Their is a select group that has worked at building their business to the point they can demand a great price which then justifies the gear, the time, the quality and everything else. These are mostly brides that have planned their weddings for a long time, want everything perfect, follow a strict schedule, look amazing because they are beautiful to begin with and their daddies have no issues with paying a boat load of money, not just to the photographer, but everyone so princess can have the perfect day. Then you have brides like you mention that want the same end result for a fraction of the cost and are clueless what is required.
It takes a great deal of time and effort and knowledge to get to where you want to be and you will have to go through a great deal of wedding BS to hopefully reach where most successful wedding photographers land. Your comments show you have not yet met the brides that are willing to do whatever it takes to make their day perfect, or they do not even realize what it does take to get there. Education on your part to the couple would help that a great deal.
And how do you land those big dollar weddings? Well, and do not take the wrong way, but that first photo will not get you there. Even posting on this site with examples, you want to post your best work. In the great words of the dearly departed Greg Giraldo roasting Joan Rivers at her Comedy Central Roast, "What the heck did you do to your/his face?" Your post processing is not very good on that photo. And for Dead Pixels to state those pictures are nice explains why he is in the same boat (sorry Dead, but you want me to be honest right?).
Even when we did the cheap weddings, building up to the high paying ones, we put a plan in place to treat every wedding a certain way. and yes I understand, if they are paying nothing, how can they expect the time from you to make it right when they don't even seem to give a s**t and time is money. But we just decided we needed quality work to get the next job (the portfolio is everything, I repeat the portfolio is everything). So we met with every bride and explained in a nice way straight out, a plan is necessary to make the day great. We discuss what they should want to accomplish, and we tell them this is what it is going to take to get there and if you get that point across, they better understand, have confidence in you and with luck, follow your lead. Most of the time, those cheap weddings have brides that have no idea and you become the hero.
Once you get your plan in place and have brides following it, here is where I become real honest. If you want to have a great portfolio, and once you are starting to make it, you should become more selective. Yes I know all brides are beautiful in someones eyes, but bottom line, they are not. Almost all the photos, I say almost all, of the high priced guys posting here have mostly beautiful brides and if they are not a ten, the venue is along with Dad's money to make it the best, which helps them stand out. When you have this, even your day goes better and you just have such creative juices flowing to get some unbelievable photos, because you know the post processing will be a breeze, probably because they not only look great, but they had a great hair stylist, are mostly thin and have great makeup applied and did not have their reception at the local VFW(been there done that). Right now at the level you are, probably one out of four you get will be what you would want to put into that portfolio as stand outs. The other three will offer some filler with random shots. That said, you had the prefect opportunity, the bride you took above would be that one out of four. So when you have that good looking bride, do your best in post to make her really stand out in her photos. Moving forward, I would suggest when you get the attractive bride, you bite the bullet and do whatever it takes, with leadership, time needed and anything else to make the day work, and get the best possible photos.
And yes I know several on the site will jump to defend all brides are worthy (well maybe the few that are loaded and can give you a great reference) and call me a jerk and whatever else. We have photographed all those types ourselves. But scroll up to the guy from Cyprus that is posting his flawless photos. Any of his brides look like those 3 out of 4? And this is going to sound very cruel but its a cruel world out there. We now will not book until we have a meeting face to face with the couple and 1. see what the bride looks like and 2 we get the price we want, which then will over rule 1 (we might be jerks and cocky but we aren't stupid). Seriously, the bride's appearance does play a part in whether we book it or not. Its a great position to be in and with time and hard work, you will as well, but we have just found having done well over 250 weddings that a beautiful bride who has the money and knows what she wants just ends up being a beautiful wedding.
On the whatever it takes thought, I would also suggest when you meet with the bride and you get the info of where everything is going to take place, you scout out the location, get on you tube and watch a zillion videos on how to pose a bride and groom, take clips of the video to show them and then plan it out with them. Actually plan the shots. Show them examples of how you would want them to pose. Make suggestions. guidance. Look like you know what you are doing and then do it. They will appreciate it and frankly they want it. We have even bit the bullet when the bride was a 9 or 10 and offered to photograph her the day before the wedding if she were up to it, go someplace that would give the best results, great light and take some killer photos. They are much more relaxed on the wedding day, loved the time we spent to do it right and it was great practice for us. But the real bottom line, the portfolio.
1-1Dx II 1-5D Mark 4, 3-5D Mark III, 5D Mark II, 2-7D's, 70D, canon 70-200 2.8 L IS II, 24-70L II, 85 1.8, 85 1.2, 50mm, 135 mm F2 L, 17-40 , 24-105, Sigma 35 Art and 18-35 1.8, 600 EX's, Elinchrom RX and Phottix 500 strobes