so, i'm going to start out with a disclaimer.
when i tell you to hire a wedding photographer, i'm not telling you that you must hire me.
just that you should hire someone... a professional with experience, a good eye, & mad photoshop skills.
that being said... a small discourse on why you should hire someone to shoot your wedding (and engagements, while you're at it).
though i am a teensy bit biased, i believe that after the love/family/union aspect of a wedding, photography is the most important aspect of a wedding.
you can spend all of the money you want on cakes, bridesmaid dresses, & decor, but if you don't have a good photographer to capture all of the pretty details you paid the big money for, those will be the first memories to fade.
aaand you'll miss out on those precious candid moments, too!
the experience factor is huge. even if your best friend's cousin just bought this awesome DSLR and can take amazing nature shots, shooting a wedding is a whole different ball game. a wedding brings all new kinds of pressure and stress, and it's easy to miss the best moments if you're not used to switching ISO settings quickly or changing apertures. knowing the different groupings that are traditional for weddings is important, and hiring someone who knows how to pose is worth the money in itself. as a wedding photographer, it's essential to be outgoing and know how to work with large groups of people... very intimidating if you've never shot a wedding before. i know that for me personally, the more weddings i shoot, the more i am at ease with my work. it's always stressful and a bit nerve wracking, but i can't emphasize enough how much a bit of experience has helped my career. and if you don't want to book a DJ/coordinator/etc., an experienced photographer can act as that person... he/she can make everything go smoothly on your big day!
the lens is so important. even if your best friend's cousin has that awesome camera they just bought, chances are that they're shooting with a kit lens that came with the camera (at first, at least). but when doing serious portraiture, an upgrade in lens is crucial. professional lenses improve the clarity and focus of the image and allow the photographer so much more freedom in arranging shots.
photoshopping is actually a big deal. unless you have flawless skin, got 16 hours of sleep before the night of your wedding, and have glowing white teeth, photoshop is a must. though i personally don't go crazy on the photoshopping, it's essential to process/edit every image for colors and to add artistic flares/depth. and then there are all of the other little details that need to be taken care of in photoshop (many mentioned before) that make the images clean and classically beautiful. no one wants acne in all of their wedding pictures, right?...
working with light is tough when you are a new photographer. i know that i didn't completely understand the importance of lighting until i really got into photography. and shadows/lighting are really what make or break a photo, so if you hire someone who understands natural light and flash, i promise that your images will be 2839x better.
now, i know that hiring a photographer can be expensive. i really do. but i think a good rule of thumb is to spend at least as much on your photographer as you spend on your dress. if you spend $700 on a beautiful gown and then don't hire someone to take pictures of you in it, you'll miss out on capturing every beautiful angle of the dress and of you (and your husband) in love in it! photographers generally charge such high rates due to the sheer number of hours (we're talking easily 30+, people) it takes to complete a shoot and the equipment costs. here's another good explanation of why photographers charge high prices. but i know a lot of photographers that are willing to work within peoples' budgets or will charge hourly to reduce cost.
the internet is a pretty marvelous thing; you can find a photographer that you love within your means... you really can!
i know we're all on budgets... and that is a good thing. but please, please don't let photography be the aspect you cut from your wedding. your memories will be disappointed.