Tonight TLC premieres the Americanized version of their hugely successful reality series Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which documented the secretive, dramatic, and surprisingly lavish wedding ceremonies of European Gypsies. The US version, titled My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, will be eight one-hour episodes featuring Gypsies and Traveler families across several states including West Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland. Contrary to what the title may suggest, a number of the episodes will feature stories not revolving around weddings such as a family reunion and a blinged out baby baptism.
But, the premiere episode will feature an American Gypsy wedding – that of 17-year-old virgin Shyanne, who is marrying her 18-year-old fiance Michael after only having met him a couple times. Actually, to call Shyanne a “virgin” would be a bit extreme because Romanichal Gypsies do not think girls should know anything about sex before marriage.
“Romany girls aren’t supposed to know anything about that until after they’re married, and what they do learn is supposed to come from their husband on their wedding night,” Shyanne says as she prepares for her big day.
The same rule does not apply to Gypsy boys, as they are more than welcome to “try out” as many non-Gypsy gals as they like prior to nuptials. Shyanne’s betrothed Michael says of Gyspy brides, “If she’s teaching you something, usually you didn’t get the good one.”
To further illustrate the point, when Shyanne touches lips with her husband at the alter, it will be her first kiss.
But enough about cultural mores and patriarchal morality, let’s get to the garish garb! Here’s a preview clip of Shyanne’s episode capturing the moment she shows up at her wedding:
Shyanne arrives (a bit late) to the wedding ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage and as her friends help her and her gigantic hoop skirt out, she cautions, “Watch my underwear.” That precautionary statement almost becomes a reality for television viewers as we nearly get to watch Shyanne’s underwear when she squeezes $100 worth of dress through $15 worth of doorway!
One consistent star throughout the series, and the person responsible for production crews being able to gain the trust of the Gypsies, is dress maker Sondra Celli. Shyanne’s elaborate fairy tale gown is just one of hundreds she has made for various Gypsy events over the years.
I get a lot of requests for odd things and I really love the challenge. On the English show, the brides wear a lot of white. Here, gypsy brides tend to like color. Color separates you from the last girl, it makes you different. That’s a big deal for them. They don’t want to be like anybody else. Gypsies like to be unique.
We’re making very unique items and we’re technically challenged every single day. Some of these dresses are 70-80 pounds. I’ve got communion dresses that are 40 pounds and the kids are 68 pounds. It’s technical. You have to figure out how to make the dress stand out, how you’re going to make the weight shift equally on someone’s body. One of the women here actually has an engineering degree, which does help a lot. We work as a great team. Everyone here has a different skill and together we can make anything that anybody can dream up. The joy is in the design. I get up every day and I come to work and I love what I do. I do something completely different every day.
Gypsies don’t plan anything. Sometimes they call me at 12 o’clock and they want a dress by 5. It happens every day. I mean, I can’t make a $7,500 dress in five hours. But I can make a cute dress with some fringe and crystal in 5 hours, no problem.
Shyanne’s premiere episode airs tonight on TLC at 10/9c with future episodes airing Sunday nights at the same time.
Interview excerpt: Huffington Post