To Take a Husband’s Name, or Not

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By Emily Schwartz<br />WeNews correspondent” align=”right”/></p>
<p><P>(WOMENSENEWS)–Sure, wedding magazines try to brainwash us into wearing beaded strapless ball gowns with billowing skirts that could conceal a Harley-Davidson. But whether we get married barefoot in a park or go for the black-tie soiree, society just shrugs its indifferent shoulders at us.</P><P>We may even get hitched in Vegas at a ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator. It’s hard to cause a stir by marrying someone of the opposite sex, given the excitement over gay marriage.</P><P>Along with endless alternatives for our weddings, we face a more important decision society no longer dictates: What to do about our last names.</P><P>I’m glad it’s my choice. Still, with less than two weeks to go before wedding my best friend, favorite saxophone player and documentary production partner, the freedom to make up my mind feels more like a burden than a privilege.</P><P>My fiance made it clear a few months back, in a surprise revelation, that he’d prefer it if I took his name. I promised to do my best to be open-minded about this decision, which I hadn’t previously considered.</P><P>There are plenty of disadvantages. It would be harder to find me. Nightmarish paperwork would beckon. Some friends and relatives might call me a throwback to a pre-feminist era.</P><P>After a little soul-searching, I realized that one big advantage of keeping my name would be the convenience if this marriage, like so many in the United States and that of my own parents, doesn’t last. But divorce is supposed to be inconvenient. And taking his name would underscore the wedding vows I’ll soon recite in front of at least 200 of our friends and relatives.</P></p>
<h2>Starting a New Life Chapter</h2>
<p><P>I’m an older bride. I’ve earned diplomas and awards and written hundreds of articles in my 38 years as Emily Schwartz. Yet at the moment, I’m in the midst of three new career paths. A new name could even aid my professional redefinition by helping me re-brand.</P><P>Tommy Greco, my fiance, proposed after only 10 weeks of dating. After I accepted, we were so busy getting to know each other that the subject didn’t come up, other than to jokingly call ourselves “The Schweckos.”</P><P>I understand why this matters more to him than to me. His family is generally more “traditional” than mine and we had our vastly different childhoods. He attended strict Catholic schools, where most teachers were nuns. I’m Jewish and spent five years at an elementary school where students took their shoes off in class.</P><P>Stumped, I turned to my mother, stepmother, sister, sister-in-law, maid of honor and two other friends for advice. Two voted for keeping my name, two voted for changing it and three told me to do whatever feels right.</P><P>“Definitely keep your name,” my friend Tina counseled. “The only exception is my friend Laurie whose last name was Gross.” Similar examples provided by the anti-change camp included Slutsky and Fuchs. </P><P>“Women should assert their identities as individuals independent of marriage,” Tina said. Besides, she added, “it’s just a lot easier.”</P><P>Others said wives shouldn’t change their names because the custom harkens from the days when a wife was her husband’s property.</P><P>I can’t quite picture myself suddenly becoming Emily Greco. But it would be nice to have a surname that’s both less common and easier to spell.</P><P>Carol, my maid of honor, said earlier in her e-mail to me that she had “a preference toward a name change or a hyphen.” Once women take on a new name “it takes less than three weeks for me to replace in my short- and long-term memory banks the married name for the maiden name,” she said.</P></p>
<h2>Name Changers in Majority</h2>
<p><P>According to brides polled last year by the popular wedding Web site WeddingChannel.com, 18 percent said they would keep their names, 15 percent intended to hyphenate their maiden and married names and 67 percent planned to assume their spouse’s last name. Name-change experts–lawyers, marriage consultants and so forth–say the typical U.S. bride changes her name because it remains the prevailing custom in our country and because it makes things easier in families with children for everyone to share a last name.</P><P>Some couples combine their last names or take the wife’s name if they like it better. Grartz? No thanks. Schwartz-Greco is a mouthful.</P><P>“You’re allowed to use whatever name you want as long as you do it consistently and not fraudulently,” said Arlene Dubin, a partner at the law firm Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in New York and a marital agreement specialist.</P><P>Many brides who don’t change their names at first are likely to do it later on, especially after having children, said Linda Wainwright Trott, who runs The Clergy Network, a company based in Southern California that aids couples with pre- and post-wedding logistics such as finding an officiant and handling name-changing paperwork.</P><P>“Most women don’t change their names immediately not on moral grounds or feminism,” she said. “They don’t do it because it’s very tedious.”</P></p>
<h2>Area of Little Guidance</h2>
<p><P>The bridal industry brims with advice for every conceivable wedding niche. Unfortunately, there’s more guidance on guest lists than this more significant decision.</P><P>Left on my own, I ponder my first name’s unfortunate popularity.</P><P>Emilys were uncommon when I was born. They have since proliferated. My first name was the most popular for newborn girls in 1999-2002 after at least two years as No. 2, according to thenewparentsguide.com.</P><P>The Google search engine enables me in seconds to find that Emily Schwartzes far outnumber Emily Grecos. We get 1,520 hits, compared with 66 for them.</P><P>Suddenly my name doesn’t feel like such an unbreakable link to my identity. I can probably achieve more name recognition by changing my name than keeping it.</P><P>Only one Emily Greco has an easily located registry. If she, like most wives, took her husband’s name after their August 2003 wedding, the coast might be even clearer. </P><P><I>Emily Schwartz is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. She is making a documentary about the swing dance revival with Tommy Greco, her fiance. Emily can be reached at folhanova@yahoo.com.</I></P><P></P><P></p>
		
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