This was a bone of contention during our wedding planning. It caused arguments and long strops, but it was something I did not take lightly and thought about a lot.
It’s something that wasn’t even questioned in the past. Women have always changed their surnames to their new husband’s, as there was no other option to be considered. But nowadays, more women are keeping their maiden names after marriage. To parents and grandparents it was baffling, which I think annoyed me the most about the whole thing. “Of course you’ll change your name?!” It was the assumption that I would do it, like it wasn’t even a decision I could make. But why? Why do I have to change my name, when he doesn’t change anything? I have had my surname for 26 years, and a lot of friends simply call me by that instead of Gemma. Even my new husband calls me by it (and still does). It’s my name, and my identity. Not only would I suddenly be a wife, but I’d also have a totally different name. When he stays the same? It didn’t seem fair.
He was shocked when I told him I wasn’t totally sure about changing my name. I’m not sure why he was so surprised, because he knows how determinedly stubborn I am. I have a real thing about being totally independent and self reliant on most things, and despise feeling weak and vulnerable. I recently had a sofa delivered, it took two men to bring it into the house and they put it in the lounge for me. It was for the conservatory though (at the back of the house) and instead of waiting for Tom to get home and help me carry it, I was determined to drag it through and build it myself. Why? I think I half wanted to do it myself, and half was just too excited about my new blue sofa. I finally dragged it through and put it together up in the end, even though I knew I was being ridiculous and inpatient.
“It’s tradition for you to change your name though?!” he argued over and over again. This was actually his only argument. Double-barrel wasn’t really an option because our names don’t go that well together, and I wouldn’t want our children to then be stuck when they marry. And apparently him taking my name was out of the question (which was mainly just me being argumentative anyway). But I was sensing double standards here. We didn’t have a religious ceremony, we’d lived together for years before getting married, and our reception was a BBQ and a band in the middle of an RHS garden. We were already breaking many wedding traditions here.
I know it’s something that a lot of women would be looking forward to, and I am probably in the minority. I love Tom, and I wanted us to be married. But when everyone else was congratulating me on becoming the new Mrs Allen I thought, what was wrong with the old Miss Marsh? Is it really such a celebration for me to become someone’s wife?
Despite all of this, I actually did decide to change my surname. Deep down I wanted us to have the same name, and I want our children to have the same when they come along. I know if I’d decided not to, I’d regret it in the future when I am less stubborn about the whole thing. I still don’t feel totally comfortable with the issue, and really resent how it was so expected of me and everyone’s reactions when I questioned it, but in the end it was my decision.
In the future, though, I will be teaching my daughters (and sons) never to do anything just because it is expected of them. It is their lives and their names, and they alone can choose them.