Name changing: yes or no?
It's a subject that poses a dilemma for many people. Would you change your name when you marry, or have you already? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter. Here's what Stylist brides Mollie, Sam, Zoe and Anna have to say...
Zoe says yes
Freelance writer Zoe Pearson (née Martin) explains why she wanted to take her husband’s surname when they married in June 2011...
I never thought I would change my name – but then I was also completely convinced that marriage was not for me. But here’s the thing, people change. I changed. Something that I once couldn’t see the point of suddenly made more sense than anything else.
Zoe Martin and her husband Neil. Photography: Lillian and Leonard
That’s how it was with getting married... it went from not mattering to meaning more than I ever could have anticipated. But changing my name, well, that was a more difficult decision.
I come from a big family. Were you to see my aunts, my little cousins, my sister, you’d see the family resemblance right away – not just in our smiles and cheekbones, but our laughs and up-to-mischief eyes. We’re all Martins. And unmistakably so. Then there’s my papa. He’s the original Martin. (Or he is to me.) He’s also one of the best men I know. Even at 90, he’s quick with a smile, witty, patient, smart, brilliant... so many of the qualities of the people that I love come from him.
But then there was my new family to consider. My now husband didn’t want me to ‘take’ his surname. He wanted us to share the same surname. To be a team, a unit, a pack. Our very own little family of two.
As fiercely proud as I was of being a Martin, I hadn’t expected him to be the same of his family name. He comes from a much smaller family than I do. And the more I thought about why my surname meant so much to me, the more I understood why it meant so much to change mine.
In the end, I changed my name. Sort of. In fact, I cheated. I kept my original surname and legally made it my middle name. And then I gained a new surname. It’s maybe not the most conventional thing to do (and certainly comes with a lot more forms and fuss) but my new name seems to suit me to a tee. It's best of both worlds... a name that truly says who I am. @Convo_Pieces
Mollie says no
When I marry my boyfriend this May, I won't be changing my name. It's partly influenced by my family - my mum and my sister-in-law kept their maiden names when they married. And it's hugely linked to my professional identity – my work has been published under Mollie McGuigan for six years. Also, I'm being petulant: if my boyfriend won’t consider it, neither will I.
Of course, British convention is for women to take their husbands name and there's an expectation from some of our friends and family that I will too. I find myself explaining my reasons for keeping my surname when I don't see why it needs qualifying. What a woman does with her surname when she marries should be a discussion not an assumption.
Now, before the traditionalists get on the defensive, I don't think women are letting down the sisterhood by taking their partner's name. I think it's a personal decision with complex reasoning - perhaps you’ve always been embarrassed by your surname, maybe you want to distance yourself from your paternal family. But, I do think it’s a decision women should make with a bit of passion, a bit of fire – not just because its convention. Exercise your right to choose and be thankful you're not faced with the sexist expectations my mum was: in 1975, pregnant and teaching in a London secondary school, she was taken aside and asked to change her name to my dad's "to set a good example".
It’s not only surnames that are a conundrum – there’s also the issue of honorifics. Women can choose from miss, mrs or ms and oh what a choice! Do we want to A) have people assume we’re single; B) inform everyone we meet we’re married or C) provoke surprised looks from Vivian at the doctors surgery. I’ve always quite enjoyed the latter so I am happy to remain Ms Mollie McGuigan in all aspects of my life.
My partner and I won’t be joined in name but that’s not where our unity and partnership is found – that's in supporting one another, being kind to each other and working as part of a team. Happy, healthy relationships should be built on compromises, but my name won’t be one of them. @molliemcguigan
Sam says maybe
I’ve been thinking more and more about this for the last few months but I’m still on the fence. I don’t feel hugely passionate about preserving the line of Flowers – my brother can do that for me – but neither do I feel like you must have the same name as your husband to make it official.
Just to make it clear, my married name is going to be Silver. Here-in lie my issues:
- I can’t double barrel. Silver-Flowers? Only my mum and my future-mother-in-law think it’s funny.
- Sam Silver sounds like a cowboy
- Samantha Silver sounds like a porn star (or a sex toy when said in a South African accent)
So for these reasons I decided I was going to keep my name for work and change it in my personal life. I’ve spent the last six years building a name and identity for myself as a writer and don’t really want to change that but here is what’s bothering me:
- I am rubbish at paperwork and will no doubt get everything confused. Or not do it properly.
- If I’m going through the hassle of the paperwork why not do it completely.
-For work, other people tend to book travel arrangements for me – what if the ticket and passport don’t match – I could be stranded at an airport
- If I want to have the same surname as my (future) family, wouldn’t it just be easier now? People will be used to it in a few weeks.
I haven’t consulted Nick about any of this and I don’t really think he would be that bothered either way. He knows that a name doesn’t make any difference to our relationship. I am also completely aware that when the time comes (not in the immediate future) that we have a family, I will want us all to have the same name. So, I am on the fence. Do I change it partially or completely?
After all, my surname will always be with me – I had it tattooed on me (very small, very private) in Thailand six years ago for this very reason. @Sam__Flowers
Anna says no
There are a lot of things I need to sort before getting married but one issue I’ve always been clear on is that I won’t be changing my name. I’m not opposed to the principle – I think changing your name to match your partner can be quite romantic and combining surnames is also a nice compromise – but for me, my name is so bound with my identity that the idea of changing it freaks me out.
Brech (rhymes with neck) is hardly a beautiful surname: it’s harsh-sounding and open to any number of playground jokes and mispronunciations. Yet it’s an integral part of me and my family history. It’s actually Austro-Hungarian in origin: my great-grandpa Franz Josef Brech came to London from Vienna in the early 1900s in pursuit of the woman he loved (and later married). He managed a restaurant on Bond Street but was interned as an enemy alien during the 1st World War, in a devastating turn of events that threw his family into turmoil. His son, my wonderful grandpa, fought his way out of a poverty-stricken immigrant background to become a well-known economist who worked in military intelligence during WW2.
I’m aware this is starting to sound like a dubious episode of Who Do You Think You Are? but to cut a long story short, it seems to me that their struggle in the face of adversity is central to the Brech name. It’s also the name I struggled to write in large, loopy letters aged four, the name emblazoned on my highly glamorous pink and grey PE knickers as a teen and the name that echoed over the Tannoy system when I was stranded overnight at Bangkok airport aged 18. It’s part of me and I’m not willing to renounce it in the name of tradition alone.
Changing your name is no longer a given and it’s not necessary to prove a point. As far as I can see, it has no obvious practical benefits either. So unless you want to change your surname, there’s no reason to. My decision is helped by the fact that Chris doesn’t feel strongly about it and will support me whatever I do. When and if we have children, it’s an issue we’ll re-visit: but for now this lady’s not for turning. @annabrech