Fitness instructor Daniel Westling with his royal bride-to-be, Crown Princess Victoria, and her father King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Fitness instructor Daniel Westling with his royal bride-to-be, Crown Princess Victoria, and her father King Carl XVI Gustaf. Photo: Getty Images

The Crown Princess of Sweden has upset church leaders by announcing she wants to be given away by her father when she marries next month.

Swedes consider the practice sexist. Traditionally, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together.

The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolises that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will. In the future it is going to be very hard for us to resist requests from brides who want to be given away 

However, Crown Princess Victoria wishes to walk to the altar at Stockholm Cathedral on the arm of her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, at her wedding to Daniel Westling, a commoner.

The head of the Swedish church, Archbishop Anders Wejryd, has taken the unusual step of issuing a public statement expressing his disapproval at the adoption of such an Anglo-Saxon practice.

"Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden," he said.

"I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses' equality."

One in 10 Swedish brides is now given away, but the Church fears that such a high profile royal wedding - the first in 34 years - will spark a trend in a country that takes equality of the sexes seriously. Annika Borg, a priest and theologian, said brides were being influenced by the fairy-tale weddings in Hollywood films.

"It's unfortunate that Sweden's future head of state has chosen to follow a practice that is not Swedish tradition," she said.

"The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolises that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will.

"In the future it is going to be very hard for us to resist requests from brides who want to be given away."

There is a royal precedent. The king's sister Princess Margaretha was given away by her grandfather, Gustav VI Adolf, when she married the Englishman John Ambler in Stockholm in 1964.

The Royal Court said Princess Victoria's decision was symbolic.

"This has a bigger dimension," said a spokesman Nina Eldh.

"This isn't a father giving away his daughter to another man.

"The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation's throne to the altar - and to the man who has been accepted."

Princess Victoria is the heir-apparent to the throne, after Sweden changed its Act of Succession in 1980 to introduce equal primogeniture.

In other ways too, this will be a very modern royal marriage.

Mr Westling is a personal fitness trainer and gym owner who met Princess Victoria in 2002 when she hired him to supervise her workouts.

He moved into an apartment in the royal palace two years ago.

The wedding will take place on June 19, the same date on which Princess Victoria's parents married in 1976.

Mr Westling will then go by the title of Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland. Dick Harrison, an expert in Swedish history from Lund University, said the royal family had moved with the times.

"By far the most common practice in Sweden is that the couple walk to the altar together," said Mr Harrison.

"But if you are looking at royal tradition, the normal situation would be for her to have married a foreign prince - and in previous centuries that would have meant two marriages in two different countries."

The Swedes have become used to colourful episodes in the lives of the younger royals.

Princess Victoria's younger sister, Princess Madeleine, called off her wedding to Jonas Bergstrom last month after a Bournemouth university student told a gossip magazine that she had a fling with him during a ski trip.

Her brother, Prince Carl Philip, is dating a model and reality television star notable for posing topless with only a python to protect her modesty.

The prince is a racing car driver and nightclub regular who has designed his own range of cutlery.

The Telegraph, London