I’m also going through this, just over a month in, and fight being overhwelmed every few days. 🙂 It doesn’t help that my FI was called out of state for work 2 weeks after we got engaged — so I’ve been essentially on my own. Not fun.
The FIRST thing I would do, that I have found most useful, is to get a wedding-only email account. You will be spammed from now until forvever, so best be spammed in an account solely for wedding stuff, that you can see or avoid as needed. Make sure both you & your FI have access to it — this wil cut down on confusion.
I got a gmail, and am so happy I did — with him out of town, and busy MoH/family, I can do all my planning in GoogleDocs online. He can see and edit the same docs from out of state, we can set sharing privledges for loved ones to view/edit as we see fit, and no worries about what computer you are on. Its better than a binder!
Venues: Sit and write a list of what you want, and prioritize it (must have vs. wish), and do this with your FI, comparing notes. Then do the same for your guest list (Must invite, B group, C group). Pick 2-3 top items you are willing to spend more $ on (food, dress, photography, etc.), and how much (it helps to narrow down what is most important!). Then finalize the rest of your budget after these. With all of this information at hand, it will be easier for you to pick a venue & vendors, since you can dismiss things faster.
Things I’m learning to my dismay: Rustic & quirky & DIY do not always equal less expensive! 🙁 We want offbeat, relaxed, casual too, but there are so many options. Being flexible is key, as long as you know your guest list/budget/top priorities. Every venue has their own rules, capacity & minimums.
I don’t like The Knot — they spam me daily, usually with just stuff to sell. I like this site & also http://www.offbeatbrides.com You can get lots of ideas from offbeat brides. Another great site with venue searches you may like is http://www.intimateweddings.com/
When I get overwhelmed, I stick to site that focus on simplicity, like http://www.nodramabrides.com/ & Real Simpe Weddings: http://browse.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/weddings/index.html I highly recommend Real Simple Weddings from the magazine rack — the ONLY one I found worth spending the money on! No major advertizing, just clean design, calming checklists and helpful tips.
When all else fails, I go look at this guy. He makes my day!