear formal attire.
That thinking has led many people to prepare new traditional attire to wear at various events planned for the royal wedding.
The Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center in the capital has been busy making silk cloth using traditional designs. The cloth is used to make the traditional gho worn by men and the kira worn by women.
The center was started 11 years ago by Kezang Lhundrup, a 51-year-old originally from Trashigang, a district in eastern Bhutan known for its weaving.
While some of the highest quality cloth can cost up to 300,000 yen ($3,900), the center is running low on its inventory because so many people want to make new clothes for the wedding ceremony and related events.
That enthusiasm demonstrates the special place reserved for the king by the people of Bhutan.
Even though the nation only has an area about the size of Kyushu, it has different cultures and languages in different regions because it was long divided by treacherous mountains and valleys.
In the past, the tribes of the various regions were in constant conflict, but the first king of the current dynasty unified the nation about 100 years ago. Ever since, the king has played a major role in the nation.
Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the father of the current king, is considered an especially important figure because he emphasized tradition while also pursuing modernization as a means of survival for the tiny nation, sandwiched between China and India, which have long had a tense relationship.
The former king proposed the concept of gross national happiness to stress the feeling of happiness among the people as the goal for social and national development.
To strengthen the national identity of the people, efforts were made to wear traditional attire, and Dzongkha was made the official language of the nation.
The king also pushed for democratization by giving instructions to compile a written Constitution. He set the course for national elections contested by several political parties and created the course for a transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
In December 2006, the king abdicated to his oldest son, who was 26 at the time.
Like his father, Wangchuck has held numerous sessions where he could talk to his subjects, and his good looks and youth have contributed to making him an extremely popular ruler.
Lily Wangchhuk, who heads a local foundation, said, "The royal couple will serve as models for all of us. Because divorce is prevalent in Bhutan, I hope this serves as an opportunity to share in their happiness and confirm the importance of ties between couples and families."
At the same time, Bhutan faces many problems, such as rapid urbanization of the capital, corruption by bureaucrats and a weakening of traditional culture.
Five years after rising to the throne, Wangchuck's leadership skills will be put to the test once the wedding ceremony is completed.
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