We Can’t Look Away From The Billion-Dollar Ambani Wedding

Rihanna, Versace, a one billion-dollar cruise, and the wedding hasn't even happened yet.
Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant's wedding has gained attention as it's set to cost over $1billion dollars. The couple are pictured here during the inauguration of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Bandra (East), on March 31, 2023 in Mumbai.Getty/Vijay Bate

When it comes to planning a wedding in 2024, most of us are likely crunching numbers to see how many guests we can afford, wincing at the cost of hors d’oeuvres, and scouring for budget-friendly vintage gowns. But for Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, the world’s wealthiest couple, whose pre-wedding festivities have already surpassed a billion dollars, their nuptials are set to be one of the most talked-about events of the year. Celebrations have already included performances by Rihanna and Katy Perry, booking palaces, and orchestrating light shows with a fleet of 5,500 drones.

Since images of Rihanna performing at a pre-wedding ceremony went viral on X in early March, the public hasn’t been able to look away. Here’s everything we know (and speculations as to why we care at all).

Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant celebrate their engagement ceremony on January 19, 2023 in Mumbai, India
(Credit: Getty/Prodip Guha)

Who Are Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant?

The happy couple registered on celebrity watchers’ radars in 2018 when they were spotted at Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s wedding.

Anant Ambani is the 29-year-old son of Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani. Anant holds a position on the board of directors at his father’s company, Reliance Industries. This business spans energy, communications, textile and chemical interests. His father’s net worth is estimated at $120 billion, placing him in the top two wealthiest people in Asia and in the top 11 in the world. Meanwhile, Radhika Merchant, also 29, is the daughter of Shaila Merchant and Viren Merchant. Viren is the CEO of Encore Healthcare, and his wife is one of the company’s managing directors. Radhika’s parents have an estimated net worth of a — relatively paltry — 90 million dollars. Radhika graduated from Encore University with a degree in political science, and, like her, their fiance sits on the board of directors at her parent’s company.

The couple have gushed publically about each other and their romance. In an interview with India Today Anant called Radihika “the person of my dreams”, saying he never thought he’d get married before he met her. Meanwhile Radhika said it was love at first sight, and that their first meeting, when they were introduced by friends, “sparked something special between us.”

Bollywood actress Disha Patani (L) and Mouni Roy pose for a photo during the Sangeet Ceremony of Anant Ambani
Bollywood actress Disha Patani and Mouni Roy pose for a photo during the Sangeet Ceremony (Credit: Getty/Sujit Jaiswal)

How Much Has Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s Wedding Cost So Far?

So far, Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s nuptials have cost an eye-watering sum with their viral pre-wedding celebrations totalling over $ 1.3 billion Australian dollars. Their “pre-wedding” ceremony kicked off on March 1st, with a three-day wedding party in Jamnagar. It was attended by 1,200 guests, including Mark Zuckerberg, Karlie Kloss and Bill Gates; the bride wore a pink iteration of Blake Lively’s Versace Met Gala Gown, and the groom wore Dolce & Gabanna.

Later that month the couple held a four-day Mediterranean cruise for friends and family with performances by Katy Perry, The Backstreet Boys and Andrea Bocelli. It was hosted on the Celebrity Edge, and the cost of the cruise alone was reported to be $1.3billion Australian dollars ($900million USD). According to Page Six Justin Bieber was reportedly paid $10million to perform at another pre-wedding ceremony on July 6th.

What’s Expected For The Ceremony?

Details of the ceremony have been tightly guarded. Still, we do know that it will commence with the “Shubh Vivaah”, an “auspicious wedding” ceremony, with the “Shubh Aashiward” or “divine blessing ceremony” with the conclusion of the celebration July 14 with the “Mangal Utsav”.  And Manish Malhotra, one of the country’s top designers, has been appointed as the wedding’s creative director to execute what he has referred to as the family’s “visionary approach.” He told CNN via email that “each detail, from the decor and cuisine to the attire and ambience; each event, from the vibrant Sangeet to the ceremonial wedding day and the grand reception, is designed to immerse guests in an atmosphere of joy, love and celebration.”

Bollywood actress Jahnvi Kapoor poses for a photo during the Sangeet Ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant wearing a peakock patterned gown
Bollywood actress Jahnvi Kapoor attends the Sangeet Ceremony (Credit: Getty/Sujit Jaiswal )

What Will The Couple Be Wearing?

Malhotra designed two lehengas that Radhika Merchant wore to the pre-wedding celebration with a gold garment studded with 20,000 Swarovski crystals, crafted by 70 artisans, and another Art Deco-inspired blue lehenga that took 5,700 hours to make. Merchant also wore Versace during the march celebrations, a custom pink version of the gown previously worn by Blake Lively at the 2022 Met Gala. Malhotra described the “Indian Chic” dress code as something that marries “traditional Indian elements with contemporary fashion.” For the couple that means “striking ensembles that honour our rich cultural heritage while reflecting their personal style. Think of intricate embroidery and innovative silhouettes that capture both tradition and modernity.”

Why Can’t We Look Away From Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s Wedding

The pre-wedding celebrations, which went viral on Twitter, have been a subject of intense interest. Major publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and CNN have been captivated by the event, providing extensive coverage.

It’s also been heavily criticised. The wealth gap in India is at its highest historical level, with 10% of the Indian population holding 77% of national wealth, according to Oxfam. The couple have attempted to acknowledge this with charitable activities held around the wedding date, including a mass wedding held for “underprivileged” couples in the city, where guests were gifted jewellery, household items, and groceries for the year. However, given the depth of inequality in the country and worldwide, what’s anticipated to be a multi-billion dollar wedding seems… out of step with the general mood not only in India, but globally.

And why are we fascinated? Despite millennials pushing back on the extravagance associated with weddings, with women speaking out about the cost of being a bridesmaid (turns out being everybody’s best friend can be expensive) and guests objecting to the cost of destination weddings and gifts, it seems we’re still enchanted by extravagant and pervy displays of wealth. Ultimately, whether we clutch our pearls or cheer them on, it’s a glimpse into a life entirely unlike our own.

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