So, as many of you know, I recently got married (woohoo!!!) - and as a result, I changed my name (and business name to match). But my name is not the only thing that changed. In this post, I talk about names and identity on a personal level, as well as other changes that will affect my life and business moving forward.
Note: This post gets more personal than I have in previous blog posts and covers a lot of ground. It probably could have been divided into more than one post, but I chose to keep it all as one, because to me, it’s all interrelated. Enjoy!
Thoughts on Changing Your Name When You Get Married
For those of you who are about to get married, (or even anyone who hopes to one day get married), the subject of changing your name is likely something you’ve thought about. Whether you are personally for it, against it, or unsure, it’s a big deal for most people, whatever they end up deciding.
After all, a name is a highly personal thing (it’s literally “who” you are!), and you are the one that is ultimately going to have to live with that decision and be known as that person from that point forward. (No pressure!) That said, there are a lot of factors that weigh into this, and the so-called “right” answer isn’t the same for every person or couple.
For example, some women may stick to tradition and change it, some men buck tradition and change theirs instead, one or both may hyphenate it, both people may choose to keep their original names, and others may combine them into an entirely NEW last name that they both share.
Some people “always know” what they want to do, and for others, it depends somewhat on what their partner’s name is and how it sounds together with their first name, along with other factors. (I can’t help but think of “Julia Gulia” from “The Wedding Singer”.)
Regardless of gender or tradition, the decision to change or not change your name after the wedding is completely up to you. And while I believe it’s important to discuss your feelings on the matter with your future spouse, and hear his/her thoughts and feelings on the matter, at the end of the day, truly no one can or should make this decision except you.
My Internal Debate
When it comes to me, I didn’t always know what I wanted to do regarding my name post-marriage. After all, I’ve known women who kept their maiden names and always thought that was kind of cool. On the flip-side, I’ve also done that thing that girls and women often do, where you write out what your name would be if you married so-and-so and took their name, to see what it would look like. (I bet you’ve done this too!)
From a practical standpoint, having a different last name than your spouse can make things more complicated, especially if you have or ever plan to have children. In our case, my husband already had two boys from his previous marriage, and we also desire to have more. When we talked about things, being one big “Watt” family was something he articulated wanting, and something that made sense and felt good to me, too, when I thought about it like that. (Cue all the warm and fuzzy feels!)
However, being somewhat of an older bride (despite my youthful glow, I’m actually in my mid-thirties!), I had also been known by my maiden name for quite some time. Thus, changing it wasn’t as easy a decision as it may have been if I had less overall attachment to my name, less reputation, and hadn’t, oh-say, built a business with multiple brands also containing that name. ;)
And of course, changing it came with all sorts of other questions, such as:
Would people still know who I am? Would I have to start from scratch and/or reintroduce myself to everyone? How hard would it be to change it both personally and professionally? How expensive would it be? How long would it take overall? Would I still feel like “me” after changing it, or would I feel like someone different? Would I actually BE someone different as a result of getting married? Who would I be?
As you know by now, I DID ultimately change it, but not without giving a lot of thought to the matter, in the months leading up to our marriage, and even now, after the fact. Maybe it is not as big a deal to some people, but for me, a name is not “just” a name. It’s a real piece of one’s identity, and something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the course of my life.
Spiritual Ponderings on Name and Identity
Names have a lot of meaning behind them, at least, in many cases, they do. Just ask any parent who has ever belabored the naming of a new child – not only do you want it to sound “nice”, but you want to make sure it has a good meaning, is consistent with your likes and values, and ultimately fits their personality. No doubt, I will give plenty of thought to the names we select for our future children!
When contemplating my own name change, though, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the Bible. There, you can find numerous instances where people’s names are changed, and for all kinds of reasons, whether it’s changed by the individual, by others, or by God.
However, in all cases, when a person’s name is changed, it signifies a major life event, change in circumstances and/or outlook, or change in the overall direction of that person’s life. In a very real sense, that person is NOT the same person they used to be. One classic example is the change of Saul’s name to Paul, signifying a totally new self, and after which, his life did a complete 180. There are many other examples, but in all cases, the changing of a name meant that big things had happened or were about to happen, and there was no going back!
