By Katie Lawrence
Nothing makes you realize just how much your last name means to you until you’re asked to change it.
When my fiancé proposed, he caught me off guard. It was our fourth anniversary and we were on vacation in Montréal. We had talked about marriage, but I wasn’t expecting a proposal that soon, as funny as that is to say. Four years is a long time.
We didn’t start planning the wedding right away, taking some time to enjoy the feeling of being engaged, so I didn’t start thinking about the name-changing process until a year ago.
Thinking about changing my name has been an emotional subject for me. This is a decision that I have to be happy with for the rest of my life. It’s a very personal choice, and as much as going along with tradition may seem like the easiest solution, it definitely isn’t.
My first reaction was uncertainty. I’d started to build a career and a reputation with this name and I was reluctant to change the name that had been mine for, at the time, 26 years.
In talking with my fiancé about it, understandably, he wants me to change my name. Although we’ve been together now for almost six years, getting married signifies us officially coming together as a unit, and he wants us to come together in name as well.
Another thing to think about is our future family. When we have kids, I want them to know that we are a family in every way. And when traveling, everybody having the same name keeps things simple.
But I keep coming back around to how much I like my name.
My name is my family. My name is my background. My name is my history.
Trying to come up with a solution that will satisfy both sides of the argument hasn’t been easy. I asked friends and family what they would do or would’ve done today to generate some ideas.
Some suggested hyphenation, but with the length of our names, combining them seemed impractical and not the right fit. Some suggested not changing it, but that didn’t feel right either.
My cousin, who shares my mom’s maiden name, decided not to change her name. As a teacher, she wanted to keep things consistent for her students. She and her husband also decided to give their daughters her last name, to keep her family name going into the next generation. The girls both have their father’s last name as a middle name, to include his side as well.
Historically, it is a custom that married women change their names, hesitant or not. My grandmothers didn’t have much of a choice when they got married, it was just expected, and that practice seems antiquated. Around the world, there are countries that have laws in place that force a decision on married women. I’m very glad that I have the opportunity to choose what my name will be.
A conversation with my mom helped me find some clarity. She told me she wished that she had kept her maiden name as a part of her name after marriage, and regrets not including it somehow. That really stuck with me. It made me realize that I echo those feelings.
Change isn’t something I accept easily; I have to consider everything that goes into taking a different name. Listening to everyone’s thoughts and opinions has been helpful, but this is a decision that has to come from me and my personal feelings.
At this point in time, I’ve chosen to add my last name as a middle name. I get to keep the first part of my life with me while starting a second part. A part that connects me to my partner forever. A part that will lead to new challenges that we’re ready to face together. A chapter that signifies that I’m growing up.
Growing up is scary because it means change, and keeping my maiden name as a part of my identity will help me remember that my family will always be there for me.
I know I have a strong support system in place with my fiancé and my family, and when I say ‘I Do’ in June, I’ll be ready to start the next part of my life with my new name.
Katie Lawrence is a 27-year-old writer from the Greater Vancouver area. She loves sports, hates pink, and can’t live without cheese. She met her fiancé on Twitter while talking about baseball and can’t wait to marry him later this year.