How I named my business

May 26, 2020
Personalised homemade jam wedding favours

Why ‘Sarah Vivienne Photography’?

The story of how I named my business

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Remember that line from Romeo and Juliet? Forgotten it?  Never read it? Busy penning love notes at the back of the classroom and missed the explanation?

Let me translate…

Romeo is a member of the Montague family, a rival family to Juliet’s. Juliet believes something (a rose) is always the same, regardles of what it’s called. So his surname, and the feud between the two families, shouldn’t stop them from being together. 

(It seems I learned something as an English Lit student, after all.)

But when it came to naming my business? Not so simple, Juliet.

Contrary to what Juliet thought, a name matters. And it has meaning. At least in the business world. 

Bride's childhood bedroom door sign

Back in 2007, I spent weeks wondering what to call my new wedding photography business. 

My main criteria: It must be original.

My first genius idea was ‘A Thousand Words’. Because a picture’s worth… Geddit? That’s original, right? I thought I’d struck gold until Google gave me 3,640,000,000 search results for it. 

Back to the drawing board. 

“A-ha”, I thought, “I’ll do a spider diagram!” My marketing years were proving useful already! I soon had scores of potential names. My mind seemed intent on creating clever mashups with rhyming and related words. One wordplay made my heart skip a beat – Shutterfly. I googled it. There was an American photo printing company with that name. Ohhh, piggy what-nots! 

New York wedding table name

Getting nowhere fast, and in the absence of any other names that excited me, I called a friend (and pro copywriter) who I knew from my corporate days. His words: 

“Naming is hard. Anything wedding related sounds cliche. Clever can verge on cutesy. Use your own name.”

My reaction? Too obvious. My name isn’t exciting. And it doesn’t sound very weddingy. Besides, most people get my surname wrong. It’s Riggens – with an E. Not Riggins, Higgins, Biggins, Wiggins or Wriggins. Hmpfff. There’s no way I’m dealing with more of that.

So the umming and aahing, dithering and dallying continued.

Yup. Naming is hard. 

Then, over a Sunday roast, my Father-in-Law proudly suggested ‘Sarah’s Snaps’. It was never a serious consideration. But I entertained the idea until we’d devoured the cherry cheesecake and hoped I seemed grateful for the suggestion. The alliteration was good, I suppose.

Wedding game of Guess Who

Hang on! You’ve got a middle name, Sarah! 

Sarah. Vivienne. Photography. Hmmm. 

Growing up, I wasn’t mad keen on the name ‘Vivienne’. I always wondered why I couldn’t have a simple middle name such as Jane, Claire or Emma like all my friends. Being different and standing out didn’t appeal to me then. And I wasn’t sure I felt any different about it now.

I was stuck.

Thinking a deadline would help, I called my designer (another handy friend) to arrange a lunch date work meeting.

I boarded the train into London, earl grey in hand, having narrowed my choice down to ‘Shutterfly’ or ‘Sarah Vivienne Photography’. Which would it be? Both options felt like settling. So even on the tube to Islington, I was thinking the decision might come down to a game of eenie meenie miney mo.

My designer was most excited about the creative potential of Shutterfly. I could see the visual possbilities too. But when faced with moving forward, it didn’t feel right. So when crunch time came, I plumped for ‘Sarah Vivienne Photography’. My gut decided to own this one.

And so it was.

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And now? Over a decade later… with more experience, learning and confidence?  

I love the name ‘Sarah Vivienne Photography’! The classic with a ‘je ne sais quoi’ twist couldn’t suit my business, or photography style, any better. I’m so happy that what seemed like a default decision at the time turned out to be so me. Thanks, instinct!

‘Vivienne’ intrigues people too. It means ‘Alive’. (Which is quite fitting given that photographs keep memories alive.) It’s the french version – because french heritage. But it’s pronounced vi-vi-uhn rather than vi-vi-en’ … because I’m not that fancy.

And I’ve grown to adore my unusual middle name! The neat and tidy spelling – two v’s, two i’s, two e’s, two n’s – settles my anxiety. Okay, I have to spell this one out like I have to spell my surname out, but these letters are poetic. 

 A few years into running my business, I read an article that suggested using your own name as your business name shows ownership and instills trust. I agree. Another article swiftly followed with the thought that using your own name helps build a personal relationship with your client. I can’t argue with that. 

But the thing I love most about the name ‘Sarah Vivienne Photography’? 

It’s different. Which is what I wanted in the first place! #eyeroll

Vintage illustration wedding placenames