Commemorating Three Years with Some Last Name Talk

Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary.

It was probably on our third date, maybe our fourth, that I told the then-boyfriend that I was planning on keeping my own last name whenever I got married. It was a deal breaker, I said, if he wasn’t ok with that. Intense? Too soon? Maybe. But I’ll be honest: I was looking for forever. 
I also told him that if he ever asked my dad for permission to ask me to marry him, a) my dad wouldn’t give it because obviously the boyfriend had no idea who I was, and b) we wouldn’t be getting married.
Eight months later, the boyfriend became the fiance without parental approval. We were both 22. What did we need parental approval for? 
At some point in the planning process, we had dinner with my grandmother: the then-fiance and I, my parents, and my dad’s parents around the table. The topic of my last name came up. I don’t know how. How doesn’t matter. I confirmed what my parents already knew: I would be keeping my last name. This point had never been a topic of discussion. The then-fiance had known, right from the beginning of our relationship that I would not give up that counter-cultural decision. He knew that it was important to me.
Across the table from me, I could see my grandmother’s face twisting. 
“Oh,” she said. She has a very specific way of saying it, a way that oozes disapproval.
“Yes. My last name is important to me. It’s who I’ve been for the past 22 years. It connects me to my parents, my brother and sister. Why should I have to give it up?”
“But that is disrespectful to your husband,” she said. So direct. So black and white. 
I can’t remember how I reacted. Did I laugh? Did I argue? The conversation moved on without me and never since have we acknowledged it. 
The issue of women’s names is a contentious one. After all, you could do the ‘feminist thing’ and keep the last name you grew up with but, hey, you know, that’s your dad’s last name. If you’re trying to escape the bonds of patriarchy, you better come up with something all on your own. Or, take your mom’s name. Or your great-aunt’s. But that name doesn’t mean as much to you? Well, I guess your shit out of luck. You can’t win.
In my social circles, the issue tends to hardly come up. I belong to the Christian Reformed Church, which is progressive in some areas and not progressive enough in others. Among my friends, it is a point of pride to take on their husband’s names, as if becoming a Mrs. elevates your social status, as if finally being free of the stigma of single-hood* allows them to fully embrace adulthood. It’s assumed that, at the end of a ceremony, you will be two people joined by one name. No other option is considered.
But why not? 
Biblically, people didn’t even have last names. 
Don’t get me wrong: I will never look down on someone for taking her husband’s last name. Some of the time, I wonder myself if it might be nice to share that one name with the Husband. It’s a choice for which there is no right answer except for the one that is right for you.

But, sometimes, I fall into wishing. Wishing that one of my friends might make the same choice I did. Wishing that my church could get my name right in the birthday list in the bulletin. Wishing we would stop getting mail for a woman that doesn’t exist. Wishing that my grandmother would recognize how personal and important that decision is to me. 

I can tell you this: we have been married for three years and we haven’t shared a name for any of it. We are no less a family, no less committed, no less respectful, no less ready to tackle the rest of our lives together.
Happy Anniversary to us!
Tell me, did you keep your last name, or, if you’re not married, do you want to if you do get married? Did you put much thought into the decision? Have you run into resistance to it?
* Single-hood and the stigma is a whole ‘nother topic, especially if you want to talk about single-hood and the church. But, I would probably be stepping way out of my league there.  

0 thoughts on “Commemorating Three Years with Some Last Name Talk

  1. Happy Anniversary!
    I will probably change my name when I get married. Im not sure why exactly, but I feel no harm in it and it is something I actually look forward to. (I like my last name so its not for reasons like that, just feels right for me). I dont care when people dont do it, and I understand. You are lucky your husband didnt have an issue; I have seen it become quite a point of contention between my coupled friends and their boyfriends/fiances, especially when it comes to kids' last names.

    FYI- my mom is on her third marriage and she didnt change her name for this one. She said after divorcing my dad that she just wanted one identity for the rest of her life and would stick with that name until she died. She has been with my stepfather for 20 years and has never regretted keeping her maiden name

  2. Yup.

    I have a different story about Grandma.

    I told her when I was….12 or so that if I ever got married I would keep my name. She said "You'll change your mind."

    And you know how that worked out.

  3. I kept my own name, too. Our daughter has my husband's last name. We have an agreement that if it becomes important to her for us to all have the same last name, then I will change. But, I honestly don't see it being an issue for her.

  4. I'm surprised you didn't talk about kids names at all in this post! Do you know what last name would give your children?

