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Valery Hache  /  AFP - Getty Images
Prince Albert II of Monaco kisses Princess Charlene of Monaco during their religious wedding at the Main Courtyard of the Prince's Palace.
updated 7/3/2011 11:11:27 AM ET 2011-07-03T15:11:27

Monaco's Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene promised each other love and fidelity in an extravagant religious wedding Saturday attended by international celebrities and royalty, bringing new allure to the tiny principality known for its luxurious casinos and as stomping ground for the rich and famous.

The Catholic service followed an intimate civil ceremony Friday, which saw Charlene officially transformed from commoner into royalty. The marriage of the 53-year-old prince and the 33-year-old Charlene Wittstock, a one-time Olympic swimmer from South Africa who is now known as Princess Charlene, ended a three-decade wait for a new princess.

The last wedding of a ruling prince in Monaco was in 1956, when Hollywood star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III.

Saturday's ceremony was attended by guests including former James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and bohemian designer Roberto Cavalli, of Italy. Thousands of Monegasque citizens cheered the proceedings while watching on large screens set up outside the palace, where both ceremonies were held.

Charlene swept along the red carpet leading into the palace on her father's arm. In her sumptuous boat neck gown by Giorgio Armani Prive, her hair pulled back in a swirling French twist and with only the lightest touch of makeup, she seemed to channel some of Grace's effortless elegance.

PhotoBlog: Flashback: Prince Rainier III marries Grace Kelly

Throughout the ceremony, which lasted an hour and a half, both bride and groom wore demure expressions, their eyes mostly downcast. Only as they took their vows and exchanged rings did the solemn facade crack: As they slipped on the 18 carat white gold Cartier rings onto each other's fingers, Albert — in a white military uniform — shot her a wink, and Charlene cracked a broad, sincere smile.

The tears flowed freely down the new princess' face after the ceremony, as she left her bouquet of lilies of the valley and other white blossoms at the Sainte Devote church — a tradition in Monaco.

A new princess wears something blue to wed

With photographers shouting for the attention of the A-list guests as they streamed into the palace, the wedding had something of the flavor of a star-studded red carpet at the film festival in neighboring Cannes.

British actor Roger Moore, a longtime Monaco resident and a former James Bond, lent a touch of secret agent glamour. The carpet might as well have been a catwalk for British model Naomi Campbell and Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova — or for Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who cut a mean figure in his skintight suit.

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Royal guests included the kings of Sweden and Belgium and Denmark's crown princess. Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims, and Empress Farah Pahlavi, wife of Iran's deposed shah, chatted with former French first lady Bernadette Chirac inside the palace.

Monaco's bride seeking to make her own mark

The last guest to enter according to protocol, Sarkozy, elicited extensive applause and hoots of approval in what was likely the warmest welcome the French leader, whose popularity ratings hover at record lows, has received in a long time.

The most enthusiastic welcome was reserved for the bride and members of the Grimaldi family, one of Europe's oldest dynasties. Albert's sisters, Princesses Stephanie and Caroline, both looked fetching in their short taupe dresses, Caroline's steely blue eyes hidden behind the oversized brim of her hat. Her daughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, was breathtaking in a pink off-the-shoulder cocktail dress by Chanel.

Monaco palace rejects ‘ugly rumors’ about wedding

Prince Albert II, Charlene Wittstock, Charlene Princess of Monaco
Bruno Bebert  /  AP
Fans watch the wedding ceremony between Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert II of Monaco on a giant screen outside the Monaco palace on Friday, July 1, 2011.
While Charlene — whose name is now officially written with an accent to give it a more French resonance — wore a blue ensemble of her own design to Friday's civil ceremony, she opted for one of her longtime favorite designers, Armani, for Saturday's wedding gown. The "petites mains" or seamstresses of his haute couture atelier put more than 2,500 hours of work into the dress, a strong-lined, made-to-measure concoction of more than 130 meters (about 140 yards) of different silks, 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother of pearl beads.

The 5 meter- (6 yard-) long train — which dwarfed the demure little train at the summer's other royal wedding, that of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton — proved difficult to negotiate. At one point, Charlene got stuck and Albert had to tug at the long silk flourish to free her.

