Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Name Assumptions, Expectations, and Decisions

As I looked down at one of the most generous, meaningful, thoughtful gifts I've ever received, my heart twisted a bit. I was profuse and honest about my gratitude for such a beautiful, hand-embroidered gift. And I quietly ended my thanks with a nervous, almost inaudible addenda: "It's great that Jason and I already share the same last initial, or this hand-embroidered set of monogrammed items wouldn't be accurate."

Because, you see, I'm keeping my last name. And I'd never thought it would be a big deal. And I simply didn't know how to react the first time it suddenly became a big deal when, unexpectedly, I was given a generous gift in front of a large group and because my first response to any generous gift is to be vocally and genuinely grateful. And I ended up saying something, but not in a way that necessarily got noticed or felt right. Because my name had suddenly become complicated. In an instant, it was no longer just my name. There was an expectation about it that tied into strong traditions about The Way Things Are Done and what family means. My name was no longer just a name. Keeping it suddenly felt like a statement, and I wasn't prepared to make a statement at that particular emotional moment. I wasn't prepared for how emotionally alienated I suddenly felt from an important moment and line of traditions that don't speak to me. I wasn't prepared to talk about it as I sorted through the jumble of anger, love, frustration, yearning, and dig-in-my-heels stubbornness that this gift had suddenly provoked.

For me, it just seemed obvious that I'd always keep my last name, regardless of marital status. I learned from my mother, who had taken her first husband's name. Then her career took off. Then they got divorced. And by then, it seemed like too much professional confusion to change her name. She vowed that if she ever changed her name, it would be back to her maiden name, but it was such a giant paperwork nightmare that she never bothered.  When she met my father, he was wise and open-minded enough to recognize that their commitment wasn't rooted in last names, and so she continued on, throughout my childhood, with the name of her ex-husband. She eventually changed her name back to her maiden name, when she finally became a United States citizen and the paperwork hassle was going to be a nightmare anyhow. She and my father are still happily married.

So when I hear arguments about women and name-changing that center around mothers wanting to share a last name with their children, I just shake my head silently. I can understand the emotional pull and sense of logic behind it. But I also know, from experience, that we never felt like less of a family because we didn't share the same name. My mother-daughter bond was cemented over rocking chair bedtime stories, adolescent tears, and Sunday phone calls when I lived abroad. I remember finding many adults rather presumptuous when they referred to my mother as Mrs. MyFather'sLastName, though it was very useful for weeding out telemarketer calls.

I understand that there are arguments for taking your husband's name - maybe you hate your father and want to be rid of his last name, maybe you hate your last name for aesthetic reasons, maybe the "family" name has a lot of emotional resonance for you, or maybe it's something else altogether. And I also know that there are complicated arguments in same-sex partnerships about having a shared name to publicly claim and legitimize the partnership.  I get it. But for me, I always knew that my name would remain my name, regardless of marriage. And I know that this marriage will be rock-solid, regardless of my name.  I've experienced my entire life with this name, and it's a life and accomplishments that I'm proud of. I have a professional history attached to my name and I want to feel connected to those with my legal name (no personal-name and professional-name solution for me.) I'm not worried about the family-name as an imperative part of the family bond and neither, thank goodness, is Jason. I am fine with our future children taking his name, since it's more important to him than it is to me. And, like my mother before me, I have a true abhorrence of paperwork and I'm sure name-changing would be a horrendous process.

But as the wedding draws closer, I'm starting to realize that most people assume I'll change my name. Some of the assumptions are subtle. For example, when I looked for return address stamps on Etsy - you know, that marketplace for independent artisans? -  none of them had room for two full names. Every stamp was either "The Jones Family" or "Mr and Mrs Jones" or simply and informal "John and Jane." I was so ticked off I ended up designing our own stamp for the invitations (and life.) Some of the assumptions are more challenging, like when I'm left stuttering out a reply to a generous monogrammed gift. And sometimes it's just frustrating, because it feels like I'm always gearing up for a defensive fight, as if my decision is some sort of attack on all my friends who are taking their husbands' names. And sometimes it's just lonely, because I'm one of about three married peers who haven't taken their husbands' names. With all the pressures and expectations pushing down on me, it would be really nice to have more allies. More people who understand that my name isn't a statement of any kind. It's just a name, specifically MY name, and I don't see anything particularly strange about wanting to stick with it from birth through to death, with Jason as my partner for the rest of this journey. 

