Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is 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. A series of 5 episodes were later commissioned, and the series first aired in January 2011. A second series began airing in February 2012. A third series was not commissioned, rather the show ended with eleven stand-alone specials.
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., while the TLC network started airing a spin-off featuring American Roma called My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.
The show has been criticised mainly by the Irish Traveller & British Gypsy/Traveller communities for misrepresenting them. Jane Jackson of the Rural Media Company (publishers the Travellers’ Times) said:
|“||It’s posing as a documentary, the voiceover is saying we’re going to let you into the secrets of the traveller community – and it [sic] just not true. It might be true of the particular families in front of the camera, but it’s not generally true. They’re made to look totally feckless, not really to be taken seriously as an ethnic group.||”|
Executive Producer Jes Wilkins said:
|“||The problem has been with the media response, particularly from the tabloid press. It’s become one of the big cultural phenomena of this part of the year and people are looking for something to write about it, something provocative. Some [sic] these articles have upset our contributors which has been disappointing.||”|
Billy Welch, a spokesman for Romani Gypsies, said:
|“||While Channel 4 should be praised for at least differentiating between Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies, the first three episodes have in fact focused exclusively on Irish Travellers and their traditions: They called the show Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and you’ve yet to see a Romani Gypsy in it.||”|
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings opened in 2011. The second episode got 7.4m viewers at its peak. It was the eighth highest rating in Channel 4’s history. 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.
The episode “No Place Like Home” caused controversy after it showed young girls provocatively dancing and wearing full make-up.
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 creator and Producer Jenny Popplewell were in attendance to accept the award.
Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Series 1 was nominated for a BAFTA in the YouTube Audience Vote category.