Musings on feminism and weddings

Guest post by MissDeeNee
and the bride wore combat boots
Thanks to Orbasm for submitting this shot to the Offbeat Bride pool!

In nine months I will be married. It doesn't seem that long ago I was sporting short hair, dockers, button-downs and ties and hitting the bars. Now, I have hair down to the middle of my back, wearing a f'ing Vera Wang wedding dress and participating full force in the bridal industrial complex. I'm currently taking a feminist studies class and it reminded me how I was when I first started doing my feminist/women's studies coursework for my MA: idealistic but still angry about how the world works. While I'd like to think that some of that rage is still inside me and I don't think I have become soft, I think I have become more tolerable and understanding of others and their beliefs.

There are some who may think that a woman changing her last name is “unfeminist.” To me this is a very tricky and personal decision for every woman who is about to get married. First, there is no one singular socio-political belief system known as feminism. There are multiple feminisms to reflect the diverse experiences of women around the world. However, the underlining goal of feminism is to improve the lives and experiences of women (and men) by ending gender oppression and injustice. Therefore, I find it difficult especially within this context to label the act of changing one's last name to her husband's as being “unfeminist.”

We currently live in a patriarchal country where surnames are generally passed down through men. Even if a bride were not to take her husband's last name she would still have her father's (or some other familial male member's) last name. There are multiple reasons why a woman may no longer want to keep her last name. Perhaps, she has negative associations with that name such as it is a constant reminder of an abusive or absent father or she may not like the way it sounds or more simply, she wants to mark this transition by changing her last name to her husband's.

Ultimately, this country unlike others, give women this choice. If a woman wants to change her last name then it is HER choice to do so. Now, if the future husband is a complete douche monkey and is forcing her to do this, or other patriarchal forces pressure her into it, then it is no longer a choice.

In some states men are allowed to change their last name to their future spouses, but in some they cannot. He can hyphenate it or they can combine their last names but he cannot take his wife's last name. Men should be able to be given the same choice for the same reasons I stated above. This is a deeply personal decision and I think it is unfair to judge or label women “unfeminist” if they make a conscious decision to change their name.

What have I decided to do? I'm taking on Mr. Nee's last name as an additional middle name. First, I want to honor my father and grandmother by maintaining my maiden name. Second, I have become who I am with this last name and I want to continue to do so. Third, Mr. Nee shares a last name with someone who is relatively well known in my field, shares similar research interests, and has a similar first name and I don't want to have to deal with the confusion that may spur from that. Finally, the most important reason is that I want to mark this transition in my life and show my love and devotion to Mr. Nee without losing me.

Weddings are a celebration of love and commitment. Not only between the two getting married but also for those in attendance, which is why, I'm having my father walk me down the aisle (at least part of the way). Yes, to some, this would seem “unfeminist.” However, for me, this is best way to honor my father and show gratitude. My father has been through a lot in life and in the last few years has seen little joy. I know that by doing this, it will make him feel happy and wanted. However, he will not be giving me away. I'm a person, not property. I'm not something to be given or received by anyone including Mr. Nee.

I definitely think it is possible to be a feminist and have a wedding, wear the white dress, have your father walk you down the aisle and take your husband's last name. It is about compromise and being open and understanding without forgetting who you are and what you stand for.

PS: I realize that this post is incredibly heterosexist and does not address the heartbreaking injustices that many LGBT-identified individuals deal with regarding marriage, name changes, and other basic human rights. It is so sad that in many places, marriage is considered a privilege. Everyone should have the right to be able to express their love and devotion to another person in a State-recognized union. If I had continued hitting bars in my younger days and found the woman/boi of my dreams, I would be denied this very basic human right.

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Comments on Musings on feminism and weddings

  1. Yay I'm taking my partner/spouse/husband's last name as a second middle name (which leads to the double-middle-initial problem that grad students everywhere loathe: N.K.S. Barker). However, we just moved to Québec after getting married and as it turns out, Québec requires that a woman is required to keep her maiden name, on most official identification documents anyway, which is kind of cool…

  2. My partner/boyfriend will be taking my last name, out of honor for my father and also because he has no connection to his father/father's last name. Before I even had my feminist speech all built up he told me he wants to change his last name. I'm proud of him 🙂

  3. I agree that taking your husband's name does not make one not-a-feminist. Of course, I think that when we talk about women making choices in these areas (on topics that are particularly steeped in patriarchal customs), I hope we all recognize that what we think is pure free will is colored greatly by the society in which we were raised, and our 'choices' in some things are influenced so strongly by that society that, at some point, they may cease actually to be a 'choice.' (Just throwing that out there since you're a women's studies grad student, so I thought you'd appreciate the philosophizing and nuance!) Congrats on the nuptuals, of course!!

  4. Anyone can change their name, but if it isn't because of marriage it can be expensive and there is a different process, depending on the state.

  5. Love the idea! A guy I work with recently got married and they actually came up with a hyphenated version of both their last names so that they took on each others names.

  6. Mary, as someone who shares this point of view with the author and also identifies as a feminist, I don't find this to be a "standardized" point of view. Doing something that is considered "traditional" because you have put careful thought and consideration into it and made a decision based on your own feelings, beliefs, and situation is completely different than just doing something because it is tradition.
    You will find many, many opinions on here, even ones that seem traditional at first glance, because being "offbeat" is about being tolerant and accepting of each other's differences and supporting one another in a world that is not very tolerant of anything that differs from what is considered "the norm".
    Eek, not trying to get on a soap box here, just trying to explain what I love about this community. They accept and support everyone here, and that is what makes this site so awesome. Keep visiting offbeat bride, I promise you'll see lots of different (and all equally valid) opinions and beliefs. I love reading it all, and love being a part of such an amazing community 🙂

    • Agreed — doing something just because it's against tradition is no better than doing something that's tradition but that means something to you. The point of being "offbeat" is being yourself, not just rebelling as much as possible for the sake of rebelling =)

      For me, I didn't have any good reason to change my name, so I didn't. My husband and I were more comfortable walking down the aisle together, so we did. I get annoyed by people who just do things solely because they think they're "supposed" to, but if someone has their own valid reasons for going along with tradition, even if it's not what I would do, then I fully support them.

  7. My first name is so common that I hesitated to change my last name when I got married because it sounded like a completely different person's name. My husband really wanted us to share a last name, though, and his first name sounded silly with my last name. To compromise, I added his last name onto the end of my name, unhyphenated, so I can mix and match which combination of last names to give out when it's convenient. I now have an extremely long legal name consisting of one first name, one middle name, and two last names. It works for us.

    I love the addition of your husband's name as a middle name. It seems like another great way to connect with each other and still honor the family that raised you.

    • You brought up a point I forgot to make earlier: sometimes it's inconvenient to have a different last name from your spouse. Part of the reason I'm using hubby's last name as a middle name is so that it'll be on my ID (when I'm back in non-Québec Canada), which makes silly little logistical things a lot easier. The second (and more important reason) was as a connection thing. Now what would have been ideal is if Kyle had added my last name as his second middle name… but he's a bit too traditional sometimes, methinks…

      • Yes, that's a huge reason why I gave in to tacking it on the end of my name. He's able to do little things for me now like pick up my prescription from the pharmacy and talk to the cable company because sharing a last name makes it obvious that he's not lying about being my husband. It's a bit silly that you have to share a last name to be taken seriously sometimes, but that's the way this culture is built right now. Also, if we ever get around to having kids, we don't have to choose a last name for them (and either one of us could pick them up from daycare or school without a signed affidavit).

