Among students of the women’s suffrage movement, the name Lucy Stone is a familiar one. Born in 1818, she was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree, graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio. Stone’s long list of accomplishments includes initiating the National Women’s Rights Convention and delivering the speech that led to Susan B. Anthony to enlist in the suffrage movement. As perhaps an historical asterisk, Lucy Stone is the first recorded woman to have continued to use her “maiden name” after marriage. It would be a century and a half, before that debate would really take off, but as I became deeply connected to wedding celebrancy work, I wondered about the preferences of today’s brides relating to the last name they would use following marriage.
One of the highlight’s of any wedding ceremony is the “presentation of the bride and groom.” This is the moment, following the declaration of marriage and the kiss, when the officiant introduces the newly married couple, which of course is usually met with cheers and great applause. I preparing ceremony scripts, I always ask brides and groom if they wished to include this in the ceremony and what names would they be using after marriage. I was a bit surprised to find that the vast majority of my brides were eager to take the surname of their new husbands and delighted at the prospect of being introduced as “Mr. and Mrs.” For those individuals who kept their own name, I offered slightly reworded introductions such as, “I am pleased to be the first to introduce the newly married family of Michael Jones and Mary Smith,” or “For the first time as a married couple, may I introduce Jennifer and David.”
Were my couples representative of contemporary brides and grooms? As I am big fan of statistics and trying to understand the “big picture,” I asked a young associate to track down authoritative figures on this question. According to Brides Magazine (not the Census Bureau, but a reasonably authoritative source), one-quarter of brides don’t change their names. Of the three-quarters who take their husbands name, about a third will use their original surname as a middle name or decide, with some percentage hyphenating the two. And while the City Clerk’s office doesn’t keep official statistics on such matters, they concur that about a quarter of the applicants indicate on their marriage license application that they will not take a new surname. Regardless of the selection of post-matrimony names, a hearty Mazel Tov is in order for all!
I appreciate the assistance of Niafel Santos in gathering this information. Niafel is a rising junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology.