Pomp and pageantry: Inside Brunei’s lavish 10-day royal wedding

The bespoke bridal tiara has 838 diamonds totaling 132 carats, set in white gold, and with an estimated value of upwards of $12.6 million.

The tiny sultanate of Brunei doesn’t usually make it to international headlines. On the occasion it does, it’s usually about its royals—its crazy rich royals.

And this is true in the past few days, when the oil-rich kingdom made it to the front page and banner stories of the world’s leading publications for a grand royal wedding deemed by many observers as the royal wedding of the year—maybe, even of the decade.

The bride and the groom

Brunei’s Prince Abdul Mateen and his then fiancée Yang Mulia Anisha Rosnah in a photo posted by the prince himself on his Instagram account on Dec. 31, 2023. Banner photo by Iqbal Dato HJ Selamat/AFP via Getty

The royal family of Brunei is one of the world’s richest. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, also the country’s prime minister, has a net worth of approximately US$28 billion. To give you a peek into just how crazy rich the sultan is, he owns 7,000 cars, including a gold-encrusted Rolls-Royce, 450 Ferraris, and 380 Bentleys.

He is also reported to have his own Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767-200, and Airbus A340-200 jets. He regularly flies his barber in from London’s Dorchester Hotel for a trim that sets him back a total of $23,000 (in 2010), a figure which costs even more today if you consider inflation.

Sultan Hassanal is the world’s longest-reigning current monarch after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022. On  October 5, 2017, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee to mark the 50th year of his reign. He is also the longest-serving current head of state.

The groom, meanwhile, is the 32-year-old Prince Abdul Mateen, the tenth child and fourth son of the sultan, who, until recently, was a regular on lists featuring the world’s most eligible bachelors. Aside from his royal duties, Prince Abdul Mateen is a second lieutenant owing to his Commissioning Officers’ Cadet Course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, a frequent participant in the Singapore F1 Night Race, a certified helicopter pilot, a skilled boxer, and a guitarist. The dashing prince also represented Brunei at the Southeast Asian Games in 2017 and 2019 for polo.

The radiant bride in a stunning gown, one of her attires during the Istiadat Berbedak, or traditional powdering ceremony. Photo by Muash Roshman on Instagram

The prince holds no immediate succession claim to the throne but his popularity, especially on social media, has steadily grown over the years, with many calling him “the hot prince,” “sexy,” or “swoon-worthy,” with a publication even christening him as “Asia’s answer to Prince Harry.” When asked by GQ Thailand on what he looks for in a partner, he responded, “I would say someone who is genuine and real. Someone who is very simple, that’s what I like.”

Enter the bride: 29-year-old Yang Mulia Dayang Anisha Rosnah Adam Isa Kalebic, or simply Yang Mulia Anisha Rosnah, Prince Abdul Mateen’s long-time partner and the granddaughter of royal advisor Pehin Dato Isa. She reportedly runs the fashion label Silk Collective and co-owns a tourism company called Authentirary.

Though it’s unclear when the pair started officially dating, the two are reported to have known each other since they were much younger. The sultan himself announced their engagement in October 2023.

10 days of pomp and pageantry

After the formal wedding last Sunday, Jan. 15, the newlyweds stood at the back of an open-top Rolls Royce for the grand parade through the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, waving to thousands of Bruneian well-wishers. Photo: uncredited/ Brunei’s Information Department)

The actual exchange of vows was held last Sunday, Jan. 14, but the entire wedding festivities lasted a total of 10 lavish days of pomp and pageantry and traditional and religious ceremonies attended by a slew of A-list guests.

The 10-day celebration commenced with the Khatam Quran, a special reading of the Quran by the bride on Jan. 7. There, Anisha sported her first bridal look, with a white hijab and “custom-made baju kurung in intricately woven tenunan Brunei” by designer Teh Firdaus.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, a centuries-old powdering ceremony known asIstiadat Berbedak or Berbedak Mandi took place. This customary practice in Malaysia and Brunei involves the would-be married couple being blessed by close family members—wishing them a happy, fertile, and wealthy married life—while applying paste to the hands of the bride and the groom. In some families, however, the paste is applied to the entire body.

