Sorry if this is long...I just got married this spring and am still coming down from wedding land!
This book www.windsorpeak.com/bridalbargains/default.html
is a lifesaver! Well worth the very reasonable paperback price, and you can find it at most book stores.
We used it for a lot of advice. We didn't have the option of a small wedding - my husband's family is very large & their weddings are considered a big family event. We thought back to what made wedding receptions we attended memorable & fun for the guests, and tried to make that the priority & not worry too much about every little extravagant detail.
Watch out for the bridal magazines - they're great for dress ideas, but they're really in business for their advertisers, and will push all sorts of expenses and "extra special touches" that you "must have" but really are just additional expenses. Do you really remember every detail of weddings you've been to, or just the happy couple & if the food & drink was good, and if you had a good time at the reception? The kind of people who would judge us b/c we didn't have lace chair covers aren't the kind of people I'm worried about impressing.
I bought a moderately-priced off-the-rack wedding dress & had a seamstress customize it the way I wanted. We had the wedding in a small town not too far from the city and utilized the small-town vendors - we received excellent service at a very reasonable price, just the opposite of what we would have received here in the city. The 1890's painted church was gorgeous, so we didn't even need any church decorations. The church hall was very affordable but also very plain, so we had a woman local to that town who does bridal rentals decorate it for us - she did a fantastic job & made it look heavenly for a very reasonable price, and we weren't stuck owning a bunch of wedding decorations. For catering, we had BBQ (yes, we're in Texas all right!) from a restaurant that we go to regularly - they gave us a really good price and great service, I think a large part of that was because we're regular customers of theirs.
One area where I wouldn't skimp is the photographer, though. I've had friends who were unhappy with their photos, and can't re-take because it's a one-time event. Get names from friends and relatives who were happy with their photographer, and interview the photographer in person- he or she needs to be someone you can get along with on a stressful day, too.
For general wedding ideas & info, www.theknot.com
is a great site...just watch out b/c it's like an internet bridal magazine & they have lots of suggestions for you to spend lots of money! www.bridesave.com
has wedding gowns for sale online...I didn't buy from them b/c I wanted to see the gown & try it on, but they have lots of gorgeous gowns to look at to get an idea what you want to try.
Have fun, enjoy this special time, and if anyone offers to help, take them up on it!