You are invited to my wedding. You, and 100,000 others

India shows how to put on a real celebration

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The Independent Online

With a hundred thousand guests, next month's six-day wedding between two of India's most distinguished families makes Britain's royal nuptials this year seem a rather modest affair.

The town of Safai, in Uttar Pradesh, will host enough wedding well-wishers to fill London's O2 five times. It's fair to say that anyone who is anyone will be there to celebrate the lavish marriage of Prateek Yadav, 23, and Aparna Bisht, 21.

Prateek's father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is the head of the Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, three times Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous region with 200 million citizens, an ex-defence minister of India and a political hero to millions around the country. Aparna's father, Arvind Singh Bisht, is the editor of the Lucknow branch of The Times of India in Uttar Pradesh. The guest list is likely to read like a who's who of Indian business, politics, religion and Bollywood.

"The royalty is getting married and it's a big buzz here," said Aparna, who is completing her masters in international politics at Manchester University. "We have been friends for eight years, so you can call us high-school sweethearts." Prateek is a keen bodybuilder who did an MSc in management at Leeds University and now works in real estate.

The inter-caste marriage has attracted the attention of Indian commentators. "Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose main support base is among the Yadavs, is reaching out to the upper caste Rajputs," Nora Chopra wrote in India's Sunday Guardian. "The Yadav family hopes to reap the electoral fruits of this inter-caste marriage in the Assembly elections."

The wedding, which opens on 2 December and concludes with a reception in Lucknow for 1,500 people on 7th, has taken six months to prepare. The wedding ceremony falls on the third day, when numbers will swell to 100,000, bringing Samajwadi supporters from all over India. Food will be distributed, as the streets are flooded with music and dancing.

It contrasts with the more intimate gathering yesterday as Heidi Withers and Freddie Bourne reportedly tied the knot at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, despite the groom's stepmother branding their plan to marry in a castle as "brash, celebrity-style behaviour". The couple became an internet sensation this summer when a scathing email in which Mr Bourne's stepmother Carolyn detailed the bride-to-be's "lack of manners" went viral. Mr Bourne's father, Edward, who didn't attend, said: "I wish them well."