My relationship is not a statement: Stop viewing our wedding decisions as some sort of socio-political performance

June 16 | Guest post by Lydia Bell
Photo by Adrian St Onge.
Like many of Offbeat Bride readers, I'm a strong-minded feminist. I don't just say "I think all people should be treated equally." I'm the sort of feminist who's unapologetically in-your-face about my ideals.

Of course, my vision of equality has a role within my relationship. Sometimes my fiancé agrees with my stance, and sometimes he disagrees. But he always listens and supports me. We strive towards an equal, give-and-take relationship. We don't look to the other to fix the parts of ourselves that are "broken." We aren't each a half of a whole. We are two complete people who are a force to be reckoned with as a pair. And feminism is just one of the many things that has brought us to that place — that unconditional love that can only come from loving oneself.

But just because I'm true to myself, doesn't mean every move I make is a social or political statement. It wasn't until we started planning the wedding that I realized a lot of my closest friends and family were viewing our wedding decisions as some sort of socio-political performance.

It started with the oh-so-popular taking of my husband's last name. One day, a friend casually asked how it felt to be a future Mrs. Mussman. I replied that I decided I was going to keep my last name. His response was, "Ooooh. Right. You're not taking his name. Of course. I should have figured."

Honestly, it caught me off-guard. See, my fiancé and I have talked about this topic at length. We're both comfortable with our decision. The reason I really wanted to keep my own name had nothing to do with feminist ideals — I simply like the sound of my own name. "Lydia Bell." It has a nice ring to it, right? In fact, my fiancé even toyed with changing his own name but in the end, we just like our birth names — period.

Of course I felt the need to explain all of that to my friend. I felt a sense of guilt in his assumption that I wasn't open to changing my name purely as a statement. It wasn't about making a statement. It was all about making a decision as a couple.

Needless to say, this was just the first of MANY questions I've answered with similar responses…

I've learned that no matter how I respond, someone will view it as a statement. All we're really trying to do is throw a beautiful and fun wedding with all of our friends and family. Our relationship is a relationship… not a statement open for critique.

So to all my Offbeat Brides and grooms; don't worry about anyone's opinion of your wedding. Sometimes it can be difficult to be in the spotlight when you're a unique couple with strong ideals. Whether it's feminism or something entirely different, it does not define your relationship. Your love and your commitment to your partner is all your wedding needs to be about.

Are people confusing YOUR party plans as politics, your ceremony schemes as statements, or turning your wedding options into opinions?

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  1. I totally deal with this junk too. From announcing that we'll be walking down the aisle together, to the decision to choose a new joint name instead of take each other's or hyphenate, we're met with eye rolls and "okaaaayyyy."

    But hey, you're staying true to you and that's what matters!

    15 agree
  2. I got a LOT of people who were shocked that I wasn't keeping my last name. Just like Lydia, politics had NOTHING to do with it, but in my instance I wanted to change my name because I think "Finley" was a better fit for me. If my o.g. last name was better, I would have totally kept it.

    But yeah, a lot of "Wait, YOU are changing your name?" It was interesting.

    10 agree
    • I am having this experience too, with people essentially implying that I'm contributing to the patriarchy, not thinking the decision through, "giving up my identity for a man" (a surprisingly common refrain!), etc., etc., etc. I've gotten way more pushback on this decision than I thought, even though I'm changing my name for primarily practical/aesthetic reasons (it's a bitch to spell; I have no attachment to it; fiance's last name is purty; it's socially acceptable to use marriage as an excuse to change your name). It's surprising, actually, the amount of vehemence I've gotten and it's made me seriously question my choice, more because I feel like I'm letting my feminist brethren down than any real desire in myself to keep my current last name.

      But I also remind myself that if I weren't going to change my name, I'd probably get a different kind of backlash but from the places that are silent or supportive now…and possibly a stronger one, since I'd be going against the mainstream (easy to forget when you have predominantly liberal/feminist-leaning friends). So really, it just goes to show that you should really try to make these decisions based on what feels right to you!

