What's In A Name?...
Illustration by: @eva.b.prints
(I added the name badges....sorry Eva)
[Image description: A name badge that says 'hello my name is' with a question mark underneath]
[Image description: Two beautiful black women, both with hair up. The bride on the left is wearing a slick white suit with a black tie and a buttonhole. The bride on the right is wearing a mermaid style strapless dress with dangly earrings and is holding her flowers at her side. They are holding hands and are walking]
What's in a name?
Well, an awful lot actually. Feelings of identity which could be familial, tribal or cultural and an ingrained sense of self. So what does this have to do with getting married? That depends on each individual and how strongly that sense of self is defined by your own name, have a think about it? How important is it to you?
What's really important to me that you know this blog is for you no matter who you are, what sort of relationship you are in or how you identify yourself whether you are non-binary, a cisgender male or female, a trans man or woman or if you identify as gender fluid. You have a name that you are using to identify yourself and that means you have a choice to make about how you are known after you get married.
Getting married carries with it so many decisions to make, some of them fun, some of them functional and some of them seriously life changing. Getting married is a marker in your life where you get to say, this is me now, look at how far I’ve come and look where I’m going, into the next chapter of my life with my incredible partner. The last part of a ceremony involves announcing or pronouncing the couple and there are lots of ways to do this but essentially this question boils down to how do you want to be known from this point on for the next stage of your life? Do you want to be
Mr & Mr
Mrs & Mrs
Mr & Mrs
The happy couple
Husband & Wife
The (insert surname)’s
Family (insert surname)’s
These are most commonly used, but how about switching some things up:
Mrs & Mr
Wife & Husband
It even seems unfamiliar to write it putting the female prefix first as we are so used to seeing the male.
As a woman getting married myself a few years ago I had to make a decision about what to be called after I got married and despite thinking it would be easy it wasn’t. As part of wedding planning hours get spent looking at designs, thinking about food, planning what to wear and who will be invited but it’s definitely worth adding 'who will I be’ to that list and giving it some serious thought. This is for both partners.
I always knew I wanted to keep my original surname for a number of different reasons.
I’m comfortable with it.
It connects me to my family.
I like it.
It’s what I’ve always been known as and feels like me.
I’ve been freelance my whole working life and it’s intimately connected to how people know me for my work.
I didn’t fancy the hassle of changing everything.
My husband knows I’m very independent and loves me for that but, I was surprised to hear that he thought I would be taking his name. I honestly up to that point had thought it would be obvious I wouldn’t. Not because I don’t love him or want to be connected to him and his family but just because it wouldn’t feel like ‘me’. To be sure though, I had to think about the other options, double barrelling? Neither of us were a big fan of this so instead we were back to our own names and saved each other with test names to try them out for size. I saved him as Peter Mellor Corry in my contacts & he saved me as Fleur Mellor Corry. Thinking back maybe he should have saved me as Fleur Corry Mellor? Anyway, we’re still saved like that in each others phones but the point is by trying them out we both knew we didn’t like it. We never talked about combining our names mainly because Peter was definitely not for not being a Corry which was fair enough but, I suppose we could have looked at becoming The Cormel’s or The Merry’s (which is actually quite cute) but we didn’t think of it at the time. I still would have personally felt the pull to stay a Mellor because of work & all the other points mentioned and I know plenty of people go through a name change and cope perfectly fine but it just wasn’t for me at the time. I suppose never say never, you can always change if you want to down the line. It’s just a bit neater if it’s done at the time of the marriage as your marriage certificate will provide you with a legal document that you can use to initiate your name changes with various organisations.
There’s plenty of reasons why people don’t take their partner's name, if its a female/male couple then some brides feel taking their husband's name is a sexist throwback or it makes them feel like property (which was once part of the deal). However, it could be argued that they (probably) already have a man's family name (their fathers) and are just swapping it for another man's name (their husband's).
Can we talk about the work thing a bit more?
Sure, taking your partner's name could make you harder to find in your own line of work. If you’ve always been searchable under another name and historically there are lots of links to your current name online that provide value to your work, changing this connection could be something that won’t work for you if it loses you presence. However, have you considered it could also do the opposite and it could be really beneficial to you to change? This could be if your partner has a high work profile that you are proud and keen to be associated with. Nothing wrong with that, it’s been going on for centuries. You could also take your partner's name legally but keep your birth name for work, yes it might be a bit confusing to start with but in time people should be able to get used to it. It’s like a stage name, it’s you in a professional setting and that in some ways could also provide a buffer or some protection for your private self if that’s what you need.
If social media is big for you, maybe an easing in period so people realise you’ve made a change, they won’t all know you’ve got married. I’m sure many of us have had experiences of searching for old friends online or else clicking a name for a comment we don’t recognise and realising it’s an old friend who we’ve maybe lost touch with a bit. The good thing about social accounts is that even if your name/title of your business changes your followers/friends don’t suddenly disconnect from you so you can train them back into recognising your newness. This can also be a good opportunity to highlight a change of approach or newness in your business or else just shout from the rooftops that you’ve just married the most amazing human being on the planet.
