Why I’m Glad I Changed My Last Name

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Right about this time last year, I went to the social security office, the DMV, and the bank to do the big thing – Change My Last Name.

It was an intimidating venture. There were so many places where I would need to change my last name (and if we’re being honest, I still haven’t changed my passport. Ooops!) and I didn’t even know where to start. I did a lot of research on Pinterest on where to start and all the places where I should change my name. This graphic was suuuper helpful.

But before we got down to the details, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to change my last name. My maiden name was 10 letters long, and my married name is 12 letters long. As a joke, I said I was going to hyphenate it. And then I started to think about it more seriously.

Why I Considered Hyphenating My Last Name

The closer I got to our wedding date, the more sentimental I became about my last name. I had lived with it for over 20 years; it’s who I was. It was what kept me attached to my parents.

The thought of changing my last name almost felt like I was divorcing my parents. Which, in a way, I was. In Genesis it tells the husband and wife to leave their father and mother and cleave to each other.

Stepping into an African tradition nuanced the struggle for me as well. I felt as if my parents were literally handing me over to his family. And a part of me still wanted to run home and be known by my maiden name.

And then another part of me emerged from all the women’s studies feminist classes I took in college. Why does the woman have to change her name? Why can’t the man change his name? Why can’t we make up a new last name together?!

Because it would make all the Baptists and Zimbabweans faint.

In my heart, I knew that I would take my husband’s last name. It was always the plan – but when it came time to give up my maiden name, it was hard.

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Why I’m Glad I Took My Husband’s Last Name

The thing I love about Mr. M is that even though he couldn’t empathize with what I was going through, he understood. I specifically remember one afternoon about two months before our wedding when he came over for lunch, and I was in a dark and twisty place. I was mourning the loss of my maiden name, and apprehensive about marriage in general. But instead of getting offended and hurt, he held me and let me talk through what was going in my  head.

Our last name is so unique. Not many people can say it, and it’s always an ice breaker when I show up at the doctor’s office and they try to say my last name. And I love it. It gives me an opportunity to teach someone how to say my last name, and it gives me an opportunity to brag on my husband. “Oh yes, my husband is from Zimbabwe.” And let’s face it, the name is so unique that you may not remember how to say it, but it will ring a bell when you hear it.

I get such a sense of pride when I write my new name – even though I sometimes get internally stressed out that I don’t have enough space or it’s taking too long. It makes me proud to be associated with my husband. He is an amazing leader in our community, and he does so by serving and empowering those around him. If having his last name means I get to be associated with him, then yay!

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Why I Changed My First Name, Too

So readers who have been around a while may remember the post I wrote last year about changing my first name from “Nina” back to “Christina.” And BOY that has been hard for me and for everyone around me to get used to. When I decided I was going to change my last name, I knew I still wanted to honor my parents in a way. My mom never wanted me to have a nickname, but like the dramatic 9 year old I was, when we moved to Tennessee I told everyone my name was Nina.

Now I go by both. If you call me Christina – cool. If you call me Nina – cool. You’ll notice I didn’t even completely change it in the signature at the end of these posts, because it is still a part of who I am. My close friends call me Nina, and I’m Christina in the professional world. That transition has been almost as hard, if not harder, than changing my last name. And that’s OK. Because I’m finally filling into both of my long names.

If you are not married, do you think you will keep your name or change your name? 

If you are married, what did you do with your name change and why? 

 

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

I know what is on everyone’s mind when they go to a wedding. 1) Will there be a cocktail hour? 2) Is the food good? 3) Will there be dancing? 4) How many slices of cake can I get away with eating?

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

There wasn’t a cocktail hour because several of our families members are opposed to alcohol and we didn’t want to offend anyone. Plus, it’s cheaper. But in lieu of a cocktail hour, we did have a coffee bar with cookies and hot chocolate, etc. The food was good, and by God will there be dancing. The party was lit.

