Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Put on your blingiest tracksuit pants and crop top, and massage your neck muscles in preparation to shake your head in disbelief as you sit down to watch Big Fat Gypsy Weddings!

The first episode of the second season focuses on three main storylines: the wedding of Irish traveller Delores; gypsy beauty pageant contestants and sisters Sammy Jo and Annalise; and the holy communion of nine-year-old Nangirl and her cousins.

The first question you may ask, after sitting through an entire hour of their antics, is: are these people for real? A seeming paradox, gypsies place equal importance on their extremely strict Christian morality, their OTT beauty regimens and their shockingly revealing fashion. In their own world, these people are very much for real -- and they seem to be a lot less fake than the people in some other "reality" shows that we know (*cough The Shire cough*).

Anyway, let's examine what these crazies got up to this week.

The Communion

Ironically, "Sin City: The Sinners Salon" is where Nangirl (are they sure that's a real name?) goes to get beautified in preparation for her holy communion.

"It's important to look good for God," she says, waving her newly applied talons in the air.

Her cousin and fellow holy communionee, Margaret, is in another salon getting a spray tan (mere seconds after we see a sign hanging in said salon's window that reads, "No children under 10 allowed in salon" -- where are the spray tan police?!).

Good thinking, Margaret; nothing says "humble Christian" like a spray tan at age nine.

When asked what the most important part of the communion is, Margaret enthusiastically cries out, "the dress!"

She's quickly corrected by her mother, who firmly points out that the important thing is actually receiving Jesus Christ into her life. Judging by their later actions, we think that Margaret may have been right the first time.

After the highly necessary spray tan, she, too, gets fake nails.

"Is it expensive to get your nails done?" the camera woman inquires.

"No, not really; not off her, anyway," Margaret says flippantly, right in front of the nail technician, who visibly recoils. (Guess who's going to be charging higher prices from now on?)

Another of their cousins, 12-year-old Bridget, is getting a custom-made dress for the communion. She tries it on for her older sister, who insists that it's "nice" and definitely not provocative, at all.

What, you didn't dress like that for your communion?

But don't worry; this is an equal playing field, so even the boys go all-out with their beauty for the event.

This young lad says that he has "about a hundred and something [ladies], all over the place". Pics or it didn't happen, kid.

On the morning of the communion, the girls are still getting their hair and make-up applied with only 25 minutes before the church ceremony begins (priority still religion over fashion, Margaret's mother?). By this point, Nangirl is sobbing because her hair is "ugly" and her fake, bejewelled eyelashes hurt. She shrieks at the top of her lungs, "I'm not going! I'm not going!"

One of her wise cousins assures her that "beauty is pain", and she does end up going, of course, but the girls arrive so late that the communion has started without them. They rush in anyway, darting past the disapproving non-traveller adults and into their pews, and they are just in time for the completion of the ceremony.

"God bless you! You look wonderful!" the good-natured priest assures them afterwards, posing for a few pictures with them. They must be paying him overtime, because "wonderful" was not the word we would have fixed upon to describe these girls. We think "Miley Cyrus" would have been a more accurate adjective.

The girls, their cousins, sisters, parents, friends, kitchen sinks and every man and his dog then change into the skimpiest, sparkliest, most revealing outfits they own (we hope they are, anyway; could anything be skimpier and more revealing than these outfits?), because this is what happens after holy communions. Surely, you know this.

The Pageant

Say what you will about travellers, but they take damn good care of their belongings. How many toddlers do you know who meticulously clean down their own play houses each day?


Anyway, this hard-working little girl's father Ronnie is planning a gypsies-only beauty pageant, because it seems like a good way to make money he wants to launch the career of "a gypsy superstar".

Self-professed extremely pretty 16-year-old Sammy Jo (so pretty that her parents won't let her go out and meet boys, because they know she'll be snapped up right away -- though her wallflower younger sister Annalise is allowed out and about ...) is planning to enter the beauty contest. She kindly demonstrates for us what she will be wearing to the next wedding she attends:

"You have to get fixed proper when you go out," she explains in an entirely grammatically correct manner. Annalise is also being coerced into entering the pageant, even though she concedes that she likes to cover up a lot more than Sammy Jo does.

"I'd never go out in short shorts like Sammy Jo," she admits.

The girls then go shopping for their pageant outfits, which are, quite frankly, extremely trashy.

Do stores that sell these types of clothing really, actually exist?

Just like the communion-attending nine-year-olds before them, the girls then begin the long process of getting beautified for the pageant, with Sammy Jo willingly lying down on that death trap, the tanning bed. She says that she's fine with getting cancer ("at the end of the day, if I get cancer, I get cancer") to achieve that "traditional brown, Irish traveller look". Because nothing says "traditional Irish" like a tan, right? Ireland is definitely the home of tanned skin.

Ronnie is hoping for 50 entrants to his inaugural beauty pageant, but, in the end, only four actually enter. Lucky he didn't go ahead and book that huge venue for the competition!

Oh, he did? Never mind.

We're calling it now: the girl in the blue dress is by far going to win. Sammy Jo, in the fluoro-pink dress and the baffling sweat band on her head, also looks like she already knows this to be true.

The girls then proceed to the wardrobe, have several outfit changes and wobble up and down the red-carpeted runway in their sparkly stilettos, showing off their traditional, über-brown skin for the judges.

In the end, it is, indeed, the girl in the blue dress above who wins the pageant. Sammy Jo smiles through gritted teeth, and then complains bitterly to the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings cameras with the two other entrants.

