Social pressures and skyrocketing prices of jewellery and couture, especially embroidered and sequined bridal wear, have given birth to the business of renting bridal dresses and even jewellery.
For many brides, wedding preparations revolve around the bridal dress and at the occasion itself, there is a lot of attention around what the bride and groom are wearing.
Shopping for bridal dresses begins months before the actual event and the dresses are sold at a minimum price of Rs15,000. If bought from a designer the minimum price is Rs200,000 and top designers charge up to Rs1,000,000.
For most Pakistanis, bridal dresses are difficult to afford. But appearances must be kept and so people try their best to find the best dress at the most affordable price.
For many residents of Islamabad, a city known for being Pakistan’s most expensive, it is a norm to head to bazaars of neighbouring Rawalpindi for more affordable prices.
Mona Khan, a resident of Islamabad who recently helped her niece with her wedding preparations, said for months they went back and forth between the twin cities to find more affordable couture.
“There was more variety in Rawalpindi but even there, no bridal dress was available for less than Rs20,000,” she said.
For those who live in Rawalpindi, the search for a perfect bridal dress involves traversing the narrow streets of the numerous bazaars of the old city.
Mohammad Saleem, a resident of Rawalpindi whose daughter was recently married, said the prices at shops in Moti Bazaar are far more affordable than Saddar. “Places such as Tench Bhatta are even cheaper,” he said.
But for those who cannot afford these prices or find the expense superfluous, there is the option of renting a dress.
In some areas of Rawalpindi, such as Raja Bazaar, Saddar, Tench Bazaar and Chouhr Bazaar, dresses for brides and grooms are available at a daily rent.
The minimum rent for these dresses is Rs500 and goes up, according to style and quality of beadwork. Dresses can be rented for up to 10 days.
According to Noreen Hossain, who works as a housemaid, these shops are a blessing for many like her.
“My daughter wanted to look nice at her wedding but I could not afford to buy her a dress with beadwork on it. So we decided to rent a dress,” she said.
At a nominal price, Noreen managed to rent dresses for both herself and her daughter and happily returned these dresses to the shop after a week.
These shops also arrange jewellery rentals to complete the bridal look.
The rent for the pieces varies according to the quality of the ornaments but most pieces are usually imitation gold and silver.
According to the shopkeepers, the clientele is made up of people from different economic classes.
Mohammad Fayyaz Raja, a local journalist, said people often rent dresses from these shops to wear to the weddings of relatives and friends.
“It is good sense as such a dress is worn very occasionally and so investing money in a dress seems like too much of a luxury,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2015