  8. Thank you so much for this. I chose to take my husbands last name precisely because I lacked all emotional connection to my father and my father's entire family. But I have a strong, healthy, lasting relationship with my husband and his family. There were also other emotional reasons for my choice. I don't think that any family needs to share a last name to BE a family but simply because of my specific experiences, it resonates that way for me. I know that many of my fellow feminist friends have judged my decision without really knowing the reasons so I full appreciate that other feminist brides recognize how personal the decision is.

    That said, anyone who refers to me as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, will suffer a horrific tongue-lashing! 🙂

    • That's exactly my situation. XD I see my last name as connected to my father, with whom I am not close, and plus I just like the sound of my first name with my future spouse's last name. Plus my father has all sisters – so my aunts, cousins, etc. (whom I love dearly) all have different last names anyway. 🙂

      I think the Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname thing is silly. I watched the movie The Secret of NIMH (with the rats) the other day for the first time in years, and realized how weird it is that the main character is "Mrs. Jonathan Brisby" for the entire movie – like she doesn't have a first name! We never find out what her real name is. It was a bit irritating…

  9. My parents were born in 1974 and my mother didn't change her name – and then she gave it to me as a middle name. Just wanted to let anyone know who is contemplating what to do and are worried about future children's reaction – it was never, ever an issue. I thought it was normal – and as I get older I think it is SO boss that she didn't change her name. The only confusion came when I met my friend's parents and thought they were brother and sister – ha. Just wanted to point out that there are lots of people out there who do not have their father's or another male family member's last name as their last name. Lots of couples are having a discussion about which partner's last night they kids will have. In my relationship the pets get my last name and the kids will get his. 🙂 Thanks for writing about this MissDN!

    • Love that you thought your friend's parents were sister & brother – awesome! And seriously bonus points for use of the word BOSS! 😉

    • I'm not changing my name – I like it, it's mine (not my father's – well, it is, but he doesn't own it, yeesh). When my FH and I have kids, we'll give one each last name. So, the first kid will have one of our last names and the second will have the other (we want two, so that's convenient, anyway).

  10. My boyfriend's father died when he was 8. His father was adopted and given the last name by his adoptive mother. I want to take his last name because he wants his father's legacy to live on in our family.
    To me, a feminist is a woman (or man) who understands that she is not subordinate to anyone and is free to make the choices she wants, whether that be taking his name, keeping hers, getting a new one, never marrying, etc.

  11. Call me amazingly shallow, childish, pathetic, whatever, I'm taking my fiance's last name because of what I put up from others with as a child and teen as a result of my surname. I was teased mercilessly and if I can avoid putting our future offspring (and myself, come to think of it, some adults are amazingly childish and still poke fun) in that same firing line, I will.

    Great post. I'm sick of being told I'm "un-feminist" because I'm taking his last name or simply because I'm getting married. How is it fair that we're supposed to support gay marriage but it's frowned upon for a hetero female to enter a so-called "male-dominated" custom?

    • I had a friend with a last name that she didn't care for, and would get teased often because of it, and she would always joke that she couldn't wait to get married so she could change her last name, and that her dream guy would be a Smith, or Jones.

      • My great aunts used to tell me about their step-mom saying she was so happy to be married and have nicer initials (they started as HAW and changed to HAS).

  12. Taking his name as an additional middle name is such a good idea that I feel stupid for having never thought of it! I know of the option to replace my middle name with my maiden name, but I love my middle name too. But if I do it your way I won't lose anything, woohoo!

    • I know, it's something that never occurred to me, either. I actually wouldn't necessarily mind dropping my middle name, anyway – like you, I love my middle name, but I generally go only by the initial ("M"), not the full name ("Michele"), and everyone assumes it's "Marie", because "all Irish-Catholic girls have the middle name Marie!"

      If I change it to "T" (his last name begins with a T), everyone will assume it's "Theresa," but who cares? 🙂

      I should ask my officiant if that's even feasible in NY – I would imagine it is, as just about anything is feasible, which is awesome. +1 for NYS! (For a change …)

  13. Great post.

    I am taking my fiance's last name, but it took me a while to decide. My fiance does not care either way. The major reason I hesitated taking his last name is that his ex-wife did not change her last name back to her maiden name when they got divorced (they have no children together). That's her choice, of course. After a while I thought that it is my choice, too; and though she has his last name, they no longer share a life together. I also have a few publications in my name, but that's really not that big of a deal.

    I was considering adding my last name as my middle name, but then I would be E.E.E [last name] and that may be too much! 🙂

    I guess when it comes down to it, I think it's about sharing your life with someone else; the nomenclature isn't necessarily the important part.

  14. I'm getting married in October. I'm taking my FH's last name as a symbol of us becoming a single unit. I am lucky that my maiden name is a comes from an older given name, "Ivo", which we will give as a middle name to our first child. I consider receiving his name an honor, symbolizing our two families bonded at a deeper level. I will be hyphenating my name on facebook, however.

  15. I think the issue for many of us is that each individual woman who takes her husband's last name will describe totally feminist reasons for doing so: "I never liked my last name," "He was the last person in his family with that name," "I wanted a symbol of us becoming a family." And yet somehow, 90% of the time, the woman takes the man's last name. (And that doesn't even count the ones that hyphenate.) One would assume that men are as likely as women not to like their last names, or to marry someone who is the last one with a particular name, or to want an obvious symbol of becoming a family. Yet the percentage of men taking their wives' last names or even hyphenating is so small that it is difficult even to find statistics on it.

    So yes, I respect an individual woman's right to change her name, and an individual man's right not to. But at some point, I start wondering how "voluntary" the choice really is, when one gender overwhelmingly makes a choice that the other rarely even considers.

    • I would assume (possible wrongly?) that anyone marrying someone who would think that hard about to change their name or not, considering a feminist perspective, would discuss it with their soon-to-be spouse. I discussed it at length with my fiance – and quite simply, he asked me to take his name. Sweetly and sincerely. He asked. That was it. Does that mean I'm not a feminist or my reasoning is wrong? I don't know.

      Truthfully what I'd like to see is a world where we don't have to defend these choices to anyone. Just "Hi. I'm now ____________" or "Nothing has changed, carry on!"

    • Agreed – I made a similar comment above. None of us can divorce these 'choices' from the patriarchal society in which we were raised. I'm guessing most people on a blog as feminist as this one would agree (or at least I hope they would recognize this truth), although it does not feel good to realize how programmed we are by the society in which we live.

    • Exactly. I've never read anyone blasting or condemning all women who change their names as unfeminist. However, I think this is the seventh? post I've seen about a feminist woman who changed her name and hates how she is constantly judged and condemned.

      I've nothing against anyone's personal choice.

      But feminism is all about finding patterns and seeing what they say (a particular individual woman might be more suited to cook and clean and be the primary caretaker then her husband – but when all women 'make' that choice women as a group end up much much more likely to live in poverty, be vulnerable to abuse etc.) It's important to be aware of that. Self identified feminists are still more likely to take their husband's name then keep their own. Self identified feminists are likely to marry a man that won't take their name or even add their name if she wants to hypthenate. What does that say? Maybe that says nothing – but I doubt it.

