You Can't Take Your Spouse's Name in Quebec

"In marriage, both spouses retain their respective names, and exercise their respective civil rights under those names." Article 393 of the Civil Code of Quebec

Since 1981, women in Quebec have been banned from legally taking their husband's  name. According to Marie-Hélène Dubé, a Montreal lawyer who specializes in family law, in an article published in the Global News, “The reason this law was adopted was to put an end to huge social pressure on women upon marrying to take the husband’s name." Dubé justified the harshness of the law by stating, "The reality is if the rule is too flexible, women can be subject to pressures … where they can be forced to do something that they don’t really want to do."

According to the Directeur de l'etat civil Quebec's website, "The law permits a person to apply for a change of given name or surname under certain conditions. Such a change is granted only if a serious reason, within the meaning of the Ci'vil Code of Québec, has been shown. Important: Under the Civil Code of Québec, both spouses retain their respective names in marriage and exercise civil rights under those names. Consequently, if a married woman wants to adopt her spouse's surname, the Directeur de l'état civil will authorize that change of name only in an exceptional situation."'

Names can be changed in Quebec in two ways:

1. A child's name change can be authorized by the court in the case of abandonment by a parent, in the case of deprivation of parental authority, or in the case of a change of filiation, such as through an adoption.

2. A person can also apply to the Directeur de l'état civil for a name change. The website gives a few examples of reasons to apply for a change of name, including: "The use, for five years or more, of a surname or given name not entered on the act of birth; A name of foreign origin, too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form; Serious prejudice or psychological suffering caused by the use of the name; A name that invites ridicule or that is infamous (marked by disgrace, shame or humiliation); or the intention to add to the surname of a child under 18 the surname of the father or mother, or a part of it if it is a compound surname."

This is a difficult process, as illustrated by Saleema Webster in an article in Chatelaine: "There are circumstances in which a name change is allowed: parental abandonment, other reasons of inconvenience. I checked every box, adding that it would be a hardship not to have the same name as the rest of my new family. ...Eventually, I had to provide a letter from a psychologist supporting my claim of emotional hardship, and in a process that took over a year and hundreds of dollars, I was granted a legal name change, from Saleema Nawaz to Saleema Webster." (This article also includes a humorous story with a slight twist on the standard "people assume you have your husband's name" story you hear so often in America, in which a doctor in Quebec was incredibly confused by the author and her husband sharing a last name).

I have so many thoughts on this. I kind of get the idea of cutting down on social pressure, because seriously y'all, there is a ridiculous amount of social pressure for women to change their name, but at the same time, this law seems like it goes way too far in terms of taking away people's choice. So though I can understand how they got to this point, I highly disagree with it. Plenty of people seem to agree with me on this, including the Prime Minister of Canada and his wife. A National Post article noted that a directive that stated the Prime Minister's wife be known as "Sophie Grégoire Trudeau" was effectively giving a middle finger to Quebec's law, as "Since Trudeau and Grégoire married in 2005 in Montreal, she has had no right to share names with her husband — or their children, for that matter." (although I should note that I'm pretty sure there's no law in Canada that requires children to have their father's name).

The wording of the law is also very broad, "spouse" rather than husband or wife. I'd normally applaud the gender-neutral wording, but in this case, I think it means that homosexual couples are banned from taking each other's surnames upon marriage as well. And the same justifications for avoiding social pressure seem to not hold up in that situation. If you have two men marrying each other, there's theoretically no social pressure. If you have two women marrying each other, is there twice the pressure? And what sort of social pressure exists for genderqueer folks who don't identify as either male or female? I'm just so curious.

In any case, the justifications fall apart pretty quickly and you just have a situation where people are banned from making their own choices about their names post-marriage. And that's never cool. 

How Offbeat Bride Changed My Life

I remember the day that my sister Karen called me to tell me she was engaged. It was in late winter of my senior year of high school back in 2006; I clearly remember getting her call on my little flip cell phone. I picked up while walking from my old black jeep in the parking lot of my high school on my way to the band hall. I could not have been more excited. Everyone in my family already loved her fiance Steve and we knew they'd be a great married couple. 

At that point in my life, I had been to maybe two or three weddings of people in my congregation from church and one distant family member's wedding, but I'd never been directly involved in one in any way. I had no idea how any of these things worked, and I don't think my parents really knew either. I remember my mother bemusedly telling us about how their own wedding in 1977 involved a ceremony at a church and punch and cake at her parents' house afterward. She wore a handmade white lace dress. My dad wore a powder blue suit. Nothing like the average wedding today. 

I served as my sister's maid of honor and did what I could to help her, but to be honest, I didn't do much besides planning the bridal shower and the bachelorette party. I helped her put on her hose on her actual wedding day. But the bridal magazines that I started finding around the house triggered something in me- a desire to learn more about the entire industry and start dreaming about my own wedding. 

Those magazines and those dreams led me to Offbeat Bride somehow. I don't remember the exact sequence of events that got me there, but I started reading that wonderful website back in 2007 and have haunted it on a regular basis. When I had a boyfriend and was optimistic, it tended to be weekly to daily. When I was single or despondent and had to limit my exposure to such things or risk just getting depressed, I lowered my exposure, but I still visited often. When Offbeat Family launched, I started reading that, even though I didn't have a spouse or kids personally and didn't know if or when that would happen (it's now been folded into Offbeat Home). When Offbeat Home and Offbeat Empire launched, I started reading those too.

