If you want to gain invaluable experience or you just don't want the pressure of shooting a wedding alone, why not consider being a second shooter?
For the past few months, I have been working as second shooter for some wonderful photographers. The main reason for this is my movement away from chasing and competing for wedding bookings, but it's also because as second photographer there is less pressure on me to get the "standard shots", but much more opportunity to be creative and try things the main photographer simply doesn't have the luxury of doing (for the most part).
The wedding photographers I have recently had the privilege of working alongside are:
Victoria Grech - she and I photographed the Hindu wedding of Sapna and Rohin at Whitehall Place, Westminster, London. This wedding incorporated the legally-required English ceremony and the formal Hindu wedding, complete with all the trimmings. The venue itself was VERY prestigious and full of photo opportunities inside and out, both of which Victoria took full advantage of. It was a very long day but extremely enjoyable - thanks to the bride and groom, and to Victoria for trusting in me.
Katariina Jarvinen - The wedding of Georgina and Rob was at Buxted Park, which I had very recently visited, so I was already familiar with the layout of this beautiful Palladian mansion. This was a smaller wedding and the bride and groom wanted it to be captured 'reportage'-style. Katariina's calm, relaxed demeanour is great for putting everyone at ease, making her so nice to be around but also making for a great shooting atmosphere. As she confidently went about creating her images, she left me to do the my own thing. This was wonderful and offered a great opportunity for her to get two different sides of the wedding story :)
Erika Szostak - who booked me to assist with the wedding of Carrie and Gavin at Wiston House, Steyning, a fabulous sixteenth century Grade I Listed building. Erika works very hard at her weddings, ensuring that everyone is looked after and that photographs of all the guests are taken. She sometimes operates a photobooth and, on this occasion, she also put a slideshow of the whole day together during the wedding breakfast! Trust me, that's not an easy thing to do, but it shows how committed she is to giving her brides even more than they expect. With her incredible drive, I have no doubt that Erika will be very successful.
As second shooter, it is interesting to watch how different photographers approach telling the story of the day. Everyone does this differently, so it is vital that communication is good between the main photographer and the assistant to avoid repetition, mistakes and time-wasting. If you are second shooter, take note of how the main shooter works and of their style, then try to incorporate those into your work so that your images blend together well in the photographer's final edit. Having said that, you should also ensure that you put your own spin on things. After all, that's usually why the wedding photographer asked you to assist in the first place.
Oh, and the best bit of all? Not having to edit all those hundreds of images yourself! :P