As Charlene Wittstock, former Olmypics backstroke swimmer and champion weds Prince Albert II, Monaco is preparing for the royal wedding festivities this weekend.
The civil ceremony will take place in the Throne Room of the Prince's palace that has been home to Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi dynasty for centuries, on July 1 followed by a religious ceremony in the main courtyard of the palace on July 2. After she walks down the aisle, Charlene Wittstock will become Princess Charlene of Monaco.
Celebrations will also include concerts and firework displays attended by many global celebrities and heads of state. Billionaires, CEOs, royalty, opera stars and celebrated couturiers, including Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, U.S. soprano Renee Fleming, and the former president of El Salvador are on the guest list the palace released, according to the Washington Post. Tens of thousands of tourists are expected to watch the wedding in Monaco this week, according to the Guardian.
Amid the flurry of excitement, there were rumors that Wittstock had cold feet about her impending marriage and wanted to leave Monaco. The rumors reached such a fevered pitch that the palace denied these reports, according to the BBC, in order to clear the air so that the world can watch the happy ending to Albert and Charlene's romantic fairy tale.
Wittstock is a champion swimmer who represented South Africa in numerous international competitions. The couple met at a swimming event in Monaco in 2000 and both participated in the in the Sydney Olympics of 2000, Wittstock as a swimmer and Albert as a bobsledder. They made their relationship public by appearing together at the Turin Winter Olympics of 2006. Wittstock ended her swimming career in 2007 and has travelled widely for charity events with her fiance.
The wedding is also expected to restore some glamor to the tiny principality of Monaco that has not seen a royal wedding since Albert's father, Prince Rainier III married Hollywood actress Grace Kelly in 1956. Princess Grace later died in a car crash in 1982.