The Haro von Mogel Wedding, Part 1

I meant to post this on May 10, 2008, exactly one year after I popped The Question to Ariela on the air, unscripted, live, and obviously so. But today should do just as well, for it is now exactly one month until the day we get hitched. Let me tell you about The Haro von Mogel Wedding.™

Ariela and I have been together since December 4, 2003. We knew within a few months that we were more than just together, we were an indivisible unit – a system that was more than the sum of its parts, with the emergent property called love. We were friends for half a year before we hooked up, and living as neighbors. But when we got together we were inseparable. Really. We had to flip a coin each night to decide who’s place we slept in, to keep it fair. Before we had left the co-ops we lived in (more like large apartments than anything else), we were fundamentally in an irreducible state.

Ariela was deciding what she wanted to study when we first got together, and she settled on sociology. Ariela’s real passion is music history, particularly classical music, and especially Mozart. I graduated first with my degree in genetics, and a passion for being scientific and communicating things scientific. Sharing interests in philosophy, sleeping in, talking about all things academic and nerdy, food, bees, and buttered popcorn with orange juice, it’s been a real fun time for both of us. We’re all set to build a life together. Actually, we’ve already started.

You know you’re getting married when you start talking about the sound system you’ll eventually buy 2-3 years down the road. Or when you whip out paper to re-design the Ideal Home™ and decide for yourselves what functions belong in each room. Who needs a formal ‘presentation’ living room? What a waste. When I got accepted to grad school, we made plans to move across the country and start anew. It was never a question that we were going together, it didn’t even need to be said.

It was said. We both talked about wanting to spend our lives together, we just had to ceremonialize it. On our third anniversary, Ariela wanted to do just that, but since she laid claim to initiating the First Kiss™, I asked to be the one to ask The Question.™ See the link above if you missed it.

Anyway, I could write about our life together end on end, what I really want to communicate are some of the fantastic details of our wedding, which has come to be known as The Haro von Mogel Wedding™ amongst our family and friends. (I’m really having fun with ™) It’s even on our invitations that we sent out six weeks ago.

Ariela Haro, and I, Karl Joseph Mogel, are two unconventional, very non-traditional people. We evaluate and re-evaluate social norms with an eye for undoing the status quo whenever it tries to arbitrarily dictate how we should behave. Like the design of a house, with it’s big ‘presentation’ windows and multi-garage doors facing the street, and the big formal living room that you never use, these are things that very specific people want, yet, it is considered The House® that everyone should have. So too, are weddings. So too, are lives. We will have none of that for ourselves. Let me tell you what we’re doing differently.

Before I continue I would like to warn you, I’m going to say what I think about traditions, straight up. Many of you may have no problem with them, or have partaken in them yourself. But I would like to emphasize that I’m talking about what I think about these traditions in relation to us. If you really want a presentation living room, by all means have one! If you’ve got one and never thought about why – look out ahead. But if you’re about to buy a home, so to speak, perhaps this post might inspire you to decorate your life differently.

First, let me explain the von thing. (Or the von thang as it says on the wiki we are using to plan the big event.) Ariela and I both attempt to be as egalitarian as is humanly possible, not only in the hard stuff like who cleans what, who cooks what, etc, but also in the soft stuff like how do we identify ourselves as a pair. The tradition in this country is that when a man and a woman get married, the woman typically takes the last name of the man. Furthermore, it leads to the garish extreme where the woman is even referred to as Mrs. Karl J. Mogel – completely swamping her identity with that of her husband. Ugh. I’m getting married to Ariela Haro, not Ms. ______ ____.

There is no problem with taking the man’s last name, in and of itself. The problem arises when it is the expected norm, and when it is almost always the case. For example, it is a burden for some women to change their names, particularly in academia or the arts. Publications are published under your last name, I have come across many pairs of married scientists who have each kept their respective last names. I wonder what they do for their children’s names? Movie stars also hardly ever change their last name because their names have, well, name-recognition. Plus they’re always marrying and divorcing willy-nilly, so why bother to go to court to change your name anyway?