You see, Offbeat Bride isn't just any wedding website. It espouses an openness to other people, other ways of life, that was entirely new to me and completely fascinating. My family is wonderful and accepting and great, but I had really just never been exposed to some of these other subcultures or viewpoints before. I was a little Lutheran girl who grew up in the church in Texas. I didn't know anything about goths, or pagans, or polyamory, or steampunk, or atheism. These are all things I learned about by reading Offbeat Bride. While I thought I was just reading it as a guilty pleasure to read about other people's weddings, I really was learning how to be a better person. How to not just accept people, but to try to understand them. 

It really changed me. I learned that there were many beautiful, consensual ways to be in love and be married (or not) and be alive and that all of them were valid options. I learned how to decorate my first rental home off campus from Offbeat Home. I figured out how to interact with my nieces long-distance from Offbeat Family. When I was an online journalist and editor, I learned a lot about content planning, social media, and community management from Offbeat Empire. I even wrote a few stories for the sites; some under my own name, one or two under pseudonyms. 

10 years on into reading this one publisher's content on a regular basis, it's pretty awesome to look back and wonder what I would have been like without its influence on my life. I fully believe it's made me more open to other people and other possibilities than I would have been otherwise. That constant exposure to diversity and a loving, supportive community of people happy to wave their freak flag has honestly made me a better person. 

And it all started with my sister's wedding. That's one reason I won't let myself feel guilty about caring about my wedding or reading so much on this topic. It's so easy to say that these ceremonial parties we throw to celebrate the joining of people is all just a huge expense or a waste of time, but they, as every other ceremony, bring people together and make them bump up against each other in ways that cause both tension and delight. I know people who have found their own career calling while planning their own wedding, who met their significant others and spouses and weddings, who found new ways to express themselves as part of the process. 

Of course there are plenty who just don't have those experiences and that's fine too. But I like to study it. I like to learn. I like to know all the things. And I think part of that insatiable curiosity and love of other people's stories really can be directly traced back to my years and years of reading OBB. Thanks y'all. <3

A Feminist Wedding? An Intro

Even if you only knew me from reading this blog, you probably already guessed that I identify as a feminist (I think I may have mentioned it in my first post on this blog actually!). Gender equality and rights for women are extremely important to me. They pretty much always have been, although my views have evolved over time and I have definitely become more aware of subconscious bias against women over the years. That's one reason (among several, including that I want to write more, I like having a project, and I just get bored sometimes) that I'm writing this blog in the first place.

By Tim Gould, used under a Creative Commons License, available on Flickr at

By Tim Gould, used under a Creative Commons License, available on Flickr at

I am really damn excited about getting married. I was super happy to get engaged. But part of me feels like, by being excited, I'm letting down feminism. Part of me feels like by letting John propose (something he was quite set on, I should note - I would have been totally fine and gung-ho about proposing to him, but he really didn't want to do that), I have failed somehow. All the big feminist writer names I know are so cool about their weddings. They start out with intros about how they never really thought about their weddings before they got engaged, or never thought they'd get married at all, or how their proposal was totally a conversation and agreement among equals and nothing out of the ordinary.

For example, in "My big feminist wedding" for The Guardian, Jessica Valenti said, "As a kid, I wasn't sure that I would ever get married - I was not the kind of little girl who played at being a bride. My parents have a wonderful marriage, but they have been together since my mother was 12, married when they were just teenagers and are barely ever separated. They even work together. As a result, I have always thought of marriage as involving the loss of a certain amount of autonomy. Not to mention that, as feminist as our household was, I grew up seeing my mother do the majority of the domestic work and her paid day job to boot. That did not exactly sweeten the deal."

Me, however? It's embarrassing to admit, but I, uh, was that little girl. I have honestly been dreaming about my wedding since I was a little girl (cultural norms are very powerful!). I clearly remember drawing a picture of me in a wedding dress and a veil marrying my kindergarten sweetheart (named Jordan or Justin or something...there were a few J named boys I enjoyed chasing on the playground at age 5). I've actively dreamed about specific dresses and music since I was a freshman in college, when my sister got married and I gleefully borrowed all her wedding magazines. I believe that was also around the time I started reading Offbeat Bride, which I've been pretty obsessed with ever since (Sidenote: I literally think being a regular reader of Offbeat Bride and its associated websites has changed my life and made me a better person, but that's a story for a future blog post). 

So I'm not exactly your "good feminist" when it comes to weddings and marriage. I am admittedly not schooled in feminist ways of thinking. I've never taken a class in gender theory. I have never read The Feminine Mystique, or the Second Sex (although I really really should). I feel a little shame about that because clearly my life as a woman isn't hard enough and I must feel badly for not being more educated in feminism and also for being excited about something society has told me will be the "best day of my life" for my entire life (NO PRESSURE AMIRIGHT). But I also just don't believe that weddings and marriage, at least as they exist today in modern society, are incompatible with feminism. 

Because I am the person I am, I of course am looking for evidence to back up that belief and also evidence that might refute it. I want to learn about everything to do with both weddings and marriage as I plan one and enter into another. I want to know what all these traditions are, where they came from, what they mean. I want to determine what role they will play in my wedding and my life with my eyes fully open. For me, at least, an unexamined wedding is not worth having (props to Socrates, although really, that statement is much darker in its original context than how we usually use it now).

*(I should note now that literally no one has to agree with me on this. If you don't want to overly analyze weddings and marriage after getting engaged, that is your prerogative and I wish you very well! That's just not my personality. I wish I didn't have to state so often how extremely okay and non-judgmental I am about people making choices different than mine, but people get very touchy about wedding and marriage traditions sometimes, so I think it bears repeating.) 

