They met at the gym. Seven years later Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her former personal trainer Daniel Westling told the world they are engaged to be married.

It's hardly standard procedure for royal matchmaking, but Tuesday's announcement shows how relaxed the monarchy has become in this egalitarian welfare state.

"It was a friendship that grew and became love," a beaming Victoria told reporters at the Royal Palace in a joint news conference with her soon-to-be prince. The wedding is planned for early summer next year.

The 31-year-old princess is first in line to the throne now occupied by her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf. She's been dating Westling, a middle-class gym owner from Ockelbo _ a small town unheard of to most Swedes _ since 2002.

Wedding rumors have been swirling for years, and they gained momentum last July when Westling, 35, moved to Drottningholm Palace, the royal family's residence outside Stockholm.

Westling finally popped the question on a "very beautiful" winter day during a stroll in the countryside near the palace, the couple said. Asked what took so long, they said their love developed from friendship.

For Westling, marrying the next queen of Sweden will mean a major change in lifestyle _ even if the monarch is a figurehead with purely ceremonial functions, like handing out the annual Nobel Prizes.

For one, he will get a royal title: Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland.

He will also have to get used to the limelight. Although Swedish tabloids and celebrity magazines have reported extensively on the couple, Westling has given few interviews.

He admitted being nervous when he received Swedish and international media at the palace Tuesday. Seated next to Victoria on a couch, he said he hoped he would gain the people's trust.

"I feel secure in myself and proud to come from Ockelbo and being a man of the people," he said. He wore a dark suit and purple tie that matched Victoria's silk dress.

Westling said he will remain owner of his Stockholm-based gym business, but will no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of it.

The court announced the engagement after informing government ministers Tuesday.

In a televised address, the king said he had given his consent to the marriage and requested the approval of the government, in line with Sweden's constitution.

"Obviously it is a special day for us, but also a special day for Sweden," the monarch said. Queen Silvia added she fully backed Victoria's choice. "We welcome Daniel into our family with open arms," she said, describing her future son-in-law as "wise" and "full of energy."

Conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was informed about the wedding plans Sunday. In an uncharacteristic display, Reinfeldt said he was moved by the news.

"I felt that love had been victorious," he said. "A woman of royal blood will at last have her man of the people."

Royal expert Jenny Alexandersson, who has reported on the crown princess for the celebrity magazine Svensk Damtidning since 2003, said the wedding would be "fantastic" for Sweden, especially considering the current economic crisis.

"The fact that Sweden's heir to the throne will marry will give echoes around the world. It will be a great big wedding with more than 1,000 guests, including representatives from all big royal families," Alexandersson said.

She also said the wedding would be important for the Swedish monarchy.

"We have seen in our neighboring countries Norway and Denmark that the popularity of the monarchy has risen at times of royal weddings," she said.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, where workers for the tabloid Aftonbladet handed out balloons and T-shirts with Victoria's and Daniel's initials and the word "congratulations" in the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag.

Rita Kilstrom, 78, waited for two hours outside the palace in the hope of catching a glimpse of the princess after the announcement.

"I think it is good, but I think they should have done it a long time ago," she said.

Associated Press Writers Louise Nordstrom and Karl Ritter contributed to this report.

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