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Here come the brides - again!

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 06, 2012

A is for Appleby Horse Fair: The biggest event in the British gypsy and traveller community calendar, dating back to the 17th century, where a lot of young people meet their future husbands and wives.

B is for Billy Welch: A spokesman for the Romany gypsy community who was featured on the series. Welch has been a vocal opponent of the show since its broadcast, saying it lumps all gypsies and travellers in together, without exploring each of them separately and sensibly.

C is for Cars & Coaches: The bride has to arrive at church in style, and if this means forking out for a Cinderella-style horse-drawn carriage, so be it.

D is for Dress: Weighing up to 27 stone and blinged up with diamante, sequins and rhinestones, the dresses are undoubtedly the focal point of every wedding. Often they're so big, heavy and elaborate, the girls cannot stand up in them without support and can be left with permanent scars.

E is for Exploitation: The focus on the excesses of certain individuals has prompted some people to criticise the show for exploiting the community for cheap entertainment.

F is for First Communion: This is seen by some as a dress rehearsal for the wedding day, and girls can be just as competitive about their Holy Communion dresses as they are their wedding frocks.

G is for Grabbing: A practice in which young men pin down the girl they have their eye on in an attempt to get a kiss, while the correct thing for the girl to do is resist. Some members of the traveller community say the practice not a traditional part of their culture.

H is for Hen Night: This can be a big affair too, with girls getting together to celebrate their last night of being single. But, with the skimpy outfits and dancing until all hours, these are no different from your standard hen night.

I is for Invitations: Or rather, lack of them. It is not considered the norm to have a guest list or send out invitations, people find out about weddings through word of mouth.

J is for Jewish Weddings: Hot on the heels of the first Gypsy Weddings series came a Hasidic Guide To Love, Marriage And Finding A Bride, which explored the mysterious world of Hasidic weddings.

K is for Knuckles: Bare-knuckle fighting is a traditional way to settle disputes in the Irish travelling community, although a referee is always on hand to make sure the fighting doesn't get too brutal. The reputation for trouble means some venues are reluctant to host travellers' wedding receptions.

L is for Lingo: Which words should we use regarding gypsies and travellers? Ex-editor of Voice Of The Traveller Jenny McArdle says: "Travellers are people who are, or were, nomadic. Gypsies are similar because of their lifestyle, but they're usually of Romany origin, while most travellers are Irish or English. Travellers didn't mind being called gypsies until the word 'gypo' became a common insult."

M is for Morals: While dresses are short and dancing suggestive, with traveller girls it's a case of 'look but don't touch'. Couples cannot be alone without a chaperone until they are married, and girls are expected to be virgins until their wedding night.

N is for Narrator: The series is narrated by actress Barbara Flynn.

O is for Osca Humphreys: The man who we can thank for this insight into the gypsy community.

P is for Paddy Doherty: Bareknuckle fighter Doherty found fame after the first series, landing a spot in Celebrity Big Brother and beating the likes of Jedward to first place.

Q is for Quids In: Although the rule among the travellers is never to discuss the price of a wedding, dresses can cost up to £50,000 and there's an unlimited guest list.

R is for Roma Gypsies: Although the show is named after them, it's actually the British and Irish traveller community which features more heavily.

S is for Social Networking: The first series caused a storm on Twitter.

T is for Thelma: having built her business up from scratch after she got divorced, Thelma Madine has become the dressmaker of choice to the community.

U is for United States: Never one to miss a money-making trick, entertainment impresario Simon Cowell is reportedly looking into making a version for the States.

V is for Viewers: One episode of the first series was watched by 8.7 million people, making it Channel 4's eighth highest-rating programme ever.

W is for Wedding: A big part of the show, yes, but the series also explores other aspects of gypsy and traveller life.

X is for Xenophobia: Many gypsies and travellers face prejudice and discrimination. A 2006 study commissioned by gay rights group Stonewall found they were the minority group most likely to be discriminated against.

Y is for YouTube Audience Award: The series was nominated for this award at the Baftas in 2011, alongside Downton Abbey, Miranda and The Killing. It lost out to The Only Way Is Essex, but was victorious at the Cultural Diversity Awards.

Z is for Zeitgeist: Gypsy Weddings soon became the theme for fancy dress parties and hen nights.

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday, February 14.

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