'My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding' brings the bling

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If you're looking for a history lesson about Gypsies in the United States, you won't find it in the new series "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding,"a spinoff of the British hit "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" premiering Sunday, April 29, on TLC.

What you will find is bling. Lots of bling.

Like their counterparts across the pond, American Gypsies, aka Romany, who number about 1 million, favor big, sparkly dresses for their daughters' weddings and other special occasions. The premiere focuses on two girls:  Shyanne, 17, who is planning her wedding to a boy she's met twice; and Hope, 14, who looks forward to forging a love connection at her 15th birthday party.

Both girls are dressed for the big day by Boston seamstress Sondra Celli, who has become accustomed to creating enormous wearable confections on short notice. For Shyanne, that's a crystal-studded dress with pink trim and a skirt so wide that it barely fits down the church aisle on her big day. Hope's birthday dress is "Barbie pink" with 6,000 rhinestones and 50 yards of ruffles. Her cake is a giant high-heeled shoe in a matching shade.

While Gypsy girls strive to look sexy, being sexual is quite another story. Even talking to boys outside of parties is forbidden, and many girls experience their first kiss at the altar. Boys have more freedom, but they seek out non-Gypsies, known as "gorgers," for fun and refuse to have anything to do with Gypsy girls who aren't virginal. As Hope puts it, "You kiss a boy, you're done."

At her birthday bash, Hope hits it off with 17-year-old Cole, to the dismay of her mother, Moncella, who expects her daughter to marry young but considers 15 far too early. Sure enough, after the party, Cole is asking Hope to run off with him.

While many young Gypsy couples do elope, few girls are going to pass up the chance to be Cinderella for a day before settling into a life of housewifery. As seamstress Celli poignantly puts it, after the storybook fantasy of the wedding day, "tomorrow will become Gypsy reality."
Photo/Video credit: TLC