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June 2012
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This wedding fight one worth having

By CATHERINE RAMPELL Washington Post Writers Group

Betrothed women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your husbands' names.

I'm getting married and - as I'm told happens with most weddings - lots of exhausting fights over minuscule details have broken out along the long, treacherous road to the altar. But the biggest blow-ups, in my case, were over names.

Specifically, women's names. Or lack thereof.

Here's how it began. My mother was in charge of paper products - invitations, envelopes and seating cards - mostly because she had much stronger preferences about these things than I did.

I had but one unyielding, Bridezillian demand, championed by my feminist fiance as well: how women's names were rendered. Specifically, that they be rendered at all.

So when it came to planning my own wedding, I decreed that any time we referred to a married couple, we would spell out the woman's full first and last name. My mother initially resisted, saying she was reluctant to mess with tradition, but she finally agreed to respect my wishes.

This turned out to be much harder than either of us realized.

When my mother instructed a stationery vendor to begin our wedding invitation with "[Mother's name] and [Father's name] request the pleasure of your company ... ," the stationer was aghast. In all her years of crafting wedding invitations, she squawked, not once had she veered into such utterly tacky territory. My mother called me in a panic, convinced that my requested wording would subvert the proper order of the universe.

I told her to find another stationer who would accept whatever damn phrasing we chose. Ultimately, she did.

Then it came time to have the invitations addressed, and my mother decided to splurge and hire a calligrapher. She sent the calligrapher an Excel spreadsheet with all our invitees' names and told her to transcribe them exactly as we had them or else suffer the wrath of Bridezilla. The calligrapher agreed.

But guess what form of address was on the envelopes that my married friends received? "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith." Even, in at least one case, where the wife had kept her maiden name.

At first I thought we'd just been unlucky in our choice of vendors. Perhaps the calligrapher had made an honest mistake. Then I started looking around online.

The Web, it seems, is also conspiring to uphold this awful, anti-feminist tradition.

Online addressing guidelines from obscure artisans and well-established stationery companies alike - including Crane & Co. and Hallmark - still generally recommend excising a married woman's name.

Of course, the Mr.-and-Mrs.-His-Name tradition is not isolated to wedding invitations. It appears on mailings from alumni organizations, church groups, charities and junk-mail marketers.

But it's during the wedding planning process - when a couple is figuring out exactly what it means to form a legal and spiritual union of two separate beings - that the pressure to perpetuate this archaic tradition, of wholly subsuming the wife's identity into her husband's, especially rankles.

So I urge all fellow brides-to-be out there: If you choose just one detail to fight over with your family, friends and vendors - and, oh, there are so many less meaningful, more expensive issues to choose from - let it be this one. Call your married female friends by their given names, and then, post-wedding, insist they do the same for you.

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