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Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

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Title: Big Fat Gypsy Weddings  
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Subject: Channel 4, Romanichal, Sam and the Womp, Irish Travellers, John Joe Joyce
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Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
Genre Documentary
Created by Jenny Popplewell
Developed by Jenny Popplewell
Directed by Morag Tinto
Starring Paddy Doherty
Narrated by Barbara Flynn
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 18
Executive producer(s) Jes Wilkins
Producer(s) Jenny Popplewell
Editor(s) George Taylor
Location(s) United Kingdom/Ireland
Running time 49 minutes
Production company(s) Firecracker Films
Original channel Channel 4
Original run 18 February 2010 (2010-02-18) – 2 January 2014 (Axed)
Followed by My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings(U.S)
External links
Production website

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings was a British documentary series broadcast on Channel 4, that explored the lives and traditions of several Irish Traveller families as they prepared to unite one of their members in marriage. The series also featured Romanichal (British Gypsies) in several episodes, and has been criticised by some Romani for not accurately representing England’s Romani and Travelling community. It was first broadcast in February 2010 as a one-off documentary called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, filmed as part of the Cutting Edge series and voted Most Groundbreaking Show in the Cultural Diversity Awards 2010.[1] A series of 5 episodes were later commissioned, and the series first aired in January 2011.[2] A second series began airing in February 2012.[3] A third series was not commissioned, rather the show ended with nine stand-alone specials.[4]

In North America, the show airs on TLC under the title My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, with the original narration by Barbara Flynn replaced by Ellen K.,[5] while the TLC network started airing a spin-off featuring American Roma called My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.[6]


The show has been criticised mainly by the Irish Traveller & British Gypsy/Traveller communities for misrepresenting them.[7][8] Jane Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Rural Media Company, a charity which publishes the Travellers' Times said: Jes Wilkins, the executive producer said that the vast majority of the participants in the show are happy with their on-screen portrayal. Wilkins said: Others from the Traveller and Gypsy communities question the show's title. Billy Welch, a spokesman for Romani Gypsies said:

During the episode No Place Like Home, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings had 4 of the top 10 trending topics worldwide on social networking website Twitter.[10]

Television producer Simon Cowell expressed interest in making a US version of the show in February 2011.[11] In June 2011, TLC rebroadcast the show and was filming a U.S. version.[12]


Big Fat Gypsy Weddings opened in 2011. The second episode got 7.4m viewers at its peak, Channel 4's highest ratings since Big Brother in 2008.[13] The consolidated figures for the series' second episode were 8.7 million, making it Channel 4's eighth highest-rating programme ever.[9] The final episode was watched by 6.5 million viewers, easily beating the 2011 BRIT Awards which had an average viewership of 4.8 million.[14]


The series has faced a number of controversies, including allegations of racism in its advertising[15][16] and instigating a rise in the rate of racially motivated bullying.[17]

The episode "No Place Like Home" caused controversy after it showed young girls provocatively dancing and wearing full make-up.[18]


Broadcast readers voted the series' progenitor, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, the ‘Most Groundbreaking Programme’ at the Cultural Diversity Awards 2010. Executive producer Jes Wilkins and the team were in attendance to accept the award.[19]

Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Series 1 was nominated for a BAFTA in the YouTube Audience Vote category .[20]


My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (2010)

# Title Original airdate Ratings
"My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" 18 February 2010 (2010-02-18) 5,567,000
813,000 (+1)[21]
Looks at the milestones in a Gypsy girl's life leading to the biggest day of all – her wedding. From first Holy Communion (described as a 'dress rehearsal for her wedding day') to the strict rules of courtship, a hen night and, of course, the spectacular wedding itself, this episode examines the traditions and rules followed by Gypsy and traveller girls in Britain today.[22] Unlike the later series, this stand-alone episode was directed by Osca Humphreys.[23]

