Earlier this year, I was sitting with a friend when she asked the question: Are you taking Kyle’s name when you get married?
For years, I’ve watched friends navigate the business of changing their names post-marriage. Making last names middle names. Filing endless paperwork. Deciding whether to hyphenate. Going by their maiden name professionally, but having a different legal name. It’s complicated, and a little messy.
So am I changing my name? No. And I feel the kind of deep certainty about this choice that I wish I felt about all of my decisions. Here’s why.
One. I like my name. Being gifted an uncommon name at birth, the path to name acceptance was long. But I took some comfort in the fact that my first name sounded pretty good when paired with my last name. Something about the way the vowel sounds mix has a nice ring to it.
Saying my first name with Kyle’s last name just doesn’t have the same ring to it. No matter how many times I repeat it, it just doesn’t work.
Two. Tradition. Growing up, my Mom was a bit of a name pioneer. She was the only woman I knew who hyphenated. So I always knew that taking your spouse’s name was not a requirement. I feel a certain sense of comfort following her example.
Three. Ownership. I am particularly sensitive to the patriarchy that comes with being given a man’s name at birth and then taking another man’s name at marriage. It’s the reason I have forbidden our officiant from saying, “who gives this woman to this man,” at the wedding. Nobody f***ing gives me, because I am no one’s property.
Beyond the women as property concern, I feel that giving up the name I’ve used all of my life would strip away some intangible piece of my identity.
Growing up with a father who had a certain reputation in the community (divorce lawyers, what are you gonna do?), I was often thought of as my father’s daughter and little more. My name preceded me into grade school classes where teachers decided my worth based on his reputation. Into friends’ homes where I just wasn’t welcome to visit. And into jobs where being the daughter of someone with his name ID was not helpful.
For 37 years, I have worked hard to make my name my own, and I don’t want to give it up.
Surprisingly, I get a decent amount of criticism for this from women in my friend group. “Don’t you want to be a family?,” is the most common question. Whether Kyle and I are family is not determined by the name on my driver’s license. If we have children, what name they have is a separate issue. They’ll probably have his name as a matter of practicality, since a hyphenate of our names would be rather cumbersome. 13 letters is a lot for a small child to spell.
Four. Hassle. It’s a small concern, but I have no interest in going through the bureaucratic rigamarole that is changing my name. Being able to avoid that headache is the icing on the keeping-my-name cake. Any decision that comes with a trip to the DMV and the Social Security office seems like one I’d like to avoid.
I do not bring up this topic or my choice to disparage anyone who took their spouse’s name. Some of you probably felt pressure to keep yours or hyphenate in order to be a “real feminist,” and that’s nonsense. Being a feminist means letting women do what’s best for them. So if changing your name was the right choice for you, then good for you for making it. But it’s not right for me.
This is always an interesting topic. So if you’re married, what did you choose and why? If you’re not, what do you intend to do, and what factors shape that intention? Further, why are we still hung up on this topic nearly five decades after women’s lib?
I also kept my last name! It was never a question because to change my last name would have felt as weird to me as changing my first name just because I was married. My name is MY identity, and no one was asking my husband to change his identity for marriage so why would I?
Good for you in your resolute approach to this choice. I always thought I’d add my husband’s name to mine – I even went so far as to register the email address – but once we got married, it just never felt right. On some level, my name felt like my identity, and I wasn’t interested in implying any loss of it. So, in the end, I kept my name. I’ve been lucky to not get any pushback from family or friends (save for one uncle-in-law who, predictably, just can’t help himself).
That said, this is a personal decision, and it’s what was right for me and I respect whatever feels right for other women.
Congratulations on your engagement!
This happened to me too! I even signed our marriage last name with my “new” name (as the state we married in said this was required if I was planning to change it) but it never felt right so I never actually changed it.
I kept my name, and now our 5 month old daughter has my last name, too! My husband isn’t wild about his name, mine is “easier” and more common, and he didn’t want to burden the kiddo with his.
Love it! Did your husband keep his as well?
C. Lee says:
I was married in 1992 and also did not change my last name (which was much more common then) We also gave our daughter MY last name, for the same reasons, it was just better. Occasionally my husband has to insist that he IS her “real father” but he is probably going to change HIS last name to ours once his final living parent dies. Love these comments and discussion!
I have my mom’s last name too and I love it. I think the question of what name to give kids is much more interesting than whether or not to change your own name.
We discussed smushing our names’ together, and he offered to change his, but, at the end of the day, I like my name, and it’s a relatively unusual one, whereas his is his national background’s equivalent of Smith, and both of us are a little lazy. My mom kept hers, as well, so I never felt any pressure from my family or from him to change it, and I knew that “the teachers will get confused when you don’t have the same name as your kids” was BS (from my experience and from having lots of teacher friends and family). On the other hand, the morning after the wedding, we walked into the room, and his grandma said “How’s Mrs. [HisLastName]?” and I snarked back “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her yet this morning!” Luckily, I gave her her first great grandkids, because she otherwise would never have forgiven…
Yeah, total BS. These days so many kids come from blended families or single parents, having a different name from their parents shouldn’t confuse anyone.
Shannon Cary says:
I didn’t change my name, and I have never regretted it. My sons have my husband’s name because that is easiest. It’s really not a big deal. Some of my kids’ teachers might think I’m divorced, but who cares. The only thing that drives me crazy is that some of my own family members still don’t get it and address cards to me with my husband’s name. Oh well! But I totally support and understand your decision.
You do you.
I decided to change my name, I wanted my kids, husband and I to all have the same name when they were born. I respect anyone who chooses differently.
But honestly, the paperwork to change a name is really not a big deal. A bit of a hassle? Sure. Lengthy and excruciatingly painful? No.
Changing the name legally is not the painful part…it’s all the banks, mileage programs, bills, etc.. that make it such a pain! Even like hotel rewards and stuff. I’m still (5 years out) working on getting my new name on everything.
Seriously. I actually closed some investment accounts and just moved money elsewhere because that was easier than changing my name.
Amy Parker says:
I’m 9 years out and still finding things I need to change or can’t be changed without opening a new account.
Good on you. I changed my name in 2002 when I got married. I did not care for my maiden name and was glad to have something easier. However, now I am divorced, and did not change BACK because of the difficulty to do so, plus, in my new city, no one knows my name was a married name. Additionally, so many professional relationships know me by this one, easier to keep it professionally too. Thanks for the discussion.
I took my husband’s last name because I thought it was cooler and much easier to pronounce (my maiden name was an ethnic name no one – even in the small town I grew up in where the majority of people had the same ethnic heritage – could pronounce). My husband was supportive and told me the choice was up to me, though I suspect I would’ve gotten a little grief from our more traditional families if I hadn’t changed. We got married right out of college and before moving to a new city together, so I didn’t have that many places to change it, and professional recognition wasn’t an issue.
That said, between getting accepted into and starting grad school, I got married and changed my name. My school ID/email was based on my maiden name, and no amount of official name change paperwork would make them update it (technology…). Since I now work for the same institution, I get a reminder every time I email. #irony
YES!!!! Changing my name with the Social Security Administration took approximately 5 minutes. Changing my name on my Marriott and Southwest rewards accounts took weeks of work, faxes, a blood sample and a carrier pigeon. Only slightly kidding about the last two items.
I also love that women can choose whether or not to change their last names. You do you!
