Friday, September 17, 2010

To Change or Not To Change {The Name Debate}

The post's headline is a bit misleading, because what we're really after here is a discussion on name changing where there are no points argued, just experiences to be shared.

When Laura asked me to write about this topic, I thought, Ooh, how are going to do this? Because it's something that people feel really strongly about-- I mean, of course it is; we're talking about your name, here! It doesn't get more personal than that. And so that's where this post is going to begin and end-- with personal narratives. Right now, mine is pretty short. After a childhood figuring out all the different words my initials could spell depending on who I married (good options: ART, ARK. Least appealing: ARF, ARS), I've settled into thinking that I wouldn't change my name after all. But that's me speaking as single person. Who knows how I'll feel if I do get married-- and if there's one thing I've gathered from talking to married people of all ages, it's the importance of listening to your spouse's feelings on this topic, even if you ultimately end up making a decision that's not his or her first choice.

There are four married women in the Engaging Affairs office. Two of them changed their names when they got married. Two of them didn't. Each of them was nice enough to share her story, and I truly feel like I learned so much from each of them. Sara pointed out that the decision isn't a binary one that you have to make once and for all before your wedding. Laura reminded me how important a name is on a level I hadn't thought about: her name is her business. Amy gave reassurance that if I ever decided to change my name, it didn't have to be the hassle and paper work nightmare I imagined. And Maeve straight up made me cry.

I was going to try to weave their words into some sort of cohesive summary, but I just don't think I could do justice to the brilliance and thoughtfulness of my colleagues. I had to let them speak for themselves.

From Amy: I didn't even think twice about changing my name-- it was a done deal! My whole life I spent spelling out my last name for people (formerly Guthridge), and now I had the opportunity to have a name that was easily recognizable: Jones. I guess I am a hopeless romantic but it was always something I knew I would do since I was a little girl. And I actually used one of Bridal Bubbly's friends, MissnowMrs, to assist with the name change so it was the easiest thing ever. The name changing program is genius and all the changes were simple and quick... except waiting in the Social Security office for four and a half hours one day. But other than that, a snap! I am happily, and legally, now Mrs. Amy Jones.

From Sara: From my point of view, it seemed like all the paperwork, changing bank accounts, passports, licenses, etc., was a HUGE hassle that I didn't have time for. On top of that, I heard changing my name wasn't cheap. So I figured that even if I went by my husband's last name, I wouldn't change it legally for a while. Also, I had made a name for myself professionally and while people knew I was getting married, I wanted to be known as the planner my former clients could identify me as.

My husband didn't feel strongly about me taking his name, which to me was encouraging, but at the same time slightly upsetting. I know it's weird, but part of me thought it was a little important that he was traditional at heart. I'm not quite sure how I will feel when I have children-- it may be the one thing that would make me change. I guess we'll see! (In a few years...)

From Maeve: It took me about six months to change my name, mainly because it’s a hassle and it wasn’t that big enough a deal to either of us to make it a huge stressful process. So I changed it when I had the extra time. Before we got married, I worked in what I would call my career job. I never planned on changing my name professionally. I had worked in the industry I was in long enough that people knew me as my maiden name and that’s how I wanted it. 

But I got married and moved immediately to DC. New hubby, new city, new job: a new name just seemed to fit. Although all of the new may be why it took me months to actually make the name change commitment. 

I always figured I would change my name when i got married. The women in my family traditionally don’t have middle names so that we don’t have to drop anything if we decide to take our partner’s name. So my maiden name is now my middle name. As an adult it shows up all over my life, on my license, my passport and all of my important papers. I like seeing my maiden name so often. It helps me remember where I came from. My married name is impossible to spell and no one pronounces it right. Ever. But it feels like mine.

I don’t think of a name change as a change anymore; it feels more like an adding. For me the addition of my married name to my maiden name signifies the melding of the most important things in my life, my family and my husband. My full name is the truest symbol of who I am. 

From Alison (again). Thank you so much to my fellow Bridal Bubbly ladies for telling their stories. Please share yours in our comments section.