HARARE – Praise Emily, daughter of former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Hellen, was married to Joseph Tshalahika Malaba on Saturday in Christ Church Borrowdale Church in Harare in one of the priciest wedding Zimbabwe has ever seen.
The wedding was a classy affair, with glamour and excitement punctuating the show stopping nuptials, also attended by President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.
With security levels high, the president arrived wearing a charcoal grey suit, crispy white shirt and tie, while the first lady looked resplendent in a colourful green outfit.
The media was given full access and guests seen arriving were subjected to friendly reception by security.
Mugabe’s security details commendably kept a low profile probably to allow the process to move smoothly and to make it clear that it was a Gono and Malaba day.
Joseph, son to accomplished former Chamber of Mines chief executive officer Joseph Malaba and the late Lucie Malaba, and Praise, were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers as they arrived for their classy wedding ceremony, that attracted the who-is-who of Harare.
The shy bride wore a sleeveless, studded traditional white silk gown and a full-length flowing veil, but gave only the briefest glimpse to onlookers as she arrived at the Christ Church Borrowdale church for a 45-minute service.
After a fleeting wave to the crowds, Praise stepped inside the church as large doors were firmly closed behind her.
Gono narrated his daughter’s upbringing and prayed she enjoyed marital bliss with her hubby, while Malaba said he had absolutely no doubt in his mind that the two would get married as they had been friends for 11 years.
Mugabe blasted the Australian government for deporting Pride and Praise, while sibling Passion gave a moving speech on “giving” his sister away.
Mugabe urged the couple to enjoy life together, stressing the importance of a firm family foundation as the basis of a strong society.
The 89-year-old veteran politician spoke strongly against “small houses” and the breakdown of the family unit, including among wed couples.
He said while he received invitation cards to weddings, he never gets invitations to divorce proceedings.
The occasion was a spectacle and the prospect of a brief glimpse of the first family was enough to entice hundreds to the Palm Estate near Helensvale shopping centre, including a few dozen who arrived early to win a front row view.
The First Family gave the newly-weds a voucher for an Adam Bede dinning room suite, which they will select on their own, a dinning set and $6 000 cash, while first daughter Bona and her brothers gave a gift of $4 000.
Gono gave the couple a “small house” in Borrowdale Brooke.
Estimated to have cost around half a million, the wedding has raised the stakes in the luxury wedding game.
Wedding planners say it blew the mark on the amount of money spent in the history of wedding planning, and yet they say nuptials of this magnitude are not unusual in Zimbabwe.
It was a magnificent high-end wedding where money has certainly been no object.
It was arguably the best wedding in Zimbabwe this year, one wedding planner told the Daily News, boasting a multiple course meal for thousands of guests, local acts, exceptional lighting, and complete exclusivity at the idyllic Palm Estate in the leafy environs of Helensvale.
The Malabas and Gonos hosted a glitzy cocktail party in the giant white tent where guests were treated to wines, whiskies, beers, ciders, drinks and lunch, which was abundantly served on tables covered with white drapery and gold-framed mirrors.
The event was a tribute to Parisian elegance, with chandeliers and fresh rose and orchid lampshades to dazzle the guests.
The cake was an eight-tier creation by a lavish boutique bakery.
The wedding was a rare moment of public glamour for the usually down-to-earth Gono, who wined and dined with the First Family and engaged in banter, celebrating at the private wedding reception that saw the First Lady take to the dance floor.
The wedding was also proof that Mugabe and Gono are close friends as the president looked relaxed sitting close to the former RBZ governor for nearly five hours.
While politicians, both ruling and opposition, captains of industry, business leaders and foreign dignitaries mainly from Botswana, were out in force for the wedding between Joseph and his bride Praise, the couple seemed most thrilled by those who had gathered in the packed white air-conditioned marquee transept to see them marry.
This was the space, all-white and glass, reserved for some of the couple’s closest friends.
The wedding was also a way for people to let their hair down; to escape worries and the daily grind.
The guests included childhood friends, and confidantes from school and university.
Also among them were long-time friends of the Gono and Malaba family, wealthy landowners and aristocrats.
The female guests at the wedding were a colourful, spectacular, reverential bunch.
It was almost as if everyone wanted to do the couple justice with the bling they were donning.
The men were creased and formal, and the Police Band provided the cabaret.
It was a great day for fashion. For ladies, it was saucers on foreheads. Polka dots. Twiglet limbs.
For men, it was tuxedos and bow ties.
The bridal chain was looking dapper, with lots of fabric, and enough bling to blind the average person.
And there was a fleet of top-of-the-range vehicles stretching over a kilometre along Stonechat Lane, including Porsches, Range Rovers, Bugatti Veyron and Mercs.
This will no doubt go down as a big fat wedding, indeed.