There are A LOT of things to consider when choosing a photographer. You are probably swamped with recommendations of companies to consider, so here's a break-down of what to ask, and what to consider in your search.
1. Are they a legal business?
This is probably one of the biggest things when it comes to choosing a photographer. I am constantly seeing brides who go with "budget" photographers, only to not get photos back because the person suddenly drops off the face of the Earth. While it's tragic, it happens. Especially in towns like Grand Rapids, MI, where I am based, many people decide to start "wedding photography" businesses without stopping to think about whether or not they should.
What you should do: Ask for a photo or copy of their business certificate, these normally hang up in a physical business's office. This proves that they are actually registered in the state and pay taxes. At the very least they should be able to provide a federal tax number.
2. Do they have business insurance?
Going along with number one, any photography business owner who is serious about protecting themselves AND you should have liability coverage of at least 1 million dollars. If your photographer breaks something, injures another person, etc. this covers them and you.
What you should do: Ask what insurance policy they have (Ex: I have Package choice by Hill and Usher). If they don't have one, that should be a BIG red flag.
3. What's in the contract?
Every wedding photographer should provide you with a contract for their services. This serves as an agreement between you and them. Since you're signing this, make sure you read through it carefully! Many photographers offer free consults to go over this with you. If you have any concerns, contact them directly and let them know. Some things can be changed, and some things can't. Regardless, don't sign until you feel comfortable with the contract. Some things to consider: what happens if they can't make it to your wedding? What is their cancellation policy?
What you should do: Read every line of your contract carefully, and ALWAYS keep a copy for yourself.
4. Do they have active reviews?
If your photographer has Facebook reviews on their business page, this is a great place to start. If you DON'T see reviews on their business page, contact them and ask why. Many photographers take down reviews when they get multiple negative ones (although this isn't always the case). In addition to reviews through Facebook, Wedding Wire, Thumbtack, etc. ask if they can hook you up with one or two past brides that you can ask questions. This will ensure that the reviews are real, and that you find someone with client's that love them!
What you should do: Ask locally in bride-to-bride groups for suggestions, connect with past brides of photographers, check out social media reviews.
5. Can they provide multiple full weddings?
As awful as it is, there are scam artists out there. When talking to each photographer, it is important that they can provide multiple full weddings for you to look through. This should include everything from getting ready to the end of the wedding reception. If they know a little bit about your wedding, they might even be able to send you a few that apply to what you're looking for.
What you should do: Ask for multiple full weddings to look through, and make sure you love the work in them!
6. What's their pricing like?
Although I'd encourage you to NOT decide solely on budget, it is important to see what their packages cost. If their work is amazing, but they charge an insanely low rate, this is probably something you should be cautious about
What you should do: If you notice pricing is low compared to work, ask them why.
7. What's included in their packages?
Almost every photographer has a different set of packages. Some include digital photos with printing rights, while some only offer prints. Some photographers prefer to have an assistant or second photographer with them, while others don't include that in their packages. Decide what's important to you, and go from there.
What you should do: Shop around, see what different photographers offer, and ask them their opinion on why they offer what they do.
8. Do you love their work?
This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes brides are only focused on price. You only get one wedding day.
What you should do: Make sure you look through those multiple full weddings, and pick the one you love the best!
9. Do you feel comfortable around them?
Engagement sessions and in-person consults are a great way to get to know your photographer as a person. They'll be with you for the majority of your wedding day, so make sure you love them!
What you should do: Ask them to meet in-person, or set up an engagement photo session.
10. Do they have good communication skills?
One big thing to watch is how they communicate over social media, email, or text. Do they get back with you in a good amount of time? Are they friendly, yet professional when responding to you? Make sure you choose someone who will be able to answer questions.
What you should do: Trust your gut! If something seems off, it probably is.