It is a story seemingly straight out of the pages of a fairytale, sprinkled with Disney magic: boy meets girl in a cafe, boy falls in love with girl, turns out girl is a real-life princess.
Today, Dennis Muhammad Abdullah – a former semi-professional footballer from Lisse, in the Netherlands – married Princess Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim: the only daughter of the Sultan of Johor, Malaysia.
Dennis, 28, met Princess Tunku Tun Aminah, 31, in a cafe when he worked as a marketing manager for a Singapore football team.
Some three years later, after converting to Islam and leaving his christian name Dennis Verbaas behind, the Dutchman married his princess in a lavish traditional ceremony.
Princess Tunku Tun Aminah is the only daughter of one of Malaysia’s most powerful sultans: Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
The Dutchman and the princess wed according to Muslim Malay custom at the Serene Hill Palace, the royal family’s residence in the southern city of Johor Bahru.
The private ceremony was attended by close family and friends.
The groom, who now works for a property development company in Johor, wore traditional white Malay wedding attire and the bride wore a white dress.
Dennis Muhammad placed the wedding ring on Tunku Aminah’s finger in a special room in the palace, according to the royal press office.
In keeping with centuries-old wedding customs in the Muslim-majority southern state of Johor, he also gave her a dowry of 22.50 ringgit (about £4), and the couple kissed the hands of their parents, aunts and uncles as a mark of respect.
An evening ceremony replete with pomp and tradition capped the festivities in the southern state of Johor, with the couple sitting on an elaborately decorated dias as family members and dignitaries dropped petals into their hands and sprinkled them with scented water and yellow rice.
Afterwards, the newlyweds made their first public appearance as man and wife on the palace steps, smiling and waving to around 1,200 reception guests assembled in the garden.
Richard Chong, a 30-year-old marketing executive from Singapore and friend of Dennis who was a wedding guest, said that he was going to wish the couple happiness.
‘My message to the couple when I meet them is ‘Marriage is about taking care of each other. They must respect and love each other’,’ he said.
There have been frenetic preparations in recent days, with the grounds of the main palace decorated with bunting and main streets adorned with flags.
‘I am taking my wife and two young children to the city square tonight to witness the live broadcast of the evening celebrations,’ Azim Mohamad Nurazim, a 34-year-old local salesman said
‘It is a celebration for all Johoreans. My message to Tunku Aminah and her husband is long and healthy life, and may Allah bless the couple with lots of children.’
Johor’s royal family is rich and powerful and possesses its own private army – the only Malaysian state to have one.
The Sultan is an army officer, and studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston, Massachusetts, and has several business ventures, including in telecommunications.
‘Let’s be honest here, we are a constitutional monarch. I have to earn my living like everyone else. I cannot depend on my allowances. I must earn a living, like ordinary Malaysians,’ he told the Straits Times.
Malaysia has a unique arrangement in which the throne of the Muslim-majority country changes hands every five years between the rulers of the nine states which are still headed by Islamic royalty.
The current king is Sultan Muhammad V, from the conservative Islamic northern state of Kelantan, who steps down in 2021.
But Dennis Muhammad is unlikely ever to assume the role since the rulers choose among themselves who the next king will be.