Before Ariela and I knew we were going to get hitched, she had already decided she didn’t want to just take the man’s last name. When she mentioned this to her mom, her mom threatened to disown her, for a moment. What’s interesting about this is that her mom argued it was disrespectful to Ariela’s father, whose last name would be lost anyway if Ariela got married the normal way. The threat was empty, but it goes to show that there is great social significance to whose name is taken. Although in an absolute sense the chosen last name is arbitrary, clearly it is not socially arbitrary – the man’s last name is chosen because we are in a patriarchal society, one that follows the male line of descent and considers it most important. Thus, a patrilineal naming system.

Conversely, there/have been are a few matrilineal societies. Jewish people count their descendants as Jews if they were born of a Jewish mother, although that’s not the case with names, unless I am mistaken. The Iroquois, Indians, and more passed their riches, rank and authority, and names down the female line. Is this any better? No. It is equally problematic. There’s a myth that Matriarchal societies are better than their patriarchal counterparts – a myth brought on by the refreshing appeal of something different for a change. But both are just as sexist as each other.

Some married couples have opted to hyphenate their names, and some combine the letters of their names. For example, when my mother married my dad, and became a Diefendorf, we joked that our family was the “Mogeldorf” family. Those two combine rather nicely. But Mogel and Haro do not. Harogel? sounds like a shaving cream. Mogaro? Sounds more Klingon than anything else. Moghar? I think that’s the fourth dark orc tower in Middle Earth – the one that no one talks about because it sounds so horrible. Gomorah? Please. And Haro-Mogel and Mogel-Haro are just plain tacky.

What to do? So we expanded our search to see how different cultures combined names. Mexican women are known to string their family names along behind them like beads they add to a string. And in feudal European times, your last name was the name of your estate – Karl of Mogel, for example. One catch – no estate to speak of!

Then we found out that some Danish people have used an interesting way of combining last names – with von between them. Although I found this information on the internet – I should have bookmarked it because as I write this I cannot find the reference again. Essentially, the word von means “of” or “from.” German naming traditions used von to mean of X Estate, denoting nobility. The nobility system of naming has passed, the remnants are the people who today still bear those names. In the Danish usage of von to combine names, it is like saying your last name is X of Y or X from Y. So how about Haro von Mogel?

That was it. We found our new names: Karl and Ariela Haro von Mogel. Quite a mouthful! We proposed it to our family members, close and extended, and heard nary an objection, some people said it sounded very cool. Even the staunch German Mogels on my side didn’t say anything about it when we announced our intention last December. We’re going to be Haro von Mogels! Thus the name I gave to our “Recording Studio,” which I mentioned previously.

There are several things we like about this new name.

First, it combines our names in an attractive way. Second, it sounds cool. Third, it reminds me of all those scientists with von in their names, like Karl von Frische, Carl von Linne (Carl Linneaus), and Werner von Braun. Fourth, von Mogel has a ring to it. Fifth, Haro von Mogel has a ring to it. Sixth, Ariela likes the idea of a von because she is studying Music History – and there are plenty of vons in there. Seventh, it is entirely our own. Eighth, it makes me think of how geneticists name new breeds or varieties – by combining the names of their parents, so our kids would literally be descended from the combination of Haro and Mogel, and be Haro of Mogel. I could go on with the naming nerdiness.

But there is one main issue that remains. Everyone’s on board: family, friends, co-workers (who know about it yet), but not entirely us. Haro von Mogel is a long name, with five syllables. Imagine all the people we would have to spell that to. Imagine signing with that many letters to scribble on every check, and your kids, tortured during roll-call at school with such a long name. Bottom line: it’s cool, but a bit cumbersome.

So we are considering altering our planned name a little bit more. Rather than change both our last names to Haro von Mogel, we are thinking about changing our middle names to Haro, and our last names to von Mogel. Our full names would still be Karl Haro von Mogel and Ariela Haro von Mogel, but, in short, we would be von Mogels. (Ariela has no middle name, and I’m not fond of mine, might work!) Easier to spell, easier to write, to repeat to people, appear on the cover of books, etc. But we would still have our name fusion, and the meaning that comes with it.

