Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen’s love story is not your everyday kind of romantic story.
Fairytales are not known for beginning in a Washington DC nightclub, but for one American woman, it was where she met the Ethiopian prince who would go on to become her husband.
“Nearly a decade ago a boy and a girl met on the dance floor in Washington DC. Old world aristocracy met New world charm. From the streets of Adams Morgan to boulevards in Paris, from Howard to Harvard, holidays in Nice and Addis, we talked history and culture and law. We’ve always believed that when it came to our love — it was written — and we’re thrilled to experience the next chapter unfold. We’re honored that you will join us for the first dance,” says the couple.
Their marriage had been more than a decade in the making. In the nearly 12 years since they first met on a dance floor at the Washington nightclub Pearl, in December 2005, Mr. Makonnen and Ms. Austin have pursued degrees, jobs and, at times, each other. Eventually, planning a wedding just became the next item on this ambitious couple’s to-do list.
“I think we both had this feeling that this was our destiny,” Ms. Austin said. “But I felt like I had things that I had to do.”
When the two met, Mr. Makonnen didn’t tell Ms. Austin about his royal background, and Ms. Austin, who was 21 at the time, wasn’t necessarily looking to meet her future husband. She was in the middle of a time in her life she fondly referred to as “the summer that never ended.” Mr. Makonnen, himself in bachelor mode, approached Ms. Austin and her friend Jami Ramberan, and told the two women that they looked like models for a brand of alcohol.
“I said, ‘You guys look like an ad for Bombay Sapphire,’ or whatever the gin was,” Mr. Makonnen recalled of the pickup line, one now infamous with Ms. Austin’s family. (At the wedding, even Ms. Ramberan, a bridesmaid, recalled the strangeness of that evening: “You don’t expect to meet the person you’re going to marry at Pearl.”)
Mr. Makonnen quickly focused on Ms. Austin: “Not even five minutes later I said, ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’ ”