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Monday, 22 February 2010

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
Thursday 18 February, 9 p.m., Channel 4

Yes, now, good evening. Maris Piper here, Princess Regent to King Edward and fellow correspondent on all things documental.

Now, I must confess that rather than putting me off, the rather tasteless Channel 4 trailer for this programme, showcasing ever more enormous and outlandish wedding dresses, backed with carnival music and a slightly sinister, almost menacing voiceover made me all the more determined to watch. And watch I did today, from the Throne Room; better late than never as they say.

The trailer itself was a little misleading, however. On the whole this was a genuinely fascinating look at the traditions of a community that we "country people" know very little about (I'm not sure I agree with that moniker, mind; I've always seen myself as a city slicker; Princess Grace of Monaco told me as much when we used to summer together in Nice, bless her soul). Some of these traditions - engagement at 14 and marriage at 16 - seem relatively alien to many of us now but the production team did well to enlist the help of Thelma Madine, a worldly-wise Scouse dressmaker to accompany us through the world of gypsy and traveller weddings. She talked us through the traditions and customs, confessing her own initial surprise and confusion on dealing with this community. One topic she would not be drawn on was that of money, which she put down to respect for her customers and the taboo nature of that subject within the travelling community. I have just stumbled on this, though, which makes me have my doubts about her true motives where cash is concerned.

Certainly, the Cutting Edge team made sure we got our cheap laughs (25 stone wedding dresses, a cake surrounded by Barbie dolls, a bride taking out her chewing gum at the altar) but much of the programme centered on exploring the traditional nature of the travelling community and their attitudes to marriage which were both traditional (sex outside marriage is definitely not on the menu) and remarkably down-to-earth (marriage is hard work, not a fairy tale - something I and a thousand other princesses can vouchsafe).

Still, seeing all those outfits did get me rather nostalgic about my own wedding dress, which caused quite a stir back in its day. After some rather frantic rifling through my closet, I managed to find it and tried to squeeze back into it although I'm rather a fuller in figure than I was back then. Nevertheless, I think I still think I cut rather a dash, don't you?


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