Why I Have Two Surnames As a Married Woman

Why I Have Two Surnames As a Married Woman

Melanie Suzanne Wilson

After marrying in February 2017, I publicly kept my maiden name and also legally gained my married surname. That's right. I chose to have two surnames.
And no, I did not draw inspiration from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and BeyoncĂ© Giselle Knowles-Carter. This was a clear decision based on what works for my life.

Past and Present Identities Combined

I feel quite happy now with two identities. I am publicly keeping my 'personal brand' of Melanie Suzanne Wilson, which is also my legal birth full name. It is what people know me as. That simply feels right.
My married name will be used in legal purposes when possible. So in private situations and when filling in forms, I am happily Melanie Suzanne Wilson Halford. The last two words will be a surname. I want to feel connected to my new life through a shared name.
Both identities reflect who I am in personal and professional contexts. Both surnames are necessary parts of me. That is why I will still have my original name, but sometimes add the new surname at the end.

Breaking Tradition

It was a complicated choice. My family freely gave their opinions on my decision. They compared me with their friends and history as a whole. Surely I would want to do what other women did in the past (actually no I wouldn't).
My decision contrasted to the tradition of women taking their husbands' names and abandoning their own. Some of my friends had followed the traditional approach. They enjoyed a freedom of choice, that every woman should have.
To further clarify, I am happy for women to change their names if they wish. It is a freedom that is enjoyed by many Aussies. The ABC reported in 2016, "More than 80 per cent of women take their husband's name after marriage."
I am apparently in the minority when keeping my maiden name, even if I will also add the married name. It is what I feel comfortable with. Others can do what is right for them.

Keeping a Heritage

I do not want to hide my cherished family name, that I associate with a history and heritage. We both felt strongly about me keeping that part of my identity.
Why should women loose valuable family identities? What makes a woman's background less important in a name than a man's background?
By asking these questions, I am suddenly looking more feminist than before. Maybe that means we have a feminist marriage. We both just don't do something simply because it's 'what women do.' I am lucky to have a relationship that is about people more than gender.

Personal Branding

Branding is a sad reality of the online social media landscape. We all have an online presence. We are all known online for something. The internet is now another reason not to entirely change my name.
The whole branding issue is an odd thing to consider in everyday life. It is an image portrayed online, through words and multimedia. It is a perception in audiences' minds.
Whether we like it nor not, branding is now a reality for anyone with a public presence. And a name can be closely tied to a brand. Our identities influence our presence in online and offline communities. That's why my surname is still used in communications.

A New Family Name for a New Life

Getting married can feel wonderful. In addition to the lifelong commitment, there is a connotation of starting a new family unit away from the old one. The two of us are a team. I like the idea of symbolising that togetherness.
A second surname helps to differentiate me from other Wilsons. Some formal contexts, typically when a form has been filled out, will still call me "Mrs" so-and-so. The whole "Mrs" label is not something I directly deal with every day. I am not a teacher or other professional that would get referred to by my last name.
But when I do see the phrase "Mrs Wilson," there is only one person I think that could be - my grandmother. There is a big difference between the grandmother Mrs Elizabeth Wilson OAM and the granddaughter Mrs Melanie Suzanne Wilson Halford. Let's not confuse one person for the other. In very formal occasions of only surnames, I would feel more comfortable as Mrs Wilson Halford. Although that would not be an issue so often.

Best of Both Worlds

I feel grateful to continue calling myself Melanie Suzanne Wilson in my current social circles. That choice is a privilege. I am even more glad to become Melanie Suzanne Wilson Halford for personal and legal purposes. There is more freedom in naming than I ever imagined.


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