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Still hurdles to taking bride's name

Date: 2007-01-16

It's the age-old question ... what's in a surname?

In not-so-ancient times, the practice of a bride taking the surname of her husband upon marriage represented her status as his property.

But the offensive and antiquated concept of wives as chattels has long ago gone the way of the dodo in North America, and increasingly more soon-to-be-married women are fighting hard to retain their independence and preserve the pre-marriage identity they worked since birth to build.

A 2003 survey conducted by Wedding Bells magazine found that 18% of Canadian brides and 6% of American brides had chosen to proudly keep their maiden names, and there wasn't a darn thing their new hubbies could do about it.

In fact, while some insecure lunkheads may view their lady's choice as a personal slight to their manhood, others are not only willing to embrace their wives' quest for independence but are even willing to reverse roles for the sake of family harmony.

Though not the traditional path chosen by most soon-to-be married couples, California native Michael Buday's fiancee, Diana Bijon, asked the groom to take the bride's last name when the pair eventually married.

Given that Bijon had no brothers, and the non-traditional name change would allow the Bijon family name to be carried on, Buday agreed it would be a fitting tribute to his future wife's family.

Had he been a woman, Buday would merely have checked the appropriate box on the marriage licence application, paid the maximum $100 county application fee, and become Mrs. Diana Bijon.

But Buday quickly found out that California's marriage licence application, like that of 43 other U.S. states, is so out of date that it has no box to check for a groom who wants to take his bride's name.

Instead Buday, or any poor emasculated California man whose wife has actually talked him into giving up a key part of his identity as a male, must first pay a $320 court fee, advertise his intentions in a newspaper for four weeks, and obtain a judge's consent.

The California process is currently being challenged by the ACLU on the basis of gender discrimination.

On a more basic level, however, in a world where men are taking their female partner's surname, family members are hyphenating the father's and mother's names, or families are inventing completely unique new surnames, has the pendulum swung too far away from tradition in favour of individual rights?

Personally, I'm all for a wife taking her husband's surname. Especially when that wife has a long, convoluted maiden name that earned her the high school nickname "Boiled Cabbage."

Ever since preschool, when I struggled to learn how to spell BORYSKAVICH and my playmates struggled to pronounce it, I knew that the one quality my future groom must have was a simple, straightforward last name.

Indeed, I used to base my whole dating strategy around it.

The question was not whether I would change my surname when I got married, it was what easily-pronounceable moniker I would change it to.

I'm a traditionalist. Michael Buday and Diana Bijon are not. But we each have the free will to make our own decisions regarding our family surname and that's what really counts.

After all, once the groom has determined that his rose would smell as sweet under any other name, no other person should have the ability to be a thorn in his side.

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