Series 1

# Title Original airdate Ratings
1 "Born to Be Wed" January 29, 2011 7,280,000
958,000 (+1)[21]
Looks at the milestones in a Gypsy girl's life leading to the biggest day of all – her wedding. From first Holy Communion (described as a 'dress rehearsal for her wedding day') to the strict rules of courtship, a hen night and, of course, the spectacular wedding itself, this episode examines the traditions and rules followed by Gypsy and traveller girls in Britain today.[24]
2 "No Place Like Home" April 16, 2011 7,467,000
1,255,000 (+1)[21]
Romany Gypsy Pat faces criticism for marrying a non-gypsy. But his bride Sam is determined to prove her Gypsy girl credentials with a 14-stone wedding dress that lights up in the dark. With 21 underskirts and moving diamante butterflies, it weighs more than the bride's father.[25]
3 "Desperate Housewives" April 23, 2011 8,032,000
1,301,000 (+1)[21]
A look beyond the enormous wedding dresses, sequins and tiaras to unveil the lot of a Gypsy woman. With literacy and education largely deemed unnecessary and domestic abuse startlingly common, the contrast between the daily life of a gypsy girl and the glitz and glamour of their wedding day is stark.[26]
4 "Boys Will Be Boys" April 30, 2011 8,804,000
906,000 (+1)[21]
An insight into the lives of Britain's traveller men, providing a contrast with the experiences of their wives and daughters. The programme introduces the patriarch of a Salford community,[27] who explains the role men play in his culture, and offers views of traditional gypsy christenings and weddings from a male perspective. An independent girl also prepares to reveal her Romany identity to her employer before she leaves work to get married.[28]
5 "Bride & Prejudice" May 14, 2011 8,048,000
1,193,000 (+1)[21]
The final film in the series highlights prejudice against the travelling community in Britain today. But discrimination is nothing new to the travellers and their seclusion from mainstream society seems to be their only defence. Dressmaker Thelma Madine has to make a dress for a bride who won't even tell her when the wedding is for fear the venue finds out she's a traveller and cancels the booking.[29] This is the final episode of Series 1.

Royal wedding special (2011)

# Title Original airdate Ratings
"Big Fat Royal Gypsy Weddings" 29 April 2011 4,561,000
760,000 (+1)[21]
Royal wedding special following the wedding of Irish traveller Mary, the first wedding fully planned by dressmaker Thelma Madine. Notably, it first aired the night before the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.[30]

Christmas special (2011)

# Title Original airdate Ratings
"My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas" 13 December 2011 6,367,000
879,000 (+1)[21]
Follows the celebrations and traditions of the gypsy community at Christmas, as well as the weddings of Lavinia and Charlene respectively. In addition to this, the program covers a mass first communion.[31]

Series 2

# Title Original airdate Ratings
2.1 "Diamantes Are Forever" 14 February 2012 (2012-02-14) 6,027,000
1,178,000 (+1)[21]
Follows 16-year-old Sammy Jo as she takes part in a traveller-only beauty pageant. Four cousins compete to have the most memorable outfit at their first Holy Communion.[32]
2.2 "I Fought the Law" 21 February 2012 (2012-02-21) 5,034,000
1,251,000 (+1)[21]
This episode shows how Romany gypsies and travellers' attempts to live a traditional life can get them in trouble with the law. Covers the hen party of Danielle, whose fiancee happens to be in court on the same day. Also features an illegal horse-and-trap road race, a family faced with eviction from their illegal site and 8-year-old Chloe (preparing for her First Holy Communion) visiting her father in prison.[33]
2.3 "School of Hard Knocks" 28 February 2012 (2012-02-28) 5,579,000
1,273,000 (+1)[21]
Follows several traveller girls and their differing experiences with education, ranging from those who left school illegally early to those who are "bucking the trend" by completing their secondary education. Alice talks about her encounters with school bullying.[34]
2.4 "Love Conquers All" 6 March 2012 (2012-03-06) 6,040,000
1,194,000 (+1)[21]
What happens when two different worlds are joined together in marriage? This episode explores the cultural divide between Gypsies and non-Gypsies. Marrying outside of the Gypsy and traveller community can be frowned upon. Romany Gypsy Tony Giles is a red-blooded cage fighter who is expecting a child with a non-traveller (or 'gorja'). But will Tony's family accept his choice? To make matters worse, his fiancee Danielle is a glamour model, a career choice that many in the Gypsy community consider dirty. Romany Gypsy George Webb is separated from his non-traveller wife and worries that his two children will become more like gorjas. Romany Gypsy Tracey and non-traveller Phil have been married for ten years. Their first wedding was a low key affair, but Phil has been saving for years to give Tracey the wedding of her dreams, including 14 bridesmaids, three stretch Hummers, and a four horse-drawn carriage.
2.5 "Reputation is Everything" 13 March 2012 (2012-03-13) 5,269,000
1,114,000 (+1)[21]
After causing a scandal by spending time alone with her boyfriend, Irish traveller Rosanne is rushed up the aisle to save her reputation.
2.6 "Out of Site, Out of Mind" 20 March 2012 (2012-03-20) 5,341,000
954,000 (+1)[21]
At Dale farm, after 10 years of court battles, eviction approaches for 80 families. Freda grew up with non-travellers. But now that the 17-year-old is to be married, she's keen to return to her traveller roots. Romany gypsy elder Billy Welch is determined to protect his people's right to hold a horse fair each year in Appleby. Billy is given a police-escort to his granddaughter's first Holy Communion. Billy's 17-year-old son Johnson is at the Ebor festival at York races when tension erupts between gypsies and non-travellers, and the night culminates in a bloody fight in a York night club. And at the traveller haven of Rathkeale Irish traveller Chantelle returns from travelling abroad to celebrate her wedding to Jim.
2.7 "We Are Family" 27 March 2012 (2012-03-27) 4,546,000[21]
Irish traveller family the McFadyens celebrate key life events over a series of months. Recently convicted Josie is planning the christening of her six-month-old daughter, but still finds the time to decorate her electronic tag with bling. The family is also excited about the release of the family patriarch Chris from prison, who they plan to pick up in a stretch limousine. And 16-year-old Cheyenne and cage-fighter John are engaged to be married, with Cheyenne facing the daunting task of organising her wedding as she deals with the recent death of her mother. While the traditional way of life is evolving, the large extended family unit remains at the heart of the Traveller community – celebrations are always a family affair.