We each kept our last names, and that what we told people if asked. It has been sometimes amusing and sometimes frustrating to get mail with incorrect names (family should know better, I’ll give friends a pass). It was barely a discussion between us when we got married- I asked if he had thoughts, he said he didn’t, he just didn’t want to change his name. Case closed. We had our officiant also skip the “giving away” and announce us a “For the first time as a married couple, First Name and First Name!”
I suspect it will cause greater discussion when we have kids- he wants his name only, but I’m open to hyphenating our last names (it wouldn’t been too difficult).
I changed with my second marriage but not with my first. The first one I didn’t particularly like his last name and it didn’t really give me an advantages (like being easier to pronounce or spell) over my maiden name. There may also have been some subconscious reluctance to form a family, as we obviously ended up divorced.
I really like having our last name – it is also our family name (added bonus: easier to spell over the phone). Our kids have/will have our last name…so I won’t get the feeling of orphan mom. I may be a bit of a traditionalist, but before we got engaged we talked about whether or not I would change my name. I never asked him how important it was to him what I did as I realized I really wanted there to be an “us” unit to the world and a common name was how I wanted to present that us.
Ultimately, it is a deeply personal question and there aren’t any wrong choices.
I changed my last name. One reason is because I’m fairly traditional, but I also like that while my first and middle name were given to me, I got to choose my last name. It also sounds good with my first name and moves me up the alphabet (ha!).
To change or not to change is such a personal decision, and I really believe the only person whose opinion matters is the person who is going to be filling out forms in that name for the rest of their life.
Moving up in the alphabet was one of the reasons I changed my name too! Going from an S to a C for all the alphabetical things (kids’ graduations for one) is a win. 🙂
I was also pumped to go from W to K! I figured my kids would never be last whether they started from the front or back of the alphabet. Although I guess they’ll never be first either…
Drago Cucina says:
I moved from a W to a L. The lyrical Italian name was also a plus.
Kept mine, for all the reasons you mentioned. My in-laws happened to ask once about it a few weeks after we got married (it came up when FIL mentioned something about how my name should be updated in an article, maybe, I think? So long ago). I explained it’s a hassle and I don’t want to deal with it, and they’ve never asked since. Informally, people address me by my spouse’s last name and it irks me but I’m an easily irked person. You do you!
I am a traditionalist and grew up in and still work in a very conservative, religious environment. No one from my childhood didn’t have their husband’s last name. That being said, I have a very unique last name and people I’ve met during my life, even for a moment, remember my last name. I didn’t want to lose that but also wanted to have the same last name as my husband, so I hyphenated. I actually go by Mrs. His-last-name at work but everything else has both names attached. My amazing husband was good with whatever I chose, which also made it easy for me. I say to each her own!
I took my husbands last name first because I wanted to and it sounded nice, and second because the gmail of my new name was available. No joke.
I’m happy I did it! But i’m most happy I had the choice, and that’s really what matters to me. You do you and eff the rest.
I think the beauty of our present time is that pretty much anything goes when it comes to name decisions. You can hyphenate, you can both hyphenate, you can keep your name or change it to his, or he could take your name… you could even merge your names together if that’s your thing. There’s a lot of freedom and acceptance, albeit often times with some explanation required. I ended up taking my husband’s name, and I have mixed feelings about it. There are benefits to taking his name, but I don’t have any emotional attachment to my married name whereas I strongly identify with my maiden name. I wouldn’t say I regret the choice, but I do think if I were doing it again, I would make a different decision.
I reallllly hesitated in changing my name as I’m in an industry where you’re credited, and I didn’t want to lose those credits. On the flip side, my husband and I are an interracial couple, and when it comes to banking or TSA or travel, folks don’t always realize we are actually a unit. I wanted to have the same name to make it extra obvious that YES, we are a pair.
My birth name is very short and simple, to the point where many people thought it was a middle name anyway (think, like, Mary Ann, or Mary Lou), so I moved my last name to my middle name. For me, it’s the best of both worlds. I didn’t find changing it to be much of a hassle, but I went to the Social Security office and DMV on off hours.
Either way, I’m happy you are confident in your decision! There’s no right or wrong, only what is right for YOU! And… I greatly appreciate that no one is “giving you away” – I felt the same way myself. Our officiant said something like “As a woman is no one’s property to be given away, I simply ask if you are here of your own free will.”
So thrilled for you!
My husband and I are also an interracial couple and I didn’t take his name. I can attest to regularly being confused as colleagues and not a married couple when we travel, especially when checking in or out of a hotel or renting a car. I love having to explain to people that we can have different last names and still be married… mind blown in some places.
Also an interracial couple but I didn’t take my husband’s name. My reasons included: 1. Just not wanting to, 2. It is not tradition in my culture (Chinese) for the bride to take the husband’s name. I had actually never put the expectation on myself to take my husband’s name as my mom and dad have different last names. 3. I’m in medicine/academia and had already published and gotten 2 degrees under my name already.
My husband and I are also an interracial couple and this happens to us ALL THE TIME (where people don’t think we are unit). It was one of the reasons I decided to take his name. The other main reason is when I grew up my family all the had same last name and I liked feeling like were a “unit” – the X Family. I feel like the common name bonded us all together. I wanted that same feeling for my family.
My fiance and I are also an interracial relationship. One reason I’m not changing my name is because I’m the non-white half and his last name is VERY traditional-white-European (his father is literally from a rural village in England, so no surprise). I have a Western legal first name and in combination with his last name, I feel like my ethnic identity would be totally erased on paper.
I kept my last name, even though it’s objectively not so great . I didn’t see a reason to change it and I was in my 30’s, so why bother? Maybe it would be different if I were 22.
I’m having a baby and we’re going to give the baby his last name and my middle name as the last name. My reasoning is that his is about a million times easier to spell and pronounce – mine is long and slavic and lacking in vowels. But, I still feel like it’s kind of a cop out because among women who have kept their last name after marrying a man, I don’t know -anyone- who hasn’t given their kids the husband’s last name. Maybe the next generation will get over that hangup.
My aunt and uncle did this in the late 80s. They gave both kids both names, but switched which one came last. I always found this interesting, but it’s also the only case of it that’s I’ve seen.
That’s what we did! I’m last name X, husband is last name Y, and kiddo has last name Y-X. You’re so right that most kids seem to end up with just the dad’s last name.
A former colleague kept her last name, and then she and her husband gave their first child her name. She said they didn’t know yet what they would do for future children. I think it’s super rare though.
I never really thought about taking my husband’s name. His is kind of weird, and I hate the idea of losing my identity. Getting married in my mid-30s also meant that I have built up a professional reputation under my own name. My sister changed her name when she got married and says she still regrets it eight years later. I will respond if an acquaintance calls me Mrs. [HisLastName] and have decided to not make a big deal out of it.
I love your name and am glad you are keeping it! Though I don’t understand why children generally get the father’s last name when the mother decides not to change her name…it seems like the mother does the work of carrying and delivering the child and therefore earns naming rights lol:)
Agreed! I didn’t change my name and we decided that our child(ren) wouldn’t automatically get his name or mine either. Kids grow up accepting what they know as normal – I don’t see how different last names would make a family feel less like a family.
I got married almost 7 years ago in my mid-20s and changed my name. Why? Because I didn’t really think about it and that is what everyone around me did. I had a bit of regret after the fact, and may have ultimately changed it back, but my brother quickly married someone who shared my first name and took his last name. I decided we didn’t need two identical names in one family and I would my married name. Professionally I usually go by First name, Maiden name, Married name now. Glad you are thinking through this before the fact!
