Who rocked (and who flopped) the billionaire bling look at the $100 million wedding party of the century

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Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates were both in attendance with their partners - REUTERS
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Multi-day celebrations are not uncommon when it comes to Indian weddings. But when you are the last unmarried child of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man with a reported fortune of $117 billion, and set to wed the daughter of Viren and Shaila Merchant, themselves multi-billionaire founders of pharmaceutical firm Encore Healthcare, things are considerably more extravagant. Cue a multi-day party with A-list celebs and rock superstar entertainers. A contender, in other words, for the biggest wedding do the world has ever seen.

All this and Anant Ambani, 28, and his future wife Radhika Merchant, 29, are not actually celebrating their wedding until July 12. Nonetheless, their pre-wedding celebration in the city of Jamnagar, Gujarat, featured a pantheon of the world’s richest and most influential figures. The Zuckerbergs. Bill Gates and his girlfriend Paula Hurd. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner along with their 12-year-old daughter Arabella. Politicians. Bollywood royalty. Actual royalty (Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema). Cricket legends. No big deal.

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani with his son, Anant, and bride-to-be Radhika Merchant
Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani (left) with his wife Nita and their son Anant - via REUTERS

The three-day celebration for 1200 guests is estimated to have cost around $100million. It included more than 500 dishes prepared by 100 chefs, an animal parade and performances from Rihanna (who was paid a reported £5.5 million for her 19-song set, her first “real” performance in eight years, which, by some accounts, was lacklustre). The Ambanis have form on this front: when Anant’s sister Isha got engaged in 2018, Beyonce performed at the party, and Coldplay performed when brother Akash tied the knot in 2019.

Jamnagar is “not a fancy destination”, says one colleague who knows the city. Needless to say, it lacked the required number of suitably opulent hotel rooms to accommodate a lengthy and starry guest list, so luxury glamping - a sort of pop-up five-star hotel - was established as accommodation.

The scale of the event was such that the local airport, which usually receives around 10 flights a day, saw 130 fly in for the occasion; the air fleet ferried in not just guests, but performers, makeup artists, hair stylists, chefs – you name it.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg with Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg with Anant Ambani and bride-to-be Radhika Merchant - via REUTERS

This was how the Ambanis ensured that their guests looked the part: “The invitation says guests will start each day with a new dress code, mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.” The first night was “An Evening in Everland”; for a visit to the groom’s 3000-acre animal sanctuary, guests were invited to follow a “Walk on the Wild Side” theme; for the “Mela Rouge” night, some French flair was required.

Those invited were required to go all-out - there was no chance of upstaging the host family given the mother of the groom was sporting an emerald the size of a saucer.

Here’s how the ultra-wealthy guests stacked up against one another during the extravagant festivities:

The happy couple

Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani, sons of Mukesh Ambani, with Shloka Mehta (left) and  Radhika Merchant (second left)
Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani, sons of Mukesh Ambani, with Shloka Mehta (left) and Radhika Merchant (second left) - via REUTERS

The standout look for Radhika, the bride-to-be, was a custom rose-gold Versace dress, a variation on a gown that Blake Lively wore to the Met Gala in 2022. Groom Anant wore a black suit with a white shirt, dialling it up later in a red sherwani embroidered with a jungle design and crystals. Radhika also wore a Manish Malhotra gold lehenga so heavily embellished it was practically jewellery, and a fringed dress by London-based Ashish with Manolo Blahnik heels and heart-shaped Cartier sunglasses.

Rating: 5/5

The Trump-Kushners

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their daughter Arabella
Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their daughter Arabella - AFP

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their daughter Arabella embraced a regal Indian look. Ivanka wore Indian designer Manish Malhotra throughout: a draped, silver and gold beaded gown on the first night and an embroidered crop top and full skirt for the second evening - she exuded something of a bridal vibe, though white isn’t a traditional colour for brides in India. Jared opted for a black suit with a Nehru collar - a style which takes its name from former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Rating: 5/5

Rihanna

The star performed her 40-minute set in a custom layered look by Italian label The Attico - the neon green sparkly dress over a pink jumpsuit was completed by a fuchsia veiled baseball cap. She was barefoot, throughout, reportedly an “homage” to Indian culture. Her ensemble was completed with a dazzling array of jewels including gobstopper amethyst earrings and several necklaces which appeared to be festooned with diamonds and emeralds.

Rihanna gave her first performance in eight years at the party
Rihanna gave her first performance in eight years at the party - via REUTERS

Rating: 4/5

Bill Gates and Paula Hurd

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Bill Gates and Paula Hurd - via REUTERS

It took a little while for Bill Gates to fully embrace the dress code; he arrived wearing the classic American Dad uniform of polo shirt and chinos, albeit smartened up with a navy jacket. He soon raised his game though, donning a black silk kurta with matching trousers and an embroidered sherwani jacket, all courtesy of Indian couturier Rohit Bal - just the right degree of flair. His girlfriend Paula Hurd, whom he’s reportedly been with for more than a year, wore a taupe sequinned gown with fringing around the hem.

Rating: 4/5

The Zuckerbergs

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Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan - via REUTERS

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went full matchy-matchy on night one in black Alexander McQueen – his suit was embroidered with gold dragonflies and her dress with gold roses. On the second evening, they both wore heavily embellished, nature-inspired looks by Indian designer Rahul Mishra. Another style moment which was somewhat out of character for grey T-shirt loving Zuckerberg was a tiger-emblazoned nehru collar shirt which he wore with gleaming white trousers. Points for enthusiasm, if not for style.

Rating: 3.5/5

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