Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (2024)

When it came to planning their wedding, Ankur Jain and Erika Hammond agreed on one thing: it was going to be over the top. They just didn’t initially agree on where to get married.

“My first pitch to Erika for the wedding was to get married in space,” says Jain, the billionaire founder and CEO of Bilt Rewards, a tech company that has disrupted the credit card industry by letting users earn cashback points on rent. His bride, a former WWE wrestler and creator of KNOCKOUT at Equinox, had different feelings: “I was like, ‘I don't want to die on my wedding day!’"

Their compromise? Having the first wedding celebration thought to be held in modern times at the base of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, in front of the Sphinx, officiated by the world's foremost Egyptologist, Jain's family friend Dr. Zahi Hawass.

“We’re New Yorkers and there's something so special about being in a completely different world environment. So we decided, our wedding is about having a moment together to celebrate the new beginning, having a really special party with our friends somewhere where you're in a different world,” says Jain. Adds Hammond: “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (1)

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For Jain, 34, who first visited Egypt as a boy during an annual family vacation, and recalls a magical experience going on his first archeological dig of the ancient tombs as a teen, with Dr. Hawass, it was a chance to share his love of ancient history with his wife-to-be, 32. “I’m obsessed with ancient history and society,” says Jain. “The pyramids are just insane to see. You’re speechless. I can’t believe that this is even a part of our civilization,” adds Hammond.

As they got to planning, the couple agreed they were more interested in the experience than the traditions of a classic wedding. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen; no wedding cake cutting moment or toasts. And they left the ornamental details of the night up to the planners.

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (2)

“I had no idea what the napkins looked like or what the table setting looked like,” says the Texas-born Hammond. “We're not traditional wedding people,” adds Jain, who grew up in Washington state, where his father was a tech executive at companies including Microsoft. “Why do you have to spend $20,000 on flowers? It doesn’t make sense. And none of that should matter when you're getting an opportunity to sit and have dinner at the base of the pyramids!” (Editor's note: PEOPLE was invited to the wedding itself, and for the record, the flowers were spectacular, featuring an assortment of local Egyptian blooms and foliage.)

Instead, the couple focused on creating an incredible four day itinerary for their 130 guests.

Although met with last minute travel disruptions that threatened to derail the entire destination wedding, Jain and Hammond pulled off a late night launch to the festivities April 24 with a a “Modern Cairo” themed welcome reception at the Muhammed Ali Palace in Cairo, complete with belly dancers, fire dancers and a shoppable bazaar for guests with a DJ playing Arab house music. “Everybody rallied when we were running late and our guests said, 'Nope, we’ll push the party, we’ll stay up…. we’re going to keep the party going and you guys come when you land, and we’re going to celebrate together,’ ” Jain told PEOPLE Thursday morning after the event. "We partied until 5:00AM having just the best opening night.”

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On day two, “​​it was all about the ancient history of Egypt,” says Jain. The couple arranged for a fully private tour of the Pyramids and the Sphinx, including areas not generally open to the public, facilitated by Dr. Hawass, followed by an Ancient-Egypt x Met Gala themed dinner at the not yet opened Grand Egyptian Museum, featuring traditional performances and aerial dancers. “We wanted the vibe to be kind of like the Met Gala's Egypt section, but in the real Egyptian area, where you've got one of the largest statues of the Pharaoh Ramesses II in the middle of the hall,” says Jain.

Guests were able to shop specialty vendors at the event, including custom mixed Egyptian perfumes, customizable sentimental papyrus scrolls and body gems, and enjoyed specialty co*cktails including passion fruit and espresso martinis into the extreme wee hours once again.

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (4)

Despite the distinct lack of rest, the couple was ready and refreshed in time for their big day Friday, April 26.

Guests assembled at a specially constructed event site in front of the Sphinx at the base of the Great Pyramids of Giza shortly before sunset for a non-denominational wedding celebration, hosted by Dr. Hawass. "It was so special having Dr. Zahi officiate," says Jain. "He has written every major book on Tutankhamen and the pyramids and he's such a character. At dinner one time while we were engaged, he goes, 'Erika and Ankur, I am pleased to be your officiate for the wedding,'" Jain recalls. Adds Hammond: "We just said to ourselves, I guess we found our officiant! We couldn't have been happier."

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (5)

Jain's parents Naveen and Anu Jain walked him into the ceremony. Then Hammond, flanked by parents Tonya and Will Hammond made her grand entrance as famed violinist Lindsey Sterling played a rendition of Ed Sheeran's "Perfect" in a showstopping gown designed by Indian designer Rahul Mishra. “It was important to me to draw inspiration and celebrate my fiancé’s Indian culture, ancient Egyptian culture, and Western traditions,” says Hammond of the gold-embroidered bridal gown. “Since we weren't doing an Indian wedding, I wanted a little bit of Indian inspiration, mixed with a Cleopatra feel.” (Hammond flew to Delhi, India a month before the wedding for final fittings and to retrieve the gown.) “His designs are modernized Indian. So like the sari gowns.”