I don’t love my last name (it’s basically the Spanish equivalent of Smith), but I see it as part of my identity. I’ve been this name my entire life. It would be weird to be someone different. I also don’t look or sound stereotypically Hispanic and will likely not marry someone Hispanic, so my name is also a tie to my culture and heritage, which are both important to me. I’d consider hyphenating if it sounds ok, but definitely not outright dropping my name. I’ll admit to feeling a little taken aback by friends who married older and had established careers and changed their names, but it’s their lives, so I’ve never said anything to them.
Ha! I thought this was my comment because my last name is basically “Smith” in Spanish, too. I ended up going a different route for a variety of reasons and I don’t regret it other than being annoyed I had to make the choice in the first place.
This is me! I also have the Spanish equivalent of Smith for a last name but generally present as Caucasian. I decided awhile ago I would not change my last name for the reasons you identify; it’s a symbol of my heritage. I also thought I was unlikely to marry another Latino based on my current city, but I’m currently in a long term relationship with one of the few other Latinos in the dating pool. Still won’t change my name, though – I just like my name!
My husband tics the “White Hispanic” box on the census and does not immediately present as Latinx. He is committed to the del Name y Name convention. It will be long and annoying on the SATs, but the odds of our kids presenting as completely Caucasian (because Argentina and, well, I’m just a gringa)are strong, so I don’t mind a strong indicator in the name department and it’s REALLY important to him.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping a name or taking a new name. To each their own. I do think combining names is a little strange…! But again, to each their own.
I took my husband’s name (married 1.5 years) and I had always always planned to do so. Just assumed that’s what I would do when I married. It’s what I saw modeled growing up and I had no issues with it. Now, 1.5 years in, I’m not so sure what I think. I still think of myself as my maiden name. When I say my married name, it still sounds foreign. I don’t forget to say it, I just don’t feel like it’s me. That bothers me. I don’t love my MIL or step-MIL, so I am thankful that my husband’s parents are divorced and the step-MIL isn’t official, so I don’t share a “Mrs. XYZ” with either of them – or anyone actually, my husband has a small family. The name is also not my favorite.
We have a baby, and I am glad that our family will share a family name. And, overall, having the same last name as my husband is the least confusing way to do it. So that’s nice.
But, right now, especially as I try to find my new identity as a wife and SAHM of a 6 month old, I’m not so sure if I made the right decision. Perhaps I did and I just need to find other ways to be myself – my name doesn’t define me.
I’ve been married 18 and took my husbands last name. It took a long time to get used to people calling me that, but even after all this time if someone I know from my past calls out my first and maiden last name, I always, always look. Somethings are just with you forever!!
Yes yes yes!!! I feel so strongly about a woman keeping her last name for all the reasons you listed. You boiled it down very succinctly and matter-of factly (not sure that is a word?) and I really loved reading this. I have 2 kids now and I fought tooth and nail to make sure they have my name in their last name–their last name is hyphenated and it’s now a 12 letter last name. But why wouldn’t my children have my last name? I carried and birthed them and am raising them! I’m confused why you concede to kids having your husband’s last name. That is almost more important to me. A topic for another time if you have kids I guess….
Really enjoyed getting a glimpse into your thought process! I, too, don’t plan to change my name. My boyfriend and I are buying a house together now (closing next week!), and seeing our individual names side-by-side on hundreds of documents just looks and feels right. He’s already indicated that changing my name isn’t important to him, but I’d be willing to discuss it if it were. We won’t be having children, so the common “we should all share the same name” argument isn’t that relevant for our family.
We both hyphenated our last names. So I am Jane Jones-Smith and he is Joseph Jones-Smith (obv. not our real names).
We came to this solution because it seemed to capture what we wanted most which was: 1. To have a family name that we can share with future children and 2. Make an equal commitment/sacrifice to each other.
Rachel C says:
I always knew, and wanted, to take my husband’s name. Not because I had to or because it was expected but because I just liked the idea. But, when the time came to finally change it, I realized I was very attached to my last name and I stopped and considered not changing it. In the end, I did change my name, but even now, almost 10 years later, my brain still uses my maiden name at least half the time in dreams or anything like that.
I’ve done both. Initially, I took my husband’s name as my last name and moved my maiden name to a second middle name. I was a bit on the fence about what I wanted to do and at the time, i thought it meant more to him that I take his name than it did for me to keep it.
Less than six months after doing the paperwork, I regretted it. This was an ongoing conversation between us for about three years. Eventually, I took my maiden name back as my last name and kept his as a second middle name. He also changed his name so that my last name is a second middle name. Neither of us actually use these names for anything except government paperwork, but we know they’re there.
We haven’t had a firm conversation about what would happen to a child, should we have one. I told him the child could have his name, and I would take complete control of the middle name and make it something from my family. Our names don’t hyphenate well and I don’t want to remove an option from the kid in the future.
My husband was, not initially thrilled with it, but he understood and knew that this was what was going to be. My family was totally fine, we’re not super traditional and..the family leaders and ones who have kept things together have all been women. My in-laws however, were different. I talked to both my husband and SIL to figure out how to break it to my super traditional in-laws. Even with that, my MIL had to talk my FIL out of giving me a…rather unpleasant lecture. We weren’t super straightforward about whether I took his name or not initially, so some of our families know what our respective last names are, some don’t. If it’s someone more distant, I don’t care if they address things to Bri and Husband HISNAME. Not a big deal to me.
But honestly, taking my name back was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Having his…I didn’t feel like myself, like my name wasn’t attached to me. By having my own name, I feel like I’m me. I still love the guy, have no plans on leaving the relationship, but I’m also myself.
I also kept my name! First for all the reasons you listed above and secondly because in my career, my name is my brand, and third, it’s my connection to my heritage.
The topic of the last name for any future children is a tough one for us though. I want their last name to be hyphenated, my husband disagrees and thinks that offering my last name be their middle name is a compromise. Likely to be long term discussion before we can reach a real middle ground.
I’m grateful that more women are being open and honest about this as a personal decision. Thank you for creating an environment where there is such a supportive, honest community of women!
I got married two weeks ago, and I’m AGONIZING over the decision. Between getting adopted at age 12 by my dad when he married my mom (my current last name is his and I love it) and becoming a step-mom to two amazing littles as a result of my recent wedding, I just don’t know what the right answer is. For now, I’m waiting, and hopefully taking my time will help me make a decision.
I had a friend who married into a very blended family. She spent a year and change making the decision as she got to know her step-kids as a new mom. She ended up keeping her name because of a weak vote from her husband and a strong vote from her new kids. They liked her last name! She has agreed to hyphenate future-kids with her husband so that all the kids have one of the same last names. Families are complicated! Take your time and space.
Lindsay F says:
I changed my name as quickly as I could. I’m estranged from my biological father and his entire side of the family. The last name was always a reminder of the disappointment I felt by him abandoning my sister and I and basically creating a whole new life without us. I feel bad my sister still has the name, but am glad to have a new name that feels less weighted by my past.
We also recently had a baby. I love that all of us have the same last name. Having grown up with a Mom and step-dad with different names, it was always awkward when people called my mom or I by the “wrong” name. I know that was in a time when divorce/different names was more stigmatized than it is now, but I like this bit of tradition and don’t feel at all “owned” by taking my husbands name.
Bonus points for my married name because it is not distinctive at all and so easily gives me anonymity on the internet!