Stand-Alone Specials

Channel 4 confirmed there will not be a third series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings but instead will end the show with six stand-alone specials to be aired throughout 2013. [4] Despite this, nine specials have aired to date.

The eighth special, called Big Fat Gypsy Christmas: Carols and Caravans on the website's official episode guide, features the same title card and animation as My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas, the last episode of the first season. This often leads to confusion between the two.

# Title Original airdate Ratings
"My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine" 11 February 2013 5,251,000 total
4,460,000 (Channel 4)
596,000 (+1)
195,000 (4seven)[21]

This one-off Valentine's special explores love and courtship in the Traveller community, following Ina and Danielle as they prepare to wed their first loves.[35]

This episode famously featured Joe 'Valentine' Gaastra the head of the Royal Wootton Bassett Gypsy and Amish community in typical jovial mood on the dance floor.
"My Big Fat Gypsy Fortune" 14 April 2013 -
"Best Dressed Brides" 26 April 2013 -
Dressmaker Thelma Madine reveals the secrets behind her most outrageous creations, from design and production through to the unique excitement of a Traveller or Gypsy wedding day. Thelma relives the mayhem and magic that went into creating the most incredible outfits, recalling everything from glow- in-the-dark wedding dresses to her famous pineapple and palm tree costumes.
"Life On The Run" 9 June 2013 -
"The Luck Of The Irish" 27 August 2013 -
"My Big Fat Gypsy Ladies' Day" 24 September 2013 -
"My Big Fat Gypsy Christening" 1 October 2013 -
"Big Fat Gypsy Christmas: Carols and Caravans" 25 November 2013 -
"My Big Fat Gypsy Holiday" 2 January 2014 -


  1. ^ "Most Groundbreaking Programme 2010". Cultural Diversity Awards. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Orange: MBFGW series report
  3. ^ "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings returns with more outrageous dresses and a closer look at life as a traveller". Daily Mail (London). 15 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' Axed By Channel 4?
  5. ^ "Meet the Narrator!". TLC. Discovery Communications. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "About My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding", TLC, retrieved April 26, 2012
  7. ^ "Big fat gypsy reaction: Warwickshire travellers' views". BBC. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  8. ^ "Gypsy weddings show has outraged us’ – traveller". Peterlee Mail. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  9. ^ a b c d Frost, Vicky (7 February 2011). "Channel 4's big fat Gypsy ratings winner". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  10. ^ "BIG FAT BUZZ". Firecracker Films. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  11. ^ Sarah Fitzmaurice (26 February 2011). "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: Simon Cowell planning to take hit show to U.S.". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  12. ^ "Big Fat Disgrace: A Review Of TLC's Wildly Misleading ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’". 
  13. ^ "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding: Why is it a hit?". BBC. 1 February 2011. Archived from the original on 3 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  14. ^ Deans, Jason (16 February 2011). "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings drowns out Brits". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Big Fat Gypsy Wedding sponsors forced to apologise for 'racist' advert". The Mirror. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Sweney, Mark (3 October 2012). "'"Big Fat Gypsy Weddings poster 'endorsed negative stereotypes. London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  17. ^ Plunkett, John (16 October 2012). "'"Big Fat Gypsy Weddings 'has increased bullying of Gypsies and Travellers. London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  18. ^ "'"Big Fat Gypsy Weddings under fire for showing eight-year-olds 'pole dancing. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  19. ^ "Most Groundbreaking Programme". Cultural Diversity Awards 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  20. ^ "BAFTA Announces The 2011 YouTube Audience Award Nominees". The BAFTA Awards. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "BARB". BARB. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  22. ^ Series 1 | My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding at
  23. ^ Banks-Swift, Nancy (18 February 2010). "EastEnders and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  24. ^ Series 2 | Born to Be Wed at
  25. ^ Series 2 | No Place Like Home at
  26. ^ Series 2 | Desperate Housewives at
  27. ^
  28. ^ Series 2 | Boys Will Be Boys at
  29. ^ Series 2 | Bride & Prejudice at
  30. ^ My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding at
  31. ^ Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas - Channel 4
  32. ^ Diamantes Are Forever at
  33. ^ I Fought the Law at
  34. ^ School of Hard Knocks at
  35. ^ My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine at

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