Decide what kind of wedding you want: how many people, how formal, etc. Then see if you can afford the size and kind of wedding you have in mind. If not, adjust the wedding–make it less formal and smaller. Have the wedding you can afford.
If someone offers to contribute money, it’s much better if they give you a check now than if they say they’ll pay for the food or whatever. Paying for the food gives them control over the food and, in some people’s minds, control over much else. Do not count on any gifts of money until they clear your account.
Also, do not ask anyone other than your fiance for a list of people to be invited. Ask for a list, you’ll get a list. Of people to pay for. Maybe people you don’t know. Maybe people you don’t like. Do. Not. Ask. Parents. For. Guest. Lists.
Two other urgent pieces of advice: Serve what you serve and don’t ask your guests to pay for any of it. Invite both halves of any couple; the two people involved get to decide if they are a couple or not. You do not, however, have to let people bring dates, that is, “plus-ones.”
We set an absolute maximum of 100 people because my husband wanted it as small as possible. Fifty each–we each made a list (this was hard, but we each picked fifty people.) Then we went looking for a venue that was pretty and convenient and could do both the wedding and the reception. And picked a Sunday so the streets nearby would be quiet and so there would be on-street parking for the guests.
And so on….music, flowers, officiant, vows, food, alcohol, clothes, pictures. We didn’t have a wedding party so that meant we didn’t have a rehearsal or rehearsal dinner. Stationery–you need invitations and you’ll write a lot of thank-you notes. That’s really all you need. One step at a time.
Budget. Kind of wedding. Number of guests. Maintain control. Those are the basics.