Joint Monograms: My Controversial Opinions

Like any other couple, when my husband and I married twelve and a half years ago, we had a lot to figure out, starting with the ceremony and reception. He let me make most of the decisions about the wedding itself, because he was busy with work, and because, like most men, he just didn’t care about a lot of the details. Thank goodness.

I find that weddings are best planned without too many opinions. There’s nothing worse than when a person who hasn’t spent a lifetime cultivating good taste suddenly wants to come in with ideas. He let me choose the venue, the cake, the color palette, the flowers, and he was glad not to have to deal with most of it. I was glad to be able to have executive control.

The one detail we did clash on was monograms.

The time has come for me to come out publicly with my controversial stance against joint monograms. And, bless my husband’s heart. He was raised in post-Second Wave America, and he just didn’t know better. Some brides believe that joint monograms are somehow egalitarian, that they represent both people in a couple. Some will tell you that a monogrammed fork or julep cup that is used by both a husband and a wife should represent both people’s initials. And some husbands actually care about equal representation on a hand towel.

The issue that arose at our wedding had to do with the program for the ceremony itself. My husband thought—and still believes—that since it was his wedding, too, his initial should have been represented on the cover of the wedding program. Since I don’t believe in joint monograms, I couldn’t pull the trigger on this one. And since the programs themselves were distributed before I was married (even just a few minutes before), I insisted on using my maiden monogram on the cover. My husband still takes issue with this. I say he’s lucky he has a wife who knows about proper protocol; his life would be so much different if he had married literally any other person.

Back in the day, silver and linens were always monogrammed with the wife’s maiden initials. Because those were assets that she was bringing to the marriage and they were considered hers if anything went wrong. So the fact that I even use my married monogram in the first place is a major etiquette concession.

I admit that it’s a tricky situation, and that some of these rules are pretty obscure. Still, I’m a traditionalist, and he knew that well before he proposed. I’m sure some people can make a strong case for joint monograms, and I have seen some lovely ones. I especially like the ones where the initials are intertwined over each other, almost like a logo or sigil for the family. But the same can be done with with a traditional monogram of just the women’s initials…and that’s just what I prefer.

These days anything goes with names and marriage. You can take your husband’s name, keep your name, hyphenate your names, combine both names into one name, pick a name out of thin air. It’s like an e.e. cummings poem—you can do whatever you want, with zero regard for convention or tradition, and get praised for it (that is if you choose any option but the first). And I guess for every naming situation, there is a monogram question to go along with it.

I’m someone who blithely took my husband’s name, and I enjoy being called Mrs., but I’d never presume to tell someone else to do the same. But if other women get to pick whatever name they want, I should be able to pick a the monogram that I feel represents me, whether or not it includes my husband. If other people feel diminished by taking their husbands’ names, why should I compromise my monogram, and my strongly held beliefs on good manners, just to make a man feel included?

And so what if feminism really isn’t my motivation for my monogram choices? I’m happy sharing my name with my husband and children, and if the traditional practice were to share my monogram, I’d probably do it. But if other people don’t have their motives questioned for their more progressive decisions, why should I have to defend my traditional ones?

And, for the record, men’s personalization should be represented as their initials, in block letters, in the order of the first, middle, and last name. They should personalize their own accessories, like cufflinks, and leave the monograms to us.

Now I’m all worked up. I think I’ll go calm down by hate-reading some e.e. cummings.

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