I also haven't figured out a good way to let people know that we're not becoming Mr. and Mrs. HisLast. No one seems to like my idea about announcing the bride and groom with our entrance as "Jason HisLast and Becca Herlast" but I haven't come up with a better option. I don't want to make it a big deal announcement, but I do think there should be a subtle way of making it clear at the wedding without banging everyone over the head with it. Because, while I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable at our wedding, I don't want to feel uncomfortable with the ongoing assumption that I suddenly have Jason's last name. It's hard for me, it's hard for the person at the other end who feels either silly or defensive, and it's just hard to have to deal with it again and again.

I never expected it to be this hard. My mother's different last name was just matter-of-fact. My mother's last name and the rightness when she returned to her maiden name are a powerful reminder of what married names mean and don't mean. And yet. Here I am, grappling with this uncomfortable facet of many modern marriages and partnerships in a world that hasn't really updated its social expectations or etiquette for these sorts of dilemmas. And like I said, sometimes it just gets lonely dealing with this all on my own.

42 comments:

  1. My partner and I have been having this conversation since before we were engaged (although we're not close enough to our wedding that it has become an issue beyond the two of us yet). I've finally reached a place where when I indicate that I'm not changing my name and people gasp! and say "well why on earth not" I ask them why I should be expected to in the first place! It's a little crass, but that's my style.
    In terms of announcing it, this, yet again is another issue. I think we've decided that at the end of the ceremony part of our script will include something along time lines of "I present to you myfirstname mylastname and hisfirstname hislastname" so it's clear that even though we're married we still are our own people! Good luck on this one, and please share what you end up doing.

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  2. What objections do people have to your announced entrance plan? I'm apparently operating in a different milieu, as I'd say there's about a 50-50 split in my friends as far as whether one spouse took the other's name at marriage, but the only weddings I can recall going to where there was no name change that didn't announce the couple into the reception with some variation of "and here are the newlyweds, Chris Smith and Robin Jones!" were the ones where there wasn't any big announced entrance. And this is going back to weddings in the '90s, it's not like some super new fangled thing.

    One thing I'd recommend is getting/making some personalized stationery or correspondence cards that include either your name or both of your names, and using that for your post-wedding thank-you notes. (I did change my name, so for me sending out notes right after the wedding that featured the new name served as notification/confirmation of that choice, but it would work just the same for notifying/confirming a lack of change.) Continuing to use the return address stamp with both your names should help on that, too, but since people are going to look at the actual note more than the envelope, I'd personally suggest having it on the paper/card as well.

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  3. Personally? I love the end of ceremony announcement. I actually have happy dreams about the moment our officiant will say "I now present Mr Him HisLast and MIZZ Her HerLast." Because I'm definitely a Ms and a MyLast.

    The "At Home" cards are cool, but also somewhat of another expense. Although I do love paper.

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  4. I see that we're going to run into this issue too. :\

    I wrote a quickie blog post about the last name thing a while back, but I just know that it's going to rear its ugly head the closer it gets to the wedding date. (I'm pretty adamant about keeping my surname. I've had it for 30 years — I'm pretty attached to it.)

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  5. Our ceremony announcement was, "I now present to you the bride and groom, Sara and Jordan!" I took his last name legally (I hyphenate professionally), but I go by Ms., so I didn't want to be called Mrs. right at the moment that we were introduced to people.

    We got a return address stamp made that's just Sara & Jordan...worked for us, but you gotta do what works for you! It's not that I don't want to acknowledge my last name change (I don't mind having his last name, and it's still fun for me to get mail as Sara HisLast), but it doesn't have to be on display for everyone whenever they receive mail from us, ya know?

    Good luck!

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  6. notes from a lady who has kept her own last name

    1. address stamps- we got ours from Bryn Chernoff of paperfinger. two names. it looks amazing.