As much as I would like a little internet anonymity from time to time, his is also super distinctive. And it’s not like my first name is good at hiding either…
Not married but just had this discussion with my partner of 10 years. We mutually agreed I would keep my name for all the reasons you listed- plus 2 more:
5. Examples from our parents- My mother kept her name on her Japanese passport (Japanese law requires citizens to have a Japanese name, and my father is not Japanese). However, she took my father’s name for her green card and all American documents, and she has regretted this decision every time she goes through passport control into the U.S. (and she travels a lot for work). My partner’s mother kept her name, so he already has an influential woman in his life who kept her name and raised him without issue. While he officially has his father’s name, he sometimes goes by his mother’s name. If we have kids, we may just give them her name.
6. I legally have two last names- I inherited both of my parents’ names. If I took my partner’s name, I would lose both of my names.
No one expects any of this of men, so why should it be different for us?
I took my husband’s last name for a couple reasons, but don’t feel terribly passionate either way. I’m a very practical person and chose based on what seemed most convenient long-term.
1) I married young, before I established myself professionally so it was a breeze to change
2) My maiden name is Slavic and was butchered in the immigration process years ago. No one can pronounce it or spell it. My husband’s name is extremely common and that was enough of a reason for me!
I changed my last name to my husband’s. It was horrendous being around some of my professional friends for a while, who chose not to change their last name – I felt immensely judged. I agree with some of the other comments – you do you.
I couldn’t wait to change my name when I got married. My parents divorced when I was in middle school and my dad was less than stellar as a father. I was planning to take my step-dad’s name once I graduated from college but got married instead. It was easy for me because of the broken relationship with my dad and his side of family and because as a recent college graduate, I didn’t have a career yet.
The first time someone called me “Mrs. Husband’s Last Name” in a professional setting though, I did look around for my mother-in-law.
I’m still happy with my decision 14 years later.
I kept mine. Originally, I kept it because I was using the GI Bill for school and didn’t trust the VA to not screw up payments. It’s now 5 years later and honestly, my main reason for not changing it is the hassle. I just do not feel strongly enough about it to make the hassle worth it. I’m now pregnant with our first and we’re navigating what the kiddo’s last name will be. But I’m not planning to change mine just so we all have the same one.
I kept my maiden name. Like you, it’s a part of my identity and I wanted to keep feeling like me. I also wasn’t given away at my wedding, but I did have my dad walk me down the aisle. I live in the south and I’m consistently judged by women and men about not changing my name. Since my name is very long and my husband’s isn’t short, we probably won’t hyphenate when we have a child. I can’t agree more with everyone should do what is right for them!
I was surprised by how strongly I felt about keeping my name. I’m glad we live in a time where there are so many different stories by the women here about names, all of which are equally to be celebrated.
We have three kids and the name thing just isn’t an issue. I’m happy to report that the only time having a different last name from my husband has even came up was when I tried to pick up an online order for him in-store at REI. Luckily, I have an insurance card with both of our names on it, otherwise the sales lady was not going to let me walk away with our son’s new bike. 😉
I kept my own name after I got married almost 2 years ago. Absolutely no regrets–you hit on all the points, but especially that not sharing a name doesn’t make us any less family. I am my own person and especially after building a reputation with my own name, I don’t feel any need to change it. And I HATE the assumption that the woman should change her name (I kept sending my husband articles about men taking the woman’s name, but that didn’t stick). Thankfully everyone in my life was extremely supportive and I only briefly bristle when we get mail that says Mrs His-last-name. We’re now grappling with what we name our future children, which admittedly is a whole different conversation. We’re leaning towards hyphenation, which is not ideal and we have 2 unusual names, but seems like the most logical (and easiest) way to do . We talked about all of the iterations (including making up own own last name) but there isn’t a perfect solution. Our kids can eventually decide if they want to drop a name or figure out how to deal with it when they get married and have to name kids.
I took my husband’s name. At the time the decision had to do with our future children and wanting to match them. But the best result of it has been how much it helped me with Imposter Syndrome. I started my own law practice at the birth of our first child. I have always struggled with imposter syndrome and especially so when wondering if I really could hang my shingle. Elle Maidenname maybe couldn’t have done it, but even after 9 years I sometimes feel like Elle Marriedname is a character I’m playing and she CAN DO THIS! The feeling a detachment lets me be more objective about myself and abilities.
I so relate to this. My married name is a really good one and sounds like a super hero or TV character. She can handle anything. And an added bonus is that my maiden name is my vulnerable alter ego because people don’t know it unless they’ve known me for a long time or well enough that it has come up.
I kept my name when I got married too. It was for a personal reason. My father passed away when I was young and I wanted to keep his name, especially when I was sworn in as an attorney. I don’t care what people write on invitations or holiday cards, or if they address me using my husband’s last name. Congratulations on your engagement and best wishes to both of you!
I kept my last name for several reasons and don’t regret it. Just be advised: your life will be much less stressful if you assume people will call you by your husbands name 50% of the time (humorously he will also get called by your name) depending on whose name is on the account etc. Moat old people will not be able to get it through their heads that you have different last names and be prepared for Christmas cards to come in every possible combination of your names… if you can roll with it instead of getting upset life will be much more pleasant! My grandpa still makes Christmas and birthday checks out to me as my husband’s name… and they cash just fine! (Obviously make sure it’s right on official paperwork!!)
For our kids we hyphenated. Thirteen letters plus a hyphen, Both my husband and I love seeing our names together – they are BOTH of ours and that’s reflected in their names. That said… every time I fill out paperwork I think, “who is the idiot who gave these kids such a long name?!”
Love your attitude about this! My mom’s name is Jo, and my parents get mail to Mr. and Mr. Last Name. It makes them giggle.
I will learn to not care when people call me Kyle’s name. I know what I’m doing is “weird” to some people.
Also, “who is the idiot…” gave me a good laugh. When Kyle suggested we hyphenate, I was like, “I am not forcing anyone to write 13 letters and a character.” A friend growing up had a 14 letter last name because of a hyphen, and it always ran off the standardized testing form. Drove him nuts.
Dara Levy-Bernstein says:
OMG Belle this happened to me too – my name didn’t fit on the PSATS, its 15 characters with hyphen. It honestly was not terrible, and now as an adult my name is super distinctive which I love (but both parts are easy to spell). My mother’s family name has an especially important meaning for me so I can never imagine changing it. I know my parents did consider hyphenating themselves or choosing an entirely different last name, but ultimately just hyphenated us kids and kept theirs. FWIW I am about to turn 30 and grew up with plenty of other kids with hyphens and other configurations, maybe this is more regional? I am from the northeast, but not a huge city.
Life is so much easier when you can laugh off the mistakes people make when you and your spouse have different names! I kept my maiden name and am in a service club that is mostly women over 65 and I can’t tell you how many times they accidentally have called hubs by last name. 🤣
Also, we recently had a baby and gave him my husband’s last name because hubs is already a hyphen. Baby’s last name would have been 18 letters and two hyphens if not!
I changed my last name in my first marriage and regretted it mainly because it wasn’t done correctly (plus my then spouse didn’t help by minimizing the whole thing). It irked me every time I see my incorrect name from agencies that didn’t bother to update their records. After the marriage ended, I changed back to my maiden name and it was a such a relief, even though I had to wait in line for 4 hours at the social security office and 2 hours at the DMV.
Now there’s an impending second marriage and I’m leaning towards keeping my name, knowing that there will always be someone who will address me as Mrs.”his last name” (though I might snap back if I’m addressed Mrs.”his first and last name”). My fiance is open to whatever I decide to do. It is a very personal decision and I absolutely support everyone choosing what feels right for themselves.
