Monaco celebrates Prince Albert's lavish wedding gala

Thousands of guests were invited to the wedding

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Prince Albert II of Monaco has married South African former swimmer Charlene Wittstock in a religious ceremony, after Friday's civil wedding.

Some 3,500 guests, including royalty and celebrities, attended the event at the Place du Palais.

This was followed by a lavish dinner prepared by a celebrity chef.

Prince Albert II, 53, and Princess Charlene, 33, were married in a civil ceremony staged in the principality on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the palace denied reports in the French press that Ms Wittstock was having second thoughts about the wedding.

Princess' tears

On Saturday, Prince Albert II, and now Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene each said "Oui" (Yes) at the service led by the Archbishop of Monaco, Bernard Barsi.

The archbishop held the couple's hands together, before declaring: "What God has joined, men must not divide."

Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene then exchanged rings in white gold and platinum.

After the ceremony, the couple walked to a chapel dedicated to Monaco's patron saint, St Devote, where Princess Charlene placed her bouquet - as the local tradition required.

The princess then burst into tears as a young choir sang.

Princess Charlene wipes a tear as she leaves the St Devote's Church where she left her bouquet after their religious wedding.

The guest-list at the religious ceremony included the kings of Spain, Sweden, Lesotho and Belgium, the presidents of France, Iceland, Ireland, Lebanon, Malta, Germany and Hungary, France's richest man, celebrated opera singers, top models and racing car drivers.

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and supermodel Naomi Campbell, also attended.

The UK was represented by Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II.

All the ingredients for the lavish celebratory meal, created by Alain Ducasse - himself a Monaco citizen - were said to have come from within a 10km (6-mile) radius of Monaco.

More than 1,000 journalists from around the world were accredited to cover the festivities in the principality, whose citizens number just 7,618.

Princess Charlene represented South Africa in the swimming competitions at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The tiny principality, which covers about 2 sq km (less than one square mile), is the world's smallest independent state after the Vatican City.

Prince Albert II has been the ruler of Monaco since the death of his father, Prince Rainier III, in 2005.

Friday's event was clouded by press reports suggesting that Ms Wittstock had come close to returning to South Africa, after learning secrets about Prince Albert's private life.

The royal family dismissed the claims, as well as suggestions she had only turned back after royal aides persuaded her to stay as "jealous rumours".

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