Dar es Salaam. Brides and bridegrooms, photographers, caterers, wedding planners, jewelry traders and venue owners have all been counting losses since the case of Covid-19 was reported in Tanzania.
“After all the arrangements and preparations, we’ve to postpone? We all just want it to happen but it seems like Covid-19 is already making 2020 a worst year for us,” says 31-year-old bride Joyce Komba, a Dar es Salaam resident.
Ms Komba and her fiancé Thomas Mushi, 36, had a 150-confirmed list of guests for their April 4 wedding ceremony in the city, amid cancellations due to the virus spread, everything has turned out differently.
The couples are now anticipating cancelling their big day ceremony given that their booked venues are restricted as well as closest relatives have started pulling out.
“We hope Covid-19 will subside soon. As per the situation now, we have to put our party plans off until the disease is defeated to a large percentage,” said Ms Komba.
Mr Thomas Mushi says he was thinking of cancelling it totally but given that many friends and relatives had contributed to the budget already, it was being difficult for him.
“The total budget for the wedding is Sh15 million and the committee has already received Sh10 million. Some of the money has been used to pay for the venue and catering services. It’s very hard to call it off,” he explained.
He says the rescheduling or cancelling raised a lot of questions including whether all caterers will be available on the same new date and time and also whether they will lose the money in deposits and already paid.
“The venue owners say if the date scheduled will pass without the ceremony, the money will not be refunded. This is one of the things that are driving us crazy,” he said.
Loveness Thompson, 26, was in arrangement to get married on March 28, 2020 at Rock City Mall in Mwanza. She had decided to forgo one of the very important days in her life immediately gathering restrictions were imposed, but the venue owners couldn’t refund the booking cash that had already been paid.
Loveness is a resident of Mwanza. She had travelled to Dar es Salaam to buy some of the necessities for the wedding including a wedding ring. “Surely, I’m upset,” lamented Loveness, with disappointments that could be seen from a distance. “I have to make new arrangements, yes, maybe later in the year. This is disappointing but I hope God will save our country soon.”
“I came here before the announcement of the first case of Covid-19 as I was told some of the things I needed for the wedding were somehow cheaper. I have since been staying with my sister at Gongolamboto,” Loveness added.
Headache for wedding planners
Wedding planners with outstanding relationships with suppliers were now negotiating new minimum guest counts to help save their clients money as friends and family continue declining.
“We’re facing the toughest moment currently. We are trying to convince venue owners and caterers because we had already paid part of the money and we don’t know how long the pandemic will revolve around us,” Japhet Munira, a wedding planner in Dar es Salaam told The Citizen.
“To be honest, guest counts are dropping dramatically. I have a wedding of 200 people in May and we’re at a point of looking only for 50 people who will meet at an open ground and keep distance from each other. This is only if we’re going to do it anyway,” he added.
The planner reveals that most guests were already opting not to attend some of the already planned wedding ceremonies out of fear of the coronavirus. “Most of the messages of apologies are from those that have to travel from upcountry to Dar es Salaam.”
Mohammed Mussa Iddi, a travel agent and a honeymoon specialist for Zanzibar, currently residing at Msimbazi Centre in Dar es Salaam told The Citizen his business has come to a halt as a result of his clients postponing the events totally while others shifting destinations back to their homes.
He says at this time of the year he would be handling at least 16 confirmed clients.
“Everyone seems to have been scared by the Covid-19 reports. No one wants to risk booking his honeymoon at the moment. Some of those who had already booked are postponing weddings as well as honeymoons,” he stated, while posing at his usual office in the City.
Dress sellers are feeling the pinch of Covid-19
The Modern Bride Shop at Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam receives up to 50 wedding dresses imported from China each month from February through May every year. In February this year, it received only four and according to Mr Hamisi Mtebe, the owner, the business environment has been robbed by an enemy, Covid-19.
“Most of my clients prefer dresses from China because they are normally cheaper compared to the local ones. Being a whole seller, I’m forced to refund some of my clients who had already booked because there is no business and by next week I’ll be closing to go for a leave in Mtwara,” said Mr Mtebe.
“All wedding dress sellers are feeling this situation. If the wedding is scheduled June and the dress was supposed to be here by February and it’s not going to get in Dar es Salaam until May, what do you tell your clients?” Questioned, Mperi Johnson, a shopkeeper at Golden weds shop in Kariakoo.
“Let’s hope those who had already ordered would understand the situation we’re in currently. To be honest, our business will suffer a lot if this disease is not defeated soon,” she stated.
“It is disappointing when you have to tell the client that you’re not able to fulfil his or her needs. We are also going to suffer. For instance, I’m just employed their (pointing at a neighbouring wedding shop) as a shopkeeper, where will I go yet I have a family of three depending on me?” John Mndeme questioned.
He said that for the bridegroom, this is the most important dress they’re going to wear, “yet the virus led our supply networks to cease.”
Photographers, Music/instruments and MCs business not as usual
Ibrahim Mlokozi, a photographer and music trader, relies on weddings for most of his business and even the other side of photo studio at Manzese has stacked as well.
He says he had 11 weddings under contract this year in which one has already been cancelled, while another went from a venue of 120 to a home ceremony of only 20 guests.
“I lost over Sh600, 000 in one ceremony because I had to go in a home with a few people and I could not carry on my music system too,” he revealed, adding, “because I knew the bride, even after the change of option I didn’t penalize them, even though that’s what we normally do.”
For his part Mr Robert Sanga, well known as MC Wille said life has already changed in this few days that Covid-19 halted the country.
“I had at least four wedding ceremonies to lead between March and May. Three for March and April have been postponed, meaning Sh1.5 million is lost, hopefully the one in May 10, will go through,” he said.
Catering services and jewelry sellers counting losses
Anamaria Msechu, founder of Tujilishe catering and events firm in Dar es Salaam said she had already been scheduled to at least six wedding events, given half of the money and had started budgeting for the first event in April 4, only to hear an announcement from the government cancelling all gatherings.
“Majority of our clients place orders one month prior to their wedding,” she said. Most couples who are cancelling say they plan to reschedule for the future, this means I will have to return the money or keep it for the next date, yet I had already used some of the money for the April 4, ceremony ‘imekula kwangu’ (it has eaten on me),” she said.
“Since the announcement, I have not received any clients in need of a wedding ring, yet before; I was receiving up to 10 people in need of a Sh1.2 million worth golden ring. You can guess the loss that we’re undergoing currently,” said Jonathan Ambwene, a jewelry seller at Sinza-mori.