Agree with every word you wrote! My son has two last names; a little messy but to me it shows he is equal part me, equal part my husband. And completely agree that each woman should choose what is best for them. Thanks for this thoughtful post.
I always knew I would take my spouse’s name. My maiden name has caused a lot of awkward moments, as it is one letter off from a VERY FOUL four-letter word.
My husband’s name isn’t particularly common, but VERY easy to spell. I really like it 🙂
The paperwork was surprisingly easy for me – I barely have a memory of it, since it was so unremarkable and smooth.
As with most things – do what feels right and makes you happiest 🙂 congrats.
I always thought I would change my last name growing up. It’s basically “Smith” in another language so I didn’t really have any attachment to my name. But then I moved from my hometown, which had my vibrant, dominant immigrant community to D.C. which did not. Suddenly I was white-passing in the winter and then fielding “what are you?” questions in the summer. While my last name gave away my heritage, my first name doesn’t and I felt I was losing a part of my identity.
My husband did not want to take my last name either and I didn’t really feel like hyphenating and doubling the length of my last name to some monstrous 14 character thing. I considered keeping my last name and my husband was fine with that, but I knew we wanted kids and soon and I figured I would be way more annoyed if someone questioned if my kid was mine if our last names were different. My first kid came out looking gringo AF so I’m already getting some comments about that and, yes, it was as annoying as I imagined it would be. (Seriously, if I’m somewhere with another family, I’m asked to order for the OTHER child or I get grouped at Disney World with my niece and brother rather than my husband and kid.)
Stuck with no good options, I decided to saddle the whole family with my last name as a second middle name. I figured culture was more important than a last name anyway, so I’m make sure my kids’ first names are indicative of their heritage and that they all speak Spanish fluently.
I’m still annoyed I had to compromise at all but I think I made the right choice. I got a great new, higher paying job within a year of changing my name and I no longer get weird comments that are reflective of Latino stereotypes (“you’re such a pistol!” “Oh wow that Latina temper!”) so that’s interesting although I’m not sure what that’s reflective of, if anything. I got another kid on the way and have sworn that if this one comes out gringo, too, I’m dying my hair and maybe wearing colored contacts.
First off, “gringo AF” was the first good laugh I’ve had this week. So thank you.
Secondly, if I was ever with one of my friends and someone said she had a Latina temper, I would slap them. So good restraint on your part.
I really appreciate your perspective that a woman should do what’s right for her. I hear all the time that it’s just so inconceivable that a women would take a man’s name in 2019, and how anti-feminist is that and just how could she??? And I just think, wait, isn’t the point that we can make our own choices? There are even articles out there of women who are livid when they receive mail to Mrs. and Mrs. his last name and the audacity! And how does society think i have no identity! And all I can think is ugh I’m too busy with other things…. there are real problems to attend to. And, honey, your privilege is showing. Rant over. 🙂
Love this post, and fully agree with feminism meaning supporting women to do what is best for them. I changed my name when I got married, though I was so young at the time I truthfully didn’t give it a lot of thought. I don’t regret it, but I do wish I had been more thoughtful in my decision-making.
I have friends who chose a random new last name together when they got married. They seriously just picked it out of the blue (not related to either of their pre-marriage names), which I think is an awesome idea.
My mom never changed her name, and as a kid (even living in a large, liberal city) I hated that. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been more traditional than her in all respects, but I really wanted her to have my name and hated having to explain to people that, yes, that was my mom’s name on the note to the school saying I was home sick, or her having to explain her relaionship to me when introducing herself (think, “Hi, I’m Jessica Jones, Mary Smith’s mother”). These might seem like petty things, but to me as a shy kid they were things I wished I didn’t have to deal with.
My parents also gave me and my siblings two middle names each, with the second being my mom’s last name. The end result was that I had the longest name of anyone I knew–at graduation, it took up two lines. Kind of cool? But also kind of attention-drawing in a way I didn’t always like.
While I deeply respect my mom and her decisions, I knew from a young age that I would change my name once I got married. This was probably helped by the fact that I got married before I turned 30–I had finished my education and been working in my career for a few years, but I didn’t have so much credited to my name that changing it would lose that part of my professional identity.
Ultimately, I decided to drop both of my original middle names, make my maiden name my middle name, and take my husband’s last name. My name now shows a connection both to my birth family and the family I have created with my husband, and that’s what feels right to me. I did not find the name change process to be hard at all–just one trip to Social Security, and then filling out some forms. Not a big deal.
As everyone has said, this is a highly personal decision, but I wanted to add a perspective which seems a bit different from those expressed above.
Edna Mazur says:
I took my husbands. His is way further down the alphabet and super hard to pronounce and spell. We got married young, so I probably would have thought about it longer and harder if I would have been older, but it ultimately came down to the fact that I wanted to have the same last name as my kids and both of our last names are nine letters long, which I felt was just too long to double up on or hyphenate.
After 10+ years, I’m overall happy with my decision.
The hassle of changing my last name was actually my number one reason not to do it! Too many bank accounts, frequent flyer accounts, etc. However, I use his last name when it’s more efficient/when space is a consideration. Neither of our names is particularly short, so I try to avoid writing both of them unless necessary. In fact, I’d consider changing my last name if I got a shorter one in its stead. Again, efficiency is the driving factor. Hyphenating was never an option: no way am I spelling out a 20-letter name!
That said, there are two issues related to my identity as a married female that I feel very strongly about. If a title is required in formal communications, I insist on being addressed as “Ms.” and never “Mrs.” And if someone refers to me as “Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName,” I blow a gasket. While I clearly don’t have strong feelings about my last name (see above), I will not have my first name getting lost in the shuffle.
I felt/feel pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. I don’t particularly like my last name, but it still feels like me. My husband’s last name doesn’t. I intended to make my “maiden” name my middle name when we were married, but never got around to it (and our state didn’t allow us to do so with the marriage certificate – I would’ve had to pursue a legal name change). So, I use both last names “socially.” And our kids have my last name as their middle name.
I made my maiden name my middle and took his last name. My maiden name is unusual, and I loved that. It’s always been an easy conversation starter. His was unusual but 7 characters shorter. Nice. When we got married I had not established myself professionally yet. So I decided to take his name. It sounded like fun. This has also had an unexpected professional benefit. We are both lawyers, and because our last name is so recognizable both of our successes have bolstered the other’s reputation. My successes reflect on him and vice versa. I still have my maiden name when I work in my hometown, and use both names in those circumstances. People assume I hyphenated, and I’m fine with that.
I took his name. I was set on keeping mine, but it meant a lot to my husband. I am the breadwinner by a long shot in the family and because of that he does the heavy lifting with house chores and childcare (although that got more balanced as I transitioned out of big law and he moved up the ladder). In so many ways I was the dominant one in the relationship and I think it made him feel good to have me change my name.
At the end of the day it meant more to him that we be one family with a name so I accepted it. However, professionally I keep my last name as my middle name. It is not my “legal” name, but it is my lawyer name. I feel like that is how I honor my family.
I liked his name too, because there was a lot of deep cultural history associated with it. I also loved the unique spelling that allows my name to have a story.
13 years later, I was looking through an old elementary yearbook and I couldn’t find myself – I was looking at my new name and I forgot that when I was 6 I used my maiden name.
MY SIL kept her maiden name legally, but goes by a double name with my brother’s last name last. No hyphen. They got married later in life so she had already built a career around her maiden name and she has a distinctive Mexican name that she really wanted to keep – especially because my brother’s last name is super Anglo! She decided to add my brother’s last name because she had been in a terrible marriage prior and was really excited to publicly claim a good guy (her words). He did not care at all – totally her choice.
