isha wedng 1
Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani waits for the groom arrived during his daughter Isha's wedding in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Dec 12, 2018(AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) Image Credit: AP

India is preparing for what could be one of the world’s most expensive weddings ever, a spectacle that could even put the fictional nuptials in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ to shame.

On December 12, Asia’s richest man — oil-and-telecom tycoon Mukesh Ambani — is scheduled to give away his daughter Isha to billionaire Ajay Piramal’s son, Anand. The main ceremony will be held at the patriarch Ambani’s home, the 27-storey Antilia palace in Mumbai, and post-wedding events will be held in the city.

The week-long extravaganza is estimated to cost about $100 million (Dh367.25 million), according to people familiar with the planning. But the families’ representative declined to comment on the money spent.

To put the $100 million wedding bill in perspective, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding 37 years ago reportedly cost $110 million in today’s dollars. Prince Harry’s wedding to the American actress Meghan Markle cost $40 million in a country where labour costs are much higher. But whatever the price, it should be small change for the father of the bride, who has an estimated net worth of $41.6 billion. Piramal is estimated to be worth more than $10 billion.

Invitees to the pre-wedding festivities, in the central Indian lake city of Udaipur, ranged from international celebrities such as Beyonce to politicians like Hillary Clinton and business tycoons including Henry Kravis, according to people familiar with the matter. The guest list is so long that the Ambanis and Piramals have taken over at least five five-star hotels nearby, and a war room has been set up in Mumbai to manage logistics, they said. According to local media reports, more than 100 chartered flights will fly guests to and from Udaipur’s Maharana Pratap Airport.

The celebrations this week will also include a ceremony at Piramal’s father’s home in Mumbai, and a reception at JioGarden, an event space in Mumbai built by Ambani’s company.

Star-studded ceremony

At one of the couple’s pre-wedding events on Sunday, Beyonce performed for a star-studded gathering at a 16th-century palace in the Indian city of Udaipur. Her 45-minute private concert saw multiple dress changes by the ‘Perfect’ singer.

Guests included Hillary Clinton and a host of Bollywood A-listers including Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh, Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas.

One wedding guest, who did not want to be identified discussing the Ambani family’s private affairs, said that invitations came in a Dolce & Gabbana box, adorned with pink and gold lace and detachable chains that could be worn as jewellery.

She added that the Udaipur event appeared to have about 2,000 guests. One highlight was a Bollywood dance number that the bride’s mother, Nita, performed with her two sons, Akash and Anant.

Mukesh Ambani’s father, Dhirubhai Ambani, was a schoolteacher’s son who created a business empire in India at a time when most large-scale private enterprises there were stifled by government controls. His firm, Reliance Industries, eventually came to be seen as the face of India’s industrial renaissance.

When Dhirubhai Ambani died, his sons Mukesh and Anil fought over control of the empire. Mukesh ultimately got the petroleum and plastics business and Anil got telecommunications and financial services.

Not everyone in India is excited; some critics said on social media that the extravaganza was unseemly in a country with so much poverty.