Over the past couple of years I seem to be specialising more and more in weddings. In fact, I will very soon be shooting my 100th wedding and so, even though I am still a little uncomfortable with the moniker of "wedding photographer" I do feel that I may have a few snippets of advice that I can offer those that are just starting out (or perhaps anyone that is doing a one-off wedding for a friend or family member). This list is not about the key shots that you need to capture - a quick google search will reveal a huge number of handy suggestions. It is more of a tips and tricks advice list for the things that you may not even have thought about!
It might be the most obvious thing to say but NEVER head off to photograph a wedding with a single camera, one lens, one battery and one memory card! Have at least one spare battery and, if possible, go so far as to have a backup camera. I shoot every wedding with two cameras - not only does it mean that I can have two lenses ready at any one time, it means that if the worst does happen and my main camera stops working, my backup can be used to ensure that I still get the photos I need.
When speaking to the happy couple ahead of the day, ask them to send you a schedule. At the very least you need to know where you need to be and when. Ask them when the speeches will take place. It's traditional for them to happen after the wedding breakfast but it is becoming more and more common for speeches to take place before the meal or even between courses. Also make sure you obtain a list of the formal photographs that they require. That way you can get through the photos quickly and efficiently so that people aren't stood around for too long.
I don't know many people who wear a watch any more but I'd be lost without one at a wedding! Before the wedding day I make sure I get hold of a schedule from the couple so that I know exactly where I need to be and when. I've lost count of the number of times that I have gently had to remind the bride of the time to make sure that she is in her dress in time. But perhaps the most important reason to wear a watch is to make sure that you complete the formal photos before the sit down meal. Talk to the organisers at the venue and confirm what time everyone will be sitting down to eat. If there is going to be a receiving line then you will need to leave extra time. No one will appreciate the photos running late. You might think that running late by 10-15 minutes will be ok in the grand scheme of things but the caterers will not thank you for it and you may cause the food to be ruined in the process. Wear a watch, stick to the schedule and be prepared to adapt if required.
You might have some food provided during the day, but then again, you might not! It is always nice when food is offered (either by the couple themselves or by the venue or caterers) but never assume that you will be fed. Have some food stashed away in your car in case of emergencies. I also always have a couple of snack bars in my camera bag so that I can eat something immediately before the ceremony so I don't disrupt proceedings with a growling stomach!
Without fail, I always come home from a wedding kicking myself for the shots that I missed. Normally it is simple things like a different angle of the reception room or a close up of the guest book. Just remember that it is IMPOSSIBLE to capture everything. Quite often it boils down to not being able to be in two places at once (e.g. not being able to capture the bride getting into the car because you are at the venue getting photos of a nervous groom). As long as you capture a good selection of images and have captured any key shots that the couple have requested then you have done your job - you are the only person who knows exactly what opportunities you missed so don't give yourself a hard time about it!
Interested in finding out a little more? I offer 1-to-1 training sessions specifically tailored to help out photographers that are new to shooting weddings. The sessions normally take place in my Chippenham office, however, I am happy to discuss the potential of meeting at specific venues to undertake wedding photography walk-throughs. Please take a look here or contact me for more information.