I am a strong believer in not praising men profusely for things that are simply expected of women, for things they should know to do without prompting or praise. Like parenting- men taking care of their children or changing diapers is not babysitting, it's the bare minimum. Or sharing household duties.
I married a good man. He is a better feminist than me at many times, and though he is not perfect I am grateful for all the ways he pushes our partnership toward greater equality. One of my favorite qualities about him is that he lives his life in ways that challenge norms and seek counter-cultural change, rather than just accept the way things have always been. He is totally comfortable questioning patriarchy and toxic masculinity without taking those conversations as a personal attack - an emotionally mature and rare stance. I know that changing your last name to your spouse's is something women have ALWAYS been asked or pressured to do - and so perhaps, I thought, not worthy of praise or a blog post, but- the sacrifice of this kind of totally unheard of, counter-cultural act meant that he had a lot more to give up.
I always intended to take my husband's last name someday. It was just the thing to do. I would imagine my first name with the last names of various boys, including imagining being Becca Davis when things got serious with Avery. My whole life, I've loved my last name- I love the spiritual metaphors it evokes, being God's little lamb. As the youngest in my family, being a "little lamb" has always been a sweet part of my identity. I don't have as much attachment or meaning to my first name, but have always thought sadly about the inevitable day I would leave behind the name Lamb. Until I met Avery.
Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
I tell people it was Avery's idea to take my last name, because I had never thought about it before him. I was in a gender studies class freshman year that got into a quite heated debate about patriarchy and the passing of family names through men, with several women in my class saying they would never take a man's last name. I was skyping Avery, whom I had been dating for about 9 months, and told him about his, saying that I've always planned to take my husband's last name. He just calmly thought for a minute, and said to me, "I would take my wife's last name." It was so casually stated and I was incredulous- "You would? That's so weird. Well, I'm gonna take my husband's last name, I know it will be sad to leave part of my identity but it's just what I want." I didn't want to take a man's last name because I just didn't want my marriage to be a big political statement that I'd have to defend again and again.
As my feminism evolved and grew, Avery's thought stuck with me and more of my friends started to get married. Seeing wedding hashtags centered on a woman "ditching" her last name or bridal shirts, crowns, and various paraphernalia all centered around being "Mrs. Husbandsname" had me rolling my eyes. I'm never gonna be Mrs. Avery Davis, I thought. I didn't every want to give up my identity, becoming his property or somehow being subsumed into him. It's an icky patriarchal tradition, the passing of ownership of women from father to husband, and it no longer sat well with me.
I want to be very clear that every decision about this is so personal, and it is right. Not everyone will do this, and that's totally fine. I do not ever want to shame any woman for taking a man's last name, or for hyphenating, or for keeping her own. It just became clear to me that none of those options sounded great to me. I had a great last name, it meant a lot to me. It was unique in a way I've never felt my first name is. And, he had offered to do it years ago. So I brought those things into our discussion about our names.
It was important for us to have the same last name. It was important for us also to honor and keep the Davis name- Avery is the only male in his generation on the Davis side, and we will give our children Davis as a middle name. Our decision was one of bringing both families into our marital unit- while also subverting patriarchy. It wasn't a huge deal or big statement we find ourselves defending all the time- I think because to people who know us well and know how Avery chooses to live, it just isn't that surprising.
That being said, I do know that there are sacrifices Avery had to make and continually makes in this decision. His new name is professionally Avery Davis Lamb, which takes some getting used to. It's not something people expect for a man who is newly married. There are so many double standards and norms around this - Avery now has a
"maiden name" since men's names are supposed to last their whole lives! So I want to share what his doing this means to me.
Avery changing his last name to Lamb tells me that my full identity as a woman is valued. It means that he loves me and believes in me enough to change his social and professional identity in order to honor me and join my family as I join his. It means he believes what he says he does about equality and living in a way that changes norms. We didn't go half and half- he took my last name. He did for me the same thing women everywhere do for their husbands, without complaint.
It also has meant a lot to the women in my life- my friends who have reacted with such joy that he did this, telling me it gives them hope for finding a man like Avery someday. I know how lucky I am to have him, and I'm grateful for the true partnership we have, one that he is committed enough to tell the world about through being my Mr. Lamb.
"It was assumed that I had some power or privilege to lose in changing my name that my wife did not and that my masculinity rested in a continuing tradition of superiority over women in general and my wife in particular. But it does not. My masculinity, my own power and strength comes much more from standing up for what I believe in and demonstrating the strength of conviction." Rob Lore, Good Men Project
OUR WEDDING DAY - My memories
Our wedding day was beautiful. I had been checking the weather twice a day for a week, praying away that 10-40% chance of “AM showers” and watching it fluctuate. LA weather in January for an outdoor wedding is generally not a worry, but I still didn’t want the ceremony area to be wet for the guests. I woke up on the morning of the wedding and there was a shining sun and blue skies out my window- no dark clouds to be found. It was 75 degrees and sunny. It was perfect.
