The couple studied together at Western Carolina University in North Carolina so they could experience "real, deep America," the bride says

Royal wedding bells are ringing in Monaco — again!

Monaco’s Princess Stéphanie — the youngest daughter of Princess Grace — is getting ready to celebrate the nuptials of her son Louis Ducruet, 26, and his fiancée Marie Chevallier. The college sweethearts also have an American tie: they both studied abroad at Western Carolina University in North Carolina.

The wedding follows the recent nuptials of Louis’ cousin, Charlotte Casiraghi, who wed her longtime love Dimitri Rassam in two ceremonies last month.

On Friday, Louis and Marie will wed in private civil ceremony in the salons of the Prince’s Palace, according to sources. They will then have a larger religious service on Saturday and a mostly private reception later that evening. Though he does not formally hold title, Louis, the eldest of Stéphanie’s three children and nephew of Prince Albert II, is currently 15th in line of succession.

For their religious ceremony on Saturday morning, the couple have chosen the principality’s Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate (also known as St. Nicholas Cathedral), which will make them the first members of the royal family to marry there since the historic wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier II in 1956.

Louis Ducruet and Marie Chevalier
Louis Ducruet and Marie Chevalier
| Credit: Olivier Huitel/PLS Pool/Getty
58th International Television Festival opening ceremony, Monte Carlo, Monaco - 15 Jun 2018
Louis Ducruet and Marie Chevalier
| Credit: Niviere/Villard/Sipa/REX/Shutterstock

The cathedral holds great importance for the royal family. The funerals of both Princess Grace (1982) and Prince Rainier (2005) were held there, and they both are interred in the cathedral. Last November, Louis told Point de Vue magazine that this particular connection to his grandfather made the couple’s choice of venue a very simple one.

“Growing up in the princely family binds you very strongly to this country,” Louis said, “for me it was therefore obvious to get married at the cathedral, so we will be near my grandfather, Prince Rainier III, – this will be our way of associating him with our happiness. My grandfather was a man I admired. I was very close to him.”

A photo taken on April 19, 1956 shows US
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco during their wedding ceremony in Monaco
| Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Following the cathedral ceremony, Marie, who was raised in neighboring Nice, is expected to follow Monagasque bridal tradition, making the trip to the portside Church of St. Devote to offer her wedding bouquet to Monaco’s patron saint.

Louis — whose father is Princess Stéphanie’s first husband, royal bodyguard Daniel Ducruet — works for the professional soccer team Monaco AS as its chief recruiter. Marie is an events project planner for the principality’s hotel and casino operator, SBM.

Princess Stephanie of Monaco
Princess Stéphanie
| Credit: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty

The couple announced their engagement in February 2018, and have been together since meeting in 2011 at a Cannes nightclub and discovering they were classmates at a nearby business college. Both have described it as “love at first sight.”

To complete their business and marketing degrees, they transferred together to Western Carolina University, spending two years at the school’s remote Cullowhee campus before graduating in 2015.

“We wanted to experience the real, deep America,” Marie said, adding, “the beauty of the place within the mountains, the serenity, and the strong school spirit.”

The quiet, unassuming couple are very animated in private, says one friend, calling them “almost conspiratorial” in their shared sense of humor. Louis’ sense of humor was on full display during a bachelor party outing (a prolonged road trip with a dozen friends to Tokyo) where he showed up at a Go-Kart rally dressed up as Pikachu.

Marie has been a hands-on bride-to-be during much of the wedding planning.

“I’ve really enjoyed organizing my wedding myself. We started the preparations just after Louis asked for my hand,” she told German magazine BUNTE in May, adding, there would be “some surprises” on the big day.

56th Monte Carlo TV Festival : Closing Ceremony
Louis Ducruet and Marie Chevalier
| Credit: Tony Barson/FilmMagic

In an interview with Hello Monaco ahead of the wedding, Louis revealed that his sister, Pauline Ducruet, designed the dress that Marie will wear for the cathedral service. A Parsons School of Design graduate, Pauline launched her own line, Alter Design, during last month’s Paris Fashion Week.

Louis, whose other sister Camille Gottlieb will be one of Marie’s bridesmaids — revealed that Pauline was skeptical of their relationship at first.

“We’ve only 14 months of age difference, and we’re really close to each other,” he said. “She was very protective of me and a little bit distant with Marie in the beginning. But finally she liked her and she even designed the wedding dress that Marie will wear for the ceremony in the cathedral.”