To Keep or Not to Keep: Your Name After Marriage

My youngest daughter got married last weekend. She and her fiancé picked the date based on the fact that there was no Ohio State football game that day. It also happened to be the night of the switch to (or from, I can never remember which) Daylight Savings Time, which gave everyone an extra hour’s sleep the next morning, something I’m sure was badly needed by several attendees. (There was an open bar.)

This was the second wedding among my children and also the second one that didn’t have a wedding party, much to the dismay of my oldest daughter who is just dying to have dresses that match a color scheme. With three sisters, each of my daughters has a built-in wedding party, but instead the brides have opted for simplicity. Both have also opted to keep their names.

That’s a weird phrase: “keep your name,” as if you somehow lose it, or have it wrested from you, when you get married. But that’s exactly what does happen for most women as far as society is concerned. I don’t know the statistics on how many women keep their former last names when they get married, but so far in my family it’s 50%.

I took my husband’s name each time I married, but returned to my maiden name after each divorce. I also use my maiden name as my middle name when I am married, and I’ve hyphenated it on some legal documents. I don’t want there to be any doubts about who I am and where I came from.

And yet I go by my husband’s last name in most contexts. I like people knowing that my husband and I are married. Besides, Keim is a lot easier to write than Appleby. (Although it’s not necessarily easier to spell or pronounce.) And since there’s another Ellen Appleby in the writing world (she writes children’s books), I’ve chosen to write under the name Ellen Keim.

One of my daughters asked me the other day if I’ve ever minded changing my name. I told her only when I got married the first time. It felt strange to have another person’s name hung around my neck. But after changing my name the second time, it became old hat to me. It’s more a way of marking my passage through life: I can remember when things happened by what last name I had at the time!

I guess I see marriage—and changing your name—as an evolution. As you change from one state to another, you take on another identity, chameleon-like. Some women insist on keeping their maiden names as a way of hanging onto their identity. But the truth is, it’s usually your father’s identity that you’re hanging onto. (Unless you were given your mother’s or a hyphenated name at birth.) There’s really no way to get away from familial or marital ties unless you make up a completely new name for yourself.

If you could give yourself a new last name, what would it be and why?

Something Old, Something New: Body Art for Weddings

One way to celebrate your wedding day and to make a really unique fashion statement is through the use of body art. The reason I called this post “Something Old, Something New” is because body art for weddings has been around for centuries, but is a relatively new concept for modern-day brides who are not from any particular religious traditoin. The three main options are mehndi, body painting, and tattoos, both temporary and permanent.


Mehndi is the application of henna in elaborate designs which last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The most common areas for mehndi designs are the feet and the hands because the designs last the longest in those areas. But they can be, and often are, applied anywhere on the body. And mehndi is not just for the bride; the bridegroom can be decorated as well.

The use of mehndi for weddings and other special occasions is traditional in Southeast Asian ethnicities, among others, and probably dates back to ancient India. Many Muslims employ mehndi practices because they were used in the day of the Prophet Mohammad. The designs, which can take many hours to set, are applied ceremoniously in special gatherings of women, much like a modern-day bachelorette party.

The designs themselves can be as simple or as complicated as you want them. Often symbols of love, union and harmony or the names of the bride and groom are incorporated into the designs. If you’re interested in a mehndi design for your wedding, the best place to look for a mehndi artist is among ethnic communities, such as Southeast Asians,  Somalis, or Muslims in general. You may have to advertise for their services.

Body painting

Body painting is another option. It’s more versatile than mehndi color-wise (henna creates a red-brown coloration–be cautious about black colors as they often use dangerous dyes) but also more difficult to employ because it has to be done the day of the wedding. The designs can be anything you want and in any colors, although if you want small, intricate designs, you might be better off to go with mehndi. One of the nicest uses of body painting I’ve seen was a fairly simple design in white (and possibly another accent colot) painted on the forehead in a kind of bindi design. (Sorry I couldn’t find an illustration; it was in a book I no longer have.)

Body painters may be a little easier to find than mehndi artists, but you may also need  to advertise for one. Consider using a student from a local art school. Body painting supplies can be ordered from the Internet. One suggestion I ran across was to have a body/face painter at the reception, especially if there are going to be a lot of children there. But more than likely, you’ll want to keep this effect for yourself.


If you’re very daring–and ready to make the commitment–a permanent tattoo can be the way to go. I would go with something discrete that fits in with your wedding dress. You’ll want to get it done in enough time for it to heal completely before the wedding (and honeymoon). But another way to go is a temporary tattoo. I found an especially nice source on the Internet called I Do Tattoos. They only have a few designs but they’re all tasteful and their color is blue (there’s your “something blue”).  The cost is $36 and includes a folio of the tattoo for memory-keeping.

Visit Mehendi World for everything you might want to know about mendhi.

The Pregnant Bride

Yesterday I raised some questions about getting pregnant before marrying. I cited some statistics about how many parents are avoiding marriage and how many babies are being born out of wedlock. I also questioned whether it was the most responsible thing to do. Having written all that, however, I have to admit that pregnant brides are becoming more prevalent and accepted. Also, if I had to choose, I’d rather see a woman get married while she’s pregnant than wait until after the baby’s born. Not all brides-to-be agree with me, but I think it’s sweet, and also symbolic of one important reason to get married: to give a child a safe and secure environment in which to be raised.

First off is a video about Destination Maternity‘s bridal fashions for pregnant brides and bridesmaids.

