It’s a question most of our mothers were never asked when they got engaged. But let me tell you this; since my fiancé popped the question suddenly everyone wants to know where I stand on the surname debate. “So, are you going to change your name?”, is up there with “when’s the wedding” in terms of FAQs (Both are equally annoying, FYI). Once upon a time (for better or worse), it was just assumed a woman would take her new husband’s last name. However, more recently, we all dropped our jaws when we found out feminist icon Amal Alamuddin was taking on the moniker Amal Clooney.
Aside from the question being seriously annoying, it’s also the most permanent aspect of a wedding. You know, aside from the actual marriage. The dress, the reception outfit, you only wear those for a day. But a new surname? That’s yours for life. But after all, as Shakespeare put it, what’s in a name? A lot, as it turns out.
First, I asked a couple of our resident Showpo HQ brides about their plans:
- “At this stage, I don’t plan on taking my partner’s surname. I’ve heard it’s a lot of every and I’m not really bothered to go through the hassle (I might change it on social media if that counts?). In saying that, I think I would change my last name once we have kids, so we can all have the same surname,” – May
- “We’re both changing our names because Luke really wants our kids to have the same last name as both of us but he knows I won’t change mine to May. So we will both be McCarren-May,” – Kelly
- “This is one of the only ‘wedding’ things I feel a bit traditional about. I always thought I’d take my husbands name, I do want to have the same last name as my kids as well but I’ve never felt more attached to my name than I have in the last year so it’s anyone’s game,” – Rosalie
- “I’ve always had a strong attachment to my last name so for a long time I’ve known that I would keep it after marriage. That being said if my partner had a kick-ass last name I’d think about hyphenating it,” – Tania
- “I always wanted to take someone’s name growing up, I thought Lu was a boring and common name. But now I feel like Waldie is so part of his identity, as my name has become to me. And we’re so intertwined in each other lives already, working together and all, we don’t need that extra paperwork to bring us closer together. That said, he kinda took my name when he made his Insta handle @thelazycfo,” – Jane
Keep your own
Outside of Western wedding culture, it’s actually pretty unusual to change your surname after you get married. In Malaysia and Korea, it’s pretty unusual to adopt your husband’s surname. Same goes for Italy and in Greece, there’s a law that requires women to keep their birth name. However, in Australia 80 per cent of Australian women take their husband’s surname. But just because it’s the norm, doesn’t mean it’s your only option (despite what your mother-in-law might think).
Especially now that same-sex marriage is legal in Australia (about time!), a lot of brides are deciding to stick with their roots. Whether it’s because you’ve already started your career with your own surname, or because you have a really strong connection to your surname, keeping your own is definitely becoming a popular option. Besides, if your new hubs isn’t feeling the pressure to change his, why change yours?
Keeping your surname can be a nice way to hold onto the identity you’ve spent your whole life creating and becoming. Plus, have you thought about the stress of working out a new signature? Total nightmare.
Speaking of your surname, what’s the issue with having your partner take your surname? Short answer, there isn’t one. Whether it’s because your partner wants to have the same surname but you don’t want to change, or maybe your surname ends with you, this is 100% doable. There’s plenty of reasons to make this choice, but you also don’t necessarily need some massive justification. Your name might just be nicer, end of story.
If you’re blessed enough to have two surnames that sound nice sandwiched together with a hyphen, then go for it. It’s a great way for both you and your spouse to have your wedding cake and eat it too. Especially if you both make the change. However, speaking from personal experience, not all surnames sound great hyphenated which means more often than not you’ll end up dropping one-off.
Flip a coin
Personally, this is what I’ll be doing. My name on one side, his on the other, but whatever the coin lands on, that’s what we’re both taking. Not just me. Like a lot of people, we want to share a surname with any potential offspring, but I didn’t like the idea that the onus of making that happen was on me. When you flip a coin, you both have an equal investment in the outcome.
I must admit, we haven’t been totally transparent about the idea with our families. The reaction we got when I floated the idea of keeping my surname past them was um, less than ideal. To be honest, I think people of our parent’s generation see it as a criticism of their choices, which it’s not. Different strokes for different folks and all that. It’ll always be hard to do something that deviates from the norm but at the end of the day, the only people your marriage involves is you and your spouse.
Adopt a portmanteau
A what? A portmanteau is when you take both of your surnames and mash it into one. Think of your fave celeb couples like Brangelina (RIP), Bennifer (also RIP) and Kimye. If you can make a combination with a nice ring to it, why not?
Pick a fresh one
There’s no rule that says you have to choose one or the other. You can choose something totally different and still be just as happy. This is especially good for people who are concerned about the feminist implications of their choice. They don’t want their identity defined by a man, but at the same time they’re hanging on to another man’s name, their father’s (in most cases). I don’t envy anyone choosing this option though, I have a hard time coming up with names for hypothetical puppies I want, let alone renaming myself.
Despite how many options are out there, there is also nothing wrong with choosing to take the traditional route. Maybe you like their surname more than you like your own, or maybe you’re just a little traditional heart. Don’t let anything convince you it’s not the feminist thing to do. Feminism is about choice, and it’s your choice to make. You can always work your surname is in as a middle name or first name if kids are your thing!
But what about the children?
Researching this article it became pretty obvious, most people changed their surnames because they wanted to share a name with their kids. That’s totally understandable but what’s with the assumption that children will automatically take their father’s surname. In my
not so humble opinion, if I’m carrying a child for nine months and giving birth to them, they’ll be taking my surname TYVM.
Words by Emma Roffey