Anybody who has been a part of a wedding knows that it's hard for every single thing to go 100% perfectly as planned. Outside factors can cause the day to be delayed, and unexpected family/guest issues can halt the mood of the whole event. As the photographer for the wedding, here are a few ways that you can help to resolve problems and create the most positive experience possible for the couple.
1) Avoid Bringing Small Issues to the Couple Directly
On the wedding day, the bride and groom are essentially the boss and all important decisions from them are the final word. However, this creates the mindset that EVERY decision is so important that it needs the attention of the couple. Unfortunately this ends up causing much more stress and "decision overload" for the bride and groom on a day they should be able to enjoy without worry.
Obviously major issues such as medical emergencies or serious vendor problems should be brought to the couple's attention. But in my opinion there are a lot of smaller logistical situations that can be handled without distracting the couple from their day. Usually it is best to be in contact with the wedding venue coordinator who can help manage these situations without bothering the couple. They can grab extra staff if something needs to be rearranged or prepared for the couple.
2) Always Bring Positivity and Optimism (but be realistic)
Regardless of an issue being big or small, you as the photographer should be trying to bring as much positive energy to the room as possible. Remember, the bride and groom haven't experienced a wedding like this before and might have anxiety about their whole day going well. You, as a professional with experience at other weddings, can help ease a lot of worries and concerns that the couple and family might have.
Bride: Are we going to have enough time for the first look where we want it?
Me: Yes absolutely, it will only take a few minutes total for us to get in place and for you to have your moment together!
Bride: My family won't be here in time for the formal photos before the ceremony, will it be a problem if we take family photos with them during cocktail hour?
Me: No doubt! If they can't be here in time for now, we will definitely make sure to get a perfect photo with them later.
While you always want to be optimistic, it is also important to be honest and realistic if any expectations cannot be met or if situations change for the worse. For example, at a recent wedding I shot in Philadelphia we planned on doing the bride's getting-ready photos at their hotel, meeting the groom at the Philly Art Museum for the first-look, and then drive back all together to the venue in Center City. Unfortunately due to tight timing, some small delays, and a ton of rush hour city traffic, there was not going to be enough time to make it to the Art Museum and back to the venue for the 5pm ceremony. If we tried getting to the museum, there was a high risk that we would be stuck in traffic and not get back to the venue until much later than 5pm and therefore mess up the whole night. After I suggested that we could use the beautiful reception venue as the place for our first-look, the bride felt a lot less stressed and was happy that we had a new gameplan for success. Fortunately those first-look photos turned out really nice even though it wasn't the original plan!
Remember, you have the experience with weddings to be a guide for the couple. You as the photographer are there with the couple more than any other single vendor, basically the minute you arrive when they are getting ready until the final moments of the reception, you should be there as a friend and assistant.
3) Prepare Backup Plans in Advance
Once you have photographed a few weddings, you'll probably start to experience some of the common issues like rain or delayed timelines. It's important to try preparing some "Plan-B"s that are flexible to every situation.
If you usually take your best photos during sunset but it's a cloudy/rainy day today, be prepared with some poses/angles that can be shot inside the venue with off-camera lighting. You'll be a rockstar for being able to make the best of an unfortunate situation! You could also have a few clear umbrellas handy incase the couple is willing to brave it out into the rain for some awesome rain-droplet photo action! But imagine if you didn't have solutions to a rainy wedding day, it would be a much bigger headache for the couple to know that they were missing out on a lot of great photos. Try your best to not let them down!
In regards to your own gear, have extra backups of memory cards, batteries, and even cameras if possible. Although I have 2 full-frame cameras that I mainly use for weddings, I usually bring a crop-sensor camera in my bag as a worst-case-scenario backup. Fortunately my main cameras have not failed me ever, but it will not be a good conversation with the bride and groom if you have to say your batteries all died/memory cards are too full/cameras stopped working. Being prepared is one of the most important aspects of having a professional business, most importantly while you are on the job itself!