It’s a funny thing isn’t it! Pronunciation of your name can mean the difference between whether you listen or not. Whether you know you are being spoken to or not. Mispronunciation can cause offence. Mispronunciation can be welcomed if you want to be accepted by a particular group, for example! Your name could be too traditional and you may feel singled out. It may be from a different culture and you may wonder why you don’t have a name like the rest of your siblings, cousins etc. All this and this is only the tip of the iceburg.

However, it’s your name right? Just say, you’ve grown up with your name. You may have 2, 3 or even more names in your full name.

When you get married should this change?

It depends on the reason right?

So why is there an expectation that women should change their surname when they get married?

I did a bit of research and according to one website it all came about to ensure the protection of family and wealth, to express the designation of a new life direction & acknowledge God’s presence in and endorsement of the marriage.

Someone said asked me “why not change your name?” When I explained some alternate views he said I was attached to my name and that wasn’t good. Is he not attached to the idea that women should change their name. What if the man had to change their name? Would they agree? Would their only argument be “but the woman should do this, not the man!”

Someone else told me that it was done to show who owns the woman. Her father owned her before marriage but he has now ‘given’ her away to her husband. Thus she should change her name to reflect her new owner.

Here are 2 people’s views about the tradition of the woman changing her name after marriage.

This website lists the various options re name changes after marriage. It’s interesting! Have a look 🙂

My views: –

I’m got married a few months ago and I kept my name. Why? In my mind, I’ve had my name all my life and I can’t see a good enough reason to change it. Why do I need to change my identity?

I’d also like to keep my name because my dad passed away a few years ago and I am his only child so it’s sentimental.

Also, I guess there’s a sense of attachment.

Earlier this month I heard someone say they’d like to keep their name for networking purposes. They’re known by their ‘birth surname’ at work. For me, it’s not a work issue but I’ve been involved in a lot of work in the community and I’m ‘known’ as Heena Modi. When I was married before, I did change my name and very few remembered me with my ‘new’ surname. Someone even said ‘You’ll always be Heena Modi to me.’ So another reason to keep my name. It’s how people know me and remember me. 🙂

I am however, happy to change my title to Mrs.

Does it have to be a big thing! If someone sends us an invitation and they write to Mr. and Mrs. Shah, I won’t have a problem with it. If we get received at a hotel and I get called Mrs. Shah I don’t and won’t feel the need to correct them. It’s more for me!

What do you think? If you’re not married and you are a lady do you think you will change your surname? If you are a gent, will you want your wife to change accept your surname?

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Anil Parekh · June 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Interestingly in China and Japan, it is the men who change their name after marriage (or used to until recently), not only that but the son in law leaves the parents home and go to the in laws home after marriage. I was once in China and reading an English Newspaper and came across a letter to the Editor from a son in law complaining about how harsh his Mother in Law (not Father in Law) is as the head of the household she expects him to work in the field more than 15 hours a day and gives him very little pocket money.

Hope this will cheer you up

    Heena Modi · June 3, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    It’s a cute message from you.
    Of course, it wouldn’t be good to gain happiness from anyone’s pain but we are human and often it is the case. His life’s worse than mine, I should be happy. Her work pays less and she does more so I should be happy. We compare and try and create moments of happiness from it. If only we could be content from within and not have to worry or think about anyone else! 🙁

    Thanks for the comment though Anil : )

Sagar Shah · June 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

An interesting question to ask is what the purpose of marriage is?

Marriage is an significant cultural institution – but in this country – it also has many important legal and financial implications as well.

If people get married purely for the sake of the legal and financial benefits – then there seems to be little point in changing a name.

If marriage is purely just for declaring ones love and commitment for each other, and to share your lives with one another – well, then I don’t think there is no real reason to even get married – other than to participate in a cultural norm.

In Indian Culture – and in British culture – the woman changing her name has been part of this norm. And broadly – I think this has made sense historically. Traditionally – after marriage – it is the woman who ends up leaving her family – and joining the family of her husband. And given that – it seems to make sense that she takes the family name of the family that she has joined.