I took my husband’s name, and sometimes I still feel weird about it. I’m sure it’s fine to a strangers ear, but I feel the need to pause between my first and last name when introducing myself because it doesn’t flow off the tongue. That said, I kept my gmail with my maiden name and still haven’t changed some credit card accounts.
I do like the team aspect of it though. Hearing others refer to us as The [Last Name]s doesn’t get old.
Jessica C says:
Ok, wow. I read this post yesterday and was coming back this morning to read new comments and I stopped at yours, thinking to myself “wait, I thought I didn’t comment on this post? Maybe I did?” I didn’t, obviously, but this comment is 100% the same for me (down to your name!). I also don’t feel great about taking his last name. I moved my maiden name to my middle name and now just use the entire thing as if it were hyphenated. Some accounts (bank, gmail, rewards, etc). are also still in my maiden name and I don’t plan on changing them. Just like you though, I do love hearing us referred to as The Samelastname’s. It just makes me feel good. Kind of conflicting with my other opinions on changing my name but it is what it is.
I have a similar perspective on feeling that changing my name would be giving up a piece of my identity. And I also don’t want to be called by the same name as my future MIL. My boyfriend and I plan on both changing our last names. He was adopted from another country when he was a baby, and we’re planning to both change our name to his birth last name. I think it will be a good fresh start for both of us as a family.
I love this.
My mentor growing up married, took her husband’s name, built up her entire business by her married name (her business name IS her married name), then they divorced (she discovered he was an addict). Decades later, she’s remarried, but has to keep her former husband’s name for professional reasons.
I’m not married, but when/if I do get married, I’ll keep my name. I like my last name and it’s unique enough that I’ve never met anyone with the same last name who wasn’t related to me, even if distantly.
(Fun story: it’s actually a made-up last name. My great-grandfather and his family immigrated to the US from Belarus in the early 1900s, and he thought their original last name sounded too foreign. So he made up a name on the spot and it stuck.)
I took like 6 months to decide after we got married, but finally settled on keeping all of my names and adding husband’s (by moving my maiden name to a second middle name). My friends and peers are all over the board, which I appreciate that we have well-respected options to do whatever we want. For me, I’m a traditionalist, I like husband’s last name, I wanted the easily visible family identity, I didn’t want there to be a question about whether our kids are his or mine at an emergency hospital visit because we have different last names in some area of the country where that’s less common, and ultimately it felt right to starting this new life together for me.
So legally I’m First Middle Middle(Maiden) Married. Professionally and at work I go by First Maiden Married, and people are starting to get the hang of it (and it was helpful for clients who knew me as First Maiden). A lot of people assume that it’s a double last name, and that’s fine with me, but for flying and other official-type forms, I thought it would be easier to just have the one last name, which is why I moved the maiden to a middle. As for the time, it took me maybe an hour at SS and less than that at DMV, maybe an hour on the phone with various credit card companies, an hour to change my professional certifications (required a fair amount of paperwork) and then the rest I’ve just slowly changed over the years when it comes up (e.g., frequent flyer, hotel rewards, other bills, magazines). I probably still have a store credit card or two in my maiden name 5 years later.
I did the exact same thing. Abbie Middle Middle-Maiden Last. I think it’s unique, and I like I have the option of sounding like I have a hyphenated last name.
Stefanie S. says:
I took my husband’s last name (I like the way it sounds when coupled with my first name). However, I dropped my original middle name and made my maiden name my legal middle name. Wasn’t a fan of the middle name anyway and it helps me keep a semblance of pre-marriage identity.
Mary G. says:
My name reflects my Italian roots, which is something very important to me. I am getting married next year, and I am 100% keeping my name. When I was in the dating world, I would a casually throw out the idea how my name was so important to me. it was a good thermometer if a relationship was going to go to the next step.
anna c says:
I just had this conversation with my mother about why she changed her name when she married my dad! She said, similarly to what others have posted, that she wanted to have the same name as her kids, but that she doesn’t feel like we would have been less of a family if she had a different name. I grew up in a small liberal hotspot with a lot of friends who had hyphenated names or married parents with mothers with different last names, and it was all fine from my perspective.
I’m not at a point where I need to make this decision, but I decided after I graduated with my doctorate that I’m going to keep my name. I’ve been published under my name, and I just don’t want to go through the hassle of changing my name for my license, my certifications, etc, etc. There’s just too many places. Plus, I’m connected to both sides of my family with my dad’s last name and my maternal grandmother’s maiden name as my middle name. And all that aside, I like my name. It’s been my name for 33+ years, and I don’t want to change it, which is a good enough reason by itself.
Your #1 is pretty similar to my reasoning. I also have an uncommon name, and I like it the way it is (now).
I like to tell people who asked that neither of us changed our names when we got married. He made the choice to keep his, just as I made the choice to keep mine.
Love this. I’m going to start using that explanation!
I changed with my first marriage, felt like I lost my identity as the marriage fell apart, reminded everyone who I was with the divorce and name change back, and learned my lesson. If all I had to do was deal with the DMV and SSA, I’d be thrilled. Dealing with seven different help desks who wind up sending me in a circle? Never again. When I leave my current organization, I’ll consider changing. Socially, I will sometimes go by married name #2.
Gotta do what you can live with and feels right to you.
I kept my name when I got married, because I like it and my cultural heritage means a lot to me, way more than my husband’s does to him. Also feminism. (My relatives in the old country asked why I kept my name, and I said, “[husband’s] name is from m[neighboring country], and I am not.” They all went, “oh, of course.”). We just had a baby, and he has a hyphenated last name (15 letters!!), with my husband’s last name first because that way we could spell a word with the initials. It was important to me that he have the link to my heritage as well.
Sf Liz says:
I grew with same last name as my mom and different from my dad (to protect us from antisemitism in Europe) and it always bothered me. Had to explain it and it was one more thing marking me as different and an outsider. Ten years later I like having same name as my daughters but since my husband’s name is longer and more cumbersome to spell we both wish he’d taken mine or we had shortened his.
I am not married, but I like the idea of changing my last name. Honestly, I think it’s a hassle either way. If the household comprises different last names, that can bring confusion or just inaccuracies. If a change is made, that requires government entities and communications with banks. Also, having grown up with a difficult-to-spell-and-pronounce last name, and dating a man with a very simple last name, it’s an easy choice for me. I also plan to use “Mrs.” rather than “Ms.” No real reason on that one though.
I kept mine. However, sometime I use his last name socially. To me, Mrs. Lastname is like a title and I am ok with that. I think this taking spouse’s name thing is a north american culture. It is unheard of in the chinese culture, at least where I come from.
Can’t speak to other cultures, but in Spanish-speaking cultures the woman adds her husband’s last name to hers, so her name becomes FirstName MiddleName MaidenName HusbandsName. The kids take on the mother’s maiden name as their second last name, so I’m Anna MiddleName DadsName MomsName. If I were keeping with custom, I would then drop my mom’s maiden name when I get married and add my husband’s. Of course, that would just be in legal documents, in religious ceremonies or non-legal documents many people keep the last names and just continue to add, which is where the jokes about Latin people having a bajillion last names comes from.
