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Monaco royal wedding: A starring role for magnificent venues replete with family history

May 30, 2011
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Standing high on the cliffs of Monaco is the Palais Princier or Prince's Palace, an imposing fortress, which has been home to the Grimaldi clan for eight centuries.The building began life at a fortress in 1191 and was restored to its present glory by Prince Albert's father Rainier.It's here where, after all the excitement and hype surrounding the wedding of the century, that he will marry Charlene Wittstock in an unforgettable weekend of celebrations.The Monegasque sovereign and his bride will tie the knot in two ceremonies. A civil service is scheduled for July 1, followed by an open air religious one the next day.His Grace Bernard Barsi, Archibishop of Monaco will officiate over this romantic affair under Monte Carlo's blue sky in the Cour d'Honneur, the palace's main courtyard.It features 16th-century frescoes depicting mythic characters including Hercules and Bacchus, as well as a spectacular horseshoe-shaped staircase. Inspired by the one in Fontainbleau Castle, it's made up of 30 steps, each carved from the same block of Carrara marble.Escorted by her father, the statuesque South African swimmer will glide along a red carpet from the Carabiniers Barracks to become Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

As in one of the movies his mother Princess Grace starred in, the festivities will have a truly fairytale quality involving thousands of the principality's residents as the cast of well-wishers. On the eve of the wedding, the happy couple will host a concert for more than 15,000 people. They will rock to the music of the Eagles at a two-hour gig in Stade Louis II.

The civil service will take place at 5pm on Friday in the Salle du Trone or Throne Room.The couple will take their vows in this opulent state room dominated by chandeliers and pictures of Albert's royal forbears.Giant screens will be installed in the palace square for citizens to follow the live broadcast. Once united in marriage they will share their joy in an appearance on the balcony of the Salon de Glaces, the Hall of Mirrors. 

At 6pm the newlyweds will join their guests to feast on a delicious buffet-style meal prepared by Alain Ducasse, a Michelin-starred chef at the Monte-Carlo's Hotel de Paris.The sumptuous fare will feature Mediterranean cuisine as well as South African in honour of the bride and will be washed down with Perrier Jouet champagne.

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Then with the port as a stunning backdrop, all of Monaco will dance the night away to the music of French electronic visionary Jean-Michel Jarre.

 Unlike his parents Rainier and Grace who married in the Cathedral, Albert and Charlene are allowing their fellow citizens to witness every single detail of their religious service.  

The official ceremony will begin at 5pm, July 2, and the gates leading to the palace square will remain open, allowing up to 3,500 people to see the ceremony live on giant screens. 

 Afterwards, the couple will head for the Church of Saint Devote, in an eco-friendly Lexus, in order for Charlene to lay her bouquet.Built in 1070, the chapel was renovated in 1606 and then again in 1948 to repair destruction caused by wartime bombing.Their route will take them along the Avenue de la Porte Neuve, Avenue du Port and Boulevard Albert I, allowing the throngs to congratulate them.       

 Their first dance as man and wife will take place during a lavish soiree at The Monte Carlo Opera which has welcomed musical luminaries from Rossini and Verdi to Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Although the menu's still a secret, it's known that it will consist of four courses including wedding cake and the palace chef, Christian Garcia, is preparing a surprise for the bride.

Monaco's newlyweds will see out the happiest day of their lives along with their guests on the terrace watching a spectacular firework display.

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