It is the Indian wedding of the year. In a lavish display of power and wealth, a US-based Sikh hotels magnate has thrown a week-long celebration spread over three cities with 300 guests from across the world arriving on three chartered jets for the marriage of his youngest son to an Indian actor and model.
Flying in for the nuptials of Sant Singh Chatwal's son, Vikram, and Priya Sachdev are former US president Bill Clinton, fresh from visiting earthquake victims in Pakistan, model Naomi Campbell, rap star P Diddy and billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. Also attending is the cream of the country's film and fashion fraternity.
The wedding, which began on Valentine's Day, is taking in elephant polo matches and a masked ball on a floating Mughal palace in Udaipur. For the final few days the couple will be in Delhi, where the traditional turban tying ceremony takes place in a five-star hotel that will accommodate French President Jacques Chirac and his US counterpart, George W. Bush, in the coming weeks.
The invitation stresses that the dress for the event needs to be "formal, no blacks or whites. Only colors." For foreign guests there is a 20-page wedding booklet which explains Indian attire.
"It is fantasy," one guest said. "You are showered with flowers and there's piles of Indian food. It is like being at a royal court, a durbar, of ancient India."
The traditional theme has surprised many. Vikram Chatwal was known for a playboy lifestyle in Manhattan. He briefly dated Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen, and had a G tattooed on his arm.
Famous for racing around the city's streets in an Aston Martin, Chatwal had a penchant for partying. He ran up a US$10,000 bar bill and flew with P Diddy on a 767 for a rave in Morocco. He dabbled in films, securing roles in independent movies but failing to land a Hollywood part. Known as the Turban Cowboy, Chatwal hung out with Naomi Campbell -- a neighbor in Trump Towers.
Unlike his elder brother Vivek, who set eyes on his bride only half an hour before the ring ceremony in India, Vikram was set to break with custom. However his lifestyle changed abruptly two years ago, when he told a family friend, Queenie Dhody, a socialite in Mumbai, to look for a bride.
Although there was parental involvement, according to Dhody, the ultimate decision was left to the couple.
"His parents were pressurizing him to get married but it was his decision," she said.
"Vikram told me he was ready and I went looking for a girl for him. It was my husband who spotted her at a party and when they met they liked each other. A lot," she added.