The things I'm going to tell you to do first have not too much to do with your questions :)
1. If you haven't done it yet, the #1 most important things to do is to BUDGET. Make a realistic budget of how much you can and are willing to spend. Try to stick to it. If you are having any outside financial contribution (eg. from parents) be clear from the beginning what, if any, strings are attached- what are they expecting other than to write a check?
2. Make sure you, your fiance, and your families are on the same page about what the wedding will be. At a minimum, you and your fiance (but also parents, etc. if you want) should each make a list of your top few MOST important aspects and LEAST important aspects for the wedding. Plan to splurge on the most important; scrimp on or skip entirely the least.
3. MOCK UP A GUEST LIST. Categorize it by VIP, MUST HAVES, Like/Want to Haves, and Courtesy Invites. Doing so will give you a good idea of the scale of your wedding and will also give you ideas on cost when you're looking at venues. If you find a place you love but can only afford VIPs and MUST HAVES, then you know in advance.
Okay, once you've done those things, go for it! I planned my wedding from out of state as well. We took 2 or maybe 3 trips to the area total in the year. I did a lot of online research and when we liked something and were happy with the price we went with it. No second guessing. Really, decision making was much easier because I didn't have the time to stress about meeting 5 florists or searching for the very very very best deal. (Wedding rule #1- You can always pay less- or more!- for whatever you want, but it doesn't mean you should... time is money; if you're spending hours upon hours trying to find the very best deal, you're not actually saving anything.) We visited 1 reception site, 1 florist, 1 baker, 1 DJ, 1 salon, and 1 photographer. Actually, I booked my photographers and DJ without even meeting them- just talking on the phone/emailing. I didn't meet them until our engagement shoot. All of our vendors were brilliant. We spent one afternoon driving around looking at the area churches and researching a rehearsal dinner site.
I got my dress near my home, as did all my bridesmaids (got their dresses near their home). My dad, a printer, did my invitations but then just shipped them to me. Basically everything that's not a vendor can be bought wherever and whenever. However, just remember that any physical items you buy at home will have to be transported to the wedding somehow. Be prepared. I'm not joking when I say this- we took a small trailer along with my Jeep to haul all of our stuff to the wedding.
Good luck, and most importantly of all, ENJOY this time!