The ceremony, officiated by Monseigneur Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, included moving performances by U.S. soprano Renee Fleming and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, as well as a tradition "click song" by South Africa's Pumeza Matshikiza — a nod to the princess' roots.

After the ceremony, about 450 select guests tucked into a multi-course gala prepared by celebrated French-born chef Alain Ducasse.

Filet of golden mullet and a vegetable medley "arranged to portray a landscape typical of the coast of the Riviera," according to a statement, was the main event at the three-course meal, where everything besides the South African wines and Champagnes were sourced from within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius of Monaco.

Ducasse, who like many in his tax bracket has taken citizenship in Monaco, is the first chef to earn three Michelin stars in three different cities, including three for his Louis XV restaurant in the principality.

Charlene was born in Zimbabwe, but moved to neighboring South Africa as a child, and under the tutelage of her mother, a swim coach, competed for that country at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Albert — also a former Olympic athlete, having competed in five Winter Olympics as part of Monaco's bobsled team — has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1985.

Albert and Charlene met during a 2000 swimming competition in Monaco. She then began appearing regularly at social events and moved to Monaco in 2006. Residents say Charlene has since maintained a low profile and is rarely seen out and about in the principality.

The couple's civil wedding on Friday was held in the palace's sumptuous throne room where Rainier and Grace married. The actress died in a car crash nearly 30 years ago, and Monaco had been without a princess ever since.

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Known as a notorious ladies man, Albert long eschewed marriage, and many in Monaco had resigned themselves to forever having a bachelor prince. The constitution was even modified to ensure the continuity of the Grimaldi line, in case Albert never produced an heir. The prince has acknowledged having fathered two children out of wedlock, but only his legitimate offspring would be able to succeed him.

Rumors have swirled in recent days that a third illegitimate child had surfaced — prompting Charlene to allegedly try to call off the wedding and return to South Africa days before the festivities.

The palace has denied the reports, dismissing them as "ugly rumors" prompted by spite and jealousy.

Charlene has told interviewers she would like to have children, and Archbishop Barsi asked those at Saturday's ceremony to pray for the fecundity of the princely union.

"We just witnessed an important moment of love," guest Michel-Yves Mourou said after leaving the palace. "I'm still under the spell of it. I'm happy for my prince and princess."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Monaco’s royal wedding

