Jaya: Victoria, I have a problem!
Victoria: Tell meeee.
Jaya: I got married. You were there, I assume you remember. He and I both made the decision to keep our own names (not that there’s anything wrong with changing your names, ladies! Post-modern feminism, you do you, etc.). Our parents knew this and could alert any inquiring parties, but we definitely got a lot of cards referring to us as “Mr. and Mrs. HisName.” I totally expected this at the wedding, it’s a common assumption, but now we’re a month past and we’re still getting mail that says this, despite no indication on my end that I’ve changed my name. A few people have told me I just have to suck it up and deal with it, but I don’t think that should mean I don’t politely correct people when they get it wrong. How does one go about correcting people on their name?
Victoria: I’m so sorry you have to deal with this! Unfortunately, it seems to be a reality of marriage for many women. Firstly, if you’re going to a wedding, asking should be the standard thing. Like, “oh the wedding was so beautiful, where are you going on your honeymoon, are you keeping your name?” (“What are you guys doing about names?” would be BETTER, but I’m going to set a very low bar here).
Jaya: Yes! Especially because it’s not just keeping or changing your name nowadays. Many people hyphenate, or use their original last names as middle names, or use marriage as an opportunity to add or drop other names, or even come up with new names. And same-sex marriage just doubles that, since there’s no “woman takes man’s name” default. As frustrating as fielding a thousand questions would be, I’d much rather answer them than have people just assume. Also, whatever someone’s answer is, don’t judge! I’ve heard of women getting crap from friends saying they must change their name, and crap saying they mustn’t. Neither is cool.
Victoria: A lot of women who keep their name professionally still like to use the married name socially, so that may be where some people are coming from. Or some may think “Mr. and Mrs. Hisname” is more “formal,” but it’s not unless it’s the correct names. MAYBE people are just lazy and it’s easier to write Mr. and Mrs. Hisname than it is to write both your names. Like, that’s a lot of WORDS (jking here, obvs).
Jaya: Curse us for having such letter-ful names! It is interesting though, how quickly “traditional” conventions fall apart as soon as women do anything other than go by “Mrs. Hisfullname.” All of a sudden you have people like “omg she’s a DOCTOR? With a DIFFERENT LAST NAME? Aww jeez how the hell do we put that on an invitation?” I was also wondering how social media plays into this, because it does! I had always assumed that people usually have their real names on Facebook, unless they’re celebrities or something. But I ran into an issue at our wedding where I addressed invitations to women using their original last names because that’s what they had on Facebook, but got cards from them that used their husband’s name.
Victoria: That should be an easy clue. I actually hate it though, when people solidly change their name and I don’t know who they are now. Facebook lets you do Firstname (Originalname) Marriedname, I know because I set it up for my mom. It makes it easy to show your new last name but also make it easy for people to figure out if you are the Firstname Maidenname that they knew.
Jaya: That’s a good point. I just feel bad because I was also making assumptions without asking.
Victoria: Welllll, you’re making assumptions going off what they’re publicly presenting. If they want to go by a new name, update things to a new name! I have very little sympathy for people who do a thing but don’t tell anyone they did that thing and then get mad when no one knows.
Jaya: So, correcting people. I do not want to Hulk Smash anyone about this, because it’s an honest mistake. I had been thinking that sending an At Home card (when people would send out cards with their new names and addresses after getting married) would be a good solution, but it sort of didn’t make sense for us because we already live together, so it’d just be alerting people that we have the same names and live at the same place. That seems like a waste of paper. Then I was thinking Facebook, but that seemed too aggressive (though I guess I will post this to Facebook. Solution: Have an etiquette blog and use it to figure out your own problems.)
Victoria: I was kind of against a Facebook announcement at first because people shouldn’t need an announcement, but now I’ve kind of come around to it in that it is the modern equivalent of an At Home card. Although, it might frustrate you even more if people continue to do it after ignoring your lovely message.
Jaya: Yeah, I’m sure some people will just never get it.
Victoria: I definitely don’t think you have to suck it up and not say anything (except maybe with extremely elderly relatives). As for steps you can take, I would ABSOLUTELY correct people when they do it in front of you, or if you have to send back a written response. Like on RSVP cards for written invitations, respond with both of your full names. Maybe get some full name return address stickers (though, I guess people will just think they are outdated).
Jaya: Also, we were gifted some beautiful, beautiful personalized stationery, but it just has our first names on it. For anyone in this conundrum, I’d suggest ordering some stationery with both of your full names on it, and using that to write thank-you notes. Or sign your full name on thank-you notes. Every little bit helps.
WP ate my first comment. I don’t know if it’ll reappear, so my apologies if this is a duplicate.
In any case, I love your blog, thank you so much for writing it! I’ve been mainlining it. I have an addition I think might be useful for some people: “Mrs. Husbandname is my mother-in-law. I am Preferredname.”
It’s not just about names after marriage. I’ve been living with my partner for maybe 15 years, and I occasionally get called Mrs. Partner’sname. I usually don’t correct it if it’s casual conversation. It sometimes happens at partner’s medical appointments, and I usually don’t worry about it then, either, because I know that the person who signed him in put my proper name in the records as contact person.