Here are the things a wedding requires:
1) Some number of consenting adults who intend to marry each other.
2) A duly credentialed officiant whose schedule has an opening on the appointed day.
4) A habitable biosphere.
Everything beyond this is optional. Groomsmen? Optional! Flowers? Optional! A DJ who can rock the hot tunes or whatever? Optional! A honeymoon? Optional! A photographer? Optional! Embossed and filigreed save-the-date cards? Stupid, but also: optional!
A wedding is not expensive, because "Wedding, A" is not some discrete thing that you buy, but rather an agglomeration of discrete things that you heap or do not heap, entirely of your own volition, onto the performance of a fairly simple ceremony. A ceremony, by the way, that can be completed at the county courthouse for a modest fee and the cost of obtaining a wedding license. A wedding, in short, can be no more costly or complicated than renewing your driver's license.
Carping about the cost of an elaborate wedding is a common pastime in our culture, mostly because carping about the cost of a luxury item is considered the socially acceptable way of publicly congratulating yourself for having enough money to obtain it in the first place. Gosh, I just do not know how we will pay for this wedding; the rainforest of exotic genetically engineered flowers I custom-designed are gonna cost $45,000 all by themselves! Yes, a large number of fresh, artful floral arrangements will tend to cost a lot of money. How very lucky for you, then, that "a large number of fresh, artful floral arrangements" is a whole different thing from "a wedding."
You know what else tends to cost a lot of money? A space shuttle. If you do not want to absorb the cost of a space shuttle, do not choose to have a space shuttle at your wedding. Not for nothing, but this will make things a lot easier for the event organizer down at the Knights of Columbus lodge or wherever you are staging this thing.
Here is what costs a lot of money: whims. Whims are expensive. Customizing the universe to meet your expectation of perfect, absolute gratification in all things is expensive, which is why only the rich tend to get to do it. This is a tough break for the rest of us. Thankfully, adapting our expectations—or, at least, moderating the quantity and volume of our complaining when those expectations are not met—is pretty cheap. The life of a real person with real-person adversity and real-person responsibilities gives you that one entirely for free.
Indulge a parable, if you will. A young lad—let's call him, oh, Ulbert Murneko—dreamed of one day playing basketball, just like his then-hero, then-NBA-star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, then did. Oh, how grand and glorious it would be! To dunk, and score from all over, and throw alley-oops to Shaquille O'Neal, and be 6-foot-7 and handsome and charismatic and have a puppet doppelgänger voiced by Chris Rock.
Sadly, bitter experience and a dawning awareness of the harsh realities of genetics taught young Ulbert that, at the very least, becoming Penny Hardaway would require many millions of dollars, as well as several still-far-off and probably completely ludicrous advancements in the likely nonexistent scientific field of Replacing Young Boys' Entire Bodies With Much Larger and More Athletic Bodies for the Fulfillment of Sports Fantasies. This was quite a bummer. What would have been a worse bummer would have been if he'd reacted to this initial bummer by complaining that basketball is too expensive, because this would have revealed him to be an entitled weenie, rather than a mundanely silly kid with mundanely outsized dreams.
Basketball is cheap. It can be had for no more than the cost of a basketball and transportation to one of the public hoops in your local municipality. If you wish to play basketball, those are the things you need: a basketball, and a hoop (or hoop-like object affixed to a lamp post). If you wish to be Penny Hardaway, that will likely cost a lot of money, but wishing to be Penny Hardaway is not the same thing as wishing to play basketball, and even a modestly wise person can differentiate the two.
The moral of this parable is that the cost of a thing is not always the same amount as the cost of having it exactly the way you want it. Rice is fairly cheap; on the other hand, engraving your name on 10 trillion grains of rice, filling each grooved engraving with molten gold, boiling this engraved rice in expensive champagne, eating it on the International Space Station, and calling this your "Special Rice Day" is very expensive. If that is too expensive for you, fine, good, me too—but, you can still have a bowl of rice for, like, 22 cents. The problem is not the cost of rice. The problem is that your vision of rice-eating frankly is dumber than shit.
This is not just a semantic point. Life in a merciless, pitiless capitalist dystopia is already hard, and frequently miserable; to adopt language implying that the outrageous optional luxuries of the rich are, in fact, requirements of that life is to adopt the value system of those trying to convince us to purchase those luxuries. It is to accept the consumerist notion that your life is incomplete unless you have all the same fancy bullshit as Bruce Wayne. It is to be a sucker.
Weddings are not expensive. Whims are expensive. Have the wedding you can comfortably afford, indulging only those whims that fit comfortably within your budget; this wedding, by definition, will be quite affordable. The other option is to have exactly the wedding the TV says you must have, and to shut the fuck up about how it costs too much, because it doesn't, because it costs exactly as much as you have chosen to pay for it.
Image by Jim Cooke