Though there's an extent to which this entire blog is really about investigating whether it's possible to have a feminist wedding, this particular series of posts will go into it a bit more in depth and look at several articles and podcasts on this specific topic. They won't come out consecutively all the time, but I'm looking forward to working on it anyway.

Marriage Protest of Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell


(May 1, 1855)

While we acknowledge our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:

1. The custody of the wife's person.

2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children.

3. The sole ownership of her personal, and use of her real estate, unless previously settled upon her, or placed in the hands of trustees, as in the case of minors, lunatics, and idiots.

4. The absolute right to the product of her industry.

5. Also against laws which give to the widower so much larger and more permanent interest in the property of his deceased wife, than they give to the widow in that of the deceased husband.

6. Finally, against the whole system by which "the legal existence of the wife is suspended during marriage," so that in most States, she neither has a legal part in the choice of her residence, nor can she make a will, nor sue or be sued in her own name, nor inherit property.

We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power.


Sourced from

How Important is Your Name In Getting Job Interviews?

In today's edition of "I am really grossed out that this is probably still a thing," several studies show that a foreign sounding surname or first name may affect your chances of getting a call for a job interview. This may be an especially relevant data point to the marital surname decisions of people were either born with or are considering changing their names to those that are traditionally more "white" or "African-American," regardless of your own ethnicity.

"Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal: A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination" found that when they sent out nearly 5,000 resumes in response to "over 1300 ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers in the sales, administrative support, clerical and customer services fields," resumes with "very White sounding names" elicited about 50% more callbacks than "very African American sounding names."  The researchers typically sent out 4 resumes in response to each ad, two high quality and two low quality resumes, with one of each randomly assigned an "African American sounding name." The study also noted that while the high quality resumes with "white sounding names" received a 30% improvement in callbacks over the "white sounding names" low quality resumes, this bump did not occur for resumes with "African American sounding names." For what it's worth, this article was published in 2002, so it's entirely possible that this information is slightly out of date. 

photo: CC BY

photo: CC BY

Two more recent studies came to different conclusions on what role names play in employment decisions.

A 2012 study, "Indiscriminate Discrimination: A correspondence test for ethnic homophily in the Chicago Labor Market" found a similar but less marked bias in favor of "white sounding" names (which this study referred to as "Anglo-Saxon," which I have quibbles with as a history major, but that's an issue for another time). This one found that resumes with "Anglo-Saxon" names generated nearly 33% more callbacks than identical resumes with either African-American or "foreign" names (the "foreign" names were designed to be of an unidentifiable ethnic origin to most Americans). 

A study published last year found that resumes with a variety of traditionally "white" (Anderson and Thompson),  "African-American" (Washington and Jefferson), and "Hispanic" (Hernandez and Garcia) surnames were not treated in a manner that indicated systematic employer preferences for applicants from particular race groups. However, the researchers themselves acknowledged to the Chicago Tribune that last names may be a weak signal of race. "Though 90 percent of people with the last name Washington are black and 75 percent of those named Jefferson are black, 'there is the fair criticism that maybe no one knows that,' Koedel said."

So does this sort of racial bias still exist in hiring? It's hard to know, but it seems likely. As a white woman myself, I'm never going to discount another person's stories of racial discrimination. That's not my job in this case; my role is to listen and learn and be the best ally I can be. As an article in Forbes pointed out, "'We're not claiming that employers engage in discriminatory behavior consciously, or that this is necessarily an issue of racism,' wrote Marianne Bertrand, a researcher on the 2002 study. 'It is important to teach people in charge of hiring about the subconscious biases they may have, and figure out a way to change these patterns.'" So hopefully these are trends that can be changed and fixed with effort and work. 

Podcast Review: Queens of England

As mentioned previously, I'm a little obsessed with Renaissance English history. I've recently expanded that interest to medieval English history as well, through the excellent Queens of England podcast.

queens of england.png

The hilarious and dry-witted James Boulton starts back around 1031 with Matilda of Flanders and just keeps moving through medieval times to the War of the Roses and now is slowly working his way through the many wives of Henry VIII. He also has several supplemental podcasts analyzing the queens of literature and TV, such as Queen Guinevere of the Arthurian legends and the queens of Tolkien and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. 

Matilda of Flanders. Legit Badass who defied her husband to provide financial support to her firstborn, not once, but twice!

Matilda of Flanders. Legit Badass who defied her husband to provide financial support to her firstborn, not once, but twice!

My favorite section of a podcast ever is when he relates an incident in the life of Matilda of Flanders where she pleaded with her husband (who you may have heard of - William the Conquerer?) for forgiveness for providing support to her traitorous first son by noting:

"This is absolute gold for historians. It shows a queen both acknowledging the perceived weakness of her sex but also her power. It shows how a queen could use her own wealth to pursue her own goals, but also how important it was for this to be sanctioned by her husband, further confirming that queens had real power and authority, but this had to be granted from the king. William, ignorant of all the excitement of all the modern historians around him, heard only his wife's shocking defiance of his wishes."

"But Rachael," You may ask. "What does this have to do with marriage?" I'm glad you asked. Though the podcast itself is not specifically dedicated to marriage, by definition, it's almost completely about married women, Queens Consort (there are a few supplements dedicated to mistresses and there was really only ever one unmarried Queen Regnant in the form of Elizabeth I). The host in each episode looks at several characteristics desired in an English Queen to determine how successful the queen actually was: fertility, piety, financial or social advantage from her own background/family, and her steadying influence on the king and his court. It's really quite fascinating. 