      Nothing against anyone who has changed their names. Every feminist I know makes many choices that are not feminist either because they are neutral as far as feminism goes or because succumbing to patriarchy in a limited way is necessary to prosper and be happy in our society. This includes me.

    • I'm still trying to figure out what to change my name to when I get married (if at all). And it bothers me mildly that my FH rests in the security that society won't ever expect him to change his name and therefore he never even considers it.

      My ideal which matches my values would be for us both to change our surname to "Web" (part of a nickname he goes by on the internet anyway). When I suggested it, he was uncomfortable (as he has a lot of pride in his surname and his massive Italian family would feel rejected).

      I'm uncomfortable with taking his surname because I don't want to be referred to as just another personality-less "[hislastname] woman" in his family. I'm also uncomfortable with the fact that he forgets that he could just as legitimately be referred to as a "[insert his mother's surname here] boy". I guess its petty but why does only one parent's side of the family get the credit for what he does?

      Actually writing this all out has cemented my decision that I'm not going to change my surname (though I'm not going to be picky if someone accidentally refers to me as his last name). Even though I was teased for it when I was younger, that is nothing compared to the ramifications of changing it.

      I have no idea what we're going to do when we have our first child though. His family will insist and assume unquestioningly that she will have their last name. Though again writing this out has helped me decide. She will have my family's middle name and his family's last name. It's not ideal, but sometimes its easier to go the less-conflict route.

    • I’m a Queer lady, so I should hope that even if I ever marry an American woman, I hope she would spare me an odd yearning to make me take her name. The notion deeply rankles me. Especially if I married a man (very unlikely), this expectation would be a deal breaker for me. Having a foot in Chinese and American cultures as I do, this custom (and the amazing pressure to do it) looks incredibly loaded with expectations which I’d just assume do without…

      I wish such women well. We all have our tensions with problematic traditions. I do wonder why they feel their reasons for this custom only happen at marriage? If you don’t like your name or feel it connects you unduly, then why not just change it to something that is palpably truthful for you…? So I don’t understand why, given all the feelings people voiced about abusive family or such, that more (American) women don’t just change their name anyway when they come of age. Or are there more people doing just that than is generally spoken of?

  16. This is going on a bit of a different tangent… I thought it was very interesting that the author talked about marriage being regarded as a privilege in the US. It makes me wonder… what would happen if straight people couldn't have a government recognized marriage? Would marriage still be a "privilege" in that case?

    • Governments have only started recognizing marriage pretty recently in history, mainly for tax reasons. For the US, I think it's only been a century, probably not more than 150 years. Before that, it was solely a religious (or, as I prefer, spiritual) issue between the people involved, and between them and their chosen community. Personally, I think that the government should get out of our lives and stop recognizing any marriages. Then any couple (or group if they're so inclined!), who wishes to be recognized as married has only declare it, which may or may not involve a ceremony in front of their peers.

      As far as "benefits" are concerned – in a free society any person could contract freely with any company they choose, regardless of whether the government recognizes a couple's union. If two men want to have a family plan insurance policy, great. They'd sign up with the company of their choice, and hopefully their relationship is strong enough to last through the terms of the insurance contract, just as it is with any hetero marriage today. Obviously this would require the government getting out of our lives and setting arbitrary rules about who is considered married. If only one insurance company will insure gay couples, then guess who's going to get all the gay business! Soon the others will follow. And taxes should be low and irrespective of marital status.

      And for "recognition" of marriage – hell, I had an atheist wedding, and I'm sure that there's plenty of religious communities in the world who won't officialy recognize us as a married couple! What matters is that our friends and family recognize us as a family unit. You can whine until you're blue in the face for everyone to recognize your relationship – or you can be happy with who DOES recognize it, and work to open other peoples' eyes.

  17. Although I am in a queer relationship, I am gender-queer-femme while my partner is trans-butch- which makes our relationship feel a bit hetero-normative at times. As a feminist, I have long been against the idea of losing my last name. However my partner and I are hoping to start a family soon, and knowing that our children will have to deal with the social challenges of having queer parents, want to have a single name to clearly identify us a a FAMILY. Since I will be the one carrying the babies and sharing a genetic connection with them, I felt it was only fair that they be given my partner's name. My partner recognized how difficult a choice this was for me and pointed out that we both loathe our middle names- therefore why shouldn't we BOTH change our names, taking my last name as our new middle name. This was the perfect compromise for us, as I will keep my name in some form and we'll both be sharing each other's names. I must say that it is sad that generally speaking, only women are forced to choose between the names while men are automatically assumed to be keeping their names. Has anyone ever met a Mr. HerLastName?

    • I know a few Mr. HerLastNames and I actually know a couple who fought over who was going to change their name – he wanted to take hers and vice versa – ha. The Mr. HerLastNames I met were fellow lawyers interestingly enough.

      • That part doesn't surprise me. About half my friends are lawyers (as am I), and almost every married couple I know where the woman is a lawyer, the wife has kept her name or the two have made a new name. (I also am keeping my name.)… Maybe something about the profession? Or the societally-recognized success of the wife puts her name/identity into a different category than the usual male-dominated situation? Interesting observation…

    • It’s rare, but not an unknown, custom in China for husbands to take their wives’ names, especially if her family was more prestigious. This comes from the southern Tai minority nations of Southern China where this was once the norm (and still is in the more fiercely matriarchal regions). I’ve known one Zhuang man who did this. Women taking husbands’ names is not a custom even in the more patriarchal Han culture, though people in the olden days would say, “Madam (His Name)”, but legally one maintains a personal name. Naming is also more complex in Chinese culture traditionally than American culture. It’s normal to have 3-4 names for different contexts – personal, public, literary – as well as to change one’s name under difficult circumstances. Many, many people did during the troubles of the 20th century.

  18. For me, being accused of being anti-feminist for choosing to take my husband's name is sometimes extremely distressing. We considered choosing another name, but ultimately couldn't decide on one in time (Christmas-Kitten, Lovecraft?). I knew from the start, however, that I did not want to retain my father's last name, my maiden name, because of my extreme distaste for my father, a womanizer and child-beater. Yet, some women would castigate me for this.

  19. I'm taking my fiance's last name, as well, because my own name is long, difficult and when we travel abroad (which is often; we LIVE abroad) it's well nigh impossible for others to get right. His sounds nicer and is short and easy.

    Kudos to MissDeeNee; I know how ya feel. I also hate how the world assumes that because I'm changing my name that I'm somehow more traditional than I let on – no…I just happen to prefer his name to mine. I've never liked mine and I think I'm doing OK for identity seeing as I "created" my own first name (I created a slightly unusual nickname from the common first name my parents gave me) and everyone uses it – I know people who are not actually aware that my legal name is different.

    • Because it's cumbersome if you're not getting married.

      I changed my last name when i was 18, and I won't bore you with the details and the red tape I got tied up in. I had good reason for changing it, and a motivation (I wanted the name I was changing it to, moreso than I wanted to dump my current name). If it's just, "I don't like it," and you don't have a good alternative off the top of your head … well, it's often more trouble than it's worth.

      • Maybe it depends on the state, but I changed my name and it was pretty straightforward. I wrote my check out to the courthouse, they gave me a paper, I then faxed that paper or took it with me to get my driver license, bank account, credit card, school, etc. information updated. Everything was updated in three months time. You just have to keep a list of any agency that needs your curret legal name on file.

