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Prince Albert's wedding festivities begin

Prince Albert II of Monaco and his fiance Charlene Wittstock wave as they arrive to a concert US band The Eagles at the Stade Louis II, Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Monaco. The concert is part of the three day celebration that will include their wedding. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Francois Mori
Prince Albert II of Monaco and his fiance Charlene Wittstock wave as they arrive to a concert by The Eagles at the Stade Louis II, June 30, 2011, in Monaco.
AP

(CBS) Wedding festivities have started in Monaco, where the principality's ruler, Prince Albert II, is marrying South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in a civil ceremony Friday and a religious ceremony on Saturday.

The three-day, $65 million wedding celebration begins tonight with a concert by the U.S. rock group the Eagles. The wedding is expected to be the biggest event in Monaco since 1956 when Albert's mother, American film star Grace Kelly, married Prince Rainier.

Pictures: The Eagles rock Monaco weddingPictures: Monaco wedding guests
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On Friday, Albert will marry Wittstock in a civil ceremony in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace. The ceremony will be broadcast live on giant screens in the Palace Square.

After that, the newlyweds will appear on the balcony of the Salon des Glaces to wave to the Monegasques people. The couple will then attend a buffet on the Palace Square, where the Mayor of Monaco will present them with a gift. The night ends with an evening reception at the Port Hercules and a sound and light show.

On Saturday, the couple will marry for a second time in a religious ceremony in the palace's main courtyard, which will be also be shown on screens in the Palace Square. They will then take part in a procession, followed by an official dinner (catered by chef Alain Ducasse) and a gala ball at the Opera Garnier and on the Terraces of the Monte-Carlo Casino.

Tonight's concert at Stade Louis II was open to the 15,000 residents who claimed tickets earlier this month.

The prince and his bride-to-be hosted the event, waving and smiling as they took their seats in the stadium. Both were dressed in casual black outfits.

It is the second time the two have made a public appearance since Tuesday, when a French newspaper reported that Wittstock had tried to fly home to South Africa after she reportedly learned that the prince had fathered a third out-of wedlock child. The palace denied the reports and the two were ater seen strolling about Monaco shops.

Pictures: Prince Albert's love child
Pictures: Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock
Pictures: Charlene Wittstock

"These rumors have no other goal than to severely damage the reputation of the monarch and thereby that of Miss Wittstock and severely undermine this happy event," said the palace, which is banking on a wedding tourist boom.

Wittstock's father, Mike, said his daughter had been heading to Paris for some last-minute wedding purchases.

The 53-year-old bachelor prince has acknowledged fathering two illegitimate children: a daughter with an American tourist and a son with a Togolese flight attendant. Neither can be considered in line for the throne.