    As someone getting married next month, this post is right up my alley! I already have a hyphenated first name so a hyphenated last name is definitely out! I feel like my fiancΓ©'s last name name is "equal" to mine in origin and length, which is important for me to retain. My hesitation is changing all my identification. What a nightmare! And I have the old healthcare. I really don't want to give that up! I'll be changing my last name, but it definitely wasn't a clear cut decision and I definitely got flack from some friends and family. None of my married friends have changed their last names – I'll be the first!

  5. Yes, the husband has always been very supportive of it. He doesn't necessarily understand it, but as long as he was ok with it, it didn't matter to me if he got it 100%. It's always been a very personal decision for me!

  6. I've always said something similar! When we have kids and they get older and have friends, we're going to become "The Vs" because that's how people talk about families – with one name. And I'm completely ok with that.

  7. I know, it's a glaring omission… It's something that I had decided on at the same time I decided on keeping my own last name, well before I even met the Husband, so we've discussed it but not in any depth. Our kids will have the Husband's last name. And, as I told Tammi, I have no doubt that one day, a lot of people will be referring to use as "The Vs". As long as I'm still Jeanette DB in that context, I'm content.

    I find your perspective fascinating, since you're facing the opposite pressure! You being pressured to keep your own last name is no better than me being pressured to take my husband's. Ultimately, the name you take on in marriage should be your own choice!

    Next month! It's coming up fast! πŸ˜€

  8. I'm getting married this summer and my mind went round and round this issue. As someone who considers it important that keeping one's name a more common option I feel like I "owe" it to not change my last name. And I like my last name. It flows well with my first name. But its also incredibly common – both my first and last names. As in everytime I go to check in at a doctor office or pharmacy or such I have to list my birthdate and address. My guy likes his last name and has no desire to change it, its unique and short. So ultimately I think I will drop my middle name, legally take his last name but go by all three….firstname formerlast newlast. No hyphen. I won't change anything at work other than my email signature block, but I'll still change all the legal documents. I feel a bit guilty when I hear the feminist opinions on how this is a disservice to future generations but frankly its my name and I'll do what I please with it regardless of family opinions. And I told my guy that if his name didn't sound nice with my first I wouldn't even consider taking it. He seemed to understand although I think he is happy we'll have the same last.

  9. I kept my last name for a year after we got married. I needed time to think about it. While I was sad to say good-bye to my old name, I was also excited about my new name. I now am the only person in the world with my name (that I can find), and that's awesome. It was important for me to have the same last name as the children we planned to have, although now that junior is about to be here, we've decided to incorporate my maiden name into his name, so that side is represented. But it's such a personal decision, and there's no wrong way of doing it.

  10. You know those 'feminists' that would tell you that you 'owe' feminism your name? I think they're doing it wrong. To me, feminism is not about making a decision that pertains to your life and your life alone for someone else and that includes feminism itself! You aren't disservicing future generations with your decision – you're protecting their right to make that decision themselves by choosing the option that was right for you – not for someone else!

    Stick to your guns. Those that say "You can't be a feminist if you don't do x" are just as bad as the ones who try to pressure women with age-old, oppressive patriarchal practices.

  11. Mmm… you know, I really like that! Taking that time to think about it. There's already so much identity shifting that happens when you get married, I think, two people reorienting themselves to each other. Making that change a year later, I feel like it would seem far more natural to slide into the new name.

  12. Ha! Aren't there rules that allow you to just 'assume' a name? So you never have to change your paperwork, but it becomes your legal identity because you have assumed it? I have no idea. But, I feel like even if I were to choose to go by my husband's name, I would never bother changing it on any of my pieces of ID. Sounds like way too much of a hassle to me.

    I think your first point is worth elaborating on. For me, keeping my name was important. I recognize it's not that important for other people. And, for some couples, the man's name is very important! It's a decision that is yours to make, but it's not a decision to make in a bubble. He's got a say too! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  13. I've changed my last name on most of documents other then my health card and birth certificate. My husband didn't really care what I did but I know that when he knew I would definitely change it he was excited and like calling me Mrs. K…

    I guess I just feel like it's easier when each person has the same last name but am certainly not opposed to girls keeping there maiden names. My sister-in-law kept her maiden name. The only thing that is annoying that she will do(and some what disrespectful) is if she is sending out invitations she always only puts her name on it. Like for my niece's baptism. The card only had her name it, I know my brother helped a lot with the planning with the baptism but he probably didn't even think to look at the cards…Many of my family members thought that was very rude and almost chucked the invitation thinking it was junk mail.

