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Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
Ex Media Studies student at Swansea University. This blog is a collection of links, articles, academic reference and random thoughts.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

The controversial Channel 4 documentary is back with a big fat series of its own. Big Fat Gypsy Weddings aims to explore great milestones in a travelers life, from the first communion, wedding to death. I watched from mostly behind my hands as I was witness to the most extraordinary scenes. The most important day in a traveler's girls life was depicted to be her wedding day with the wedding dress featuring as the starring role.

I don't think I have seen so much lace, netting and sparkle in one place before. Some dresses weigh as much as 20 stone and the scars that are inflicted on the girls who wear them are seen as trophy badges. The mind boggles however as to the expense of the dress and how travelers find the means to pay for them as the women are not allowed to go out and earn money, instead they stay at home to look after the home and children.



First communion for a gypsy girl is seen as "a taster for the big wedding day" and the dresses were similarly outlandish. Six year girls wearing dresses which weigh more than them is not something I have seen before. The beauty regime consists of a spray tan, glitter spray blasted in the face before a ton of make up is applied by the proud mum. The sight of the young girls gyrating in the post communion part in the most provocative manner wearing little other than a bikini however was deeply disturbing.

In contrast to their scantily-clad outfits, young gypsy women have been brought up with very strong morals. Travelling girls are encouraged to marry very young to someone within their own community. For me, the most shocking element of the first episode of the Channel 4 documentary was the tradition of "grabbing" young gypsy girls by young gypsy boys. Strict rules stipulate girls aren't allowed to approach boys, so it's up to the males, aka the 'grabbers', to tempt the girl away from her group of friends and try to get a kiss off her, even sometimes going as far as twisting her arm. If they manage a kiss the couple very shortly announce their engagement.

The documentary has been received with mixed reaction. I have been following responses on Twitter and I have to say that there has been a small element of name calling and hostility towards the travelling community. The biggest worry for me is that the documentary only depicts the ridiculous and sensational and leaves out the more serious issues which affect gypsies every day.

Having said that I think the show will largely become a success and hopefully appease hostility from outsiders. May be the tradition of big fat gypsy weddings will catch on and I hope for one that I get an invite to the most wonderful spectacle of outrageous indulgence.

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