“Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” started unexpectedly; a single episode aired on 18 February 2010 as part of the well-known British documentary TV series “Cutting Edge,” which was on-screen from 1990 to 2017. However, after attracting critical acclaim and winning the Cultural Diversity Award for the Most Groundbreaking Show in 2010, the media network decided to commission five episodes of a dedicated show.
That was a success, too; its first episode, aired on 29 January 2011 on Channel 4, had about seven million viewers, and the third was the most-watched, with nearly nine million. However, many people, us included, wondered what happened to the couples after the show went off air in 2015, so we investigated who remains married, has children, or is divorced.
- 1 Weddings start early and don’t always last
- 2 Paddy Doherty
- 3 John McFadyen and Cheyenne Pidgley
- 4 Bill and Joe Smith
- 5 Chantelle Kielly and Jim
- 6 Danielle Maughan and Brendan Joyce
- 7 Sam Norton and Pat Lee
- 8 Patrick Ward and Joan Furey
- 9 Josie McFadyen and Swanley Smith
- 10 Ina and Michael
- 11 Noreen and Tony
- 12 Thelma Madine and Leanne Alexandra
- 13 There are no guarantees
- 14 Most couples aren’t sharing their post-marriage life
Weddings start early and don’t always last
The show, while it focuses on the rush of preparing for marriage and the splendor of the wedding day with hundreds of Travellers or Gypsies present, shows many controversial traditions. Despite dreaming of the wedding day from a young age, the participants frequently marry, with their family’s blessing, between ages 16 and 18. Additionally, community members are usually only allowed to marry a fellow Traveller or Gypsy, and mustn’t indulge in sex before marriage, talk back to their elders, or divorce. Therefore, some fear rejecting their partner and feel stuck if they realize marrying that person was a mistake.
The parents were also criticized for sexualizing children, putting them in full make-up and dressing them up as if attending a beauty pageant. The concept of grabbing in the show, where a groom pins down and tries to kiss a girl who catches his eye, is also frowned upon; however, many Travellers claim that the show fabricated it. All these factors affect the success rate and the longevity of the marriages shown in “Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” leaving fans to wonder who said ‘I do’ to their true love.
Paddy Doherty, a bare-knuckle boxer and perhaps the best-known cast member of “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” because he won “Celebrity Big Brother” in the year the first season aired, has been through a lot. He’s been married to Roseanne for decades, and they’re still together as of 2023. Paddy has 10 children, but most people only know about his three sons. His presumably oldest son, Patrick, died in July 1996, and Paddy said in September 2011, during his “The Late Late Show” appearance, that he drank his son’s blood immediately after he passed away, explaining to the host Ryan Tubridy that it made him feel closer to him.
His second, David, was sentenced to a three-year jail sentence in 2012, for causing death by careless driving, after his friend, James Loveridge, a passenger in his Mitsubishi Shogun SUV was killed. He was then jailed for seven years in November 2018, for burglarizing a home with a gang of criminals.
His third son, Simey, became known through the news on 22 August 2020, when a 22-year-old criminal attacked him and tried to rip a US$37,500 Rolex watch and diamond ring off him. In the process, the mugger kicked Simey in the head and threw him the ground, leaving him with three brain bleeds and a bloody, muddy face.
Paddy also has several grandchildren he posts about. However, his granddaughter Margaret attracted the most attention by telling the “This Morning” hosts that she wants to leave school at eight, despite Paddy’s efforts to dissuade her.
Paddy faced another family tragedy in April 2017 when his father, Simon Doherty, died. Only a year later, his cart racer nephew, Michael “Mikey” Connors, died in July aged 32, when a BMW hit him from behind while riding Paddy’s champion horse. Almost simultaneously, Paddy was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but only revealed it seven months later in April 2019, when doctors had given him the all-clear. However, the illness left a mark on his mental state, and he stated that he suffered from depression afterward.
Then, in 2020 and 2021, Paddy announced on Facebook that he ended up in the hospital three times because he had severe symptoms of COVID-19. Even worse, his sister died from COVID-19 in January 2021, and he couldn’t attend the funeral because he was ill.
Paddy Doherty opens up about his battle with prostate cancer.
👉 https://t.co/JPeqXmKBpD pic.twitter.com/siQt7YSqRO
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 21, 2019
John McFadyen and Cheyenne Pidgley
Cheyenne appeared in the show at 14 and immediately sparked controversy. While grabbing is allegedly a Gypsy tradition, John pinning her against a wall and forcing her to kiss him was something many viewers disliked. Regardless, it worked for them; Cheyenne became engaged to him, but the wedding didn’t happen immediately because her mother had died of cancer. After some time, the couple married in a beautiful wedding ceremony with 200 guests.
However, while the marriage seemed to blossom in private, the couple resurfaced in 2018, but not for a good reason. CCTV footage showed McFadyen and his brother Isaac attempting to rob the neighbor of singer and actress Amanda Holden. John, in particular, threatened to ‘hurt her toddler and take him away’ if she didn’t comply and hand her expensive rings over.