  14. I'm estranged from my father. Truthfully, I think he's a pretty deplorable human being so I had no problem dropping his last name like a hot potato. Also, my maiden name was the most popular last name in America (Jones) so getting rid of it actually helped clarify my situation in a lot of public situations. I can't tell you how many Rebecca/Becky Jones's there are in the U.S. Heck, I was one of three at my large public university, and one of two in the same class.

  15. I have a couple friends who have had the exact same view of their fathers' names. And that points to the problem with the whole debate, right? There is no 'winning' here, no right decision, because no matter what, any name we could take is a man's name.

  16. I also kept my last name…. thought about changing it to my married name….but as everyone knows me with that last name they would have no idea if I was to change it…. guess they would figure it out with time… just could not be bothered to change it…. not sure what my husband thinks of that, as it has never been a topic between us….. nor have we talked of him changing his name to mine or any other name of choice…. how society has changed for many…. it is in the end a personal choice.

  17. I know a few very progressive couples where the man has taken the woman's last name (although yes, it's still her father's name). Others have created a new last name out of the letters from each of their last names. And another couple did a hyphenate for both of them.

  18. I kept my last name, it was extremely important to me that I do so. Taking my husband's last name will never be something I consider doing for any reason.

    I'm extremely conflicted about other's choices in this matter, I truly believe I have no right to judge if a woman does change her name but the more articles/blogs/comments I read the more concerned I get. When 90% (don't quote me) of women do change their name, I think there's a problem. We can come up with all the reasons in the world, respect, family unity, it was easier, his name is shorter but if that many women are choosing to change their name it's more about societal pressure and expectation. Women are making choices based on being conditioned to make that choice.

    I am no lesser a partner in my marriage than my husband. i will never be mrs anything and when the time comes to have children we will decide what name to give them together, they will not automatically take their father's name.

  19. Definitely a personal choice. You've touched on another aspect of it too, which casacaudill, below, also mentioned briefly. If you've already got a career based around one identity, how do you even go about changing it?

    Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  20. Thanks for commenting, LG! You make a good point. I wrote this post partially because I know we've got a long way to go yet and the more people talk about it, the more we can instigate change. But, I get a little nervous when I talk about this stuff because I don't want to come across as judgy to the friends who chose to make a different decision.

    You're definitely right – societal pressure plays a huge role in the decisions women make in this. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that societal pressure stops women from making a decision at all. The problem I see is that so few people even think about their options. So few pause and take a moment to think about their name and what it will mean to give it up. I don't care what they decide after they take that reflective moment, but I wish more people would at least recognize that they do indeed have a decision to make. Tradition and society shouldn't get to make that decision for you.

    Thanks for sharing your viewpoint!

  21. Changed my last name within weeks of getting married. Not because of daddy issues, love my dad and have a wonderful relationship with him. And not because it made me feel more adult. I'm still working on that one even post kids.

    The real reason why I did it is because I wanted my kids to have the same last name as me. And because I carry the babies, I felt it was only natural that the husband will get to have a part of him with the kids as well.

    We could have taken my maiden last name as a family, or we could have come up with a third name that we could all share together. We could have.

    I've read a similar post before. One of the commenters said: You could choose to keep the name of the man your mother chose, or you could choose the name of the man YOU chose. That has always stayed with me.

    As with most things, this is such a personal choice and I really don't feel any particular way about what choices other people make. I"m glad you're happy with your choice, and really, we need not defend it. Being happy with your choice is the only thing that matters.

    Happy anniversary.

  22. I kept my last name. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have the same last name as my son, so who knows what the future holds. No plans to change it though. I'm sure my husband would have liked it if I took his name, but..well…he knew better than to ask. haha

  23. Such a good topic. I'll be honest, I never gave the name change much thought prior to marriage – I just always assumed that I'd change it. I guess you could consider me to have been "conditioned" to think that's how it should be done. I had other friends who kept their names, but it never crossed my mind not to change it. I remember the excitement at the initial phase of all of the name-changing paperwork. Five years in and I'm so used to my "new" last name it almost feels like it was always there.

    Ironically, it's not until our son was born that I began to feel regret over having changed my name. It's very important to me that there is a connection to my family in his name, so the deal was that the middle name would come from my family (his middle name was my grandfather's middle name). Maybe it was the name selection process, and putting so much thought into it, that sparked this seed of doubt. A small part of me wonders if I should have kept my maiden name.

