Royals gather to celebrate Sweden princess's wedding

Sweden's Princess Madeleine, the youngest child of King Carl XVI Gustaf, was Saturday to marry New York businessman Chris O'Neill in a ceremony before 500 guests including European and Japanese royals.

Sunshine reigned on Sweden's scenic capital of Stockholm, built on 14 islands, as photographers and other spectators jostled for a spot along the horse and carriage procession route that will take the newlyweds from the Royal Palace to the nearby island of Riddarholmen.

From there, they will travel by boat with some of their wedding guests to the Drottningholm Palace, where Madeleine was born in 1982, for dinner.

The ceremony will be held in English and in Swedish, and will be witnessed by other royals, including Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Takamado of Japan and Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

Swedish fashion retailer H&M's chief executive, Karl-Johan Persson, is among the business people expected to attend.

However, the bride, who turns 31 on Monday, will be wearing a dress by Italian designer Valentino Garavani.

The photogenic princess met New York financier O'Neill while working in the United States with the World Childhood Foundation, a charity set up in 1999 by her mother, Queen Silvia.

The move came after a broken engagement to a Stockholm lawyer, who was widely reported to have been unfaithful.

The 38-year-old groom has declined taking a royal title, which would require him to become a Swedish citizen and give up his job as a partner and head of research at Noster Capital, a previously relatively unknown hedge fund.

The US-British businessman sparked controversy in November last year when he made an obscene gesture at a photographer, raising questions over whether he was a suitable spouse for the princess, who is fourth in the line of succession.

"I don't think the wedding will match Crown Princess Victoria's wedding in 2010 because her sister is so incredibly popular," said Daniel Nyhlen, the author of a recently released book on Madeleine.

Victoria's unpretentious, down-to-earth style has made her Sweden's favourite royal, according to polls.

By contrast, her younger sister has had an uneasy relationship with the public, shunning the media and sometimes appearing in the tabloids after being snapped by paparazzi during one of her shopping sprees.

In her early twenties, she earned a reputation for partying in Stockholm's trendy nightclubs.

"It won't be the same type of national celebration as when the crown princess got married," Nyhlen said of Saturday's ceremony.

Victoria charmed the Swedish people by "talking and expressing herself like any Swede," he noted.

"Madeleine has a different style: you can hear that she's a member of high society."

Even in the run-up to her wedding, Madeleine made headlines for all the wrong reasons after being stopped by police for driving in the bus lane. The royal court has claimed the car had permission to do so.

In 2003, the young royal was photographed driving on a pedestrian street.

"I think the wedding could mark the beginning of a calmer and more mature princess. You could say that the little sister has grown up," Nyhlen said.