Inside Scoop: Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s Grand Pre-wedding Festivities

As big fat Indian weddings go, Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani knows how to take it to the next level. The billionaire tycoon hosted pre-wedding festivities for his son, 28-year-old Anant Ambani, in what promised to be a lavish affair with no expense spared. The younger Ambani is set to marry his childhood sweetheart Radhika Merchant, the 29-year-old daughter of another Indian billionaire, Viren Merchant. While the wedding itself won’t take place until July, a three-day pre-wedding bash kicked off this month, in the family’s refinery township of Jamnagar in the Indian state of Gujarat. Some of the biggest players from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the entertainment industry were on the guest list.
The event included a performance by global superstar Rihanna, whose touchdown in India on Feb. 29 broke the internet after pictures of her colossal luggage began circulating online. The star-studded guest list of 1,200 also included Bill Gates, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Blackrock co-founder Larry Fink, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, former Canadian PM Stephen Harper, former Australian PM Kevin Rudd, and Ivanka Trump. Fellow Indian billionaires Gautam Adani and Kumar Mangalam Birla were also expected to be there, along with a slate of Indian cricketers and Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.
The CEO of Disney Bob Iger also attended, not surprising after the elder Ambani, who is the chairman of Fortune 500 Company Reliance Industries, announced an $8.5 billion merger with Disney over its India media assets last month. The deal will likely transform the country’s television and streaming services by cementing the company’s dominance in one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment markets. Indians have been transfixed by the details of the opulent pre-wedding celebrations that took place in a 3,000-acre garden with a mango orchard in the Ambanis’ home estate. Along with Rihanna, the event also featured a performance by American illusionist David Blaine. According to a Reuters report, guests were given directions to don “jungle fever” outfits for a glitzy cocktail party. There were visits to the Ambanis’ animal rescue centre. There was also a lavish gala with over 2,500 dishes cooked by a team of 65 chefs. Guests were offered hair styling, make-up, and saree draping services, as well as return charter jet flights from New Delhi and Mumbai.
Mukesh Ambani’s estimated net worth of $111 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index makes him, at present, the richest person in Asia and the 11th richest person in the world. The 66-year-old tycoon runs the Reliance conglomerate founded by his father, Dhirubhai Ambani, with businesses ranging from petroleum refining to retail, telecommunications, food, and digital streaming services. His family includes his wife Nita and three children who will be the heirs to his $243-billion empire. In the last few years, Ambani has been busy orchestrating a succession plan with 31-year-old twins Isha and Akash, as well as the groom-to-be, who joined the Reliance board last August. Anant Ambani is currently a director at Reliance's new energy business and the Reliance Foundation. Last January, he was engaged to Merchant, who also serves on the board of her father’s pharmaceutical firm Encore, in a traditional ceremony at the grand Ambani residence of Antilia in Mumbai. The Ambanis’ 27-storey high home has previously drawn global attention for being the most expensive property in the world at the time it was built.
India’s luxury wedding market sees Indians spending over $75 billion on weddings every year, attracting celebrities, fashion designers, and entertainment influencers. But few are akin to the affairs thrown by the Ambanis, who in 2018 made headlines for the most expensive Indian wedding at a reported cost of almost $100 million. The extravaganza, thrown for Ambani’s daughter Isha, was spread across Lake Como, Mumbai, and Udaipur. Superstar Beyoncé performed at the sangeet (a musical evening that typically precedes the wedding), while former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were in attendance. The latest festivities took place in Jamnagar, in the western state of Gujarat, close to Reliance’s main oil refinery. The city’s airport, which typically handles fewer than 10 flights a day, reported a surge in activity. In a post on X, airport authorities said around 130 flights had arrived for the extravaganza.
The charitable arm of the Ambani’s family business, the Reliance Foundation, said that weavers had been deployed to produce “a tapestry of dreams” for the nuptials, while visually impaired artisans had been hired to make candles for guests. The Ambani family also hosted a communal dinner for more than 50,000 villagers. A new Hindu temple complex is being built specifically for the wedding and will later be opened to the public, the NGO added.