The groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner. The bride's family pays for the wedding reception, along with everything else. LOL! Actually, groom's family is responsible for the bar at the reception as well. At least this is what I was informed of when planning my wedding for 2002.
My oldest sister, after being my maid-of-honor and freaking out over all the planning that went into a wedding, eloped to the Carolinas and sent us postcards that they had done just so (she had joked for years that they were going to do it, so it wasn't a surprise) and then a month or so later had a great backyard BBQ that became a yearly event. They were in their middle to late 30's at the time and it was what worked for them.
My middle sister, still not wanting a traditional church wedding after being in mine, got married in the woods somewhere near Denver in an outside chapel like place. She made her own dress too. She still had traditional vows and basically a traditional wedding reception, she just didn't want a church. They are real outdoorsy people too, so that setting fit them perfectly.
I, the most nontraditional of them all, had the traditional to the top (except, YES, I wore white and had my 5-year-old son as my ring bearer!) wedding and reception.
And to the idea that your gift has to cover the price of the meal you are served at the wedding reception? I had heard that, but the people who are still doing that are severely uneducated about the cost of a wedding today (at least how the majority choose to have a wedding). I would have a #$%^ a mile long if I had kept track about who covered their cost, but I was just happy that all but 4 people who had RSVP'd were there to celebrate with us and we didn't shell out all that money for nothing!
We were not raised in a small town, we aren't "hippies" or "rednecks", but we all had different weddings based on our financial situations and ideas of what our wedding was to be like.
Oh, I had traditional cake, my middle sister had traditional cake, but my oldest sister who had the BBQ decided on yummy pies! She just had to be different.
Now how did this thread get started?!?! LOL!