Thankfully, nearby scaffolders heard the commotion and chased the brothers away, saving the mother and her child – Amanda called them ‘scumbags’ after posting the video on social media, and John received two years and eight months in jail while his brother got the same sentence, but in a youth offenders institution. In total, their 12-man gang received 68 years behind bars.
John left the jail ahead of schedule, and started a business, Garden Shed Pubs and Nightclubs UK, in 2019, showcasing his luxury pub shed, which sold alcoholic drinks and had a pool table, a games room including a dart board, and a fireplace. It also featured murals of individuals such as Al Pacino, Conor McGregor, Tyson Fury and Bob Marley. After leaving the jail, John had also became passionate about bodybuilding .
Although little is known about their private life, since Cheyenne made her Instagram profile – @cheyenne_johnx – private, we know that the couple is still together and has two daughters, Julie-Ann and Berry-Marie – some insiders said that they were awaiting a son in April 2018. Cheyenne also stated that if their daughters decide to leave school at 13, as she did, she will approve of it as long as they learn to read and write. Similarly, she would support their decision to marry at 16.
John and Cheyenne are one of the most popular, and possibly one of the most strongest, pairs from the show. They are…
Posted by UK Traveller Talk on Saturday, April 28, 2018
Bill and Joe Smith
Joe and Bill Smith’s tragic ending was a shock to people who tune in to see glorious weddings. The police found the 32-year-old twin brothers, who appeared in season three as landscapers, hanging from a tree in Sevenoaks, Kent County, after 11 AM in December 2019 – they quickly concluded that this was a case of double suicide. According to family sources, Joe was diagnosed with cancer, and Bill, whom the family called “Billy,” told him that he wouldn’t be able to live without him. Although Joe apparently told his family that he was in remission after undergoing chemotherapy, they suspect that he didn’t want to worry them.
A cousin found the suicide note, and the community members stated that they had a suicide pact and would be found ‘in the woods where they played with the family years ago.’ The community also revealed that they may have had depression. Billy was dating and presumably wanted to marry Kristine Davey, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, who posted a heartbreaking update on social media, but didn’t elaborate on the events before his death; Joe left behind a nine-year-old son. Their family organized a beautiful funeral procession, with white horse carriages transporting identical coffins, with flowers arranged to look like a tequila bottle and a Rolex watch.
Chantelle Kielly and Jim
Chantelle Kielly was heavily criticized for what can be considered incest, after marrying her first cousin, Jim, when she was 18. She made a spectacle, with the whole of her hometown of Rathkeale attending, including 73 best men and seven bridesmaids. Her dress, designed by Thelma, had over 20,000 crystals, and her family allegedly paid a $50,000 to $125,000 dowry to Jim’s family for their engagement. While they seem absent from social media, the lack of updates from the family or insiders, especially after such a high-profile wedding, suggests that the cousins are still happily married.
Danielle Maughan and Brendan Joyce
Brendan and Danielle attracted much attention for marrying a day after her 16th birthday, the youngest legal age to marry in the UK. Brendan was 21, and the public suggested that she was too young to consent; moreover, they thought she was pressured into it; the celebration cost over £50,000 or US$62,500, and she wore a 6ft or 1.8m wide dress, neither of which she could pay for herself at that age. Luckily, the couple defied all odds and proved their doubters wrong; they are still married and have two children as of 2023.
Sam Norton and Pat Lee
Sam Norton, a 17-year-old “gorger”, a person outside of the Traveller community, was trying to adjust to the Gypsy lifestyle when she married Pat Lee in 2011. Most viewers remember her extensive dress that had lights and moving butterflies, and her pregnant belly during the BAFTA TV Awards red carpet event that year. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out between them, and they divorced for unknown reasons. Sam remarried, but took someone outside the Traveller community this time, while Pat doesn’t have a social media presence. However, they continue to co-parent their son.
Patrick Ward and Joan Furey
Most people remember Joan for wearing a luxurious dress with a 20ft or 6m train, and arriving at church in her Cinderella-inspired carriage. However, despite saying that she would never divorce Patrick, a part-time laborer, she did so in 2011, the year her season premiered. She revealed to Sunday Express, ‘I’ll always regret marrying him… I’ve torn up my wedding photos and sold my dress.’ An insider disclosed that she never destroyed her dress, but said that she did out of anger.
Regardless, the court granted her a divorce for Patrick’s unreasonable behavior, including control and jealousy. Joan was eight months pregnant when the divorce was finalized, and admitted in 2012 that they lost contact after the split, suggesting that Patrick doesn’t even know their son’s name, Roman. She also mentioned hearing that he’d married a younger Irish Traveller bride after they went their separate ways.
Josie McFadyen and Swanley Smith
Josephine “Josie” McFadyen, sister to Isaac and John and six confirmed siblings, and her then-boyfriend, Swanley Smith, were among the most memorable couples. While their family dynamic was interesting, since they married after only five months of dating, what remains in most viewers’ memories was their splendid pink wedding with a Spanish theme. The couple also started a family early; she gave birth to a daughter, also named Josie, at 16, when Swanley was 19, making her the first of her siblings to do so.
