Well, Jeff. I've jumped in head first and am just past the NEWB stage myself, but nowhere near ready for the deep end. Let me tell you what I've learned so far:
1) It is not ever going to be 'fiddle free'. For a few thats bad, but for most, it is a good thing.
2) Your budget is $3000.00 - have you thought about your screen? You can spends lots there too, depending on the size, retractable, etc.
3) What about the DVD? They do not give you an output that is anything near HDTV, so you may see some defects or get some artifacts that you wouldnt get or notice on a smaller sreen. (I notice, my wife does not)
I am presently dealing with #3. I have recently been turned onto Home Theater PC (HTPC), which you may also want to consider.
It will play DVD with a signal output that matches your projector (acting as a scaler), you gan get a HDTV card to receive HDTV, you can set it to RECORD HDTV programming in HDTV quality, (not even possible w TIVO), and a multitude of other features. All for a cost that is not much more than you'll pay for a quality HDTV decoder.
and scroll down until you get to Vince Maskeerers lengthy report "HTPC: Home Theater Personal Computer-An introduction to HTPC" He is the GURU of HTPC and his efforts to educate us are commendable.
I am going to get a HTPC - though it is presently my wifes turn to buy a toy and she wants a Hot Tub. (I just got a projector and a car)
When all is said and done, here are my specs:
1 NEC LT260 projector (not 16:9 native, but I am gameing on it also plus I do not get HDTV in my rural area) Satalite looks GREAT on it. Cost $3000 using Projectorsuperstore through Projectorcentral.com bidding.
2) Dalite 8X6 retractable screen - High Rez. $800-$1000.00 I forget. If I could do it again I'd get tensioned or a fixed screen. Fixed around $500 tensioned areound $2000 (in a dedicated room go fixed!)
3) HTPC - depending if I chose to upgrade or buy: $250-$1000
4) Sound system: 15" Velo sub, Infinity Entraone fronts, embarrasing-blah rears, Sherwood receiver and 100' of decent wire: $1,700.00
5) Watching and FEELING a 6'X8' planet explode during MIB2 and hearing your children squeal with glee? - priceless!
From what I've read of your posts I believe you'll be happy with a FPTV, but just remember that a $3000 projector is the core of the system, but not a stand-alone item.