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Caravan caters to last-minute brides in Harare

In Zimbabwe, plagued for decades by poverty, unemployment and high inflation, the rental service is an affordable godsend

Published: Sep 11, 2023 10:41:57 AM IST
Updated: Sep 11, 2023 11:06:24 AM IST

Caravan caters to last-minute brides in HarareA bride and groom enter a wedding gown rental shop inside a caravan at the Magistrates Court in Harare. Image: JOHN WESSELS / AFP

Inside a rusty old caravan, brides-to-be try on gleaming white wedding dresses whose pricetag would normally put them way out of reach.
Parked to the side of a Harare courthouse where couples go to tie the knot, the caravan even enables brides to get fitted on the way to getting wed.

It's not exactly something borrowed—the business is a commercial venture, hiring out wedding dresses, bouquets and decorations.

But in Zimbabwe, plagued for decades by poverty, unemployment and high inflation, the rental service is an affordable godsend.

"Young and old, they come in here," says Daphne Siwardi, the elegant 37-year-old owner, her hair pulled back in short dreadlocks.

Brides can have their hair and make-up done too before heading into the Magistrates Court to make their vows.

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Typically, Siwardi has up to six customers a day.

Brides arrive first thing to prepare for their big day, before meeting their groom outside and going to the ceremony, she says, sorting through a rail of Chinese-made gowns.

Mother-of-three Gloria Mutero, 45, is won over.

"To buy from somewhere is very expensive," she said, adding that renting a dress from a shop in town cost $150.

But she said she was unwilling to spend a lot on something she would only wear for "three (or) four hours".

"I like this one," she says, looking at a dress on display in the caravan. It's "decent" and "cheap," she adds.

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"Maybe if I negotiate, they are going to give it to me for $50," she says, looking towards Siwardi and her assistants.

The white-roofed caravan is one of three offering similar services outside the court.  

Siwardi, a widow and former teacher with a broad smile, says her profession has at times turned her into a confidante—particularly for brides who "rush" into things.

"Some call maybe after a month and say: 'I want to divorce'," she says with a giggle.