I have a good friend who recently had the most awesome wedding that was perfect for her and her groom.
She didn't want to walk down an aisle full of people smiling manically at her. She didn't want to exchange sacred, personal vows in front of everyone she'd ever met. So with just her parents, his parents, their 2 brothers, me & my man in tow, they drove up the coast & got hitched in a ten minute ceremony on the beach. That's it. 8 guests. I don't know if you call that a small destination wedding or an almost-elopement, but it definitely is not the current standard for weddings. A couple months later, they had a reception that was pretty standard- buffet lunch, table full of sweets, favors- with about 80 of their nearest and dearest. Everyone knew from the get-go that this was the way the wedding would go down.
Right away there was a little drama. Several ladies had expressed a desire to throw a bridal shower. One friend was super gung-ho about it, right up until a week before when she realized I was invited to the ceremony and she was not. She then called foul, citing that it is bad etiquette to have a shower and invite people who are not invited to "the wedding". She was always kind of a drama queen, so when this was blown up to the point that she is no longer speaking to the bride, it felt like a blessing.
Here's the thing- that IS actual etiquette. At least for most people in the US, you don't invite some people to the wedding and others to the ceremony. And you definitely don't invite people to a shower who are not invited to everything else. But whatever. We wanted to throw our friend a shower, so who cares?
The shower, wedding and reception all went well, but after the reception my bride friend has expressed some disappointment. Many people no-showed, seeming to not take it very seriously. They didn't have any "first dances" but did want people to dance. Unfortunately, with no dj, no mc and no "the first dance has occurred" cue, the dance floor remained empty all afternoon. She was also surprised that people who went to the shower didn't also bring gifts to the wedding, and many people who DIDN'T go to the shower didn't bring so much as a card. Yeah… weddings aren't gift grabs, but you still sort of assume people will bring them because that's what you do. She asked me some questions about what is "usual" and I did say that it's fairly common in some circles to bring a shower OR a wedding gift. I also gently suggested that sometimes when people are not present for a ceremony they don't really think of the "reception" as a "wedding" but more of a "party" and therefore might be less likely to get a wedding present.
So here's the thing- do your thing. Do exactly what's right for you and your partner. But do know that when you forego a lot of the tradition and "what's expected" that people might not react in the expected, traditional ways.