And frankly, plenty of these women were total badasses. They had to work within the limitations of their gender at the time to achieve their goals, and many of them were absolutely fierce. See: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Matilda of Boulogne, and Margaret of Anjou. Listening to this podcast is absolutely inspiring!

Eleanor of Aquitaine. Badass queen twice over (of France, then of England) who went on Conquest when it wasn't cool for women to do that, gave birth to two Kings, survived 15 years in captivity, outlived almost everyone around her, and generally was the best

Eleanor of Aquitaine. Badass queen twice over (of France, then of England) who went on Conquest when it wasn't cool for women to do that, gave birth to two Kings, survived 15 years in captivity, outlived almost everyone around her, and generally was the best

You can find Queens of England podcast anywhere you find podcasts as well as on the podcast's website and Facebook.

To Change Your Name (A Poem)

A very wise person once wrote that it’s
The choices we make that define the person we are.
The decision you’ve made to change your name
Is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make —
Something no one else can do for you.

Photo by Mike Timberlake (metimbers2000). Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at

Photo by Mike Timberlake (metimbers2000). Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at

Just like the butterfly that emerges from the chrysalis, 
Changing your name heralds a new stage in your life.
Like the butterfly, may you go out into this world
With pride, with courage, and with the certain knowledge that
Your new name has added meaning and purpose to your life. 

Sharon L Norris


Podcast Review: Renaissance English History

Aside from marriage and wedding culture and history, I'm fairly obsessed with the English renaissance. I have a Henry VIII teddy bear (purchased at the Tower of London!) and a Henry VIII coffee mug (featuring 6 disappearing wives when you put a hot beverage in it!) hanging out in my office. My friends know me so well that they regularly send me texts such as "Henry VIII and Charles Brandon = OTP" and pictures of tapestries featuring a cat Henry VIII.  

My obsession has recently moved to podcasts! Particularly the Renaissance English History Podcast, hosted by the charming Heather Teysko since 2009. She's covered a huge range of topics, from cosmetics and makeup to the iron industry, to music, theater, and witchcraft, along with the more typical biographies of monarchs and the people around them. I'm still combing through her archives and imagine it will take me a while longer to really be caught up.

Most relevantly to this blog, she did an episode several years ago on Love and Betrothal that can be found under Episode 20 in the social history archive, or can be downloaded wherever you find podcasts (for me, it's the podcasts app on my iPhone). She also recently did a fantastic Women's History Month themed mini series on several inspiring women from the time. This particular project included a fun Facebook page for discussions! The topic of marriage and its various intricacies also come up often in other episodes, particularly in biographies of women.

Basically, if you like history or want to learn more about it, go listen to her podcast! It's amazing. 

Book Review: Weddings - Dating & Love Customs of Cultures Worldwide

What is this book about? 

This is a gorgeous and super detailed book full of black and white photos, explanations of customs and cultures, and scripts of ceremonies and vows from around the world. It also includes a small section on weddings of royalty at the back (I love that they included JFK and Jackie in that definition).  

It's basically like an encyclopedia of weddings. It's very well organized, easy to navigate, and  thorough, with lots of thank yous to various people and sources cited throughout. The author clearly reached out to a ton of people, including several embassies, and read just stacks of books for this. It's pretty darn impressive. I'm sad I didn't get to read this one as in depth as I might have liked (I'm actually turning it in late to the library after renewing it three times as it is. Oops. My books-I-want-to-read eyes are bigger than my actual-time-to-read stomach.)

Who would love this book?

This would be super useful for a student doing a project on any sort of wedding wedding comparison, or a wedding professional who wants to have a good broad knowledge of a variety of ceremonies and traditions at hand. It's also great for a school or library setting. Really, 

My Favorite Parts

It really goes very into depth on the individual ceremonies of lots of different religions and cultures (Many of which I hadn't even heard before!). We get so in our own heads about the way things are done in the U.S. sometimes that it's easy to forget the beautiful differences out there. Cambodian, Navajo, Myanmar Buddhist, Laplander, Druze, Rural Campesinos, Ngoni, Chagga - I really enjoyed looking through them all!

Does it talk about marital surname changes at all? 

Not that I could find! I didn't read every single word on every single page though, alas.

Amazon Link:

About that Mrs. Thing

I've never particularly liked or understood the reason for using different lead-ins for women based on their marital status. It seemed to be very old fashioned to me, even when I was fairly young. In my previous life as a journalist, I interned a semester at a newspaper in London. Their practice there was to use honorifics on the second reference to a person in a news article; so if John Doe is mentioned once, on the second time, he'd be Mr. Doe. I always hated having to ask women interviewees whether they were married or not just to figure out what honorific they'd use, so I ended up defaulting to using Ms. a lot of the time. In retrospect, I could probably have just asked "What's your preferred title, Miss, Mrs, or Ms?" but I was 21 and awkward and sometimes the simplest solutions don't occur to you until 8 years later when you're in a completely different career.

Made by DefineDesignEtc on Etsy. Available at

Made by DefineDesignEtc on Etsy. Available at

So honestly, because of my own personal dislike for the practice, I'm unlikely to start using Mrs after getting married. However, it's almost certain that at least some people will call me that anyway, whether or not I change my name. People have a nasty habit of assuming such things. I've gotten called "Mrs" on several occasions just in my regular life; once even when a boyfriend and I went to a very fancy restaurant when I was only 18! I got it most recently at a doctor's office. This makes me believe that a considerable number of people don't actually know the difference between the different titles and particularly don't understand its historical context.

