What's in a Name? | Married Names, Maiden Names, and the Decisions We Make

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As the dust begins to settle around the whirlwind of wedding planning, a new journey begins to unfold. Together, and with time, you and your spouse will grow into your identity as a married couple. In the midst of this exciting season, there is a vital decision to confirm your new family’s identity in choosing your last name.

When it’s time to fill in that blank on the legal documents, couples generally have the option to take either the bride or the groom’s last name, hyphenate both last names, or create a new name. Although the decision surrounding a married couple’s last name is morally neutral, many women are convicted in their beliefs on a wide spectrum between keeping her maiden name and taking his. If you are curious why a woman would willingly abandon her own family name or if you desire to articulate the reasons why you did, understanding the physical and spiritual nature of men and women may help.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

PHOTOGRAPHY: OCULI CORDIS MEDIA

The history of a bride taking her groom’s last name is rooted in English common law. The practice for creating a thread of surname lineage was centered around establishing both a legality of marriage and set boundaries for couples in regards to acquiring property or business. These standards were eventually adopted in practice in the United States. With the onset of “family names” passed from a father to his newborn child or from a groom to his bride, additional laws, norms, traditions, and opinions began to take root throughout growing cultures both nationwide and worldwide.

Of course, from a legalistic point of view, an immediate perspective assumes that the man claims dominance over the woman when she officially takes his last name. This misguided belief has been the origin of women’s oppression, including, for example, a woman’s right to vote. Because we are a world of imperfect humans, a tradition with the potential to celebrate the gift of marriage and family has been twisted into oppression and abuse.

As a reaction to oppression or because of shifts in the secular definition of marriage, women identify several reasons to keep her maiden name, such as convenience, preference, personal identity or equality of power. Other times, academic careers or professional publications are the cause for a woman to maintain her identity through her last name.

Regardless of the history of societal wedding traditions or the secular, modern approaches to marriage, our legal actions cannot be separated from our spiritual being. Because a human being is body and soul, our physical actions and decisions—including changing our name—proclaim what we understand to be true about being a human.

Therefore, when a woman accepts the last name of her new spouse, she emphasizes the dignity of her femininity as she reveals the legal, physical, emotional and spiritual union with her beloved.

This statement may sound like a surprising contrast to the general “feminist movement.” Many feminists through decades past—and present—would argue that a woman should keep her maiden name in order to claim equal rights, stand up for herself, and maintain her independence. But if we carefully define “what is feminine,” we will find empowering support for woman to fulfill part of her femininity by receiving her husband’s last name.

To understand what it means to be woman through a Christian anthropology, we go to the story when woman was created: in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. “So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.”

Eve received life, physically and spiritually, by the rib of Adam and the hand of God. With her first breath, Adam received her as a gift to fulfill his desire for union with another. We hear Adam’s joyful relief when he says, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And as he accepted her, Eve simultaneously received man as a gift for her own fulfillment of self-knowledge. Saint Pope John Paul II explains, ”The exchange is mutual. In it, the reciprocal effects of the sincere gift and of the finding oneself again are revealed and grow.” This cycle of giving of self and receiving the other between man and woman is the epitome of holy, joyful, spousal union as God intended.

Scripture shows us woman’s initial receptivity to life and the love that followed. Although both man and woman are called to give and receive in acts of love, our bodies help define receptivity as a naturally feminine quality. Consider the intimacy of the wedding night and the bride’s physical receptivity of the groom. Or at the moment of conception as the woman receives a child in her womb.

This is not a gender stereotype, but a celebration of what it means to be woman and how we are called to love man: by receiving every part of him as a cherished gift.

Yes, when a wife takes the last name of her husband, she surrenders her maiden name and, perhaps, part of her identity which was secured in that name. The emotional struggle of letting go of a maiden name emphasizes the reality that a name has value to a person’s identity.

For a husband to offer a meaningful gift of his identity—his name—is a beautiful and masculine act of love. When a woman accepts his last name, she is not practicing an outdated, man-driven tradition; she fulfills her femininity in a selfless act of receptive love. In the way only a woman can.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Creating a Unique Wedding Registry

CLARA DAVISON

 

Wedding registries can be both an exciting and anxious part of wedding planning. Who doesn’t get excited about making the ultimate wish list for their new home? This is an opportunity for you and your fiancé to decide your style as a couple and how your future home will reflect that.

