In the past, it’s been taken as a given that a bride would take her new husbands surname after marriage. There is the romantic vision of an excited bride to be practising her new signature whilst caught up in the giddy rush of wedding planning but in this modern day and age with the rise of feminism, more and more women are choosing to keep their own names for reasons both professional and otherwise.
image by Tim Simpson as featured in our Yorkshire Vintage Real Wedding blog
Taking your husband’s name is a tradition that reaches back hundreds of years to the idea of ‘coveture’, which is the notion that a woman’s legal existence as an individual was suspended after marriage and husband and wife became a single entity. Coveture, as an idea, was probably fine and even quite useful in the days when women couldn’t work, own property, vote or even choose when to get married or have children but in modern times when the girls are up there alongside and even, dare we say it, outdoing the boys, coveture just ‘aint cutting the mustard.
Reasons not to change your surname
Is it anti-feminist to take your husbands last name? Women’s lives are significantly different now to the times when these traditions originated and cultural ideals on marriage are changing. With millennials delaying and sometimes even avoiding marriage completely more and more women are choosing to break tradition and keep their own last name. Women who are older are more likely to keep their last name, likewise for women on their second or third marriages, those who have children from a previous marriage or who have worked hard to establish their career and do not want to have to rebrand themselves professionally.
Saying goodbye to the surname you have been known by from birth can also be a bit sad. It’s part of your identity, you have gone from child into adulthood with this name, it’s part of your history and your journey to this major milestone in your life, casting it aside can result in a range of feeling from nostalgia to downright panic. Getting married is one of the most exciting times in your life and entering into a partnership with the person you love is an incredible feeling but does it really have to mean giving up something that means a lot to you and that you are so attached to?
Well, actually it doesn’t. In the UK it’s legal to call yourself whatever you want. So, if there is no legal expectation to take your husbands surname, why do we do it?
Reasons to change your surname
Some people simply love tradition and see changing their last name as a gesture of love towards their other half and symbolic of the fact that you want to be part of them and their life. If you plan to have children, aside from convenience, everyone having the same last name can make you feel bound together and reinforce the concept of a family unit.
Changing your last name can also be the perfect opportunity to rid yourself of a name you hate. Most of us can all recall that one individual from school with an unfortunate surname that saw them tagged with a nickname that followed them mercilessly, if that individual was you then grab this opportunity with both hands and get practising that new signature!
Perhaps you think your partners surname goes better with your first name or you just simply like it more than your own. I recall once in a doctor’s surgery an elderly gentleman being called through by the name of Fox and thinking that if he was 40 years younger I’d have married him just for the name change!
What should I do?
To Change or Not to Change, it’s a big decision but either way, whether you decide to take the plunge whilst taking the plunge, and change your name or keep your own surname, the fantastic thing is that the modern woman has the agency to choose. If you want to stick to your ideals then using your freedom and doing whatever makes you feel good is the most feminist thing of all. If that is saying ‘sod it’ to tradition and keeping your own name or making the change and taking your husband’s name if it’s the right choice for you then do it.
There are many arguments for both sides but at the end of the day, do what makes you happy and what feels good. It’s your life so love it and live it your way Sister!
One of the most off-putting things about changing your name can be the thought of all the red tape you have to deal with and the thought of who to contact and where to start can give you a headache for months to come.
Never fear, we have put together an essential list of organisations, available via our free download, to ensure you keep on top of who to contact.
Let us know what you think. Are you planning to change your last name after getting married and what are your reasons for doing so?
Many Thanks to Donna Dingwall from The Wedding Parlour for today’s blog. The Wedding Parlour is a unique concept designed around making the planning process and journey to your big day as fun, stress free and easy as possible.