        • I think it does depend on the State. I had to publish a notice in the newspaper and everything! New York does everything more difficult, though …

          • I had to publish a notice in the newspaper too, but it really didn’t seem like that much work to me. I’d been planning to change my name, which I always hated, since age 16, and I finally came up with the right one and did it at 19. I also used to roll my eyes at people who said they couldn’t wait to get married to change their names– why should they? And what’s the guarantee that their husband’s last name would be any more pleasing?

            It was definitely worth it for me to change my name when I did. And obviously, I kept it when I got married. I sort of laughed at anyone who even asked whether I was planning to do otherwise!

  20. This topic tears me up. 🙁

    Whatever choice a woman makes with regards to names, lord knows I won’t judge. You do what you think is best, and that’s that. Hetero men get off easy, here, but it seems any woman who identifies as feminist ends up in agony over making a decision. I won’t add to it.

    I have no idea what to do in my own situation. I love my last name. I have a strong connection to my family and to my name, which is unusual, has a super-cool meaning, and starts with a weird letter. It’s awesome. Person-I’m-marrying has a cool name, too (though not as cool as mine, and tough to spell), a strong bond with his family, etc … if he changed his name I know his father would be sad, and his grandparents would be devastated. My family would be proud if I kept mine but wouldn’t blink if I didn’t — this is a small part of the huge sucking vortex of fail caused by tradition.

    So, we keep separate names, maybe. That’s how I’m leaning now, but I’m so sad at the thought of my children not sharing the same name as their parents. At my family not being united under a name the way mine was growing up. Our names are awful hyphenated, and even stacked one after the other they’re completely mismatched and awkward.

    I feel like there’s no way to win, here, I hate it.

    • Of course there's a way to win! Just do what feels right. Sounds like you are already there – keeping your name that you adore! Caving to societal pressure to change your name, when it doesn't feel right, is the only way you will lose here.

      Children have a lot bigger problems in families than not having the same name. My 'rents were "united" under the same name, and it didn't stop my sperm donor of a father from cheating like it was his job and leaving my mother with three kids (who bore his oh-so-bland last name) to raise… Also, if you think they won't fit in, move to Brooklyn! Half of the kids in my 'hood have families where people have different names. Or you could move to Spain or countless other places where that's the norm.

      Good luck ByAnyOtherName! P.S. Want to give a hint on your name? Does it start with an X?!

    • Either hyphenate officially, and use whichever name works better for you guys unofficially, or one or both of you can take a second middle name. We also struggled with this a lot, and finally we BOTH hyphenated. It works, even if it's a bit cumbersome. Today, society is so informal that almost everyone goes by their first names. I'm "Heather" to everyone, not "Madame BlahblahBlahblah-Blahblah (yes, that's the correct number of syllables in my new last name!)

      I wanted to keep my name, because it's cool, and because, translated, it's an aptonym for my field. I was pretty okay with taking his name, because it's even more of an aptonym, and I'm just dorky like that. But most importantly, I wanted the entire family to have the same name. He didn't want to drop his name, but was willing to do so for love of me (I think a one-way ticket to divorce is to pressure your spouse into something they really don't want to do). So, we compromised and hyphenated, and now our name is huge! Bottom line is, you can make anything work. Make a list of your priorities. If aesthetics are your first priority, this isn't much help. If familial respect and a common last name is your priority (sounds like it is), you'll find something that works for you.

    • Don't be sad at the thought of your children not sharing the same name. My mom kept her maiden name, and I got my dad's last name (although I changed it when I got married, after much, much soul-searching!). No one ever blinked. My mom was still known as Mrs. DadsLastName by my classmates and others but she didn't particularly care. She was Firstname Lastname and also the wife of DadsFirstname Lastname. She had no problem being both. And it most certainly didn't matter to me. It was totally normal as far as I was concerned.

      Really, it's not a name that unites a family. To be honest, the reason my mom didn't change her name when she married my dad was she had been married before to a horrid, horrid man who treated her like crap (no kids, thank God). They shared a name, but they certainly weren't united. She went back to her maiden name after the divorce and never looked back.

      So, it wasn't a problem for me, nor for her (or my dad for that matter!). Just do what feels right. It's amazing the amount of things that seem SO HUGE AND IMPORTANT before the wedding, but just fall into place.

    • Much love for the reassurance re: kid names, ladies. I'm happy with my name and he's happy with his name, I think that's the way we'll go (mine starts with a V, by the way). Kids will get … one or the other. I'd consider giving kids my name, or every other kid my name, but that's a discussion for later, I think.

      I hate to toss the feeling of family unity via name but I do think it's the weakest link. A lot of ladies say they've taken their husband's name so that they can 'be a family', or 'for the kids', it just stinks that the burden's by default on the woman in a hetero relationship for thinking about sacrificing that for the sake of … well, a name. But it means a lot to me, so it's worth it, I guess. People will find other reasons to be judgmental anyway.

    • The way to win is the way that you choose. I'll tell you, my mother never took my father's name, and as a result they split me and my three siblings neatly down the middle- one boy and one girl had Mom's last name, and one boy and one girl had Dad's. And we all grew up fine, we all still love each other, and I totally plan on doing the same thing with my kids. Family unity is built with love and understanding, not by one person sublimating their own history and personhood to that of another.

    • I’m feeling like this too! I know I’m reading this post rather late but I’m still trying to make my mind up. I was originally excited about taking my partners name until I started to question why it is ALWAYS the female that does this. I would like to have the same name as our future children though and I’m not a fan of hyphenated names. Gargh..what to do. I don’t want to take his name and then end up regretting/resenting it either. I was keen on making up a new name but my partner isn’t keen on this and sad that I don’t want his name. What to do, what to do. I feel like I lose either way. I’m probably a hypocrite either way as well as I did want him to do the romantic proposal and I do enjoy looking at my sparkly ring and I love it when guys act like gentlemen. So f’d if I do f’d if I don’t.

  21. Here's the thing: yes, you have the right to do whatever the hell you want with your name. However, we all know that the entire concept of a wife taking her husband's name is a holdover from the idea of women as property, being tranferred from the father's family to the husband's. All of these complicated feminist apologetics depress me, because they seem like putting lipstick on a very ugly pig. It would never occur to 99.9% of men to change their name upon marriage, no matter how much they hate they fathers, love their wives, etc. Why would they? It's their name just as much as their father's, just as my name is mine because it's been part of me for 30-odd years. Why should I have to change my name to show we're a family unit? It would never occur to my husband to do that, even though he's a feminist.

    If you want to change your name to your husband's, for whatever reason, that's your right. But let's not kid ourselves: you're doing what patriarchy expects and wants you to do, and the result–you are now Mrs. HisName– is no different whether you do mental acrobatics about it beforehand or not.

    • Thank you. Yes. I deeply hate the "Well your maiden name was your father's name!!!" argument. If you don't like your dad and want to ditch the name, fine, whatevs, but the point is this: men don't own names. If it's your name that you grew up with, it's yours as much as it's your dad's or anyone else's. It has never once occurred to me to change my name, and I never assumed I would even before I met my guy, and so I don't hurl stones at the women who do it, but I can only see it in terms of the patriarchy. My dad's father abandoned him when he was 4 and never came back, and his mother is a looney toon no one eve talks to anymore, but Dad didn't change his name to Mom's when they got hitched. Probably never occurred to him. Again, do whatcha want, but the last-name changing is a patriarchal idea of property.

