As we plan for our wedding day, I have a decision to make regarding my last name: do I keep it or change it? My amazing fiancé has been neutral on the matter and let me come to my decision on my own. But, before I go into my spiel, I’ll admit it was something I thought a lot about.
For me, my name is part of my identity. Sure, there was a brief period in elementary school where I didn’t like Ness because a classmate thought it was funny to call me “Loch Ness” –a name I didn’t care for, but that was a long time ago and today it’s kind of funny. Overall, though, I really love my last name. I’m not one for tradition (as is evident from our wedding planning), but my Norwegian heritage and overall identity as “Melissa Ness” is very near and dear to my heart. James’ last name is also Norwegian, but ultimately I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s his identify, not mine.
Historically, a female changing her name in marriage has been a way of showing that ownership of a woman’s existence has changed from a father’s hands to a husband’s, and I personally am over that outdated practice. I don’t judge women who take their husband’s last name, because I think it’s their decision to make; I’ve just realized it’s not something I want to do. I’m an equal partner in our relationship and I feel empowered to keep my identity as we start a life together.
In 2011 the wedding website TheKnot.com surveyed nearly 19,000 women who got married the following year. Of those women, 86% took their husband’s last name. The practice of women keeping their last names peaked in the 1990s with about 23% doing do—now, it’s less than 20 percent (some surveys estimate as low as 8 percent).
I’m sure we’ll have to explain to friends, neighbors, etc. at various points in our lives that we are, in fact, married and have different last names, but that doesn’t really bother me. James and I have also discussed having children and how to incorporate both of our last names, because it’s important to me. We’ve come up with a solution and think it’s a great way to represent where they will have come from.
In the end, the decision should be made by the soon-to-be-wife. I hope it’s a decision that women are thoughtful about and consider all the options. After taking time to think about it, I truly feel that keeping my last name is what I want.
The Last Name Project is a great site I came upon while writing this post. It’s a website where men and women write short posts explaining their decisions to change, keep or combine their names. I find it quite interesting to hear how people came to their decisions. How did you decide to keep or change your last name? Leave it on Last Name Project or in the comments below.