      13 agree
      • Yeah, I feel you. My ex-husband had an awesome last name, but I didn't take it in part because I felt like I'd be letting down my mom, who put up with a lot to keep hers. If my current boyfriend and I get married, it's a much easier decision, because his last name is ugly and difficult to spell. No way I want that! 😛

        1 agrees
      • Oh, my goodness, this. I grew up with an unwieldy, unpronounceable last name, and then I met a guy named Holmes, which I adore. I was really surprised by both the fact that so many around me expected me to take his name and that so many others expected me to keep mine, and that they often weren't who I figured would put up a fuss! I refuse to be a Mrs., though. I'm an obnoxiously vocal Ms.

        4 agree
      • People who argue that you are contributing to the patriarchy by changing your last name could do well to remember that many brides have their father's last name, so keeping it is quite literally patriarchal in its own way. Also, you're making the decision for yourself, not doing what your husband/family/society wants you to do and that is bucking the patriarchy as well 🙂

        Love,
        A Feminist Who's Changing Her Name, Too

        14 agree
      • Feminism is supposed to be about your right, as a woman, to CHOOSE. The 'feminists' who try to dictate your choices for you are no different to the men of yesteryear. You should choose to do whatever is right for you X

        12 agree
        • Actually feminism is about recognising, and rectifying, gender inequality. Feminism often gives you the power to make whatever choice you'd like, but each choice in and of itself isn't inherently feminist.

          For example, a feminist can take her husband's surname, or not. But taking his surname is not a feminist act. You don't stop being a feminist because you take your husband's name, but there are bigger things at play in gender equality than whatever you feel like doing.

          1 agrees
    • Changing your last name is not a tradition in Portugal, where you have two last names: your mother's last name, then your father's. Since your children will have your last name and your partner's, it's considered a waste of time and money to add your partner's name (it's added, there's no replacement). It's however allowed by law for either sexes to add the partner's name. Since it's unusual, it's rather those who do who get cautionary tales about divorce and changing all your official documents. While some people find it romantic, most find it kind of naive…
      I now live in France, where it's the same system as in the USA etc. People keep asking me if my marriage was really legal since I don't have my husband's name. Many official networks here can't deal with this and keep calling me Mrs Husband's-Last-Name. Always having to explain the situation is kind of tiresome so I get why some people might do it just because it's simpler…

      1 agrees
  3. I'm going through the same thing at the minute planning our wedding! it ruffled a few feathers with the more traditional members of the family that I was the one who proposed and now the most frequently asked question I get isn't "when is the wedding?" but "will you be shaving your armpits!?"

    7 agree
    • My grandma is very concerned about my hairy legs on my wedding day. She hasn't noticed for the past year and a half that I don't shave my legs, but once I pointed it out to her in a related conversation recently, she said, "well, you're going to shave for the wedding, right?" My mom also is so concerned that my FH wishes I had smooth hairless legs. When I told him all this he said, "Oh yeahh…I forgot you don't shave your legs." That's it. What a crisis!

      5 agree
      • Love this! My FH takes it one step further and complains when I do shave my legs 😛

        3 agree
  4. I've noticed almost the exact opposite of this for my own situation– I come from a very conservative family and was raised in a religion where the woman's needs and desires are always subservient to that of her husband's.

    I rejected those ideals and moved into a totally different belief system (or lack thereof, I suppose), and yet my parents were shocked and offended by the fact that I still plan to take my fiancé's last name– my dad tried for the better part of a day to convince me to keep my maiden name, when I've never had any intention or desire to do so. I'm not attached to my maiden name and have a few negative feelings and memories associated with it (hence why I'm changing it). I still found it quite surprising that my parents would be that attached to my name. "Why do you want his name? Don't you like your name right now?"

    "… Well, yes but I still want to change it."

    1 agrees
  5. What I find most interesting is how people view others as being "all or nothing" character-types. "I see you as the feminist in the group, so you're always making a statement. I see you as the slut in the group, so you're always trying to get laid. I see you as the smart person in the group, so you know everything." One facet defines our existence for some people, and it creates barriers in which they force us to stay in those roles.

    Example: for the longest time in high school and a bit beyond, people saw me as the mother-figure of the group, and it squicked all the guys in our group out that I was interested in wanting to have sex with them. Everyone was shocked that "Mama J" had a sex drive, and it weirded everyone out because they decided that my ability to listen and comfort was my defining characteristic and regulated me to the mother-figure. "My mother's a saint!" was not a joke around me. Very frustrating in more ways than one.

    It's not you, it's them. It's how people are. Educate patiently and gently, and some will get the message. It's true: I'm currently engaged to one of those guys from my group now.

