Can you believe it, our real bride’s penultimate column! We can’t wait to share how Rachel’s Tolkien inspired garden wedding turned out in our next issue, but for now, she’s discussing a topic that pickles every feminist bride’s brain at least once – should you change your name when you marry or not?
People often get my surname wrong. Even though I’ve spent my life spelling it out for people down the phone (‘B – E – Double T – E- S – Worth’), over the years I’ve been Butterworth, Butterscotch and even Battleworth. But, despite the 31 years of typos—and the fact that I often just say ‘Jones’ when making a booking to avoid confusion— Bettesworth is my name. And I’m extremely attached to it.
I always liked coming first or second in the register at school (unlike Kat, who hated coming last and then married a man whose surname was even further down the alphabet than her own! Sorry, Kat!). I like my name’s uniqueness. I like that it connects me to my beloved late Grandpa, to my parents, to my own family tree.
And yet, by the time you read this, I am going to become someone else on paper… because I have chosen to take my husband’s name when we get married.
I find this phrasing so interesting. Traditionally, the bride ‘takes’ the name of her new husband. Not ‘is allocated’ or ‘is given’. She ‘takes’ his name, implying that she had some say in it, when actually it was more to do with the ownership of the woman exchanging from her father to her husband, by name; a non-negotiable component of the transaction of marriage.
For me, the use of the word ‘take’ suggests that the ‘she’ in question gains something. But what? And, in turn— because where there is gain there tends to be loss— what is ‘he’ losing? He holds onto his own name, his prior identity, while she becomes someone else. What is that implying; that before becoming someone’s wife she was without meaning; that her years as a Miss are irrelevant now she is a Mrs?
And excuse me, his title doesn’t even change. From now on, each time she introduces herself to someone new it comes with a relationship status notification. Roughly translated, ‘Hi, I’m Mrs So-and-So’, means, ‘Hi, I’m married’. His introduction is ambiguous; it doesn’t matter either way whether he is married or not, while she is defined by her status as a married woman from the start. Is that not oppressive? Is that not the covert patriarchy chip-chip-chipping away?
Whatever your gender and whoever you’re marrying— whether you’re changing your name or not— like so many wedding traditions, we have to admit: the origin of this one is sticky. Right?