Alleged scammer defrauds couple of wedding funds

Raymond Jaravaza/Lorraine Mathe
A ‘KISS the bride moment’ for a Bulawayo couple almost turned into a nightmare after they discovered that their wedding planner had sold them a dummy.
A wedding planner is generally described as a professional who assists with the design, planning and management of a client’s wedding.
Because weddings are significant events in people’s lives, couples are often willing to spend top dollar to ensure their weddings are well-organised.

It wasn’t the case for Tinashe Chihanya (29) and his-would-be bride Shifra Calder Chihanya (27).
Despite spending a significant amount of money for their dream day, the happy couple found out three days before the wedding that they had hired a ‘scammer’ for a wedding planner.

It almost ended in tears for the couple.
The venue, décor and catering teams had not been paid, despite assurances from the wedding planner– Mercy Chiurunga– that everything was going according to plan, says Chihanya.

“Sometime in June last year, as we were making preparations for our wedding, I stumbled on an advertisement on Facebook about a wedding planner named Mercy Chiurunga, who had posted impressive posts on décor and wedding works she had done for previous clients.

“I contacted her and we set up an appointment and she showed me some video clips of her previous work and I was very satisfied.
“Her prices were also affordable so I did not think twice about hiring her as our wedding planner,” Chihanya narrated to B-Metro.
Chihanya says he handed R20 000 to Chiurunga as a part payment for the venue, décor and catering over several months.
The balance would be paid a day after the wedding, according to an agreement that the client and service provider had entered into.

“I made the first deposit in July, the second in October and then the other payment in early December, a few weeks before the wedding day, and she brought invoices with a 3 December 2022 date stamp confirming that the venue had been secured.
“Three days before my wedding, I contacted the owner of the venue just to cross check if everything was in order but I was shocked to discover that my wedding planner had not booked the venue.

“In, fact another wedding was scheduled to be held at that same venue on the day of our wedding,” he said.
An infuriated Chihanya promptly contacted the wedding planner to get to the bottom of the thorny issue.
“She still insisted that she had paid for the venue and even sent fake receipts as proof of payment via her mobile phone. The owner of the venue then showed me the kind of receipts that they give their clients and they (receipts) were totally different from the ones I was shown by my wedding planner,” he added. It quickly dawned on the would-be-groom that he had been taken for a ride.

The scammer had been busted.
“I tried to meet her in person to sort out the issue but she was very evasive and due to the huge amount of pressure I was under, my relatives advised me to book another venue, find another décor and catering team so that the wedding could go on.

“To this day I still haven’t received my money from the wedding scammer as she has been making excuse after excuse,” said Chihanya.
The alleged wedding scammer disputed that she owed Chihanya R20 000 for services unrendered but acknowledged the two did enter into an agreement.
“Yes, I ended up failing to render my services due to circumstances that were beyond my control but I owe him US$650 not the R20 000 that he claims. I have a few clients who still owe me some money and as soon as they pay, I will also pay him.

“I’m an honest wedding planner who has dealt with many happy clients and I regret what happened to him,” she told this publication before terminating the call.
Efforts to get more clarity drew blanks as her mobile phone went unanswered.


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