After our wedding ceremony, chaos ensued. The room was flipped immediately into the reception hall, and we tried to get 100+ various family members together for group pictures. I was joyously stressed. During the family pictures, dusk was falling and people were getting caffeinated and chocolate wasted. The takeaway favors were tacky Christmas mugs, which not many people took away, so I have a couple totes in my basement of tacky mugs that my mom and her band of faithful friends rummaged for at various thrift stores from September – December. If you want a tacky Christmas mug, hit me up.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

In Zimbabwe, when the wedding party enters the reception hall, they do a dance called Ma Steps. Pai’s mom and sister and Pai choreographed a dance for us to do, and so when it was time for the party to start, we gathered outside the venue, and danced our way in. It’s a great way to ensure you have a killer entrance. Ma Steps can last anywhere from 3-10 minutes. We made ours simple because there were a lot of white people in the wedding party.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

The dancing broke away because we all know food is the most important part of the reception. We served a traditional Zimbabwean meal, and my favorite winter time meal – soup. A traditional Zimbabwean meal is comprised of 3 things you eat all at once. There is sadza (a cornmeal patty), muriwo (collard green veggies), and ne nyama (meat stew.) You break the sadza off with your hands, dip it in the muriwo and hte ne nyama, and put it all together to eat it. OK so you don’t have to eat it with your hands, if you’re at a wedding per se, but it’s way more fun to do so. I had a soup bar on my side, because homegirl loves her some potato soup and chili in the winter. I loved that even though our venue required us to cater, they also allowed us to have someone bring in Zimbabwean food. Several of my mother in law’s friends spent the wedding day cooking trays of food at their house and bringing it together. It was a huge hit.

During the dinner portion of the reception, there were speeches upon speeches upon speeches. Pai’s familiy is very intentional in how they do everything, so they brought in about 5 additional people to share advice and congratulations (which, if you want to say in Shona, is Makorokoto – pronounced: mah-core-oh-koe-toe. See? I bet you didn’t know you were going to learn another language when you read this post today.)

We also had some entertainment before the dancing started. Pai’s sister and cousins did a dance for us they had choreographed, and his parents’ friends brought instruments and sang a song. Then the party really started.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

You know those weddings where you’re wondering, “Will anyone dance?” This was not one of them.

After Pai and I danced, my dad and I danced, Pai and his mom danced. But they did it a little differently. In Africa, they have the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Even though Pai predominately grew up in the US, he still grew up surrounded by community and several other “mother’s.” After he and his mom danced for a moment, they invited aunties, friends, and other women in the family to join.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Once the dance floor opened to everyone, no one stopped. We had a mixture of American, Zimbabwan, and South African music playing and the beat was bumpin’ the entire time. There was one point where I was in the middle of the dance floor with everybody and it felt like the floor was bowing. I thought maybe I was just really dizzy from all the action of the day but no, the floor was definitely bouncing. I’m sure the people in the restaurant below us were none too pleased with their noisy dining experience.

One of my favorite dancing moments was with my 11 year old brother. He came up to me during the dinner portion and asked if he could request “Juju on that Beat.” I have no idea how to juju on that beat, so when the song came on later, I found him on the outskirts of the dance floor and followed his lead.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

We tossed the bouquet, Pai grabbed my garter, and we cut the cake. The cake cutting ceremony is another Zimbabwean tradition. After we serve cake to each other, we then serve cake to our families. I serve Pai’s, and he serves my mine. It’s a way to honor the new family we are a part of, so I thought that was pretty cool to be a part of.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Dancing continued, and cupcakes were doled out. His aunt had made the traditional wedding cake, and my boss’s gift to me was making cupcakes. Y’all, she makes the most bomb cupcakes I’ve ever tasted in my life. So it really was the best.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

The DJ basically had to force everyone off the dance floor when it was time to shut everything down. Pai and I exited the venue in a tunnel of bubbles to a car that was full of balloons, a few other balloon-like things on the windshield wipers and gear shift, and lots of messages written ALL over the car as if anyone at the hotel were curious as to what we were doing that night. . .

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

It was unbelievable. So there you have it, the highlight reel. There were several stress tears, emotional breakdowns, and learning to love each other better through the chaos, but I would do it all over again to be married to this guy.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

To catch the rest of the journey, you can find them below.

