In a season of big Indian weddings, the December 12 marriage of the scions of two billionaire families might be the biggest of them all.
The bride, Isha Ambani, is the Ivy League-educated daughter of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, thought to be India’s richest man. Forbes estimates his net worth at over $43 billion (Dh157.91 billion).
The groom, Anand Piramal, is the relative pauper. His father, industrialist Ajay Piramal, is thought to be worth $10 billion.
The wedding was held in Mumbai but festivities began weeks ago, starting in September with an engagement party at a lakeside Italian palace.
The Mumbai event saw film and sports icons, business tycoons, political heavyweights, celebrities and a host of others attend, in what is best described as India’s very own royal wedding.
Indian grooms traditionally ride to their weddings on horses, but Piramal arrived at the Ambani home in a classic Rolls-Royce, with marching bands playing in the procession and scowling bodyguards scattered through the crowds.
The 27-storied Antilia, said to be one of the most expensive private residences in the world, itself has been decked up like a bride, and the entire stretch from the main road to the building has been decorated since the past few days with multi-hued fresh flowers, colourful lights and festoons to commemorate one of the most anticipated weddings in the country’s commercial capital in recent times.
Later in the evening, the grand wedding saw the parents — industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita, tycoons Ajay Piramal and his wife Swati — and others welcoming the high-profile celebrity guests.
Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was received by business magnate Anil Ambani, the bride’s uncle, while other top celebs like former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Praful Patel also made their presence felt.
Prominent invitees included Bollywood actors like Rajinikanth, Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan, Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and her husband Nick Jonas, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, Hritik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty and Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
Besides, Sachin Tendulkar and other sports personalities, top business honchos included KV Kamath, Sanjiv Goenka, Deepak Parekh, Sashi and Anshuman Ruia, Adi Godrej, Rahul Bajaj and Harsh Mariwala were also seen at the wedding.
The grand wedding festivities had started several days earlier in Udaipur, Rajasthan which witnessed a performance by Grammy Award winning singer Beyonce Knowles, a four-day special ‘Anna Seva’ and an expo on traditional Indian handicrafts, besides other events for the guests that included many of the biggest names from politics, business and Bollywood.
Thousands attended the pre-wedding parties in Udaipur, where videos shot by partiers showed Clinton dancing with Shah Rukh, as former US Secretary of State John Kerry danced just a few feet away.
Indian weddings are famously elaborate, driving many families into debt with expectations that they invite hundreds or thousands of people, and arranging professional song-and-dance shows.
Among India’s rich, weddings are displays of almost unimaginable wealth, with guests flown in on chartered jets from around the world and celebrities paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for brief appearances. In 2004, a daughter of Indian steel baron Lakshmi Mittal held her engagement party at Versailles.
The Indian media noted that the actual Ambani wedding, in Mumbai, was expected to be a relatively small affair, with just 600 or so people in attendance. More parties will follow the marriage ceremony.
Mukesh Ambani controls the conglomerate Reliance Industries, which has businesses ranging from petroleum to chemicals to mobile phones. The Piramal family businesses include pharmaceuticals and real estate.
The wedding of Indian actress Chopra and American singer Jonas earlier this month — which included palace parties, lots of celebrities, an appearance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and fawning coverage — has been quickly overshadowed by the Ambani festivities.