It seems like every woman getting married these days is answering the same question: are you going to change your name? It’s a loaded question at times, because as a bride, you really don’t know what the intent of the question really is. It seems like the expectation is that you will be changing your name, but as attitudes around marriage have changed, it doesn’t seem like it’s expected that you will change your name after marriage. There are more and more women every day who are choosing to hyphenate or to keep their last names after marriage, just as there are many women choosing to change their names after marriage, too.
Of course, after getting married, in most states it is easier for women to change their name than it is for men. Where we live, I just have to make a few updates with the government using our marriage license to change my last name. If The Boy wanted to change his last name, he would have to petition the court to allow him to do so. In the opposite realm, we have friends in California who made up a new last name when they got married, because it was easy to do so when filling out their marriage license application.
Changing your last name is a big decision
All of this is a lot of lead up to what I am planning to do. As a feminist and a Women’s Studies degree-holder, this was actually a decision that took a lot of thought. On the one hand, I have had my last name since I was born, and it is a big part of me and who I am up to this point in my life. On the other hand, The Boy and I are about to create our own family and there is something about sharing a last name that even now, tells our society that we are a unit. Then there was the question about what our children’s last names would be.
I could choose to hyphenate, but it could become clunky. My last name is fairly simple and pretty common, while The Boy’s is not as simple and definitely not as common. Hyphenation was something I very briefly considered, but ultimately decided it was not for me. After a lot of thought and consideration, I decided that I was going to change my last name to The Boy’s after we were married.
Now, this may seem a little navel-gazing, but I think it’s important to talk about it in general. I wanted to be able to make a choice about my last name, and choosing to take The Boy’s made the most sense for me and for our family. I like that I have that choice and if I wanted to keep my last name, The Boy would be as okay with that as he is with me taking his. It’s a decision I didn’t reach lightly, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense for us. This isn’t to say that changing your last name is what is right for all women, but it is what I feel is best.
A few of my friends don’t plan to change their last names after marriage. They have worked very hard to establish themselves as professionals with their maiden names and they would be taking a risk by changing their last name after marriage. Most of the things I have on the internet are under my first name and last initial, so if I change my last name I would have a change of last initial, or I could start using my new last name online (and that I haven’t quite decided yet). I am also still working on developing my brand and my image, along with SEO, so changing my last name, in theory, won’t affect my blog or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. My usernames there will remain the same, and I will still be posting here as Deva.
What about feminism and heteronormativity?
Now, I know that it can be argued that I am not making the feminist choice, and I can agree with that. I am going with the status quo instead of hyphenating or keeping my last name. I was never a child to imagine and dream about my wedding growing up, and when I was a kid, it never really occurred to me that one day I might change my last name. As a teenager, I realized that if I got married, I might want to change my last name, and after meeting The Boy, I realized that I would, more than likely be taking his name, for a variety of reasons that work for us.
For starters, I wanted to share a last name with my children. Now, I could have given them my maiden last name, but my preference is to give them The Boy’s last name, without hyphenating. Taking The Boy’s last name meant that I would share a last name with my children, though I know that anything can happen. I also wanted to share a name with my husband (or husband-to-be, as it is). To me, it’s something else I will share with him as we continue to grow together as a married couple.
I know all of this assumes heteronormativity, but I can’t help but think about couples who don’t have the right to get married at this time, who don’t have a choice whether they take their partner’s last name. Couples who might have to fight a legal battle for the right to marry or who would have to petition a court for a name change, when they just want to share their lives with their partners. I know that being in a heteronormative relationship affords me rights others do not have, and I am trying very hard not to take that for granted.
But, this is becoming a very long-winded post, and what it all boils town to, at least for me, is that changing your last name is a very personal decision. Many brides make the decision to change their last name after getting married. Many know before they even meet their future spouse that one day they will be the Mrs. to his Mr. Many women know from a young age that they are always going to have the last name they were born with, while others decide later to keep that last name, or to hyphenate. Whatever decision any bride (or groom) makes, it is and will always be the right decision for her (or him).