Of course – it would make much less sense in other cultures (as described above) where the husband joins the wife’s family.

However – given the culture of the modern British Indian – where married couples typically live independently of both sets of parents, or are often indifferent between which set of parents they live with – the question of name becomes a lot more interesting.

Personally – I don’t think a name is very important – for me it is just about identifying someone. And as such – I wouldn’t have too many qualms about changing my name when I get married – but given my girlfriend for five and a half years is also a Shah – I don’t think either of us will have this problem.

However – given the high rate of divorce and the conflict between individualism promoted by society and sharing within families – some literature on economics (freakanomics style)suggest that whether or not a name is changed may be an important signal of the probability of divorce.

The argument is as follows.

In reality – the two reasons for marriage (written above – legal/financial and cultural) are intertwined. A verbal commitment to be with someone forever has not much real value – and marriage is a way to put your money where your mouth is.

Much of the reason why marriage becomes such an important commitment mechanism is because it makes breaking up so costly. The wedding is typically an expensive celebration – and doesn’t make sense if you anticipate you will end it soon. A legal commitment for assets to be shared means that breaking up (i.e. the divorce process) is expensive and complicated. There is also the cultural shame of having to break up.

Changing a name is typically one of these costs for the woman. It is an expensive and irritating process – and also tends to cause lots of complications when fillling out forms in the future etc. It makes absolutely no sense if you think you might break up in the future and will have to spend your time changing everything back to your maiden name.

And if you look at the data (I can’t remember where I read it), women who do not change their surnames after marriage are twice as likely to get divorced than those that do.

Of course – it is much more likely that a woman does not change her name if she is in business or works in an area where reputation matters (i.e.t he cost of changing a name may be much higher) – but being in that business or area of work is likley to be associated with an increase in divorce as it may put a higher strain on the marriage.

However – I guess the principle remains the same – being attached to what your own (even if it is your name, or for perfectly good reasons) when you are in a relationship where you are supposed to share everything – probably isn’t such a great thing for the marriage itself.

Given my new paternalistic libertarian approach to making decisions – if my wife chooses not to change her surname – i would be most comfortable knowing that she would be willing to change if I really wanted her to – and not because she would refuse to do so.

    Ahana Mehta · July 17, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Hi Sagar, have you ever heard of the concept of moral hazard? Basically it goes like this: say you notice that the average accident rate is 10% in a year however it is as high as 50% for red cars (it is not true figures but I’m just explaining a concept). There is no reason for causality here. What I mean by this is that: it’s not because you get a red car that you will get into an accident more often (that wouldn’t make sense would it?) but it’s the kind of people that buy red cars that may be a reason for this higher rate.

    What I mean by this is that let’s not scare people off by saying that you get into a higher chance of divorce if you don’t change your name. Maybe that’s what you meant but I just want to make sure that is clear for everyone.

    What I wonder is, if you ever meet a girl, propose to her and you both decide to get married, is agreeing or not to change her name going to tell you what kind of a person she is? That’s a little judgemental to my view and the personality of person is a lot more than the so-called willingness to do something. And remember, it’s not because on promises that one does.

    One last thing, would you change yours if she truly wanted you to? And let’s say you said yes, and she said, ok now go ahead, would you really go ahead and do it? If yes, then you should do it and there is no requirement of asking the girl to change her name is there? And if not then does that mean you are less committed to the relationship?

    Besides, let me share one thing with you that I heard in a very interesting programme. When you leave very clean and fresh water in a tank, and you don’t move that tank for a while, that water goes bad and gets infected. Same way, if cultures, norms and traditions don’t follow up with the time, they get infected in the same way. So let’s all move with the time and keep up with modernity, slowly and steadily so we don’t get infected by what I would name overconservativeness. If today’s women don’t want to change their names, tehy should not be judged upon that. And those who do want to test their commitment through that should really question themselves on whether this is not a sign of insecurity or double-standardness.