"In the middle of the eighteenth century, 'Mrs' did not describe a married woman: it described a woman who governed subjects (i.e., employees or servants or apprentices) or a woman who was skilled or who taught. It described a social, rather than a marital status. 

Mistress is also the basis of another 'title of politeness' (as the OED terms it): 'Miss', which we use to designate an unmarried woman. Miss is almost as old as Mrs as an abbreviation of mistress and, like Mrs, it was applied only to those of higher social status. Unlike Mrs, which has changed from a social to a marital meaning over time, Miss always designated the marital status of being unmarried. But until the eighteenth century it was only applied to girls, never to adult women." - Mistresses and marriage: or, a short history of the Mrs, by Cambridge University historian Dr Amy Erickson. (This paper is really fascinating - Dr Erickson looked at a ton of old records to see what titles were being used over time)

The use of Mrs for women in authority can also be seen in the use of Mrs for "Mrs Hughes," the housekeeper in charge of all the servants on Downton Abbey, taking place around the time of the first World War. Dr Erickson also notes that the appropriate title for single business women in the 19th century was also Mrs.

Quick sidenote: I've been reading some Jane Austen lately, and this paper also describes the naming conventions used there. 

"Where Miss was used, it followed the conventions of Mr for sons. Where the father was 'Mr Cibber', his sons were 'young Mr Cibber' or 'Mr Theophilus'. With daughters, the eldest unmarried daughter was 'Miss Cibber' with no first name, the younger daughter was 'Miss Charlotte Cibber', or just 'Miss Charlotte'. When she married she became Mrs Charke, or Mrs Charlotte Charke to distinguish her from any other contemporaries who were also Mrs Charkes, notably her mother-in-law"

Surprisingly, the "tradition" of calling a wife Mrs. "Husband's First Name Husband's Last Name" is actually fairly new. Dr Erickson's paper continues snarkily, "Through the early modern period, where Mrs was used and the woman was married, the title was followed by her own first name and her husband's last name. The total annihilation of wifely identity which assigned a woman not only her husband's last name but also his first name only appeared around 1800." 

Awesome Dr. Shirt available over at

Awesome Dr. Shirt available over at

Here's the thing: Is it actually appropriate for someone to call a married woman who hasn't changed her last name Mrs? According to several sources, such as Miss Manners and Offbeat Bride, no, as Mrs in this instance literally means "wife of" and actually only makes total sense when used with the husband's complete name.

So since I don't plan to legally change, it sounds like I will not be partaking of any of the fabulous and often glittery "Mrs." themed garb out there. Oh well. There's still plenty of other ways for me to engage in blatant wedding themed consumerism.

Sidenote: I really wish I could find some fabulous MS. NOT MRS. merchandise out there. When I searched for "Ms. T-shirt" I just found a ton of stuff for Multiple Sclerosis.

Anyway, I'll leave you on this note: 

Podcast Review: The History of Rome - Rome Wedding

A relief at the British Museum portraying a Roman wedding. Photographed by Sarah Tarnopolsky.  Used under a Creative Commons license.

A relief at the British Museum portraying a Roman wedding. Photographed by Sarah Tarnopolsky.  Used under a Creative Commons license.

The History of Rome: A History of Rome Wedding

I don't listen to this podcast normally, but I happened across it when idly searching for wedding related podcasts online and thought it sounded interesting. It really is! "Mr. History of Rome" did a special episode on the subject to celebrate his own upcoming nuptials, and goes through many Roman wedding rituals which are quite similar to ours today. 

For example: 

  • Getting engaged by giving a ring to a woman.
  • A white outfit for the bride.
  • A veil.
  • The groom commonly carrying the bride over the threshold of her new home to avoid any bad luck with her tripping at the front door while entering. 

He also outlines other charming rituals, such as the parade that would often form as various random strangers join a couple walking to their new house, and discusses a lot of the considerations a pater familias took in determining who their offspring should marry. 

It's a great listen! Go check it out. 

Book Review: A Short History of Marriage (from 1913!)

What is this book about? 

This book is a survey of marriage customs from a variety of cultures and countries around the world. It does have one historical chapter on "Marriage Among the Ancients." Most of these chapters are just little snippets discussing each tradition in turn and then moving briskly on to the next one. 

Warning: Because this book was originally published in 1913, it uses some language and viewpoints that are pretty  to modern society. For example - the entire first chapter is titled "Primitive Marriage" and reviews customs among Native American tribes (referred to as "Red Indians"),  African cultures and various other groups that somehow fall under "primitive" for no discernible reason I can tell (Hindu people? Aborigines? Scandinavians? What?)

There are also some occasional references to people that were probably experts and very well known in 1913 but are.....less known today. I was a little confused when page 5 of the book started waxing poetic on what "Lord Avebury" thinks about the nature of early marriage. Fortunately, Lord Avebury has his own Wikipedia page so I was able to learn a little about him. He apparently invented the terms Paleolithic and Neolithic. Sidenote: Lord Avebury would be an excellent name for a cat.

Lord Avebury (John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury) and his excellent beard.

Lord Avebury (John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury) and his excellent beard.

Further sidenote: If you google Lord Avebury and marriage you'll find that he's quoted in a ton of pre-1920 texts on the subject, including a six volume set on the history of marriage published in 1891. I must investigate further and write more blog posts. ALL THE AVEBURY.

Who would love this book?

