“It’s been a whirlwind that’s turned into a fairytale”
Woman Marries Into Britain’s Traveler Royalty With No Regrets
A woman gave up her old life to marry into one of the most high-profile Traveler families in the U.K. and says “what he says goes–I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In the British Isles, the Travelers may be Romani, or so-called Gypsy bands of itinerants. There are also itinerant Irish Travelers, sometimes known as “Mincéirs” or “Pikies,” who mostly live in the United Kingdom but are also found in the United States and Canada.
Most Irish Travelers are Catholic, and speak Sheltie, a dialect of their own. Holly Joyce, 27, met Traveler, Dougie Joyce, 34, online–in September 2019–after liking each other’s pictures on Instagram and eventually chatting over direct message.
They met in March 2020 at a restaurant in Manchester, in the U.K., and after just a few hours, Joyce admitted that he would “marry her.”
Mr. Joyce had had previous relationships with women outside the Traveler community, but Ms. Joyce had never dated anyone a Traveler before. Friends of the former air stewardess were initially concerned that Mr. Joyce background would be “too different.”
They feared that Mr. Joyce would use her for her good looks, claiming that she would just be a trophy wife. But the negative comments against Mr. Joyce only spurred him on to “prove them wrong.” Despite their family and friends having reservations, the couple hit it off and started dating in March 2020.
Mr. Joyce even spent lots of time through lockdown staying with Ms. Joyce at her house with her mother, Diane Edmonds, 59, a cleaner. Ms. Joyce fell pregnant with their daughter, Oceanna, now one, in November 2020 and Mr. Joyce proposed at a gender reveal party for their daughter in December 2020.
The pair tied the knot in an extravagant ceremony at the Gorton Monastery, Manchester, in July 2022. The lavish do cost over £60,000 including four Rolls Royces, a £12.000 dress and champagne on tap.
Mr. Joyce had planned to arrive in a helicopter, but sadly the venue wouldn’t allow him to land in the car park. Ms. Joyce admitted that she has had to make changes to her lifestyle since dating Mr. Joyce as she is expected to do all of the housework, run the household, raise the children, and look after Mr. Joyce.
She also rarely goes out without being accompanied by Mr. Joyce. Mr. Joyce supports Ms. Joyce decision to work, but she must ensure that standards do not slip at home.
Before getting married to Mr. Joyce, Ms. Joyce worked for Jet2 as an air hostess, and plans to return to work as a married woman. While Ms. Joyce can do the grocery shopping or go to the salon by herself, she says she now doesn’t go out parting or leave the house at night without Mr. Joyce accompanying her. Despite having to adjust to this new way of life, Ms. Joyce is happy to make the changes and says the pair are “happier than ever.”
“It’s been a whirlwind that’s turned into a fairytale. The biggest difference being a Traveler’s wife is you must respect your husband–what he says goes.
“He wouldn’t want me out at parties without him, we’d always go together,” said Ms. Joyce, now a mother-of-two, from Salford, Manchester, in the U.K.
“He’s the man, so he can go out if he wants, but I’m the woman so I can really only go out with him. I can go to the salon or out to the shops on my own, but he’s very protective and worries about my safety if I’m out alone. I don’t feel like I’m missing out because if I want to do something I just ask Dougie and we can do it together. I’d rather be with him anyway,” she said.
The smitten couple met three years ago on social media, and despite facing many challenges are now happily married. Ms. Joyce said that she was instantly attracted to Mr. Joyce, and it was his smile that won her over. Mr. Joyce felt that it was “love at first sight.”
While Ms. Joyce’s family were hesitant that their daughter would become a Traveler’s wife, they were soon won over by Mr. Joyce’s charm. Ms. Joyce has embraced her new way of life, immersing herself into the Traveler community after instantly getting on with her husband’s mom, Margaret Joyce, 56.
Their wedding ceremony was attended by 169 people, with over 300 people attending the evening do. Ms. Joyce wore a stunning Calla Blanche wedding dress that cost £12,000, which was designed especially for her and took over a year to make.
Sticking to Traveler tradition, the evening event was segregated–with the women on one side and men on the other. The couple tied the knot in July 2022, after three years of dating. Throughout that time, Ms. Joyce was introduced to the Traveler way of life and learned what would be expected of her, having never dated a Traveler before.
Her dad, Hugo, 72, who sadly has since passed away, was initially hesitant about his daughter dating the bare-knuckle fighter and owner of 3D Fight Club, as he was once a bare-knuckle fighter himself and knew the risks.
Mr. Joyce has had a successful career as a bare-knuckle fighter and now owns a bare-knuckle fighting club. His high profile within the community means he is often challenged to fights. She admitted that she worries about him scrapping and is unable to watch–opting to wait for him at home with balloons, a cake, and his favorite meal. But despite his violent profession, she said that her husband is really a family man and treats her ”like a princess.”
“Family is so important to Travelers,” she said. I remember being so impressed by how Dougie treats his mom. He never answers back to his mother and has so much respect for her. He buys her flowers, designer shoes, and anything she wants.
“The way a man speaks to his mom says a lot, and Dougie has always been so loving and respectful towards her. My family were worried at first, but as soon as they saw how well he looks after me and how respectful he is, they soon approved,” Ms. Joyce said.
“He’s such an amazing dad–family is everything to him. There is a lot of pressure because there’s a lot of competition amongst the community. It’s all about who has got the best bags, the best shoes, the best jewelry.
“Dougie expects the house to be perfect, and to be looked after when he comes home from work. He doesn’t even make his own drinks. It’s quite different to my past relationships and it took some getting used to at first, but he looks after me and provides for our family so I’m happy to do it.
“If he’s happy, I’m happy,” Holly said.
“I fell madly in love with Holly when we met. She wanted to follow our cultural ways–of putting family first. It’s our tradition and we are both very happy,” Mr. Joyce said.
“Family comes first and Holly wouldn’t have it any other way. Her Irish background meant she followed her dad’s footsteps–she feels secure as I remind her of her father–old-fashioned and down to earth,” he added.
The couple’s love story–as well as a deeper dive into the Traveler community–can be seen in their new film The Joyce Family Documentary, by Art Productions TV, Film and Media limited, available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Produced in association with SWNS.