Big Fat Gypsy Weddings Review: Born To Be Wed

BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDINGS: Tuesday 18th January, C4, 9pm ALERT ME

You might remember My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding from last year. You know; the programme with the traveller brides, their huge weddings and even bigger dresses? Well clever old Channel 4 have realised that they’re onto something and now they’re presenting us with not one – but four new episodes dedicated to taking us, the humble viewer, to the heart of gypsy life. The cynic in you might say this is a ploy to poke fun at the stranger aspects of traveller culture… which essentially it is. However the realist in you knows that this is not about morals, it’s about TV gold, and why shouldn’t Channel 4 give the good TV watching public what they want, even if it does mean filming a bride bump ‘n’ grind in a wedding dress that weighs over five stone?

Channel 4 describes the series as “a visually arresting portrait of the lives of gypsies and travellers in Britain todayâ€? and the keyword is certainly ‘visually’. As Thelma Medine, the travellers’ dressmaker of choice tactfully puts it: “When I first seen them, it was like ‘my god…’ They did look like prostitutes – that’s how you would describe them… you wouldn’t let your daughter walk around like that.â€? She does redeem herself by going on to say, “But when you get to know them, their morals are so high, you would say they are definitely stuck in a time warp.â€?

And it is this strange juxtaposition that will grip and baffle viewers of the non-traveller variety. The young girls dress in barely-there outfits and dance provocatively in a knowingly sexualised manner. However, the rules for a girl couldn’t be stricter: no meeting boys without parental permission (and sometimes supervision), no approaching boys without first being approached and definitely no sex before marriage. Fifteen year-old gypsy cousins Cheyenne and Montana talk about their experiences of a ritual known as ‘grabbing’, where a boy lays claim on a girl by quite literally grabbing on to her and being forceful in order to get a kiss. At the reception for Josie and Swanley’s wedding, we witness this in action, and there is a moment where Cheyenne is being relentlessly pursued, yet is left by her cousin to fend for herself. She later says, “It’s not nice at all, you just have to live with itâ€?.

In its quest to lift the lid further on traveller life, tonight’s ‘Born To Wed’ episode certainly only scratches the surface. There are questions you’ll be left wondering, including “how on earth do they afford it all?â€? (A realistic question when you’re dealing with families of nine children who will all inevitably be married – and thus expect a suitably extravagant affair – before the age of 20). However, as an insight into a culture that many people know so little about, it makes for fascinating viewing.

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