Bride Wars

Should you change your name when you get married? Two members of the SO office battle it out…

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YES – Anna Hawkins

Of course I changed my name when I got married. It was an opportunity to adjust my brand attributes; to ‘launch’ myself as a married woman. At my core, in a darkened room, I’m still me, but marriage gave me a chance to mark a conscious step-change. Having selected the man I thought would be a great husband and father, why wouldn’t I want to be ‘Mrs Man-That-I’d Chosen’?

Others may hang on to their maiden name for reasons to do with identity or feminism. I put it to you that a misunderstanding of what marriage means has more than likely occurred. Becoming a wife means you take on a new identity, a refusal to accept this is surely a nod towards commitment phobia, perhaps an inkling that things might not work out in the long run?

Keeping your maiden name at work makes slightly more sense, but I still believe it’s a mistake. It’s a well-known fact that married women do better at work. Being (successfully) married is good for one’s personal brand. Sure, changing email addresses is cumbersome but IT departments are fairly nifty these days and redirection is possible.

Aside from aforementioned philosophical reasons, there are plentiful practical reasons to change your name. If, for example you travel with your child (who presumably has your husband’s name? Another confusion…) you’ll need identity papers to prove you’re not kidnapping them. What fun at the airport!

The ONLY exception might be if the surname to be taken was truly hideous, but then, using the gift of foresight, I would not have merrily courted anyone with a surname of such ridiculousness. A man who had lived under the cloud of such a terrible label would undoubtedly have deep psychological issues that may manifest themselves in marital affairs further down the line.

I rest my case, in essence, changing one’s name is merely a confident assertion that your man is worthy of your hand in marriage.

NO – Eileen Leahy

‘What’s in a name?’ Goes the old adage . . . well in my personal opinion quite a lot actually. A woman having to change her surname when she marries is, to me, a tradition that’s totally draconian and sexist. Why on earth should we? Why should a man’s surname automatically take precedence over a woman’s once that wedding band is slipped on her finger? What era is this? The one when women didn’t have the right to vote or open their own bank account? No, it’s the 21st century where women work just as hard as men, earn their own living and make their own decisions so the idea of being forced to change the name that has defined you since birth is beyond preposterous!

When I got married over 12 years ago there was never any question of changing my name. I was known as Eileen Leahy, both personally and professionally as a journalist. That aside, I have to admit that I really like my Irish surname and despite the majority of people not having a clue how to pronounce it (phonetically it’s Lee-hee) I rather enjoy the fact that it’s unusual and that it suits my Christian name (also Irish) very well. Why at the ripe old age of 32 would I have wanted to take on someone else’s name which didn’t bear any relation to me? I was marrying the man I love for his gorgeous and generous nature, incredible sense of humour, and great taste in music – not his name.

When I had my children I was also rather miff ed that they automatically take their father’s name if you are married. Quite a bitter misogynist pill to swallow when you’ve carried them for nine months, given birth and breastfed, but that’s another rant for another time…

Ultimately for me it’s having the freedom of choice to keep a name I love and expresses who I am – despite being married – and that makes me feel like I’m still me and not owned by anyone else.