I’ve been engaged for five months now, but I decided long before I ever met my fiancé that I am definitely not changing my name after I get married. To be honest, I am surprised that this practice is still quite common in 2023.
When it comes to straight couples, we don’t see many husbands changing their last names to their wives’ names. Why is this? In my opinion, a woman changing her last name is a practice steeped in tradition, one that is actually quite sexist and dates back to the days of women being seen as property.
Think about it - most women have their father’s last name, the father walks the bride down the aisle, ‘giving her away’ to her new ‘owner’, i.e. her husband. The bride then takes her husband’s last name.
Of course, we have (for the most part) moved on from the idea that women are the property of men, but yet this patriarchal tradition still exists.
There are of course some women who want to change their last name for entirely valid reasons. They may have a difficult relationship with their own family, or maybe they just like the sound of their husband’s last name. Perhaps they like the traditional element of it all, and want to start the next phase of their life with a shared name.
However, I know for me, keeping my own last name is the right choice. Áine Kenny is who I am and always will be. If a man doesn’t traditionally change his name, why should I? I also write for a living and my previous work is under "Áine Kenny". It's my professional name too.
My fiancé and I think we will just keep our own names and leave it at that. Getting married already signifies our bond - both spiritually and legally. I won’t have the hassle of paperwork either. The thought of applying for a new passport, driver’s licence and changing all my bills is enough to put me off!
Thankfully my fiancé is happy with my decision, but I often hear of other women whose partner is upset that they won’t change their name. I wonder why this is. Why is changing one’s name considered a bigger deal than the act of getting married? Is it rooted in traditional stereotypes that a wife should do what her husband says?
My mother never changed her name after marriage, so perhaps this is why I wouldn’t consider changing mine.
Despite my mother never going by “Mrs Kenny” (‘that’s your Granny’s name’, she used to say to us), official letters still arrived at the door addressed to “Mr and Mrs [Dad's name] Kenny”. My poor Mam was reduced to not even having a first name! Oftentimes at parent teacher meetings, well-meaning teachers seemed to assume my parents were divorced as they didn’t share a last name.
Double-barrel names are becoming a lot more popular as the years go on. I myself don’t have a double-barrel name, I just have my father’s name, which never made sense to me considering my mother didn’t change her name! I’d love to have both my parents' names. When I asked my Mam why we just had Dad’s name, she said she didn’t mind about our names, but she knew she definitely wanted to keep her own.
Some couples are opting to create an entirely new second name after getting married. Sometimes this is a name that has no link to the couple, other times it is an amalgamation of both surnames. Perhaps this is something that will become more popular in years to come?
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