Over on What We Said Emily has written about the thought processes behind women changing, or not changing, their names when they marry.
I have to say this is one custom I sincerely hopes dies a death as civil unions become more prevalent and the old marital traditions, based on the transfer of ownership of the bride, fade into the past.
I've heard a lot of arguments about why women should change their names over the years. They generally boil down to the concept that you want to have the same last name as your husband, and your children, so you change your surname to match his.* For some the rationale for this seems to be that you can't be a "family" if any of the members in it have different last names from the others.
To that I say phooey.
I remember pretty clearly when I first met some kids who had a different last name from their mum. I was about nine and the family in question were a brother and sister plus mother. I never got the reason, or don't remember, why Dad wasn't around, but I tell you what, different names made absolutely no difference, they were most certainly a family. I recall fondly the times spent camping with them, and the obvious love and affection that was peppered with the usual familial fighting. I suspect Mum felt the judgement on her for having her "own" name, but she was a strong woman who I admired, and I'm sure she was more than up to the challenge.
I guess from a young age whenever I thought about this idea that all the family members had to have matching monikers I remembered this multi-named unit and thought otherwise.
And I also thought of my own relations too. I knew that if I married and took my husband's name my parents and my sibling would still be part of my family, despite the break in naming monotony. When my sister wed and changed her name we were all still related, weren't we?
For that matter if I ran into someone else with the same surname, who I had never met before in my life and wasn't related to at all, would that make us instantly family? After all, we have that oh-so-crucial relation-creating bond - the same "family" name on our birth certificates.
For me families are defined by other, much more important things that are shared - love, history, and an obligation to spend money on each other at the major religious festival of your society's dominant culture. Familial bonds are formed through blood or chosen unions, but names do not need to play a part in that. They can if you want, but I don't think people should feel that they are somehow less a part of a family if they don't all share a surname.
I know some readers think I'm seeing anti-women bogeys all around these days**, but surely this is beyond arguing with? It's a tradition based on women as chattels and marriages as property transactions. One of the few remaining vestiges of the bad origins of marriage is this changing of names, signfying the changing of ownership.
If we want to make marriage something that isn't about subjugating women to men then we need to change these traditions. Women need to only change their name if they want to, and men (and their families) need to stop pressuring women to come into their fold.
And all you other people out there, you can kindly desist from casting aspersions on XXers who keep their names and sniggering behind the backs of the XYers who marry them.
*I think I have heard once, ever, of the couple considering the man changing his name to hers, although I believe it may be gaining popularity in California.** As if I wasn't before!! ;-)