Weddings don't just happen. There's a lot of pre planning beforehand, usually several months before the big day. Although having said that, I have done a wedding with just half an hour's notice and literally had to wing it! The photographer on that day just didn't turn up, didn't phone, e mail, or even send a carrier pigeon!
Luckily, the bride's brother in law had my number in his phone and I stepped up to the plate so to speak - I always keep my cameras ready and batteries fully charged up. This story brings me to my first tip:
Something that may seem unimportant but please make sure you have wedding insurance - something I always recommend but don't insist on. The above couple had wedding insurance fortunately and successfully claimed their money back from the original photographer. I can provide you with a wedding insurance enquiry form and no I don't work for the company or benefit from any premium you might take out.
Is the photographer insured? No self respecting photographer will work without insurance and I have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance plus employer liability for any second photographer that I use. In fact, the majority of venues now insist on the photographer being insured and ask for a copy of their certificate. So the first question to ask the photographer before "How much do you charge?" should be "Are you insured?"
Unless your friend or friend of a friend who's doing it as a favour to save you money is in business as a photographer, then chances are they won't have insurance. They could then be refused access to the venue and your day is ruined as you won't have any photographs to remember it by. This is not me scaremongering or fishing for business, it's a cold hard fact. The unexpected could happen and the photographer concerened could end up with a huge legal bill and so could you.
Does the venue have insurance - silly question? You might think so but ask anyway, you just never know.
I have whole blog entries on why you shouldn't choose your photographer based on price alone or on the equipment they use so won't bore you by repeating them here.
To make your day run smoother and to allow you to spend more time with your guests, you'll be asked to provide a list of "must have" photographs. This makes my job easier and (usually) ensures that everyone who needs to be in a particular image is. I can't be held responsible for people not being available or refusing though. Try and limit the number of group shots to no more than 10, again to allow you to spend more time with your guests. I'll always take candid shots and oblige requests from guests for photographs during the day.
Another tip is to have an unplugged wedding - this means that guests will be asked beforehand to put their phones, cameras and tablets away during the ceremony. This is so I can get clear shots of you walking down the aisle and walking out again and that all important exchanging rings and first kiss shot, especially if I'm restricted to the back of the church/ceremony room which isn't unheard of as some celebrants - usually in a church wedding, restrict the movement of photographers.
I have known a photographer who only got the back of the bride's auntie's head as she was in the bride's face filming her walking in on her mobile phone - doesn't make for good images and you only get one chance to get that shot. But at the end of the day, it's your choice.
Always try and make sure there's enough time for photographs after the ceremony and before you sit down to eat. Nothing worse than rushed photographs ending with disappointing images
You can be sure though that I won't leave until I'm sure you have all the shots you require and more. So maybe it's better to go for an all day collection rather than just a few hours to ensure your special day is captured in its entirety.
Always have a plan X! I always have a plan X! Plan X is for that unforseen eventuality that might hit without warning. You'll be basking in the lovely sunshine when suddenly, the heavens open completely unexpectedly even though the forecast was for wall to wall sunshine. Always try and plan where you'll have your photographs taken indoors if the worst happens and it does rain or even if it's a winter wedding and it's blowing a hooley outside.
My two cameras and one of my four lenses are weather sealed so I can carry on shooting in the wet/ freezing cold but sadly I've found that most wedding guests, brides etc., aren't as willing to brave inclement weather.