Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Best Dressed Brides TX: 26 Apr 2013, Week 17


In this new one hour special Gypsy and Traveller dress maker Thelma Madine looks back at her own personal highlights from the last 3 years of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, revealing the secrets of her most outrageous creations and telling the stories behind some most incredible outfits ever to grace our screens.

From design and production through to the unique excitement of a Gypsy wedding day, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Best Dressed Brides relives the mayhem and magic of everything from glow in the dark wedding dresses to her famous Pineapple and Palm Tree costumes.

Thelma has been working with the travelling community for over 15 years, starting from a small market stall in Liverpool’s city centre and growing her business into a company that takes orders from Gypsies and Travellers all over the world. Thelma recalls her early days, explaining how she came to work with Gypsies in the first place – when a lone traveller requested a ‘Gone with the Wind’ dress for her daughter’s communion.

Fast forward a decade and a half and Thelma’s outfits are the stuff of legend, but the most outrageous orders come from a small town in Ireland called Rathkeale. We see footage of her first eventful trip to the town – to deliver dress with over 20 underskirts for Irish traveler Lavinia. Despite having spent days in preparation for her big day, Lavinia is forced to spend over 2 hours waiting in the freezing cold for her groom, who was otherwise preoccupied in the local pub. As Thelma recounts, at one point she feared the poor girl would be stood up on national television!

For Thelma and her team every dress is different and each comes with its unique challenges. Each bride has her own ideas and her own story to tell. Through the footage of the amazing wedding days we will revisit the bigger issues that have underpinned every episode of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings – from the hardships of the travelling life, to the pressure felt by those trying to marry outside the community to prejudice the community suffers on a daily basis.

Elsewhere Thelma will show us around her factory, explain the lengthy design, production and decoration process behind the famous gowns. We will also see some highlights from the shows many jaw-dropping communions.

Arguably Thelma’s most famous ever creation was for 21 year old Dolores, who ordered her and her sister’s “night before dress” in the form of a Pineapple and a Palm tree. Thelma recalls her first ever meeting with Dolores. The bride had requested dresses ‘like no one had ever seen before’ and appeared genuinely concerned that another bride would have asked for the same. Thelma replied, “Oh I think you’ll be safe with that one.” She also describes how one company now offers replica fancy dress costumes for hire.

We see footage from Sam’s wedding – a rare example of a non-traveller marrying into the community. But, in order to prove her gypsy credentials, Sam requested a dress that literally lit up the room – leaving Thelma having the guard against the very real risk of fire….

Thelma will also recount the story behind her biggest challenge ever – organizing the wedding of Irish traveler Mary – a celebration that the bride wanted to rival the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. With only 3 weeks to arrange the entire event, Thelma had to sort out not just the extravagant dress, but find a location willing to stage it, a carriage fit for a princess and entertainment for the big day. Needless to say there were plenty of tears and tantrums along the way – not least from Thelma’s staff…

Featuring everything from incredibly dressed guests to neon dreams to the most unbelievable prom queen you will ever see, these are the stories of the outfits that have shocked and amazed the world.

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