I wanted to respond to one comment in particular. Meg, from A Practical Wedding (a site I frequent nearly every day), said:
"I think it's important to remember that people can spend different amounts of money (and for different reasons) and still make things work out in a calm simple manner. For us, our parents wanted to feed people a bit more formally then we might have cared about, and have a lot of relatives, and were willing to help pay for that option, so that is fine for us."
I definitely don't ever want to seem dogmatic on 2000dollarwedding. I agree with Meg that different people can spend different amounts. $2000 was a very arbitrary number. It felt like enough to host a big event for our friends and family but not too much to put us in debt, force us to ask our families for money, or detract us from our goal of buying a house four days after our wedding.
I think it's important, though, to be very careful about the influence we let our families have on our weddings. Matt's family was super-eager to help out with our wedding, and I imagine they would have planned something more formal than a self-catered reception. At times, I even doubted that Matt and I could pull it off.
In the end, however, I am so, so glad we followed our own path, independent of our families' preferences. A few hours before the ceremony and the reception, a dozen or more of our closest friends descended upon the kitchen in the main house of Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Kevin was in charge of the bean and corn salad, Andy the salsa, me the guacamole, Brian and Christa the seven-layer dip, and Brent the fajitas. On top of that, we had tons of sous-chefs chopping away. Occasionally, people would wander in and shout, "Who needs help?" One of us would respond with, "Here, chop these onions" or "Please dice these tomatoes!"
At the reception, everyone raved about how fresh and tasty the food was (Editor's Note: I'm particularly skeptical of this kind of feedback because, honestly, are people really going to say, "Wow, Sara, the food isn't that good"?).
But near the end of the reception, into the wee hours of the morning, I wandered into the living room and came upon three of Matt's friends. They all talked about how much they enjoyed the wedding, about how they wanted to take our wedding binder so they could have the exact same wedding. When I assured them that their fiances would want to plan their own weddings, one of them added, "Well, you'll have to work with her to plan it then."
I turned the flattery back on them and thanked them--profusely--for all their help. I explained that we seriously could not have done it without their contributions. One of them said, "We liked the wedding so much because we got to help. We really felt like we were part of it."
It's a moment that will stay with me long after some of the other details fade. It's a moment I wouldn't have had if Matt and I had been afraid of conflict with our family. I think families need to realize that their children's weddings should wholeheartedly reflect their children, not themselves. It's hard because we are extensions of our families, branches that connect to the main trunk. But ultimately, a wedding should be a pure and true expression of the couple getting married.