Marriage and combining last names

After 11 years of marriage, Alisa Wu and her wife Kate are finally going to combine their last names

Kate__Ailsa_clapping_edited-240x300I’m a little embarrassed it’s taken us so long. Like many couples, we discussed it during our wedding preparations. The obvious choice was hyphenating our surnames, but we also tried to brainstorm new ones. “Somerville,” where we live, sounded too British; “Chocolate,” a shared passion, too silly. And as much as we love bad puns, “HerWuMann” (combining her name, Hermann, with my name, Wu) was never going to work.

Our main concern was more serious: we hoped to adopt a child. We knew that our being a same-sex couple would make an expensive, time-consuming, and heartbreaking process even more difficult, especially if we looked overseas. But we’d heard of an approach similar to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in which one half of a couple poses as single and straight; once back home, his/her partner then files for full joint adoption.

Kate and I weren’t sure if we were going to do this. Neither of us liked the idea of going back into the closet, even a temporary one. We also felt our marriage was worth celebrating. As I learned during my conversion to Judaism, our tradition places a lot of importance on names. Though not as concrete as wearing a kippah or putting up a mezuzah, taking on a new name is a powerful way to demonstrate a commitment or mark a transformation. Becoming the Hermann-Wus would’ve made our sexual orientation and our relationship crystal clear and added to the joy we already felt about being able to marry legally.

But we wanted to leave our adoption options open… so we held off.

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