I was so lucky we were able to have our rehearsal and party two nights before- our rehearsal dinner was a New Year’s Eve party, and the wedding was the 2nd, so people had the 1st to celebrate the new year and rest how they chose. We got all our tasks and partying out of the way, and I was able to spend the night before the wedding with Alex (my MOH and best friend). We went out for an early dinner at a fun LA vegan spot nearby and came back the hotel to do final prep. Alex set out breakfast for the bridesmaids and I wrote my vows into my vow book and my note for Avery, and we were in bed before 10. I was so happy to wake up well rested (around 7:30) and have plenty of time to prepare myself for people to arrive.
My bridesmaids, hair stylist and makeup artist, and videographer showed up and we talked and got ready till around 11:00. Alex and I then (VERY carefully) loaded up my dress into my car, and we drove over to the venue, only about 10 minutes away. We took getting ready photos in the bridal suite, I peed for the last time before getting into my dress (pro tip for brides), and then my bridesmaids and my mom helped my get into my dress!
I opened Avery’s gift while he was in the groom’s suite next door, getting ready and opening my gifts. I loved the sweet card he wrote for me and was so excited for our first look. He got me a beautiful pair of earrings from a jewelry company that employs survivors of abuse in Asia. I got him a nice watch (which looked so good on him that day and now he wears it every day!) and a handkerchief that has a note his dad wrote him, in his dad’s handwriting, embroidered into by a woman I found on Etsy. He also wore his dad’s pocket watch, engraved with “my only love”, which his dad wore on his parents’ wedding day. It was so special to have these piece of his dad with us on that day.
Avery and I were lucky enough to have Cava (yes, Cava in LA!!) brought to us for lunch by our housemate Drew. I scarfed down as many bites of yummy mezze as I could without messing up my teeth and makeup, touched everything up, and went out to meet Avery for our first look! His back was toward me, so I saw him before he saw me, and my heart was aflutter. I was so excited to see him and oh man, he looked gooood. Our first look was so sweet, we just laughed and took each other in and prayed together, thanking God for this gift of our wedding day.
We went off and did photos just the two of us while everyone else had lunch, then did wedding party and family photos by the barn. It was a little bit of a struggle getting the smallest ones (Rylie…) to behave for the photos, but we got to laugh and have fun with it. It just felt so easy and I surprisingly felt very calm. We could hear Zoe and the musicians practicing Be Thou My Vision for the ceremony. It was lovely.
We got out of the way and lined up in our processional order before the guests arrived. Aiyana and Jenica fixed each other’s flower crowns and we made sure everything was in order.
For those who don’t know, we had our processional song composed originally for us. Zoe, a friend of friends in LA, is starting a music composition company and offered to write our wedding song. She met with us and asked about our story, our relationship, and our music tastes and came up with a beautiful song for us to walk down the aisle to (and also have forever!). Since we first said “I love you” while watching shooting stars in a meteor shower, and our rings represent the stars and the earth, she titled our song “Stardust”. It was a recurring theme on our wedding day, with mentions of stardust in Alex’s toast and my mom’s sermon. But anyway, our song. I heard it played as my mom and Mike, Avery and his mom, and the wedding party entered in. And then the tempo changed and it was my cue. Everyone stood, and my dad and I began walking in. The first face I saw sitting by the aisle was McKinnon, full of emotions, and it made me so emotional. I was so excited to see her, and everyone, and Avery at the end of the aisle. My dad passed me over to Avery and we walked up to the altar.
My most memorable thought from that moment, is WOW this place is beautiful. I could not help but look around, stunned at how incredibly well decorated as well as naturally lush the ceremony area was. I loved the arch at the altar, decorated with sunflowers, and all the green surrounding us. It was perfect. The ceremony was perfect- my mom’s homily was beautiful and represented us so well. The worship and communion was beautiful. Wendell Berry’s poem The Dance was read, as well as a section of his writing on marriage and community. It just felt so perfectly us. I loved Avery’s vows and reading mine to him. I kept having to breathe, make sure I wasn’t locking my knees, and look around at the friends and family with us to just take it in and remember those moments.
And then we were married! We processed out of the ceremony to Lord of the Rings theme music. We took more pictures. Mom and Alex and Joe signed our marriage license. Our DJ brought us drinks and we had a few minutes of calm just to ourselves before getting introduced into the ceremony, so we looked around and took in all the beautiful decor.
This is already really long, so I won’t go into too much more detail on the rest. It was so, so fun. We got to finally hug and greet everyone. We danced, we ate amazing yummy food, we took polaroids, we heard toasts. Our first dance was so fun and special, dancing to our song, Strangers in the Night. I never wanted it to end. My dad and I danced to Make You Feel My Love and Avery and his mom danced to Dear Avery. Our friends and the kids danced with us to Cut to the Feeling and Jai Ho, which was a blast. There was a full moon that night, and it was so beautiful watching it start low and huge in the sky and rise as we danced. My uncle Wayne, who is Lakota, gave us a blessing in Lakota, for a long and prosperous life together. It was so special. We tossed the bouquet (together, to all the singles) and took the mic at the end of the night to thank everyone and express how meaningful it was to have people there. It was a perfect day and we didn’t want it to end. Avery looked so good and I felt so beautiful. Some of the most important people in our lives were there, to celebrate us, in a day which beautifully represented our relationship. But then it was time to leave, so we said our goodbyes with tight hugs and gathered our things. And then it was just us.
1.2.2018 the best is yet to come
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.