After six seasons, nearly 250 episodes and a quartet of specials, Little People, Big World stars Matt and Amy Roloff found themselves at a personal and professional crossroads. Their four kids were growing up and preparing for life away from the family’s home and the enormously popular TLC series they created there. The couple had just purchased land adjacent to their farm. And a major marital milestone loomed.
“Matt and I looked at each other, like, ‘What are we going to do with each other?’” Amy chuckles. “‘What are we going to do?’” They found the answer in their new expanse of land.
“We figured we could probably grow some pumpkins and maybe do a wedding or two over there,” Matt explains. “When we mentioned it to TLC at some point along the road, it all came together. Bing, bang, boom! We’re in the wedding business!” And back on the network in their new weekly series Little People, Big World: Wedding Farm, which premieres Tuesday, Nov. 13.
With the whole family pitching in, the Roloff patriarch threw himself into their new venture with the signature can-do attitude that viewers love, renovating a 120-year-old barn into a breathtaking, one-of-kind venue that is both elegant and rustic. But the most important part is the people. “Each of these weddings was very carefully chosen to have meaningful significance to our family in some way beyond having the farm available for them,” Matt says. “There are some really interesting backstories that I think viewers are going to find fascinating — about our connection to these particular brides and grooms.”
“It’s like a blending,” Amy adds. “A blending of our family and the blending of a new family just beginning.” Because family, the Roloffs agree, is what they and their show have always been about.
“At first people may have wanted to see the show because they wanted to see what the little people were doing,” Amy says. “But after a while, people saw that there were so many similarities with what their own families were going through. We just had our 25th anniversary, so what a better to celebrate that than weddings on the farm!”
I talked with the couple — who really are as warm and engaging as they appear to be on TV — about the changes to their farm, their family and their show.
Channel Guide Magazine: Congratulations on the new series! Our readers are thrilled that you will be back on a weekly basis, even if it is limited one. So what made you decide to get into the wedding business — and then allow the cameras back in to capture the ups and downs.
Amy: OK, would you like two viewpoints on that? [laughs] You can get Matt’s viewpoint and then I’ll give you my viewpoint.
Matt: Well, for me, it was just that we were trying to think of what to do with the land, and we figured we could probably grow some pumpkins and maybe do a wedding or two over there. And then when we mentioned it to TLC at some point along the road, they said, “Weddings! What do you mean, weddings? You guys don’t do weddings!” They were all ears about what our weddings were going to look like, and we described it to them and they said “Yeah, that sounds like an interesting marriage right there — an interesting match! Weddings, and TLC and little people and family business. It just sort of all came together.
Amy: Matt’s definitely got the business end, which has helped us to do what we do right here on our own property. But I looked at it as, we’ve had such memories and such really special moments in our own families and our own lives, raising our kids here, and other events, that to open it up for weddings and have that one pivotal moment in someone else’s life experience here on the farm is humbling. We’re appreciative that they would pick here.
So we thought we’d open it up beyond pumpkins, beyond farming — a different perspective of what we can do with the property. And it’s been great. Like Matt said, what a perfect match when we found out what we wanted to do and to be able to tie it in with what TLC does. It’s great! It’s awesome!
CGM: Amy, you’ve said that you and Matt agreed to do Little People, Big World to educate people about dwarfism. But I’ve watched the show from the get-go, and to me — and, I think, to much of your audience — it quickly became a show about family and getting through, in good times and bad no matter what your particular challenges might be …
Amy: I think so, too. Our life is about family and each other and us as individuals as we go out on our different paths — but then bringing that all back together again. And, like you said, it is about ups and downs and challenges — let alone the challenges of being a little person raising a family.
Matt: And I think what we love about the wedding idea is that they’re also telling the backstories of these brides and grooms. That’s an important thing. They’re not just telling our story about our family and our farm — they’re also telling these wonderful stories that deserve to be told.
CGM: Without giving too much away, can you give me some examples?
Matt: Well, for example, one couple couldn’t afford to have their wedding at a location that they wanted to, so we decided that we could bring that environment here to the farm …
Amy: … using some of our resources to see if they would help out.
Matt: And another one was a military wedding. We have a deep connection to and honor for our military servicemen and women who protect our country and give us the freedoms that allow us to have our farm. And so to be able to honor the military in that way is another example of a connection.
Amy: And another is about starting over. He’s been married before, but he’s starting over and beginning a new life with someone else.
Matt: So all of them have a connection that we feel is profound.
Amy: It’s one of those things, as our family changes and having TLC still telling those special moments — whether it be one show at a time or this six-episode weekly series during the holiday time — the family is involved. There are still stories to tell, and it’s great to have TLC aboard.
CGM: My kids are just about exactly the same age as your kids, and we’re dealing with impending empty nest syndrome, too, so I got all choked up watching the “Molly graduates” portion of the series’ sneak peek. Is it especially poignant for you to have millions of viewers so invested in your family’s wellbeing?
Amy: Matt can probably comment on this, too — but the one thing that I’ve always found in doing our show is, in my opinion, it’s so real and these are such real moments in our lives that a lot of times, I don’t even think about all the people that are really watching that moment, because I’m so emotionally attached.
