Thursday, April 29, 2010

Licensed to wed (and some name-changing thoughts)

As you probably gathered from the title of this post, Jon and I just got our marriage license. For some reason that item is not on my very long to-do list, but I will write it in and then check it off. Progress!

awkward self-pic outside the courthouse

As luck would have it, my office is right across the street from the Fulton County Courthouse. (Actually, this is about the only time that such a location is fortunate. Make that car tag renewals, jury duty, and getting a marriage license.) Jon planned to drive down to meet me at lunchtime so we could walk over together. It should have taken maybe 20 minutes.

But of course it wouldn't be that easy! Jon called me around the appointed meeting time and said he had gotten turned around after obeying the parking deck signs that told him only monthly cardholders could enter, so I gave him instructions on how to get back and where to park. When he arrived, I asked how much cash he had -- I'd just looked on the website and we needed cash or a money order to pay for the license. He had $4 and I had like $23, and since we weren't sure if they'd give us the thanks-for-doing-pre-marriage-counseling discount, we had to walk a few blocks to a building with a Wachovia ATM. Then we went to the Fulton County building, which we quickly realized was not where we needed to be... Fulton County Courthouse was what we wanted. We tried to cross at the government center pedestrian bridge, which was closed. Doh! Finally we just went around to the other side of the courthouse building, went through security and managed to locate the probate court. Oof.

When we reached the reception desk we were instructed to take a marriage license application and fill it out but DO NOT SIGN. So, we went around the corner and found seats at the counter where I filled out the form. All was fine and dandy until about halfway down when I hit the line that said "DESIGNATED SURNAME (name to be used after marriage)." Oh. Shit. My face fell and I got that nervous icky feeling in my stomach. Not ready for this! At all!* I filled in "Ross" for Jon and left mine blank for the time being. Jon assured me he wouldn't be offended whatever I decided as I continued filling out the form.

When we got to the counter I hemmed and hawed a bit, asked the clerk if whatever I put in that blank was binding. Yep. If I wanted anything other than what I wrote there and I'd have to go through a court process to change things around. Sensing my discomfort/indecision/potential sadness at losing my name, the clerk let me leave it blank a while longer and gave us our receipt to take to the cashier. Then we had to raise our right hands and swear that all the information we gave her was accurate and true. Oh, and we did qualify for the counseling discount, so it was only $16 instead of $51! SCORE.

Back at the clerk, she sort of talked me through all the things that would need to be changed in either situation -- keeping my name or taking/adding his. I asked a couple of questions, and, not wanting to prolong this process any further, filled in my blank with "Poe Ross." Effectively, this means that all of my documents will eventually read "Kathleen Virginia Poe Ross," and I am retaining all three of my names and adding his. I'll just have to remember to sign everything Kathleen Poe Ross henceforth (since Poe Ross -- not Poe-Ross -- will constitute my last name).

I feel like this is a good compromise, if a name change can be viewed as such, because I am retaining all elements of my current name/identity and just adding his -- not dropping my family name because it makes for a crappy middle name, and not tossing my middle name which I love and which ties me to my mother's family. I mean, really, people can be called whatever they want to be called, they just have to deal with legal things in a certain way. If I want to keep being Kathleen Poe at work (which I will do, at least until I change jobs -- don't want the IT hassle) I can do that. If I want to freelance under my current byline, I can do that as well. When we file taxes or travel or have kids, people will know that we go together, but I still get to be my same old self.

What do y'all think? Would you be conflicted? Would you be happy to replace a disliked middle name or generic surname? If you're married, was it a difficult decision for you?


*I have been wrestling with the question of whether or not to change my name and actually was going to post about it yesterday but didn't get the chance. In short, I have been surprised at what an internal struggle this has been for me -- I never thought I would consider not changing my name until I was staring down the decision. Lyn at Another Damn Wedding summed up pretty much perfectly the things was I feeling in her post about name-changing. I am not quite as much on the same page as Meg at A Practical Wedding, but found both of these recent posts thought-provoking as well.


  1. I was initially a little conflicted, due to feminist tendencies. But his last name is SO MUCH BETTER THAN MINE!!! Soooo, in the end, I'm keeping my last name as an additional middle name, even though that's kind of weird. It feels more like an addition than giving something up. Right on!

  2. Oh-my-gosh imagine having to actually make that decision on the spot (even if you were already thinking about it)!

    I think you made an excellent choice though. You're lucky you both have short names, so it isn't too much of a mouthful.

    Yay for you!

  3. Thanks for the support, y'all! It was definitely pretty emotional and stressful, and I've been thinking about it all day... I think I made the right call though :)

  4. Well you know my story... I kept my maiden name as my middle name because I am not terribly attached to my (prior) middle name. I kept my byline for work, but I have legally changed my name otherwise for social security, license all of that. It's a little weird to live a double life as it were, but it keeps things neat and ensures I'll avert any stalkers of my work should there be any ;)

    TN must be different from GA- I think I put down my maiden name and the certificate came with my full name (middle and maiden) and his full name as well. I showed the certificate when I wanted to change my name for SSN and other things. This must vary from state to state. One thing I can assure you-- you'll need that certificate and license (after your minister signs it and best man/MOH too)...

    Happy days!!

  5. My mom has been Margaret Bergan Davis (not Bergan-Davis) for a whoppping 28 years, tomorrow.