From Erin: "What are your thoughts on the bride taking the groom's last name? I have mixed feelings...I feel like getting married makes two people become a family, and sharing a surname reinforces that connection. But with my advanced bridal age (29), I've grown somewhat attached to my own name and that's how everyone knows me."
As far as I can tell, there is no good answer to this question.
I wholeheartedly agree that marriage is about forging a new family and sharing a common last name helps solidify that family, especially to the external world. Growing up, my last name was often different from my mom's (due to divorces and remarriages), and that was hard on me. Names do signify connection and family, and it makes sense to share a common last name with your family.
But I cannot bring myself to conform to the patriarchal system that forces women to give up their names. It stems from a history of men being in charge of the family. As an American studies major and women and gender studies minor in college, I knew I wasn't going to take my partner's name because I couldn't support and perpetuate a sexist tradition. I had a vague idea that we could both take a new name. We would be Bradford + Cotner = Bradner or Cotner + Bradford = Cotford. Or we would take a completely new name based on an author we like or a place we've visited.
But then I got married when I was 30. For thirty years I have been Sara Cotner. Even when I call my mom, I sometimes say, "This is Sara Cotner." I love my name. I can't imagine being anything but Sara Cotner. Plus, with the internet being what it is, I want people from my past to be able to search for Sara Cotner.
One other possibility is the hyphenation route. I think it makes sense in theory, but it loses points in the implementation stage. Names become too long and cumbersome. They are difficult to alphabetize. It takes vigilance to get people to use both of them. Plus, hyphenated names seem like a short-term solution. Either one of the names gets dropped after a while because it's too difficult to use, or you use it steadfastly but then one of the names gets dropped when your kids marry and hyphenate their names.
So I have kept my name. And Matt has kept his. I realize we will bring new difficulties upon ourselves by going this route. Just yesterday, I had to pick up a package from UPS. It was a wedding present that was addressed to: Matt and Sara Bradford. At the counter, the woman asked for my ID. I showed it to her and she said, "The name doesn't match." I explained that I had just gotten married and that I was keeping my last name. "But it doesn't match and the addresses don't match."
In a last-ditch effort to make my trek out to UPS fruitful, I explained that the addresses on the package didn't match the address on my ID because we just moved. I then saved the day by pulling out a piece of mail that showed my name with the correct address.
I imagine I could start a whole blog just to document the trials and tribulations of keeping my last name!
I'm really not sure what the long-term solution is. If anything, names should be passed along matrimonial lines, since that's where the birthing occurs. That makes more sense to me anyway.
In the meantime, I'm happy with my decision. It's the principle that counts. And it's worth it to us.
We just haven't figured out what to do when the babies start coming.
E-mail your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org