Even if you haven’t obsessed over the distant thought of your wedding day, I’m sure most of us have at least toyed with the idea of what it might look like. Some people want the whole barefoot on the beach thing, others want the hangover from the hen’s night to roll into white frills and coat tails the next day. Personally, I’m pretty enraptured with the idea of eloping in the Caribbean. But have you given any thought to the specifics of the wedding? Have you thought about the fact that you might walk out of the ceremony with a different surname than the one you entered with?
Marriage is defined as “the legally or formally recognised union of two people as partners in a personal relationship”. If marriage is an equal partnership of two people who share a mutual love and respect for each other, as this definition suggests, why are there still herds of women taking their husband’s surname after marriage? If equal rights activist Lucy Stone could fight to keep a piece of her identity in 1855, a part of me feels ashamed that we still haven’t managed to make it a norm 162 years on.
Our names are the first things that are gifted to us, or rather, the first things that we own, as infants. They become a huge part of our identity: a label of family, a link to our culture or heritage, and, of course, how your Uber driver locates you on the side of the street. Yet almost every married woman I know has willingly dropped her surname and become Mrs Somebody Else.
Why is it not tradition to have your mother walk you down the aisle, when she may have been equally, if not more, instrumental in your upbringing as your father?
So, I went to the ultimate source of my wisdom, and asked her for her thoughts on the matter. Mum told me she had never regretted changing her surname, as she was never a huge fan of her maiden name, Boag. In hindsight, I’m pretty thankful. But she also admitted that had she been an only child, she would have considered keeping it. This is precisely why a friend of mine (with no brothers to continue her name) decided to keep her surname after marriage. She was determined that such a huge part of her identity would not be stripped from her and her children.
So who’s to say either of these women are wrong in their approach? It comes down to personal preference — there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take your husband’s name as a signifier of partnership, yet I implore you to identify some of the almost unnoticeable ways in which society has conditioned us to accept these seemingly tacit rules. Why is it not tradition to have your mother walk you down the aisle, when she may have been equally, if not more, instrumental in your upbringing as your father? And why does pop culture still like to imply that in a heterosexual relationship it’s the man who should be the one to propose?
I understand that to some, this may seem like a trivial part of what is a much larger issue, but hey, equality wasn’t built in a day.