  24. So after almost a year I haven't legally changed my name to D-d yet because I don't want to deal with the social security office. I'm thinking about just picking a Monday and going in the next few weeks now that I no longer commute. I chose that combination because I've always been known as Leigh D, including at work since we got married at 27 & 28. On the other hand, I do want to have the same last name as my kids. Hence the ridiculously long (and kind of over-the-top sounding) hyphen. Probably we'll be the d's when we have kids.

    I remember when your grandparents casually asked if I was taking James's name. I wanted to say no *just* to hear an "Ohh" πŸ˜‰

  25. I made a decision that I wanted to take my husband's name. I know that my husband would have supported me if I chose to keep my name. I wanted to be associated with my husband, and taking his name was a way that I wanted to do that. I also respect women who choose to keep their name.

  26. The "I want to have the same last name as my kids" point has been coming up over and over again in these comments. I know that's sacrifice I've made and, perhaps one day, when those kids actually come along, I'll regret it.

    You may have gotten the "Ohh?" just for telling her you hyphenated! Though, I think after what my sister and I put her through, even hyphenating may have come as a relief. I love my grandma, but… πŸ˜‰

  27. Respect to choice! Thanks for commenting, Ellen. I know you're very much in the same cultural paradigm. It's my hope that, one day, the assumptions will disappear and all women can freely make the choice safe in the knowledge that that choice will be respected and upheld.

  28. Thank you for commenting! Such a unique perspective, very different from the others I've been reading all day. The connection to my family is the exact reason why it was so important to me to keep my own name and, I hope, when we have children, we can continue to deepen those connections to both sides of the family by picking very strong family names.

  29. Thanks for commenting Janice! I've always kept that unknown future open as well. If I do ever wish to have that connection through name with my immediate family and I am ready to give up my maiden name, I can always change it then.

  30. I'm not married yet, and no where near it either, but I've always thought of maybe hyphenating the last names.My last name is awesome, and it's dear to me, but taking a different one could be just as awesome. I respect women who choose to keep their last name when they're married. I won't lie and say that it never confused me when I was younger, when women kept their last name, but I like that they choose to do that. So as much as I'd like to say that I'd keep it, I'm not sure. I like all three options, keeping, changing or hyphenating. Ultimately it's your decision. πŸ™‚

  31. Grandma still occasionally writes me a cheque with the name she wishes I had on it. (She thought hyphenation would be a good compromise. Unfortunately for her, she wasn't a party to the negotiation)

  32. From the perspective of a different generation. Your dad and I did have this discussion, way back in 1980 and I'm sure you're tired of hearing the story of why I agreed to take his name. But thirty some years later, a part of me still regrets changing my name. I wish I had kept my own. I always feel as if I'm using someone else's name, not my own.

    As a point of interest, in Ontario, when you marry, you do not need to change your birth certificate. Driver's licenses, health cards, etc. can all be changed with a marriage certificate. It's not the same as a legal name change, but it is legal under "common" law. (another legal term having nothing to do with people living together without getting married!).


  33. By the way, Grandma has come a long way in 33 years. She used to send me cheques made out to Mrs. Ken deBoer. I would choke. But still cash the cheque. : )

  34. That confusion is why I've always said that, if our kids friends refer to me as Mrs. V, I won't make any sort of fuss about it. I don't think I would have understood when I was 7. I think it's important that we have the choice and that all women know the have a choice.

  35. I'd love to have a conversation with you about this sometime! Like someone else who commented, I took a year or so after we were married to decide what to do about my last name. I felt really conflicted, and had a hard time making a decision, since I had strong feelings about both the options I was considering: keeping my maiden name or taking my husband's family name. I felt pulled in both directions, for different reasons. In the end, I realized that no matter what I did there would be people in my life who disagreed or thought I was making the wrong 'statement' with my choice!

  36. I would love that, Sara! Such a good point. It's like someone else said, that she felt she 'owed' the 'cause' to keep her own last name though she didn't necessarily feel that was the right choice for her. Thanks for taking the time to add your perspective to the discussion!

  37. I took my husband's last name happily. I will admit that this is partly because it is the norm and it's kind of what was expected, but I also felt very strongly that when we got married we would be one family unit and I wanted us to have the same last name.Yes, we did pick his name over mine (which I don't regret at all but I do love my maiden name and sometimes miss the comments it would inspire). I did consider keeping my last name quite seriously because it really felt like part of my identity.

