My fiance and I have been planning our wedding for about 9 months now. We decided on something offbeat, fun, and relatively modest/manageable (we were aiming for about 130-150 guests, which I consider " mid-sized"). We were most excited to celebrate our families coming together, which has been several years in the making and extremely difficult. But we have hit a serious roadblock with new information that is coming forward from our families and I would love some input on how to handle it appropriately.
Originally we planned to pay for the wedding ourselves. Then my fiance learned that, because some of his relatives are glatt kosher, the whole reception must be kosher as well. This costs more money because we cannot use the inclusive wedding packages with in-house caterers for the venues where we live, therefore we have to not only hire an outside caterer but also pay for the kitchen to be koshered, rabbinical supervision, etc. My fiance told his parents that this wasn't in our budget, and they offered to pitch in 10k for the catering. After some tastings with the FIL we found a great caterer that could work with our venue, makes food my not-kosher family would enjoy, gave us a reasonable estimate, and the everyone seemed pleased.
However when we recently received the 98-person guest list from my FIL all those plans collapsed. I told them the size of the list was surprising because we agreed on a smaller wedding, and they explained that they thought a "small wedding" suggested 250-300 guests, because most of the big Jewish weddings in their family included 500+ invites. This is obviously not what we budgeted for at all, and neither family nor we can foot that bill. Now please don't get me wrong, the 10k the FIL offered is a lovely offer, but it will not cover the catering for their guest list alone. I tried to explain that there is literally no money to pay for this, and the response was essentially "we can't cut any more people, you'll figure it out". It doesn't feel like anyone cares much that this huge expensive formal wedding is not what we want and will put us horribly in debt. There has also been a few references to the "wedding gift" from his grandparents a.k.a. inheritance that may be lost if the wedding (and my conversion) isn't up to his family's standards...which, needless to say, makes me unbelievably uncomfortable. There is a big culture gap between our families that I am failing to
bridge, and with these high expectations and heavy subtext I don't know what the proper etiquette is to move forward with our planning.
I am basically at the end of my rope after having everything we have chosen for our wedding--the day, season, state, venue, style, food, ceremony, and now size and budget--vetoed after all our planning. I feel it's really unfair to expect us to save up tens of thousands of dollars that we probably wouldn't want to spend on 5 hours of our lives even if we were rich. I'm genuinely afraid this is going to end with us starting our marriage in crippling debt and my fiance estranged from his family. And as difficult as they may be, we love them and want them in our lives.
At this point our options appear to be 1) finding a synagogue or other Jewish venue near his family where we can try to stretch our budget to accommodate more guests, possibly alienating my Christian family and their tiny guest list; 2) having a small wedding and risking my fiance losing his inheritance and more importantly his family's tenuous affection/approval; 3) cutting our friends and my family from the guest list and have some kind of backyard BBQ with them after the wedding; 4) planning some kind of destination wedding for which my FIL may not feel obligated to invite so many friends; 5) further postponing the wedding.
Does any one have any thoughts or recommendations about this? I never thought planning our wedding would be such a miserable experience and I am about 5 seconds away from eloping at this point, so I would be grateful for any thoughts or advice! Thanks girls.