The three losers, all Irish travellers, are furious that a Romani gypsy won, because she was only wearing a little bit of make-up, she had small studs and not full-on chandeliers in her ears, and she didn't show much skin for the judges. They are absolutely flummoxed that this sort of look could win a beauty contest. Perhaps they should take this as some sort of life advice?

Sadly, we know they won't. Let's move on to the main event: the wedding!

The Wedding

If you thought the show was ridiculous before this, then prepare for a surprise.

"Up to 10 weddings a week can take place in December in Rathkeale, Ireland," the narrator informs us as we embark upon the tale of Delores.

You guys, Delores is positively old; by gypsy standards, 21 is a horribly ancient age to be getting married. (Most travellers marry at age 17, according to the program.)

Delores is planning her wedding while travelling around Spain with her family (her fiancé is currently working in Switzerland), and she has some interesting ideas for the celebration. She explains, between shots of speeding along the Spanish roads in her Porsche Cayenne, that her wedding is going to be cat themed. As all weddings should be.

Upon arriving home in Ireland, she visits the gypsy community's favourite dressmaker, Thelma Madine, whose blasé shots to camera are the best parts of every Gypsy Weddings episode. She seems to know the Irish travellers better than any other outsider does, and she enlightens us that they all want a wedding dress that's unlike any other. Each bride tries to outdo the last in all aspects: size, sparkle, colour and, naturally, cats.

Delores, who feels that "flowers and stars and tulips" are overdone in weddings, has commissioned a dress from Thelma that features two cats with their tails entwined on the skirt, a silhouette of a cat on the chest and diamantes that cheatingly spells out "baby phatt", both above and below the cats. That's twice. On a wedding dress. Baby phatt.

Also, can someone please tell these girls the difference between diamonds and diamantes? They keep going on and on and on about the "diamonds" all over their dresses. You really think you can afford thousands of diamonds all over your wedding dresses? Only Gisele Bundchen can afford that. And even then, only on a bra -- not a whole dress! Girls, please. Continually stating that they're diamonds does not make them diamonds. All it does is make us want to stab our eyes out with a fork.

The cake decorator, meanwhile, has also been charged with making a cat-themed, diamante (say it with me)-covered masterpiece. She says that she was sure it would look horrendous, but that it hasn't turned out too badly, actually.

We'll grudgingly grant her the entitlement to her own opinion.

She also lets the cat out of the bag (get it?): most of the "cakes" are actually polystyrene, because traveller brides all want massive, extravagant cakes, but can't afford to actually get, you know, cakes.

The night before her cat-themed wedding arrives, Delores holds an extravagant party -- the gypsy version of a hen's/bachelorette party, we suppose, except, it literally is the night before the wedding. The party is a really big deal, Delores explains, because she has to look as nice as she will on her wedding day -- just not in white.

For her party, Delores dresses as a palm tree, and her sister as a pineapple. Thelma made their party dresses and claims that it is "the most outrageous request we've ever had". Coming from her, that's definitely saying something. And for an Irish traveller, it is most certainly a boast.

Delores orders a classic, understated stretch Hummer to take them to the party. Unfortunately, their skirts don't fit quite so easily inside, as they apparently anticipated them to, and they're stuck for several minutes halfway into the limo, with their heads hanging out in the pouring rain.

Do you know, we had this kind of car trouble just last week, when we were dressed as mangoes.

At the party, the other girls are extremely jealous of Delores and her sister; sparkly island fruits are all they've ever wanted to be. Which is what all girls should aspire to!

Delores' wedding day dawns, and the two dressmakers have to help stuff her into the dress.

Well, it's certainly got cats on it, so she can check that box. And do you think her skirt could get any bigger? It probably could, actually, so we should just shut up before we give her ideas.

It's so big, however, that she can barely fit out the door of her house -- and her family has to unceremoniously shove her inside the horse and carriage to make her fit properly.

Another two stretch Hummers (containing the bridesmaids, who have been forced to wear massive bright-yellow and purple dresses that look, in my colleague's words, "like someone destroyed Big Bird") follow the horse and carriage down to the church.

We're fairly sure that the Irish traveller community must single-handedly keep the Hummer and horse-and-carriage businesses going in the UK.

This episode doesn't grant us a look inside the wedding ceremony, unfortunately, so we're suddenly and unceremoniously (...) dumped into the middle of the reception, with only the groom's blurred-out face for company.

Oh, and they show Delores' wedding cake in panning close-ups, just in case you need ideas for your own cat-themed celebration.

The centre cake was 12 tiers (we counted), and there were eight other three-tiered cakes surrounding it. You know, just in case the wedding guests have a really, really big hankering for polystyrene come 12 o'clock.

Speaking of the wedding guests, they were dressed just as modestly as one would hope them to be at a wedding.


"From your toes to your nose, it has to be sparkling. It has to be diamonds. Diamonds everywhere!" one girl crows, triumphantly.

Shut up, shut up, shut up!! They are not diamonds!

A food fight then takes place among the more masculine (but less mature) attendees. Thelma Madine watches on politely, looking rather bored with the proceedings.

We don't think Delores noticed, though; she was too busy trying to find a big enough knife to cut through her massive cake, and then dancing blissfully with Prince Blur Face. Ah, young love.

By this stage we were feeling pretty much exactly the same way as this kid.

But anyway, who are we to judge what's appropriate for a wedding and what's not? These people obviously have a lot more experience, what with their 10 weddings a week.

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings airs on Mondays, 9.30pm AEST on LifeStyle You. Watch it for the incredulous laughs it'll bring you.

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