Zimbabwe: Realizing the dream of the white wedding dress
In a caravan in front of the registry office in Harare, local women are able to dress like a dream. From the spontaneous to those on a tight budget, they all find what they're looking for at Daphne's Bridal Rental.
Bride's big day
From a small, rusty caravan in front of the registry office in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, Daphne Siwardi, runs a bridal fashion rental shop. Whether it's a spontaneous romance or a bride on a budget, her customers find the right outfit for the big day here.
Just a little green caravan
Siwardi's trailer stands out front of the courthouse. Inside, the elegantly dressed 37-year-old offers bouquets and other decorations as well as hairstyling and make-up for clients. The busy entrepreneur dresses about six women a day.
After the ceremony, the hem of a wedding dress must be washed by hand to remove dust Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world and suffers seriously from inflation, which ran at 98.5 percent in 2021. Buying an expensive new dress for a wedding that lasts only a few hours? Hardly any local couple can afford that.
Bridesmaids wait for the main event
A third of women aged 20 to 49 in Zimbabwe marry before they are 18. UNICEF also warns of child marriages in the country: 5% of local girls are married before they are 15 years old.
Gowns for all
"Young and old come here," Siwardi says as customers browse for the right gown. Another client has already found her outfit. It is decent and cheap, explains the 45-year-old bride. "And if I negotiate, they are going to give it to me for $50," she adds, casting a knowing smile at Siwardi.
The wedding party
Siwardi has seen quite a few weddings. The bride usually comes to her earlier to prepare. Later friends and family will gather on the square in front of the registry office and the groom waits for his future wife to emerge from the caravan.
A dream in white
Siwardi is a widow and was a teacher before she opened the bridal fashion rental shop in Harare. She employs two assistants and all together, the three women look after clients and take care of the dresses. The white, richly embroidered dresses are mostly made in China.
In love, engaged, married
But its not all commerce. Every bride and groom has their own unique story, Siwardi says. For some women, she becomes a confidante in the hours before the wedding. Most of them are happy but, she adds with a giggle, "some call after a month and say, 'I want to divorce'."