Congratulations! It's great that you have so much time to plan, and are sticking to your priorities when it comes to budget. It's so easy to fall prey to "wedding fever" when everybody's telling you what you "must" have or "must do" to have a nice wedding. If you've got the money to spend, great, but when you're trying to keep expenses down, you've got to think creatively!
I have officated at weddings in gardens, parks, the trapper's cabin at a local forest preserve, VFW hall, community room at an apartment complex, government building.... you name it, I've done a wedding there! You don't have to hold yours at a "wedding" place -- think of the places in your area that have SPACE available:
Does your local college have a garden, or meeting room where they hold meetings or events?
Have you checked out local organizations such as the Elks, VFW, American Legion, etc?
Is there a senior center or YMCA that has spaces you can rent?
Do you know someone who lives in an apartment complex with a community facility?
Other ways to economize:
Time your wedding so that you can have a brunch or dessert reception -- much less expensive than a buffet or sit-down dinner. Or hold a "high tea".
Think "informal" -- the more formal your wedding, the more expensive it will be. If you make it more informal, you broaden your options and save money.
Is there a culinary school/college nearby? Having them cater your reception would be much less expensive than a regular professional caterer.
Probably one of the best investments you can make is to head to your local bookstore and pick up a book or two on weddings on a budget -- you should find a wealth of other ideas there.
Happy hunting! And keep us posted....
Marti Barton, Officiant