Seven years ago today I said “I do” to my husband and “I don’t” to my maiden name. I always had a love-hate relationship my name. Even in France, it’s not very common and hard to pronounce. Once I moved to the US, well, it was just weird. Literally. My maiden name is Deweirdt Growing up, I never really liked it and couldn’t wait to change it. Or so I thought. In the weeks preceding our wedding, my husband and I talked through some of the decisions we would make in our future together during our pre-canna sessions with Monseigneur Jameson at Saint Matthews. We agreed that I wouldn’t convert but that when we had children, they would be catholic, like my husband and therefore have a different religion from me. They would probably have a different nationality from me as well, since they would be American and I, for now, am still a French citizen. But we would all have the same last name. Hyphenating was never an option I considered since I already have a hyphenated first name. So within a few days of our wedding ceremony, I headed to Social Security and officially changed my name, updated my facebook account and got a new email address. For all intents and purposes, I was now Laetitia Brock. Well, at least in the United States…
In France, it was a different story. My French ID card, drivers license and passport were still valid and I really didn’t see any rush in getting new ones. I figured I would wait until they expired and then deal with the name change. Last year, it finally happened: I had to get new identification documents. Suddenly, I started to get very nostalgic about my passport. Of course, it wasn’t so much the little booklet itself, but my passport bore so much of my history, from my student visas to the various stamps of all the countries I have traveled to as a young adult. And my name. Did I ever hate it? You would never have known. Suddenly, there was nothing weird about it. It was the most beautiful name in the world and the thought of letting go of it just broke my heart. Nonetheless, I went to the French Embassy and painfully filled out all the forms. I handed my passport over and a little piece of me with it as well. Or so I thought… turns out if I had actually done any research at all I would have known that French women never really give up their maiden names. Our laws actually make the distinction between “nom de famille” or family name and “nom d’usage” or name of use. A woman’s nom de famille is the one on her birth certificate and that name only has legal bearing. Upon marriage, women (and men too actually) have the legal right to use their spouse’s last name in his or her daily life, which is why it is considered a name of use. French laws also allows for the nom d’usage to be both spouses’ last names, hyphenated or not. When I opened my brand new passport, I was surprised to see MY name, unchanged. There was just a little “ep. Brock” added at the end of it. I am Laetitia-Laure Deweirdt, married Brock which I actually like. I may be Laetitia Brock here and in my everyday use, but I will always be Laetitia Deweirdt, at least somewhere. And I love that France lets me reflect that, at least on my passport.
I did some very unscientific research for this post by reaching out to a few of my married blogger friends. I was relieved to hear that many had a hard time deciding whether to say I do or I don’t to their husband’s last names. In our increasingly me-society, our names are our identities. Going through a rebranding upon “merging” with another person is not an easy decision. It’s also not one that you make alone. Everyone has an opinion on the topic: your husband, your family, his family, your friends, your colleagues, society… even your unborn babies
While changing your name is still the norm for most women, women increasingly marry later in life. They have diplomas, published work and careers that complicate the decision process too. Many of the women I spoke with mentioned tradition and the fact that their husbands “felt very strongly” about them changing their last names. But many also mentioned having built a name for themselves and not wanting to give that up. In the name game, there is no right or wrong decision. Sylvie of DC Thrifty Cook and Mary of Girl Meets Food hyphenated their name with their spouses’. Julia of All About the Pretty and my friend Johanna of Notes from a Messy Kitchen opted to keep their maiden names. In Johanna’s case, that was despite her office’s expectations that she should be getting a new work email address after coming back from her honeymoon. Or they opted for taking their husband’s name and never looked back, like Jessica of One Classic Winos or Andrea of Bethesda Foodie. Whatever name a bride choses, in the end, should be the right one just for you. You may end up hurting somebody’s feelings (your dad, your husband’s, his parents…) but ultimately it is you, and only you saying yes to your future husband and yes to your name to have and to hold as long as you both shall live. Will (or did) you change your last name after getting married? Or hyphenate or combine them? What will you do (or have you done) with regards to children’s last name? I love hearing my blogger friends’ stories, and I’ve love to hear yours!