So What does that mean for children or future family?
Again, there’s a lot of mixed feelings and opinions on this.
If you go double barelled some children might not thank you for a lengthly surname they’ll have to fill in on forms for the next number of years. Also what happens if they decide to get married? That’s a lot of names to take into consideration. Or, they’ll love the fact that their second name is a combination of both their parents.
But what if you have no children or don’t see them in your future?
Well then you may feel that your family name will ‘disappear’ anyway especially if you don’t have anyone else in your immediate family where the name will pass along. In that case taking your partner's surname may feel like a solid way to secure your engagement in a family line through your partner and their wider family. It’s all down to a question of what works for you.
But my family/partners family/friends/other people are pressurising me.....
Well in my option this is just not cool. They may have a very different opinion but it will be your name after all and you will have to live with it. Have you tried explaining your feelings to them? Certainly it’s really important your partner is on board with the decision making and respects and supports you where this is concerned. Hey, hopefully your partner loves your decision but it can take time to come around to a new thought. If your partner isn’t fully on board this is much trickier, again good communication is essential and also time and space for your partner to understand your motivations. They may need some real TLC here in understanding that this isn’t anything against them or their family name but that it is important to you. You may also find that while they accept your decision as a couple they find it hard to stomach that the idea of any potential grandchildren will carry a different name. Again, no easy solutions here but patience and love to help them understand your motivations. Ultimately it’s your decision and over time (surely) most familes will get used to it. However, this is potentially a trickier conversation for particular cultures and so I can’t speak to that. This is just coming from my own background and experience and hopefully is getting you thinking.
I can’t wait to take my partner's second name.
That is fantastic news, it’s also a huge compliment to your partner and their family. It will no doubt take a bit of getting used to hearing their name with your own but practice makes perfect and in no time at all it will roll off the tongue. If you are in a male/female couple or even in a couple where one of you is cis-het female and the other is non-binary and it’s the woman taking her partner's name then it might not get the big fanfare reaction as it is much more commonplace for the female to make the change. If you are the husband taking the wife’s name then probably expect a bit more of a commotion. I personally think this is very cool and also not always easy for men to go against social traditions so I also have huge respect for this.
You can take your partners name in a few different ways, I’ll use mine as an example:
Take your partner's second name and fondly say goodbye to your old one eg. Fleur Corry (that still seems weird to write). This is the easy one!
Double barelled with a hyphen eg Corry-Mellor, which means that legally those two names always appear connected together. I’ve read instances where the hyphen can cause some problems with the first part of the name not being read/included and just the second name after the hyphen being recorded or that you can run into difficulty if your name is really long and a field in a form has a maximum character count. Just some things to keep in mind.
Double surname without a hyphen eg Corry Mellor, which means that anyone searching Fleur Mellor or Fleur Corry online should come up with my name regardless of if both parts of the surname would be typed in. I’ve read that some computer systems wont recognise a double surname in an online form field with a space, meaning you have to put in a hyphen. Hey, technology is an imperfect science.
Prioritise one surname and take the other name as a new middle name, this way you still retain the name but it makes all the form filling etc more straightforward.
Meld the two together. Mrs Fleur Merry has a great ring to it!
As mentioned at the start, these options are definitely not gender exclusive! They are the same for both partners in the couple.
What do couples in other countries do?
Legally, other countries do have diferent requirements so that has an impact on decision making but I did discover some interesting approaches:
In Iceland naming has been taken to a whole other level with their gender autonomy act. You can read about it here.
In Greece it's legal practice that women have to retain their birth names when they marry.
In Norway which is often ranked as being one of the top countries for gender equality, the majority of women do take their husband's names while about half will also keep their maiden name as a middle name or second surname.
So legally how does this bit work in Northern Ireland?
Regardless of who wants to change their name the process is the same, your new marriage certificate will form the basis of getting this done. Via deedpoll as opposed to NI direct. There’s a bit to do, change your passport first as some banks may not accept a marriage certificate alone for a double barelled name change.
Follow the link here for more official information for everyone involved in the process, really helpful.. Check out the statistic at the top of the page, it makes you think....
Ultimately if you want to become Princess Consuela Bananahammock then you can, as long as you are happy and as long as you’ve really considered all the options. Changing your name can make it easier or harder to pronounce or spell for other people (on forms or on the phone) but do you know, what? It’s YOUR name so you need to love it and embrace it for all that it is one way or another. My first name is consistently mis-spelled and mis-pronounced before you even get to my surname but I love it anyway and wouldn’t change it.
Hopefully this post has given you some things to think about to help make the decision easier.
Whichever way you go, congratulations!! (I haven't even delved into personal pronouns here, that's for another post but it's equally as important to me to get that right)
It’s brilliant being you.
[Image description: 4 hands reaching to touch each other, as if in a high 5. The hands are not of older people or young children and are of all different skin tones]