weddings

"You're married, not branded." I didn't take my husband's name. Some people still don't get it.

A dear friend recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary, and to commemorate her special day, she decided to gift her husband with what she felt he would love the most - taking his last name. 

Her overjoyed husband added a comment on her Instagram saying, "This anniversary couldn't get any better than you agreeing to take up my name officially". It made me wonder about my three-year-old marriage, where I didn't think about changing my name even once.

I've known for years that I was never going to change my name for anyone at any stage in my life, but still, every time I find out about someone in my circle getting married and changing their surname, it stresses me out for a minute.

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Marriage is a tricky business, but what's trickier are the changes that come immediately afterwards.

My husband and I got married in 2018. I had to leave India for Australia soon after as my husband settled here. Moving countries is a stressful job that includes a lot of paperwork - so my husband and I were on the same page to not change my last name and add to what was already a monumental task.

But just a few days before we married, he asked me if I wished to change my name. He wanted to make sure that he wasn't robbing me off my wishes, which I found really thoughtful. But I also politely declined and told him how I loved my name and wanted to keep it that way for the rest of my life. 

Image: Supplied.

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I was worried about how my mother-in-law might react but I knew I had nothing to fret about when she embraced me with loving arms. That was pretty much the end of the discussion for me. 

The two families were more than understanding, but it was the people around us who couldn't fathom my decision. It felt funny at that moment to realise my husband and in-laws care much less than the people who have absolutely no business here. Maybe because it is quite common in my home country of India for the brides to make the whole name transition smoothly, I was expected to follow suit. 

But how do I conform to the norms I don't identify with? I was born with a certain name, and I have been using that name as a part of my identity everywhere I've been and worked for the 28 years of my life before the wedding. How do I suddenly wake up one day and become this new person I don't even know?

To understand the concept of name changing, I did some background research and found that the practice dates back to the 11th century. The Normans introduced the idea of coverture to the English and planted the seeds of a long-standing tradition.

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The English law asserted that a woman's identity was "covered" by her husband once she got married. In other words, it meant that women had no legal identity apart from their husbands. Being one with your husband meant that you couldn't inherit property, own money, participate in the business, and more. Everything that was or could've been yours automatically belonged to your husband after marriage. 

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It wasn't until the mid-1800s that women could own and inherit property. That is when some women began to keep their maiden names. But even today, it's uncommon.

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against women taking their husbands' last names. If this is something they want to do, go for it. But the choice shouldn't be imposed on you. It's about the freedom to choose your life your way. You dictate what matters to you. It's your name, and only you get to decide what to do with it.

Image: Supplied.

Sitting with my husband recently, I started to wonder if I had made a mistake by not adding his name to mine. If it meant I loved him any less? I asked if it ever bothered him, and he told me I was being silly.

Whether a woman keeps her maiden name or uses her partners' after marriage is a matter of personal choice, and today there are no legal issues with doing either, so let her have that choice to make for her own life. 

After all, you're married, not branded.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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