The Bridal ShowerSaying Yes to the DressThe I Do Crewa Literary Bachelorette PartyMy Big Fat Zimbabwean Rehearsal DinnerThe Ceremony

The Ceremony

The Ceremony

Before I left for the venue, my sister’s best friend who wasn’t able to come to the wedding (but helped us get ready) hugged me and said, “Remember this day. Pretend your mind is a camera, and capture the special moments in your memory.” While I won’t share all the special moments, I’m going to share a few with you today. 🙂

No Sleep

The morning of my wedding I slept maybe a total of 4 hours, but in 2 hour increments. The first two hours I was too cold in my bedroom because I went to bed with my hair wet and I couldn’t stop coughing. I woke up and sat on the vent in the kitchen eating crackers and reading a book. An hour later, I tried to sleep. I slept fitfully for two hours until I woke up, still freezing and now nauseous, and sat on the vent in the bathroom and journaled before I decided to take a bath. And I’m glad I took a bath, because even though the night before I double and triple checked to make sure I shaved my underarms, I forgot to shave my legs. So I drank ginger ale, ate crackers, and shaved my legs. By the time I got out of the tub, a few other bridesmaids had stirred so we gathered in the kitchen and one gave me peppermint essential oil and a half of zofran. I felt a little less nauseous after that.

We started getting ready in at my house – several friends donated their time to doing hair, and a few of my bridesmaids were well versed in makeup. I ran up and down the stairs saying “I’M GETTING MARRIED TODAY!” between sips of coffee and one bite of 1/4 of a bagel.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

Forgetting Lunch

While I arranged someone to bring us a veggie tray, I forgot to arrange someone to bring us sandwiches. Luckily, we were above a pizza joint, so pizza for lunch was perfectly fine with us.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

The Amazing Hands 

I went between the bridal suite to our venue (the floor above) and was overwhelmed with delight. So many of my mom’s friends and Aunties from Pai’s side were helping set the tables and tie bouquets at the end of the aisles.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

The First Look

I’m so glad Pai and I decided to do a first look. It gave us a few moments to steal away to process the day and pray together. I couldn’t stop looking at my man. He was so handsome. I was so nervous before I saw him, but after seeing him, the stress melted away. I felt so much peace in our decision to merge our lives together.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Cinderella’s Shoe

When I was 4 years old, I would dress up in my Cinderella costume, run down the hall, and kick my shoe off. Dad would run down the aisle and bring my shoe to me. So my evil plan my whole life was on my wedding day, to kick my shoe off for my Prince Charming to bring me one last time.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Captuerd: The Line Up

Before I knew it, we lined up in the stairwell and the music started. My bridesmaids walked down the aisle to “We Dance” by Steffany Gretzinger. I watched my brother and cousins carry a Bible my dad gave me and the vow booklets down the aisle; and started to get emotional as my little brother pulled my baby cousin in a wagon, realizing my dad and I were about to be next.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

Walking Down the Aisle

As my dad escorted me down the aisle, I scanned the faces of people who came to support our marriage. I couldn’t believe so many people loved us so much. It was the longest walk of my life, but also the fastest. I purposefully didn’t look at my mom because I knew I would lose it. So when I got close enough to see the love of my life, I locked eyes with him.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

The Ceremony

There were so many favorite moments of the ceremony. We started the ceremony with the worship song, Holy Spirit. Pai and I prayed for months that the Lord would be present in our marriage and our ceremony. We covered the day with prayer, and wanted to cover the start of the ceremony by inviting The Lord’s presence. Before my dad could give me away, he stood up with us and worshipped. My dad recently texted me the other day saying “Core memory every time I hear this song.” and it made my heart sing.

The pastor preached a fantastic sermon that intertwined our personalities, our cultures, and our faith. Pai and I took communion together, so we had our friend who actually played matchmaker between us give the communion meditation. He surprised both of us by sharing in both Shona and English.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

The Kiss

Oh. Boy. For months and months I taunted Pai. Pai has always been Mr. No PDA. He wouldn’t be mildly cuddly with me in front of our families, let alone kiss me. To which I kept saying, “Are you even going to kiss me on our wedding day?” Well. . . I certainly got what I deserved. When the pastor said, “You may now kiss the bride” Pai did not just kiss  me. He KISSED me. And there was lipstick all over our faces, just like the Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse cartoons. And when he broke away, one of Pai’s uncles from one of the front rows said, “I didn’t capture that on camera, do it again!” And he did it. Again.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

An Adventure of a Lifetime

For the first time, presenting Mr. & Mrs. Mush. . . 😉 I pumped my fist and we danced/ran down the aisle, my broach falling off my shoe and flying under someone’s chair while Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime” played.

My Big Fat Zim Ceremony

Chaos ensued as the room was flipped into reception mode and we took family pictures.

