In the seven months since I became a Baldridge, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that decision! Not about my decision to marry Grace—I think most people who know me know that’s been my dream since I met her—but to take her last name in place of mine. I think this is an interesting, layered question, as is my answer to it. So today I want to share a little bit more about my heart on this topic.
I’ll start by saying that growing up, I always imagined I would change my last name. I grew up in a place where it was extremely common for women to change their last name after getting married, and that’s what my mom and grandmothers had all done. That said, I also grew up with friends, family, and role models who got married but did not change their names, so I’ve always seen that as a valid, great decision too. But I was predisposed to changing my last name from the start.
To me, a person taking their spouse’s last name in place of theirs is all about two families becoming one, a brand new start of “who you are” as your identity takes on the component of being 1/2 of a married couple, and honoring tradition. That’s why I’ve always been surprised at how often I get questions about why I still changed my last name even though I married a woman. Don’t the reasons why most people change their names still apply just the same in my situation?
I know there is (understandably) some backlash to the idea of changing one’s last name at all. But I would like to challenge that—to me, if it is an intentional, thought-through decision, I believe it can be beautiful, an act of selflessness, and even feminist to change your last name after getting married. And of course, anyone can make this kind of intentional choice to change their last name, not just ladies.
I LOVE having the same last name as Grace. Absolutely love it. I’m so proud of the fact that our little family is the Baldridges. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another question I get a lot is - “Why didn’t Grace change her last name to yours? Or why didn’t you hyphenate?” The truth is, we didn’t really talk about those options, which I think just means neither of them felt like a natural choice to us. I think focusing on this kind of misses the point. Of course hyphenating is awesome for those who choose it. But I never felt like I needed to know that Grace would change her name for me, too, because now that we’re married that just isn’t something we keep score over. Grace serves me and sacrifices for me in a million ways. This “sacrifice” of changing my last name (which I was actually very excited to do) doesn’t really have an equal (unless you hyphenate and both change your name), and that’s okay. That’s what (I’m learning) being married is all about!
Want to know what the way harder decision was? What to do with my middle name! I knew I didn’t want to have 4 names (I like odd numbers and just didn’t want to have that many names), so it was either drop my maiden name entirely, or drop my middle name and take my maiden name as a new middle. I ultimately decided to drop my maiden name entirely and keep my middle name (Holland). My middle is my grandmother’s maiden name, and it’s very special to me (as is my relationship with her). I also love that Grace and I both have our maternal grandmothers’ maiden names as our middle names (Grace’s middle name is Semler). I felt like if I dropped Holland, it would vanish, never to be spoken again. Why would it? No one ever asks what your middle name before you got married was, if you took your maiden as a new middle. Whereas my maiden name will always be my maiden name, and basically everyone I’ve known in my life up until that point knows me with that last name. And of course, my whole immediate family still has that last name. But I’m the only one in my immediate family (or in my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc.) who has my particular middle name. I also liked the sound of Elizabeth Holland Baldridge better than Elizabeth Capel Baldridge.
At the end of the day, these choices are so very personal and as long as you are making the decision intentionally, with respect for your new spouse and your parents/other family, I don’t think you can go wrong. I just wanted to share a little bit of my “why” in making the decision I did. Also, if the complication of changing your name is a mental hindrance, don’t let it be! As of 6 months out, I had changed everything from my driver’s license to social security card to credit cards to passport to business cards. And with very little headaches along the way. It’s surprisingly easy. Now that it’s done, booking hotels or making dinner reservations under my new name feels like a dream come true.
If you are wrestling with the decision, I encourage you to go with your gut. Getting advice from others is helpful to a point, but it’s hard when you get conflicting opinions (I know I did). It’s your NAME, so make sure you can own it with pride :)
Did you change your name after getting married? What about your middle?