Why I Changed My Name When I Got Married

From the moment we leave the womb and a little plastic tag is placed around our tiny wrists, our names signify to the world who we are. Those few letters become our identity forever more, adorning everything from our school uniform and social media pages to passports and personalised jewellery; they travel with us wherever we go and become so ingrained in who we are as people, that it’s often impossible to distinguish between where the person ends and the name begins. Even though I went through a few years of deciding I wanted to be called Rosie as a child (which later became Sophie – I was so jealous when my baby cousin whipped that from me a few years later!) for the majority of my life I’ve actually loved my moniker; Hayley has never been that common and I’ve only ever met a handful of other people throughout my thirty five years that have shared it with me. It feels part of who I am so much that I have it engraved, embossed or stuck on whenever I can: one of my most treasured possessions is my ‘Hayley’ necklace my Nan bought me for my 21st birthday when I, like the majority of other young women at the time, was going through the ‘obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw’ stage. However, one part of me that’s never really felt like ‘me’ was my surname.

During my formative years I longed for a more exotic, complex or exciting surname, but alas I was stuck with a four letter descriptor of a vehicle that later became synonymous with comedians; I never felt a particularly strong bond with it, but after my relationship with my father started to break down (that’s a long story for another day) it honestly started to feel like a noose around my neck I couldn’t wait to rid myself of; it felt like his influence was still bearing down over me and I had no way to break free – even if it did connect my mum, sister and I as an impenetrable unit of women. It’s not something that kept me awake at night, but in retrospect I can now see how much I grew to dislike my maiden name and everything it represented as a strong-willed and independent woman: I’d spent the last two decades building a life away from my dad’s influence, but those four little letters still held some power.

I didn’t meet my now husband until I was thirty, but when it was clear this was a serious and potential life-long relationship there wasn’t a question in my mind that I wanted to take his name. Some may see it as unnecessary, anti-feminist and old fashioned, but for me it was a way to adopt a new persona and cement our relationship in the most committed way I knew how. It was a way I could finally leave behind many of the painful memories and a link to a man who’s added little to my life in the last twenty years, while becoming a member of a new family I adored simultaneously. Although Josh probably just assumed I would change my name, the choice was always mine – and it was a choice I was more than happy to make.

So much is now written about the increasing number of women choosing to retain their surname or double-barrel after marriage, as we move towards equality rather than the outdated assumption of ‘ownership’ of your new spouse; so many articles exist discussing why women want to keep their identities they’ve become so fond of, as a way of continuing their family name or showcasing that they remain the same person regardless of whether they’ve chosen to make a lifelong commitment. I wholeheartedly applaud this and I’m a firm believer in choice: whatever is right for you, your partner and your family is what you should do, regardless of what society dictates. However, for many of us there’s a deeper meaning behind the choice to drop our names and adopt a new one – and that deserves the same respect as any other decision, rather than judgement or sneering for choosing to ‘conform’.

In the days leading up to my wedding I did feel a pang of sadness to leave behind my old name (100% because I shared it with my mum and sister,) but I was also incredibly excited to adopt my new one. I’ve always loved the sound of Hayley Hall, and I already had plans to rebrand using my new moniker, so from the day after our wedding I said goodbye to Hayley Carr and hello to the new woman in my life. Even though I thought it would take me months to get used to it, honestly it took me a matter of weeks; seven months on I can absolutely say it feels like that’s always been who I am and even looking at my maiden name feels strange. I feel like this is always who I’ve meant to be and it’s allowed me to break free of the last thing connecting me to a man I have nothing but pity for; I’d much prefer to be linked forever more to a husband who brings me joy, love and commitment.

Yes, I may have wanted to feel more connected and committed to my husband-to-be; yes, I wanted to have a family unit and share the same name if we’re ever blessed with children; yes, I wanted to command a little more respect when my baby face still gets me asked for ID in Sainsburys; but truth be told it was more about breaking free and starting a new chapter in my life – not unlike a caterpillar breaking out of the cocoon as a butterfly. Whatever you decide to do, or have decided to do in the past, is up to you – it’s your choice as an individual to make, and we all have our reasons. Once that change is made you have to answer, sign and be identified as
that new person forever more… So you better blooming like it, and
everything it stands for.

Feminism and equality is all about the ability to choose and finding the right path for you. So in a modern world we should be able to keep, change, swap or join our names without having to answer to anyone but ourselves – whatever our reasons for doing so.

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14 Comments

  1. Anca
    May 21, 2018 / 7:17 am

    My story is similar. My parents divorced when I was young and I was excited to give up my maiden name as soon as possible. A couple of days after my husband proposed I created my new email address with the married name, that was 7-8 months before the wedding. I didn't use that though until I got married. :)For me, a family needs to have the same name, the husband's or a double-barrel. I strongly believe that a family means sharing, from the name to the joint bank account, big and small decisions. I've had my new name for 11 years and it's a part of me.

    • Hayley Hall
      May 21, 2018 / 12:48 pm

      That's lovely to hear. For me, it's about personal choice and what works for an individual – and for me it was important to change my name.