      Heena Modi · July 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks Ahana.
      I really appreciate you sharing your views 🙂

      Sagar Shah · July 20, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Hi Ahana,

      I agree that causality is unlikely to be at play here (i.e. the decision to change or not change a surname is unlikely itself to be a big driver of the break up of a marriage) but do think there are strong reasons why marriages where the wife doesn’t change her surname are more likely to get divorced. Although written over three years ago now, my point was not to attempt to scare future wives into changing their surname or to judge anyone, but simply to stimulate reflection on the nature of relationships and whether strong attachment to things you possess as an individual (including, but not restricted to, your name) are likely to beneficial for the long term sustainability of a relationship.

      In response to your question, my personal position hasn’t changed since I wrote my comment. I wouldn’t have too many qualms about changing my name if and when I get married. But I do find it difficult to imagine myself being in a relationship with someone who was strongly attached to the notion I should change my name. I can’t see myself ever applying pressure to coerce a future partner into changing their name (I just don’t think a name is a big deal), but can’t imagine myself being in a relationship with someone who was so attached to their surname that this could ever become a big deal.

      I think your point on culture and norms is important. Personally I think that a long term monogamous relationship is probably the one that confers the most stability to allow someone to grow and develop as an individual. But I think it is also important to question whether marriage for life is something that all individuals should necessarily aspire to, or whether we should judge those who acknowledge a marriage might end and prepare for this fact (for example, by entering prenuptial agreements or by not changing a surname).

Hema Bedasie · June 9, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I just checked out your website! On the first page was the discussion about changing one’s name after marriage.

I was considering not changing my name but finally decided to – two years after marriage.

I think that only when one changes one’s name, she can be called Mrs. – I think?

Plus, when we have children, I would like us to all have the same name.

Besides that (and that was just my preference), I do not see any important reason to change one’s name.

I think it’s one-sided that only the woman has to change her name.

Plus…you seem to be Indian right? Indian people have this mentality that a girl leaves her parents when she gets married and must live at her in-laws home with her husband, LOL. (not really a laughing matter though) o_o

Heena Modi · June 9, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Yes! I’m Indian

She leaves her folks, accepts and becomes part of his family, takes on his first name as her middle name and his last name too

I don’t see the need for this at all!

Men wouldn’t take on our name if asked or would they?

Hema Bedasie · June 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Heena, I don’t think you’re judging me at all. ♥

I agree with what you’re saying! 🙂

I wanted to keep my surname but my name would have been long. Hema is what everyone knows me by but the name on my birth certificate is Thamwati. My name would have been Thamwati Harrymungal-Bedasie. I so wanted to be Mrs. Bedasie but wish I didn’t have to give up my name in the process and I thought by keeping my surname my entire name would just be too long.

I guess you’re sort of a feminist like me huh? 🙂 I don’t bash men or anything, I just think that both sexes are equal.

I think that both men and women should share the housework and that things like cooking, laundry etc. are not for women only.

If I ask my husband to help me in the kitchen he will help.

I think lots of people think that men don’t need to learn how to cook because when they get a wife she will “take care” of them.

If I was a housewife I probably would not ask my husband to help me as much as I do right now but when both spouses are working they should both help around the house I think.

When I got married I used to get up early every morning and cook. Sometimes my husband would help me. Anyway he realized that getting up early to cook was a big hassle and he stopped me from doing it. I don’t know what people might think but my husband says that as long as he is happy that’s all that matters.

It’s such a shame that people will even use religion to discriminate as well. I am Hindu and there are Hindu people in my country, including women who will say that women cannot read aloud from religious texts to a public gathering of people, LOL. I wonder if they know that some of the Rishis who recorded the Vedas were women and that the Vedas were given directly from God…and included in the Vedas is a verse saying, “I give these hymns equally to the men and to the women.” Some people will even say that when a woman is menstruating she cannot perform any of the sacred rituals. By the way, I am more spiritual than religious and do not even do much rituals anyway.

Sorry this message is so long. I was kind of on a roll there, LOL. 🙂

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