A lot of people might enjoy reading this book! It does seem to concentrate on more of the less traditional and more unusual traditions from around the world, so it's really amusing if you're into that sort of thing or get a kick out of old-school books. However, because it's old, it looks like copies of this are going to be pretty expensive to find. Even reprints are running $30 +. I honestly don't think I'd pay that, but if you can find it at a library, I highly suggest it. It's really entertaining.

My Favorite Parts

There are like four whole pages dedicated to the custom of giving "a flitch of bacon [half a pig] to any pair who could come forward and state on oath, after a year of marriage, that they had never once quarrelled or regretted their marriage during the year," celebrated in Dunmow and Whichnoure in England. There's an entire account of a parade held in honor of the ceremony of the awarding of the Dunnmow flitch of bacon. It's glorious. This tradition is apparently still going on. This blog post talks about it and includes PICTURES, so you should go check it out.  

There are also several pages in the "Marriage Superstitions and Omens" chapter dedicated to the best and worst days and months to get married among various cultures. Apparently, February 11, June 2, November 2, and December 1 "are considered the most unpropitious days of the year on which to get married" (according to either English custom, ancient Roman tradition, or the Roman Catholic Church? This book doesn't cite its sources very clearly). This amuses me, as my wedding day is June 2, 2018. I must tell John that our date is unpropitious. 

Some other superstition jewels:

"A woman should not marry on the day of the week of her birth." 

"If there is a cat in the house, the bride must feed it herself on the wedding day, otherwise the day may prove rainy." 

"If you cut your nails on a Saturday your lover will call on Sunday." 

"The bride should always buy something as soon as she is married, and before the bridegroom can make a purchase. 'Then she'll be master for life!' say the old women. It is customary for brides to buy a pin from their bridesmaids in order to retain the mastery of their husbands."

"Hindoos believe that anyone who kills a frog will never be married." 

Also, apparently in certain parts of Germany, it used to be customary on the wedding eve ("polterabend") to throw out of the window every article of crockery or glass which is cracked or broken.  

Also also, if you want to say no to someone's offer of marriage in certain parts of Thuringia, a sausage is placed on the table at meal-time when the suitor arrives. 

Karen weddings in Burmah are conducted at funerals!

Basically I could include fun trivia from this book all day, but I have to return it the library at some point.

Does it talk about marital surname changes at all? 

Only very briefly in passing. For example: "Among the Ainus a married woman does not take her husband's name. She either uses her maiden name or is designated as 'the wife of So-and-so.'" (the Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan)

Amazon Link:

What are Facebook's Policies on Name Changes?

So at first glance, Facebook's policies on name changes look fairly simple. Their help page on changing your name states: "Keep in mind, you can only change your name every 60 days." The Facebook Name Standards page says: "The name on your profile should be the name that your friends call you in everyday life. This name should also appear on an ID or document from our ID list." *

However, real life indicates that it can be a lot more complicated than that. One friend of mine, Christina, said "I've never changed my name before on Facebook (in the 8+ years I've been a member!) and they wouldn't let me change my name when I got married, even when I changed my relationship status to married. I had to send them a picture of my ID."  Another friend told me that she wasn't allowed to change her name because her married name is the same as that of a celebrity's.

This doesn't line up with what Facebook says might be a reason you can't change your name: 

"You may be having trouble changing your name if:

  • Your name doesn't follow our name policy
  • You changed your name in the last 60 days, or you tried to change it too frequently
  • You were previously asked to confirm your name on Facebook
  • Your name doesn't exactly match the name that appears on something from our ID list"

This is a little bizarre, particularly because we all know that one friend or two who has a name on Facebook which is CLEARLY false (usually involving some form of "danger" or "goddess" or the equivalent) but hasn't had any trouble with it. It doesn't seem like Facebook is altogether good about forcing these standards equally.

Facebook does have a page where you can upload your ID and explain why you're changing your name, over here -

*Sidenote, there can be many other bad unintended consequences of Facebook's name standards, particularly for Trans* people and people attempting to get away from abusers or stalkers. You can and should go read about those over issues and what Facebook has done to address them over here:

How Many Months' Salary is an Engagement Ring Supposed to Cost Anyway?

The answer? As many or as few as makes you comfortable and happy without you know, bankrupting you. But the "tradition" of even measuring a ring's worth by salary was all the start of a De Beers advertising campaign and was designed to push up profits.

I don't own this. I'm using this for commentary alone. Please don't sue me.

I don't own this. I'm using this for commentary alone. Please don't sue me.

This BBC article on the subject notes: "In the 1930s, at the start of the De Beers campaign, a single month's salary was the suggested ring spend. In the 1980s in the US, it became two months." I don't know when the "standard" bumped up to three months, but that's the number I've always heard thrown around in casual conversation the one or two times it's come up. 

This suggestion changes based on the culture, apparently, as well. 

"In the UK, writes Rebecca Ross Russell in Gender and Jewellery: A Feminist Analysis, the advertisements kept the single month's pay suggestion. But Japanese men were urged to spend three months' salary. 'The salary rules were a stroke of genius,' writes Russell, who believes De Beers managed to entwine western values with the Japanese sense of honour. 'A diamond engagement ring: worth three months' salary,' ran one of the adverts in the 1970s. Japan remains one of the leading markets for diamond jewellery."

These advertising campaigns do seem to work; On the eve of World War Two, only about 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds. That number jumped to 80% by the end of the 20th century.

