13/08/2013 18:12 BST | Updated 13/10/2013 06:12 BST

Save Your Marriage: Shrink Your Wedding

Following the recent Knightley-Righton wedding in May 2013, many couples are choosing to downsize their big - should that be little? - day in favour of something simpler and more personal.

British actress Keira married her musician boyfriend James in a town hall in Agen, France. The couple stood up in front of just a handful of carefully chosen guests and the bride wore a strapless prom dress reminiscent of a Rodarte gown she had worn at a previous occasion. At the end they were whisked away to their honeymoon in a Renault Clio. An ocean apart from the glitz and glamour of the traditional Hollywood affair, their low-key wedding even earned the praise of a High Court Judge, who said that couples should follow their lead!

After all, we all know that some celebrities change partners more often than they change hair styles. While these short-lived celebrity marriages are partly due to the pressures of fame, it is also likely that the emphasis these couples place on their wedding(s) sets an unrealistic standard for married life that cannot be sustained once the confetti has been swept away. Tom Cruise / Katie Holmes, Peter Andre / Katie Price and Ben Affleck / Jennifer Lopez are amongst the celebrity couples whose nuptials were famously expensive; yet despite the price-tag, none of these marriages have stood the test of time. It seems that a down-to-earth wedding is a way to start marriage on the right foot.

It's not just British celebrities that have been trading in the fairy-tale wedding for a casual celebration: back in 2002, actress Julia Roberts and cinematographer Danny Moder surprised guests at their ranch home in Taos, New Mexico, when their July 4 party turned into a discreet midnight wedding ceremony. Likewise, Megan Fox tied the knot with Brian Austin Green in 2010 on a Hawaiian beach with just one witness, Green's son.

With the average wedding costing a staggering £20,000 by some estimates, is it any wonder that non-celebrity couples are also going back to basics? Not only are we getting married later in life than our parents' and grandparents' generations - (ages 28 - 30 today compared with ages 20 - 23 in 1950), but with more of us pursuing careers and families at the same time as planning a wedding, splashing out for just one day feels like an unaffordable and unnecessary luxury.

With celebrities as our role models, not to mention the influence of TV and film - where the sun is always shining and the bride's makeup is mysteriously resistant to her (joyful) tears - we have developed an unreasonable expectation for how our own wedding should be. Add to this the social kudos of the having a big and beautiful celebration, thanks to programmes such as Bride Wars and Don't Tell the Bride, not to mention the pressure to share every photogenic moment on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, and you can see how the dream wedding can quickly become a nightmare. No wonder so many of us succumb to the stress and become Bridezillas.

But why should one of the happiest days of your life also be one of the most stressful? If you step back and remember the reasons why you are getting married in the first place, nowhere on the list should be, 'to impress my friends with the prettiness of my wedding' (if it is, then perhaps you should rethink those vows). When did marriage stop being the main goal of the marriage ceremony?

Fortunately, the stripped-back wedding is not only more affordable, but also easier and more fun to plan. Invite only your closest family and friends (if you must explain, just say that you would prefer a very quiet ceremony) and swap professional catering for a pot-luck buffet - where everyone brings a dish to share. Set up a Facebook group or email thread to discuss dietary requirements and delegate starters, mains and desserts. And for a small amount of guests, there is no need for a tiered cake; if you are lucky enough to have a baker in the family, all the better.

According to Leicester wedding venue the City Rooms, one of the best ways to trim costs is by utilising your guests' talents as much as possible. Is your nephew an up-and-coming graphic designer? Ask him to create your invitations. Is your cousin part of a band? Ask them to perform at your reception. And as for your dress, try Oxfam or online brand Etsy for pristine pre-loved gowns. By including your guests at every turn, not only do you keep costs down, but spread the responsibility, which can offer stress-relief in the run up to the day itself. Perhaps best of all, the people who know and love you the most will be able to add the personal touch that will make your day completely unique.

Downsizing your wedding does not mean compromising on a beautiful celebration. But by taking a leaf out of Keira Knightley's book, rather than Katie Price's, you can focus on the important part of your wedding - the marriage - making your little day somehow all the bigger.