What do you think? Like the sound of it? What do you think about the dilemma over the length of the name and keeping the full Haro von Mogel, or splitting it up into middle and last names? Either way, get ready for a change in nomenclature here at my site, and in my podcast. And either way, it will be The Haro von Mogel Wedding.

Coming up next, hear about our crazy wedding. A Turquoise Dress, a DNA suit jacket, genetically engineered flowers, and a String Quartet. Stick around for The Haro von Mogel Wedding Part 2.


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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

12 thoughts on “The Haro von Mogel Wedding, Part 1”

  1. That’s not a bad idea, as long as Ariela doesn’t mind losing the Haro in “everyday” use, and it works for her in academia.

    I can’t help but notice that any time someone mentions marital name change (or names in general, really), those start some of the longest threads ever on the Internet. It’s a very touchy subject, and you’re lucky that so far people are going along happily with the idea after the previous drama with her mom.

    I decided long ago to keep mine. I’m the last of the last name, my first name is so generic that if I changed the last nobody would know it was me, and it’s really too long to do any kind of name combining. (My ex-fiance wanted to hyphenate, but his last name was just as long as mine and worse to spell. If we’d hyphenated that people would have killed us.) Compared to two 10-letter names, I think “Haro von Mogel” is a lot less complicated. You’re lucky to both have short last names already! The one thing I would wonder about is where you’re going to get filed alphabetically, under H, V, or M. (I don’t know how “von Whatsits” do it, but from what I’ve seen at UCD it could end up bloody anywhere.)


  2. I think generally, von Whatsits get categorized under W for Whatsit, although people sometimes make mistakes and put them in the V.
    Marital name change is indeed a touchy subject for some people, although there are a lot of people I have read who have listed their concerns without being upset by it. Basically, we’re taking an old system based upon location, occupation, patrilineality, nobility, etc, and trying to apply it to our modern society today. I rather like the logic behind naming systems employed by geneticists and breeders, but the problem is, it gets pretty long.
    A/J-C57B6 N20F10 is a mouse 30 generations down the road from two parent strains, after 20 rounds of backcrossing and 10 rounds of inbreeding. Just think how complicated it would get if it wasn’t mating within the family like that!
    I think the most important factors in all this is how the name sounds, and what it means to the people who bear it.
    You are right – Haro von Mogel isn’t very long as it stands. That’s why we’re teetering on the edge between the two options. If it was Horowitz von Mogeldorf… that would definitely be too long!


  3. Since I haven’t yet published, I chose to take my husband’s name – but it could have gotten very sticky. Your solution is very nice, although with the middle name I wonder what the last names of any children would be. I’m looking forward to reading about your unconventional wedding planning 🙂


  4. Go for Haro von Mogel

    it is a beautiful name and a beautiful idea. 5 syllables is not so long. Your kids can worry about the syllables when they get a married.

    have a lovely wedding!



  5. Thanks, Pam! We’ve been leaning back and forth, but everyone seems to like the longer one better. I can see how, in your case, Ronald von Adamchak would be more of a mouthful. (Actually, that sounds kind of cool. ‘von’s make everything fun!) Do you ever have issues with keeping both yours and Raoul’s names? What last names did your kids take?
    I’ll tell Ariela you like our plan.


  6. My wife (of 24 years) is an artist and did not want to change her name for that reason. My name is a pain but not so much I felt I had to ditch it. Our kids have her name because, like I said, mine is a pain. Sometimes people wonder if they are mine. We get every permutation of the names on our mail.

    I say: You are Mogul. She is Haro. If either or both of you wants to change names then fine, great, do it. Otherwise don’t bother. Don’t underestimate the convenience to you of following the convention just for the sake of being unconventional.

    Congratulations! Sounds like you are off to a great start. If it gets hard, work at it. It’s worth it.


  7. Cool thing for you Karl, is that if it goes awry, her name reverts back to being that of Ariela Haro Haro- which sounds like a chanted curse upon the listener, and thus might be an incentive for her to stay.


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