It’s graduation and wedding season which means that we — and I am guessing you too — are receiving graduation announcements and wedding invitations. And other invitations to fun celebratory end of the school year beginning of summer events.
Letters will be addressed To:
Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Seigneur
Interestingly, I have even received announcements and invitations that are just for me, but my name is not even mentioned on the envelope. They say, to: Mrs. Christopher Seigneur
My name is not Mrs. Christopher Seigneur.
I’ve got a name. And it’s Cornelia Becker Seigneur. And if you are needing to be formal about it for a particular invitation, you can call me Mrs. Cornelia Seigneur. Or if you know me really well, you can call me Nellie, my awesome and endearing nickname that my friend Kristi gave me.
It’s just not Mrs. Christopher Seigneur.
Christopher Seigneur is my husband’s name.
Yes, I am Mrs. Seigneur and yes I am married to a Christopher Seigneur but I have a name too.
Many women have already given up their maiden name and then when they get married they are also supposed to give up their christened name too?
It’s wild. Though we’ve been getting letters and invitations like this for 28 years and counting (for as long as my husband and I have been married), I have only in the last several years been really noticing this on formal invitations.
When I mentioned this issue to my mom, who has been “Mrs. Helmut Becker” for over 54 years, she said laughed it off.
“It’s tradition, Cornelia. It’s been like that for a long time. It’s not a big deal and everyone does it that way,” she said to me.
I was surprised at her response because my mom has always been an outside-the-box-thinker, a bit of a non-conformist, and I love that about her.
But, my daughter-in-law, who is pretty traditional, recently said to me that she got a wedding invitation that was addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Seigneur” and it took her a bit by surprise.
Why did they leave my name off of the invitation? she wondered.
“You’re rubbing off on me,” she smiled.
It’s not that I am necessarily trying to change things or be all feminist here; I am just asking the question.
And saying, just because something is “tradition” or the “way it’s always been” or “the way everyone does it,” does not mean that it cannot be questioned. Or changed. Or reworked.
When my daughter was married three years ago, neither she nor her husband changed their names. My daughter is still Rachel Marianne Seigneur and her husband is Stefan Mammele. They eventually want to both change their names to have the new last name of Seigneur Mammele, combining their last names; but in Germany, where they live, when people get married only one person is allowed by law to change their last name.
My daughter receives wedding invitations and they are addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Stefan Mammele. She truly is not Mrs. Stefan Mammele. She will never say anything and she still goes to the weddings and graduation celebrations when she can, but she ponders culture and traditions and societal norms with me. And she asks questions, which is something I’ve celebrated since she was young.
Live the questions, ask the questions, do not be afraid of the questions, I say.
I know some people are going to say, “Really, Cornelia, all people are doing is showing that you and your husband are a couple.”
Well, I thought taking my husband’s last name did that?
And I know some other people will say, “What is your problem? Just relax, don’t get all feminist on me. The people sending the invitation mean well.”
What does “all feminist” mean, anyway, and I am not saying that anyone means ill. Most do not. Most just do it out of tradition and because that’s all they know and that’s how it has always been and that it’s etiquette.
But, I am just asking that maybe people can re-think this societal norm, this culture, this way of doing something Americans have “always” done. Many women have dealt with feeling invisible in their lives. And, I am sure many men have as well, but that’s for another discussion.
I ask, is it that hard to add the first name of the wife (or mother) in the family? Does she matter? Does she have a name beyond her husband’s name?
When it came to sending out wedding invitations for our daughter’s wedding three years ago, my daughter made sure it had both my husband and my name on it. Her invitation read: “Christopher and Cornelia Seigneur invite you to the wedding of …” which I know is informal, but that is they way our daughter wanted it to read. And if she had decided to be more formal, she would have written, “Mr. and Mrs. Christopher and Cornelia Seigneur invite you to…”
We’ve received many invitations to weddings where only the name of the father of the bride or groom is listed (Such as, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith invite you to…) which again, is tradition. But, can we rethink this tradition, and add the name of the mother of the bride too? I’m just asking.
Hey, on a practical level, if both names are listed, it will be much easier for guests to remember the name of the father AND mother of the bride and groom. Both people in the relationship matter. They both have names.
I am not saying that every letter or invitation that we have received has left off my name because there have been plenty of letters with both my husband and my names on the envelope; and there have been creative invitations where both spouses (or parents) are somehow listed, like, one we received today that read, “Together with our Parents, you are invited to the wedding of. . .” Some people “get” this issue while others just do not think about it, as it’s just been a tradition.
I just have been thinking about it for a while now and thought, ’tis the season, so why not talk about it.
I am not my husband. My husband is not me. We are both individuals, with names.
Let’s start by showing that on invitations. And envelopes.
I’m just asking the questions.
Plus, hey, it’s almost my birthday, the day I was given a name. My name is Cornelia Becker Seigneur.