Generally speaking, however, I have found that you get what you pay for.
Every now and then, you'll get someone willing to work for next to nothing that shoots just as well as an established veteran in their field. The downside to this strategy is you've set the expectation that you're willing to work for peanuts right off the bat.
+1 on them. From me as a consumer, I doubt i'm ever getting married (at least with the suit and the long flowing dress and the pro photos), but if I did, probably the last person I'd be going for is some hack charging $100 or doing it for free 'for practice'. I know I could save some cash, and I may even find someone decent. But if I'm doing it, I'm doing it properly and hiring a pro. You gotta distinguish yourself by offering quality, because if your dinner depends on it, you can't compete on price to a guy who's got a dayjob.
You get what you pay for can sometimes surprise you on the low end and get a great guy for cheap, but can also backfire on the high end. I was talking to the guy in the local photolab the other day waiting for prints (he was a wedding photog for 40+ years or so, then he 'retired' to just printing), he was talking about a guy in Sydney who was famous for just being expensive. $10-20k or so for a day's wedding (and this is 10+ years ago). He'd rock up in a Merc, 3-4 assistants, all the pro gear and lighting stands and umbrellas and all. And he wasn't even the best (ok, but he was good). Had a gimmicky deal where if the bride and chicks were ready on time he'd give them a free life-size portrait (which was built into the cost anyway), only had to print it 1 of every 5 or 10 shoots though, nice profit.
But for me as a photographer, I'd rather go the other way. I'm too scared to shoot anyone's wedding, because I don't want to upset them if I muck it up. I've only done it once, and that was with a 8MP P&S in France, and I was only there because I was backpacking in the area and met up with my friends there. Only 6 of us in a chateau (the bride/groom and other 3 had flown over from Aus especially), and if I wasn't there they just wouldn't have had many photos at all. Only time i'd consider it again would be my mate who just got engaged, but that'd only be if i could borrow his kit (5d2, 50/1.2, 85/1.2, 70-200/2.
, and was only a "backup" for a real paid guy.
Going online, with a portfolio in a nice easy to use
website, with real contact information, is absolutely essential. I was recently looking for a driving school (ok, i'm 10 years too late getting my license), did some searching and used the yellow-pages. The ones without a website I didn't even consider, I opened all the rest in multiple tabs, went through the rest, and just closed off the tabs of the ones that looked too much like a hack-job. I don't care if one of them turned out to be Nigel Mansell or The Stig, professionalism counts. Even more so for photography, I'd say, I'm probably only going to spend $300 or so on driving lessons, if I want a good wedding photog I'd probably be paying $1-2k. If you can't make your website look good, why should I trust you making my most important days of my life look good?