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At the same time, it can create an extra level of stress as you scrutinize each item you add to your registry. What does it mean to be a good steward of your friend’s and family’s generosity? How much should you consider the price range of items? Is it wiser to restrict your registry to necessities, or is this an opportunity to include things you would not consider purchasing yourself? What is the balance between kitchen items, larger furniture pieces, linens, and miscellaneous?

A little prayer and confidence in the joyful generosity of your friends and family during this season of engagement can help alleviate these anxious questions.

A wedding registry is an opportunity for those who love you to channel their affection into acts of charity. And there is never another time in your life when you’ll get to create such an exciting wish list!

And so, it can be fun to find ways to veer from the traditional aspects of wedding registries and add some uniqueness to this part of wedding planning. Here are three ways to make your registry more personalized towards your future life as a married couple:

Books

What better way to celebrate your marriage than growing your new family’s library? Though my husband and I accumulated a large number of books during our years as English majors, I wish we had added the missing classics to our wedding registry. This is a wonderful way to infuse your personality into your registry and give your guests the opportunity to add to your book collection. It is also a great way to include your fiancé—who may be apathetic about towel and sheet colors—in the registry selections. Giving your guests the option to purchase books might be a welcome change from the usual selection of linens and kitchen items.

Charities

As you and your fiancé begin creating your registry, this is a wonderful time to discuss how charitable giving will be incorporated into your marriage. In the midst of picking items that you will no doubt enjoy in your future home, it is nice to consider how your upcoming marriage will benefit others. Is there a specific charity that is significant to you or your fiancé? Is there a ministry that has supported you and your beloved’s spiritual growth?

As a couple, you have the opportunity to begin your marriage prioritizing charitable giving and inviting your friends and family to join you. What a beautiful testimony to the life-giving fruit of marriage!

Experiences

One of my favorite developments in wedding registries is the incorporation of experiences. Most registries now have the option for couples to create individual experiences that their guests can choose to help fund. This is a nice way to balance the many physical gifts on a registry with experience gifts that build memories rather than clutter. I used this option to create specific experiences that our guests could gift us for our honeymoon. Tickets to the Vatican Museums and to a play were just two of the options that guests could use to help us celebrate our first few weeks as a married couple.

In the midst of the chaos of wedding planning, the registry can be an opportunity to relax and enjoy dreaming up the trimmings of your future home. Adding a few unique additions to your registry is a fun and refreshing way to incorporate your interests as a couple. What are some unusual items that you have added to your registry?


About the Author: Clara Davison has worked as a whitewater raft guide, sex trafficking researcher, U.K. Parliament researcher, swim coach, and freelance writer. She currently works in independent school advancement and lives with her husband in North Carolina.   

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What Does it Mean to Belong to Your Spouse?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

The song my husband and I chose for our first dance includes the line, “I want to belong to you.” The words resonated deep within, evoking something free, intimate, permanent.

As we said our vows at the altar I felt the weight of commitment and distinction, grace made tangible and distinctively binding us together. The very gravity of our promises made them romantic to me: faithful love forsaking all others, fruitful love that wouldn’t stop at the two of us, free love that willingly desired exclusive belonging, total love that saw all of me.

I thought I got it at the time. I thought my husband and I shared a healthy sense of vulnerability and a spirit of loving encouragement and correction. In many ways we did, and continue to.

But in the months and years since, I’ve seen the ways in which seemingly small matters make me fall short of letting myself belong entirely to my husband, calling me into communion over division.

There have been times I’ve clung to wounds received and inflicted in past dating relationships, allowing them to hold sway even after I thought I’d moved past them. It’s only been more recently, as I’ve waded fully into this pain for the first time, that I’ve shared the fullness of embarrassment over my past actions with my husband. I hadn’t intentionally withheld these thoughts earlier in our relationship; their magnitude and resulting unrest only surfaced later on, the fruit of deeper insight and self-examination.

Holding on to the past, I realized, was a distraction from my present.

I was sacramentally united to my husband and desired to rid my mind and heart of the past. He loved me still. He encouraged me to offer my humiliation--a true sense of being humbled--to the Lord, praying for freedom and interior peace.

There have been times I’ve retreated inward, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit fault in actions both minor and major. Yet each time I’m tempted to keep my mistakes to myself, I feel the restlessness creep in. The overwhelming desire to share, tempered by fear. Being seen in the fullness of who you are is thrilling, though terrifying. He loves me still.