    2. ceremony announcement. ours said: "Friends, I present to you Bryan and Maura, husband and wife."
    we didn't do an announcement at the reception. we just walked in. people did cheer for us regardless, which was nice.

    3. it is lonely, but these conversations are part of the dialogue sharing our decisions, why they are hard.

    4. you have to be okay with mail arriving to your house addressed to yourfirstname hislastname. it will happen. it's a given. i've picked my battles with it- friends and family, i correct. his 90 year old grandparents, i let it slide.

    5. on a touching note, we just received a holiday card from his family friends about 2 weeks after christmas. they knew i didn't change my name, and wanted to make sure they addressed it properly.

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  7. Your problem isn't difficult because etiquette comes into play.

    In spite of the fact that we constantly see DJs announcing couples, it isn't really all that proper if you want to get strict about it. It simply isn't "done" at the highest levels of society if that helps.

    And the proper solution for spelling out how you are handling your names is to send "At Home" cards.

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  8. We didn't have an announcement at the reception (honestly, we didn't need one - nobody does. They are entirely optional)...but I did take my husband's name for aesthetic reasons only (my last name is very long and Polish, I live in an Asian country where **nobody** can spell or pronounce it, it doesn't even sound all that nice and while I love my family, I've never cared for the name).

    But...honestly, most of my married friends did not take their husbands' names, and those not married yet generally don't intend to. My choice to do so was actually something of an outlier! (I even wrote a blog post about living in a country where it isn't done, and questioning why I did it: http://laorencha.blogspot.com/2010/12/tai-tai.html).

    It's been met with the same incredulity: "WHY did you change your name?" "Because it just sounds better" is apparently not a good enough answer.

    FWIW I did try to convince my husband that we should both change our names and be the Skywalkers, but he wasn't so keen. Boo. :(

    I hope for you that after a few years the assumptions will wear down and people will just accept your decision, especially as this seems to be a particularly active time in terms of changing expectations regarding women and marriage (which is why there seems to be such a simultaneous fascination with and anger towards brides right now. Just turn on the TV and you'll see what I mean). I think most people are fundamentally good and want to be good to you, and if you make it clear that this is the way it's gonna be, they'll eventually fall in line and respect that.

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  9. How about making it really clear in the Thank You cards you send out? That might be one way to do it.

    I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that whether or not I change my name we will be addressed as Mr. and Mrs. [His First Name] [His Last Name]. That is going to drive me crazy. And forget about if I get something solely for me addressed to Mrs. [His First Name] [His Last Name]. I'm going to throw it away. Yes, put the emphasis on TRYING above. :)

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  10. I may have told this story a few times, but your "I don't want to be introduced as Jason X and Becca Y at the wedding" reminded me of it: During the best man's speech at my parent's wedding, the best man raised his glass to "toast to Dad X and Mom Y." Out of nowhere my grandma stood up and said, "No that is Mom X." So my mom stood up and said, "No I'm Mom Y." Apparently my grandma burst into tears and fled the room for the rest of the night.

    I don't understand why so many people take the name change issue as such a political statement nowadays. Nor do I understand why it seems alllll of my friends have changed their last names. Of course I support their decision to change, but I thought it would be more of a 50/50 split. It does make me feel lonely too.

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  11. It's actually kind of odd to see so many posts about how most women y'all know have changed their names when they got married. Honestly, it has been the opposite in my group.

    Maybe it's a function of where I'm from (New York). I don't think my social circle is any more liberal than most readers of this blog, or Becca's social circle...so...huh.

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  12. We were introduced as "his full name, my full name, husband and wife!" at the end of our ceremony - and a lot of people picked up on that and it helped to eliminate a lot of explaining. the thank you cards are getting it done for the rest of the group.

    also, the very first wedding gift sent to our house pre-wedding was a blanket embroidered with his last name initial, accompanied by a wedding album with his name on the front. it was really disheartening for me and started things off on a weird foot, so i hear where you are coming from.

