24 MAY 2002
The tailor-made wedding of Princess Martha Louise of Norway and writer Ari Behn in Trondheim on Friday was as unique as the couple involved. Every detail – from the little attendants whose bouquets spelled ‘A loves M’, to the princess carrying her own three-metre train as she entered the church attended only by her father – reflected the individuality of the bride and groom.
The ceremony began with a dramatic entrance by the bride as curtains at the back of the historic Nidaros Cathedral opened to reveal her on the arm of King Harald, followed by her young attendants – three little girls wearing tiny diamond crowns and a tuxedo-clad boy clutching a miniature version of the princess’ heart-shaped bouquet. A visibly nervous Ari, who had been waiting patiently at the altar with his best man, actor Kaare Conradi, bowed to his future wife and father-in-law as they met, then gave his arm to Martha Louise, leading her to the two velvet benches where they seated themselves for the ceremony.
The lily and candle-decked cathedral was filled with the sounds of Gregorian chants as a chorus of 12 female singers, dressed in crimson velvet, slowly walked up the long aisle, filed past the bride and groom, and vanished into the recesses of the church. Then, as the congregation and church choir began to sing, Martha glanced at her parents and smiled, tightly gripping her groom’s hand and struggling to fight back tears.
The music continued with a harpist and string orchestra accompanying Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjeboe’s rendition of an 11th-century folk song, her haunting voice filling the air from the back of the church. Ari and Martha, seated up at the altar, turned to watch the performance, stealing occasional glances at each other.
As Crown Prince Haakon, Martha’s younger brother, rose to speak, the princess, who had remained composed until that moment, finally broke into tears, and dabbed her eyes with a delicate handkerchief.
After a reading and a moving choral performance, the bride and groom rose to stand at the altar. Bishop Finn Wagle presented a sermon emphasising that “no-one lives for just oneself”, and then put his hand on top of the couple’s clasped hands while the emotional pair took their vows. And when it was time to put the ring on his bride’s finger, a nervous Ari reached too fast to take the band, putting his hand back at his side briefly until the proper cue arrived. Subtle smiles graced the faces of the couple – perhaps a combination of excitement, happiness and relief – after they had exchanged rings and prepared to kneel for prayer.
As the couple took their seats, the maid of honour arranged Martha’s impressive petal-shaped train and the voices of a girls’ chorus, accompanied by the string orchestra, echoed throughout the church. The princess once again began to cry, and her mother Queen Sonja, seated close by, could also be seen wiping away tears of joy. After another reading, the congregation stood to sing – and Ari and Martha sang too, gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.
Then, a church bell tolled, and the 50-minute cermony came to an end as the bishop gave the bride a kiss, and the groom a handshake. Ari and Martha faced the congregation as they began the long walk down the aisle to the church doors, stopping to bow to the king and queen.
With the organ playing, the curtains once again parted, and Norway’s newest royal couple left the cathedral to greet the crowds who lined the streets – or watched from windows and rooftops – dressed in everything from gowns and tiaras to traditional garb. The newlyweds emerged into church’s courtyard and were met with wild cheers as they shared their first kiss as husband and wife.