    • yes yes yes, i agree completely. i don't berate women who take their husbands' last names, but i STILL remain unconvinced by ANY reason that this move is somehow feminist (or, at least, is "not unfeminist"). hate your dad and don't want to be associated with him? take your mom's surname. well, mom's surname was HER dad's surname? fer god's sake–we can draw a line SOMEWHERE and claim a name as OUR OWN. why does this change only have to happen when you get married?

      and why wouldn't he take your name? or why don't you BOTH hyphenate? or come up with something new, and BOTH take it. (yeah yeah, everyone will assume it's just his name anyway… sigh.) how does a man taking his wife's name mean that there is more family unity than if a woman took her husband's name?

      [pant pant pant] you can see this whole thing has bothered me for quite a while… i agree, it always has seemed like complicated apologetics…

      • oops, i meant, how does a woman taking her husband's name mean that there is more family unity than if a man took his wife's name?

        damn emotional typing.

    • This is why I keep wishing there was no such thing as a last name.

      Everyone knows me as Naomi. That's who I am. My last name has very little do with how I see myself. If I could do away with surnames altogether I would be extremely happy (I'm sooo jealous of "Madonna" and "Cher" etc). I'm heading for a career in academia, and I cringe every time someone gets referred to by their surname, as though they're not an individual but just a product of a family (damn APA and Harvard-style referencing – I really wish I could ask everyone in the academic world to just refer to me by my first name, first name and middle name, or full name, but NOT my surname only). I'm really hoping that in everything I can continue being called Naomi, not just "Ms. Lastname".

      Unfortunately my FH's surname has everything to do with his pride and self image. And if I take it, it will have everything to do with how his family views me (hence why I won't), not to mention that it would be endorsing the wrong value to my facebook friends – I should be more specific here:

      I grew up with a single-parent unmarried mother who felt like a second-class citizen because she wasn't married, also I grew up in a "Christian" environment to whom marriage is everything (because it equals sex). I don't want to make people who aren't married feel bad, or feel that it is crucial to success in life. Thus on all forms I am "Ms." (my marital status is irrelevant) and I won't change my surname, so that it will be clear that I'm still the same individual I was before I married, and that I feel no need to announce to society that I'm not single any more (like I needed to be cured of being unmarried because there was something wrong).

    • I respectfully disagree. I think it’s okay and “not-unfeminist” to thoughtfully participate in traditions with patriarchal origins, even traditions that have patriarchal undertones in the present.

      Two things:

      First, name-changing has a whole spectrum of meanings and emotions revolving around it, and those are slightly different for every person – female subordination, family unity, how you feel about your own family and your in-laws, how much you like the sound of your name, etc. I don’t think anyone can decide how much someone else should weigh the patriarchal symbolism relative to all the other factors that go into deciding whether to change a last name.

      Second, social norms do impact men’s and women’s decisions on a large scale, but that doesn’t mean the individuals making the decisions were brainwashed or naive. Our upbringing impacts our likes and dislikes, and our culture raises boys and girls differently. The result is that individual men and women thoughtfully, wisely doing what makes them happiest is sometimes going to result in big behavior differences between the genders. I don’t think a person have an obligation to deny themselves something they like just because their desire is partly a product of a sexist culture. Better to go with what you want and make a point to speak up for people who do make the non-traditional choice.

  22. Amen.
    I am taking my husband's surname and I'm 42 years old. I've received criticism on both sides and let them all know (while smiling) that this decision is one that is not being made lightly…kinda like the decision to get married in the first place. In my profession I'm know more by my first name then my last name. The strongest negative voice in this was my mother's! And she took my dad's surname when they married…but she's (finally) come to realise that to me, it's only a name. It's does not truly define who I am as a human being. I am excited and honoured to change my name…it won't change who I am.

  23. My FH often refers to me as "The Fabulous Ms. Kim (Lastname)" and it has become sort of a fond joke among our friends. Early on in our engagement I asked him if he wanted me to take his name. He looked all puppy-dog sad and said, "But then you wouldn't be The Fabulous Ms. Kim (Lastname)!" I love that man.

  24. My fiance really wants me to take his last name. But I can not do it or many reasons. I was married before, young, and took his name but when I divorced I could not get rid of it. Legally you are suing your husband for the right to your name back, he owns it. For many years I sufferred trying to legally get my name back. Now I have years of education and accomplishments in my maiden name. I do not want to lose. But I am having an other problem. My friends who have all had bad marriages, are bitter towards marriage and take jabs at me for getting married, at all.

    • Stick to your guns! If you don't want to change your name, then DON'T. Don't let anybody pressure you into doing something you don't want to do. If he's unhappy about your decision, it's HIS problem, not yours.

  25. My fiance and I had this discussion almost a year before getting engaged. He said that if we got married he would really like if I took his last name. And I liked the idea of having the same last name as him. I don't have anything against my last name and I don't have any attachment to it either. The only real issue is that I have publications in my maiden name and I don't want to lose the record of those (not to mention that my maiden name is much less common, which makes it easier to find my work). But I've been told that I can publish under any name I want. So I am taking his last name and probably making mine a second middle name and using my maiden name professionally.

  26. I agree that feminism is about choices, there are a million reasons to choose to take someone's name or not, and that ultimately it's nobody's damn business why a person chooses to do one name thing or another, especially since as previous commenters have said, for het feminist chicks there's no choice that won't have someone telling them they've chosen incorrectly.

    HOWEVER. It does burn my biscuits a bit in these discussions when it's laid out like oh he could change his name or she could, just whatever, no big difference. Everyone I know who has even considered having both people change to a third name, or the man change to the woman's name has had families on both sides and weirdly even feminist friends go APESHIT making fun of it. It's like some strange hot button thing that people HATE IT when the guy changes, even progressive folks. I found it weird and disheartening. So it's not as easy culturally as just oh we liked his name better so we both it, and I find it disingenuous to pretend that's the case. Just my personal little tic I guess.

  27. I'm sure that most women on Offbeat Bride DO think long and hard about partaking in some of the more patriarchal aspects of weddings, but what bothers me is that most other women (I always picture the graph Ariel once posted of traffic to OBB vs The Knot) DON'T think about it. I'm just now getting to the age when my friends and acquaintances are starting to get married (my boyfriend and I are not engaged yet), and when I ask if they're considering keeping their last names, you'd think I suggested that they re-enact the prom scene from Carrie on their designer wedding gowns.

    In a community like this, it's easy to be be mutually supportive to the point where we end up in a cultural bubble, thinking, "of COURSE all couples debate who will change their name!" but the reality is, most people just do it because you're supposed to. Ultimately if you want to take your FH's last name for whatever reason, then do it – but I would hope that you explain that it was a choice, and that there were other options, to your friends and relatives in the hopes of opening their minds to that possibility. Otherwise, they'll think you did it for the same reasons most of them do – because that's what everyone does.

  28. Wow – reading everyone's comments makes me realize how lucky I am that it never even occurred to me that I might change my name. The Mr. (as MissDeeNee said, that's just how it worked out – I was also looking for a wonderful girl; he just happened on the scene first) never once thought that I would become Mrs. HisLastName. He doesn't want to take my name, which I think is fine … it's his name, he can do whatever he wants with it. That said, however, I will say that I just recently changed my first and middle name legally to the name I've been using for years. The one on my birth certificate felt fraudulent, like I was being someone else that I never wanted to be. It was important to me that I be able to be married feeling like I was "entirely me". And kudos to people for doing what feels right to them, although one would hope that, as has been said before, it's because they've thought about it and *made* a choice, not just shrugged and said, "Oh, well – it's just a name!" without a second's hesitation.