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  13. We did the "after the wedding the bride and groom can be found at home as Mr. Hislast and Ms. Herlast" and then included our address. Not sure that anybody really noticed, but you can also send "at home" cards with your thank-you notes. It's old fashioned but a good way to let people know, and you can use business cards from VistaPrint which are pretty cheap.

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  14. I'm with Maura. You have to pick your battles. I kept my last name... pretty much because I'm rather attached to it, and I don't believe that changing my last name makes us a better family in any way.

    Personally, though, I didn't want to make it a big deal, or make this fact "a statement." I just wanted to keep my name. When we were announced, we were simply announced by our first names, and I pretty much relied on people asking if I was keeping my name to spread the word. Over time, people will see me using my last name in practice and know how to address me.

    There's definitely many letters that I still get addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. X," but that's just an annoying assumption our society makes, and I'm not too worried about being in their face to correct them.

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  15. I would say it's not fair to make any assumption that those who assume you're changing your name are actually emotionally invested your choice.

    Most of them are just following whatever custom is prevalent among their group. A simple "heads up" in stationery form will do the trick.

    I live among very conservative people where names are routinely changed and even they wouldn't expend any energy on the subject or ask you to justify your choice.

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  16. I had a lot of the same concerns as you in the run up to our wedding - particularly around if and how we should let people know that no name changes were taking place.

    There was no natural transition between our ceremony and reception - literally, one ended and other began with zero fanfare or introductions, and anything else would have felt disruptive and a little too intentional.

    So I decided to simply treat it as a non-issue, and you know what? It's BEEN a non-issue for the most part. On only ONE occasion have I felt slightly awkward about it - when a gift from my husband's aunt addressed to the two of us as Mr. and Mrs. HIM. No mention of ME anywhere.

    I let it go simply because we almost never see her.

    Other than that, there has not been a single instance of someone assuming I changed my last name, or questioning why I did not.

    And I'll be honest, that is NOT what I expected.

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  17. Andrew and I both hyphenated our last names- we are both 'her last name-his last name'.
    Boy did it piss his parents off. I mean, it took them 14 whole months- and STILL they requested we not be introduced that way after the ceremony.

    The minister- she was 'supposed' to introduce us as 'Andrew and Lisa'. Only.... she messed up and introduced us Mr and Mrs his last name. I was a little upset, and his parents have grabbed onto that.

    ya know what though- they will always introduce me as 'our daughter in law, Mrs Lisa his last name'. I knew that. whatever.

    about choice of last name- everyone has their reasons, and although you may feel like choosing in order for everyone to share the same last name doesn't resonate for you doesn't mean it isn't less valid of a reason for someone else.

    I think we're all able to make our own choices that work best for us and our new 'family' that we create. :)

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  18. I think the 'at home' card is a good option for letting people know.

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  19. When I updated my alumni profile for my alma mater to show that I got hitched, the alumni office decided to change my name FOR ME on all of their records, since I had obviously forgotten to do that. Several emails later, I'm still getting mail to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast, asking for donations. I finally wrote back on the donation card that if they couldn't get my name correct, I would not be sending any more money. I've not gotten any mail from them since, so we'll see.

    I've also taken the opportunity to post about this fight on Facebook, so now all my friends know better. Even if I HAD changed my LAST name, there is no way I'd have changed my FIRST name!

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  20. Hmm. I never even knew about these "at home" cards. Will have to look into it. And I like the ceremony idea even more than the reception - I don't even want a big announcement, I just thought it might make more sense there. But the ceremony might work too (though key people are still likely to disagree, so it's a moot point.) And we're doing a prominent return address stamp (self-designed) already, but some of the Thank You cards are going out now, as we receive gifts. And yes, I definitely anticipate picking my battles.

    @Jenna - Some people are keeping it, but I've been surprised by how the majority aren't, or changed names after having a baby. And I do run in a liberal/feminist group, which is maybe why I'm feeling even more lonely about my choice.

    @Ms Bunny - Yikes! I, um, hadn't thought of that possibility.

    @Anonymous 8:36 - I'm not assuming. I've had issues come up already where people were defensive and clearly upset.

