Most women dream of having a fairy-tale wedding when they're little girls. They fantasise about the big day — a perfect ceremony, a beautiful gown, magnificent flowers, and so on.
And every bride-to-be believes that her wedding will be perfect, with everything falling into place.
However, reality is not so simple, and even the best executed plans fall through sometimes. There are also the unfortunate brides, whose fairy-tale weddings are ruined by service providers.
THE GOWN SCANDAL
Sheila Mmata had made all plans for her big day in December 2017.
However, she was thoroughly disappointed on her wedding day.
She says she never got the dream gown that she fell in love with when she visited Susan Ngari’s shop in Nairobi a month to her wedding.
Several clients claim that Susan has a knack for failing to deliver services as agreed.
Sheila adds that she was also taken round in circles, never being told the truth at any one time.
She says she spotted the gown she wanted at Susan’s shop and asked to buy it. However, the gown was in a different colour from what she had wanted, but she was assured she would get a brand new gown of her choice, which would be imported in good time.
She paid the deposit, half the full price of the gown and waited for the two weeks.
Sheila says Susan assured her it would take two weeks to import the gown.
After the two weeks, she went back to shop and was told there was a delay at the port, and thus she was to wait for another week.
AFTER SEVEN DAYS
She waited and after seven days, she went back to the shop, but left empty-handed, again.
She narrates that she was told she could not get the gown until she paid the full amount.
“I tried to resist paying the whole amount because I couldn’t pay for something that I had not yet seen, but she was very convincing. So eventually, I paid,” says Sheila.
After paying, she was told to wait a little longer for the dress to arrive in the country.
The back and forth would go on until two days to the wedding, when the dress finally arrived. She was told pick it the next day. But alas! It was not ready.
She finally picked the gown on the eve of the wedding at 9pm.
“I found out that the border I wanted had been removed and replaced with another one. Susan had promised me a free veil and tail as part of the package.
But when I checked the veil, it was just a net tucked in. Even the sleeves looked funny. Susan’s daughter handstitched them as I waited. If you ever look at my wedding photos, you will see they were made from scrap fabric,” she explained.
She adds that Susan was not even at the shop to hand over the gown, and had left the job to her daughter and shop assistants.
Sheila’s case is not isolated as another woman did not also get her ideal gown. Aisha* (not her real name) says she’s too scared to reveal her identity because of the trauma she suffered after exposing the poor services she got from Susan.
She says she had spotted the dress she wanted only that it was meant for display purposes.
However, Susan told her she would get a new one with her specifications. But this did not happen. She says she ended up getting an old dress, one that did not even match the description she had given. She had paid in advance.
Aisha notes that she was given the wrong dress after she asked for her money back.
Shortly after her wedding in December last year, Aisha posted her experience with the vendor on a popular Facebook page for brides and wedding service providers, and that was where her problems began.
“I didn't get what I had ordered. She took me round in circles before I got the gown until I threatened to take action. I shared my story on the (Facebook) page, and then she started threatening me and sending me text messages calling me a liar. I started getting phone calls from people I didn't know,” Aisha says.
She finally reported the matter to police and got a lawyer, who made the phone calls and text messages stop more than a month and a half after the wedding.
But Susan, who has been in the clothing business for the past 28 years, says she’s being wrongfully crucified due to the negative feedback on social media.
“Those are malicious people. Why can’t they come to me if they are not happy with what I gave them? Why are they posting on social media? She maintains that some people are out to tarnish her name. She also cites competition, saying it could be a plot to steal her customers.
She further discloses that some clients have in the past sent police to demand a refund of their money. However, she remains positive. She says she believes that all the publicity may result in more business for her in the end.
“You see, even in politics, leaders are attacked by their enemies but that doesn’t make them any less than what they are. So, I choose to look at this positively because of the few who have complained. I have served many happy brides who continue recommending me to their friends,” said Susan who tried her hand in politics but flopped.
FRIENDS TURNED FOES
Sylvia Gaita lost one of her friends during her wedding. She contracted the services of Alice Kariithi, a wedding planner who was to coordinate her event last year.
Sylvia and Alice had been friends for a while.
Sylvia explains that her friend promised to provide free services as a wedding gift.
“I was shocked to learn that in the budget plan, which she had drawn up, she allocated herself Sh100, 000. Yet she had promised to offer the services free of charge,” she says.
Sylvia notes that she confronted her about that payment, only to be sent a cold e-mail stating that her friend’s business was not a charitable organisation, and that all services rendered had to be paid for.
Sylvia, who had started planning for her wedding in August 2017, says the planner caused bad blood between her and several suppliers. She adds that Alice did not book the bride’s preferred wedding venue, opting for a cheaper place. Further, she refused to pay the whole amount after booking the place under a different name, according to Sylvia.
She had assured her that the venue would also provide accommodation for the bridal team after the event, only for Sylvia to find out a week to the D-Day that the rooms were fully booked, and that her bridesmaids would not get accommodation. On the actual day, she found out that she and her husband also had no room there, and they had to find another place at 9pm.
“In the evening, we were tired and just wanted to go to the room to relax and eat before hanging out with our friends.
When we arrived at the room, we found the door locked. I asked Alice for the keys, but she acted up … The door was opened from inside by the venue’s owner. She said we were not allowed to sleep there because the room had just been booked for daytime. We had to look for an Airbnb for the night,” recalls Sylvia.
Sylvia further notes that Alice had said she would do the decor herself, but she brokered the job, which was done poorly, forcing guests to arrange seats before the ceremony started.
According to Sylvia, Alice has not paid many of their service providers up to date, choosing instead to pocket the money that the couple had given her.
“At the beginning, my then fiancé did not want to contract her, but since she said it was a gift and she was my friend, he agreed to take up her services.
After we realised that she was dodgy with money, I wanted to terminate the contract but she threatened to withhold all the deposits I had given her, and so I gave in and continued working with her reluctantly.
Apart from the money dramas, Sylvia says Alice started pitting the couple against each other.
“She even started telling my husband lies about me regarding the wedding arrangements. Consequently, our relationship became strained. I’m lucky that he was so gracious because we managed to go through it. Truly, a bad wedding planner can even break your relationship,” she quips.
Sylvia shared the story on social media under the hashtag ‘wedding planners from hell’.
But on the other hand, Alice maintains that she did everything as stipulated in the contract that she and Sylvia had signed, which included her fee.
She explains the circumstances that made her book the venue under a different name.
“We visited the venue in April, and agreed to book it. We signed the contract and agreed to pay in June or July. In July, the venue’s owner sent me an e-mail saying that upon further review of the contract, we would have to add more money to book the evening suite, which was supposed to be part of the package,” Alice notes.
She adds that she planned with another friend to book the venue after the proprietor said it had been leased to another client when they took too long to pay.
“Later on, the proprietor insisted that the suite would cost extra amount, hence the reason Sylvia and her new husband had to seek alternative accommodation.
“When I agreed to work for Sylvia, I was doing it for a friend. I would advise other service providers never to mix friendship with business.”
She adds that the couple was difficult to work with as they also breached her contract in many ways.
“I would have preferred to solve our issues in a different way, not posting on social media. The day was very beautiful and the couple said they were happy. If there were specific things the bride did not like, she should have come we sit and iron out the issues. Now my business has taken a hit, and some clients have decided to take a step back.”