For this event, the groom and the bride were dressed in matching intricate red outfits, with Anisha wearing an elaborate headpiece. Photos of the ceremony have been shared by the prince himself on his Instagram account.

Prince Mateen kneels before and kisses the hand of his father, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, after the solemnization ceremony. Photo from Brunei’s Information Department/AP
The bride, Anisha Rosnah, at the powdering ceremony. Photo from Prince Abdul Mateen’s Instagram account

The day after the powdering ceremony, Jan. 11, the couple separately partook in male and female-only solemnization ceremonies. Inside the gold-domed Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, Abdul Mateen was joined by his father, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, as he completed a customary ceremony, reflecting on his commitment to tradition and his new role as husband to his wife.

It’s worth mentioning that the bride’s make-up for this occasion was done by esteemed Filipino make-up artist Denise Go Ochoa, who is the wife of actor Dominic Ochoa. It’s not clear though, as of writing, if Denise also did the bride’s make-up on the actual wedding day. She has also done the make-up of Filipino celebrities such as Kathryn Bernardo, Julia Barretto, Maja Salvador, among others.

During the ceremony, Prince Abdul Mateen was seated on a special mat known as a Kasur Namat, and was surrounded by four ceremonial candles called Dian Empat. He wore a traditional white wedding attire with diamond embellishments and a matching headpiece. It was from the Kasur Namat where the prince accepted the Akad Nikah or the marriage solemnization. To mark the end of the ceremony, the prince kissed his father’s hand, with 17 guns firing a salute.

The prince during a male-only solemnization ceremony where he sits atop a special mat known as a Kasur Namat. Photo by Rafa Rosli
Anisha Rosnah at the Khatam Quran event last Jan. 7. Photo by Muash Roshman, an official wedding photographer

The celebrations reached their climax on Sunday, Jan. 14, with the formal wedding, or bersanding, as the prince, decked in a ceremonial military uniform, walked down the aisle with his radiant bride, who wore a traditional white wedding gown adorned with jewels.

Alongside her stunning diamond-studded necklace, matching drop earrings, and a bouquet made of jewels, the princess secured her floor-length embellished veil with a tiara that belonged to her sister-in-law, Princess Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah. Azemah wore the tiara during her wedding with her first cousin Prince Bahar ibni Jefri Bolkiah in January 2023.

The bespoke bridal tiara was created by Singapore jeweler Flower Diamond. It has 838 diamonds totaling 132 carats set in white gold, with an estimated value at upwards of £10 million or USD 12.6 million.

They exchanged vows at Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of the sultan and the world’s largest residential palace—with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and air-conditioned stables for 200 polo ponies.

Thousands of Bruneians lined the streets to greet the royal newlyweds. Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFPPrince Abdul Mateen

After the ceremony, the newlyweds stood at the back of an open-top Rolls Royce (I’m afraid it was not the golden one, though) and embarked on a grand parade through Bandar Seri Begawan, with thousands of Bruneians standing under the blazing Southeast Asian sun to greet the couple.

The penultimate event was a wedding banquet at the royal palace on Jan. 15, which saw 5,000 guests arrive to celebrate the newlyweds. For the banquet, the bride donned another gorgeous ivory gown covered with sparkling gems and featuring a mermaid skirt. This time, she complemented her look with a different tiara.

Being the social media-savvy prince that he is, Prince Abdul Mateen shared photos of the wedding, among other nostalgic photos from when he was still a child, on his IG account.

The final event, a prayer meeting, was held last Tuesday, Jan. 16.

A star-studded guest list

The newlyweds are flanked by Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (right) and Queen Hajah Saleha (left) during their wedding reception at Istana Nurul Iman in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. Photo from Brunei’s Information Department

As an Islamic monarchy, the wedding was attended by royals from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as leaders from neighboring countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema of the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan were also in attendance.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore shared several photographs of the festivities on his Instagram account, writing: “Weddings are joyous occasions…To Their Majesties Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Queen Raja Isteri, our warmest congratulations on this happy occasion.”

Celebrity photographer German Larkin, a friend of the prince, was tapped to photograph the events. He has previously shot A-listers like Kim Kardashian, Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, Blackpink’s Lisa, Michelle Yeoh, and the wedding of Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz.

The new lifestyle.