    @Eco-Yogini - I hope I was clear that it truly is a personal decision! For ME it doesn't feel like it's important for a "family name" but I know it's important to others. But I'm finding my perspective keeps getting dismissed.

    @IRMck - I would reply in the same way. That is incredibly insulting, infuriating, and presumptuous. Ick.

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  21. I made a crossword puzzle that was sent out with the thanks yous (they were supposed to be set out at the tables prior to dinner, but it never happened). One of the clues was 'our married names' and the answer was 'my first & last and his first & last'. I also wrote our new address on the bottom of the page with our names and it was on the envelope with the return address. Yes, even written three times I STILL get a few improperly addressed letters. Ah, what can you do?

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  22. Let me just say that I have been to a shit-ton of weddings with Kelly. LOTS of couples do something along the lines of, "For the first time as a married couple, I present Jason HisLastName and Becca HerLastName." That way, it doesn't seem gratuitous and your message comes across loud and clear.

    The name change was a huge decision for us. It was personal. There were arguments about it. Kelly needed to be more googleable for professional reasons. Her maiden name was not googleable. For feminist reasons, I was iffy about the name change. But I'm now pretty used to us both having the same name, and I have to say, as a same-sex couple it makes a lot of things a lot easier. Although, while we were frequently asked if we were sisters before, the name change has driven that question through the roof. Argh.

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  23. We did the end of ceremony announcement of Myfirstname Mylastname and Hisfirstname Hislastname as being married. We skipped the reception announcement completely. And our return address labels have a first line that says Mylastname/Hislastname. I think I will switch the / to a + the next time I print them though.

    You could also print your contact info (and clarify your name) on the back of the program; I've seen that done a lot at the weddings I've been too. Or you could just make announcements using only your first names, if you choose to side step the issue at the actual wedding, and let your stationary clarify things (or not!) after the fact.

    Good luck as you sort through all this. It's a lot to figure out!

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  24. It's odd that you have so few friends who opted to keep their last names - I'm finding that it's running closer to 50/50 among people I know who've recently gotten married, and people seem to be having less and less trouble with it. Thank god. I'd like to see it get to the point where we can just acknowledge that it's a personal choice and let everyone make their choices without assuming anything.

    My sister planned to change her name, but ended up changing her mind at the last minute. I think it did take a while for that information to filter through the family network, and his family was a little upset. They didn't make an announcement, but they correct people gently when it comes up.

    I've never had any intention of changing my name (because I am attached to it, not as a political statement) and D thinks it would be weird if I changed it. So we're good. Although now I'm realizing that we haven't really told his family so I don't know if they will care. I do like the fact that my sister and I will share a last name forever.

    Annnnd ... I already get mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. D histlastname. From people in his family who clearly know that we aren't married. But to be fair, it is really hard to spell my last name, so I just let it go. Except for making a point of telling D that apparently we got married and no one told us. Lots of people err on the side of just using our first names on mail, and I'm fine with that too.

    Oh, and we have self designed address stamps as well. Casual ones with first names only and more businesslike ones with mylastname/hislastname and no first names.

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  25. I have been very surprised, as my friends have gotten married one after another in the last few years, to be the only woman in my group of close friends who will be keeping her born name. I'm not upset, just surprised, particularly with the speed and ease with which all of my friends seem to have made the decision. Obviously I haven't been privy to all of the debate, but it has seemed like they've all taken their husbands' last names without a second thought. There's nothing wrong with changing your name for marriage, but I didn't think I'd be the only one.

    As to the children? Screw that, we'll have the same name. They're getting herlast-hislast hyphenated names, even though we each have pretty tough last names. The kids will be used to it, though, I'm not too worried about that.

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  26. At Home cards:

    http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-invitations/articles/at-home-wedding-invitation-cards.aspx?MsdVisit=1

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  27. I'm not married, but I always wanted to jointly choose a last name that both my husband and I could use. However, I talked several times about getting married with my now-ex-boyfriend, and he was really set on me taking his last name (although that isn't the reason we broke up). It just seemed really silly and archaic that the woman should have to change her name, maybe as part of a symbolic entry into married life, when few people even think to suggest a name change to the man. We don't have to worry about legitimacy of children or property rights anymore, so I would like to think that nowadays we are quite past the social significance of that particular ceremony, thank you.

