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'When my husband decided to take my surname, his family walked out of our wedding.'

I never thought I would get married. I had never wanted to get married. I was 37 years old and living on a beautiful little farm with my boyfriend when I suddenly realised, I wanted to marry the man. We had been together for four years and he was divorced with three children who lived with their mother interstate.

We had talked about marriage and because I had always been so anti it, I knew that Bradley (my boyfriend), was never going to ask me, so I asked him. Yep, I proposed to him. His answer, “I’ll think about it…”

Six hours later at the dinner table, he told me, “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

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The next day we telephoned all the family to deliver the good news. Both Bradley’s parents and mine all seemed really happy about it. I do have to admit though that they did think it was a bit strange that I asked Bradley.

But I didn’t pay any attention to that at the time. In hindsight, I probably should have.

The wedding date was set and I planned and organised the whole thing. We were to get married on our little farm in a beautiful, rustic outdoor setting and the reception was to take place in our large iron shed. The guest list was not large, however, most of the guests had to travel from interstate for the occasion.

A couple of days before the wedding, most of Bradley’s family turned up in their caravans to the farm. They parked and set up camp in a paddock near the house. My family were staying in the main house or somewhere in the surrounding area. I thought how nice it was to have everyone there together.

On the day of the wedding, despite some bad weather, everything looked as I had imagined and I had never felt more beautiful. I wore a 100 year old wedding dress and cowboy boots. My hair and make- up was exactly what I wanted and my daddy was there to give me away.

I remember walking through the front yard holding my father’s hand and seeing all these faces I had not seen in so long. They all had big smiles and it filled my heart with joy.

My fiancé looked so handsome standing there waiting for me and I felt really proud to marrying such a good man. The ceremony went ahead as rehearsed and then the celebrant announced us as ‘Mr and Mrs Kelly’.

That’s when the jaws dropped.

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Actually, I didn’t see any jaw drops. All I remember hearing is Bradley’s mother saying out loud, “No, Johnson”.

Johnson is my husband’s original last name. She had thought the celebrant had got it wrong! I also noticed my new sister in law state verbally, “Kelly?” and then screw her nose up in disgust.

I just thought they must be a little surprised and I continued smiling and holding my new husband’s hand. I had no idea if he had noticed his family’s reaction to the celebrant’s announcement.

Now, at this point let’s get one thing clear. Remember that I asked my husband to marry me? Well, because of this, my husband decided to take on my surname. It was completely out of respect for me proposing to him. If he had asked me and I had said yes, I would have taken on his surname. It is as simple as this. My husband loves his family and had no problem with his former surname.

It was not like it was ‘Allcock’ or something (actually, he probably would have quite liked if he was an ‘Allcock’…) Also, my husband can’t have any more children, so it’s not like he needed to keep his original surname to ensure the continuation of the family name or anything.

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When my husband told me, he would like to take on my surname I just thought it was the sweetest thing and really not a big deal. Sure, we thought some people might be a little surprised by this ‘unconventional’ move, but nothing more. Well, wasn’t I wrong!

After we signed the marriage certificates, my bridesmaid and I went to the loo and she helped me get changed into my dress for the reception. It was at this time that I heard yelling. I had no idea what was going on. I came out from the main house to be told that Bradley’s family were all leaving the wedding.

They were already over at their caravans and packing up their camp. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it must be a joke. Bradley’s children were all crying. They didn’t understand what was going on and why Nanny and Poppy and their aunts, uncles and cousins were all leaving. Some members of my family were in tears too.

They were upset at what was unfolding on my one and only wedding day. The day that was supposed to be about me and Bradley, not about other people. Some of my family and friends then said to me, “Maybe you should have told them before the wedding?”. My answer, “Not one person from either side of the family asked what we were doing in regards to names. You would think that if the name thing was such a big deal, they would have enquired about it prior rather than just assuming.”

I also went onto say, “In Australia, when people get married, either person can take on the other’s surname or they can take on both names or they can not take on a surname at all and just stick with their original surname. The process for Bradley taking on my surname is no different than if I were to take on his.”

Half an hour or so after the ceremony, we suddenly had a number of spare seats at the reception. Also, Bradley’s very unimpressed family members came and grabbed their wedding gifts and took them back while all the other guests looked on in disbelief at such extreme actions. Their actions in general were, in my opinion, extreme.

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"Bradley’s very unimpressed family members came and grabbed their wedding gifts and took them back" Image: Getty

Yes, you can be surprised by an unconventional move. Yes, you can even be pissed off at not being told prior, but this is a very close family member’s wedding day. You would think one would just bite their tongue, let your son and daughter-in-law enjoy their special day and then sit down and talk about it all in an adult manner at a more appropriate time.

But no, this rational behaviour was not exhibited on my special day. I didn’t cry, I actually just laughed. I mean, what more could I do? It was all apparently so scandalous it was ridiculous.

I have served in the military and worked in law enforcement and despite my background, the behaviour I saw displayed at my wedding day is by far the most sexist behaviour I have ever experienced. When I say sexist, I’m referring to the fact that no one leaves a wedding when a female takes on a male’s surname yet a number of people left my wedding when a man took on a female name?

It’s so sad to think that despite it almost being 2020, people are still so extreme in their views. It makes me wonder what will happen at gay weddings when one party takes on the other’s last name? Will they have half a family leave the wedding because their son took on their new husband’s last name?

Bradley actually used this scenario in a conversation with my own mother. He said to her, “What happens if I were gay and I had decided to take on my husband’s surname? Would have they reacted like this?”

My mother was confident in her response; “Bradley, if you were gay, your parents wouldn’t have even have shown up at your wedding.”

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

What would you do if your in-laws left your wedding like this? Let us know in the comments below!

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