Inside Anant Ambani's big Indian wedding: Music by Rihanna and clothes by Manish Malhotra

Youngest son of billionaire Mukesh Ambani will tie the knot with Radhika Merchant in a lavish ceremony spread across a number of days

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One year after pre-wedding ceremonies for the nuptials of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant began, preparations have started for what will undoubtedly be India's wedding of the year.

Ambani, 28, is the youngest son of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, one of the world's richest men, while Merchant, 29, is the daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant.

The couple, who got engaged at a temple in Rajasthan in December 2022, held a star-studded engagement in January last year, attended by the who's who of Bollywood.

“Anant and Radhika have known each other for a few years and today’s ceremony commences the formal journey of their marriage in the coming months. Both families seek the blessings and good wishes of everyone for Radhika and Anant as they start their journey of togetherness,” the multinational conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited, owned by Mukesh Ambani, announced at the time.

The Ambanis are not ones to cut corners for their weddings. Anant's sister Isha Ambani's star-studded 7 billion rupee nuptials in 2018, is still the most expensive Indian wedding of all time and included a performance by Beyonce.

The invitation

While the exact dates and details of the wedding are yet to be revealed, an invitation for a three-day “pre-wedding” has gone viral.

Set for March 1 to 3, the pre-wedding celebrations have been announced via a handwritten card, signed by the groom-to-be's parents Mukesh and Nita Ambani, and invites guests to the Reliance Greens in Jamnagar on the west coast of Gujarat.

Adorned with lush greenery and animal motifs, the invitation is a nod to an ongoing project by Reliance, which is building what is set to be the largest zoo in the world. Reliance operates one of the world's largest oil refining complex in Jamnagar.

“Over the years, we planted more than 10 million trees in this arid region, transforming it into a bustling green community,” the invitation reads. “Taking the spirit of this initiative further, Anant has lovingly nurtured this complex into a haven of care and compassion for over thousands of rescued animals.

“Over the past 25 years, we've built our fondest memories in Jamnagar. And it is the place closest to our hearts. We look forward to having you as we celebrate the beginning of Radhika and Anant's wedding festivities.”

Celebrations begin

Pre-wedding celebrations have already begun in Jamnagar with the lagan lakhvanu ceremony held on Friday. During the traditional Gujarati ceremony, the official wedding invite is first offered to the gods to seek their blessing, before it is sent out to guests.

Bride-to-be Merchant wore a stunning custom lehenga by Indian designer Anamika Khanna featuring handwoven flowers as a nod to the venue. Khanna also designed the dresses for Isha and her mother Nita, as well as Shloka Mehta Ambani, the wife of Isha's twin Akash.

Who's performing?

According to Indian media, pop star Rihanna has been roped as one of the star performers for the pre-wedding celebrations in Jamnagar, along with global Punjabi music star Diljit Dosanjh.

If confirmed, this will mark Rihanna's first performance since she took the stage at the Super Bowl half-time show in February last year. The Barbadian star, who performed while heavily pregnant with her second child with rapper A$AP Rocky, gave birth to their son, Riot Rose Mayers, in August.

Dosanjh is a bona fide star, having also made inroads into films, including Bollywood, and won numerous awards. In 2016, he sold out the UK's Wembley Arena with his The Dosanjh Tour.

The fashion

The Ambanis are known for their love for everything Bollywood. And no one can translate that better into clothes than ace designer Manish Malhotra.

According to reports, Malhotra is not only designing the looks for the main pre-wedding event, but also crafting the entire three-day party in true Bollywood style.

Malhotra has enjoyed a diverse and wildly successful career spanning 30 years, which began by designing costumes for films. Last year, Mukesh’s Reliance Brands said it had acquired 40 per cent of MM Styles, which owns the Manish Malhotra brand, with the aim of turning it into “a global couture powerhouse”.

Malhotra opened his first flagship store in the Middle East in Dubai Mall in December.

The mehendi ceremony

A pre-wedding celebration, where henna is applied on the bride's hands and feet and on the hands of female members of the bride and groom's families, Anant and Merchant's mehendi ceremony in January last year in Mumbai was as glamorous as they come. The celebration, which usually features plenty of songs and dances, had the bride-to-be dancing to the Bollywood song Ghar More Pardesiya from the film Kalank.

Pink was the predominant colour of the night as Merchant was seen in a custom-made fuchsia lehenga by Indian designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla.

“Radhika Merchant is the picture of romantic bliss in this custom-made multicolour resham lehenga embroidered with floral booties and mirrors at her mehendi ceremony,” the designers shared on Instagram.

The groom's sister, Isha, was also in pink, in an outfit designed by celebrity favourite Anuradha Vakil.

Celebrity stylist Ami Patel, who styled Isha for the event, also shared photos on Instagram.

Isha, 31, who is married to businessman Anand Piramal, gave birth to their twins in December, 2022.

Star-studded engagement party

Celebrations continued that same week with an engagement party at Antilia, the Dh3.6bn Ambani home in Mumbai.

Anant and Radhika dressed in their traditional best and greeted and posed for photographers. They were soon joined by the rest of the Ambani family – Mukesh and his wife Nita; Isha Ambani and her husband Anand; and Akash and his wife Shloka.

The women all wore designs by Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla for the occasion, with bride Radhika choosing a gold lehenga adorned with intricate embroidery and sequins. She completed the look with a thin belt that cinched her waist.

A number of Bollywood stars were also in attendance, also dressed in traditional outfits. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone added to the glamour while Shah Rukh Khan's wife Gauri Khan arrived with her son Aryan Khan as a date. Shah Rukh, who was then on a promotional tour for his film Pathaan, was also at the party but kept a low profile.

Other stars who attended include Akshay Kumar, Sara Ali Khan, John Abraham, Katrina Kaif and Karan Johar. Actor Arjun Kapoor arrived with his father, producer Boney Kapoor, while Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's date for the night was her daughter Aaradhya, 11.

Who is Anant Ambani?

One of the heirs of the Reliance Industries empire, Anant is the youngest of Mukesh and Nita Ambani's three children. A graduate of Brown University in Rhode Island, US, Anant has taken on various roles within his father's business, and is deeply involved with the Indian Premier League, in which Reliance Industries owns the Mumbai Indians team.

He leads Reliance Industries' energy business, is the director of Jio Platforms and was named director of Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd last year.

Anant and his fiancee Merchant have been friends for years, with the couple making a number of joint appearances together, including at Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas's wedding in 2018 as well as at Akash's nuptials in 2019.

Who is Radhika Merchant?

Merchant is the daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant. She is a graduate of politics and economics at New York University.

A member of the board of directors at Encore Healthcare, the company run by her father, she is also known to be an animal lover and is actively involved in animal welfare projects. Merchant is also trained in the South Indian classical dance form Bharatnatyam.

In 2022, the Ambanis hosted Merchant's lavish arangetram, the traditional stage debut of an Indian classical dance student. The event was attended by a number of Bollywood stars including Aamir Khan, Singh and Salman Khan.

Updated: February 19, 2024, 2:19 PM