    But then again, I'm not keen on keeping my own name, either. I don't have any professional ties to it, and I guess I would fall into the group of women you mentioned who don't have the best relationships with their fathers. In any case, whether I kept my ancestors' last name or took my husband's ancestors' last name, it still wouldn't be mine (or his, really, for that matter). So ideally, I would like to pick out a new name so that both of us (assuming I find this hypothetical future husband) can share the experience of filling out mounds of paperwork in order to complete that magical transition into a married couple with the same awesome last name. Like Thunderbolt, perhaps.

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  28. I've heard a couple announced as "Mr and Mrs Hisfirst Hislast and Herfirst Herlast" and it sounded totally fine.

    I'm really struggling with this decision. Argh!

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  29. I didn't take my partner's name. No one really assumed I would. professionally, as an academic, it was important that I maintained my name, in fact eyebrows would have definitely been raised if I had changed it. But I probably would have kept it regardless of my profession. I like it. It is my name.

    Occasionally we get letters addressed to the His name Family or Mr and Mrs His Name. I don't like it but it doesn't happen often. What I dislike most is that our son does not have my last name. I feel as you do about it not mattering if family members don't have the same name. But, I put A LOT of work into that pregnancy and birth, and think it is completely unreasonable that it is assumed the baby gets the father's name. It was only for reasons of tradition and post-partum exhaustion that I didn't bother having that argument with the world. Having both our last names would have meant he would have had one of the world's longest names in the world so we just took the easy route. That said, as a compromise, he has his own first name (a name with no familial ties), a middle name that is important to me, and my partner's last name.

    On a side note, we actually had our baby before we were married and my father found some old piece of legislation that stated that children of unmarried mothers were to take the name of the mother's father. Any deviation from this needed approval from the grandfather and the King! I think this bit of history is more revealing than anything about the past importance of a name in granting legitimacy, property transfer rights and the status of women . How far we have come!

    My advice: just be casual about it. Drop off hand comments. Ask your mum and partner to casually mention it here and there. Word will get around. I think it would be perfectly fine to be introduced with your respective names. And you are most definitely not alone. Broke-ass Bride and APW have had some great posts on this.

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  30. I kept my name when I got married and it has never really been a big deal although is not the norm in my circle. I sometimes think about changing it when we have kids but I am not 100% sold.
    And the occasion we get mail addressed to his lastname, or went to a wedding where the seating plan had Me HisLastName, I just laughed and thought how presumptious people are!! There are bigger battles....

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  31. For what it's worth, I totally plan on being announced as "Mr HisName and Ms MyName." The objections to that seem like something of a smoke screen:
    -It's not romantic? Loving each other for who we are (names and values included) seems pretty romantic.
    -It will make someone feel uncomfortable? The alternative is that you are uncomfortable. That is foolish and unfair. (It is YOUR name.) And if someone is made uncomfortable by that, they are not being open minded and maybe that uncomfortable moment will be good for them.

    Okay, I cannot come up with any objections (although I'm sure you've heard them!). The 2cents from this internet commenter, at least, supports you.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and emotionally brave post. Good luck.

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  32. Let me ask you this: if you could replay the entire girt-receiving situation over again, would you change what you did?

    From the sound of what's happened thus far, it sounds like the older members of Jason's family are old school. Your comment probably set them just as off-kilter as the gift did you. You mentioned having to choose your battles and this might end up as one. You've chosen to keep your name. It's not uncommon, certainly. But it's not "traditional" by many standards. Folks with a traditional mindset are going to balk.

    Right now it may feel like a battle. I think this is one of those pre-wedding things that ends up a lot bigger than it needs to be.
    However you decide to announce it (and honestly, nearly every suggestion I read above is good), you will have people who might be unhappy, confused or hurt. But a little time will pass and the dust will settle.
    Is Jason OK with you taking his name? Then both of you will have to help reinforce the decision. That scene from "When Harry Met Sally" keeps running through my brain...when Sally runs into Harry and he tells her he's getting married.
    Harry: Hmm, I'm getting married.

