On marriage and the name game

One of the questions Cheryl and I worked through soon after our marriage was the issue of changing her name. We talked and prayed it through for a couple of days during our honeymoon, before she eventually decided to adopt my family name and become a “Chong”. Thankfully In New Zealand it’s pretty convenient to adopt a new surname, and you don’t need to make an official deed poll change to do so – so once we returned and changed it on Facebook it become official!

Some of you might think it odd that it would need that much discussion, but for Cheryl it’s definitely a major decision – after all, she would be changing a name she’s had for over 20 years! And it’s not just us who wrangle with this life decision.

As a Christian I’d like to throw it out there – is there a Biblical mandate for wives to change their surnames today? I raise this question as a few of my friends consider the same issue in the coming months and years when they similarly tie the knot.

I mean, I understand the concept of changing names as a practical way of demonstrating the joining into the family, or as acknowledging your husband’s headship (Eph 5:20-33). And it’s interesting to note that prior to the Fall (Genesis 1:26-3), Adam and Eve were referred to as man and woman (in Hebrew, ‘ish and ‘isha) – so in one sense the wife shared the same syllable (if not a name).

But on the other hand, this whole concept of surnames was non-existent during the New Testament period (adjectives were used instead, e.g. John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth), and we’re in a different culture today. For example, a recent article highlighted even husbands taking on their wives surnames, for reasons such as keeping the family name going, not liking their paternal family name, and others. And in my opinion, Brooke Fraser sounds nicer than Brooke Ligertwood.

Anyways, back to us. I can’t speak on Cheryl’s behalf on the details of her thought process, but I did offer her the option of keeping her maiden name, mostly to preserve her family heritage (the surname Ning is a pretty uncommon one, and I don’t think there are any male cousins that could carry through that name).

(P.s. Unfortunately, someone already took www.facebook.com/cheryl.chong – so she is still on her maiden name there!!)

But what do you think about the name game? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

– William

14 replies on “On marriage and the name game”

  1. Hey William – thats some really interesting insight!!! I guess for me it was a give in – I gues it was just an accepted norm that I would accept Victors surname….And I love that myself and my children carry that name. I guess for me it is ease otherwise your kids can end of a little confused it you have to hyphen the name and then what if they marry and want to hyphen that name!!! hahaha….But just from my end, its a joy for me to carry my husbands name….I will say something interesting – victor has toyed with the idea that he would like to change his name to his Tongan surname of "Tupou" – reason being that "Moore" is his fathers name and his father left them when they were young and his mum (until she died) raised them and he wanted to honour his mother and carry that name. Obviously doing this before we got married would have been easier!!!! hehehe

  2. Hmmm very interesting read indeed and i have never really put much thought into it until now, i guess i always thought it was the norm here in NZ, however my reasons are i dont beleive its a sin NOT to take your husbands name, it all depends on the attitude towards the husband and marriage. When i married my husband i became "one" with him, as a helper and him as the head hense why i took his name to be "one" BUT yes im gonna look more into this, im interested in the history now haha There goes my monday morning. THanks William 😀

  3. Hi Naomi – I do not know you but I found your piece on names really interesting!!!! And I thought Maori and pacific island names were complex….i think yours might take the cake!!!! hahaha But you have alluded to an interesting oversight – that our cultural themes or ties to our names do actually play a big part. I think if there were no brothers in our family I may have liked to have kept my maiden name and hyphenated it with Moore. Becasue our surname is one of a kind in the sense that aparently in cook island custom your surname derives from your fathers first name….So m grandfathers Dads first name must have been Ataera….Gsh its making my head start to hurt thinking of such complex matters!!!! I think I will go back to thinking about lunch for now!!!!

  4. Yes Marie, and may be it is people like us, who think so much about names, who can most appreciate scriptures like: "The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name."What will it be like to have a royal heavenly surname. Getting goose pimples just thinking about it. 🙂

  5. Ha! Nahomi I know who you are now! I spoke with your Dad at some length at the STAND Conference…he is an amazing lovely man! I hope he is well. Blessings xx

  6. I never really thought about it – other than it's so much easier to spell Stevens than Edington!! Seemed natural to take Maugan's first names. From when I was growing up it was only the "feminist" type women who didn't take their husbands surname.

  7. Sorry William, I have digressed. For the record, I LOVE having my husbands name, and I love that my children share it too and we are a unit connected by that name. It gave me a sense of belonging (before I came to know our Lord of course) I saw it as a public declaration of belonging to Mel, I enjoyed letting people know I was now married by introducing myself as Mrs Hawley. Sarah is right though, I'm not sure how eager I would have been if I had not had 3 brothers to carry on the family name, esp as my Dad is an only child! But then the English culture is that a wife takes her husbands last name and has been certainly for the last five hundred years…not sure beyond that. The only women who seem not to have done were royalty, and I certainly cannot lay claim to that! 🙂

  8. Hmm, interesting. Just to add… in Tamil/Sri Lankan culture, wives and children take their husband's/father's FIRST name to symbolise child-of or wife-of. It's really weird to explain but that's the way it's always done and probably the reason why Sri Lankan males pretty much have little discernable difference between first and last name lol.Like my dad- you guys probably know him as Dev Devathasan, but he's actually Devathasan Senthiya, coz he takes his dad's name as his last, and then me and my mum take his first name as our last…

  9. Interesting thoughts, I really appreciate getting the perspective from different cultures! Jayana: no wonder, i was gettin confused with his fb name heh. I guess even the Sri Lankan way is a nice way of showing family unity! I shall have to call your dad Mr Senthiya from now on 😀

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