This Saturday, one of Europe’s most eligible royal bachelors will be taken permanently off the market. Sweden's handsome Prince Carl Philip will wed his sweetheart Sofia Hellqvist, during a romantic ceremony featuring horse-drawn carriages, high emotion, sparkling jewels and elegant royal guests.
Before Crown Princess Victoria's little brother marries his stunning bride, brush up on the couple and their fascinating love story. Here are 10 things you need to know:
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Prince Carl Philip and reality TV star Sofia Hellqvist will marry on Saturday Photo: Getty Images
1. How they met
The story of how Sofia met Prince Carl Philip is refreshingly normal. Five years ago, in 2010, the two were eating in the same restaurant and the friends they were with happened to know each other. "We started with a shy greeting and everything followed," said Carl Philip after their engagement. The two have lived together since 2011.
Sofia described her groom-to-be, who is five years her senior, as "her best friend," in an interview with Swedish TV. "Some people said we clicked from the start," said Sofia. "But I could never believe it would end like this. Everyone who knows Carl Philip notices at once that he is an incredibly humble, warm and kind person. The more I got to know him, the more my love for him grew."
2. The bride's unusual past
Before her fame as a future princess, Sofia was best known as a model for men's magazines and for her role in the reality TV series Paradise Hotel. But Sofia, who sports several tattoos, is much more than just a pretty face. She studied accounting in New York (where she also worked as a bartender) and is also passionate about fitness, having received certification as a yoga instructor. Even more impressive, she has worked as a volunteer and aid worker in South Africa, Senegal and Ghana. These days her style is more Kate Middleton than celebrity bombshell.
Though her past is far from traditional, Sofia says she has no regrets about the choices she made, including appearing on the reality show, prior to meeting Carl Philip. "All experiences build a person, although I wouldn't do it now if you asked me," she said in an interview with Swedish TV.
Sofia with friend and fellow Paradise Hotel star Camilla Sundman in 2006 Photo: Getty Images
3. Carl's nervous proposal
He popped the question in the morning – something of a surprise to Sofia as she said she is usually the first to wake. Talking about the proposal later, he showed that even princes get butterflies when they propose. "I was nervous," the prince said of the proposal. "I woke up several times the night before, I don't know if Sofia noticed. I wanted it to be a surprise."
The couple officially announced their engagement on June 27, 2014, but the two have been coy about releasing too many details of the romantic encounter. "I felt hugely confident announcing our engagement and having Sofia by my side," Carl Philip mentioned after their engagement. "At last, we were a team and we're a good team."
Prince Carl-Philip designed Sofia's engagement ring Photo: Getty Images
4. The engagement ring — designed by the groom!
Unlike the Duchess of Cambridge's ring, which once graced the finger of Prince William's mother Princess Diana, Sofia's engagement ring was created especially for her. The brilliant-cut center diamond is surrounded by a circle of smaller diamonds that also line the band. Prince Carl Philip has said that he had a hand in its design although he admits that he had a bit of help.
5. The secret stag weekend
After announcing the date of the wedding, Prince Carl Philip bid farewell to single life in late April, when his closest friends "kidnapped" him and whisked him away for a weekend in Greece. His future wife was in on the plan and even secretly packed his bags before he was whisked away. The celebrations were reportedly planned with the help of his sister, Crown Princess Victoria, whose own bachelorette party was planned by her brother. Plenty of wine, food and fun were on hand for the group, including a night out on the Athens club scene.
Above, the couple on the day of their engagement announcement last June Photo: Getty Images
6. The country house bachelorette party
Sofia's bachlelorette weekend was a bit more low key than her fiancé's. With her two sisters, close friends, and future sister in-law Crown Princess Victoria at her side, Sofia spent a weekend away at a lavish mansion on the banks of Lake Mälaren, located about an hour west of Stockholm. The converted 17th-century manor house has 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms and includes a library, hot tub, dining room, home cinema, games room and an English style pub.
7. It's Swedish Wedding number 3
Carl is actually the third child in his family to tie the knot in the last five years. Just two years ago, Princess Madeleine married US-British businessman Chris O'Neill in a ceremony at the capital, while three years before that Crown Princess Victoria married her personal trainer Daniel Westling – now known as Prince Daniel. As the heiress to the throne, Victoria's wedding was understandably the largest of the three celebrations, but there will be plenty of pageantry on display this weekend.
Carl and Sofia's wedding celebration kicks off on Friday with a private dinner and on Saturday the nuptials will take place at 4:30 pm local time in the Palace's royal chapel. Later, the royals will host a lavish dinner in the palace's White Sea Hall, followed by a night of dancing to the tunes of DJ Avicii and group Icona Pop.
Crown Princess Victoria was the first of the three royal siblings to wed, marrying her personal trainer Daniel Westling in 2010. Photo: Getty Images
8. The glittering guest list
There will be plenty of princes, princesses and of course royal jewels on display on Saturday. Representing the U.K. will be Prince Edward and his wife, the Countess of Wessex, who frequently stands in for the Queen at overseas events. Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark have confirmed their attendance along with Prince Frederik's mother, Queen Margrethe. Other glamorous young royals expected to attend are Spain's King Felipe with Queen Letizia and Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit .
9. The gift registry
There is probably very little that Carl Philip and Sofia actually need to start their new life together. They have requested that well-wishers make a charitable donation to the Prince Couple's Foundation in lieu of any gifts. The foundation was set up specifically for the wedding and aims to promote and support children and youth in care and education.
10. Future plans
After the wedding, Sofia will officially be known as HRH Princess Sofia, Duchess of Värmland. Having been with her prince for five years already, she is confident that she knows what to expect of her new family. "I have spent many years with them, I know that life and know what is going to change. I'm ready, no surprises, I think it will be fine," she said in a recent interview. "I know it will," added Carl Philip. Sofia has said that she is hoping to "do good" in her new role. She currently serves as the honorary chairman of Project Playground, a charity she co-founded in 2010 that offers free after-school activities, sports and support programs to children in need in South Africa.
And it could be possible that there will be a royal celebration of a different sort in no time. The couple have said that they would soon like to start a family of their own.