    Sally: You are?

    Harry: Umm hmm.

    Sally: *You* are.

    Harry: Hmm, yeah.

    Sally: Who is she?

    Harry: Helen Helson, she's a lawyer, she's keeping her name.

    I always loved that line. It just seemed somewhat out of place as an introduction, but then really supportive of his future wife.

    Honestly, it will probably just take the old folks a little time to adjust. I say think up a key, witty remark that sets any record straight without being confrontational and shows Jason is a big supporter of the decision.
    "Jason and I discussed the traditional aspects of taking his name and we decided that based on emotional, personal and professional aspects, I will keep my last name." Or you know, something like that. ♥

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  33. The Thirty-Something Bride has some excellent points.

    I recently wrote a post about this myself (like you, mine was stewing in my head for some time, but I had not yet put pen to paper, when both ESB and Meg posted theirs on the same day). I decided, ultimately, to hyphenate, however for mostly aesthetic reasons (I have one of those pesky Irish O' names), I haven't changed my name socially or professionally. A lot of people asked me why I bothered, and I can't really give them a "satisfying" answer, because I did it for me. I wanted to. We don't plan to have kids (and even if we did, I don't think that's necessarily a reason to change your name), and neither of us felt all that strongly about both of us sharing a name (I didn't WANT him to change his name - his dad is first generation and his name is very unique; plus, he has a PhD, and is known professionally by that name). More, I felt strongly about linking it to mine, but not using it ... I know, weird. Hard to explain.

    Most of his family have figured out that I "haven't changed" my name (Facebook is a wonderful thing, it is), but I haven't made a huge deal out of it, nor do I want to.

    In other words, if it was me, I would keep the monogrammed gift and just say thank you. I wouldn't get upset with grandma, because she's grandma. If I felt more strongly about it, I'd probably pull my future mother-in-law aside and say, "Oh, we love grandma's gift! It was so thoughtful! But, just a heads up for you, that I'm actually not planning to change my name." I have the kind of relationship with my MIL that such a conversation wouldn't be taken badly, but everyone's mileage varies.

    Great post. I love your mom's story. :)

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  34. For what it's worth, I am taking his name (bad emotional associations with my own last name, excited to be getting rid of it), and I am getting a lot of grief for it from my female friends. "You're doing WHAT?" "That's so old-fashioned and archaic and neolithic." Etc. Etc. I'm finding that this issue, as with most wedding decisions, is one in which you just can't please everyone. You gotta do what's right for you.

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  35. Cole, I am in your boat.

    I can't stand my father or his entire family. No one can. I'm not even speaking to him and may never.

    Changing my name is an emotional no-brainer for me because my last name has zero good memories attached to it.

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  36. I think all of the suggestions for sharing your name are fine. In our wedding, the potential display of our full names came up twice - once in what to monogram on the yarmulkes (are you guys doing that?) and once in what would be announced as we came into the reception. Reception was easy for me - last names had no place in the ceremony or wedding in my opinion. I didn't want to be announced at all, anyway, and when the band announced our first dance or whatever, they just used our first names. Yarmulkes was a battle because when it first came up I had not decided yet and my husband thought it looked really dumb to just have our first names (he was totally wrong) or to have my old last name if I ended up changing it. Ultimately I made the decision to change my name before we had to order them, so gave in to his aesthetics there. I'm sure most people didn't notice what was inside the yarmulkes.

    One thing I was unprepared for is checks, if you have families/friends that give checks instead of registry gifts. I was surprised that almost everyone wrote it to Mr. and Mrs. Hislast. You might want to just steel yourself for that (and also check with your banks about what they'll need from you to deposit them).

    I did actually change my name, mostly because my husband really wanted me to and he cared more than I did ultimately. I decided I wouldn't feel like less of an "oldlast" just because it isn't my name anymore, and that in terms of my identity, I just feel more like a "myfirst" than any last name. But I did struggle with the decision a lot and talked to just about everyone I knew about how they had made their decisions. As someone who did change her name, what bugs me is that people assume that I did without asking, not whether or not they are right.

