Get a contract if you’re getting paid. If they aren’t paying you, they should not expect much; contrarily, if they’re paying you, they need to know exactly what to expect.
Get the assistant. That’s so crucial. If these are friends of yours, choose the bossiest one, and preferably female; guys ordering people around can be painful, but women ordering at a wedding is apparently normal. She can be used to marshal people for the next shot, get the moving once the shot is done, and generally make the day go smoothly. Also, if you have a reflector for outside shooting, the assistant can hold the reflector. They can also straighten dresses, tuxes, ties and to help pose. Actually what runs the photographer ragged is the formal shots in the church. Tension can wasily build if you’re delaying another wedding party.
Remember that the photographer is always in charge as long as there are photos to be taken. Be nice and be polite but do not let any high and mighty church consultant think she/he can run your business or DJ at the reception. More than likely you have been paid more than either one of them and probably both put together and if any thing goes awry it will be YOUR fault as long as you are there.
DO NOT shoot from a written list. Start making a list to memorize but do not give the Bride, her mother, sister or anyone else a written list. If you do and there is 1 shot missing it is just going to cause grief.
The early bird gets the worm. If at all possible try and do as many shots prior to the wedding, especially if the bride and groom don’t mind being seen by each other and family. These are shots no one else got and they really sum up all the tension and stress before the big moment.
Try to keep family shots down to immediate family: Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters and their spouses, grandmother and grandfather…if the bride or groom demands nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles…then you have to do it.
Keep it short. I try to keep most of my weddings down to 4 hours and around 120 – 150 photos. For a first time wedding shooter shot doubles or triples of everything just in case. Memory media is dirt cheap.
Tell the other guest not to shoot their flash while you’re taking pictures. It can potentially ruin a great shot.
Shoot each picture twice. Someone’s inevitably looking away in each frame; two gives you a better chance of getting it right. Just use the rapid-shot option.
Have a flash that’s not the on-camera flash. If you can manage to swing a flash bracket for the flash, then that’s even more tasty. That way, you’ll have enough light (especially if you can’t swing for the high-end lens, you’ll need that extra light), and having the flash off-camera will make it look better. Get a diffuser for your flash, so it’s not extremely harsh.
Find where you can and can’t take pictures. I know that some churches (synagogues, mosques, etc) don’t let you photograph inside for the ceremony, some churches frown on it, and some don’t care. So, find the church and the officiate, and see what they want.
Research! Go to your local library or bookstore and study.
HAVE FUN….IF YOU DO NOT HAVE FUN THE PHOTOS WILL NOT BE AS GOOD AS THEY COULD HAVE BEEN.