They may want a small intimate affair, hence the date and location, but are feeling pressured to invite people because that is how OP's daughter did it, and how the groom's brother did it. This, obviously hits a nerve with me, because thanks to the non stop pressure and PA stuff from MIL, we did not get the wedding we wanted, instead we ended up doing it (nicely) at a JP with no parents (I couldn't ask mine and not his). Because they had always had the big family reunion weddings on his side, we were expected to also and when we said no, it would be small (100 people tops but we were planning on cutting that down). She, no matter how many times we explained that we were paying for it, said "well, this is how my family celebrates any occasion and you will just have to ask your father for the money.(her initial list had over 200 people!) I also received money from my dad, the same amount he gave my sister but we were using that for our relocation to another state for his job. I think the OP is making assumptions without speaking to the HC, altho they are under no obligation to explain why they want to have their wedding this way. Also, as far as making it about your guests...yes, there should be decent food & drink for the guests and the couple should make a point of speaking to each guest throughout the reception, but as far as making sure the guests have accommodations they find up to their individual tastes, I think all the couple is responsible for is giving suggestions for places to stay in the area and leaving it up to the invitees to decide what works for them.
And as far as their registry, just because they have one doesn't make it mandatory to buy off of it. A lot of times with registries, employees work with the couple and convince them that they just have to have the $200 silver chafing dish, or the $500 tea service, so they put it on, knowing darn well they aren't getting it.