This is something that has been on my mind for the past few months. It’s a pretty well known and common tradition that when a couple gets married, the bride takes the husband’s last name.
I can honestly tell you that the idea of doing this, throughout my 7-year relationship, crossed my mind maybe less five times. Truly, I rarely thought about it, except for the passing Pinterest browsing. It’s never been something super important to me.
When we got engaged, I still didn’t think about it for the first few months. Then it started popping up in my wedding planning. At first, I thought, no big deal, just some paperwork. Then I started really thinking about it. Throughout this entire wedding process, I have grappled with which wedding traditions to hold onto and which one to leave behind.
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Now, I don’t want to offend or discount anyone who decides to take their significant other’s last name. Changing your name is a big deal. It’s something I have gone back and forth with for months.
Can we just talk about this tradition for a second?
It’s a tradition rooted in the patriarchal values of a different time.
Taking the name of your husband meant giving up your own identity as an individual person and becoming the wife of someone else. A married couple was seen as a single entity. A woman couldn’t vote, have a bank account, or really make any legal decisions. It was always the husband. The original idea was in fact to erase the identity of the wife. It also provided the evidence of a legal heir, so children would have a name to carry on for legal reasons and inheritance reasons.
As a modern day feminist who is still trying to navigate what that means – I don’t feel comfortable with changing my name. You might ask why I’m getting married at all because marriage itself was also founded in the patriarchy.
But marriage has become an all inclusive institution – for the most part. There is a legal stability from being married and there is a romantic aspect of taking a vow to be with the one you love forever.
My relationship has always been a partnership. We are a team and we are equals. We always try to find the balance in our lives together. So why should I take a part of him and leave a piece of me behind?
It’s romantic for starters, it is a feeling of unity and makes you feel like a family. These are some of the modern reasons why women still change their names.
And that’s totally okay too.
My fiance said that when you agree to marry someone you’re pretty much saying yes to changing your name, that it’s just expected. But it doesn’t have to be true. Just because something is tradition doesn’t mean it’s for you.
My ideal choice would be to have us BOTH change our names to something new – maybe the combination of both of our last names. Or maybe a whole new name. When I asked my fiance what he thought about that – at first, he said everyone knows me by my last name. I told him the same thing.
He’s coming around to the idea of us both changing our names together. But that’s a big deal too- it’s taking on a new identity for both of us. If we don’t decide to do that, I won’t be changing my name. This is a choice I feel most comfortable with.
While I’m speaking from a heteronormative perspective, this is something that the LGBTQ community is faced with every time they get married. There is no tradition that dictates what they can and cannot do – they make their own rules and I love that. A friend of mine told me when he and his boyfriend get married they’ll take his middle name because they love the way it sounds.
Not changing your name when you get married doesn’t have to be this huge rebellion against tradition. It should be about what works for you and your significant other. It’s a choice!
What do you think about changing your name when you get married? Have you changed your name? Are you planning on changing your name when you get married? Let me know in the comments!
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