Even in my shame, I am loved. Even in admitting the regrets and misjudgments I’m scared to bring up, my husband is gentle and forgiving. I’ve come to understand belonging to him as an invitation to take off my masks. An invitation to reveal who I am and who the Father calls me to be.

A healthy sense of belonging to my spouse has, for me, amplified an awareness of ways in which I ultimately belong to the Lord.

However imperfect in this life, the purpose of each vocation is to make manifest God’s love. My husband’s love—so patient, merciful, total, and accepting—shows this to me. I am known; I am seen; I am beloved. It’s not unlike the sacrament of reconciliation, in which we find ourselves tenderly embraced in our brokenness. We leave armed with the grace and resolve not to remain the same, but to stay the course in pursuit of greatness. The word reconcile, after all, is rooted in the Latin word for “to bring together.”

Are there small cracks and nagging divisions tugging on your own heart, drawing your attention to ways in which your relationship can grow in total honesty, trust, and intimacy? Though always a work in progress, I can’t attest more to the joy and freedom of transparency and accountability that embody the Father’s love. Saint John Paul II has interceded for us from the start, and I frequently recall his motto, totus tuus. This phrase, “totally yours,” expresses his trust in Our Lady to bring him to her son; in our marriage, we make this our same prayer.

If you find yourself, like me, suddenly seeing ways in which you can belong to your spouse more entirely, I encourage you to enter into them, even when you’d prefer to run. Sit with your mess, let yourself feel any pains of your shortcomings, and move forward--with prayer, practical steps, and, if necessary, spiritual direction or counseling--knowing you’re not just moving for movement’s sake, but toward a beautiful pursuit: being brought together--reconciled--with both your earthly and heavenly beloved.

“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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5 Ways to Highlight Your Bridesmaids' Feminine Genius, Inside and Out

Are you currently shopping for bridesmaids’ attire and planning events with the women who will stand by your side at the altar?

Photography:    Du Castel Photography

True sisterhood and virtuous friendship are a gift to your marriage, a source of support and intercession that enter into your joys and trials. In his Letter to Women, praising the unique gifts, dignity, and role of women in the world, Saint John Paul II directly thanked “women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.”

In thanksgiving for the role of these precious female friendships in your life and in the years of marriage to come, here, suggestions for illuminating the feminine genius in your bridesmaids’ attire—and, above all, on the interior.

Look for dresses that flatter a range of feminine beauty.

When a woman feels confident in the clothes she wears, she projects a visible sense of inner contentment and confidence, as well. Radiance. Draw out this beauty in your bridesmaids by seeking out lines that offer a wide range of sizes--including maternity, if necessary--and universally flattering styles. Floor-length dresses, one-shoulder or wrap styles, and A-line silhouettes flatter women of any size and body type.

Mismatch.

The trend of mismatched bridesmaids’ looks, in color, style, or both, continues going strong; consider inviting your maids to pick their own dress within guidelines you’ve chosen, allowing each to wear a piece she feels best complements her skin tone, figure, and taste.

Choose accessories just for them.

The inner uniqueness and unrepeatability of every person is manifest, among other ways, in the way a person dresses and presents herself to the world--and that’s a beautiful and fascinating, revelatory thing! If you’ve opted to give jewelry as a wedding party gift, contemplate each bridesmaid’s personal style and consider picking out a different necklace, saint medal, pair of earrings, or other item that reflects who she is.

Commit to body positivity, together.

The prospect of being photographed, processing up the aisle, and giving speeches is enough to make any woman desire to look and feel her best. If you or any of your bridesmaids share the goal of getting in shape before the wedding day, strive for a healthy attitude and spirit of encouragement, not of self-criticism. If these women are your closest friends, you likely wouldn’t dream of speaking to them harshly about their bodies and self-image.

Yet when it comes to our own selves, we as women are so quick to perceive only flaws. Surround yourself with your friends, and build each other up. If fitness is important to you as the big day approaches, consider taking a workout class together, meeting for weekly hikes or runs, or even doing videos at home together. Focus not on weight loss, but on strength--both outer and inner.

Give of your time, and your heart.

If time allows, spending one-on-one time with each of your bridesmaids during your engagement wonderfully commemorates your relationship as the transition into marriage approaches. Have a coffee or dinner date, go to Adoration together, or visit a shared favorite spot.

