I was never one of those girls who wrote "Mrs. XX" with hearts when I had a crush on a boy. Don't get me wrong, I'm a total romantic who obviously loves weddings so I always wanted to become a missus, but for some reason the idea of changing my name was never very appealing to me. I always believed I'd do it, but I wasn't necessarily eager to drop my identity. Therefore, when it came time to change my name after the wedding, to say I struggled with it is, well, an understatement. I went to the DMV about two months after our wedding, albeit reluctantly. I was in no rush to change the name I'd had for nearly 30 years, but my insurance changed and as of October 1, it was under my married name, so I had to get a new ID. (Very strategic move by the husband, if you ask me.) It was almost a running joke because I was dragging my feet and booking flights through December with my maiden name, but my father was not finding my hesitation quite so amusing. (Who knew he was so traditional?) When I announced to my parents that I was thinking about keeping Howald as either a middle name or hyphenating it, they said though they appreciated the gesture, to them I was now and will be going forward Emily Elizabeth Sefton. Guess I got kicked out of the club. So I went to the DMV thinking I would change it to Sefton, but when the time came to fill in the box with my name, no joke, I went through three forms. First I put Emily Elizabeth Sefton. Easy enough, that was the plan, right? But I froze and scribbled out Elizabeth, added, Howald, added both, and eventually wore a hole through the paper with all my changes. So I grabbed another and put First Name: Emily. Middle Name: Elizabeth Howald. Last Name: Sefton. But when the lady asked if I really wanted two middle names and reminded me that if I ever want to drop one of the two I would need to go to court to get it changed, I asked for another form and wrote First Name: Emily. Middle Name: Howald. Last Name: Sefton. As I was handing it over, I realized that I would really miss Elizabeth. I actually like my middle name. My mom picked Elizabeth mainly for aesthetic purposes, but I loved having the balanced monogram eHe and the idea of eSh was less appealing. So I pulled it back and asked for yet another form, which prompted the woman who was waiting on me to give me a pointed look and say, "Really? You didn't think this one through before you came? You were married two months ago!" And thus began the tears.
I excused myself from the line (who EVER excuses themselves from a line at the DMV) and called my dad, probably because I knew he would knock some sense into me, which he did, and I didn't want my husband to know how much I was struggling (since it really didn't have anything to do with him, just my reluctance to embrace change). My father, after he stopped laughing at the scene I'm sure was running through his head of his daughter, sitting at the DMV with people awkwardly watching as the little blonde girl cried over her name change form . . . I'll admit it was a funny site) told me I would always be a Howald deep down, but since I said those vows (and signed that marriage license), I became a Sefton and I needed to embrace it. So I bucked up, grabbed my fourth form and wrote (again) First Name: Emily. Middle Name: Elizabeth. Last Name: Sefton. I took my picture (complete with bloodshot eyes and a tear-streaked face) and left, happy the decision was made with an amusing story to go along with it. Now I still need to do ALL the other forms (social security, my bank, credit cards . . . man, they don't make it easy for us, do they?) but at least the main decision has been made. I will say, I've always admired women who decide to keep their maiden name. To me, it stood for a sign of independence that I respected (granted it was super annoying on any and all wedding invitations, place cards, etc.), but after going through this ordeal, my admiration for the women who have decided to changed their name increased exponentially. It's tough to do. You feel like you're losing a part of yourself, and maybe that's true to some extent, but you're also gaining something new, and that's what I've decided to be excited about. I'll admit (as you can probably tell from this byline) that I cheated a little bit, and professionally, I decided to keep both my maiden name and my last name (decisiveness was never my strong suit), but a girl's got to have options, right? I wish you all the best with your planning endeavors. Embrace every second of it, and when the time comes to decide to change your name. Bring a box of Kleenex. You never know, you just might need it.