However, things quickly turned sour, and she became the show’s first divorcee around May 2012. She stated that life with Swanley no longer made her happy, and she wanted to focus on being a good mother. Besides her brief run-in with the law, when she caused a commotion at another gypsy wedding, and received an electronic police tag for three months, her life was mostly quiet.
That changed in 2019 during Swanley’s birthday, when she was caught physically and verbally attacking two sisters, Margaret and Eileen Doyle; her mother, Josie Doherty, siblings Barbara and Isaac, and cousin Charlie Collins were also the perpetrators. Although all five denied the attack, bystanders reported that one stomped Margaret’s head and stomach and shouted, ‘Go on, kick the baby out of her!’ Moreover, it was revealed that Margaret was eight months pregnant and partially blind and that the two groups had a family feud.
Barbara, who made brief appearances in her sister’s episodes, was caught on 13 April 2019 trying to smuggle a small mobile phone to her ex-boyfriend, Shane Warburton, by hiding it in her children’s diaper and received a six-month sentence. However, it was unclear if Shane was one of the attackers,.
Josephine has an Instagram account today – @josie_mcfadyen28 – on which she announced on 27 January 2022 that she’d found a new boyfriend. However, insiders have revealed that she’s been dating Richard since early 2020, and that they were expecting a boy in June 2020. Josie also showed a pregnant stomach in June 2022, indirectly revealing that they are expecting their second child. One person, allegedly close to the family, commented in a Facebook fan group that it was her fourth. Josie also posted about a previous relationship with an unnamed English Traveller in early 2018. Finally, one fan mentioned that Josie’s mother gave birth to her 10th child after the show stopped filming.
Ina and Michael
Ina and Michael didn’t have such a prominent marriage, but many fans remember her secret relationship and piercing sky-blue eyes. She was 15 when she met Ian who was 17, and the family forced them to go through a typical courtship after her uncle told on her to her mom. However, she was convinced that she ‘only had to kiss one frog to find her forever prince.’
While she was undoubtedly happy, and things looked good when she said Ian was “the one” for her, there was some doubt because of her age. However, Ina is still married to Michael and has two children, a boy and a girl, as of May 2023.
Noreen and Tony
Viewers may recall Noreen as the Irish Traveller who focused on her independence instead of finding a husband. Although she helped design most cakes for other women’s weddings, Noreen transitioned from working in a cake shop to owning a hair salon, Noreen’s Lavish Locks, after the show.
While there were no indications that she plans to marry as of 2016, updates from two years later showed that she began dating someone. Then, social media posts revealed that she married Tony in April 2018, and a year and a half later on 1 January, news surfaced that the couple had recently welcomed a daughter named Josie. Additionally, before and after pregnancy, Noreen displayed a taste for elegant fashion, and possibly designed some dresses.
Thelma Madine and Leanne Alexandra
Thelma Madine was at the forefront during the show’s run as the primary wedding dressmaker. Her creativity was so beloved that she earned a spin-off TV show, “Thelma’s Gypsy Girls,” allowing her to showcase her fabulous, over-the-top dress designs.
However, a prolonged court case with Leanne Phillips, her former head designer, mainly occupied her post-show life. Although Thelma called her ‘a major creative force’ at her Liverpool Traveller design shop, Nico, she let her go in 2012.
Leanne promptly set up a design shop under her own name, Leanne Alexandra, in the same city, taking away some of Thelma’s customers and eventually stealing her designs. Thelma won one court case for a design theft and accused Leanne of stealing and using her designs for a Crystal Princess Figurine range of porcelain girl figurines. In an interview with ECHO, she said that the two-and-a-half-year court battle harmed her mental health more than her prison sentence for benefits fraud in 2001. That was largely because Leanne was allegedly bankrupt, making it hard for Thelma to collect money from her wages.
After her legal battle concluded, she used the lower level of her fashion shop to open a cafe, Cafe Nico, in late 2019. Thelma has a daughter named Margaret, a teenager in 2020 who was occasionally active on social media. According to some fans, Leanne has a daughter and was expecting a second child in June 2020.
There are no guarantees
Learning about the history and post-show events of the couples in “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” made it clear that neither fans nor the cast members and their families could foresee the success of the marriages. Some, like Danielle and Brendan, married early, developed their romantic bond, and are now parents; Ina and Michael had a similar story. In contrast, Josie and Joan seemed enamored with Swanley and Patrick, respectively, and viewers predicted a bright future after they became pregnant. Yet, both women left their marriage within a year and found new partners, in the case of Josie, or are presumably single, like Joan.
Most couples aren’t sharing their post-marriage life
Although weddings seem to be at the forefront, some episodes showed dishonesty, such as when they booked a venue but didn’t tell the owners that a Gypsy wedding would occur until the last minute. Others display illegal activities, for example, when one Gypsy family started building infrastructure on land where laws forbid doing so. Many families also regret their appearance, usually because their lifestyle was stereotyped or they decided not to let viewers judge their traditions.
All these reasons make learning what happened to the couples difficult, and fans must rely on periodic updates from sources close to the family.