(Photo of Tony and me by Steven Fairfield Photography)
Back in 2009, when I was engaged to my now husband, Tony, and planning our wedding, I knew, without a doubt, that I would keep my last name and remain a Wardwell. Having been a women’s studies minor during my undergraduate and graduate years, it seemed obvious that I would follow my feminist leanings and not succumb to the patriarchal tradition of becoming my husband’s property. All the proper feminists didn’t change their names, and as I was someone planning to continue in academia or higher education, I felt like I had to represent the feminist tradition.
At one point (or, let’s face it– several points) during the wedding planning process, I suggested to Tony that we should totally buck tradition (+1 feminist move!) and that he should change his last name to Wardwell. “Tony,” I’d say, “it’s such a hardy name! And it’s mine! Don’t you want to share my last name?”
He’d look at me and say, “I want my last name. I’m giving you the option to keep your last name, and I’d like to have the ability to choose. I choose to keep my last name.”
I’d sigh, because he was right. And it went on like this for most of the time prior to the wedding.
When friends and family would mention the fact that I would soon become Mrs. Crabtree, I’d correct them and tell them that I planned to keep my last name. Surprisingly, I was met with a variety of different reactions. Some gave me high fives, nodded, and others didn’t really react. What thoroughly confused me were the people who seemed affected by the fact that I didn’t want to take Tony’s last name. One person even suggested that my desire to keep my last name implied that I was looking for an easy way to divorce him in the future.
I wish I was kidding.
Even though my convictions were firm and my decisions theoretically sound, there was still a little nagging voice in my head that really, really, really wanted me to become a Crabtree. It kept whispering that I’d be missing out on the female tradition if I didn’t adopt my husband’s name. It would obnoxiously repeat the comments made by many of my friends and acquaintances– that Kate Crabtree was a sharp sounding name that sounded like the name of a handbag designer or a character in a classic British novel. “C’mon, Kate,” the voice would trill into my ear, “why not? Won’t it be kind of fun to see what life is like with a different name?” The voice had a point.
I eventually realized I could have it both ways; I could keep my last name and adopt his as well, and by doing so I could make the independent side of me and the side of me that loved Tony happy. I changed my middle name to Wardwell, and my last name to Crabtree. Both families play a fundamental part of who I am, and so it seemed important that both be represented in my name. I haven’t looked back since, and I’m glad I made the best choice for me.
For those of you who are married, or are engaged, or already know what you plan to do when you get married, tell me what your plans are in regards to your name and why you’ve made that specific choice! Leave a comment and tell me your story!