How Do I Tell Everyone I’m Keeping My Name?

AAPW: Every time they call me "Mrs." I wanna rant about the patriarchy...

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Q: I know that this site has discussed the idea of name-changing many times and I have found each and every one of those threads to be incredibly helpful, but now that my wedding is four months out and we are booking vendors that will deal with what we will be called once we are married (DJ and officiant), I am having trouble sticking to my guns that my name will remain the same as it was before after we say our vows. My partner and I have already fought twice regarding me not changing my name, and I know he isn’t crazy about having to explain to the DJ or officiant that we do not want to be announced as Mr. and Mrs. His-last-name. My question is, how do I gracefully and kindly explain to vendors as well as my soon-to-be MIL that I am not changing my name? And do you have any suggestions for how we would be announced post-ceremony/entrance to the reception? This is a very heated topic and one I am VERY opinionated on. It is often difficult for me to breezily reply that it is just what I want instead of going on a rant about the patriarchy of name-changing, and why don’t they ask my soon-to-be-husband about what his new last name will be.

—Optimistically Vouching for Equality Rather than Inequitable Tyranny

A: Dear OVERIT,

The ranting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By keeping your name, you are making a statement, and a little piece of that is an outright questioning of gendered traditions. Putting words to that action, explaining your rationale, only makes sense. These conversations about your name are a nice invitation to climb aboard that soapbox. You don’t have any responsibility to explain yourself to anyone. But, if keeping your name is important to you and you enjoy explaining why, take the opportunity.

The caveat is, of course, that people are often moved to change their opinions by the softer words than the strong, emotional ones. Gently pressing someone to question their assumptions about names and women and tradition can have a lot more impact than red-faced vitriol (is what I try to remind myself basically all the time).

I’m going to open it up to the commenters who may have a nice, pat answer for you to have at the ready when someone asks about your last name. Because, sure, maybe sometimes you don’t feel like getting all het up during your lunch break. And yeah, sometimes those gentle words are most convincing. Maybe you can start by narrowing down just what it is about keeping your name that is most important to you.

But hold on for just one quick second, because there’s something we need to discuss before all that. Explaining your name to your vendors and mother-in-law and the teller at the bank is one thing. But having your husband fight you on this is another story. I can’t tell from your letter—have you guys resolved your disagreement about this? Is he going to be irritable every time you correct someone who mistakenly calls you, “Mrs.”? Will he roll his eyes at his mom while you explain to her that your name isn’t changing?

Don’t even worry about that DJ until you make sure you guys reach some sort of agreement on this. Maybe you’ll never get to a place where he fully understands your decision, but I would hope for you to work until he backs you on it. Backing one another is one of those things that’s important now, but will continue to be important through the rest of your marriage. And this name decision is a big thing! A thing you’re concerned that you’ll need to defend and rationalize to friends and family and strangers. His support is crucial. He doesn’t have to get it. He just has to be on your side.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

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