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing a wedding gown is that your shape is going to change, sometimes dramatically, the closer you get to your wedding (and due) date. If you can get a fast turnaround on a custom gown and your wedding isn’t too far off, you can get away with a fitted gown, like the one shown in this video.

The empire-waisted gown pictured to the right is from U.K based Tiffany Rose, which has several maternity gowns at reasonable prices. The Athena, approximately $520 (U.S.)Also check out this article from the Daily Mail (U.K.) for more pictures and statistics.

A particularly exciting (and eco-friendly) source for maternity (and other special occasion) gowns is Jessica Iverson Couture. Check out the 2010 Collection here. [Note: Don’t assume that an empire-waist will fit you all through the pregnancy. You get larger around your diaphragm, too, because of the baby pushing up. So take that into account and consider elastic!]

Another thing to keep in mind is your shoes. You definitely want them to be comfortable; high heels are probably out. You also have to take into account that your shoe size may change as you progress in your pregnancy because of swelling.  Some brides (not even pregnant ones) change into comfortable shoes like flats or even tennis shoes (in white!) for the reception.

Looking for a cake-topper that reflects your situation? Check out Magic Mud for custom-made wedding toppers such as the one pictured here.

Then there are the beverages. There should always be another option than alcohol for those who don’t or can’t drink–like the bride. The bachelorette party will need to be alcohol-free as well. And not too rambunctious!

As for the wedding and baby showers: You could simply have the wedding shower now and the baby shower later. But that depends on how close you are to delivering. If both are imminent, you might want to combine them for a little different twist.

Feminist Weddings

How can you tell if you’re at a feminist wedding?

No, that’s not a joke, although there’s probably a joke in there somewhere. (I’m lousy at telling jokes.) But seriously, what makes a wedding feminist? If the father doesn’t give away the bride? If the bride keeps her last name and is introduced that way?  If the bride’s vows leave out the obedience bit?

Those are all places to start, I suppose. And they are typical answers that Second Wave feminists would have given back in the day. Actually, they may even have gone a step further and advised women to skip the marriage part altogether. After all, isn’t marriage just a construct of a patriarchal system?

Traditionally, yes. But today’s feminists are rethinking marriage and coming up with some new ideas. Marriage can be a contract between equals. It doesn’t have to signify “ownership,” even ownership of each other. It may be purely a statement, a public declaration that this relationship is exclusive (unless it’s an open marriage; that’s a subject for another post). It can be a celebration of your love for one another. But most people also want marriage–and the wedding–to be a reflection of their values and beliefs.

So if one or both of you are feminists, then you are often seen as part of a counter-culture. You don’t exist in the mainstream of society. So it makes sense that your wedding will also be “off the beaten path.” But in what ways?

Continue reading “Feminist Weddings”

Feminist Weddings Redux: The Vows

wedding rings2There’s a possibility that there may be another wedding in my family this year, so I’m thinking about weddings again. The last wedding was a year and a half ago and if you do a search for “weddings” on this blog you’ll find the posts I wrote around that time about how to put together a feminist wedding. The one component I forgot then was the vows.  I don’t know how I forgot them because one of the first things people think about when they think of feminist weddings is how the vows have to be changed to reflect a feminist viewpoint. No more pledges to obey, for instance. And a rejection of traditional religious language in favor of words straight from the heart.

I don’t really know, however, how many brides and grooms write their own vows. I’ve had four weddings (actually five ceremonies), and if I remember rightly (hey, it’s been 38 years since the first one!), I never wrote vows for any of them. It was just easier to go with the words that the minister normally used. As for the word “obey,” I don’t even think it’s even used much any more–unless you’re a fundamentalist Christian who firmly believes that the man is the head of the house.

Vow-writing isn’t easy, I’ve heard. And I believe it, because when I try to think of how I’d sum up what getting married means to me, I don’t know where I’d start. Besides, I think one reason why people don’t like to write their own vows is because they’re afraid they’ll forget them when called upon to say them. With all the rest that’s going on to get a wedding to come together, who wants to be worrying about their vows?

There’s a way around that, of course. Give a copy of your vows to the officiant and repeat after him/her as he/she reads them aloud. That way you can’t forget them.

When my daughter got married in 2008, the minister had several vows for her and her fiance to pick from which gave them a sense of personalization without having to start from scratch. She even had some templates with words and phrases left blank for them to fill in. The thing is, I don’t have the slightest idea what they did say, even though I was there and could hear every word.

That’s why one suggestion I came across made sense: print the vows in the program. What better part to remember than what the bride and groom vowed to one another? This is also a great suggestion in case there are people from the deaf community in the congregation. (The bride and groom might even want to provide an interpreter as well.)

If you still want customized vows but don’t know where to start, there are vow-writing services which you can find on the Internet. Or you can have a writer friend write them. Or advertise on craigslist.

Or you can borrow these vows I found translated into LolCat Speak:

Continue reading “Feminist Weddings Redux: The Vows”

Now This is an Alternative Wedding!

With all the debate in feminist circles about what kind of wedding a feminist should have (if any), it’s too easy to forget the reason that people have weddings: they love each other, they’re happy and they want to share their joy with others. I was reminded of this when I ran across Jill and Kevin’s Wedding Dance on You Tube.

There have been over 32 million views of this video and there will probably be many more since Beliefnet chose Jill and Kevin and their dance as one of the Most Inspiring nominees of 2009. And to top it all off, Jill and Kevin have dedicated their website to collecting donations to fight domestic violence.

I applaud Jill and Kevin (their last names are never given) for sharing their joy with the world. May they be happy forever!