Limerick hosts ‘Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’

Dowries of over €100,000, emerald green dresses and enough bling to make your eyes water — welcome to Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Rathkeale-style.

The story called Spiritual Home of Travellers features large in the hit TV show tonight when Chantelle Kealy returns to the Limerick town from her travels in Europe to marry her first cousin Jim.

In the hit Channel 4 series, which inspired Kate Moss to get married, Rathkeale club owner Davey Mann, who hosts many of the Traveller wedding parties at his Loft Bar, reveals that dowries still change hands.

“In the older days the bride’s parents had to pay over money to the groom’s parents and it was called the dowry. That tradition is still held on to in Rathkeale.

“Dowries can be fairly substantial. From what I hear they can range from anything from €50,000 to €120,000.”

In the episode, which will be aired on Channel 4, Chantelle reveals she only tried on her wedding dress for the first time a few hours before she walks up the aisle.

The enormous, white creation with 20,000 crystals is flown from Liverpool with Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dressmaker Thelma Madine.

The dressmaker, who has attended hundreds of Traveller weddings all over England, says there is something extra special about the nuptials in the Limerick town.

“It is completely different. There are never any fights in Rathkeale. They are all family and all linked in some way. I think that’s how they kept the wealth in Rathkeale because they don’t let it go out.

“They are really nice people. The girls are very respectful. We always say with the Irish Travellers it’s like going back 50 years but with girls from Rathkeale it is like going back 100 years.”

Chantelle’s bridal party consists of seven bridesmaids in various shades of green, while bridegroom Jim has three best men. The cake has an amazing 15 tiers.

The show also features 17-year-old Traveller Noreen, who makes her first visit to Rathkeale and is amazed to find so many travellers in one place.

“It’s like Dale Farm with houses,” she says.

“There are Travellers everywhere. There is nothing like it in England. It’s like one big Traveller site with a town and a shops.”

* Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.

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