Girl Gone Authentic: 8 Days to Go AKA Freaking Out about Last Name Change

I started writing this on December 25, 2019, which started the single digit countdown for the wedding. But I’m not getting it finished until December 26, 2019, so now it’s only eight days until the wedding.

We got engaged on March 31, 2019. In some ways, it seems like the time has flown by. In other ways, though, it seems like we’ve been engaged for years. Maybe this is because we’ve been a couple for years.

I’m virtually done with everything. We had the final planning meeting with the venue (FINALLY received all the RSVPs!). We figured out the order of how everyone will walk in and be introduced at the reception. I’ve made the favors (homemade chocolate chip cookies in clear bags; in the freezer so they don’t become stale). And, most importantly, David wrote and submitted his vows to the minister!

There is only one thing wedding-related that is still weighing heavily on me. It’s the whole last name change thing. David is not a “traditionalist” in many ways. He’s fine with me making more money than he does. He’s great with my independence. He doesn’t expect me to carry the “household” duties by myself. However, the one area where he is “hard core traditional” is my last name. He has gone so far as to say me not changing my last name would be a “deal breaker” for him in terms of us getting married.

The first time I got married, I did NOT change my last name. I initially planned to change it since we had two kids together (with my ex-husband’s last name). When the time finally arrived, I didn’t do it. I had several reasons to justify my decision when people asked why I didn’t change it – my oldest son had my maiden name, I’d been in my job for eight years with my maiden name, it takes a lot of effort to change a name, my ex wouldn’t wear a wedding ring so I wasn’t changing my last name, etc. In hindsight, I think that subconsciously, I knew the marriage wouldn’t last and I couldn’t see changing my last name when I’d end up changing it back.

This time, I will change my last name. When we got our marriage license, there is a portion of the license where I had to put down if my name will be changing. In California (where I live), you don’t have to pay for a last name change if it’s because of marriage, as long as you put down the “new” name on your marriage license (otherwise, it’s $395 and you have to file a motion in family court to change your name).

I agonized over how to do this. I’ve been “Arbuckle” for my entire life. I’m close with my dad, and I have grown to love and be proud of my last name. The thought of abandoning my last name makes me feel incredibly sad, as if I’m leaving a part of myself behind in order to get married.

For practical purposes, changing my last name will be a pain at work. I teach a lot of classes, and a lot of employees seek me through email when they have safety-related questions. When I teach classes, I always tell employees that I’m the only “Arbuckle” in the email system, so I’m really easy to find if they have questions. I won’t be able to say this anymore. I am not sure if there are other “Caldwells” in the email system, and beyond that, I don’t want to send out a mass email announcing my new last name (nothing like saying, “Look at me, I got married, congratulate me”). I will check into seeing if they can link my “Arbuckle” and “Caldwell” email accounts until my new last name spreads through word of mouth.

Back to my new name. Hyphenating is not an option for me. I don’t really want a five-syllable last name, and the hyphenation thing seems pretentious to me (not insulting anyone who has done this). I thought of dropping my middle name and making “Arbuckle” my middle name (ala Hilary Rodham Clinton), but I knew that would hurt my mom’s feelings if she ever found out (my middle name is for her favorite uncle, who died when she was pregnant with me).

I have jokingly told David that we should combine our last names and make up a new one. His last name is “Caldwell” so we could be “Arbuckwell” or “Caldbuckle.” For some reason, he thought this was a ridiculous idea!

Finally, I decided that I will make “Arbuckle” a second middle name. This may seem silly to some, because I don’t use my middle name at all (it only appears on my driver’s license and social security card). It’s not like I’ll be signing my name “Denise middle-name middle-name last name,” but I will know my middle names.

I think I’ll still be a bit sad when I go to the social security office to start the name change, but I know I’ll also be excited to share David’s name. Our 13-year-old is happy that I’ll have the same last name she does.

Only eight more days as an “Arbuckle!”