    14 agree
    • That is so true! I hate it when people are seen more as a character rather than a real person!!!

      And equally important, people should not be making decisions based on what they "should" do because they have this particular belief system, lifestyle, "what will my friends think?", etc. Sometimes I think we as a society, both in the mainstream and offbeat worlds, tend to put too much stock into "shoulds" rather than remembering what is actually important.

      5 agree
  6. "We are two complete people who are a force to be reckoned with as a pair." – AMEN

    13 agree
  7. Hands down the absolute worst decision I ever made was to be kinda dodgy and ambiguous about our names on our wedding day. I did it to avoid political backlash and it blew up in my face as I have worked to correct assumptions about my name choice. I had 200+ people to mass announce us as Mr and Ms. And I blew it.

  8. "I've learned that no matter how I respond, someone will view it as a statement. All we're really trying to do is throw a beautiful and fun wedding with all of our friends and family. Our relationship is a relationship… not a statement open for critique."

    THIS.

    4 agree
  9. My situations is a tad different but it does involve name changing, when I got married for the third time I asked my then husband to be if he would be hurt if I did not change my last name to his because I have changed it twice and was concerned about having to change it again after the wedding, he said he did not care if I did not changed it. But after four years of marriage it was time to renew my drivers license, I thought what the heck I will change it to my married name since it seems we will be married for a long time. When I came home and told him that I changed my name, he was like at first to what?? I said I took your last name and showed him my new license and he smiled. His respond was wow, now it feels like we are married. I was pretty shocked of what he said because I had no idea he did not feel like we are married because of our names did not match. I wonder if there is many couples out there that feels like they aren't married because the last name doesn't match…..

    • That is beautiful! What a gorgeous man you're married to, to have been patient for so long and never mentioned it to you. Definitely a keeper! X

  10. I was surprised to find out my FH's parents who are quite traditional are very passionate about NOT taking his last name. They were saying that if we divorce, then I won't want his last name and what not. I haven't made a decision yet, but I want my children to have the same last name as me. They don't seem to think it should matter whether MY children have the same last name as me, because I simply shouldn't change it.

  11. From the Tardis on the wedding cake to the converse that both me and my husband wore, there were knowing looks and smirks. Especially from my lovely but very traditional in laws who think that my husband (a LARPer/RP/gamer who has just turned 40 and father to a 4 month old) should grow up and stop wearing "trainers" and playing "let's pretend". I wouldn't say that we are particularly unconventional, we are what we are. We are not aiming to be different we just happen to like things that are. I think some people forget that.

    1 agrees
  12. My devoted husband is forcing me to change my last name. I divorced 3 years ago and I kept my exes name bc we have chikdren together. I also have established myself professionally with this name. In addition, I like the way it sounds and it is a hassle to change it. I feel like I'm giving up my identity

    2 agree
    • That gives me the creeps…"my devoted husband is forcing me to change my last name". It should be entirely up to you. If you like your current name, don't change it. I get this creepy feeling from this that someone is trying to show "my woman, not ex-husband's woman!"

      5 agree
  13. You are 100% right, " Our relationship is a relationship… not a statement open for critique." My family seems to critique more than most and are the only people having a hard time accepting and supporting any of my fiance and our wedding plans (which are still very early in the process). I think they view every decision we make about our relationship as a political statement and say we aren't considering how other people might react or what they would want. I'm not a selfish person, but it is our wedding and we do get the final say and I'm not making decisions based on others viewpoints – our wedding plans and relationship are all focused on what's best for us and what makes us happy. It's unfortunate when family or friends put their criticism of you first before their love and support. I hope other brides and grooms who have these big uproars from a few people and let it ruin the beautiful thing they are trying to do.

    1 agrees
  14. THANK YOU, Lydia! I really needed something like this. I have one family member who seems to see every wedding idea that I mention as some "freak show thing" that I either made up or am considering because certain family/friends would be shocked. My family has always considered me one of the odd ducks (my middle younger brother is another). I am seriously considering an elopement, just to avoid having every moment of my wedding analyzed for hidden meanings/shock value. I'm keeping my birth surname, which I reclaimed after my first marriage was dissolved (my kids were old enough that they weren't bothered by Mom having a different last name). One: I happen to love my surname. Two: my offbeat first name does NOT go well with FH's offbeat last name.

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