Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s star-studded pre-wedding

As Indian weddings go with great pomp and show, Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani knows how to take it to the next level. This weekend, the billionaire tycoon is hosting pre-wedding festivities for his son, Anant Ambani, 28, promising a lavish affair with no expense spared. The younger Ambani is to marry his childhood sweetheart Radhika Merchant, the 29-year-old daughter of another Indian billionaire, Viren Merchant.

While the wedding won’t take place until July, a three-day pre-wedding party will begin on Friday, March 1, at the family’s Refinery Township in Jamnagar, in the Indian state of Gujarat. Some of the biggest players from Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the entertainment industry are on the guest list.

This also includes a performance by global superstar Rihanna, who took the internet by storm after pictures of her huge luggage were circulated online upon her arrival in India on February 29. The star-studded guest list of 1,200 also includes 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. Indian cricketers and Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone, along with fellow Indian billionaires Gautam Adani and Kumar Mangalam Birla, are also expected to be there.

Earlier this week, Ambani, chairman of Fortune 500 company Reliance Industries, had announced an $8.5 billion merger of its Indian media assets with Disney, following which Disney CEO Bob Iger is also likely to participate. The deal will potentially 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 left in awe of the details of the lavish pre-wedding celebrations that took place in the 3,000-acre garden with mango orchards at Ambani’s home estate. Along with Rihanna, the event will also feature a performance by American illusionist David Blaine.

According to a Reuters report, guests have been instructed to wear “Jungle Fever” attire for a glittering cocktail party. The Ambanis keep visiting the animal rescue center. There is also a grand celebration with over 2,500 dishes cooked by a team of 65 chefs. Guests have been offered hair styling, makeup and saree draping services as well as return charter jet flights from New Delhi and Mumbai.

Mukesh Ambani has an estimated net worth of $111 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him currently the richest person in Asia and the 11th richest person in the world. The 66-year-old tycoon runs Reliance Group, founded by his father Dhirubhai Ambani, which includes businesses ranging from petroleum refining to retail, telecom, food and digital streaming services.

His family includes his wife Nita and three children who will be heirs to his $243 billion empire. Over the past few years, Ambani has been busy planning succession with 31-year-old twins Isha and Akash, the groom-to-be, who joined the Reliance board last August.

Anant Ambani is currently the director of Reliance’s new energy business and the Reliance Foundation. Last January, she got engaged to Merchant, who also serves on the board of her father’s pharmaceutical firm Encore, in a traditional ceremony at Antilia, the lavish Ambani residence in Mumbai. Ambani’s 27-storey high-rise home has previously attracted global attention for being the world’s most expensive property at the time of its construction.

India’s luxury wedding market sees Indians spend more than $75 billion on weddings every year, attracting celebrities, fashion designers and entertainment influencers. But some are similar to the affairs thrown by Ambani, who made headlines in 2018 for the most expensive Indian wedding at a reported cost of nearly $100 million.

The celebrations for Ambani’s daughter Isha were spread across Lake Como, Mumbai and Udaipur. Superstar Beyoncé performed at the sangeet (a musical evening that usually takes place before a wedding), while former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were in attendance.