More and more people are opting for a name change after marriage with a record 85,000 new names registered in 2015 by deed poll in the UK. With the cost of weddings only increasing, couples are taking on each others names to mark their love and commitment as an alternative to walking down the expensive aisle!
As an excited B2B, one of the things I looked forward to the most was to stand side by side with my Dad as I took my final steps as a unmarried woman, embarking on my new life with my gorgeous Husband to be. But sadly just four months before our wedding, the Father of the Bride was handed a new role from up above, becoming the Bride’s Guardian Angel.
That earth shattering life defining moment made me realise how much my maiden name was truly a part of my identity, something that needed to be cherished. This is my story of how the loss of a parent helped this Unconventional Bride reassess the traditions of marriage and come to the conclusion that…
A name change after marriage really doesn’t have to be a game changer!
I am convinced that my parents were drunk on Absinthe laced French love juice when they blessed (or some would argue ‘cursed’) me with my name Annabelle Lemaire-Brooks. That’s 9 letters & 3 syllables before you’ve even had a crack at my surname! To be fair, it could have been worse. If I entered this world today Annabelle would most likely be replaced with Lumiere or Moonstar! However back in the 80’s, the real old timer name punisher was – the double barrel.
So it’s no surprises then, that I struggled as a small child to pronounce let alone spell the damn thing! These stumbling blocks landed me in special ‘catch up’ classes alongside other unfortunate, name cursed children. Fast forward 25 years and a fanfare still goes off in my head if I ever receive a form that has space long enough for me to write my whole name! People don’t understand how anxiety triggering those small boxes are!
As a teenager, I started to go by my nickname and what I’m commonly known as now, Annie. I toyed with simplifying my name even further, almost legally changing it to Annie Brooks…but thank gosh I didn’t! There are many Annie B’s in the world, but there is only one AL-B…yep I’ve googled it – just the one!
Oh how I dreamt of the day that I would marry a John Smith (well let’s be honest Peter Andre it was the 90’s!), practicing writing my future Mrs signature in my school diary whilst I wasted my science class away. Now as a grown up, I reflect back on these times with quite frankly petrified fascination.
How was the ritual of practicing signing your married name so ingrained in school girl traditions? A right of passage, cemented in our minds and destiny without another option to think otherwise!?!
So when my ‘Mr Smith’ aka Mr Nosek came into my life and we became serious, it was a no brainer that a name change was on the cards. Sure Nosek didn’t quite have the same ring to it as Andre or Smith, but I was right for me because I was honoured to accept his name as his wife.
Once we started planning our wedding, I discussed a name change with Dad, giving me his blessing to take on Nosek, making Lemaire my middle name. Helllooo new space on forms! YIPPEE!
Suddenly and unexpectedly, Dad fell ill and was hospitalised. He put up one almighty fight, with as many ups and downs as the jet planes me and my siblings boarded as we raced against the inevitable clock. Two months later, our Dad passed away peacefully surrounded by love and family, four months before our walk down the aisle and a day before I made it back home to be by his side.
That dark moment shook my foundations to the core and made me experience a feeling of pain and loss so great, you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. According to the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale, the loss of a parent is ranked in the top 5 most stressful life experiences that a human will ever go through, with marriage ranking just behind at 7th position!
I thank first and foremost the support of my wonderful husband, family and friends who were my backbone and life line for those dark days. Ironically, I also thank wedding planning and the upcoming vows that I was making to Paul. As they provided me with positive, love infused, consistently present distractions and the change in focus that I needed during that very heart breaking time.
As planning progressed, it was time for me to make my name change decision. After loosing Dad, I felt that my surname was my last connection to him, instantly putting a higher value on those letters. It was the official title for everything that’s wrapped up into the bubbly and bat shit crazy package that you see before you! A symbol of not only my Mother and Father who made me, my family heritage, but who I am.
I didn’t realise how attached I was to my surname until I had the chance to lose it, and wasn’t prepared to let go. It was annoying yes, but MY annoying none the less.
Luckily for me, Paul and I have had some practice at this relationship business being together for 10 years so I felt comfortable opening up to him about my situation. Paul was loving, warm and approachable, creating an environment where we could both have an honest and transparent conversation about how we were feeling. This also ensured Paul was a part of the decision-making process, which was very important to me. Equally, Paul was careful to take my feelings into consideration, allowing me to make a decision without influence. He understood that although this was a decision that affected us both as a couple, it was one that I had to make in my heart and mind first.
If you’re feeling nervous about communicating to your partner about changing your name, don’t be! Embrace this wonderful learning experience as you navigate important life decisions, building valuable foundations for a long lasting marriage!
So with his love and support behind me, I started researching alternative options and what I discovered gave me reassurance and stability. The name on my birth certificate didn’t change, so my identity was still in tact! I just now had the added bonus of assuming someone else’s name, my new marriage superhero disguise! My old mates in Australia did exactly that. Deciding to scrap both their surnames when they got married, creating their own new surname. Two babies down the line, they have established their own new generation of Avengers, with many more to come.
With so many options on the table, it was obvious there had been great change since my childhood diary writing days. In 2017 we had even more freedom to chose our own paths in love, with our generations re defining traditions and making new ones in the process.
So that’s what I did, I turned left in the relationship fork road. I honoured my childhood dreams whilst listening to my grown-up head, evaluating what was important to me and our future as husband and wife. As a child of divorced parents, it was the desire for my children to live in a household where everyone had the same surname. As an adult, my goal was to symbolise the love & commitment to my husband, while not forgetting the commitment me and my parents had made to my name and identity.
My Dad always said my name was made for the stage and with that prompt, my decision was made. I would keep my maiden name professionally, so I could have fun being stage Annie between 9-5. At home, i’d proudly wear my Nosek married super hero cape and new surname with pride, as we navigate through our own future Avengers adventure together.
And when those beautiful babies come into our lives on day, they will be taught that they do have a choice, whether it’s Smith, Nosek or Andre in their diaries, they have the freedom to carve their own paths in life and love.