If there is one thing I learned from my wedding, it would be to spend the money on a good photographer. I learned the hard way and went with a cheaper photographer so I could have other things and stay within my budget. I did research a bunch of photographers, but in a sense settled and I was unhappy with my experience.
I would suggest after you do your research, to go and meet with your top 3 favorites. Make sure you connect with them, and like them. Go over what you expect from them, poses you want, the order of pictures, prices, what they include with the price (CD, printed pictures etc.), and look to see their portfolio and some work they have done. Remember you will have these pictures forever and there is no way you can re-take a wedding.
Some photographers have a bundle package that includes: Engagements, Bridals and your Wedding Day, or your Wedding Day and Bridals or Engagements. If you are on a tighter budget and can't afford getting all of them done by a professional photographer, I would recommend Bridals and Wedding Day. We had a friend do our Engagement pictures and they turned out great. I didn't have Bridals done ahead of time, instead I used some of my time before my reception to get some great solo shots of me in my dress.
Some brides choose to take their bride and groom photos before the day of their wedding. That is a good idea, but remember that your groom will see your wedding dress before your wedding, and their is something special about him seeing you in your dress for the first time.
This was my experience on my wedding day. I spoke to my photographer multiple times before the wedding about specific poses that I wanted, only to have her ask me throughout the day what shots I wanted. Because I only had the photographer for a few hours, I was frustrated that I had to coordinate most of my wedding shots. This added stress and anxiety on what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. She stuck us in the same location almost the whole time and just switched out who was in the shot. I was annoyed that I had to do what she was paid to do.
Some advice I would give:
-Make extra sure you and your photographer are on the same page. Be blunt with the photographer about what you want ahead of time, so they can run things efficiently and allow you to relax and take in the day.
-When budgeting your photographer's time, err on the side of too much time, rather that too little. It is a more favorable problem to have too many photos than too few. Be advised: if you need more time on the spot you will likely pay a premium price.
-Some people may argue that years down the road you really will only look at one of your wedding photos. This argument usually stems from those of older generations. Though that may have been true for previous generations, in this age of social media, sharing pictures online is a focal point of what we do. In my opinion, I think photography is one of the most important parts of your wedding.