  2. Danish Pastry
    May 21, 2018 / 10:09 am

    At the end of the day it's a personal choice. My sister has had three different surnames, but I've only had one! I chose to keep my maiden name when I married, but even if I'd taken my husband's surname (the Danish equivalent of Jones), I would have ditched my middle name (don't dislike it, but never use it apart from the initial in my signature) and kept my maiden name- not as a hyphenated double barrelled surname, but as a middle name. Its a very Danish thing to do, but also harks back to my British ancestry too, as several ancestors have done the same.My husband was very on board with me keeping my maiden name, and even contemplated taking it himself. If we'd have had children they would have both names, but to me that's not an issue. In Denmark there are many couples who aren't married and whose children bear only one of their parents surnames – no one bats an eyelid.

    • Hayley Hall
      May 21, 2018 / 12:50 pm

      That's such a great idea! I love the idea of adopting it as a middle name – or for children to have their mum's maiden name as a middle name.

  3. last year's girl
    May 21, 2018 / 11:02 am

    I think we've discussed this before, but even though I went the other way I 100% agree. In my case, my name is unique (as far as both I and Google know) and a hugely important part of my professional and personal identities. And knowing I had no intention of having children, and having to grapple with what their names would be, meant I didn't have to give it a second's thought.I do love trolling people who act surprised by it, though.Lis / last year's girl x

    • Hayley Hall
      May 21, 2018 / 12:51 pm

      Haha – I never understand why people are so surprised or don't understand when a woman chooses to keep her name. Like you say, it's a part of who she is and if she wants to remain that forever it's absolutely her choice to do so.

  4. Candice Petersen
    May 21, 2018 / 12:01 pm

    This is such a well written piece! I am also excited to change my name. My parents also divorced when I was really young and I just want to break free and start fresh with my life and my own new family.Candice | Natalya Amour

    • Hayley Hall
      May 21, 2018 / 12:51 pm

      That's exactly how I felt Candice – good luck with the wedding!

  5. Money Savvy Muslim
    May 21, 2018 / 10:51 pm

    I wasn’t massively attached to my surname because my dad actually changed our surname to his dad’s middle name when he went through some sort of rebellious phase. In my husbands family they take their husband’s name and although it’s been 4 years, I still sometimes have to remember to write my married name rather than my maiden name.It feels like a more grown up version of me but I still act like a child a lot of times haha!

  6. Pam Scalfi
    May 22, 2018 / 9:06 am

    Gorgeous outfit, love the skirt!I didn't change my surname despite my husband originally wanting me to. I really like my family name, and in our country we don't remove any surnames, we add more. I already have 2 surnames, and one more seemed unnecessary and just long (plus it didn't really go). Having to change passports, driver's license and everything else would have been a hassle and let's face it, I am just lazy hahaWe agreed that our children will only carry his surname, so he let it go.Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  7. Catherine Summers
    May 22, 2018 / 10:56 am

    This was so interesting Hayley…!! I'm so pleased for you that you love your new name.I'm on my third surname having had a brief marriage in my 20s before marrying again (properly this time)! I longed to change my maiden name because people always pronounced it wrong and horribly (and it made me cringe to hear it mispronounced, like in the doctor's waiting room)! So I kept my married name after the first marriage because it was an everyday name that everyone said correctly… however after meeting the current husband it felt wrong to have my old husband's surname, so I was only too glad to change it again when we got married.The twist of the tale is that Summers isn't my husband's real surname – he changed it legally due to similar issues with his father and was glad to leave his old surname behind. But there was NO WAY I would have changed my name to what he was originally, it was worse than my maiden name! So god knows what I've have done if he hadn't changed it… I always thank him for changing his name to Summers: Catherine Summers is a great name IMO.Though I've since thought of changing my name to Catherine Lamb because of the blog – someone once thought that was my name!! I'm not attached to or sentimental about names as you can probably tell, I like the idea of switching them up. I never understand why people put up with a horrible name that they hate, though – as my husband found out it is SOOOOOO EASY to change your name legally, it cost him only £35 for a solicitor's letter (that was 15 years ago, but it would still be equally affordable now I'm sure…!)

  8. Erin Russell
    May 25, 2018 / 6:11 pm

    Hayley Hall sounds so jazzy, I love it! I am in a position where I am the only one left with my name, I took my mums name as a baby, and when I was 18 she married her now husband. I am the last person in my generationwith my surname in my family now, so I feel like I don't belong – yet I don't want to part with it. It's odd. But I think you need to go with your gut on these things, and we are completely entitled to choose! :)Erin || MakeErinOver

  9. Maureen
    May 26, 2018 / 10:51 am

    I like this line: "truth be told it was more about breaking free and starting a new chapter in my life – not unlike a caterpillar breaking out of the cocoon as a butterfly."If I marry my partner I will change my name and part of the reason is similar to yours – I have the same name as my mother (who I don't have a good relationship with) and as it's a very unusual name I kind of feel like even though I don't have a strong connection to her there's always that thing that will shackle me to her; like if people Google my name or enter it into Facebook we will always both come up come up. If I change my name I will finally have a name of my own!

  10. Ramblingmads
    May 28, 2018 / 5:47 am

    I keep going back and forth on this. His surname is Shakespeare but Fenner for me is family, my parents, sister, cousins. The Fenners are a loud, opinionated crowd. But even if I'm Mrs Shakespeare (every girl with a 9 letter first name wants an 11 letter surname) I'll still be a Fenner, you can't ever leave. Might have it as a second middle name. Won't double barrel it.

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