13 November 1999
One month after their official engagement, an engagement party was held at the castle of Laken. It was very much a public affair with 1.500 guests selected by local Belgian communities, persons the engaged couple had never met before but who had had a positive impact on their neighbourhood or community.
The 4 hour cocktail party/reception was broadcast live on Belgian TV and started at 19:45.
Of course the close family of both bride and groom to be were also present, as were some politicians.
Mathilde's beautiful dress and necklace were creations of Yves Dooms.
For their opening dance the couple had chosen Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight", performed by Raymond van het Groenewoud.
Other artists who performed were Toots Thielemans, Khadja Nin and Adamo.
At 20:45 the engaged couple managed to eat some delicacies from the Belgian buffet.
One of the guests handed Mathilde a drawing from his child.
Saïd Mdaouchi, a social worker from Antwerp had a seat next to king Albert II and count Patrick d'Udekem. They talked about Mdaouchi's work and family. Count d'Udekem even discussed some politics with him.
The couple also had a real engagement ball, for their own friends and larger families, in the best of royal and aristocratic traditions, no doubt with long gala gowns and diamonds. This was however completely private. No picture or guest list was ever made public.