In Germany, the partners are not free to choose their future name – as is the case in Sweden, for example.
When it comes to marriage, many women still fall into the traditional trap and give up their maiden name. However, couples with a high level of education are increasingly making different decisions – and a new option is in sight.
Ein a common name as a couple or family: This is important to many married couples. The legislator leaves the choice of whose name that should be. The vast majority opt for the man’s name. In 2016 when the Society for German Language most recently analyzed the data from 219 registry offices, it was 72 percent. Only six percent of couples chose the woman’s name. The number is declining: in 1976 it was still 97 percent, in 1996 it was finally 80 percent. Nevertheless, the high proportion says something about the status of emancipation and the development of the legal situation.
The implications, says Anne Rosar, a linguist who researches the choice of names in marriage, are clear. “It’s a relic of patriarchy that, under the guise of ‘tradition’, has held up well to this day. The compulsion to change names not only disenfranchised women, it also indicated a ‘change of ownership’ from father to husband.” The choice of name thus reflects the custom, which is also still widespread, according to which the bride is handed over from her father to the groom at the altar. “Many women don’t question that at all,” says Rosar, “even if they are emancipated.”