My SO and I both have double last names from our parents (mine is hyphenated, his is just two without a hyphen), none of the last names are terribly long, but we’ve often joked about what to do when we get married or how to hyphenate or combine the names. I used to think that I’d want to take my mythical future husband’s name growing up, because then it’d just be one name and so much easier than mine, but now that I’m staring down 35 and have been published under my maiden name and have professional licenses in two states (and some at the federal level), I don’t think I’d be comfortable changing it now because it would almost feel like starting over. While I now love my hyphenated last name, I have no clue what to do when it comes to future kids with my SO, because FOUR would be way too many for any future children.
Side note: in my 20s with a hyphenated “maiden” name, so many people incorrectly assumed that I was married.
I know some people who solved this by giving the kids a hyphenation of the mom’s mom’s last name and the dad’s dad’s last name. It seemed to work!!
I’m getting married this summer and changing my last name. It’s not what I thought I would do, since I’m pretty nontraditional, but for a number of reasons, it’s ended up feeling right. I just hate that no matter what decision women make, there is this expectation of justifying it to everyone. I don’t feel a need to comment on whether or not a societal expectation that precedes me by centuries makes me feel owned, nor do I think any woman who opts out of changing her name should. I know this is just Being A Woman but it’s a bummer that even something like your legal name requires an explanation not expected of your male partner.
I’ve been married since 2002 and we have 2 daughters. I didn’t change my name, my husband didn’t change his name, our kids have his name. It is really no big deal to have different names (my mom thought the world would end). Surnames in general are so culturally embedded in patriarchy. You do you!
I second wholeheartedly the “family” comment. I didn’t change my name for a list of reason similar to yours but I questioned my decision when my daughter was born. As a toddler she learned and repeats my full name but it doesn’t stop her to come sit between my husband and I and proudly say: “We are a family!”
I changed my last name, but I don’t use it in my professional life. In fact, when I came back to the Hill I specifically asked that my email be with my maiden name.
I realize this isn’t an option for everyone, but its been a nice balance for me.
I am getting married this fall and taking my fiancé’s last name. I joke that I had 30 blissful years of people being able to correctly pronounce my last name and now I am embarking on decades of last name butchery. However, I have zero attachment to my last name, and won’t be all that sad to disassociate with some male family members. My fiancé has two middle names (the second of which is his mom’s maiden name) and when we discussed my changing my name (he was open to whatever I wanted to do), he encouraged me to keep my maiden name as a second middle name. We will be a four name family; holding ties to our matriarchs and heritage, but with one last name. To me, this feels right.
Growing up, I knew a family where everyone had a different last name because they were from a part of Indonesia where surnames don’t exist. I thought it was beautiful to see a group of individuals form a family, and I would love that for mine.
I kept my name. Mostly because I’m Chinese-American and there’s no tradition of changing your last name when you get married. So….why do it?
Interestingly enough, I’ve never been asked by people why I didn’t change my last name. I mentioned it to my husband though once and he said people ask him about it all the time and he just replies, “who cares?”
I kept mine too! Partly because I’d have the same last name as my mother-in-law, partly because it seemed like a hassle, and mostly because I’m not interested in changing it.
To each their own!
I changed my last name when I married. I wasn’t very attached to my last name. I was estranged from my dad, and my mom had a different last name since she remarried.
And now I’m divorced. I kept the last name because it’s also my kids’ last name. I absolutely HATED having a different name from my mom growing up. Tbh, if I remarried (hahaha, no thank you!!) I would still keep the last name I have now because matching my kids matters more to me than matching a man. Not everyone feels that way, though, and I think it’s a personal choice.
I got divorced a few years ago and while I don’t regret the marriage, I regret taking his name. I felt I gave up part of my identity. Immedietly after the divorce I changed back.
I recently got re-married and kept my last name. A minor suggestion, have the officiant announce you as the bride and groom or Abra and Kyle or whatever, so the name issue does not come up at the wedding. A friend did not change her name but had herself announced as the new Mr. and Mrs. X. Half the wedding was shocked she changed her name and the other half was annoyed when she said she actually hadn’t.
I HATE the question about ‘Don’t you want to be a real family?’. I got it so often when we were getting married, including from my sister. There were also comments about how by not changing my name, I wasn’t fully committing to the marriage. I always asked if there was an increased rate of divorce amongst couples with different last names.
We don’t have kids as of right now, but if we do, I’m lobbying for our children to have my name. We don’t have anyone to carry on my family name – my brother has a daughter and my dad was the only boy. Whereas, my husband is one of three boys and each brother has a son. We’ll see, this could be where my traditionalist husband’s patience with my non-traditional practices runs dry.
I changed my name and I kind of regret it because it was a lot of hassle. Not just the social security office, DMV, passport (because that’s over in a few weeks if you buckle down), but you really can’t imagine how many things have your name on it. Credit cards, business cards, medical records, school records, frequent flyer accounts, social media accounts; the list of things with your name on it is endless. People question my email address because it’s my maiden name and it was impossible to register a new email with my husband’s very common last name. People at work were confused seeing my new name on caller ID (despite the fact that I sent out the obligatory name change email). I have been married 9 years and I am still finding things I need to change.
YES. It’s truly shocking to me that most women change their name. It is the one thing you are born with, the thing that is most yours, your identity. It even lives on past your life. Why, WHY do women today voluntarily give this up? It is not an act of love. It is, and ALWAYS will be an act of submission, that you live with for the rest of your life, an example you have now set for you daughters, their daughters, and so on. That your lineage doesn’t matter as much as a man’s. That your identity doesn’t matter as much as your husbands’s.
People ask me why I kept my name, and I always answer: because it’s MY name.
This. I’ve seen so many people in these comments talk about wanting the family to have one name, and wanting to have the same name as their spouse – and that’s fair enough. But why is it always the man’s name chosen? And why don’t we see men change their names more often? It’s very difficult to escape the patriarchal connotations of this tradition.
Not disagreeing with you – but some people (like myself) have no real deep emotional/spiritual/etc connection with our last names.
Some peopole may actively dislike their name for a myriad of reasons.
Some people (like myself) may simply like the sound of the husband’s name.
For some people it may not be about identity or all sorts of deep historical legacy thing. I agree it’s not a trend for men to take women’s names.
I’m getting married soon and will be taking my fiancé’s name and making my maiden name my middle. Where I grew up, a lot of women hyphenated or did not change their names so I always felt like I could do what I wanted. But my mom and grandmother did what I plan to do and I always loved that their names formed a chain throughout the generations. I feel like my name will tell my story and I love that.
I don’t personally feel that I am giving up a part of my identity. My mother grew up in a large family with a lot of sisters (who happened to all do different things when they got married but all gave their kids their husbands names).We have an incredibly strong family identity despite having different last names.Even though it was never part of my name, I consider myself a “Smith.” And I expect that to ring true with my maiden name too.
I also kept my name, for some of the reasons you mentioned, as well as one you didn’t that I think applies to a lot of women: my work. Although I’ve been with my now-husband since we were teenagers, we were 30 when we got married, and I had significant employment history and publications under that name. My full name had a reputation in my industry where a new name wouldn’t.
Along similar lines, a friend working at a think tank in DC did a project involving some research conducted a few decades ago, and tried to follow up with researchers who had previously published on the same topic. Many of the female authors had subsequently changed their names and she couldn’t track them down, so the best they got was a footnote instead of an interview.
I kepy my name because I’d written and published extensively under it and didn’t want to lose the continuity in my CV. But, also because it felt like the right thing. As one friend pointed out, I can always change my mind (and my name!) later if I decide! But if I changed my name at marriage, it would be a heck of a pain to change it back if I wanted to.
Plus, now I get to say “It’s always Miller time”–AND IT IS!