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  1. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco depart from the Monaco palace after their religious wedding ceremony in Monaco July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The newlyweds smile as they leave the palace, July 2. The Roman-Catholic ceremony follows the civil wedding which was held in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace of Monaco on July 1. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Prince Albert II of Monaco kisses Princess Charlene of Monaco during their religious wedding at the Main Courtyard of the Prince's Palace on July 2. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Princess Stephanie's daughter, Camille Gottlieb, right, speaks during the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. Princess Charlene's dress was created by Italian designer by Giorgio Armani. (Bruno Bebert / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Michael Kenneth Wittstock, left, escorts his daughter Princess Charlene on the red carpet at the Place du Palais for the religious wedding ceremony with Prince Albert II at the Palace in Monaco, July 2. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Princess Charlene on her father Mike Wittstock's arm, walks to the altar for the wedding ceremony, July 2. (Bruno Bebert/pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Monaco's Princess Charlene arrives at the religious wedding ceremony in at the Palace in Monaco, July 2. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. British model Naomi Campbell and her boyfriend Russian property mogul Vladimir Doronin arrive for the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. (Emma Foster/ Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Giorgio Armani and guest attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Sweden's Princess Madeleine arrives for the wedding, July 2. (Emma Foster / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. French President Nicolas Sarkozy attends the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld arrives for the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. (Bruno Bebert / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and husband Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of Wessex attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Victoria Silvstedt attends the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock, July 2. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Princess Charlotte Casiraghi, left, and Princess Stephanie of Monaco attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock, July 2. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. French former professional tennis player Henri Leconte, left, and his wife Florentine Leconte arrive at the Place du Palais, July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Lalibert, left, arrives with his wife Claudia Barilla at the Place du Palais, July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco greet people on the balcony after their civil wedding at the Prince's Palace on July 1, 2011 in Monaco. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Prince Albert II of Monaco (R) and Charlene Princess of Monaco leave the Monaco palace after the civil wedding marriage ceremony. (Lionel Cironneau / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A couple look at television screens as newlyweds Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene wave on the balcony of the Palace. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Princess Caroline of Hanover (2R) and her daughter Alexandra of Hanover (L), Princess Stephanie of Monaco (R) and her daughter Camille Marie Kelly Gottlieb pose on the balcony after the civil wedding. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Mayor of Monaco, Georges Marsen, shakes hands with Princess Charlene as Prince Albert II of Monaco looks on outside the Monaco palace. (Bruno Bebert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Princess Charlene's parents, Lynette Wittstock (2-R), Mike Wittstock (L), and her brothers Sean-Michael Wittstock (2-L) and Gareth Wittstock (R) appear at one the palace's balconies after Princess Charlene's civil marriage ceremony with Prince Albert II of Monaco. (Bruno Bebert / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Andrea, left, Pierre, center, and Louis, right, sons of Caroline and Stephanie of Monaco stand outside the Monaco palace after the civil marriage ceremony. (Bruno Bebert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People gather to watch the wedding outside the Monaco palace on Friday, July 1. (Lionel Cironneau / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The night before the wedding, Prince Albert II and his then-fiance Charlene Wittstock pose with a guitar, a gift from the Eagles, who performed that evening to kick off the three-day celebration. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A Monegasque decorates the law courts with Monaco's flags and flowers to prepare for the wedding. (Eric Gaillard / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A lingerie shop window in Monaco displays a picture of Prince Albert II and Charlene. (Lionel Cironneau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco depart from the Monaco palace after their religious wedding ceremony in Monaco
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    Above: Slideshow (29) Monaco’s royal wedding
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Video: A look back: Princess Grace’s wedding

  1. Closed captioning of: A look back: Princess Grace’s wedding

    >>> and prince albert of monaco got married, but as celebrations continue many cannot help thinking of his late mother grace kelly .

    >> one of the great of all-time. grace kelly born in pennsylvania lived most of her life in a palace and while she only starred in a handful of films, she is forever a star.

    >> give up, john. admit who you are.

    >> reporter: she was the all- american beauty . the golden girl from philadelphia who went from hollywood royalty to real-life princess. grace kelly . the classic cool blond whose elegance and flawless style captivated the world and stole the heart of a prince.

    >> in this life, in this world, we never see perfection, but we all feel we found it in grace kelly .

    >> you can see my apartment from here all the way up on 63rd street.

    >> reporter: that perfection made her a film actress where she smoldered on screen with cary grant . at the height of her career she found love. romance

    >> reporter: the prince of monaco started courting the actress and soon a fairy tale came true.

    >> prince rainier and his film star wife have become man and wife.

    >> reporter: a gorgeous wedding in a dress that continues to inspire and draws comparisons to kate middleton 's gown.

    >> not just about the clothes she wore, it's really about her innate, shining, lovely personality.

    >> reporter: for kelly , the french riviera became her home and her playground. she resided in a 15th century palace, hosted dignitaries and raised a family. she and prince rainier had three children, princess carlline, princess stephanie and prince albert . it was a charmed life that came to a sudden and tragic end. in 1982 , while driving wig her daughter stephanie, kelly lost control of the car, which plunged down a mountain side. kelly was just 52 years old. to this day, monaco mourns her death. for her children, the years since have been surrounded by romance and scandal. caroline, who has three children harks been married twice. stephanie has three children out of wedlock. as for prince albert , he has been linked to several beautiful women, had two children out of wedlock, but has remained a bachelor, until now. 53-year-old prince albert is marrying charlene wittstock a former olympic swimmer from south africa .

    >> he married -- marrying someone who is about 20 years younger than him. so it's a little bit of a repeat from 1956 .

    >> reporter: and now, half a century after a ceremony to remember, monaco and the monarchy celebrate another royal wedding . romeo and juliet ."

    >> as for the newest princess, back in 2000 , when competing at the olympic games in sydney they met. 11 years later, they are husband and wife.

    >> thank you very much.

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