The website Credit Donkey stated this year that Americans spend an average of about $5,500 (U.S) per engagement ring, with people in the UK spending about $2,000, and Australians about $5,000. I really do have to question who they're surveying though; I don't exactly go about asking people how much their rings cost (and in fact, would rather not know for the most part), but that seems on the high end to me, and as can be seen on the annual Knot wedding statistics report, there is a bit of a self selecting bias toward people willing to spend more money on these things.

As Credit Donkey points out, this "standard" doesn't particularly make sense these days, as most people get married in their late 20s when they haven't yet reached their full earning potential, and most also graduate with student debt. Thus, spending thousands of dollars on a ring may actually not be feasible for your average person wanting to get married. 

I don't own this. I'm using this for commentary alone. Please don't sue me.

I don't own this. I'm using this for commentary alone. Please don't sue me.

As for myself - my Victorian-era engagement ring actually came from a vintage jewelry store in the Chicago suburbs where John and I used to live (I moved to DC for work, not certain when we'll be living together again, alas.). I actually picked it out myself back in September (yeah that lovely proposal at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in November on our four year anniversary trip to Las Vegas wasn't actually that much of a surprise, lol). It's a gorgeous gold double trefoil gem set ring and I've never seen anything else like it; I love it in every way. But I can tell you that it definitively did not cost three months of John's salary (he approved of me writing about this beforehand and apparently I'm not allowed to go into any more detail on that, hah). I think I'd be really uncomfortable to wear something that valuable on my hand day after day, really; I'm a bit too klutzy to feel safe doing that. Fortunately, my ring itself is so unusual that no one has ever given me or John any crap over it. Yay!

This is my ring. It is my favorite thing. Seriously, I'm obsessed.

This is my ring. It is my favorite thing. Seriously, I'm obsessed.

Book Review: A World of Ways to Say "I Do"

What is this book about? 

This book is a small, slim collection of vows from various religions and cultures, common and less common quotations for wedding ceremonies, and encouraging advice about how to write your own vows.

The book definitely does encourage borrowing from other cultures, which I think is wonderful to an extent, but you do need to be respectful and thoughtful while doing so or you could really easily slip into exploitative cultural appropriation.. Offbeat Bride has written some wonderful articles about how to carefully navigate these issues; this one's my favorite:

Why do couples borrow cultural elements for their wedding, and how can you do so respectfully?

"Obviously this doesn't give people the right to mindlessly usurp these treasures from the cultures of others. I believe, however, that if people who feel a particular bond or attachment to traditions that resonate with them, then they should be able to carefully and thoughtfully find ways to honor those pieces of a culture, and possibly create new cultures/traditions where there weren't any before..... Essentially, I think it comes down to "Don't be a jerk about it." I believe that the exploration of other cultures does not have to mean the exploitation of other cultures. If done carefully, with consideration, tact, and a heart of the intended meaning and purpose, using cultural traditions of others can be a nod of respect."

Who would love this book?

Like literally any person planning a wedding. It's so sweet and useful. I've actually marked several passages myself and am really thinking about using some of the things in here in our ceremony.

This book also does have several wonderful sections of quote for use by couples who have been married before and couples from different generations or religious backgrounds, so I think it could be particularly useful for couples falling into those categories.

My Favorite Parts

I really love several parts of the Celtic Vows and handfasting ceremony:

  • You cannot possess me for I belong to myself. But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give. 
  • "Partner 1, will you cause her pain?" "I may." "Is that your intent?" "No." /Partner 2 repeats/ "Will you both share each other's pain and seek to ease it?" "Yes." 

I also found the collection of vows from various branches of Christianity fascinating (although I want more information about their sources for these vows). They're so similar but just slightly different to reflect the different tenets of that faith. As someone who grew up in the Lutheran church, the end of that church's vows are just so....Lutheran. "I will try with you to better understand ourselves, the world, and God; through the best and the worst of what is to come as long as we live." 

I also love that the Methodist vow opens "I ask you to be my husband as my friend and my love" rather than the usual "I take thee/you to be my husband."

There's also a strangely moving sentence that says, "We live in an age of uncertainty. Love and marriage are statements of faith in the face of this uncertainty."

Does it talk about marital surname changes at all? 

Nope! It's just a lovely little book talking about vows.

Here, read some poetry from the book instead:

"Oh my beautiful one.
Are you not my health and my life?
You are health to the heart that finds you."
- Fragment from an ancient Egyptian love poem.

"My boat is floating on the sky. 
And I am also as my beloved is a dream mirrored on my heart."
- Tu Fu, Eighth-Century China Love poem fragment

Amazon Link:

Changing Your Last Name Based on the Situation

One marital surname choice that's becoming more popular is situational name use, changing which last name you use depending on what context you're within. For example, one woman could go by Jessica Jones (her birth name) at work and while pursuing her own individual hobbies, but then could go by Jessica Simpson (taking her husband's last name) in social situations where they both end up together, like at church or if they're at a PTA meeting or something. One website listed out a few options for when a woman might prefer to use her birth name as opposed to her married name: professional contexts, when you're not quite ready for the name change in social situations (such as when you're meeting old friends), when you're still undergoing the name change paperwork and haven't been fully processed yet, etc.

There doesn't seem to be a ton of information out there on this option, but I did find one study from 2005, conducted by the brilliant Laurie Scheuble (and like, her husband David Johnson, who's an accomplished research in his own right, I just really love Laurie Scheuble!). 

I don't have access to this full study, but I did find a few links with the abstract and one with an excerpt. This is from 2005, so it's hard to know how accurate it is at this time. 