  29. Hyphenation, keep my own name, or forget about it. I LOVE my last name, and would never just settle for getting rid of it, and if I want to think of marriage as joining my future husband and a unity thing, I suppose hyphenation is appropriate, especially if he or his family has qualms about it. I also take offense to the fact of ever instantly being called 'Mrs' when entering a marriage, as my future husband will not have to instantaneously change his prefix. I think 'Ms.' is just fine, as I've preferred that over 'Miss' my whole life. I have so many hang ups with the traditions involved with marriage it's crazy.

    Funny story: my parents both have the same last name. Meaning that, my mom's maiden name is the same as her married name. She didn't have to worry about this. Lucky for her! Even weirder still? My grandmother also married someone with the same surname as her (the same as my mother's). That simplifies the issue… just marry someone with the same last name as you, it's simple ladies!! 🙂

    Annother traditional issue with weddings: the idea of my father 'giving me away' at the altar? What am I, a present? No thanks. Is there an appropriate way to do this without offending him and my family (who are not as forward-thinking as me). Plus my dad was barely involved in my life until recently, I dont think he should get the honor. I'll 'give myself away', if I'm to be 'given', at all.

    Also, dancing with him and dancing with my husband and stuff? Those 'first dances'? *puke*. I'd rather do like, a line dance. Electric slide, the macarena, you get it. Get everyone involved. I dont want everyone looking at me, and I don't want sappy moments, it's a party people!

    • I'm having my mother walk me down the aisle and "give me away," because she's the one who's always been there for me. I have two dads (one is biological and one is legal through marriage that later ended in divorce), and neither of them were there for me as a kid. Bio-Dad went to live halfway across the country, and Legal-Dad cared more about money than kids. My mom ended up being kind of a Mom-Dad to us, because she was the one who taught us all the "girly" things right alongside the "boyish" things. We learned to cook, and then we learned to fight. We got dressed up all pretty, and then we jumped in the mud. I think it only makes sense to me that she be the one to walk me to my FH. It just feels right. 🙂

      So, if you don't want your dad to do it, see if there's someone else you want to do it who just seems like the right choice, or just axe the tradition altogether and walk solo. Either way, you'll make a wonderful impression.

    • I’m going to have my dad walk my mom down the aisle…she’s got medical issues anyway and needs the help. I’ll be walking in with my fiance. I haven’t told them this yet though, my mom is really pissed at me for even suggested my dad not walk me down the aisle.

      So no, there’s no way to avoid it without pissing people off.

  30. I'm going to keep my last name. But not because it's feminist agenda, just because my last name is very rare and I'd like to pass it on to our children (who by default in this country get my last name). There's only me and my younger brother who carry this name anymore. It's slightly difficult to explain to some relatives who know I'm not planning on having any kids for atleast another ten years – if ever – but one must always remember feelings change, no? 😉

    That reminds me, who finds it slightly offensive planning weddings seems to be the bride's job? Some of my "normal" friends have not let their FH get involved slightest bit in the wedding planning, except by saying yes/no to weather FH's aunt Lily should sit next to uncle Joe. That makes the litle feminist in me scream. I don't want to plan wedding on my own, it's OUR wedding, not some silly ritual to satisfy my "womanly needs". Gosh.

  31. I like this post and the discussion it provoked, well done. It's obviously something we all really think about. I just want to add that as someone who works in the office of a well-to-do Manhattan private school, I have come to the conclusion that no matter what, my husband and kids and I are all going to have the same last name, no matter what it is. You can't imagine what kind of logistical nightmares go on in these school offices, and it's more than you think. We've seen every combo imaginable, and often my coworkers make mistakes concerning families that cause a lot of headaches for everyone involved. Just a realistic thing to think about.

    Personally I really like the idea of taking my future husband's last name as my last name, and making my own last name a second middle name. That way everyone in the family ends with the same name, but I can still use my maiden name as if it were part of my last name when I want, yet I don't have to deal with hyphens or extra long names on forms.

  32. Whatever you choose to do, I suggest that you make a decision and stick to it. I work it a jewellery store and nothing causes more confusion than women who can't make up their minds who they are. Sometimes it's Smith, next it's Jones, then it's Smith-Jones and Jones-Smith the time after that. For whatever reason women who keep their names and stick with that never have a problem, just the ones stuck somewhere in between because they give a different name each time we see them. Pick something and then be consistent.

    Personally I don't consider my self overtly feminist but I kept my name, didn't have my father walk me down the aisle, and told my husband that I would be incredibly upset if he asked my dad's permission to marry me as I don't want two separate people – without me even in the same room – deciding what I can and can not do. I find the entire idea very strange to be one person half your life and someone else after, not to mention always being associated with the man you live with rather than your own person is completely revolting. I don't say that to be combative, I just really do react that strongly to the idea.

  33. I don’t know why this question bugs me, because when it comes down to it, this is America and dang it you can do whatever you want.
    But do you really own your surname? Does anyone and isn’t this handwringing a reflection of a middle/professional class nuclear family centric outlook? My surname not only links me to my dad but the tribe of uncles and aunts and children born in and out of wedlock known as the SURNAMES. Sometime the cousins have the same surname because their mother never married or (in some cases) gave the child the baby-daddy’s name, who happened to be a SURNAME. So on one level it is a family (as in a gaggle of related persons) identifier.
    Ever since high school I have played with my name, since I HATED my first name. I’ve dropped the first name, initaled it, or hypenated it with the middle name. I’ve picked one alternative verison and stuck with it, and added some professional value to it, thus in my mind earning it and making it mine. And that was fine till 9-11, so recently I’ve had to legally change it to what I had been using and publishing under. So $200 and 4-5 months later, I have my name. The combo of firstmiddlelast is mine. I own it, and I got the reciepts. And with that I’m keeping it, come marriage, or kids, or amazing rise in showbiz.
    In the end, do what you want, but don’t make it about other people or groups or factions you want to oppose or impress.

    • I changed my last name too. I’m the only one who has it. So yeah, I kind of own it, and no family members are involved!

  34. For me, I have so much identity invested in my first and middle name that the "norm" of dropping my middle name to keep my maiden and take on my husband's was the "oh no!" for me. My first and middle is such a big part of me, that my nickname to everyone I've ever met has always been the initials of my first and middle. At the same time, I do love my maiden name as there are so few of us in the world. He didn't care either way, and said it was up to me. I decided that I did want to take on his name, but I hoped to keep my maiden name in the mix in someway. We talked, and we agreed that our first born child, no matter the sex, would take on my maiden name as their middle name in honor of my paternal roots.

    • I should also say that keeping my first, middle, maiden and married last names would have been the longest name EVER! ;-P

  35. I think everyone should keep in mind that more and more couples are negotiating the last-name dilemma than ever before. Fifty years ago, men would simply scoff at the idea of taking their wife's last name, but in modern society, it's becoming more and more of a trend than it ever has been.

    I think that instead of looking at this in a negative fashion, saying that women are still being pressured, we should be happy and thinking more positively, because more women are at the very least putting *thought* into the change (if they make it) and more and more men every year are willing to make that change for their wives. Shouldn't progress be a happy occasion?

    Feminism is about "equality among all sexes," not "equality for all sexes but especially for women." That defeats the purpose of equality entirely. I'd like people to keep that in mind when they discuss feminism as if it only applies to women.

