There Goes the Bride!

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There’s something irresistible about a bride, decked out in her wedding finery. Whether she’s wearing a silken sari in Sri Lanka, or a lacy gown in Spain, you can’t help but smile.

Barcelona couple

James says I take the best photos of the backs of brides. Instead of “Here comes the bride,” I’m more of a “There goes the bride” photographer.

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That’s usually because we’ve stumbled across the wedding party and I’m fumbling to grab the camera.

But every once in a while I manage to time it right …

and she turns around …

… and smiles, like this beautiful bride getting ready for her ceremony. When we asked her what time the wedding was, she replied, “Oh, 3:30 or 4:00.” I love her relaxed attitude!

Since James and I had a really simple wedding, I was wondering what the average wedding costs these days. The answer was a stunning $27,000 in 2011, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by The Knot, a wedding website. That number exceeded the median annual income in the U.S. Wow!

Of course you’ll feel much better knowing that when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married it cost $70 million!

A few weeks ago we came across a wedding reception on Jekyll Island that made our jaws drop. Everything was gorgeous – from the stylish lounge on the lawn to the lavish flower arrangements.

The florist disclosed that the flowers alone cost over $100,000. Yikes! I’d rather go traveling.

However, there seems to be an interesting backlash aimed at the “Wedding Industry.” The Huffington Post has launched a “Take Back Your Wedding” campaign designed to help couples sculpt the wedding that they want, not what they’re pressured to have.

HuffPost’s tongue-in-cheek rant shows couples what they can buy for the average price of a wedding in their city. For example:

  • New York city has an average wedding cost of $65, 824. That will buy 2 years rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in the East Village.
  • Chicago’s average wedding costs $53,824 – or the happy couple can buy 465 infield club box seats at Wrigley Field.
  • Las Vegas comes in under average at $25,311, which will also buy 2,531 $10 hands of blackjack at the Golden Nugget casino.

But our favorite suggestion came from Brian and Shannon at Everywhere Once, who recently posted  6 Life Changing Things You Can do for the Price of an Average U.S. Wedding. They proposed the couple could take the $27,000 and Travel Around the World for an Entire Year. Just imagine what a kickstart that would give to a lifetime together!

And just to add one final twist to bring this all full circle, a recent survey by Bing found that British women’s #1 priority is to travel the world rather than get married!

So, I guess … there goes the bride!

Personally, marriage has been very, very good to me. Been there … still doing that … and loving it!

Peace and Love,


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

39 thoughts

      1. Thanks Lisa, for the info on flowers from Ecuador, and also a big thanks for the link to our post. We don’t have a flower garden, and consequently, are always happy to get beautiful, cut flowers from Ecuador. ~Terri

  1. What a lovely post. And weddings these days are way too expensive. Weddings can be beautiful and simple affairs that have all the aspects of an expensive one, think outside the square. My wedding was around the $5000 tops. I would have liked to spend a bit more on a few parts, but it still would have only been ten at the most. 🙂

    1. Jennifer, I love your attitude. It’s always such an interesting challenge to make an occasion simple, elegant … and affordable! Sounds like you totally figured it out! All the best, Terri

      1. Looking back it was good and I wouldn’t change a thing, hut then I would have loved to do it differently as well, make sense??

  2. These are great photos! I feel like a guest!

    I really love to photograph brides, too! It’s so much fun to happen across wedding parties and share in their joy, in addition to photographing weddings of family and friends. I get a lot of backs of brides, too.

    I’ve attended some outdoor weddings recently, where I took a lot of photos. It was fun to look at my photos later and see all of the “strangers” who were attending at a distance.

    Both of my children are married now. I’m grateful that expense is behind us. Yikes. It’s amazing how quickly it adds up. I see how people want to scale it back.

    i just thought of this post I wrote in which there is a wedding party I happened across.

    1. Catherine, we’re always amazed at how many weddings we stumble into in our travels. I’m not sure if it’s luck or the places we visit. Either way, weddings are fun things to see. I loved your wedding parties with the shuttlecock. Mega-scale, outdoor art would be a great subject for a series of posts. In fact, you’ve inspired me to browse back through my travel photos and see what I find. ~Terri

  3. Having your cake and eat it, Terri? Wonderful that you have something you want to do together. Once you hit Jekyll Island all I could think of was “what couldn’t I do with that money?” You know the answer, of course! 🙂

    1. Travel of course. As a couple of poor university students, we could barely afford to get married, and our honeymoon had to be bare bones. Thanks goodness for a tax refund, which we used to fund our simple honeymoon. Looking back to our simple wedding and honeymoon, we wouldn’t change a thing. ~Terri

  4. Cute post, Terri. My daughter has been married twice. I paid for the first one and helped pay for the second one. Even with that help, she had to take out a second on her house for the second wedding, and remains under water because of it.

