After almost 18 months of blissful romance, my wonderful boyfriend got down on one knee and popped the big question, “Will you marry me?”. Following the initial shock and surprise of hearing him say those fateful words, of course I wasted no time in saying yes, yes and yes again – just in case he didn’t hear me, or he decided to change his mind when he realised what he’d done.
Now here we are, two months on and wedding plans are coming on a storm with the date, venue, marquee and even the dress sorted. But there is one thing I am struggling with; should I change my surname to his? Should I keep my own surname? Or should I have the best of both worlds and go double-barreled? Or will that look like I’m trying to be posh?
Now there are a few things to consider; firstly I am an only child, so the family name stops with me. Secondly, I am very fond of my surname – I’ve had it for almost 30 years. And finally, what about all the online references to Shelley Fletcher?
My final point may seem flippant, but I think it’s important, especially for women who operate, both in the business and personal sense, in an online as well as offline world – especially those of us who run their own business or who are the ‘face of the business’.
For the past 10 years I have been building up an online identity. I don’t just mean on social networking sites, but across a range of websites and my own company website. As well as social profiles, this includes mentions on static sites, such as references to my name in past press articles, mentions in news stories and on client websites as a contact.
When I search for my name in Google (admit it, you’ve all done it), I find that the first couple of pages show links to my social media profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter. I then appear as a link from my company’s website and listings of my contact details on client websites and professional organisations like the Chartered Institute of PR. There are images of me, I’m pleased to say none of which are of an embarrassing nature (famous last words…), and then, as we get to pages three, four and five, I appear less frequently, but I do crop up as a media contact on uploaded news stories, pdfs of past press releases, mentions in news stories about me, and comments on stories relating to my clients.
I understand that if I change my name on social networking sites and keep details of my maiden name then people will still be able to ‘find me’, but what about all of the links that can’t be changed, those on what are now on static sites? Do I need to start all over again? And does that mean I also lose the links and benefits of the mentions of me which can’t be changed?
What I’m worried about here is the fact I may lose a lot of online collateral in the form of the ‘online me’ if I change my name, as, as far as I am aware, there is no way of tying what is effectively two different personalities and profiles together.
I’m sure I’m not the only woman to have thought this after being asked to become someone’s wife. And I’m sure as more and more of our lives are played out online, more women will be working out effective ways to manage the transition of changing their name, both on and offline.
So, to go back to my initial question, should I change, should I stick, or should I lump both names together? Or, let’s throw another idea in the mix, should I keep an online and professional presence in my maiden name, and take my husband-to-be’s name in the offline world?
The more I look into this the more possibilities there are.
In this digital world, is taking your husband’s name a simple decision? I would argue it’s certainly not as simple as it was, say 10 years ago. And I know for a fact that when my parents married, there was no thought of the bride keeping her maiden name, it was just expected that once married the woman would change her name.
This isn’t going to turn into a feminist piece about me holding on to my single identity; my point is this, it seems to me that getting married and changing your name is now becoming much more complicated.
Is marriage in the modern world now effectively a complete online rebrand? If a client were to come to me with the same scenario but based around changing the company name after 10 years of building up an online presence, what would my advice be?
My gut instinct tells me that going for a double barrel name is the best bet. It gives me the chance to keep the family name, which I am so fond of, whilst also evolving my online presence without having to start again and manage the transition from one name to another. Still, the wedding isn’t until October so we’ll see if anything changes between now and then….. Who knows, there might be an App developed for it by then anyway.