On August 25th Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in Oslo Cathedral. At the end of 1999 it became known that the Crown Prince did have a girlfriend who was a single mother and had been a member of the Oslo house-scene. Despite all the comments in Norway and across the world, Crown Prince Haakon stayed with his choice, was living together with Mette-Marit by the end of 2000, and, on December 1st, 2000, their engagement was announced. After the engagement was announced, the press went on talking about Mette-Marit's past. During the press conference just days before the wedding Mette-Marit said: "I was in an environment where my rebellion was tested and we went to extremes". She said the references to her past have been hurtful, "but I unfortunately can't make those earlier choices again, no matter how much I wish I could". She took the opportunity to say she keeps her distance from drugs.
On Wednesday, the day of the press conference, the first royal guest, Felipe, Prince of Austrias, arrived in Oslo and stayed at the Grand Hotel as did several other royal guests. Most of the important guests stayed at the royal palace itself. Three days of partying followed, starting on Thursday with a private party at the Skaugum estate at Asker, just outside of Oslo, to which the younger royals and friends - including Eva Sannum, the girlfriend of Crown Prince Felipe - were invited. Most royal guests didn't arrive until Friday morning. On a very sunny afternoon, the bride and groom invited the younger royals and friends for a boat trip on the royal yacht, K/S Norge, which sailed the Oslo Fjord. Apart from a few security boats and small camera boats, the yacht was also followed by two old fishing-boats full of press - including myself. In the evening the Norwegian government gave a dinner at the Akershus fortress in Oslo to which 320 guests were invited. Hundreds of schoolchildren from Oslo stood along the path from the gate of the fortress to the entrance of the building where the dinner was held, and they greeted the guests with huge enthusiasm and shook hands with Norwegian celebrities, politicians, and, of course, the royals.
Saturday was quite a rainy day, but as the Norwegians say: "Rain on your wedding-day brings luck". Despite the rain, early in the morning gaily dressed people walked through the main streets of Oslo, enjoying the many flags and other decorations along the route from the royal palace to the cathedral. In many shop windows there was a photo of the bride and groom. While the Norwegian royal family, without Mette- Marit, and their guests had a look at the exhibition of Queen Sonja's private art collection at the Henie Onstad Art Centre near Oslo, the first people took their places in front of the cathedral to be sure they would have a good view. Among them were not only Norwegians, but also people from all over the world, some of whom had travelled to Norway especially for the wedding. The first guests for the wedding arrived around 3:00pm; among them was Ari Behn, the boyfriend of Princess Märtha Louise of Norway. Like many of the Norwegian guests he wore his bunad, the traditional costume that differs according to region. Eva Sannum arrived wearing a beautiful blue dress. Her name was screamed loudly by the now huge crowd which had gathered in front of the cathedral.
The royal guests arrived in cars according to rank; first the princes and princesses, then the crown princes and crown princesses, and, finally, the Kings and Queens. Among the guests were Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Queen Sofia of Spain, King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium, Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg, former King Konstantinos II and Queen Anne Marie of Greece, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine of Sweden, The Prince of Wales, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Prince of Asturias, The Prince of Orange with his fiancée Máxima Zorreguieta, Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Prince Philippe of Belgium, Hereditary Prince Albert of Monaco, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg, Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg, Prince Nikolaos of Greece, and Princess Alexia of Greece with her husband Carlos Morales Quintana.
Crown Prince Haakon, wearing his gala uniform of the Norwegian Army, arrived under loud cheers together with his best man Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. They were soon followed by King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Finally, Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby arrived with her bridesmaid Linda Tånevik. The bride was wearing a gown of specially dyed ecru thick silk crêpe and soft silk tulle with a two-metre long train. The ensemble was designed by Ove Harder Finseth in collaboration with the bride. The six-metre long veil of silk tulle was fixed on the back of the bride's head while she wore an antique diamond tiara dated circa 1910 on her head. The bridal bouquet, a so-called bridal runner, was made of pink and lilac-coloured flowers. Bride and groom entered the church together and were married in a simple but very emotional wedding service conducted by bishop Gunnar Stålsett, who, in his speech, referred to Mette-Marit's past saying: "You are beginning a new chapter, with pages still unwritten. You do this with dignity. Today you are better equipped to understand others, young and old, who are in pain. Jesus says, 'he who is forgiven little, loves little'. Your love for your son shows both tenderness and determination. As a single mother you have set an example in the way you have cared for your child." During this speech Mette-Marit was moved to tears. After this speech, at 5:41pm, Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby said "I do" while, outside, the public cheered loudly. From that moment, Mette-Marit became Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. After Sami (Lapp) singer Mari Boine sung a beautiful song in her own language, Princess Märtha Louise with a clear voice read the text of Isaiah, chapter 58, verse 5-8. Later Crown Princess Victoria read the prayer of Francis of Assisi.
Under the sounds of an old bridal march, the bride and groom left the cathedral around 5:55pm. In front of the cathedral they kissed several times, watched by the very enthusiastic public and press. They left in an open limousine and drove back to the royal palace, slowly passing thousands of cheering people along the route. At 6:50pm the bride and groom appeared on the balcony of the royal palace, while thousands of people stood on the square in front. To the great enthusiasm of the crowd, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette- Marit kissed each other several times. The parents of the bridal couple, the best man Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, bridesmaid Linda Tånevik, the young bridesmaids and the page - Mette-Marit's 4-year-old son Marius who looked a bit tired - also appeared on the balcony. After the balcony scene the official wedding photos were taken. The guests were divided in two groups; the royal guests had dinner with other important guests at the royal palace while the others ate at the Oslo Militære Samfund. Outside, the people in the streets could enjoy opera in the harbour, and in front of the palace volunteers gave a performance about their voluntary activities. At 10:15pm the guests from the Oslo Militære Samfund travelled to the royal palace and were received by King Harald V. At 11:00pm bride and groom, their parents, and all the royal guests came outside on the balcony of the royal palace to enjoy the huge 10-minute firework show above while other guests were watching from the windows or from the palace square just below the balcony. Marius reacted with huge enthusiasm when he saw the fireworks. Still thousands of people were standing in front of the palace enjoying the bridal couple, their guests, and the fireworks. Back inside, Haakon and Mette-Marit cut the huge wedding cake and not much later opened the ball with the bridal waltz to "Around the World". During the waltz, Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and his girlfriend Eva Sannum were spotted together on an official occasion for the first time. Who knows, we might get another royal wedding in 2002 after the Dutch on February 2nd! I surely will be there again.