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  37. I could have sworn I wrote a response to this yesterday, but I don't see it here.

    Keep your name if that is what you want to do and the people around you will eventually adjust (or they'll be rude every now and again, and you'll have to either let them or add a little subtle zing to your response in the future). Either way, keep in mind that most of these people are people you won't be dealing with on a regular or even semi-regular basis after the wedding, so it's a temporary intrusion into your life choice.

    I'm keeping my name. I like it, I just got it back, and I'm in no mood to deal with the hassle of changing my name again. We're a three-last-name household, and that's just the way it is. I'm doing a couple of things to let people know.

    First, since we're doing a family sand ceremony with the kids, at the end of the ceremony, I'm going to have our officiant introduce "The family: [first and last names of me, Tony, and our kids]."

    Then, on our guest book thing, I'm going to include a little thing that says something like "The MyLast-HisLast-KidsLast Family, Est. [Wedding Date."

    For those family, friends and acquaintances who aren't on the guest list but should still be notified, we're sending a wedding announcement that will include similar language to the "at home" card along the lines of "The MyLast-HisLast-KidsLast Family will be at home on [date] [Address]."

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  38. I felt very strongly about not changing my name. Most people who know me ask whether I've changed my name (I'm in my thirties and something of a hippie; people expect me not to change my name). I do have a good relationship with my family of origin, which helps.

    Two of my sisters changed their names. One of them said "I didn't need to keep it, I'll always know that I'm a (name that is very typical of its ethnicity) on the inside."

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  39. I struggled with the name-thing more than I ever thought I would, considering that from the get-go, I was pretty sure I would keep my name. There were so many reasons in favor of this, for me:
    a) my last name is unique and I love it
    b) I hate paperwork
    c) B didn't care either way (doubt I'd be w/him if he did)
    d) we prob. aren't going to have kids (I don't think having a "family name" is *that* important anyway)
    c) it IS a feminist issue, not in a judge-y way, but still, it is (just read esb's post on the topic, and I'm kind of shocked people are denying that)

    But then I realized that I only knew 1 person in "real life" who kept her name. ONE. And it made me feel lonely and wonder what kind of statement I was making... would B's family assume it meant I wasn't 100% committed? Or that I hated their name? I waivered. A lot. Every day I would read up on the topic and come away with a new decision.

    And then one day, I read this article (http://www.salon.com/life/since_you_asked/2007/11/16/whose_name_to_take/)
    and this paragraph in particular helped me make a decision and not look back:
    "You are absolutely free to make your own choice, and you cannot really make a bad choice because, either way, the important thing is that it is a free, conscious choice. My choice, the way I happen to be feeling today, would be to go on record celebrating the world-changing work of feminism and wary of the deeply rooted passions working against it that could so easily chip away at its gains. My choice would be to go ahead and choose a name that puts it in the record books, that puts one in the win column for feminism."

    And honestly? It's been a total non-issue since then. We made sure both our names were on the return address of our "thank you" cards, which seemed to be enough of a hint for everyone (that, and I didn't change my name on facebook). I know some girls WANT that tangible sense of change, but I loved the idea that we could still be the same, me + him, only married.

    Also, I've noticed that wayyy more women online have kept their names. I think my real life circle runs more... conservative.

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  40. I personally am going to change my name when I get married, but I think from what you have said about yourself and your situation that retaining your last name is a great idea. There is so much peer pressure with weddings, I'm finding, but you have to do what suits you-ignore everyone else! Also, I think the entrance announcement is the perfect subtle way to let everyone know without any awkwardness. Best of luck!

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  41. I'm surpised by how hard it is in 2011 to keep your own name. don't let it get it you, I think its awesome that you are keeping your name. Kudos!

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  42. Re. the Etsy return address stamps not allowing for two a last names: I KNOW. AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH. I really, really, really wanted to get one for us (and for some friends as wedding gifts), but there's just not a design I like that will work!

    Okay, now I'm off to scour the comments for, "But they DO exist! Here's the link..."

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