Dr. Hawass opened the service with some gentle ribbing—saying the bride had learned so much about Egypt after once not knowing Tutankhamen was the one she knew more commonly as King Tut, and invited the couple back when they later had children. Then the pair shared heartfelt vows, remembering how they first got together just before the pandemic, and spent months bonding over FaceTime chats when they couldn't date in person. The bride vowed to always have a Tempur-pedic pillow for her new husband; the groom vowed to always focus on making his 'Fiancee Senior' happy."

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (6)

“We wanted it to be very funny,very us. We were cracking jokes," Hammond says of their vows. "It was an emotional moment, and I was about to cry. Then he cracked a joke and lightened the mood. It was so very authentic to us."

She continues, "I wasn't as nervous because I felt I was there with my friends and family. It was this moment we were planning for a year.”

“I lost my words for a moment, I was so emotional," Jain adds. "There were a couple of moments when I looked at Erika and realized it was me and my wife standing in front of the pyramids, and I had to get my bearings. We were in the most magical place in human history to celebrate the most magical moment in our lives."

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (7)

As the sun set on the Giza Plateau, the party was shuttled around to the other side of the pyramids for a co*cktail hour with a stunning view of the desert and all six pyramids. The couple’s 130 guests included Lance Bass and his husband Michael Turchin, Robin Thicke and his wife April Love Geary, Ryan Serhant and his wife Emilia, Shark Tank's Kevin O’Leary and his wife Linda, Former Texas governor Rick Perry and his wife Anita, the Points Guy Brian Kelly, influencer Serena Kerrigan, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and his wife Gloria, Fox Business anchor Liz Claman, Fox 5 New York anchor Bianca Peters, Equinox chairman Harvey Spevak, Dr. Hawass as well as fellow archeologist Dr. Mark Lehner.

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For dinner, the couple had a New York inspired menu. “We chose all our favorites: the pasta from Lilia, the burger from 4 Charles,” says Jain. As guests dined at the base of the pyramids, violinist Lindsey Sterling performed a stunning, acrobatic set.

After the meal, the couple invited guests down to another area for the afterparty and dessert. Foregoing a classic wedding cake, the couple opted for affogatos and three dessert stations from their favorite New York confectioners: a sundae bar inspired by the American Bar, a Levain cookie station—(“they’re warm and gooey!” says the bride)—and Milk Bar station serving birthday cake slices.

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (8)

Singer Robin Thicke performed a surprise set for guests, then the bride (in her afterparty mini dress by Grete Henriette) got up onstage to dance the night away as DJ Gryffin took over, playing iconic house music hits. Guests enjoyed midnight snacks of tacos and pizza along with plenty of Clase Azul Reposado tequila shots as the night wrapped up with an epic fireworks display over the pyramids, followed by an impromptu performance of "Bye, Bye, Bye" by Lance Bass.

The couple first met when Jain started working out at Rumble Boxing where Hammond, who is a founding member of the celeb-loved gym, was also an instructor at the time. "We were just acquaintances there," she recalls. "But a couple years later, Hammond happened to be with one of the gym's other co-founders when they ran into Ankur. The duo briefly chatted and then just a few days later they met again after signing up for the same workout class.

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (9)

"It was funny because she's normally teaching the class, but we were both taking it," says Jain. "I'm not the fittest guy, so it was probably a dumb move in hindsight, but I was like, 'Why don't you come work out next to me?'" Afterwards, Jain asked her out for a drink.

"It's so great, adds Hammond. "I didn't have makeup on. I was in workout clothes and all sweaty. I knew he was going to love me no matter what."

After the wedding, Jain tells PEOPLE, "Surprisingly, I'm feeling alive after partying all night."

"Last night it was almost hard to really internalize everything. It was even crazier than we imagined," he added. "We had the best time. It was so special. When the fireworks went off, it was one of the most spectacular moments. I was so emotional, I couldn't even put it into words.”

Hammond, for her part, says, “I literally am speechless. Looking at the photos, I was living my best life. I became a popstar onstage last night. It was the most incredible night of my life."

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (10)

Now, as the newlyweds continue to bask in wedded bliss, they're still taking in all the joy from their special day.

“It was amazing. Everybody we know from all eras of our life came together in one place to celebrate and it was very special,” says Jain. “If you only get married once, you want to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everybody!”


Event Management: Vertex Events

Photos: Bottega 53

Makeup: Kelly Dawn, Dawn Artist Agency

Stylist: Yasmine Kenawi @yasminekenawi and Margot Zamet @margotzamet

Wedding Ceremony Dress: Rahul Mishra @rahulmishra_7

Bridal Jewelery Customized by Ajour Consultancy and Louis Diamonds @ajourconsultancy @louisdiamondsofficial

Shoes: Rene Caovilla

Wedding Dress After Party Dress: Grete Henriette @grete.henriette

Jewelry: Nado’s Jewellery @nadosjewell

Shoes: Rene Caovilla

Social: Olivia Burrows Sutherland

Inside a Billionaire CEO and Former WWE Diva's Epic Egyptian Wedding at the Pyramids: 'Once in a Lifetime Experience' (2024)


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