My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Review: Caravan Chic
MY BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING: Thursday 18th February, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME
“There is one group of people who want perfection more than most…”
No, not the X Factor judges (that dream went out the window circa Chico) but gypsy brides-to-be. This film uncovers the extravagant world of 21st century gypsy and traveller weddings and ways of life, where ancient traditions and modern fashions collide.
For ‘modern fashions’ read ‘Dresses the size of hot air balloons’ and ‘Ibiza chic’.
Thelma Madine, the number one dressmaker for the travelling community, is responsible for the former. “Nothing is more important for them than the dress”, she says. The average age of gypsy brides is 17 and dreaming up the perfect outfit begins at a young age, a fact that gives them a distorted view of what’s actually wearable.
“Some dresses weigh more than the bride – the heaviest was 27 stone” recalls Madine. That’ll be the Swarovski crystals.
Besides access to their glamorous gowns, ‘Gypsy spokesperson’ Billy Welch gives the lowdown on traveller couples. “They’re forbidden to live together before marriage; anything like this would be shame to the family”. This is made all-too clear at the wedding of Bridget, 16, and Patrick by his sprint up the stairs post-nuptials.
We also meet Paddy, who runs a Manchester-based caravan site with his wife. Retired from a successful career in bare-knuckle fighting, the journalist interviewing him decides not to question Paddy’s dubious lingo.
“Travelling life is dying out, it’s like black and white tellies”, Paddy laments. On the way to his nephews wedding (one of 25 marriage ceremonies he attends per year) he details how there are no invites at gypsy weddings, just word of mouth. “I haven’t got a clue how many are turning up – could be 100, 500 or 5,000!”
“He doesn’t even know where the chapel is!” Paddy says of the groom’s father. This is made all the more baffling when we see him jabbering on the phone at a petrol station. “Oh, in Wrexham!… where’s Wrexham?”
The doc further follows Sammy Jo’s wedding preparations in Blackburn. They reveal to hairstylist Zonya how it’s normal to marry within the family (FYI, Zonya “probably wouldn’t”). As we see Sammy try on her wedding dress (with a trail the length of the M25) her mum says the reception venue has pulled out after hearing it’s a ‘gypsy’ affair. Apparently this is all-too common, and sadly so – the documentary exposes travellers as perfectly decent individuals who go against media stereotypes.
Yes – they look like they’re out for a night in Ayia Napa at the annual Appleby horse fair, which sees 10,000 gypsies come together, but considering gypsies don’t really ‘date’ it’s the perfect venue to meet their husband or wife-to-be, says Welch.
“People might call us slutty but we’re not the type to go out clubbing and end up with anyone”, says bride-to-be Joan, 22, who’s saved up every penny for her dream wedding.
Looks like she confused the word ‘Bridesmaid’ with ‘Mermaid’, though – viewers can be the judge of that one.