Today Prince Albert and Princess Charlene will wed religiously, after they wed in a civil ceremony in the Throne Room of the palace in Monaco yesterday afternoon.  Their marriage is an exciting marriage for South Africa too, with Princess Charlene proudly bringing her South African pride into interviews and profiles published about the dream royal couple. The streets of Monaco are lined with South African flags, and those from the Princess’ new home country.

Gracing the pages of Vogue for the first time, and Bunte in Germany regularly, as well as the subject of regular TV programmes on European TV stations, including ZDF, Germany’s largest TV channel, as well as The Guardian, New York Times, and Associated Press, the couple and their dream wedding are being widely profiled around the world, the first royal marriage in 55 years in the principality.  The wedding media hype and interest increased dramatically earlier this week, when a French on-line agency reported that Charlene Wittstock had almost become a ‘run-away bride’. 

VIP attendees at the religious wedding ceremony today include the German Chancellor Christian Wulff, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni, President Pal Schmitt of Hungary, President George Abela of Malta, King Carl Gustav of Sweden, King Albert of Belgium, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Crown Prince Frederik from Denmark, Prince Edward, Prince Faisal bin al Hussein of Jordan, models Naomi Campbell and Karolina Kurkova, Sir Roger Moore, President Michel Sleimane of Lebanon, President Mary McAleese of Ireland, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk representing the South African government, Jeff Radebe, Johann Rupert, Leruo Molotlegi of the Kingdom of Bafokeng, King Letsie of Lesotho, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Yves Piaget, Gerard Butler, Nadia Comenici, Bernard Arnault, Renée Fleming, Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman, Francois Pienaar, Elana Meyer, Terence Bray, as well as Sarah Poewe, ex-Cape Town fellow Olympic swimmer with Princess Charlene, and now resident in Germany and swimming for the German team. 

The royal couple impressed with its care for the environment, their bridal hybrid Lexus car having been especially made by Toyota, driven only under electric motor power, reported the Sunday Times.  More than twenty years ago Princess Charlene expressed her care for the environment, in a school composition she wrote about the ozone layer.  She loves Blushing Brides so much that 500 stems have been flown in from Citrusdal for her wedding flower arrangements.

South  Africa’s cuisine is also in the spotlight, with Chef Dean Uren of Zimbali Lodge and his colleague Peter Mtshali being part of the team which catered for 6000 guests attending the civil ceremony yesterday, and will head the preparation of a special South African meal for 200 guests on Monday, before the royal couple head for Durban, to attend the 123rd session of the International Olympic Committee, the first time that it will be held in Africa.  Chef Dean’s menu is still a secret, but will include pastries stuffed with ostrich bobotie, and kudu prepared with typical boerewors spices, including kameelhout spice, coriander, pepper and cloves, reported the Sunday Times.   The main wedding meal, served in the Opera for 850 guests today, will be prepared by top chef Alain Ducasse and a team of 350.   He owns 20 restaurants, opening two more this year, in Russia and in Doha.  He has 19 Michelin stars in total across his collection of restaurants, and three of them have three stars.  Chef Alain has not revealed what’s on the menu yet, but he will represent the smell, colour and taste of the Mediterranean with fresh line-caught fish, vegetables and fruit for dessert, all ingredients coming from within 10 km of the principality.  Perrier-Jouët champagne will be served, alongside the Haskell Vineyards’ Dombeya Chardonnay and Shiraz, the owner Preston Haskell being a long-standing friend of Prince Albert, and the royal couple have partied at Haskell’s Fresnaye home in the past.   The wedding cake will link to South Africa’s national flower, the protea, reports Bunte.

Although Princess Charlene is now married to the 9th richest person in the world, her tastes are simple, and she longs for Mrs Balls chutney and rooibos tea.  South African music talent was also represented in the wedding celebrations, with Idols co-winner Jason Hartman, who was chosen by Princess Charlene to be the supporting act to an open air concert by The Eagles on Thursday evening. Local boy band Romanz will perform ‘With all my Heart’ tonight, and do a duet with Italian pop star Umberto Tozzi.   Jean-Michel Jarre put on an electronic music show last night, to which all Monaco residents were invited.

Princess Charlene is turning into a style icon, and the most recent Bunte had a feature of beautiful dresses photographed by Karl Lagerfeld.   Her wedding dress has been designed by Giorgio Armani, her favourite designer, an honour shared with designer Albert Kriemler of Akris.  Increasingly Princess Charlene is wearing bold Africa-inspired jewellery with her outfits, reinforcing her heritage.  She looked beautiful in the blue pants suit she wore for the civil ceremony, which she had designed herself and had made by Chanel, reports Associated Press.

Next week the Royal couple leave for their honeymoon in Durban, where they will be hosting a reception at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga next Thursday 7 July, for 300 local friends, family and VIP’s.

We congratulate Prince Albert and Princess Charlene on their marriage, and wish them lots of happiness and a large family.

Ex-Miss South Africa and Top Billing presenter Jo-Anne Strauss will be covering the wedding on SABC3 today, from 14h00 – 20h30.

POSTSCRIPT 2/7: The Weekend Argus has reported that Princess Charlene will be in Cape Town next Friday 8 July, attending a function of the Giving Organisation Trust with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Noordhoek, and visiting the Cotlands HIV/AIDS hospice in Somerset West, and the Fynbos Project at Lourensford.

POSTSCRIPT 2/7: Princess Charlene looked very serious, if not sad, at her religious wedding ceremonyin the palace this afternoon, crying when she left her bridal bouquet at the Sainte Devoté church, as the late Princess Grace did too.  Talk about a third child of Prince Albert is not going away. 

POSTSCRIPT 2/7:  Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk attended the wedding on behalf of President Zuma and the South African government, reports the Weekend Argus:“And as tourism minister he’s really happy there is such a big South African influence in the wedding.  The name of South Africa will be all over the world again as it was a year ago at the World Cup. That will be very good for tourism and for the country”, said the Minister’s spokesman Riaan Aucamp. 

POSTSCRIPT 5/7:  Interestingly, the wine selection at the wedding appears to have caused a swirl in a wine glass!  It would appear that Dombeya wines were not the only South African ones to have been featured at the Royal wedding on Saturday.  Neil Pendock of The Times wrote that Vins D’Orrance claimed that their Chardonnay 2009 Cuvee Andis was the ‘only South African wine chosen for the wedding’, incorrect given the Dombeya wines selection from the Haskell wine estate, which belongs to Prince Albert’s friend Preston Haskell, and confirmed by a Royal Palace-approved media release earlier this year.  A total of 1000 bottles of Dombeya Chardonnay 2010, Boulder Red Shiraz, and Samara 2005 went to Monaco,  and 700 bottles of the Chardonnay and Samara have been sent to the Oyster Box for the cocktail function on Thursday.  Hempies du Toit of Annandale is also reported in Die Volksblad to have made a wine for the wedding, and he called his six year old Merlot Charlbert, with French labels, and supplied 150 Magnums as well as a ‘bunch of 750ml bottles’ as souvenirs of the wedding.  Du Toit is a friend of the Wittstock family, and the year of the Merlot bottling co-incides with the year in which Prince Albert and Princess Charlène started dating. 

POSTSCRIPT 9/7:  The Financial Times has an interesting article on the preparation of the wedding meal by Chef Alain Ducassse and his team, with beautiful photographs.  

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage