So what happens with last names when two ladies or two gentlemen get married? That’s a great question! To answer requires a brief history on the name-changing tradition…
Historically, when a woman married a man she would take his surname or family name in order to signify that she is becoming a part of his family. The idea of two becoming one is a sweet and important idea, but the significance is actually much greater than that. It involves a legal principle called “coverture.” This doctrine dictated that, after marriage, a woman relinquished her legal rights to property and ownership (even of herself) to her husband. That is to say, she and all of the children she made with her husband were his property. Obviously these laws were challenged and overturned during First Wave Feminism. The tradition of taking a husband’s name continues, however, til this day.
Most modern couples find this practice merely a traditional part of marriage and inoffensive. Others retain their own birth names or create hybrid or hyphenated forms of their last names after marriage. This is a very personal decision and I personally don’t think there’s a “wrong” way to do it.
Every same-sex couple approaches this differently, some retain their birth names in order to combat the idea of imposed gender roles in a same-sex marriage (he’s the “wife” or she’s the “husband”), others use some of the other methods above.
Blah, blah, angry feminist, what does that mean for you?
Since neither of us “owns” the other and equality is a hallmark of our relationship, we have considered every option. We decided early on that, even though we also want to resist the ideas of imposed gender roles (more on that another day), it is important that we share a last name to celebrate the fact that we truly are legally (yay, Washington!) becoming a single family unit! Hyphenated names don’t appeal to us though. We briefly considered a hybridization of our last names: “Brutton” has a lovely British sound, doesn’t it? Much nice than the alternative, “Sewer.” But, honestly, we’re not edgy enough for that and it felt a little bit like abandoning our family names altogether.
I actually finally decided that I (Sarah) would take Holly’s last name after we get married. Although Holly was willing to take my last name, we decided it made more sense for us to use hers. I’ll be keeping my maiden name as a second middle name.
All that to say, you can address your wedding cards to Mrs & Mrs Sutton!