Since I wasn’t a traditional bride when it came to planning my wedding, it’s no surprise that, in many ways, I didn’t turn into a traditional wife once I got married. The truth is, I didn’t revel in picking flowers, choosing centerpieces or designing our invitation suite. I wanted to get married, and to have a memorable wedding, of course, but I wasn’t head-over-heels in love with planning. (And this is why they called me the “Anti-Bride!”)
The centerpieces from our wedding. I may not have enjoyed planning, but I sure did love the final product!
Perhaps the most unconventional thing I did (or didn’t do) after my “I dos” involved my name. Quite simply, I kept it. For me, the choice to change or stay the same was easy: there was never a single day in my entire life when I thought I might change my name. Fact. Those of you who’ve read our new About Me pages know that when I was six-years-old, my father sat me down and, quite rationally, explained to me that Watermans did not change their name. “If the guy’s good enough,” Dad offered, “We might let him take our name.” True story. To my kindergarten self, my father’s reasoning made perfect sense. Why would I think about changing my name, anyway? My name was mine, and always would be. (Plus, I thought – and almost twenty years later now am convinced – my father walked on water, so why would I willingly give up his name?)
One of my all-time favorite pictures of me + my father. I love his bowties!
When SW reader and bride-to-be Jenna wrote about her recent moniker dilemma, I knew I’d finally found a soapbox to share my own experiences. Like engagement rings, last names are something I love talking about. The choice to change or to keep one’s name is a very personal decision, and one that not everyone might understand, agree with or even support. And naturally, there are countless theories on why you should or shouldn’t change your name once you’ve tied the knot.
Traditionalists, for one, argue that becoming a Mrs. is the greatest honor you can give your new husband. For many, the act of giving up a piece of your identity to share that of the man you love is powerful and intensely meaningful. Feminists, on the other hand, rally around the idea that a woman never should change who she is, even – and especially – when she becomes someone’s wife. And then there are those who want to honor their husbands like their name-changing counterparts, and who have no deeply-rooted feminist notions, but simply cannot imagine changing their name because it is so much a part of who they are.
Me, throughout the years.
I was one of the latter. The choice to not change my name was something that was so much a part of ME that everyone, from my family and close friends to boyfriends and, later, even casual acquaintances, knew I would never be dropping Waterman. For me, the decision to keep my father’s name was as basic and important a detail as where I went to school and what I studied, how many siblings I had or what kind of food I liked. It was me. And people seemed to get that and, fortunately, to accept it.
I was lucky to have supportive family + friends who understood my decision to keep my maiden name. Above: Kyle, my handsome husband, and Molly, my best friend and Maid of Honor.
Kyle, like almost all my friends, knew about this quirk within the first few weeks of meeting me. By the time we were dating and many years before we got engaged or ever started talking about marriage, Kyle knew I would always be Katharine Waterman. And that was just fine by him. Sure, maybe the alpha-male part of him would have liked to have a Mrs. Kyle Gibler one day, but as he so aptly put it: he met, fell in love with and chose to spend the rest of his like with Katharine Waterman, and he liked that I would always be that same girl. “I love you, not Katharine Giber,” he had said. (That’s when I knew – for sure – he was a keeper!)
Last week, Jenna asked how I handled life post-wedding after not changing my name. “What did your in-laws think?” She asked. (Apparently, hers hadn’t taken too kindly to her decision to not take their name.) “What do you do when friends or acquaintances call you by the wrong name, especially if you were announced as “Mr. and Mrs.” at your wedding?”
My new brothers- and sister-in-law. From left to right: Justin, Nicole, me, Kyle and Walter.
While I think Kyle’s family probably would have preferred I take his name, they never gave me any trouble. Like Kyle (and just about everyone else who had ever met me), they knew who I was and who I would be after tying the knot. Kyle and I even found a tactful way to share this detail with family and friends pre-wedding on our wedding website, which really helped head off any questions or awkward discussions from the get-go. In my case, at least, the name change just wasn’t an issue. (What we’ll name our children, though, is another beast entirely!)
Shared last name or not, we are definitely family now! My father and in-laws with me + Kyle at our wedding.
What could have potentially complicated matters, though, was that Kyle and I were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Gibler at our wedding. It was important to him, and I wanted my husband and our wedding congregation to know that even though I wasn’t taking his name, I was making just as significant a commitment to him and to his family as if I were becoming a Gibler in name as well as in vow. But since our friends and family knew my longstanding position on name-changing so well, no one ever called me Katharine Gibler. In fact, I don’t think I’ve yet been called Katharine Gibler by someone I know. (But you’re welcome to start!)
My (humble) suggestion to all ladies considering keeping their name would be to be honest and upfront about your decision – and to do so as early as possible. I firmly believe it’s the fact that so many people knew my stance so early on that made my name virtually a non-issue before and after our wedding. Deciding on the proper monogramming for our wedding gifts, however, was not half so easy.
Weigh-in: Did you take your new husband’s last name or did you keep your own, and why? What about our hyphenated brides out there? Any memorable stories or advice for brides currently in a war of names? Leave your comment below or email me!