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пятница, 3 марта 2017 г.

MY SUPERSIZE WEDDING. For these girls, the bigger the nuptials, the better!


Thousands of women dream about slipping into a big, white dress on their wedding day. Joan Furey was no different. It's just that her definition of 'big' verged towards supersized. When she got married three months ago, Joan's extravagantly ruffled dress was so heavy, she had to wrap bandages round her waist to stop herself getting injured when she put it on.
A vast, off-the-shoulder concoction, it comprised of seven net underskirts, trimmed with heart-shaped Swarovski crystals. A final layer of satin, covered in even more twinkling crystals, was finished off with a 20ft train that required several grown men to carry it up and down stairs and a van to transport it home from the shop.
Joan, 22, is a second-generation Irish traveller, and in her culture an enormous dress - and an enormous amount of accompanying bling - is not only par for the course, but a matter of honour.
While many may have been scaling down wedding plans because of the recession, for these young women, no dress is too big, no number of bridesmaids too many, and no amount of decorative crystals too excessive. It's a world of manic one-upmanship where young girls routinely marry at 16 and where wedding days are a mixture of fierce tradition and celebrity-inspired extravagance.
But it's only in the last decade that these over-the-top weddings have been on the increase.
"My mum's wedding was modest," says Joan. "Her dress was quite puffy, but simple. It was nowhere near as big as mine. She loved my dress, though."
It seems that every generation of travellers who tie the knot is doing it in increasingly inflated gowns.
"One of my older sisters had a classy dress - it was a copy of Princess Diana's," Joan recalls. "And my other sister had one covered in diamanté. Mine was definitely the biggest though."
It seems the traveller tradition, coupled with the rise of celebrity culture, has collided in an explosion of lace, silk and sequins.
"We like things big, brash and bold," Joan says. "Traveller girls have everything fake - fake nails, fake tan, the lot. It's something that's instilled in us and it's always been that way. Every wedding I've been to I've made mental notes on what I'm going to do bigger and better.
"We're only going to get married once. Why not make it as huge and as expensive as we can?"
It comes as little surprise to find that the girls' main inspiration is Katie Price - Joan had a copycat horse-drawn pumpkin carriage like la Price and even whipped off her giant frock to reveal a skimpier evening dress, just like Katie did at her wedding to Peter Andre in 2005. She says her contemporaries see Jordan as a "traveller heroine".
"All the girls copy Jordan - they see her as a style icon because everything she does and the way she looks is so big and extravagant," Joan explains.
But you can imagine even Katie Price baulking at what some brides put themselves through to ensure they wear the biggest and best.
Some dresses are so heavy they leave the new brides bruised and blistered, sometimes permanently. Despite bandaging herself for protection, the weight of Joan's dress left her with deep slashes to her waist.
"Girls are proud of their wedding day scars, though, because the bigger the scar, the bigger the dress," says Thelma Madine, owner of Liverpool-based Nico's Dressmakers, the go-to shop for the traveller bride. In 2006, she designed what is believed to be the world's biggest wedding dress for 16-year-old Carly O'Brien, which weighed in at a whopping 25st with a 60ft train. The 30,000 Swarovski crystals and 120 metres of silk are rumoured to have cost Carly's father more than £15,000. Not that Thelma's customers like to discuss prices.
"They won't talk about money, it's all hush-hush," she says, adding that she wouldn't dream of revealing what they pay for her decadent creations.
One thing her customers are very vocal about is the size of their frocks. And the rivalry to have the best dress is as huge as the meringues that girls waddle down the aisle in.
"They're preconditioned from childhood that this is what their lives are going to be," Thelma reveals. "They'll tell you they've been designing their dress since they were five years old and they want to get married as soon as they can."
And most of the girls who come through her door have very firm ideas about what they want for their big day.
"Competition is astronomical," Thelma continues. "The girls come in and say: 'I want a wedding dress but I want it bigger than that one'."
Joan - who won't reveal how much her dress cost - agrees. She admits she was determined to look glitzier and more fabulous than any other bride.
"Rivalry is huge. You barely tell your own family and friends what you're going to wear," she says. "It's a secret until the big day to make sure no one else tries to copy you. I call it healthy competition."
Joan, who lives in Manchester with her husband Eli, a 22-year-old builder, has been brought up with the values of her clan. She grew up with a strict understanding from her mum that getting married is far more important than getting a job. It's the only ambition the girls have.
"Mum always told me and my sisters it was the most important thing we could do," Joan says.
At 22, she was a positively ancient bride by her community's usual standards, where it's not unusual to get engaged at 14.
Bride Bridget, 16, cuddles up to 17-year-old husband Patrick on their big day
"It didn't bother me too much being older, as I always knew it would be my destiny," she says. "But one of my sisters was 25 when she married and my parents were starting to worry."
When Eli proposed six months ago - after meeting Joan at a funeral three years earlier - she was able to put the wedding plans she'd been dreaming of since she was a little girl into action.
"I was determined it was going to be huge," she says. "I wanted a love-heart theme running through it. No one helped me with the design - it had been in my head since I was young. I didn't feel any pressure to get it perfect as I was having it made by Thelma. I knew it would be amazing."

Another bride who followed the bigger-the-better trend is Bridget, 16. She married 17-year-old Patrick, a labourer, last year, and on her big day she wanted to be like Cinderella - at any cost.
"If I had a small dress, it wouldn't be special. It'd be plain to me," she says. In the end, her dress was so huge, she could barely move.
And it's not just the brides who go OTT - it's the guests, too. At Bridget's tropical-themed reception, the dance floor was a vision of evening dresses, sequinned miniskirts, towering heels and big hair.
And Joan agrees that the guests are just as image-conscious as the bride.
"People start preparing for a traveller wedding weeks in advance. They get spray tans, waxes, and order made-to-measure outfits. It's a huge deal for us," she says.
Even Joan's cake was an impressive affair, boasting decorations in the shape of Barbie dolls.
"That was my own idea," she says. "I love Barbie and I wanted to have her incorporated into my day."
Unlike many traveller women, Joan went to school until she was 16, and worked full-time in telesales before she got married.
Joan's Barbie wedding cake
But when her friends outside of her community saw the photos of her wedding, they were amazed. "I don't think they could believe what they were seeing," she says.
Of course, after the big day comes the marriage itself. And Joan knows that a princess dress doesn't mean a fairy-tale relationship.
"Me and Eli argued a lot before the wedding and I wondered if everything was going to be OK," she admits.
"I knew it wasn't going to be easy and I was worried about leaving my parents. But now we're actually married, we're far more settled.
"I gave up work to plan the wedding, but I'm thinking of going back. And in a few years, I'd like to start a family."
With her enormous wedding dress now taking up most of the spare room in her little house, Joan insists she wouldn't have changed a thing about her big day. Except perhaps the number of layers of skirts she had.
"I thought they might be too heavy on the day," she says. "But at the time, they felt fine. I could have done with maybe three or four more!"

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