In about six months, I am marrying the man in the picture above. He is the best of men, and I love him. He is unfailingly kind, logical and the most loyal person you will ever meet. He takes his time while I rush ahead, and we balance each other out. Best of all, he loves me and we are together. It’s pretty straightforward.
I’ve found that when it comes to weddings, everyone has an opinion. Largely, this is super; I’ve never done this before, and I’m unlikely to again. Best florist in the city centre? I’m all ears. Hairdresser who won’t make me look like a King Charles Spaniel? Point me in their direction. Fancy a chat about how ludicrous corkage is when you say “wedding” to a caterer? I’m here for that. But one thing I’m not so keen on are opinions on my name.
I am British and the tradition in Britain is to take your husband’s surname post-marriage. Historically, this relates to the legal doctrine of coverture, where a woman’s legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband. The act of taking your husband’s surname actually only dates back to the 15th century; before then, women had no surname upon marriage and were just the property of their husbands. While certainly an interesting way of dealing with life admin – “oh, I’m sorry, I can’t pay tax because I am property of my husband and as a mere chattel, I have no tangible legal presence”- it’s not really practical in today’s world.
In the run up to my own wedding, I have encountered both assumptions that I will be changing my name, and assumptions that I will not be. Generally, the former comes from a place of it being “the done thing”, and the latter from those who know how vocal I am on equal rights, and assume that I will be a good feminist. I would like to put these points forward, addressing these concerns:
- A rose is a rose is a rose: Would I be less of a Caitlin if I changed my name? No. Would my husband love me less if I kept my name? No. I’d still be the same grumpy, slightly scruffy red-head I’ve always been.
- The done thing: To this I raise a (currently, rather tidy) eyebrow. My nan used to match her handbag to her shoes. I generally use a rucksack to cart my stuff around in, usually pairing it with leopard print boots. What is expected is not something that troubles me.
- Bad feminist: To change or not to change is my choice. No one else’s. What could be more feminist than that?
- Projecting: Are you unhappy with your choice? Do you wish you’d gone down another naming route? To you, my friend, I say that a deed poll is only £36 and if you want to be Henrietta the Magnificent, you should be.
What I’m actually going to do
I’m going to both change and keep my name.
I always was one for hedging my bets (see the English Literature and Mathematics degree hanging on my study wall) and this is no exception. I will be changing my name by deed poll (new surname, old surname as a middle name) but also using my maiden name (what a daft expression) around and about. This is why:
- Commonness: My darling boy has a rather common surname. I have a rather unusual surname and first name. The appeal of having to only spell one name is tantalising, too much so to resist. Oh, he says it’ll get spelt wrong, but my love, you have no idea.
- Linguistic devices: My new initials will be palindromic in full, and alliterative in short. Frivolity is the spice of life.
- Superhero: my new name sounds like a superhero’s alter ego. Again, frivolity is the spice of life.
- Work: At work, I will be the same name I’ve always been. I don’t particularly want a new email address and work is somewhere I want to stand out a bit more. Not too much, mind, but just enough to sparkle. I’ve worked hard to make a name for myself (intentional pun). A new name will set me back in this. Obviously this is all part of my quest to be the Madonna of Higher Education statistics (my day job).
- My naming theory: I have a theory that for maximum naming effectiveness, you should have one unusual name and one common name. I have two unusual names. I don’t think they sound right together, I never have, and I use both independently. I introduce myself as solely Caitlin, rather than full name, and old friends refer to me by my surname.
and as an extra point:
- Double-barrelling: It’s not for me.
This is all a lot of blether for something pretty simple. My Andy doesn’t really care either way, but it has been bothering me. I am annoyed that I’ll have to change it by deed poll, costing real money and effort, whereas if I were to be a straightforward Mrs, it’d be free and easy, but that’s a battle for another time. To be honest, it’s such a faff that if I don’t get round to it by the time I need a new passport (which is looming in the near future), I’m unlikely to change it. And you know what? It’s fine either way.
This is all totally personal to me. Your name is your name, and it’s up to you what you want to do. One final point: I won’t be a Mrs. I’m a Ms now, and determinedly so. If being a Mrs floats your boat, go forth and be a Mrs. The main thing I object to is the “Mrs [husband full name]” convention. You take a surname, not the entire thing. If I get post addressed to Mrs Andrew, I will (in theory) be sending that back. That definitely is not my name and will not be.