Bhutan Royal Wedding: A Commoner Becomes Queen

King Jigme Khesar is the youngest king in the world.

ByABC News
October 13, 2011, 9:08 AM

Oct. 13, 2011 -- Today, in a remote isolated country that considers itself to be the happiest place on earth, a dashing king transformed a beautiful commoner into a queen.

Bhutan, about the size of Iowa and with a population roughly equal to El Paso, Texas, is a place where there are zero stoplights, only three dentists and where TV appeared about a decade ago.

At 31, King Jigme Khesar, known as the "Asian Elvis," because of his hair style, is apparently the youngest king in the world. He went to college in the Boston area and is a huge Celtics fan.

Khesar was coronated in 2008 when his father, a man with four wives, all sisters, decided to step down. The new king announced in May that he'd chosen a wife, a 21-year-old student named Jetsun Pema, the daughter of an airline pilot, who likes painting and sports.

The entire country was shut down for the wedding today.

The royal bride arrived wearing not Alexander McQueen but a local garment called a Kira, which took three years to weave.

Amid all the solemnity and pageantry, there was a moment of tenderness as the king crowned his new queen, touching her face and smiling.

There was no kiss on a balcony like William and Kate -- they're too modest for that -- but they did have a big party after the ceremony.

PHOTOS: How Does the Bhutan Royal Wedding Compare to the British Royal Wedding?

There was singing, dancing and a lot of mingling.

The festivities were sure to increase the statistic that the country cares about most, Gross National Happiness.

In Bhutan, instead of measuring the economy by Gross Domestic Product, the quarterly number with which America's media and markets obsess, this Himalayan nation uses something called Gross National Happiness.

Every two years, the country conducts a survey of thousands of people, asking questions like: On a scale of zero to 10, do you consider yourself happy?

They also ask questions about how much sleep people are getting, how well they're eating and how they feel about the government. It can get pretty personal.

Once the surveys are completed, the government crunches the numbers and creates policies designed to make people happier. The programs have included protecting forests and teaching school kids to meditate.

The idea of Gross National Happiness is now catching on among U.S. economists who point out that even as America's GDP has doubled since 1974, the level of life satisfaction has stayed basically flat.

"So that this was not simply some flakey idea, but something that really had substance," Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs said. "With all this wealth that's been created, we're not feeling all that well."

But is Bhutan really as happy as advertised?

The country has high rates of alcoholism, and 70 percent of women in the country say it's OK for their husbands to hit them if they burn dinner.

One government official told ABC News that it isn't Shangri-La and the country has some very real challenges. While they aren't perfect, the Bhutanese believe they've come up with a big idea to tackle their challenges and that America would do well to consider: GNH, not only GDP.