Most of my packages bring a second photographer to the table to make sure all the angles of your wedding are covered. For the average wedding it's a great value, freeing me up to cover the bride and groom while my able associate gets the bigger pictures (and even fills in the little details).
Most weddings, however, are not average. Between different dreams and different budgets, it's often hard to know when adding an associate photographer is the right choice (although my assistant would argue that it's always a good idea). So with this entry I'd like to help you find an answer to whether or not you need a second photographer.
In making that decision there are three main things you have to consider: wedding size, wedding dreams and wedding logistics.
Wedding size is fairly obvious, the larger your wedding the more there is to cover and the more likely it is that you'll will want an associate photographer on hand. Typically, my rule of thumb is that once your wedding goes over 50 or 75 people you'll want another photographer on hand to ensure thorough coverage. More people means more little moments of emotion and more things happening at one time.
This also covers more than just the number of people attending a wedding. Wedding size also relates to how much you have happening at your wedding. Are there a lot of flower arrangements? Did you pay particular attention to picking out the centerpieces and flatware? If your wedding planning folder has sprawled to dozens of pages even after you've made your decisions then your wedding is more than just the people attending.
Wedding size also stretches out to touch your wedding dreams and wedding logistics.
In your mind's eye, what are you picturing when you think of your wedding? If your photographer can help turn that picture in your head into a picture on an album page, then you're probably going to be very satisfied with your photographs.
Is that picture a lot of candid moments that tell the story of your special day? Do you just want a series of formal shots of friends and family (along with traditional shots of the ceremony? The more you want from your photographer, the more you're going to need an associate on hand. Table shots (groups gathered around your seating chart) are a great example, with a second photographer these can be handled while the bride and groom have their portraits done. Alternately if your vision is to have a very special gathering of all the important people in your life from all across the country and around the globe, you'll want to make sure that very few of those special guests are missed (while still ensuring that you're the star of the show).
It's not just your vision that needs to be considered. Parents often have strong opinions about what they'd like to see from the wedding (often they're more emphatic about posed portrait shots), and often they've invested a lot in helping you reach this special point in your life so it's best not to upset them. Plus, relationships with in-laws are historically tense enough as it is.
Ultimately the vision of your wedding feeds back into size and the logistics of your wedding.
Realistically a photographer can only be in one place at a time, can only capture one angle at a time. Adding a second photographer opens up a whole new perspective and allows you to accomplish multiple photography goals at the same time.
For example, if you want to get photos of the bride and groom getting ready but they're getting ready in separate locations then you would want a photographer for each. Also if you want photos of the reception hall and the details before the guests arrive then you'll want a second photographer who can duck out during the ceremony to arrive early at the reception hall to capture those images.
There are also logistics out of your control. Some churches, for example, state that photographers must remain stationary during the ceremony. If this is the case then a second photographer is a must to ensure the full picture of that sacred rite.
In practice there are many other details that would advocate for the use of a second photographer. This is why your meeting with your photographer is so important, because their expertise can help to ensure you get the best possible coverage of your special day.