Irish town the focus of Big Fat Gypsy Christmas

A SMALL Irish town is set to play a starring role in a Big Fat Gypsy one-off show which gives a peep into nine jaw-droppingly extravagant Traveller nuptials crammed into one church over 10 days of Christmas.

One teenage Limerick bride had to wear nappies on her hips to carry her 15-stone dress, while another revealed how a cartoon inspired her bell-shaped meringue dress, which used a mile of material.

The population of Rathkeale in Co Limerick is normally 1,500 but it swells to nearly treble that every December.

The returning families, who roll up in a gleaming cavalcade of Range Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs, take advantage of the holiday get-together to throw lavish wedding bashes over the festive season.

In an off-shoot of the hit series, My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas, the community has invited cameras for the first time to film the extraordinary world of diamante, acres of satin and horse-drawn carriages packed into their Irish Christmas holidays.

The TV show reveals how one 17-year-old Limerick bride called Lavinia had to wear nappy-padding over her hips to help her slim frame carry the 20 underskirts in her billowing dress in the first of nine weddings filmed last Christmas for the TV special.

Lavinia, who had nine bridesmaids in yellow and pink, also had a towering custom-made tiara with a cherry motif flown in for her special day.

After a two-month engagement, the teenager got her full fairytale wedding but admitted she didn’t expect her 15-stone dress to be as painful to wear. “It is the worst experience of my life carrying it. It is about 15 stone,” she tells the cameras.

The series on the hugely flamboyant weddings of the Travelling community has attracted an audience of millions. In the first wedding shown, teenage bride Lavinia pulls up to St. Mary’s Church in Rathkeale fashionably late in freezing temperature to find her groom is still in the pub.

Big Fat Gypsy Wedding designer Thelma Madine said the location of the Traveller weddings she worked on for years was always kept under wraps by this private community.

“We’ve made dresses for Travellers for years. We’ve always done wedding dresses that had to be picked up in November and December but up until recently we didn’t know where they were going — Rathkeale.”

Charlene, 18, was thrilled when she outdid the other brides by having the biggest creation of the year to come out of Madine’s salon.

“It hurts and getting in and out of cars and houses is very, very difficult,” she said.

Colourfully dressed young girls are filmed in glitzy gowns dancing at the wedding while the males stand at the bar as the sexes rarely mix at the celebrations.

After the reception the families prepare for another wedding in 12 hours’ time as there are 10 to 12 nuptials in as many days every year in the Limerick town.

* Big Fat Gypsy Christmas will be shown on Channel 4 tomorrow at 9pm.

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