But the after party was hoppin’. . . so we’ll get to that next week. 😉

My Big Fat Zimbabwean Rehearsal Dinner

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

Friday Morning

The best part about coming from a big American family and marrying into a big African family is the people. There are people everywhere! The number of people at our rehearsal dinner was paramount to a small wedding. We had between 75-100 people at our rehearsal dinner alone.

Friday morning, I woke up early and met my soon-to-be husband at Panera bread for breakfast. Somehow we managed to see each other throughout the week in snippets, but we had hardly been alone the week leading up to the wedding, and I needed some one on one time to process the weekend. We sipped our coffee, gazed in each other’s eyes adoringly, and prayed together. To top the morning off, we had the first snow flurry of the season and I was ecstatic.

We separated before the rehearsal, me running last minute errands.

Always have your rehearsal lunch at Chickfila

Someone had rented our venue the night before our wedding for a rehearsal dinner, so we had to have our rehearsal at 3 in the afternoon. Before we went to the rehearsal, several of us met up at Chickfila for lunch. I kid you not, almost the entire dining room of Chickfila was practically filled with our bridal party and my family. The rehearsal went as smoothly as you could expect when there’s 36 people in the wedding party, and I only had a secret freak out in the bathroom once.

We had some time to kill before the rehearsal dinner, so a few bridesmaids, one husband of a bridesmaid and I went to one of my favorite coffee shops. Because what cures the wedding jitters more than extra adrenaline and caffeine?

Before the rehearsal dinner started, the rest of the bridal party met up at the church and Pai and I taught the bridal party a traditional Zimbabwean entrance dance, coreographed by his sister and his mom. At the reception, when we were introduced, we came out dancing to a Zimbabwean song. It was hilarious to see all these white guys trying to keep up with these white girls who knew how to dance. I’m sure it was mortifying for some, but every one was a good sport and it was a huge hit at the reception.

Rehearsal Dinner – Zim Style

The rehearsal dinner had a few more Zim traditions that we couldn’t squeeze into the wedding day itself. Pai’s mother gifted us with a traditional matching outfit which was adorable. Several of my bridesmaids had been to different parts of Africa, so they wore dresses they had bought in Africa. My mother in law also lent a few of my other bridesmaids some dresses she had.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

The night consisted of Zimbabwean food and speeches upon speeches upon speeches. Friends and family stood up to share their well-wishes. One of my favorite moments was when an uncle on Pai’s side gave us wedding advice and ended with a song. We originally wanted him to sing at our wedding, but due to health complications he wasn’t able. So when he surprised us with a song at the rehearsal dinner, I was so touched.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

I looked over at my dad throughout the night, who had been as any typical dad giving away his first daughter would be, and could see the glee on his face that I was marrying into a family whose values and relationships were steadfast.

In Zimbabwe, when the woman marries the husband, she marries into his family. As a thank you for a new daughter in law, it is typical custom for the husband’s family to give the brides parents a gift. Rather than the parents hand the gift off to the parents, though, they have intercessors. The uncles on the husband’s side give the gift to the bride’s father’s sister on the bride’s side and the aunt then presents the gift to the parents. It is a way to thank the parents for trusting the family with their daughter, and it brings the families together. Pai’s parents and family are so intentional and mindful of establishing a relationship with my family.  Both sets of my grandparents are best friends with each other, and I always wanted that for my parents and in-laws as well.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

 

After the rehearsal dinner, Pai and I gave each other one last kiss before the big day. My dad loves to take us kids out one on one to get hot chocolate from McDonalds, so I asked him if we could go for a hot chocolate with my mom before they took me home.

When mom and I got home to a house full of bridesmaids, it was like Slumber Party 2.0. We played more games that Abigail hadn’t had time to play during the bachelorette party. We stayed up till midnight giggling and then I tried to go to sleep. Try being the operative word here. . .

Until next week, when we finally talk about the wedding day!

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

OK but before you go, look at how cute our little flower girl was <3  She is always mesmerized by Pai . . .must be the dark chocolate skin. 😉

 

a Literary Bachelorette Party

A Literary Bachelorette Party

OK so this is the post I have BY FAR been the most excited to write about – the bachelorette party. My sister, Abigail, who was also my maid of honor made sure she quite outdid herself by throwing the most fun, exciting, and (mostly) clean bachelorette party there ever was. It was the perfect way to start off wedding week, so I can’t wait to relive it with you here today!

