Four days ago, I became engaged to The Boy. There were fireworks (literal fireworks, because it was New Years Eve, at midnight) and glasses of
champagne leftover cider from Christmas because that was all we had in the house. It was a great time.
Then the wedding planning started, bringing with it a lot of questions and – who are we kidding here? – judgements from relatives.
The Boy and I aren’t your most traditional couple by nature. Oh sure, he wants a church wedding and I want a pretty white dress. I want my father to walk me down the aisle and he wants a stag night to remember (or forget, depending on how much he has to drink).
Where we differ from blind tradition is deciding which surname to take after we marry. He is a Friett (Either Old English from ‘Freo’, meaning ‘Not a serf’ or Flemish, meaning ‘Fat Chip’, which I personally prefer and find hilarious). I am, obviously, a Goodacre (Anglo-Saxon English, meaning ‘lives by a good piece of farming land’). We both love our surnames; we’ve had them all our lives. We don’t want to double-barrel to Goodacre-Friett or Friett-Goodacre because not only is that ridiculously long, but one or the other of the names will inevitably drop off at some point because people won’t bother to write or say the whole thing.
I don’t want to take ‘Friett’ as a surname, as I feel it sounds ‘wrong’. Perhaps it’s to do with the amount of syllables. Or, perhaps it’s to do with the fact women traditionally take the man’s surname to signify a possession change from the father of the bride to the husband. I consider that horrendously outdated and a bit insulting. I know that’s not how it’s seen these days, but regardless, to me, I feel that by taking ‘Friett’ as a surname, I’m removing myself from the Goodacre clan completely. I don’t want to do that. I wouldn’t feel like ‘me’.
The Boy doesn’t want to be a ‘Goodacre’ either, for similar reasons. OK, sure, not the patriarchy part, but he doesn’t see why his identity as a Friett should disappear and Goodacre remain.
My other option is to marry The Boy and keep my maiden name. Yet, when the time comes to have children, what surname will they have? Mine, or the Boy’s? Perhaps, traditionally, they will take their father’s name… but then I have a different surname to my children, and I don’t want that. Likewise, the Boy doesn’t want the children to be Goodacres and him to remain a Friett.
The solution we found, originally as a joke, was merging our surnames. In 2012, 1,000 couples in the UK alone decided to blend their names together. It was, we discovered, a growing trend in our generation. So, we had a few laughable tries: Goodett, Friedacett, Goott, etc. Then we both said “Frieacre” (pronounced Free-acre), and it sounded oddly right. Almost, like an actual surname, like the existing Freeman, Freeborn or Freeland. Freeland, incidentally, is what the combination ‘Frieacre’ would mean: Old English: status name for someone who lived on a piece of land held without obligations of rent or service, from Old English freo ‘free’ + land ‘land’.
We loved this solution! We had found a name that honoured both our family connections and represented starting a new life, and a new family together as equals.
Some members of our family did not like the idea. In fact, some hated it. The idea was called ‘stupid’ and – oddly – ‘insulting’. The claim was made that by combining our names, we were disrespecting and erasing both our families, which of course, was the exact opposite of our intention. But mostly, it was considered untraditional, which we both came to believe was the sticking point of the argument, no matter how logically we presented our case.
So, 18 months from now, we have a choice to make. Do we go ahead with what we wanted to do as a couple, and risk putting relatives’ noses out of joint, or even creating a rift in the family? Or, do we – for the sake of family peace – give up our idea and go with a more traditional solution? And, if we choose to do the latter, what form will this appeasement take? Do I take the Boy’s name? Does he take mine? Do we double-barrel and risk the inevitable fumbling, or the lazy dismissal of one of our names? Or do we keep our own, and leave our children to deal with it all instead?