The Scriptures and lives of the saints are rich with strong, compassionate women who stood by their friends, some even unto death: Ruth and Naomi, Felicity and Perpetua, Clare and Francis, Brigid and Patrick. Your wedding celebrations present a unique opportunity to celebrate the female friendships in your life, as well.

We love hearing your own rituals and ideas. How have you honored the women in your wedding party?

When Your Beautiful Day is Going Horribly Wrong

BERNADETTE SUKLEY

 

Imagine you have finally arrived to your wedding day. You’ve poured every effort into the details and you pray everything runs smoothly, resulting in a day full of splendor, sunshine, unity.

Instead, your groom sees you in tears. There’s a huge storm and the rain is falling. A guest is stuck at the airport. Your future mother-in-law is fighting off a powerful cold. And losing.

You’ve had it. You’re ready to tell your beloved that eloping doesn’t seem so bad.

Dry your eyes, beautiful bride, and listen carefully to the words of a woman speaking directly to you at this moment:

“Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.”

--Saint Teresa of Avila

Over the course of your married life you will be regaled with wedding day horror stories. Pouty ring bearers, missing flowers, flies in the food. Some brides may speak of attending a funeral the week before their wedding. Their sorrow is real and it hovers over their happy day. Still, Teresa’s prayer applies to them. And to you.

Saint Teresa doesn’t minimize your dismay or your suffering. She reminds us: when things fall apart, it should never steal your serenity, your peace, your solemn joy.

Here’s my story.

As a crazed bride, I forgot about my cake. Completely. Forgot. Yet it arrived on time, three-tiered with little swans. To this day, I have no idea who ordered it. I had a horrible thought that it was another bride’s cake. But no, the frosted edging matched the bridesmaids’ dresses and the linens. In my experience as a server for a catering company, wedding cakes can show up in all kinds of states: intact, a bit crumbly, or sometimes not even salvageable. We always did our best to restore and present the cakes to brides and grooms. God works through us to ensure details are not ignored or forgotten. We care, because he cares.

When you talk to seasoned brides and grooms who have been married for years, ask what they remember about their wedding. Chances are, most of the memories of the bad stuff have faded. Those things have passed away. What remains is the love, and the covenant with your spouse, bound by God.

As a bride, it is natural to expect something to go wrong, as you plan with anticipation or try to head off a glitch or two. But there’s no predicting human nature or weather. Saint Teresa wants you to know that just because you can’t foresee the unexpected, it shouldn’t ruin your happiness. No one is suggesting you should laugh away a broken heel or a ripped veil. But breathe deeply, put it in the hands of God, and humbly ask for help. He is so close. He’s interested in every detail of your wedding. Even the cake.


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About the Author: Bernadette Sukley has been in publishing for over 25 years—and married for 33. She’s written and published fiction and nonfiction books, short stories and articles. Her work has appeared in international magazines, including Sports Illustrated for Women, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. She has worked as a server at a wedding and event venue, a trauma unit nurse’s aide, a local reporter and a substitute teacher at an intermediate unit for autistic children.

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The Gift of Tears.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

“Well,” deadpanned the priest, “that was the most emotional rehearsal I’ve ever done.”

The details of the last wedding rehearsal I attended are blurry, obscured by the veil of tears that flowed freely from the minute I set foot in the chapel. Seared in my heart, however, are the memories of the bride and her father both weeping, exchanging joyful glances as they practiced their walk up the aisle for the following day, toward a bridegroom equally radiant and also overcome with emotion. The tears as the Maid of Honor presented the bride with a spiritual bouquet from friends and family; as the couple stood hand in hand, the words of their vows nearly ready to burst forth from their lips; as the priest showed them where they would kneel, saying, “this is one of the only opportunities of your life to be this close to the consecration.”

Photography:    Visual Grace

Photography: Visual Grace

A wedding feast is truly that--a banquet, a taste of heavenly joy. It wasn’t until this particular rehearsal that I considered the deep significance of the hours preceding the feast, as well: if a couple’s actual wedding day is anticipation of eternity, then the rehearsal has the potential to be anticipation of the anticipation. A few hours where the distance between heaven and earth seems not so far, and when excitement over the union to come is so palpably real. Quality time with the bride and groom in a more intimate setting than tomorrow’s reception; time to worship and rejoice.