So, point being, names matter.
Another passage, not dealing with names specifically, but certainly having to do with the idea of identity, also popped up in my mind as I was thinking about all this:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
Perhaps I was supposed to feel this way years ago, when I first got off the fence of agnosticism and truly became a Christian, but for me, it was always hard for me to feel like a totally “new” creation. A lot of days, it still is. After all, I’ve still got all my old memories, all my history, and any baggage that comes with that. I’m still human, never perfect, always learning. I try my best to make good choices and be my best self, but often stumble, struggle, zig, and zag. This life is not an easy one.
But somehow, having actually changed my name, it easier to feel like a new creation. Because maybe I actually am. Maybe I have been becoming her for a while now, but maybe getting married and changing my name was the line in the sand that gave it more definition, weight, and substance. It marked the end of everything that came before it, and the beginning of a new era. After all, the me who I was before we got married doesn’t really exist anymore. She has formed the foundation of who I am now, but I am not the same.
It’s not the name change in and of itself that makes the difference here, but everything it represents. The journey I have taken to get here, and the turning of a new page in the story of my life.
My Business Origin Story
When I first started my business, my life looked very different than it does now. That’s just a fact.
As a single person, I took a huge risk, leaving the security of my well-paying 8-5 public-sector job that I had held for several years, with what savings I had cobbled together in the months leading up to that point, and took a metaphorical swan dive off a cliff (weee!), hoping and praying that God would catch me, but not having any idea how it would manifest.
A lot of people have praised me for having courage, and I’m sure that at least a few others thought I was crazy, whether they said so or not. But either way, I knew that something had to change, and it wasn’t going to change if I stayed where I was. My dreams were dying on the vine, and me with them. So courage or no courage, I did what I had to do: I left, and never looked back.
In the months that followed, I went back to college for the first time in 10 years and learned the technical fundamentals of photography, as it was important for me to start with a solid foundation and not just fumble my way through it for years on end. I wanted to start from a good place, learn as much as I could as fast as I could, and only get better from there.
While taking classes (acing them, by the way), I started building my portfolio, began networking with other photography and related professionals, and also began learning the business side of things wherever I could. I sought out mentors, asked a lot of questions, experimented with things, and applied what I learned to continually make my process better.
After a while, I felt I had enough of a foundation to formally start my business. At that point, I left school, filed my business paperwork, and continued on my own from there. (However, as a life-long student, I am always refining my craft and learning in one way or another, and applying what I learn as I go!)
How My Life Has Changed and What it Means for My Business
It was around the time my business became official (only a few weeks prior) that I met my now husband. As a friend and supporter from the get go, he encouraged me to keep chasing my dreams and has helped me in many ways to do so, and I honestly don’t know where I would be if he had not come along (thanks, hubs!). But suffice it to say, he has really gotten a front-row seat to just how much my life and business have changed since then, and has been instrumental in me getting to where I am now.
After we started dating, life really morphed into a whole new thing, for me and for both of us. For me, I went from single to dating to stepmother-in-training to married-with-children in less than a year and a half. Whoa. And for him, he went from newly divorced/single to dating to married in the same period of time. Double whoa.
In a nutshell, you could say it was a whirlwind, but even that hardly scratches the surface of what we’ve experienced together and how we got here. And though I wouldn’t recommend taking life at break-neck speed if you can help it (haha), sometimes you really can’t help it, if God is paving the way and telling you to move. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta do it, pray, and trust that He’s got you.
At any rate, all of the things we’ve experienced together have brought us closer and changed our lives personally (we’ve already weathered many storms together and our bond is something I can’t even put into words), but they have also given me an additional layer of insight into what others may be going through, and that insight is critical when it comes to relating and connecting with couples and families. As married life and mom life continues to sink in and shape who I am, that will only continue to be the case.
On the surface, it may be hard to see what’s changed, and in a sense, I will always be “me”, but on a deeper level, I have undergone a life transformation that can’t help but impact my business (in my opinion, for the better).
And as our family life continues to evolve, my business will follow suit, ebbing, flowing, and changing as needed to fit and support whatever season of life we’re in, while maintaining a heart of quality and service as the cornerstone.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love to hear from you!