New Survey Raises Questions of Feminism in Weddings

Engagement rings, veils and white dresses are reportedly falling by the wayside

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Getty Images / Sharon Montrose

A recent study conducted by online wedding directory WeddingDays.co.uk surveyed 200 soon-to-be-brides and concluded that “feminist weddings” are on the rise, with 26 percent of those surveyed planning to keep their maiden name in some form. But recent studies — including one conducted by Facebook this spring with 14 million married female participants — indicate that the survey’s conclusions are debatable at best.

Of the 14 million women included in the study, which Facebook conducted in partnership with The Daily Beast, 65 percent of women changed their name on the social media site, and that number leaves out those who might have neglected to update their name change. The old-fashioned trend is being spearheaded by the youngest generation, too — women who marry in their mid to late thirties were 6.4 times more likely to keep their maiden names than 20 to 24-year-old brides, according to a 2011 study published in Names: A Journal of Onomastics.

Another study, conducted by TheKnot in 2011 of 19,000 women, found that only eight percent of brides decided to keep their maiden names — down from 23 percent in the nineties, when the trend peaked. The nineties were rife with conversation about weddings and feminism. In a now-famous 1987 op-ed piece for The New York Times, writer Anna Quindlen penned “The Name is Mine,” meditating on her choice to keep hold of her original name. The decision was for political and professional reasons, but Quindlen wrote about the feeling of separation in a family with two last names. “Now, there are two me’s, the me who is the individual and the me who is part of a family of four, a family of four in which, in a small way, I am left out,” she wrote.

The Wedding Days survey also claimed that other wedding trappings such as engagement rings, veils and white dresses were falling by the wayside. The conclusions aren’t all wrong, though. White dresses, which connote virginity, seem to be falling out of fashion in favor of pink or black. Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang have recently debuted non-white wedding dress collections, and celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway have been opting for pink dresses on their big days in the last few years.

A feminist decision? Maybe. Or perhaps the brides think they look pretty in pink.

3 comments
greennleafy
greennleafy

"White dresses, which connote virginity . . . "

long ago, i saw an article which said that the white dress indicates a first marriage.  but even if it didn't, it's downright crude for it to indicate what's been done to the bride's genitals. 

punkakes13
punkakes13

my husband will change his name.. he will get a name from me and ill get one from him

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

If I ever end up getting married, I plan on keeping my last name.  Part of it is culture; my family speaks a lot of Irish at home, and the way female surnames work is that you keep your patronimic, "maiden" name, and you only really use your husband's surname in situations where you are introducing yourself and your husband ("I'm Aoife Ni Raghailleigh Mhic Padraig" roughly translates to "I'm Aoife O'Reilly, and I'm married to Fitz Patrick," though "O" strictly means "grandson of").  

Though I should note here that my family is Celtic pagan, not Irish Catholic, so the same language conventions might shift a bit due to slightly different cultural customes (based on Brehon Law, not Catholic doctrine).

Because of how the naming convention is based around "son of/daughter of," it doesn't make sense for a woman to take on her husband's surname, because she is not the daughter of his parents.  She's still the daughter of her own parents, she's only the wife of her husband.  

She'd be called "Nic/Ni X, Mhic/Ui Y," meaning "daughter/granddaughter of X, wife of the son/grandson of Y."  Some might include a clan name as well, but which clan depends on who is the head of the household, which isn't always the man in Celtic pagan culture.  If the wife has higher status, or if the wife is the primary breadwinner, than she is considered the head of the family, and her husband would be marrying into her family and adopting her clan name, not the other way around.  It's also likely in those cases that the kids might take a matryonimic surname from their mother instead, but that's up to the parents to decide.  

The idea that a woman not taking her husband's surname being cause for a scandal never made sense to me.  She'll always be the child of her own parents, why should she have to give up their name when she gets married?  Names carry power, by giving up the name of her parents she's cutting any spiritual ties to them, which is...sort of like a slap to the face, like saying "Now that I'm married I want nothing more to do with you."

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