Sometimes, I'll have couples sit in my office during that first consultation and say quite succinctly - "we don't have any money". Now, everyone's version of "no money" is different, but for the sake of argument here...we'll say that "no money" equals serious zero dollars.
If that's the case - my suggestion is always simple and pure. Don't do something you can't afford. If you know that your budget is $5000 or less, do not try and have 300 guests, a 25 person wedding party and your mom firing it up in the kitchen. And before you tell me that there isn't anything wrong with that scenario - allow me to tell you that it's not a matter of "right" versus "wrong. It's just plain common sense.
I haven't quite figured out why people think this CAN happen - just because they want it to. The harsh reality is that weddings cost money. I'm not saying that to be mean - it is what it is. HOWEVER, that's not to say you can't still celebrate becoming Mr. & Mrs. - oh, but you can. It's about defining what that checkbook looks like and what you can really do for your big day. If it means that you have a small, intimate ceremony with just immediate family in the chapel of your church, then head out to lunch at a local restaurant...that's fine. And if it's getting married in your parent's backyard under the oak tree that you used to climb every day without fail...then having a relaxed barbeque with Uncle Bob manning the grill...that works too.
My bottom line of advice on this topic is this - at the end of the day, you need to be extraordinarily comfortable with the decision you make. Life as a newlywed couple starts the moment you say "I do" and in my 16 years as a planner, I've seen brides and grooms who make the unwise decision of going into debt to finance a nuptial shindig. That's one of the worst ways to start your new life...since money issues are the number one reason folks get a divorce..
A wedding is a ritual and as such - you have the unique ability to craft it as you see fit. This is not about showing off for others, it's really about the "joining" of hearts, minds and souls. Let me be the first to say that it's okay if you don't have a ton of money to spend on your wedding. There is no such thing as the "wedding police" who are going to cite you for that...so relax. Sit down with your fiance(e) and honestly talk about what funds are available - then decide what is most important to you in the grand scheme of things. Whatever those important "items" are - that's where you concentrate the funds you have. And when it's all over - you will have said "I Do" in a way that fits your lifestyle AND your wallet..