My daughter is graduating, she’s off to college — and that’s the third one. I’ve got one at home and I’m trying to do my best for him and get him headed off in the right place. So it’s not until I see the episode or I know the episode is coming out that I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what did I do? Did I cry? Was I emotional? What did I do — and all these people are going to see it?” So it’s not until after the fact sometimes that I realize, “Oh my gosh. We’re really doing this.” Because you get used to the cameras being around.
Matt: I’m always very stoic. I never cry on camera. [laughs] OK, I’m a mess and that’s a fact.
Amy: I’ll sometimes hold back, because I know so many people are watching. I’ll be like, “Oh no! I can’t cry in front of all those people!”
CGM: Amy, yes you can! As you said, that’s what people love about the show — its realness.
Matt: We’ve actually been around these cameras enough now to just be real and relaxed and be who we are. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, I think Amy and I just enjoy sharing our stories and we enjoy the process and the experiences we’ve had — and the inspiration we’ve gotten from people all over the world who have emailed us and contacted us and shared their personal struggles with adversity. It’s been a real blessing to be involved in the process. When we first started our show maybe six or seven years ago …
Amy: … we’re almost at 250 episodes! And I think that is something to celebrate, too. Going through that kind of event in a family’s life, and Matt and I are still hanging in there. The kids are still sane and they’re still doing good…
Matt: … they used to use the word voyeurism in relation to our show, because it was different to watch little people. I think the idea of our show being anywhere near voyeurism has long since gone away. We’ve become normalized in the eyes of a lot of people. Which is great. So if TLC continues to do that with other folks that have various differences — whether it be skin color, religious beliefs of whatever — we think it’s a great process.
CGM: You’ve also had the opportunity to educate people beyond the TV show and, Amy, you’ve launched a very successful charity …
Amy: If I can say anything about TV, let alone my kids doing quite well in this kind of situation — because sometimes it sucked going through TV — it would be to be able to take advantage of that opportunity to give back. I have my charity foundation, which gives back to other organizations that are doing really wonderful things with kids facing life challenges — foster care, homelessness, special needs — so if I could thank TV for only one thing, it would be the opportunity to do that. Matt and I love to give back in our own way, because we think we may have problems, but there are people out there that have more issues that they’re dealing with than what we may perceive that we’re dealing with.
Matt [laughing]: Amy says “going through TV” like it’s a physical event. Like going through an old tube TV. You’re right, Amy. Going through a flatscreen TV is a lot harder than it used to be. You have to squeeze, alright!
Amy: Oh, you know what I mean! Being on TV being a part of our lives!
CGM: You both still travel quite frequently, correct? How do you balance those responsibilities your family and the business?
Amy: Matt still likes to travel — and we try to balance out our schedules. Matt is definitely going through a lot more right now and I’m not as much. I’ve got a new cookbook out, so I’m trying to do what I can with that. But we try to make sure that one of us is here. Because we still have Jacob; he’s a 15-year-old boy that still needs a mom and dad around. So Matt’s definitely doing more speaking engagements right now, and we both partake in that. It’s just encouraging and motivating to have people who may have heard the same thing, but now they’re hearing it from a different perspective. To me that’s always good to know.
CGM: And Matt … ?
Matt: What? Oh! I’m just thinking about the fact that I have to be on a 6am flight back to New York!
Amy: It’s a good thing that I’m at home and not traveling, because he has trouble getting up, anyway. I have to help him get up and make the plane in the first place!
Matt: But Amy and I very much enjoy not only going out and talking to various community groups and universities and colleges and corporations, but the question and answer periods are a great way to find out what’s on people’s minds. You know, when we’re talking through the lens of a camera, sometimes it becomes a little bit one-way, so we do enjoy the times when we’re able to hear back from people. Whether we’re able to respond to everybody or not is another challenge, but the idea that we can hear what’s on people’s minds and listen to their stories helps inspire us.
CGM: Circling back to the show for a moment, what went into the design of the new wedding venue? I’ve seen some pictures and it really is splendid.
Amy: You take it, Matt! [laughs] That’s one thing I let Matt do. I said, “Well since we bought the place, I guess you can go ahead and make it pretty and beautiful and wonderful.
Matt: I pulled out all the stops! The centerpiece is really this 120-year-old barn, and the challenge was to make the barn safe and functional and beautiful, but maintain its original beauty. So right now, even though the rain pours into the barn from the sideboards, because of all the light that pours in there, too, it’s just a beautiful, ancient piece of construction — and we’ve just tried to keep it from falling down!
Amy: One thing I can say about Matt, of course, having lived with him for so many years, is that he really is creative and visionary in taking something that most people would say, “Oh my gosh, are you nuts?!” and making it work. Because there was so much junk around it, so much clutter — you would have thought these barns were falling down. But that’s one thing he’s good at is clearing it all away — clearing away the clutter — and really seeing a diamond in the rough.
Matt: That was our strategy — to first make the place simple and beautiful and elegant and rustic, but at the same time pick brides and grooms that had a story to tell.
Amy: And Matt has a team to make it all happen!
Matt: We did some pretty crazy stuff that you’re going to see.
Amy: And you need a good team to make it all work.
Matt: I do not. I can do it all myself …
Amy: That’s what he’d like to think.
Little People, Big World: Wedding Farm premieres Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 9/8CT on TLC.