Anyone who knows me I love three things: books, coffee, and music my mother never let me listen to in high school.

Abigail kicked me out of my own house the evening of the bachelorette party so she could decorate. Although we were hitting the town of Asheville for the main portion of our evening, she wanted to make sure the final portion of the night was still cute and fabulous. I got ready for the evening while she decorated the house with some of my friends. She had printed out several engagement photos of Pai and myself and pasted them onto the walls of our living room. Being the sentimental sap I am, I kept them up for so long that Pai finally said, “People think we have a shrine to ourselves. It’s time to take them down.” #truth

To begin the night, Abigail booked us a reservation at Zombra’s in Asheville, NC. Zombras is a tapas and wine bar. We each could pick out about two appetizers each and shared among each other and oh. my. goodness. The food was amazing. Abigail, being the cute and crafty thinker she is, made place cards for everyone to sit at. I loved Zombras because we were seated in a corner booth and there were pillows everywhere. It definitely had a Spanish but hipster vibe going on, and the mood lighting and our corner made it the perfect little dinner getaway.

a literary bachelorette party

After dinner, a couple of the girls distracted me while Abigail went to set up the next part of the evening. We walked around Asheville until we found The Chocolate Fetish, my favorite chocolate store in the city. The Chocolate Fetish serves truffles, so went in to peruse the offers and I found a truffle called “The African Queen,” so of course a couple of my friends surprised me with one.

a literary bachelorette party

We finally caught up with Abigail at my favorite place in the world – The Battery Parks Book Exchange. This is a fun bookstore in Asheville that I’m obsessed with. They have a bar that serves wine, beer, literary cocktails, and coffee. The carpet is a fun bright red color (think Edgar Allen Poe red) and the bookcases are dark black. It’s a two story bookstore, but with a split level as well, with lots of seating areas. You can bring your dogs and just sit and read and sip on whatever beverage you like for the afternoon. So Abigail had coordinated with the bookstore to host a lounge party in a cornered off section of the bookstore.

But someone else was hosting their own party – the Santas. At the bookstore on this particular night there was a Santa Con festival. There were drunk Santas, drunk reindeers, drunk elves, drunk Christmas fairies EVERYWHERE. When we got into the bookstore and ordered our drinks, the server said, “Are you the bachelorette party? I’ve never been so happy to see a bachelorette party in my life.” We were very tame.

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Abigail set the mood for the lounge party with cute decor and fun games. We played a game where I had to guess what answers Pai wrote down for certain questions and if I lost, then I had to eat a jelly bean. But it wasn’t any old jelly bean, it was Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans. Y’all HP fans raise your hands if you know what I’m talking about. I ate dirty gym sock, dog food, and spoiled milk. BLEGH.

She had also compiled everyone’s favorite quotes from their favorite books and had each of them read their quotes and why they chose it. As an avid lover of books and all things inspirational, I was definitely a fan. Abigail even made gift bags for all the bridesmaids and she was so thoughtful with each thing she put in the bag – a note book for memories, a paperweight with our initial & wedding date so they could remember to pray for us whenever they saw it, tissues for crying, a face mask, and more!

The bookstore closed at 11, so we had to leave but the party wasn’t over. We drove the whole way home with 2000s hip hop blasting and me rapping along to every word.

When we got back to my house, Abigail poured out more food. There was chocolate covered strawberries and assortments of fruit, and chocolate candy which they had to put into certain molds that I never approved of. . . But it was all in good fun.

a literary bachelorette party

We ate more, giggled more, and I opened a few gifts they gave me for after the wedding. Abigail’s intent was for us to watch a girly bridesmaid movie, but by the time we were done with everything it was 3, almost 4am and I had fallen asleep on the couch.

I woke up the next morning feeling groggy for all the best reasons. It was officially wedding week, so Abigail, my friend who stayed with me to help me out with last minute wedding chores, and I christened the week by drinking coffee all day and watching The Notebook.

a literary bachelorette party

Advice for future brides: don’t watch The Notebook the week of your wedding when you’ve only had 4 hours of sleep because you will sob uncontrollably. Part of it is because the movie is sad. Part of it is because your motions are whacko.

All in all, it was the most fun I think I’ve ever had, and it was the best day of my life up until December 10th. 🙂

a literary bachelorette party