  36. For 36 of 40 years I have been Suzanne (insert Hungarian last name with a z in it here). I took first hubby's name, then took mine back. Never took 2nd hubby's name. Now I am approaching the day when the man i love will ask me to marry yet again(oh my what is she thinkin?…yeah I have heard that). He and I discussed it last summer, and I suggested he take MY name. He said, "Why would I do that, I have been (insert very short German last name in here) all my life?" I said exactly! He laughed and shook his head, and said he would marry me no matter what I called myself. "Even Rumplestilsken?" "Even Rumplestilsken!"

    You have to do what makes you happiest, or at least what causes the smallest amount of distress. I am not going to have my first child at 40-42, so I am not needing that family link. If you feel its important, you should do it. If not, then don't. Wear white, or not. Take his name, or not. Put him in a dress…or maybe not, unless he has good legs? Folks should do what brings more joy into their lives and into the world.

  37. My husband and I were both going to take my maiden name as a second middle name, but Illinois doesn't allow a man to change his name this way without paying for a legal name change. My parents did this when they were married, but the way my dad got around it wouldn't fly today. He just started using the new name & when he renewed his driver's license he took in some pieces of mail & requested that they correct his name. He did the same in reverse after they divorced.

    Paul was upset & said it was sexist, but we had enough to worry about without taking on the state.

    I then debated if or how I wanted to change my name. I eventually decided to go with the traditional change.
    Then my dad died just six weeks before our wedding in the midst of his second divorce. Since they had bifurcated the divorce (split in two) and were legally divorced without settling the finances, that honor was left to me to do on his behalf as his sole heir. He had changed the beneficiary on most everything to me, but everything was in my maiden name. We decided to delay changing my name until his divorce and estate were settled.
    It took about a year, so it was that a mere matter of weeks later we were celebrating our first anniversary with different names. I realized it hadn't been that complicated being married with different names, people mispronounce or misspell both of our names and mine is half as long as his (literally!)
    I re-thought and decided not to bother with changing my name. I asked Paul if he would be offended or saddened and if he thought his family would disown me. No, no & no. I kept my name. 🙂

  38. I"m getting married in September, and there was never any doubt about keeping my last name. I'll be 38 in August, and there's no chance of children. I am me, and he is him and we are together. No problem. I do see how it could be confusing if kids were involved; he's been married before, and his child has his last name and mom is remarried and has her new husband's last name.

    I have many other girlfriends who have kept their last names but their children have their husband's last names. I can't have kids, but if I did, I'd be hyphenating. I'm an English teacher — my kiddo would just have to suck up writing the last name.

  39. The “name game” has interested me for a long time because i have been Mr. Hername for over 15 yrs. (Making it more unique is the fact that Hername is her first husband’s as she took Hisname & kept it when they divorced). She has 2 boys by him & wanted to have the same name. We discussed hyphocombos before marriage but settled on having the same name as her boys. Yes it is more complicated for a male to change his name. We hadn’t really planned on kids but were blessed with 2 boys of our own. My boys interestingly thus carry her first husband’s name, not mine or my father’s father’s… get the picture. We divorced 5 yrs ago and i have kept my married name as most divorcees with kids do. Not sure what i would do if i was ever to marry again.

  40. My parter and I have discussed the various name change options if we do marry.

    I can’t be doing with double-barrelled surnames (where would it end?) so I fully expect I will keep mine, and he will keep his.

    It occurred to me that I am in a more liberated position than him. From a young age, I elected to use ‘Ms.’ as my title, and I speak my mind on equality issues. Thus, I don’t believe my friends, family, and colleagues would bat an eyelid whether I keep my name or take his. And I couldn’t care less if anyone wanted to judge me for my surname choice.

    However, my partner feels that if he were to take on my name, other men would judge and ridicule him, and he would feel emasculated. It saddens me that many men are probably in the same position.

    The only reason I can see for taking on my partner’s name is if I particularly liked his or disliked mine. As neither of these are true, I think I will stick with the name I have always used…

  41. It’s interesting how your perspective changes over time. When I was in my twenties, I couldn’t imagine taking my husband’s last name – there was no way in hell I’d do it.

    Now, in my thirties, I think I would take my husband’s last name if I ever got married, and use my maiden name as a middle name. I have no attachment to my middle name, so I don’t mind dropping it. I don’t have much attachment to my maiden name, so I don’t feel like I’d be losing any part of myself by using it as a middle name. Basically, it doesn’t make enough of a difference to me to make a difference, and if he feels strongly about it for REAL reasons (not that BS, the guys will tease me! My family will tease me! Grow the f— up!), then I’d do it. If he doesn’t care, I’ll probably flip a coin – it just doesn’t matter that much to me.

    Now, if I don’t get married until my forties, or whenever I actually do something that’s significantly recognized by the world, I might change my mind again.

  42. Wow! My Women’s Studies teacher from last year will flip over this. Thank you and I wish this could be broadcast to the world in bold, beautiful neon lights 🙂

  43. This is all so wonderful to read! I always just assumed that I would change my name when I got married — now that I am engaged, I realize that my name is an important part of my identity and it is how I am known professionally (as someone mentioned previously, in academic circles, last names are who you are!).

    I was shocked when my incredibly easy-going, feminist FH told me he would be upset if we didn’t share a family name. We narrowed it down to a few alternatives that both of us could live with:
    1) me taking his last name, but using mine professionally,
    2) both of us hyphenating,
    3) both of us taking on two last names

    I still haven’t decided what I am doing. I agree that the shared identity is nice, but I still think its unfair that the “family” name MUST include his last name (though, I would NEVER ask him to change his name). I am leaning towards both of us taking two last names. Of course, he “wins” because my last name is a man’s first name 😉

  44. I consider myself a real feminist and getting married in 7 months puts me in a position very similar to yours.
    I’m going to keep my last name and take my new husbands using my name for professional work and his for family and friends.
    What makes me nervous about this post, however, is how it ends… I don’t think you can buy into tradition and still keep your feminist values, this is something that is making me very nervous. I also don’t want my father to give me away, and hopefully will have both my parents walking me up the aisle… but even the fact that it is the female and not the male who does that suggests we’re still buying into traditions that are firmly entrenched in sexist values.

    Just an opinion.

  45. I don’t care if I’m called a feminist or not, I really have no interest in other peoples’ views on my private life.

    I will be taking my husbands name. I don’t have a reason why. I suppose it is social programming, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

  46. Another perspective to break the slight US-centrism going on in these comments: Where I live, marriage grants the right of use of your spouse’s last name to either sex. In other words: no-one’s last name is legally changed at marriage, ever (though it’s possible to register a preference with governmental institutions). I’d merely be allowed to use Smith, Jones or Smith-Jones for myself interchangeably. IMO, this is a *much* more egalitarian approach of naming; it leaves it entirely up to the individual what they wish to be known as regardless of sex.

    Of course, while the *system* allows for progressive choices, that doesn’t mean people will actually make use of it. It’s still expected and silently assumed that women will use their husband’s name after marriage. That for me highlights what others have touched upon in this thread: that choices do not happen in a social vacuum. How much of a choice is it when in practice, women as a group are overwhelmingly the ones handing over the surnames?

