IN Harare, a rusty caravan helps brides and grooms in a hurry.
It’s the local Las Vegas for lovers in a hurry to get married, or for long-standing couples married according to tradition but not yet in front of the mayor: a khaki caravan awaits them in front of the courthouse in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
In this southern African country plunged for years into deep economic crisis, Daphne Siwardi, face framed by short dreadlocks, leads this flourishing operation designed to “make women prettier on the big day”.
“Young or old, they all come here,” enthuses this elegant 37-year-old in a forest-green frock coat over a burgundy dress.
For over ten years, she has been running this wedding dress rental boutique out of her rusty white-topped van, offering fiancées in need not only white lace dresses but also bouquets, decorations and quick make-up and hair services.
Up to six clients drop by each morning to get ready before accompanying their future groom to court,” she explains, as she reviews a row of white dresses hanging from a rod.
Most of them come before the big day to choose a dress, have it washed and fitted. The dresses all come from China.
The in-laws –
The most popular is long, adorned with rhinestones. It doesn’t reveal too much, and avoids unpleasant glances from in-laws,” explains the shopkeeper.
Gloria Mutero, 45, married her husband in a traditional ceremony eleven years ago. She now wants to regularize her civil status, for financial reasons. But without leaving a fortune behind.
There’s no point in breaking the bank for an outfit she’s going to wear for “three or four hours”, says the pragmatic mother-of-one. “I like this one,” she continues. “It does the trick and it’s priced right”.
“If I negotiate hard, maybe they’ll give it to me for $50” (46 euros), tries this plump woman with a playful smile, looking towards the boss and her assistants.
Daphne Siwardi’s caravan is one of three, parked in the dirt parking lot on the side of the courthouse, close to a few trees, that offer the same express services to brides.
Inside, alongside the flowers and outfits, a small bed and wooden desk serve as a make-up and hairdressing corner.
Widowed and a former teacher, Daphne Siwardi, smiling broadly, has been in the business for fifteen years. A real “coup de coeur”.
Her customers quickly make her their confidante, especially “those who are in a hurry”.
“Sometimes they call me a month later. To tell me ‘I already want a divorce’”, she confides, bursting into laughter.