Friday, 18 July 2014

The peril of Wedding dress shopping in Kampala

One sunny Saturday after inquiring around for the best place to shop for wedding dresses, we headed out to 3 places in total but only 2 are worth writing home about.

12:10 Option 1 – The wild card

Much to my surprise one evening on my way home, I saw a man putting up sign posts with ‘Happily Ever After’ pointing to a residence nearby so I decided to make an appointment. 

I recommended it to the bride having following them on Facebook for over a year. I was only hoping that the photographs matched what we would find at the store. On this particular Saturday we quite easily found the place and enjoyed the warm welcome and homey atmosphere that their new space provided.

Store Attendant: “Hello, please come in and have a seat.”

Me: “Hello, I made an appointment about 2 days ago, my sister is looking for a gown for her wedding. Here she is.”

My sister - Bride: “Hello, I like your d├ęcor. So are there any fees for the appointment.”

Me: “Thank you and yes, it is 20,000 for 4 dresses.”

I was going over the album pictures and matching them with the accessories when I heard her say 20,000 for trial and I looked up in shock as a deer in head lights. I was not aware that there was a fee for trying on wedding dresses it reminded me of the consultation fee that you pay to a doctor before he even knows about your condition.

Family friend: “Okay and what if we do not find a dress after trying on the first 4?”

My sister – Bride: “Do you give discounts.”

Store attendant: “Yes we do and you will only pay the fee we agree on once until we find you a dress for your day.”

The haggling over a discount ensued until we got a deal for 15,000 for trial of 4 and not 3 wedding gowns. After about 35 minutes we had tried on all 4 gorgeous gowns and my sister fell in love with just one. However, she decided not to commit to purchasing it until we had visited one of the bigger bridal stores that had been recommended which boasted of over 100 plus dresses.


After this appointment we left with a clear direction of what style suited her body type and we felt well equipped to take on the next appointment.

1:15pm Option 2 – The sure deal or so we thought

Sister’s bridal along Kampala road on Park Royal building was our next stop as the bride had seen quite a few adverts of their store in the bride and groom magazines and the bridal expo. So we visited them hoping that maybe number 2 would be a sure thing after the great start we had at ‘Happily Ever After’ but we were greatly surprised and disappointed. As we walked into the store we were asked to take off our shoes at the entrance so that we did not make the carpet dirty as in turn, this would make the dresses dirty as the brides tried them on. I did not see anything wrong with this so we obliged and headed in.

Gentleman at reception: “Hello, please come in. Are you looking for dresses?”

My sister - Bride: “Yes we are, I made an appointment earlier in the week for today.”

Gentleman at reception: “Okay….,” he responded. As he looked around the store and wandered off with no warning leaving us in the reception area for 3 or 4 minutes.

“Now, this lady will assist you with your appointment for the day.”

Attendant: “You wait, I am coming.”

Family friend: “Can we have seats as we wait for her?”

Gentleman at reception: “Yes! Follow me,” he said as he escorted us into the main show area that had rows and rows of dresses on racks along the walls.
He managed to get us 3 seats as we waited patiently as he paced from side to side searching for other store attendants as more and more brides continued to walk in. The store was like a mad house with brides trying on dresses in different corners of the room in plain sight. This is due to the fact that all the changing rooms were full. The bridal entourages everywhere with some waiting in corridors, attendants running up and down past us looking for dresses.


2 other members of our entourage (my sisters) arrived only to find us waiting for nearly 30 minutes for our attendant to assist us. The bride told her (our attendant) exactly what she was looking for and she was whisked off – to a corner. Yes I did mean a corner and not a changing room.
My sister – Bride: “So what is the fee for trying on dresses?”

Attendant: “20,000 for any 4 dresses that you try on.”

My sister – Bride: “And what happens if I need to try on a few more dresses – say 2 more.”

Attendant: “You pay an additional 20,000.”

The gentleman from the reception would randomly walk into the main show room past us looking for attendants as the brides were getting dressed – this was of course until my other sister told him off but it was so outrageous.


Older sister: “Hey there is a bride trying on a dress I do not think you can cross over there now.”

Gentleman from reception: “Okay.”

Older sister 2: “But these people, there is no sense of privacy at all.”
After putting the bride in 2 old dress I had personally had enough and walked off from where she was changing and sat down beside our party. On dress 3 I walked up to her and did a walk around the dress only to find the thigh area on one side visibly ripped. It was too much for me at that point, I informed the bride and she took a look and after a few minutes of showing the bridal party she changed into her last dress.


Older sister: “But this dress is worse than the one before.”
Me: “Yup it is actually ripped and fraying at the bust line.”

Older sister: “But aren't there any nice newer dresses, why does she keep putting you in old, ugly dresses.”

Attendant: “We will find her a dress even if it takes 4 hours, we have just started. She cannot fail to get one with all these dresses.

4 Hours! I thought to myself, but I guess my sister’s sentiments did the trick and the attendant came back with 2 newer gowns for my sister to choose from for her final trial. But before she could get all the way to my sister in her changing area or rather changing corridor, she was interrupted.


Other Attendant: “Nyabo, where did you find those dresses.”

Attendant: “At the back of the reception area closet alone.”

Other attendant: “And didn’t you wonder why it was alone – that one is for my customer for the wedding which is 2 weeks away. You show her the other one,” she said as she grabbed one of the dresses from our attendants hands evidently annoyed.

This left only 1 option before she would be asked for another 20,000 for the next batch of trials.

Attendant: “Okay you try this one.”

Older sister 2: “This is much better so why were they showing us old dresses.”
My sister – Bride: “How much will this gown cost for hiring?”

Attendant: “It will cost 1, 200,000 UGX.”

My sister – Bride: “So I am the first wearer right?”

Attendant: “No someone has booked it for a wedding in 3 weeks.”

My sister – Bride: “And how much are they paying?”

Attendant: “1,300,000 UGX.”

My sister – Bride: “But that does not make sense.”

2:55 pm
The ambiance aside, the dresses in the show room were smelly, filthy, poorly kept, some if not most in terrible condition and the manner in which the brides were treated was as if they were dollar signs and not human beings. This was not an experience I would recommend for any future brides – the manner in which this business is so commercialized and yet it requires much attention and care for the customer. Such a stark contrast to the one on one attention we received from Happily Ever After Bridal Store. After this account, I need not tell you where we got the brides gown from.

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