    1. Thanks Tom. Everyone follows their own path when it comes to weddings. Even way back then we just chose to throw any extra pennies into our “Travel Dream Fund” and have always been glad we did. 🙂 Terri

  5. I have always felt we would achieve equal rights for women when their rings and gowns cost the equivalent of a man’s gold band and a rented tux (like that will ever happen).
    My wife and I arranged our own wedding with a rented hall and catered dinner for 45 – total cost about $2,000. Now we are traveling. As you suggested, this is the best value for our money.
    Thanks for a fun look at ‘There Goes the Bride.’ – Mike

    1. Mike, I love your idea of equal rights for women – it really would simplify things! But you’re right – not gonna happen! We kept it so simple – I made my dress, James bought some new trousers, my parents provided their house and some flowers. Voila – a wedding. And we honeymooned at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky. It was wonderful. Your wedding sounds fantastic – and now you’re traveling. I think that’s the definition of bliss. ~Terri

  6. Love the post! We were poor students too, so our wedding cost virtually nothing. Family and a Justice of the Peace came to the house. Honeymoon had to wait until graduate school was over. That was 30 years ago! If we had money at the time, I would have rather spent it traveling. But how wonderful for others to have such beautiful weddings – the brides are lovely. Lucky you to stumble across such pretty events!

    1. Pam. We are such kindred spirits! Since we got married on Spring Break, our honeymoon was a few days in Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky (thanks to an income tax refund 🙂 ). It is amazing how often we stumble across weddings – I just need to get quicker on grabbing the camera! ~Terri

  7. crazy prices…. there was a programme on British TV just the other day where they showed how you can have a worderful wedding with give-aways. Using sites like Freecycle, women got a wedding dress for free, confetti for free, tiaras and shoes for frees, and lots of other things besides. Love the trip round the world for a year!

    1. That is SO cool! And incredibly creative. It just goes to show that generosity is not dead – especially for such a good cause. So are you at your home in Croatia now enjoying this beautiful summer? ~Terri

  8. I do love a good wedding and have been fortunate enough to be invited to several Turkish weddings where the emphasis isn’t on the lavish frock or reception, it’s that everyone comes and just has a good time

    1. Dallas, I love that attitude – have a good time! It’s all about the celebration of family, friends, and an upcoming life together. I haven’t been to a turkish wedding, but I bet they are fun. I’m curious, what does the wedding couple wear? We attended some weddings when we lived in Sudan and they were fascinating – especially to see the elaborate henna body decorations the brides wore. ~Terri

  9. The marriage is more important than the wedding. That is what I think. We had a beautiful, reasonably priced wedding. We went to Brazil for the honeymoon and saved enough money to move into an apartment and we were able to buy all of our furniture and appliances right off! No debt! I like to think we are off to a good start 🙂

    1. You and Felipe are so romantic … and smart! Being able to start your life together with no debt is fantastic. Congratulations! Hope you’ve been able to get your residency permit sorted out. All the best, Terri

  10. We had a simple wedding as well. I never could understand spending that kind of money on a day where the bride places her wedding gown into a hermetically sealed bad (do they still do that?), not to be seen again until perhaps a daughter may want to wear it to her wedding.

    1. Great question LuAnn! I don’t know – but I bet they do. I was always glad I passed mine on to a friend … who passed it on to a friend! I need a wedding dress tracking system (like Where’ to keep up with it! 🙂 ~Terri

  11. I rant when I think about the wedding industry. It has little to do with love and a whole lot to do with greed. Peggy, I, and our friends had a wonderful, fun time on $3000 and then the two of us flew off to Mexico. –Curt

    1. Curt, your wedding and honeymoon sound wonderful – and fun! I think that the expectations for a “perfect wedding” are over-hyped. I know that the “flubs” from our wedding (James forgot to bring his new pants home, etc.) are the most memorable … and laughed about! ~Terri

  12. Wonderful post- love that you have run across enough brides to do a photo essay. It is great to see the happiness of the “queen for a day” is cross cultural. Lovely!

    1. Thanks so much! It is amazing that we keep stumbling across the brides. Probably my favorite was the Buddhist Bride (in the hot pink top) whose little brother latched on to us and introduced us to the entire family. It was too endearing. ~Terri

  13. Interesting post! Weddings are indeed special events, albeit costly – here it’s a (less expensive) civil ceremony at the Mayor’s office, and most brides still wear the white bridal dress.

    1. Thanks Kim, so glad that you stopped by. I love hearing about wedding traditions in different countries. It seems that white gowns are fairly popular around the world, but the length varies. All the best, Terri

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