“My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” preview

Fellow Gypsy Wedding fans, are you ready to meet our favorite U.K. reality sensations’ All-American kin?

Sunday night, TLC will premiere My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, an eight-episode peek into the traditions, travails and celebrations of Romanichal (say it “ROM-nee-chal”) gypsies living right here in the USA. And there are plenty of surprises for even the most ardent Gypsy Wedding watchers.

In tomorrow’s premiere, “Virgin Gypsy Brides” — aptly set in the Virginias — cornflower-eyed Shyanne, a 17-year-old gypsy stunner, is preparing to marry 18-year-old Michael (who looks like a cross between Pauly D and a young Richard Gere). Before her intended proposed via a texted picture of a Ring Pop, Shyanne had spent time with him just once at an amusement park and once at a party. The rest of their monthlong courtship took place online.

Turns out Michael’s family are none too happy with the nuptials, but Shy’s been raised up in a family of tough-cookie ladies (including a comically nicknamed grandma) who are prepared to battle for their baby’s right to wed.

Meanwhile, super-giggly Romanichal Hope is eagerly anticipating dancing with spiky-haired gypsy hotties at her 15th birthday party. And her nervous mother is eagerly anticipating guarding Hope’s reputation with her  life.

Both girls’ gowns are created by Boston’s Sondra Celli, a calm and fearless woman who has been designing special occasion clothing for American Romanichals for more than 30 years. “They saw crystal, they saw magic,” she explains of the community’s gravitation to her creations. “I can make magic. I can wave my rhinestone wand right over their head and make them anything they want.”

Shyanne wants a crystal-encrusted behemoth with electric pink piping that weighs in at a crushing 75 pounds. Hope requests a rosey-fuschia ruffled and sparkling marvel, but doesn’t get quite as much sheer paneling as she hoped (Mom strikes again).

Surprisingly — especially if you’ve seen the show’s raucous previews— the American gypsies seem to employ moral guidelines that are even more strict than their European counterparts. Girls are forbidden to talk to boys except at parties  — “You can’t miss a party,” Hope exclaims, “because you might be missing your future husband at that party!” — and they’re expected to receive their first kiss at the altar. As for any parental discussion of the birds and the bees? Forget about it.

So you can imagine Shyanne’s misgivings about the wedding night — especially when she’s given some entertaining marital advice at the nail salon. But her husband is only too happy to have a blushing bride. “If she’s teaching you something,” says Michael, “usually you didn’t get the good one.”

And while Hope’s mother stands at the edge of the dance floor, ready to dive-bomb her daughter like an angry bird if she displays even an inkling of the dance moves that toddlers in the U.K. series have down pat, the girl still manages to find a boy to her liking in 17-year-old red-haired Romany, Cole.

It’s surprisingly weird to be freed from the delightful aural gymnastics required to understand the original My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding crew. But once you adapt to gypsies who sound like Southern Belles and Jersey Boys, the American spinoff is every ounce as deliciously over-the-top as its Friday night counterpart.

My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding airs Sunday nights beginning April 29 at 10pm/9 CT on TLC

Image and video: Copyright © 2012 Discovery Communications, LLC.

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
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