Chelsea Clinton's parents can afford the bill for her gigantic wedding without taking a hit to their net worths. I don't think they're obligated to drop that kind of coin, but I doubt the question even arose.
A friend of mine's wedding cost at least $30,000. That's a down payment on a nice house. I don't know if the bride's or groom's family helped with the financing, but I also don't agree with any tradition dictating other family members to ante up. A lasting marriage needs a solid foundation: spiritually, emotionally, and financially. Buying only the kind of wedding you can afford will prepare you for fiscal challenges down the road.
At least two other couples I know did it on a budget with a team effort. They recruited relatives to plan and make decorations, do the sewing, grab the flowers, handle the baking, and improvise where they could. They didn't need wedding planners, and they probably couldn't afford them anyway. Glitches popped up as they always do, but the newlyweds bobbed and weaved through them and eventually laughed it all off.
They saved more than money. Sanity may have run on vapors, but the dreaded bridezilla syndrome never materialized. The collaboration brought people together. And most importantly, the wedding remained a wedding and did not morph into a coronation as so many weddings become.
Think about this: when was the last time you marveled at the outfit the groom was wearing? So much sweat and tears go into the bride's attire and the atmosphere surrounding it. We have consistently told brides it's their day, glossing over the fact that she's taking a vow to her husband, not kneeling under a crown. (For the record, if I ever get married, I'm requesting the option of wearing 18th Century formal attire like you see here. Why should my bride get to have all the fun dressing up?)
It didn't take a psychology degree to determine why notorious runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks bolted after she finally came clean about her faked abduction. Her nuptials were becoming too big to handle, begging the question of how she let them get so big in the first place. If a ceremony is ballooning out of control, then it's time to rein it back in. It is your day, remember? Or realistically, our day.
You can always elope. It's not glamorous, and it upsets the parents, but they won't mind so much when you tell them they won't have to write a check to the caterer. Then the focus shifts to starting a life together, where it should be.
My brother and his bride had the kind of white wedding you don't wish for: a January event marred by a winter storm in St. Louis. Most of the groom's side of the family couldn't make it in from Kansas City. A honeymoon in Chicago turned into a staycation at the Adam's Mark by the Arch. The post-reception party at our house -- for those who wanted to consume adult beverages -- downsized to my mother and I watching the wedding video over pizza and champagne. The happy couple is going strong ten years later, with three beautiful children. A wedding is merely one day. A marriage is a lifetime.