Tacky and spectacularly OTT but steeped in traditional values... Channel Four goes behind the scenes at three gypsy weddings
The extravagance of these bridal gowns is so extreme even a young Katie Price might have balked at wearing them, but no expense is spared when celebrating the union of young gypsy and traveller couples - the hair is big, the dresses bigger and the whole occasion gloriously over the top. In communities where divorce is still almost unheard-of, great effort is put into the biggest day of the bride's life.
Now the extraordinary preparations and fiercely upheld values of the families involved that form the background for these weddings will be revealed in a Cutting Edge documentary for Channel 4. Most girls from gypsy and traveller communities are barely on the verge of womanhood as they become the centrepieces for these grand occasions, often thrust shortly after their 16th birthdays into the role of wife and soon-to-be mothers.
But despite the tender age of these brides and sometimes the grooms - these marriages are usually guaranteed to go the distance because of strong religious and traditional convictions. Young girls are virgins when they marry, as having children out of wedlock is considered taboo and divorce out of bounds. The celebrations are visual spectacles and, despite the expense involved, some might dare say tacky.
Meringue-esque dresses are the norm, with sky-high tiaras, and a wedding carriage that would make Cinderella jealous. Channel 4 cameras were allowed rare access to three gypsy and traveller weddings to reveal a culture steeped in tradition and religion.
The documentary, entitled My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, airs on Channel 4 on Thursday at 9pm.