The bride dazzles in an off-white Giorgio Armani Privé gown

By Dana Kennedy
Updated July 02, 2011 11:55 AM
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Charlene Wittstock put fears that she was going to be a runaway bride to rest for good as she wed Prince Albert of Monaco in a religious ceremony on Saturday.

A day after their civil ceremony, the Rhodesian-born Olympian walked down the aisle on the arm of her father in a dazzling off-white silk Duchesse Giorgio Armani Privé dress with a long train and long veil made from off-white silk tulle. The dress was embellished with flowery embroidery, crafted with stones in gold shades, along with Swarovski crystals and mother of pearl teardrops in white and gold hues.

Albert was wearing the cream-colored summer uniform of the palace guards, as well as three medals, including the French Legion of Honor and the Order of the Grimaldi.

As he slipped the ring on his bride’s finger, the prince winked and she giggled, looking relaxed. The two exchanged vows in French, which Wittstock studied intensively for a month at the Institut de Francais.

Because of the couple’s large guest list, the ceremony took place in the courtyard of the prince’s royal palace, rather than the cathedral where his parents Rainer III and Grace Kelly exchanged vows in 1956.

After the couple walked outside of the palace, they got into their Lexus hybrid and were driven to the tiny St. Devote chapel where, according to tradition, the princess leaves her wedding bouquet. It was here that Charlene lost her composure and began weeping briefly – as if she were overcome by the heat and emotion.

“It was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen,” Gildo Pastor, 44, a longtime friend of Albert and a member of one of the most prominent families in Monaco told PEOPLE. “They have a wonderful future ahead of them.”

Becoming a Princess

For the ceremony, Wittstock, 33, wore a dress designed by Giorgio Armani, although her father, Michael Wittstock, tells Paris-Match magazine that Charlene wasn’t always fashion conscious.

“I’ve seen her turn into a princess there,” he said of her time in Monaco. “Before, she was jogging all the time. Now, she’s acquired a taste for fashion and become a beautiful woman.”

Wittstock grew up in Zimbabwe and spent most of her childhood pursuing her Olympic swimming career and playing with animals. “We’d have weekends by the side of the river Gwai. There were wild animals, elephants, giraffes,” says her father, a Johannesburg-based Xerox executive. “Charlene would go riding. She was a real tomboy. Always running everywhere; always covered with dust and dirt.”

Sounds like she’ll be right at home when the couple departs for their honeymoon in South Africa.