My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine: A big fat mess?

Todays guest post looks at the demise of My big fat gypsy wedding

Channel 4 recently saw the return of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, in the form of a Valentine’s special, relabelled as My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine. This time the programme visited travellers Ina and Danielle as they prepared to tie the knot with their first loves.

Previous episodes of the show have been met with harsh criticism: complaints have been made regarding anti-gypsy and traveller racism, adverts have been ruled as offensive and irresponsible by the Advertising Standards Authority, while images of young girls in low cut tops and traditions such as ‘grabbing’ (where a boy grabs a girl and kisses her to signify that she is obliged to marry him) have shocked viewers. This one-off special is no different.

Ina and Danielle, both 15, were followed by the camera crew as they planned the biggest day of their lives – with Danielle preparing to marry just a day after her 16th birthday. “People think that I’m 15 and I don’t know what love is”, she says. “But he’s perfect for me and hopefully I’m perfect for him.” Fellow bride Ina insists she has met ‘the one’: “Some people have to kiss 100 frogs to get their prince, I only had to kiss one.”

But at such a young age, Danielle and Ina were not old enough to even drink at their own hen parties. Meanwhile Danielle’s fiancé, 21-year-old Brendan couldn’t hold his stag do in a pub in case he got into a fight. Instead, his stag party included hunting and then drinks around a bonfire. Perhaps they should have taken part in a stag party activity like paintballing with The Stag Company  rather than hunting animals to celebrate getting hitched.

So does the programme devalue marriage? The decision to wed does seem to be taken quite lightly by the brides and grooms featured. The average age to marry to marry is now 36 for men and 33 for women, so to me, making such a huge decision to wed at 16 – by Danielle especially who makes her vows with her first and only boyfriend – is alarming. At the age of 16, you’re still a child and may hold very different opinions to those you’ll have when you’re an adult – including your choice of husband.

Here’s a preview of an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding:

One bride who was unfortunate enough to find this out the hard way was Josie McFayden, who wed her fiancé when she was 16 on the programme in July 2010. After less than two years of marriage, Josie saw cracks beginning to appear only days after the wedding and accused her husband of treating her like ‘a slave’. Josie is now planning to divorce her husband, Swanley.

Apart from the odd special like this episode, the series has been axed by Channel 4. But with over 40% of marriages now ending in a Decree Absolute, no doubt we’ll see a return to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding in a couple of years repackaged as My Big Fat Gypsy Divorce.

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