What’s in a married name?

By Ada Slivinski

At the rehearsal the day before our wedding, the priest asked us how we would like to be introduced after taking our vows and signing the register. I had always planned to take my husband’s name, but admittedly hearing it for the first time, “Mr. and Mrs. Slivinski”, made me panic a bit.

Of course the Western convention is for women to change their name after marriage and the historical roots of this aren’t so sweet. In the past, women didn’t have any rights to own property or a business on their own and taking on a married name meant that they at least had some stake in their husband’s dealings. Also any children born to them were socially accepted as legitimate and brought the wife a certain status.

The marriage was akin to a business deal. The husband would provide for his wife and children and she would take care of them, but they were both considered the husband’s property. Of course, feminists have taken issue with idea – starting with American suffragist Lucy Stone who, in 1855, refused to take her husband’s name.

Things have changed since these gender roles were mainstream. However, many women still follow the tradition and take on the “Mrs.” title.

It has obvious benefits. Assuming a married name clearly identifies the couple and their children as a family. Even though society has become more diverse in its views on marriage, a shared name is still symbolic of the shared identity. This was ultimately the reason I chose to become a Slivinski: I wanted to start a new life and new family and the name change was a visible mark of that.

However, it has to be acknowledged that changing to a married name is often a hassle. For woman in the workforce, it often involves changing your email address and Twitter handle as well as answering the phone with a new name. This felt extremely weird to me the first time and most of my contacts needed an explanation. People are bound to weigh in on your decision – as they do for every other detail, big or small, to do with a wedding.

I have to admit that for me the name change resulted in small identity crises. For a while, you’re not quite one, but the other doesn’t feel quite right either. Especially after the excitement and drama of a wedding, it takes a while to settle in to your new identity. Legally, a new last name doesn’t become yours all at once and it takes a while to change your documents.

A common misconception is that “assuming” a married name is the same as “changing” it. When you change your name it’s as though your birth name never existed. Your birth certificate and any prior identification is wiped out and reprinted with the new chosen name. Assuming a new name means a change takes place at that point. Legally you were identified by your maiden name before a certain date and by your new name afterward.

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