Q: Dear APW,
My wedding is mad soon, and people have been commenting on my “new” name. Except… I already have a name, and I like it, and I’m keeping it. My fiancx and I are on the same page, and he’d like to keep his name too. No problem. But I’m already getting a lot of questions and side-eye about why I’m choosing to do this (no one bothers him about it), and I don’t want to spend the next forever explaining myself or enduring hand-wringing about the children and the “family name” or whatever. This was a hard decision for me, I recognize it’s not what everyone would do, but I hate getting grilled about it.
I have been warned that I may receive personalized wedding gifts (e.g. “Welcome to the HisLastName House!” doormats) or checks written out to a person who literally does not exist (namely me with the wrong goddamn last name) from people assuming I’m changing my name, and I would feel SO BAD if I had to be like, “This is really sweet—can you write me a new check?” or “How kind, but ‘Mrs. HisLastName’ doesn’t live here.”
Basically, I don’t want to inconvenience anyone or make them feel bad or make this into A Thing. What can I do in advance? Put something on the wedding website addressing it head-on? Use a hashtag that makes it clear we are not merging names? Wear a sash that disavows me from his surname during the ceremony?
I already get eye rolls from some people in my life for being a furiously outspoken feminist, but I don’t need this to be a diatribe; I just want everyone to be on the same page. Is there a quick and magical solution so people don’t assume my name and also stop asking me about it without them thinking that I’m being dramatic or insulting people who DO choose to change their names? If you have it in pill form, that would be super.
—I Am Not Heathcliff
Dear Heathcliff (kidding),
It is a thing. It’s okay it’s a thing. And it’s likely going to be a thing for a long time. (Especially if you end up having kids who don’t take your husband’s last name. Then it’s a thing all over again.)
Expecting people to call you by your actual name is fair and valid, don’t feel bad about correcting anyone. Because, you definitely will need to correct people.
And, yeah! You can try to head this off with some physical mail (get those thank you cards out pronto, or make sure to do holiday cards this year, sign ’em all really big). Social media is also good, no diatribes needed (I love the hashtag idea, like #StillSteinmetz or whatever). But you know that 1. only a few folx will notice, 2. those few folx still may forget, and 3. there will be people who notice, but passive aggressively use the name they think you should have to make a point. It’s unfair that the default expectation is that you’ll be changing your last name, but it still is. And pushing back against patriarchy, unfortunately, requires actually… pushing back so that it eventually is not the default.
So bad news: there is no magical fix, no way to prevent anyone from using the wrong name for you. But, good news: you don’t have to feel bad about asking someone to rewrite their checks (you literally cannot cash them). Maybe they’ll learn something. Maybe they won’t. But that part isn’t on you.
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 ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)