In Slate’s column Who?, the hosts of acclaimed podcast Who? Weekly explore the world of near-fame.
It feels like just yesterday that we were speculating on Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra. As they walked the Met Gala carpet together, in matching Ralph Lauren, we thought, Are these two hooking up? Now this is an unexpected pairing! But OK! (We weren’t alone: “Is This the Most Unexpected Thing to Happen at the Met Gala?” asked a Coveteur piece.) This was in May of 2017. Why did their pairing seem so unlikely? Because he was a recently hunky (credit to the 2014 banger “Jealous”) former teen idol and she a breathtakingly beautiful Bollywood superstar–slash–UNICEF Goodwill ambassador whom Americans knew primarily from … ABC’s Quantico. Plus, she was 10 years older than Jonas, a surprising twist on the typical celebrity age gap. Plus, don’t forget that immediate denial: She would tell Jimmy Kimmel that they attended the Gala as “friends” because “we were both wearing Ralph Lauren!”
What could one of the most famous and glamorous women in the world—someone who knows Duchess Meghan’s private cellphone number—possibly want with a twentysomething most famous for his family’s former commitment to purity rings and Disney? When the answer was, simply, “friendship,” we were allowed to rest easy. Things made sense again. Nick would eventually, we assumed, fall for a moderately successful pop musician or former child star whose name we hadn’t thought about in years, and Priyanka would no doubt marry a world leader and become something approaching or equal to actual royalty.
But then they got engaged, and now they’re married! In a now-deleted post that drew the ire of older brother Joe Jonas, Priyanka’s soon-to-be sister-in-law Sophie Turner, and many readers, the Cut called their relationship a scam. But come on: As the two grace this month’s cover of People magazine, aglow in holy pre-matrimony, it’s clear that this relationship wasn’t merely the real deal—it was also the impetus for the wedding of the year.
“But what about Meghan and Prince Harry?!” you might scream, remembering that lovely wedding for the ages just a few months ago. Well: Did Meghan and Harry have a sangeet “in which both families performed elaborate musical numbers with choreography and costumes”? I think not. Theirs was the idealized version of a proper English wedding, while Priyanka and Nick took the tradition of the spectacular, multiday Indian wedding and ran with it. What we’re trying to say here (using People’s reporting to support our argument, as we were not included on the guest list) is that Meghan and Harry’s wedding was limited by tradition, while Priyanka and Nick’s was an over-the-top extravaganza because of it.
“It is super important to Priyanka to have an Indian ceremony that honors her heritage and culture, just as it’s important to also have a Western ceremony that honors Nick’s Christian upbringing,” a source (or more likely, publicist) told People. “They are doing both.”
#Nickyanka fully embraced the most elaborate forms of their respective religions—a mehendi ceremony and that sangeet, plus a Hindu wedding ceremony and a bridal ritual called a Bidaai. And, perfect for People’s cover, Chopra wore a custom Ralph Lauren gown (shades of their first date!) covered in “2.4 million mother-of-pearl sequins” as she walked down the aisle. Behind her: a 75-foot long veil manned by five handlers responsible for keeping it from catching in the perfectly verdant lawn. Above her: a drone, capturing the grandeur of it all in glorious HD. Compare this to Meghan and Harry’s wedding, which despite its A-list guests and historic, inspiring inclusivity was a dreadfully boring affair apart from a few choice musical moments and a very good sermon.
But Chopra and Jonas’ commitment to the art of being extra extended beyond the wedding itself. Meghan and Harry’s most exciting pre-wedding content came in the form of a formal interview with the BBC in which they revealed the fact that they became engaged over roast chicken. Meanwhile, Chopra and Jonas hyped up their multipart spectacular with a foray into spon con. While that kind of partnership would be unheard of for a royal who reports to Elizabeth II, it makes perfect sense for a plain old celebrity looking to capitalize on an immense social following. Rich people often say one key to wealth is straight-up frugality, and Instagrams like this one, of Jonas showing off branded scooters used (or at least photographed) at his bachelor party, or this one, of Priyanka thanking Amazon for helping her build her registry, prove that no one is above saving a little green when planning a wedding.
And in addition to good ol’ People, befitting Nick’s status as locally popular, the wedding attracted the highest of highbrow coverage, befitting a megarich international superstar and fashion icon. Vogue detailed the couple’s origin story—complete with a video of them playing a sappy, sanitized version of The Newlywed Game—and gave them a “digital” cover, whatever that means these days (while Priyanka herself will sit solo for Vogue’s actual January cover—“on breaking barriers and landing the man of her dreams,” it reads). People still got the full wedding-album exclusive, while video of the ceremony posted to Chopra’s personal Instagram is branded with a #PeopleWeddings hashtag and @People is tagged on her wedding photo.
From top to bottom, Vogue to People, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam to “Exotic” feat. Pitbull, the cover of Rolling Stone to Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas are the most delightful celebrity relationship of the year. They’re both Whos and Thems—little-known to many Americans or people who weren’t recently teen-pop fans but also astonishingly famous within their respective celebrity ecosystems (he: pop music; she: the world’s biggest film industry). The result was a perfect storm of earnest shamelessness and enthusiastic joy of the sort that this year’s other big wedding was forced to either tone down or mute entirely. With such a spectacle—and the subsequent outpouring of support for these two after their love was questioned—Nickyanka have pushed each other into broader Themdom and given us the royal wedding we needed in 2018, just under the wire.