Kings and queens, princes and princesses from around Europe are gathered in Oslo for the wedding of Norway's crown prince. The prince is marrying his live-in girlfriend - a commoner with a child from a previous relationship.

Norway's first royal wedding in 33 years has raised a few eyebrows, and more than a few questions about the role of monarchy in the 21st century.

Crown Prince Haakon, the heir to the Norwegian throne, will exchange vows in Oslo Cathedral Saturday with Mette-Merit Tjessem Hoiby, with whom he has been living for the past 15 months.

The bride and groom are both 28 years old. But in many other ways, they seem to be worlds apart.

Prince Haakon is the American-educated future head of Norway's Lutheran Church, the descendant of kings and queens. He is the great-great-great-grandson of Britain's Queen Victoria, whose name has become synonymous with proper behavior.

By contrast, his bride is from a small town in southern Norway, and has only a public school education. She is a former waitress with a four-year old son from a previous relationship. The father has been convicted on drug charges.

In a televised news conference a few days ago, Ms. Hoiby broke down in tears as she admitted to having a wild past. But she did not admit taking drugs,and strongly condemned their use.

In an interview published on the eve of the wedding, Norway's King Harald was quoted as praising his future daughter-in-law for her bravery in talking about her past. The king admitted that many Norwegians, especially older ones, might disapprove. But he said those were the same ones who were skeptical about his own marriage in 1968 to a commoner who is now Queen Sonja.

The wedding has drawn a wide cross-section of royals to Oslo from across Europe, including the reigning monarchs from countries such as Sweden, Belgium and Spain.

The next generation of kings and queens is represented by, among others,Britain's Crown Prince Charles; the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Felipe; the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria; and the heir to the Dutch throne, Prince Willem-Alexander.

The best man at the wedding will be Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik.

The ceremony is being broadcast live. Norwegian television officials predict it will be one of the most watched programs in national broadcast history.