What's in a Name?

I was emailing with a couple last week who sent me a note on their ceremony draft.  One of the grooms wrote, "Jeff and I have been together for more than 14 years.  After a life of saying 'my partner' I'd love, at long last, to say, 'my spouse.'"

And so he did.  Language is a funny thing.  I know another unmarried gay couple together more than ten years who refer to themselves not as partners, but as lovers.  That term is not for everyone but it works for them.

This is a big decision for gay and lesbian couples.  I get asked all the time about how the officiant will declare them at the conclusion of the ceremony.  I now declare you...

  • legally married
  • lawfully married
  • partners for life
  • married partners
  • husbands/wives to one another
  • spouses for life
  • something else?
Jen and I chose "legally married" - and that felt right for me in particular because the legal bit is so important.  We live in a state where our marriage is legal and I want that word to be heard loud and clear.

And once you're actually hitched, how will you refer to your spouse?  Many couples I know initially cringed at "husband" or "wife".  Dan Savage still calls Terry his boyfriend even though they were married in Canada.  I had a hard time adjusting to fiancee and only in the past few months has that felt more natural.  Many couples still use the term partner because it's what's comfortable and what they know.

I honestly don't know what I'll call Jen.  Right now, "wife" feels cringeworthy but I suspect I'll get used to it.

And finally, what about the last name?  Many people keep their names, but I've had several clients and a friend invent entirely new names, some of which were not remotely similar to either of the old names.  That's kind of fun - as you begin a new life together, you do so with a new name.  And of course you can hyphenate.  Sometimes this works out if the names flow together but sometimes it's awkward.

So what is the gay wedding planner going to do?

I'll tell you that on Saturday, after our wedding and before our honeymoon, I'll be updating the About Us section on this very website with our new last names, which were well debated.  They are different from each other, but slightly and the only compromise we could reach.

How is your officiant pronouncing you at the conclusion of your wedding ceremony?  And will you be using the word husband or wife to refer to your new spouse?  I'd especially love to hear of any creative solutions to any of these dilemmas!  Please share!

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