Why these four men decided to take their wife’s surname after marriage

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  • 'Getting any points for taking her name feels odd - it’s just assumed that the woman does'

    An increasing number of British women might be deciding to keep their surname after tying the knot, but what about the smaller number of men choosing to take their wife’s last name after marriage? We asked four couples who did just that to talk about their decision.

    ‘Getting any points for taking Georgie’s name feels so odd: it’s just assumed that the woman takes the man’s name’

    Thomas Knorpp married Georgie Karbe and became Thomas Karbe 

    Thomas says: ‘The decision to take Georgie’s name was largely a pragmatic one. We discussed a few different ideas like going double-barrelled or creating some sort of combined version of Karbe and Knorpp, but those felt like a cop out. 

    We want to be a family unit and out of our two surnames, we both preferred ‘Karbe’ over ‘Knorpp.’ The decision was made so much easier by Georgie’s parents being entirely lovely in welcoming me so wholeheartedly and unreservedly into their family. Georgie’s dad in particular was very taken by the decision. My dad was a bit sad that I wouldn’t be continuing the Knorpp name, but respects why we’re doing it: “Times are changing” was his response.

    Female friends immediately go down a romantic or feminist angle to explain our decision. While a softie at heart and hugely supportive of equal rights, I think I burst a few bubbles explaining it was down to a preference of one surname over the other. If anything, getting any points for taking Georgie’s name feels so odd: it’s just assumed that the woman takes the man’s name. 

    Thomas Knorpp

    Thomas and Georgie on their wedding day (Picture credit: Denise Winter Photography)

    The paperwork was the most annoying thing. We kept our separate names the day we got married, but when it came down to applying for a new passport, I decided to make the change to Karbe. Using a new signature when signing documents is still taking some getting used to! The next step is to change my name at work – I’m sure that will result in a few more interesting conversations.’ 

    When we got married most people assumed that we would take my name – it just goes to show that taking the woman’s name is something that still only happens very rarely!’

    Georgie says: ‘I have to admit that I had significantly stronger (negative) feelings about Thomas’ name than he did about mine.

    I’m in the medical profession and have published several scientific papers and book chapters under my maiden name. Switching names would have been difficult professionally.

    I have several female colleagues who keep their maiden name for work but took their husband’s name for everything else. I have never really understood or liked that idea, a name should be a name for all aspects of life. I am very grateful that Thomas took my name and I had to admit to him that he was the bigger person in that respect (I’ll likely never hear the end of that!)’

    ‘A male friend of ours – who was also engaged at the time – said he thought that Jack was betraying his manliness’

    Plato Jack Powell married Sophie Cran and became Plato Jack Cran

    Sophie and Jack: ‘Jack offered to take my name simply because I suggested once or twice while we were engaged that I felt quite attached to my obscure Scottish surname. He didn’t feel very strongly about Powell so said we could become Mr and Mrs Cran instead. Why not, we thought.

    The worst reaction was from a male friend of ours, who was also engaged at the time, saying he thought that Jack was betraying manliness and male pride and his family honour – or something like that. We were surprised because it seemed like such an old fashioned stance. The best reaction, which we’ve had many times, is “Oh really?! Cool!”

    Sophie and Jack on their wedding day

    Sophie and Jack on their wedding day

    The only minor issue for Jack having changed his surname is that his passport still has his ‘maiden’ name, and he sometimes forgets when he’s booking flights. Otherwise it’s been very straightforward for him. It’s been very easy for me whenever I’m asked on a form “have you had any previous surnames?” People sometimes look confused when I give them the form back and it says ‘Mrs’ on the top.

    Emotionally, I think we’ve enjoyed doing something a little bit alternative and a little bit fun. Some of our relatives and friends we don’t see very often will address Christmas cards to Mr and Mrs Powell, but it doesn’t bother us.’

    ‘Some people assume I simply lucked out and fell in love with a man with the same surname!’

    Ian Thornton married Emily Baker and became Ian Baker 

    Emily and Ian: ‘Ian’s decision to take my name really followed on from my desire to keep mine. I had a few reasons I wanted to; I am my father’s only child and the last Baker in the family, so didn’t want the name to disappear (we now have a little boy Baker so the name lives on!)

    Ian’s father is not in the picture and didn’t attend the wedding, so it would have felt strange taking the name of a branch of family we’re not connected to.

    My name isn’t glamorous but it’s mine and I’ve had it all my life, at school I was addressed almost exclusively by my surname to differentiate me from the many other Emilys. Marriage hasn’t changed who I am as a person, so why would I change my identity?

    Emily Baker and her husband Ian on their wedding day

    Ian had no issues with this at all, he simply wanted us to be Mr and Mrs. Had our names gone better together perhaps we would have ended up going double-barrelled!

    The absolute best reaction to our decision was on the day. We hadn’t told anyone we were going to do it and there were a lot of worried eyes darting about during the cheers/applause from guests thinking the registrar had made a mistake. My dad was really thrilled when we spoke after – once he had recovered from the shock!

    The act of changing names also coincided with Ian’s move from South Wales to Wiltshire and starting a new business so most people in the area have only known him by his current surname.

    It’s still fairly rare so we get many questions as to why we chose to do it. Some assume I simply lucked out and fell in love with someone with the same surname! Most women I speak to about it are impressed with him being such a ‘modern man.’

    ‘We both felt that a woman taking a man’s surname is incredibly outdated’

    Katriona Buchanan married Stephen Lacey and became Katriona and Stephen Buchanan-Lacey

    Katriona and Stephen: ‘One of the reasons we did this is because we’re both extremely stubborn! My surname (Buchanan) means a lot to me, it indicates my Scottish heritage and identity. We also both felt that a woman taking a man’s surname is incredibly outdated and didn’t agree with what it symbolises – a woman taking on the man’s identity and not vice versa.

    We kept our own surnames for a while after getting married, but when children were on the cards we really wanted to have the same surname. Going double barrelled seemed the fairest way.

    Katriona and Stephen on their wedding day

    Katriona and Stephen on their wedding day

    Most people aren’t bothered by the change, though the extra long surname and additional printing costs that come with it is a bit of a running joke with friends and family.

    There have been a handful of people who were almost outraged that I didn’t take Stephen’s surname after we got married, and that reaction has not just come from men. I’ve had people ignore the decision and just use Stephen’s surname with me -it might be done in jest but it’s always laced with a bit of truth.

    I’m genuinely shocked that in this day and age people can actually be outraged that I didn’t take Stephen’s surname. It just seems crazy to me. Why should I feel I have to because of some outdated tradition? The great thing is that people have the choice to take on someone else’s surname after marriage or create their own unique combination – it’s up to them.’

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