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Do you solemnly swear to take your husband's last name?

posted on August 29 2018

I take thee my wedded husband and thy's last name can suck it. 


Do you or don't you take your husband's last name? This is a question that every woman faces when she decides to marry. 


It's a topic that comes up often amongst our customers. So we decided to write about it. Below Sarah Sutcliffe our Team Manager meditates the reasons why she chose not to take her husband's name.


Do you take your husband's name?


My parents couldn't understand why I didn't and my parents in law even less so. My Granny however, had a twinkle in her I when I exclaimed as a 30 something bride to be that I wouldn't be changing my surname. My 'maiden name' was at the core of who I was and who I intended to keep on being. In addition, I had never been one for tradition, patriarchal or otherwise, and would much sooner question and challenge the every day than just 'let things be'. 


Stay with me whist I dive into women's history briefly. Women weren't given the vote until 1918. Two years later a law was passed giving them legal rights to a further education. During both World Wars, women were called up to work in factories, on the railways, as firefighters, mechanics, bank clerks and by 1943, 85% of women had joined the workforce whilst keeping the hearths stoked at home. In a nutshell, women got rights, they studied, they worked, they earned and by doing so, within about 30 years, they had created a whole new culture for womankind. 


If the first half of the 20th century brought nothing else to the table for women, it did bring an inevitability that traditions would be challenged and expectations for equality would change. We've seen it so many times in the fight for equal pay, the increased challenge to everyday sexism and of course in countless other ways too.


So is keeping your surname once you're married not just a nock to your identity, but to modern history, and the liberties it brought with it for womankind?


Identity and equality, in this context, are clearly of greater importance to some and less so to others. The majority of married women I know didn't take their husband's surname and for this blog, I wanted to get inside the heads of the women who did. The results didn't surprise me, but the way that some of them made me feel, definitely did. 


According to You Gov, in 2016 59% of women took their husband's surname after marriage and 61% of men still want them to. By my reckoning, that means there's a potential 3% of women out there who are possibly living in the dog house out in the garden. But why make the choice to change your name? 


Do I or don't I take my husband's name?


Tradition plays the greatest part; a case of things always having been done a certain way. Second came the family unit; bringing children into the world, familial unity and cohesion, a belonging and common identity. Does the family unit define a woman more than a name? Should it therefore be easy to accept a name change with comfort and ease? Does taking on your husband's name feel like taking on a bit of someone else's culture and identity, from where you can create a unique something of your own? Other reasons for not changing a surname include administrative, cultural, professional and indeed, traditional (in the case of a family surname facing extinction.)


If I'm honest, all this talk of cohesion, unity and the creation of something new and distinctive made me feel a bit silly and selfish about not changing my name. I wanted to go straight home and apologise unreservedly to my long suffering husband who probably, very quietly, would have liked me to take his surname. And who'd listened without prejudice to me going on about identity and modern history for about the last 15 years. Had I created a disparate family and a mother - child disconnect out of my faintly militant approach to the whole name change thing? Suddenly I wanted to be that friend of mine who rushed to the toilet straight after her wedding ceremony and changed her status on Facebook to 'married', and with it her surname. 


As it happens my feelings of regret didn't last long but I think I have tempered a little. Some things are more important, more current, perhaps even more relevant. Whether you changed your name or not, let's face it, you're still you. Whether you want to give a nod to modern history or not, you're probably (hopefully) still thankful for the freedoms afforded to you by the women who went before you. Women like my Granny, with the twinkle in her eye. 


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