Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic get married at their home, in Canberra on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic get married at their home, in Canberra on Tuesday.

When Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic got married earlier this month, it was on a Tuesday night. They were wed in a brief ceremony in the lounge room of their Ngunnawal home in Canberra's north. About 25 friends and family members witnessed their vows and stayed for a drink afterwards.

The weekend before, Ashleigh bought a simple white dress and Narell bought a jacket and a top. In Ashleigh's words, "it was very low-key". If this sounds unusually informal, Ashleigh and Narell's wedding was organised quite literally in a matter of days - squeezed into the small window when same-sex marriages were possible in the ACT.

And yet the picture taken (by the virtuoso Alex Ellinghausen) the moment they were married is one of pure and unadulterated joy.

Dennis Liddelow and Stephen Dawson kiss after getting married shortly after midnight, in front of Parliament House on December 7.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Dennis Liddelow and Stephen Dawson kiss after getting married shortly after midnight, in front of Parliament House on December 7.

So far, the debate around same-sex marriage has understandably focused on the type of legislation needed to make it legal, the political battle facing marriage equality advocates and the opinions of the rest of the Australian community.

The flurry of same-sex weddings that took place in Canberra in those few days of opportunity also put human faces and feelings on something that was in danger of becoming an abstract concept. But in the process, is it possible that they also provide a damn good reality check for different-sex weddings?

Stephen Dawson and Dennis Liddelow rocked up just seven minutes before they were pronounced married outside Parliament House, with only a celebrant. A rainbow flag-topped table was hastily assembled as "decorations". Their embrace when they were declared married was no less jubilant than Ashleigh and Narell's.

Neither was that of Liz Holcombe and Darlene Cox, who were married not in formal gowns but casual shirts at the National Arboretum. Or Alan Wright and Joel Player, who had a dinner party at home before their ceremony, after midnight near the National Carillon.

Compare the lack of fuss here with mainstream modern wedding culture, where there is not the tiniest patch that ain't consumerised to the hilt and fussed over. Read magazines such as Bride to Be or Cosmo Bride or websites such as The Knot and you will find there is no shortage of suggestions on how to prepare and purchase for the big day. There is advice on everything from the elaborate proposal (that preferably goes viral on the internet), to the perfect engagement party (that has its own invitation and flower theme), the save-the-date card, the online gift registry, the super-fun bucks and hens nights (that last all weekend), the pre-wedding drinks function, the magical wedding itself, the post-wedding barbecue and then the exotic honeymoon. All of which, of course, require new outfits, nail polish, hair styles and personal trainers.

The term "wedding industrial complex" was not coined for nothing.

Besides, it's not just the magazines and bridal sites that are doing this. Real people are following suit with sky-high production nuptials. Recent reports put the length of the average modern engagement at between 15 and 18 months, while Bride to Be's ''The Cost of Love'' survey released in March found that one in three couples have a "destination" wedding (which means something either out of town or overseas) and one in 10 women say they will have a cosmetic procedure before their "big day".

And the ''big days'' are really big. According a 2010 survey published by The Knot, the average number of wedding guests is 99, with 60 per cent of couples surveyed going over their budget. No wonder recent polls of average Australian wedding costs put the total figure at between $36,700 and $54,294.

I'm sure I remember stories of people in my parents' generation getting married in someone's backyard with the cake made by a mate and the honeymoon involving a trip down the coast. So what in garter's name happened?

For Ashleigh and Narell, their Tuesday wedding was the second time they had exchanged vows. Two years ago to the day on December 10 they had a civil union, which Ashleigh tells me was "a more elaborate affair".

They had the fancy dresses, the bridesmaids, the flowers and 76 people came to the Lanyon Homestead to celebrate.

The first ceremony was "great," she says. But the second was no less so.

"Everything was so meaningful. Everything was done from the absolute bottom of our hearts … We didn't really mind about anything else."

Ashleigh and Narell's wedding was simple mostly because they had no time for it to be any other way.

But necessity has proven that all the belles, whistles and designer embossed invites are not necessary if it's old-school romance you're after.

It could also save you $54,294.

Judith Ireland is a Fairfax Media journalist.