Culture

Are we past taking our husband's name when we get married?

Is being a 'Mrs' romantic, or outdated?

In an era where feminism is on the rise and women have more independence than ever before, is the prospect of changing your name to your husband's romantic, or outdated?

Here, two ELLE Australia staffers with different views and experiences weigh in on the matter.

Changed her name: Alison Izzo, Digital Managing Editor

“I never thought I'd be the type of woman who'd change her surname when she got married. I’m proud to call myself a feminist and love nothing more than rallying against the patriarchy, but here's the thing, I adopted my husband’s last name when I wed. And quite willingly.

The logic of it just didn't stack up—why should I change my identity just because I'd chosen to formalise my relationship in the eyes of the law? I'd heard from friends that the process itself was painfully long-winded and annoying, and I struggle with personal admin enough as it it, without adding 3,958 name-change forms to the mix. Also, I'd spent my entire career building my by-line, so why should I abandon that body of work just because I got married?

My now-husband and I discussed the name change thing pretty early into our engagement and he (being the delightfully modern man that he is) made it clear that he didn't want me to even know his preference because it should be 100 percent my decision and he didn't want to influence that process.

Saying that, he didn't want to change his name either, which I respect, so we agreed that any future offspring would take his name and that was that.

Fast forward two years and I found myself reconsidering my stance, which was pretty shocking, even to myself.

I could blame it on getting caught up in the pre-wedding bubble of romance, anxiety and my general state of heightened emotion, but really it was more about marking a pivoting point in my life.

The process of organising the wedding gave me a deeper appreciation for what the ceremony symbolises: the joining of two families, and the start of our own little two person team. I really loved that this was a permanent marker in both of our lives, and that this day would forever be the start of something new for both of us.

Changing my name felt like a fitting way to outwardly project this to the world, but more importantly to myself. I should admit here that I love change and reinvention of any kind, so my newlywed status also (conveniently) provided the perfect excuse for a personal re-brand of sorts.

I also had zero sentimental attachment to my own surname as it's actually a shortened version of my paternal grandfather's name, so continuing on the 'family name' wasn't of value. Plus, my husband's last name— Izzo—sounded rather exotic to my thoroughly Anglo-ears.

After near-on three years of marriage am I glad I did it?

Honestly? Not really. I think that in this day and age it actually doesn't matter one iota whether you change your surname or not. Frankly, it's been more of an admin annoyance than anything else—but I like that it was entirely my choice. And that freedom to choose has got to be a win for the sisterhood.

Saying that, I still get a flush of the warm-and-fuzzies when someone calls me Mrs Izzo—which makes all the paperwork worthwhile. Almost.”

Kept her name: Jennifer Kang, Social Media Editor

“Getting married is strange enough these days, but changing your surname just to match your husband's? Yeah, sorry, but that's got to be weirder.

When Andrew and I finally decided to get hitched, he asked if I planned on changing my surname to his. Cue: the instant pang of WTF.

Here, my intelligent, forward-thinking feminist husband-to-be was asking such a bizarre question. Sensing my bewilderment, he explained, ‘We'll be one family; it'll be nice to have the one surname that matches.’ Yeah, nah.

I suggested he change his surname to mine if he wanted matchy-matchy. Fair point, he said, before adding that he'd have a good think about it on the condition that I too gave it some consideration.

For me, that heated two-minute chat and the immediate repulsion I felt from the get-go meant I didn't have to think about it: I was never going to change my name. Women have the choice to keep their name now; why not choose it?

I've been known as variations of my surname my whole life: Kangy, Kanga, Kangers, J Kang, JK, Kangaroo... who the hell would this ‘Jen Lee’ be? (Creepy side note: it just so happens Andrew's sister goes by ‘Jenny Lee’. It would make for some weird Game Of Thrones vibes if I were to take on ‘Lee’.)

But more to the point, why would I blindly follow tradition if that tradition didn't mean much to me? It's something I've always told my friends who are on the fence about changing their name. A lot of them are also writers and editors who've built a career around their by-line, so naturally, a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment can be tied to that name, too.

Despite my protests, many of them do end up choosing to change their surname for perfectly good reasons: their dad's a dud, they've never liked their last name, or there’s a general sense of indifference because either way, patriarchy wins (‘I've got my dad’s surname to start off with anyway!’). But more often than not it’s about the sentiment; the gesture of changing their surname for someone they love, and I respect that. If that’s an aspect of their relationship they value—just the way Andrew and I decided marriage was for us—then by all means, go ahead.

After a couple of weeks, Andrew had decided he wanted to change his surname to mine, and I was pretty taken aback/shocked/guilty/touched. (Yeah, I know, when a woman changes her surname it's mostly no big deal, but when a man does? Hero.) It really was about a family unit to him after all, not about male ownership over his wife, upholding tradition or an ego thing. But just as I wasn't willing to sacrifice that part of my identity for him or our future family, he shouldn't have to either. Because, as I explained to him, family is all about what we make it.

I don’t need to be on Team Lee to feel more like his wife, he doesn’t need to be on Team Kang to feel more like my husband, and Team Kang-Lee (which our friends endearingly call us) sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?”