Anant Ambani with fiancee Radhika Merchant in Mumbai, on July 5, 2024 (SUJIT JAISWAL)Anant Ambani with fiancee Radhika Merchant in Mumbai, on July 5, 2024 (SUJIT JAISWAL)
Weddings Of Anant Ambani and Radhika A motorised carriage passes by the decorated gate of Antilia, the Ambani residence, during the pre-wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, in Mumbai, India, July 3, 2024.

The wedding of the year is here.

In less than a week,Weddings Of Anant Ambani, son of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, will marry his girlfriend Radhika Merchant. India is no stranger to opulent weddings, but the preparations and parties for this particular union have transfixed the country.

Jaw-dropping guest lists, which have included Silicon Valley billionaires and Bollywood stars, have underscored Mukesh Ambani’s growing influence in the global economy. Asia’s richest family has also shown off its wealth with a display of jewels evoking the long-gone era of maharajahs and Mughal emperors.

The Ambanis have set a new benchmark for big, fat Indian weddings, which are bound to grow bigger and louder than ever before as the number of the ultra-rich swells in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

The Booming Indian Wedding Industry: A $130 Billion Celebration

Since emerging from the pandemic, the Indian wedding industry has seen remarkable growth, now valued at approximately $130 billion. This figure surpasses that of America’s wedding industry and comes close to China’s, as reported by Jefferies recently.

“Despite being known for their thriftiness, Indians are enthusiastic spenders when it comes to weddings,” noted Jefferies. “This trend transcends economic classes.”

On average, an Indian wedding costs around $15,000, which is more than three times the average annual household income in the country.

This surge in spending underscores the cultural significance and grandeur associated with Indian weddings, where traditions blend seamlessly with modern extravagance. As the industry continues to expand, it remains a cornerstone of social and economic celebrations across the nation.

Evolution of Indian Weddings: A Decade of Luxurious Celebrations

“In the last decade, Indian weddings have undergone a significant transformation,” noted Sima Taparia, renowned for her role in Netflix’s popular series “Indian Matchmaking.” She highlighted a growing trend among affluent Indians who now prefer hosting lavish weddings at exotic destinations abroad, often featuring Bollywood stars or renowned musicians.

“The essence of Indian weddings lies in networking, relationships, and showcasing wealth,” emphasized Aditya Motwane, founder of Motwane Entertainment & Weddings, renowned for orchestrating high-profile events like Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s 2018 wedding.

“These celebrations serve as a statement of success and social stature,” he added, reflecting on the symbolic importance of such grand affairs in Indian society.

As traditions blend with contemporary opulence, these weddings not only mark personal milestones but also showcase cultural heritage and modern aspirations. The evolution continues to redefine the landscape of celebrations, highlighting the fusion of tradition and global influence in today’s Indian weddings.

More than a status symbol

Weddings can be expensive affairs in any country, but in India they are especially important as symbols of power and status.

Parents in South Asia typically spend a significant portion of their lifetime savings on their children’s weddings, but the scale of many of these events has now become gargantuan, coinciding with India’s rise as an economic powerhouse.

A bride's henna-painted hands with gold jewelry are pictured during a wedding in Jammu and Kashmir, India on October 3, 2023.

Inside the Extravagant World of Indian Weddings

Indian weddings are renowned for their grandeur, often spanning several days and hosting an average of 326 guests, significantly more than the 115 seen in American weddings, according to The Knot Worldwide.

For the affluent, these celebrations reach extraordinary levels, featuring thousands of guests, exotic locations abroad, and lavish gifts. A notable example is the three-day pre-wedding extravaganza hosted by the Ambani family in Jamnagar, attended by 1,200 high-profile guests including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

Such events spare no expense, with expenditures often reaching millions. At the Ambani affair, a breathtaking light show with 5,500 drones illuminated the sky above a custom-built glass palace. Guests were treated to performances by global icons like Rihanna.

The super-rich also make unique requests, such as one couple’s wish for an elephant—a revered animal in Hindu culture—to be present in Monte Carlo for blessings.

As India prepares to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027, these opulent weddings are expected to become even more frequent, showcasing the country’s growing economic prowess and cultural heritage on a global stage.

According to a report from real estate consultancy Knight Frank, the number of Indians with a net worth of at least $30 million will rise by 50% over the five years to 2028, the biggest increase of any country. And, lower down the economic ladder, by 2030 some 600 million Indians are projected to be middle-class, a segment that will represent over 80% of the country’s spending power.

“As the middle class grows, so does their disposable income, which inevitably is spent on lavish parties and celebrations,” said Tina Tharwani, co-founder of wedding planning company Shaadi Squad.

Trends and Traditions in Modern Indian Weddings

Adding to the expense of Indian weddings is the dietary preferences of many guests, who often avoid meat and sometimes root vegetables. Adapting to such needs can be a challenge, as highlighted by Aditya Motwane, recalling an event in Florence where guests avoided garlic and onion, prompting the hiring of an Indian Italian chef.

These lavish weddings set by high-profile figures like the Ambani family have a ripple effect, influencing new trends and expectations among couples, according to Tharwani, involved in cricketer Virat Kohli’s wedding in Tuscany.

Vanessa Almeida, managing the packaging and delivery of 8,000 gifts at Ambani’s recent celebration, noted a growing demand for similar luxury favors across India. From silver candlesticks to customized leather goods, these gifts have become sought-after items.

The wedding industry has also seen a surge in demand for videographers, with prices reaching up to $10,000 per film. Pre-wedding videos, often inspired by Bollywood aesthetics and meticulously choreographed, have become a popular addition.

“Brides and grooms now opt for pre-wedding shoots worldwide,” noted Sima Taparia, reflecting the global influence on modern Indian wedding customs.

As these ceremonies evolve, blending tradition with contemporary luxury, businesses across various sectors are poised for growth, catering to the extravagant tastes and expanding aspirations of couples in today’s India.

Impact on Local Economies: Balancing Opulence and Community Concerns

The trend of hosting lavish weddings abroad has sparked mixed reactions among local communities, according to wedding planners.

In a recent example, the Ambani family hosted a four-day Mediterranean cruise in late May, attended by Bollywood stars and featuring performances by Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys, and Andrea Bocelli. Reports indicate that the festivities, which ran into the early hours, drew criticism from residents of Genoa due to noise disturbances.

Despite local consternation, these extravagant events also bring economic benefits to the region. Aditya Motwane noted, “You’re looking at a minimum of 2-3 million euros coming in over three days,” highlighting the substantial economic impact of such celebrations.Not everyone was impressed. The partygoers drew the ire of residents in the port city of Genoa, according to media reports, as they kept several neighborhoods awake with loud music until dawn.

While such events may occasionally inconvenience locals, they contribute significantly to local economies by boosting tourism, creating temporary jobs, and promoting local businesses. This dual impact underscores the complex relationship between luxury celebrations and community considerations in destination weddings.

India Encourages Luxury Weddings with “Wed in India” Campaign

The Indian government is making efforts to capture a larger share of the luxury wedding market, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the “Wed in India” campaign. The initiative aims to persuade affluent families to choose India as their wedding destination.Demand for wedding videographers has also boomed in the last decade, with companies charging as much as $10,000 for a film. Many couples also shoot pre-wedding videos, which are painstakingly choreographed and inspired by Bollywood musicals.

In a statement in March, Modi highlighted that many families spend significant sums on weddings abroad. He emphasized that hosting weddings in India allows families to enjoy lavish celebrations spanning three to four days while also creating livelihood opportunities for local communities.

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