Summer is high season for weddings in Norway, and a new trend is taking shape. For the first time in a long time, more Norwegian women are opting to take on their husband’s last name.
New figures from state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) show that fully 46 percent of the brides are adding their husband’s last name and re-registering themselves, using their own last names as a middle name. Another 34 percent adopt their husband’s last name and drop their own family name entirely. Only 20 percent kept their own names and their own identities.
“I think that’s absurd in 2016,” actress and NRK celebrity Live Nelvik told newspaper Vårt Land recently. It never occurred to her to change her name when she married three years ago, and the new statistics from SSB surprised her as much as they did many others in egalitarian-minded Norway.
“I have kept my name because I am Live Nelvik,” she said. “A lot of my identity is tied to Nelvik – I’ve had that name all my life. It’s absurd to change your name because of some romantic notion.”
Keen to be a couple
Feminists have been warning about the trend, but today’s young women who change their names think they’re also carrying on an important campaign. “Name choices aren’t as much about confirming equality these days, as they were in the 1960s or ’70s,” Turid Noack, a researcher at SSB, told Vårt Land. “It’s more about marking that they’re a couple, and that’s important for many young people these days.”
Others simply want to carry the same name in the same family, both for the parents and the children. Hanne Therese Cave and her new husband, Geir Loftesnes Nord-Varhaug opted to both take Loftesnes as their common last name. “Sometimes I propose taking back Cave, and that’s fine for Geir, as long as we have the same name,” she told Vårt Land. Both of them felt it was important to have the same name, to demonstrate that they were forming a new family unit.
Nelvik is unconvinced: “I don’t understand why the mother needs to take on the father’s name to become a family. That’s nothing less than disturbing.” Children in Norway most often carry both parents’ names, albeit with the man’s name as their last name.
‘Marking their partnership’
Noack said that many couples put their names together and adopt them as a common name for both. “Married couples are more preoccupied now with marking their partnership than we have seen earlier,” she told Vårt Land.
Nelvik mentions another practical challenge, though. “I’ve heard some terrible stories from friends who took their husband’s name and then got divorced and took their own family name back,” she said. “Everyone who has experienced that process warns ‘don’t change your name if you marry.’ Even though a marriage can feel like it will be forever, there’s no guarantee it will be.”