    On slightly different but not totally unrelated note: you may have that strong feeling about keeping your last name, where I did not, but my strong feeling came from getting engaged.

    I have always felt strongly that when a couple became engaged it seemed wrong that only the woman wore a ring as a sign of her upcoming marriage, and not the man. So when we got engaged, we decided together that I would take his name, but that we would follow the tradition of wearing our wedding bands on our left hands when engaged, and switching over to the right when married. Thus, we demonstrated outwardly that we were BOTH engaged and belonged to each other.

    I totally understand why you kept your last name, as it was something I seriously considered – but eventually decided against.

  38. Great post! I couldn't agree more with your opinion and have had lots of conversations with girlfriends on this topic. Although I do identify as a feminist, you're bang on about it not being a "feminist" choice as our maiden names come from our fathers (for the most part). Obviously I kept my last name – never even a question (and my then-boyfriend knew this from early on as well!).

    When we became pregnant recently, we had a conversation about which last name our babe would take. Neither family name is "dying out" as we both have tons of nieces and nephews, so we decided to take the traditional route and use my husband's last name. The compromise? I get full say on the middle names (and I'm throwing two of them in for good measure). πŸ™‚

  39. Initially, I was all for letting go of my name and taking Mike's. But now that we're married, I'm struggling with it. I don't want to lose "me". I feel that women are just expected to completely lose themselves once they're married and have kids – their identity becomes wife and mom and I'm not okay with that.
    All of my family lives in BC and I only get to see them once or twice a year. I sort of feel like losing my name is just another thing taking me further away from them.
    Socially I'm now Ashley Priest, but professionally I'm remaining Ashley Taylor. I have one credit card in my new name, but I haven't switched anything else yet. I've decided to wait until I'm completely sure one way or the other. I know Mike wants me to change my name, and he would be upset if I decided not to, but I also know he'd get over it and it's obviously not a deal breaker or anything.
    Our kids will be Priests, because I know it's important to Mike. And we will probably use "Taylor" as a first name for one of our future spawn. My mom took my dad's last name, but my brother was named with her maiden name so it's a "tradition" I'd like to continue.

  40. That one always makes me mad. I had never heard of this, but looking thru old papers from the church we go to, I noticed that. It is kinda funny how every country/culture has it's traditions with this. In holland you would take your husband's name than a hyphen and than your maiden name. That also helps you connect who is who in a church directory. Like who could be brother and sister. And i did not read all the posts, both wearing an engagement band and switching hands when getting married is common practice in holland as well.

  41. I haven't thought a whole lot about it, I guess. I think I always just assumed I would take my husbands last name, and then after we had H BEFORE we got married, I knew I wanted to share the same last name as her and B. BUT, I totally get what you are saying and respect your choice. I know a lot of women who kept their last name after they got married, and personally I think it's great. You should follow your heart and make the choice that is right for you… ALWAYS! And of course, Happy Anniversary! πŸ™‚

  42. I find the "any name we could take is a man's name" argument so bizarre! If it's the one you've had for 20+ years, it's yours.

  43. I was one of those who happily discarded my maiden name when I got married at age 19. Now, eleven years later, I wish I had kept it as some legal part of my name. I do love having one name as a family. But I miss being a Clark! So to make up for it, I use it in my professional name.

  44. Coming from a male perspective, I don't have a clue where to stand on this idea. I know for certain that I would never give up my last name, simply because there is so much history surrounding the name, and I happen to be the last male from our clan to carry it. It is only fair that my refusal to change my name should allow the same choice for any possible future spouse of my own, however, I don't know if it's just because of my conservatively traditional upbringing or not, but when I think that in the future there would be no Mr. & Mrs. Samename, but rather Mr. Name(A) and Mrs. Name(B) I feel uncomfortable, but don't actually know why. It's irritating because in the hopes of an equal-choice future relationship I don't want to be the patriarchal stick in the mud, but for some reason a part of me finds comfort in the idea that any future spouse and I would share my name.

  45. Oh, I love your comment. I love it when people are confused about these topics because it means they'll actually think about them and consider every side of it until, well, possibly forever. Your confusion means that, if you happen to meet someone who has similar strong feelings about her last name, you'll be open to the possibility of not having the same name, even if it means a little discomfort while you get used to it. I know people – and I'm sure you do to – who would not be open to that possibility.

    If this gives you comfort, having two different names ends up mattering far less than you might expect it to. Don't forget, in Quebec, women aren't allowed to change their name when they get married! There, the future is now!

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