A Spanish Gypsy Wedding

Paddy and Sally’s Excellent Adventure, an Endemol Production for Channel 5 follows Paddy and Sally as they travel the world meeting different gypsies and the plights they face.

In Spain we were invited to film a traditional gypsy (gitano) wedding in Sevilla. We turned up to a huge hangar in the industrial area of the city. Inside the place was heaving, there must have been three thousand people in there. Gypsys from far and wide who had come to pay their respects. But what made this different to a normal wedding ceremony was that the bride had to undertake a controversial ritual to prove her virginity.

A traditional gitano wedding requires a pedimiento (similar to an engagement party) followed by the casamiento (wedding ceremony), where “El Yeli” must be sung to the bride for giving her honor to her husband (proven by the ritual of the pañuelo). In the pañuelo ritual, a group consisting of an ajuntaora (an elder woman who is well respected in the family), along with the older aunts and elder woman of the family, take the bride into a separate room during the wedding and examine her to ascertain that she is a virgin. The “ajuntaora” is the one who practices the ritual on the bride, as the other women watch to be witnesses that the bride is virgin.

The cloth (pañuelo) must have three rose petals on it. When finished with the exam, the women come out of the room and sing el yeli to the couple. During this, the men at the wedding rip their shirts and lift the wife onto their shoulders and do the same with the husband, as they sing “el yeli” to them. Weddings can last up to three days!