    For myself, hell no will I take anyone’s name. My name is mine. They can take mine if they are much attached to the concept of family unity, as I don’t care much either way.
    My mum set a great example for me by keeping hers in a time when it was even less expected for a woman to do so. She’d return post addressed to Mrs. Hisname unopened – that usually got the point across quickly.

  47. I’ve been doing some thinking and I don’t actually have ANY attachment to my name, and this is why I really don’t care either way.

    I think having a boring surname (Smith) has something to do with it. It’s so common I don’t see it as a link to my family. Funnily enough I’m far more attracted to my mother’s maiden name, Greenman. I think it says a lot more about me. 🙂

  48. In Italy people don’t bother, so although I could change it on my British passport… it seems kinda pointless.
    It’s a very personal choice, and I don’t see it as being unfeminist in any way either

  49. Do it if it feels right and you want to. Don’t let traditions or outside distractions influence your decision to keep/change your last name.

  50. I’ve been reading about this topic lately, and it is becoming a pet hate of mine that it is almost never mentioned that the MAN could change his name too!
    i love the idea of taking his name as a middle name, but shouldn’t he then also take your name as HIS middle name? seems only fair!

    however, it also sucks that this is just another topic that people feel the need to judge women on.

    personally, i don’t think i’d be willing to change my name unless my partner was willing to change his as well – a symbol of MUTUAL love and commitment.

  51. Hyphenated names seem like one great big egalitarian solution, but no one (and I mean no one; i’ve read every comment) has brought up the rammifications of this choice. If you and your spouse take hyphenated names, then do you give those names to your children? If so, then what names do your children take when they get married?

    For the sake of passing down just one name, I’m completely willing to buy into the patriarchy. It’s just a name. Maybe other people feel immense attachment to their last names, but for me, my last name is just a signifier to distinguish me from all the other Jessicas in the world. My cousins are all children of my aunts, so we all have different last names. It’s not like we’re all part of a clan under the same name or anything. I just think we are attaching far too much meaning to these words. They’re just words, and they don’t define us.

    That said, I will be withholding my choice of name from FH until I get to see how he reacts when I ask if he’ll take my name!

    • As someone who has had a hypenated last name her whole life, I have to disagree with you — I have been asked since I was, literally, 6 or 7 what I would name my kids.

      Here is my answer: EVERYONE has to make a decision about how to pass down a name and whose family that name will belong to. EVERYONE. You, either, choose to not put any thought into it and do the culturally acceptable thing or you choose to make a conscious decision. That decision could be to use one or the other last name, create a new name or hyphenate.

      If it’s “just a name,” then why does it matter if someone hyphenates?

      I’d argue that my hyphenated name does exactly what you are saying – distinguishes me from all the other “Rebeccas” and it does it way better than any other last name because it is completely unique.

      I guess I just have never understand the antagonism I constantly hear from a lot of younger, feminist woman towards hyphenating. It’s nothing to you personally but I find this to be a constant discussion. I don’t see what different about hyphenating than combining or anything else. It just seems silly that we have these conversations over and over again. But, alas, I guess that is true of so much that is discussed on OBB …

      Hope this helps to clarify some things for you. And for the record, I LOVE my last name and did not even consider changing it.

    • It’s worth here recording that basically the entire Hispanic world of close to 1 billion people has no trouble keeping score of these things by hyphenation.

      The problem with saying words don’t define us is that words do define us. The patterns reflected in these customs emphasize or uphold certain values. Names say alot about a person and their sociological situation. How a family relates to naming shows its expectations for the patterns of family for ensuing generations.

      Alot of the anxieties displayed in discussions like this one are proof of that. Most women who feel they must change their name at marriage are reacting (and caving in) to such pressures. By destabilizing their identities in this way, they are attaching themselves to a family in a way unexpected of any man outside of a few, remote matriarchal cultures.

  52. I love this article, I actually had a debate yesterday with my 16 year old brother over the fact that my fh and I are going to take my maiden name (or one of them) as a middle name. Both of us. My younger bro found that incredibly odd. Me doing it was okay, even if I hyphenated my name it was okay, but fh doing it too? It was wwrong.

  53. I like the points you bring up here.
    I’ve come across so many variations on the “naming issue” as well. My mother took her maiden name as her middle initial – but only when signing her name – her legal middle name (I’m pretty sure anyway) is still the name her parents gave her.
    I’ve come across ladies who hyphenate, couples who take an older spelling of the husbands family name and couples who both take both family names (without a hyphen interestingly enough)

    As of this writing I have no plans of taking my fiancee’s name or changing mine in any way whatsoever. I have my identity through my present name and plan to keep it that way.
    I’ve asked other women who kept their maiden name if that posed a problem and the response has always been that they were surprised at how much of *not* a problem it’s been 😉

  54. OBB and sites like it are wonderful because they manifest an idyllic, rare bubble wherein some can write about the pressure NOT to be rebranded from father’s property to husband’s chattel. There is a reason this issue fires people up; and that is the weight of pressure in many cultures to do this as a means of destabilizing women’s autonomy and agency, as well as imposing bureaucratic legibility. None of these are “clean” reasons to indulge in this custom. Yes, we should have the option to do as we like when confronted with these customs. But it’s laughable to suggest there aren’t huge non-consenting pressures behind them.

    For example, I keep reading that a wife taking her husband’s name “unifies” the family… What does that mean, that the rest of us (including many whole cultures which don’t do this custom) don’t have “proper” families? Likewise with the abusey proposition that one “think about” changing one’s name at marriage to satisfy hypothetical school administrators or random irate blood relatives. Are such arguments offered with a straight face? For my part, um, no thanks.

    I understand the impetus for this article. Agency demands choice. But agency also requires standing up to manipulative pressures. The discussions in these comments have only further solidified my feeling that this tradition is deeply problematic… It shouldn’t BE a question that anyone ought to change their name at marriage… That it is so disputatious a custom shows that it’s still laden with retrograde anxieties regarding paternity and patrilineage…

  55. I strongly feel feminism should be about choice and women not being judged for their decisions. If you choose to change your last name to his, that’s your choice, and other people should respect that.

    I think even the most traditional of brides are aware of the sexist connotations of marriage, but the fact is the majority of people don’t see it that way any more. It still grates on me admittedly, but I totally accept and respect that for many women, they simply want to take their husband’s surname and have their much-loved father take them down the aisle. It’s not for me, but I understand why others want to keep these traditions.

  56. I’m loving these recent Offbeat Bride feminist musings!

    I decided to change my name, despite having already begun to establish myself as a Chicago wedding photographer with my maiden name (Nelson). I felt torn making the decision, questioning whether it was the right “feminist” thing for me to do… in the end, though, it came down to the name I liked the best. I’d always found my maiden name boring. There are 20 other Elizabeth Nelsons wherever I go, but now I’ll be the only Liz Lui (almost) everywhere.

    Despite all the big questions, it really comes down with what’s right for you.

  57. I don’t begrudge any woman changing her name, but I have the same standard reasons for keeping mine (professional career, convenience, identity, his last name is really unflattering, etc.) plus one big one that I just realized: my last name is super Italian. His is English/Scottish. I just find it so strange that I’d be changing my own ethnic background. It’s baffling to me.

    Now granted, if I had HIS (rather terrible) last name, I wouldn’t be so quick to keep it…

  58. I personally am not taking my husband-to-be’s name but I don’t think taking his name would be unfeminist. What irks we is just when women/men just do it because it’s the done thing, I feel it needs to be thought about. It’s a huge choice and all options should be considered.

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