Tips + Techniques

Knowing the Wedding Party’s Names: A Wedding Photographer’s Secret Weapon

January 5, 2020

By Kenny Kim

Photo © Kenny Kim

No matter the size of the wedding party, photographer Kenny Kim always makes certain that he knows every person's name and an anecdote or two about them. It makes a big difference in his business, he claims.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I remember your face but I just can’t remember your name,” or, “I am good with faces but terrible with names.” Whenever someone says it, we brush it off as if it is not that big of a deal.

What about at weddings? How often have you stood in front of the wedding party or the family during organized shoots and could not get them to do what you wanted because you have no idea what their names are? Then, in your feeble attempt to grab their attention, you point your finger at them or shout descriptive phrases such as, “Hey you in that purple suit,” only to be completely ignored and pray that you did not offend anyone?

I have witnessed other vendors doing this at numerous weddings and events. Not only is this embarrassing and sometimes unprofessional, you can lose out on big opportunities and referrals. In our line of work, we are constantly meeting new people on a weekly basis.

Making the Leap to Full-Time Wedding Photography

If there was a phrase to describe the 2019 wedding season for me, “large wedding parties” would be on the top of the list. The average numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen have been 10 or more and in one wedding—I even once had a 32-person wedding party this year! In order to command the attention to execute a successful wedding photo schedule with this size of a group, it is imperative that you memorize all the names of the each of these members and get to know them a bit.

Say what? Yes, actually remember all of their names. While this seems like a daunting task, it is actually very doable—with strategic planning from the beginning.

Client Cooperation

From the moment a client signs a contract with me, I request a list of the names of the wedding party and immediate family members. I also ask them to describe what relationship they each have with this person. The description does not have to be long—a couple of sentences max—but it gives me a better idea of who they are and what dynamic they have with the bride and the groom.

I also request that they, if possible, send me a recent photo of each of these individuals. This request requires some research on the client’s part, but most of them are happy to oblige. Just make sure to ask for this ahead of time so that they are not trying to gather all of this information at the last minute. Sometimes, this information is already up on their wedding website, so ask for their URL as well. By studying this list, it allows me “pre-meet” them before the wedding.

Reimagining the Aesthetics and Logistics of Formal Family Wedding Portraits

I also strategize the combination of photos I want to take on their wedding day. Are there siblings in the wedding party? I make sure to take some sibling family photos throughout the day. Are there college, high school or childhood friends? I will suggest taking a specific group photo together from people of different walks in life. By doing this, you are already getting to know them a little bit and connecting the dots of how the dynamics of each relationship are formed with the bride and the groom.

Wedding Rehearsals

In my previous article, I talked about the importance of attending the rehearsal. This is one of the main reasons why I go to them. At the rehearsal, I am meeting every member of the wedding party, shaking their hands and letting them know that I will be their photographer. I am making a personal connection with them, and this allows me to remember their names better.

Most of us have a hard time remembering names because we don’t hear them in the first place; they’re just mere words that go in one ear and out the other. But by making an effort to get to know the party a little bit before the wedding, you will have memorized everyone by the end of the rehearsal. It also helps to make short talks with them. While you already may know a brief background about them or their relation to the couple, treat them as if you are meeting them for the first time and ask questions about them. As you engage with them more, you will have a better chance of leaving with an indelible mark in your mind, their names etched in your memory.

If your clients did not provide you with photos of the wedding party members prior to the wedding, during the rehearsal I take photos of those people when they are standing together (usually at the altar and/or while they are walking down the aisle). This groups them together nicely so that they are more easily recognizable. Then when I arrive back home that night, I look through these photos to reiterate who they are. This is another extra step to help you memorize their names.

Ensuring Recall

The art of remembering names is probably one of the most important skills you can learn as a wedding photographer. While it sounds simple (and it actually is), so many of us struggle with it. Just by remembering people’s names, you will become a much better photographer. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is.

It does take a bit more effort to get their names right. If you search for tips on remembering names, many practical ones will come up (like repeating it out loud after someone introduces themselves: “John? I’m Kenny, nice to meet you, John.”). It is up to you to decide which method works best for you. Use it for every wedding and you will see a drastic difference in the way the wedding party treats you and interacts with you.

You probably heard this famous quote by Dale Carnegie before: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” I could not agree more. People love to be remembered. They will automatically like and open up to you more when you call them by their name. In fact, they will pay for it. (Why do you think people pay to join exclusive memberships and clubs?)

How it Pays

Back in the day, when I worked as a Starbucks barista for a few years, I used to remember all of the names of our regular customers and their drinks. We probably got more tips during my shift than any others. When it came time for the holidays, I received numerous gifts from my clients (ranging from movies and concert tickets, gift cards, various accessories and gadgets—I even got a $100 bill).

Not to toot my own horn, but in that 30-member wedding party I mentioned earlier, one of the groomsmen came up to me during the reception. He shook my hand to tell me I did a great job organizing the crowd, taking the photos in an efficient manner and treating everyone with respect while having fun. I will never forget what he told me: “Kenny, you have a gift. And that gift is going to make you rich in the future.”

I want to end by sharing with you one of my favorites quotes, from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You can provide this kind of experience for your clients and their families and wedding party, simply by remembering their names. And you will be well on your way to taking your business to a new level.

Kenny Kim has grown his internationally recognized studio since 2006. He is a regular face at WPPI and also the author of two books (published by Wiley Press), comprehensive must-reads for beginning wedding photographers.