(1) being wedding photographer,
(2) having worked for a couple wedding photographers and
(3) hearing first-hand horror stories from both other wedding photographers and couples.
Here are the things you really need to consider when picking the right photographer for you...
Their personalityYour wedding photographer is someone you need to feel comfortable with and confident in. Just think about it - you need someone you are comfortable talking about money with, someone who can make you feel at ease posing romantically, someone you trust to show up on time.
If you're not comfortable and confident in them for any of those areas, then they will add to your wedding stress.
Their PriceI can't emphasize enough how important it is to be aware of all the costs up front. Your photographer should be honest and clear with you about all the price and you should be planning all costs (the day-of fees as well as packages and products later) into your budget. Nothing makes a situation go downhill as fast as people disagreeing about money whether you're feeling ripped off after the fact or the photographer feels he or she is not getting their paycheck. It's awful for the couple who feels like their photos are being held hostage and it's awful for the photographers who feel like they're not going to get paid their agreed upon wages.
Their PhotographyIt goes without saying that you should like their style. Just like you shouldn't date someone with the intention of changing them, you shouldn't hire a photographer and expect them to produce the same photos as the 45 different photographers who took your favorite Pinterest wedding shots.
Ask to see a gallery of a full wedding. Seriously. Take a guess as to what all photographers put on their websites... If you guessed 'their absolute best shots', you're right! A great photographer is one that can produce the quality and style of photography you're wanting consistently. Some photographers are fabulous at candid shots but not as great at posing groups. If having a nice family photo is really important to you, you want to know up front that they're able to produce that.
Their PoliciesPrice increases: Many photographers have a policy that the prices they quote you are good for X amount of months. Make sure you know when your prints and packages may be subject to price increases so you don't miss your window for ordering your photos and albums.
Digital negatives: Make sure you're clear on the terms of the use for digital negatives. Policies can range vastly - Some photographers do not give out digital negatives while some ask that your purchase X amount of prints first. Some have options to pay less for the disc of low-resolution, watermarked images or more for a the disc of print-worthy resolution pictures. And some give you a disc with the photos on them but they're locked so that you can't use them in slideshows, share them on Facebook or get them printed anywhere. Talk to your photographer about their policies on digital negatives.
Turnaround time: This varies wildly as well and I can't tell you how disappointed people are when they didn't ask for an estimate of turnaround time beforehand and ended up getting their photos a year later.
Second shooter: Second shooters can be a great choice - you can have one photographer take pictures of the bride and her dad right before they walk down the aisle while the other photographer is getting the shots of the groom seeing his bride for the first time. One photographer can do the family group shots after the ceremony while the other photographer can get candid, fun shots at the cocktail hour. The pros: more coverage, less chance of a moment being missed. The cons: the added cost and they may not be as good as your main photographer.