I figured my wedding out (7 months planning time) in this order:
1. The when: We wanted fall. I picked a few dates that I would be happy with.
2. The who: I made a list of all the guests I knew I definitely wanted there (closer family). I checked out the proposed dates with them to make sure their schedules would work with my dates. Less guests = easier to plan.
3. The date: Combine the when and the who to choose a date. Or two possible dates. Call guests to let them know the date so they can have more time to buy plane tickets (since you’ll have not yet sent out invitations). Again, I think a more limited guest list is key given the time frame, desire for simplicity, and budget.
4. The reception venue: Since your family is coming from far away, aim for close by. It would be easiest if the church has a reception hall. Also, look for places that have in-house catering, tables, linens, etc.. One (or more) less vendor to hire makes your life easier. It will be harder to coordinate the set up if you have to rent tables, chairs, linens, and have the food brought in to boot. Consider an hors d’oeuvres reception in the afternoon to cut costs.
5. The invitations: Consider ordering something off a site like weddingpaperdivas. I ordered my save the date cards off of there and they were affordable, beautiful, and quick. Or for even cheaper, order an invitation kit from Target (about $25 for a set of 50) and print them off on a laser printer at home or work. My friend did this and they are very cute.
6. The photographer: If you have the money for a pro but can’t find one available, ask them for recommendations. Often they will know who is just starting out and would give you a good rate. Also, consider not hiring a professional photographer but instead creating a flickr pro site for guests to upload photos to. (You can designate someone to take the standard portraits with a nice camera).
7. The cake: Grocery store bakeries can often create beautiful cakes on a limited time frame and budget. Or consider having a cake spread out of grocery store cakes—that will be much more affordable and is very in right now.
8. The dress: Really this step is simultaneous with everything else. You’re going to have to get something off-the-rack or used from another bride, since there’s no time to get anything custom ordered. Try on dresses at a salon that lets you know what the dresses are (not all of them do—some cut tags out!). Find a few that you love and see if you can find the same one or something similar on ebay, craigslist, or weddingbee classifieds. Wedding consignment shops are another good option. Check out bridesmaids dresses in white too.
9. Flowers/decorations: Consider DIYing your bouquet and bridesmaids flowers if you’re having them (or having a relative do them). Non-floral decorations are cheaper than flowers. Potted plants or flowers are cheaper and won’t die on you :).
10. The DJ: Consider an iPod reception in lieu of a DJ or band. There’s tons of information and stories on here about doing that.
Finally, don’t let the lists on Martha Stewart and The Knot scare you! I hated logging into those sites because they constantly told me I had like 200 unfinished tasks. They are good to see that you aren’t forgetting anything but otherwise I found them overwhelming for planning on a relatively short time scale. Hope this helps!