My constant crying at this rehearsal was like being pushed out of myself to the very surface and heights of life.

I found myself surprised by how emotional I still felt the following day at the wedding Mass, struck all over again with beauty and tears. I hadn’t been emptied yet. I cried again during the procession, the vows, the dedication to Our Lady, their first kiss as man and wife. During their first dance to Matt Maher’s “Set Me as a Seal,” during toasts and during a bubble-filled departure. I cried the first time I visited their new home. I teared up again each time someone asked me what the wedding was like.

What is it about this love that made me constantly overflow, unable to contain myself?

It’s become my belief that every couple takes on particular charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, that develop and flow forth from their love: the gifts of hospitality, of empathy and suffering for others, of service, of creativity. At this wedding, for me and for so many other guests, there was the gift of tears. A love so visible and free, as if no one else were in the room, it felt nearly impossible not to be pierced.

The Gospels illuminate the significance of tears. The sinful woman who bathes the feet of Christ with her tears, whose sins are forgiven; Jesus’s own weeping over the death of Lazarus. Both instances convey a preconception shattered--that mercy is conditional, and that Christ’s humanity doesn’t show sorrow, respectively--and a wall come down.

Crying is an invitation; letting others see us as we are and inspiring resolve, a moving forward. Something raw, something anointed.

A wedding feast, then, where bride, groom, and guests find themselves in tears is an occasion of true seeing, of meeting each person where they are. Pure and holy love leaving a long-term imprint on those who witness it.

If the tears come on your wedding day, let them. Whatever charisms you and your spouse are gifted with, embrace them. Ask the Father to reveal to you the gifts he wishes to share with his children and your wedding guests, with you as the instruments. Cry out his love, outpoured and unfettered.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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3 Tangible Ways to Include the Saints in Your Wedding Day

CLARA DAVISON

 

For as long as I can remember, saints and their stories have played a huge part in my spiritual life.

As a child, I loved learning about Saint Fransisco, Blessed Imelda, and other children who achieved holiness at a young age. In my teenage years, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Saint Dominic Savio, and Blessed Chiara Badano began inspiring me. Learning about holy men and women who related to my current stage in life strengthened and encouraged me on my spiritual journey.

Once engaged, I began considering ways to incorporate the saints into my wedding. They have been alongside me through every part of my life, and I wanted to include them as I entered this vocation. Here, three ways I have seen the saints’ intercession incorporated in Catholic weddings:

Wedding bouquet medals

During my engagement, I asked friends and family to pray for us in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I may have tentatively suggested--or not so tentatively, as my siblings tell me--that they ask the intercession of specific saints on my husband’s and my behalf. I then invited my prayer warriors to bring a medal of their specific saint to the wedding and tie it onto my bouquet before I walked down the aisle.

I can’t tell you how touching it was to receive so many medals on my wedding day and to feel the weight of my bouquet carrying the symbols of many prayers. Since the bouquet was too large to preserve, it became especially significant to have those medals long after the flowers and greenery faded.

Stories of married saints

As I planned my wedding, I began seeking out saints who were called to the vocation of marriage: Saints Gianna Molla, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Jane Frances de Chantal just scratch the surface of many amazing married women. I found it incredibly powerful to study the lives of Catholic wives who lived out their vocation with such holiness.

I also learned of many married couples who are both saints! While Joseph and Mary are the epitome of a holy marriage, there are a variety of others to learn from: Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, Joachim and Anne, and Blessed Charles of Austria and his wife, Servant of God Zita, are just a few from whom I drew inspiration. Learning about these holy relationships is a great way to reflect on your hopes for your own marriage.

Litany of the Saints

When picking Mass music, my friend chose the Litany of the Saints to be sung while grandparents, parents, and bridesmaids walked down the aisle. She and her fiancé were able to pick some of their favorite saints to include in the litany, making it particularly personal. While not a traditional piece for a wedding, I found it a beautiful testimony to watch the couple’s closest friends and family escorted down the aisle as their closest friends in Heaven were called on to intercede.

Our brothers and sisters in heaven are such a wonderful aspect of the Catholic faith. What are ways you have seen them included in weddings?


About the Author: Clara Davison has worked as a whitewater raft guide, sex trafficking researcher, U.K. Parliament researcher, swim coach, and freelance writer. She currently works in independent school advancement and lives with her husband in North Carolina.   

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