I recently attended a wedding and sat at a table with a mixed group of friends including a married couple, two unmarried friends, and a married friend, whom like myself, attended the wedding without her spouse. In between celebrating the Bride and Groom, we stumbled into a conversation about women changing their last name once married. The couple at the table was celebrating eight years of marriage on that day and the wife still had not legally changed her last name. This started a conversation around the table that I have had with myself and friends repeatedly through the years.
Once upon a time, I envisioned a hyphenated last name or simply replacing my last name with that of the love of my life’s last name. There have been some interesting last names as I’ve dated a spectrum of men including one with a long Dutch last name to one with a not so easily unpronounceable Moroccan last name (my husband). However, when all was said and done – when I got married – I chose not to legally change my name. Thanks to social media and smart phones, women are able to log onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and change their last name as soon as they say “I do”. I, on the otherhand, said “I do, but not your last name.” I chose not to for a variety of reasons including cost and time, cultural indifference, and a longing to hold onto my unique last name. In reality, legally changing your name, first or last, can be a lengthy and costly process. Changing a Facebook name is free and takes 5 seconds whereas changing the name on your passport takes time and money.
In some cultures,however, changing the last name upon marriage is not a common practice. My husband’s mother retained her maiden name while the children have taken on the fathers’ last name. At the very least, there was no expectation on the home front to change my name. As I compare different cultural customs I once again have to point out that as Americans, we place tremendous weight on matters which simply are not important (in my opinion). If I don’t change my last name, it doesn’t make me any less married than someone who has changed their last name.
My friends would beg to differ and so did my tablemates at the wedding. Several months ago, a male friend said he would be offended if his wife didn’t change her last name. The conversation came up after he was surprised to know I was married since I had not changed my last name on Facebook or elsewhere. I thought to myself how patriarchal and antiquated (or American) his views were. This friend is 40+ and has never been married. At the close of the conversation I simply felt he should focus on finding someone rather than worrying about the last name of a wife he doesn’t even have.
I cannot deny that last names and rings are common symbols or indicators of marriage (even if I personally don’t hold much value in those symbols). I have used them at various times in order to assert my marital status whereas otherwise it would have been unknown in order to gain respect, relate to clients, or simply to avoid unnecessary or unwarranted attention from other men.
Names in general are very important and often have great meanings, history, and in some cases power. Will I ever change my last name? Perhaps. I can most certainly say that if I divorced and remarried into the Obama, Rockefeller, or perhaps Marley family, I would probably tattoo my last name on my forehead. For now, however, it’s still Dani T.
Why have you decided to keep your maiden name or change it?