The advice in this tutorial is based on shooting a traditional British Christian church wedding, for the simple reason that it's the only kind of which I have first-hand experience. If any readers would like to share their experiences of photographing marriage ceremonies in other traditions, please feel free to use the comments section at the end of the article.
Link to Part 2 of this tutorial.
If you're known to your friends as a keen photographer, then sooner or later you're probably going to be asked if you'll shoot someone's wedding. My honest advice to you would be to politely decline.
Unless you have absolute confidence in your ability, as well as the appropriate top-quality camera gear that you know exactly how to use and know to be utterly reliable, then under no circumstances should you agree to shoot anyone's wedding photographs, especially those of your close friends. If you mess it up you'll be responsible for ruining what is supposed to be the happiest day of someone's life, and you'll most likely lose two friends in the process. Be honest with yourself: if you have any doubts about your ability to do a totally satisfactory job, advise your friends to hire a professional wedding photographer instead. You'll be doing them and yourself a big favour.
If you're thinking about shooting a wedding, you had better be aware of just what you're letting yourself in for. There's a lot more to wedding photography than just turning up on the day and shouting "Smile please!" at groups of smartly dressed people standing in front of a church. It involves a lot of preparation and planning, many hours of hard work on the big day, and then even more work to produce the album and the dozens of prints that will be the end product.
As well as knowing how to take pictures, and which pictures to take, a wedding photographer must be part diplomat, part sergeant-major and part children's entertainer. A wedding photographer must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. Ok, that last bit's actually a Jedi, but seriously Force powers and mind tricks would be a real advantage when you've got to herd up to 200 people, most of whom are itching to get to the bar at the reception, and half of whom quite possibly loathe the other half, into a carefully orchestrated series of group photographs. Professional wedding photographers charge anywhere from £500 to £3,000 for their services, and believe me they earn every penny.