The abstract states, "Overall, 12% of married women reported situational last name use. Women from all last name choices (e.g., changed to husband’s, kept birth surname) reported situational surname use, but the most common occurrence of this practice was among hyphenators. Situational users were most likely to use their husband’s last name in family situations and their birth surname in professional situations. Factors that increase situational last name use included full-time employment, higher levels of educational attainment, and an older age at marriage. Situational last name use by married women can be seen as a manifestation of ambiguity over identity with family and non-family roles."

The study notes: 

"Women may view their birth surname as an indicator of the part of their lives that is separate from their identity as a member of the family into which they married. This would be particularly true of women who change their last name at marriage. Women who change their last name to that of their husband may find situations wherein they feel comfortable using their birth surnames, such as at a high school reunion or around people from their hometown. The same may be true of women who do not change their name at marriage. They may be inclined to use their spouse's last name in situations where family identity has more salience, such as at their children's school or around their husband's family.

No researchers have systematically and empirically investigated the situational surname use of married women, although a number of researchers have focused on the issue of women's surname choices at the time of marriage ... Some of the same social forces that lead to the identity issues and conflicts that have been documented in these studies of marital name choice should also apply to actual surnames women may use in different social contexts. 

Although no empirical data are available to document the extent of such situational use, anecdotal evidence suggests that this practice may be quite common. For example, etiquette books from the 1970s held that, although it was acceptable for women to use their birth names professionally, it was not appropriate for them to use their birth names in family situations "

Married womens' situational use of last names: an empirical study. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research | July 1, 2005 | Scheuble, Laurie K.; Johnson, David R.


This option is actually looking like the best one for me right now. I don't want to legally change my name, but I'd be up for going by Rachael Dickson-Lorenzen at social events and like, on Facebook (if they'll let me!). I could see myself really enjoying this option while maintaining my own name professionally.

Who Traditionally Pays for the Wedding: Why and How Much?

Offbeat Bride wrote about this in an article talking about the tradition of dowries:

"[T]he responsibility of a bride's parents to pay for a wedding. I've never been especially fond of this tradition, because I think in some circumstances all it does is foster an attitude of entitlement in those brides who would condemn their parents for choosing not to finance their extravagant tastes. That, or parents end up killing themselves (figuratively!) trying to earn the money for their child's wedding out of a sense of obligation, whether it's practical or not.

In the end, why?…

Because hundreds of years ago, women were considered chattel and the bride's family used to have to pay off the groom's family in the form of a dowry to take their daughters off their hands. After dowries went out of style, there was still the trousseau (the bride's dress and accouterments for the wedding, in addition to stuff like cake, etc.), usually hand prepared by the bride's family. Now that we have wedding vendors to make cakes and dresses for us, the trousseau has also gone out of style for the most part, and instead the bride's family just ponies up the cash....

We no longer live in the times where marriage was essentially a way to ensure that women were taken care of. Love wasn't always a factor (and still isn't, in some cultures). Teenage brides weren't uncommon, because people just didn't live as long. Girls who were practically still children themselves got married and started having children right away, because culture and religion dictated it be so. The dowry and trousseau were a necessity of those times, because they ensured that a groom would have the things he needed to support his new wife and their children to come. This is no longer the case, for the most part, as most couples who get married had acquired quite a lot of crap of their own-they don't need the "starter kits" that couples used to need."

Photo used under a Creative Commons License. Taken by Flickr user 401(K) 2012. Available at

Photo used under a Creative Commons License. Taken by Flickr user 401(K) 2012. Available at

How often does this tradition actually continue? The 2015 survey from the Knot said this: 

"Tradition lives on, with parents paying for a large portion of wedding costs, but today’s couples are happy to contribute. On average, the bride’s parents contribute 44% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 43%, and the groom’s parents contribute 12% (others account for the remaining 1%).  In 2015, 12% of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves, and 9% of couples don’t contribute any finances to the wedding budget.

In nearly half of all weddings, the bride pays for professional hair and makeup. Forty-four percent of brides, along with her parents, contribute to the costs for professional hair-styling, and 41% contribute to professional make-up for their bridesmaids. The average cost of professional bridal party hair and makeup services are $70 and $68 per person, respectively."

Photo used under a Creative Commons License. Taken by Flickr user Tax Credits. Available at

Photo used under a Creative Commons License. Taken by Flickr user Tax Credits. Available at

However, these statistics do only represent the type of couples and weddings that are using the Knot, which is one reason I take many of the claims of this survey with a gigantic grain of salt, such as the statement that the average wedding cost in the US is $32,641 and that the average cost of a wedding in Chicago is $61,265. That seems....unlikely to be representative of all people actually getting married. I would also like to point that every single place listed on their "Top 10 Most Affordable Places to Get Married" has a higher average budget than my wedding (I also fully intend to stay under budget because I am ultra competitive and cheap; I've already told my sister that I will beat her budget. :D She supported this completely. Fortunately, we're actually already on track to meet this goal).

I had a bit of trouble finding non-traditional wedding market statistics. I did see one statistic from a Splendid Insights market research report in an older Offbeat Empire post stating that 43% of nontraditional couples pay for their own weddings (about 20% of the wedding market identified as "offbeat" in this particular research round). Also, according to this research 48% of these nontraditional couples had wedding budgets of $10,000 or less. Offbeat Bride's own 2011 reader survey found that over 60% of their readership had budgets of $10,000 or less -  4.8% of their readership had budgets under $1,000, 13.5% had $1,000-$3,000 budgets, 18.1% had $3,000-$5,000 budgets, and 28.3% had $5,000-$10,000 budgets.