My husband and I merged our last names. It was my husband’s idea initially and he kept bringing it up until I ultimately got on board. Our reasons were many, but the biggest reason was it was important to us that we have the same last name as any future children. Both our moms kept their last names and there were many times this caused ridiculous problems for them (and us). We knew it probably wouldn’t be as big of an issue now since it’s much more common, but some of our experiences scarred us a bit (being stuck in the ER for a sprained wrist for six additional hours as staff and social workers insisted my mom prove she was my parent or get my dad – who was out of the country – to come get me, is one of the more extreme examples). I am also the last person have my last name so it was important that the name continue to be included in my life, but my middle name also has significant sentimental value, and, as an english teacher, my husband is vehemently against hyphenation. Plus, since our moms kept their names, we identified strongly with four names rather than two. Lastly, we were fortunate that our names combined into multiple viable options that were very close to our maiden/master names, which is a rarity. While we’ve loved our decision for many reasons (it is the best “fun fact” ever), one of the unexpected benefits was doing all the paperwork together. We made it into a very odd day long date that we still remember fondly.
Ultimately though, this was the best decision for us and is definitely NOT the best decision for everyone. Giving up your name is a huge identity shift, and everyone should go with the decision that feels best for them and their family regardless of tradition and societal norms.
Legally I kept my maiden name. I am literally the last of the offspring in my family. Once I am gone, my family line dies out so I feel like I should stick with it. Professionally I hyphenate because when I got married I wanted it to be clear to the judges I appaeared before or who would see my work that I I didn’t go anywhere or was replaced at work. I have thought about going to the hassle of legally hyphenating my name but my husband doesn’t really care so there hasn’t been much pressure to change it. My in-laws address everything to me with my married name and not my maiden or hyphenated name, but I can over look that.
I changed mine because I preferred the name (earlier in the alphabet, easier to say than my former name, and had a better ring to it when coupled with my first name). I’d love to have a world where men felt more free to do the same and take their wife’s name if preferred.
Lisa M says:
I took my husbands name. I got married right out of college and didn’t have a professional reputation associated with my maiden name. Also, my maiden name was very long and difficult for others to pronounce and spell. I thought my new name would be an improvement, but it turns out that it is just shorter. Weirdly, though it is pronounced phonetically exactly as it is spelled, people still misspell and mispronounce it,
I do like that my husband, kids, and I all have the same name, but I certainly don’t think that plays any role in “being a family.”
People misspell my first name and my very common last name ALL. THE. TIME. Even coworkers in our other office with whom I’ve corresponded for years. Granted, both have alternate spellings, but still, it’s in my email address, in my sign off, and in my signature block. Even when I spell my last name over the phone, people will mishear or suggest the oddest letter combinations. All to say, even with the most common name, confusion and misspellings are unavoidable.
I kept my name. I just felt like it was a big part of my identity and saw no reason to change it. Now granted, neither my mom or my MIL changed their last names when they married, so I guess it’s kind of a family tradition 🙂
I have my mom’s last name as my middle name and my dad’s last name as my last name, so when we had kids and I had to choose one of them to pass on, that was surprisingly hard because it felt a bit like choosing between my parents.
My mother kept her maiden name. It was 1983 in Virginia and she was 22, just for reference. My brother and I both have our father’s last name. It was only very occasionally a topic of confusion or comment for people. I suspect most just assumed our parents were divorced. As an adult, I’ve had many people point out that since she’s a scientist, keeping your maiden name is extremely common because your name is so prominently attached to your published work.
I’ve truly never felt a single iota of discomfort or yearning for my mother to have a different last name than she does (and it’s a sweet, happy reminder of how close she is with her family). But, there’s also a distinct, sort of homey camaraderie I feel within the circle of the last name I share with my father and brother that marks us as each other’s “people”.
I have no clue what I’ll do with my last name once I get married. Honestly, it will probably depend on how good the options sound. I’m definitely not above a vanity decision (my current name has a fun cadence/harmony to it that people like to say – just like yours)!
I never considered changing my name. Somehow it was my spouse who had to answer the question. When my future mother-in-law asked him how he felt about me not changing my name, he responded “If she changed her name to Mrs. LAST NAME, she would not be the woman i chose to build a life with.” His response to his very proper grandmother was “She worked too hard to give up her professional credentials and so did I” and then showed a page from the Emily Post etiquette book she had given him for his high school graduation noting that I would be Mrs rather than Dr. Hearing his response, I knew without a doubt I was with a partner who knew me and loved me for being me. Almost 2 decades later, I still feel lucky!
I don’t think the hassle of going through a name change is such a small concern. Many years ago, and this was before 9/11, I was detained at an airport. I was scheduled to perform in Japan. The organizers of the performance had issued me a ticket in my stage name. My passport was in my married name. Life was a lot more relaxed back then but the situation was a problem. We thought I was not going to be able to fly that day. Fortunately, there was enough time for my husband to make the 2 hour drive home and back to the airport with birth certificate and marriage license in hand all in our attempt to prove I was the same person.
Love this! Am nowhere close to getting married (ugh, the dating world!), but agree with all you’ve said here. And this line gets at the heart of it all: “Being a feminist means letting women do what’s best for them.” AMEN! And best wishes to you and Kyle!
I stressed about this and had pressure from my family to change it. I decided to hyphenate. I do not recommend that. No one calls you by your hyphenated name. Computer systems do not recognize it. It is very frustrating. I would change it back to my name but changing is such a pain in the ass. Legally it is hyphenated.
In reality, I go by my maiden name and am rarely called by my husband’s name. I use my maiden name at work. Introduce myself by my maiden name. I fill out forms with my maiden name. I have kept the identity I want. What you do on legal papers is often different from real life. I don’t identify with my husband’s last name. He understood how that felt when he was called by my last name.
The cool thing is that if you decide later you want to be called something different, you just tell people something different. Taxes and legal forms are filled out correctly, but how people know you is what you want.
I have been married for nine years and didn’t change my last name for the last reason: Hassle. I had better things to do with my time. To some extent, it was a small feminist statement, because I valued my time over tradition and was annoyed I would be the person in the relationship doing it.
We do have a kid and at his daycare no one bats an eye. He does have my last name as a middle name, looks exactly like my husband, and gets crazy excited on the rare occasions that I pick him up from school. There is no question that the three of us are a family.
Changed my last name. I am an immigrant and people were already having a hard time with my first name. My husband’s family also immigrated but his last name is pretty common in the US and easier to pronounce so I had no qualms taking it.
I reluctantly changed my name after we got married. And only because we negotiated a cat-for-last name deal (husband is allergic but I desperately wanted one). I’m still salty about it. And the bureaucratic part is no joke. It’s impacted employment records, health care for my new baby, and my student loans.
Not only do I agree whole-heartedly with this, but I am giving our child BOTH of our last names. In Latin America, this is standard, and we are of Hispanic heritage. I have no guilt whatsoever for adding my last name to the child I am giving birth to, and that child can choose to drop or change it when and if (s)he sees fit. I have not taken my husband’s name and I don’t plan to, because I like my name the way it is and because at 36 years old, it is who I am. And we will be a happy, loving and whole family regardless of any of these decisions.
I just celebrated my first anniversary and still haven’t been to the DMV to change my name. Seriously, who has several hours to waste during a work week? I did get my passport changed b/c that was just simple mail. The TSA agents probably think I’m a weirdo traveling with my passport for domestic flights.
I would suggest to call the DMV and ask what their off hours are (or just assume it’s in the period between right after they open and right before lunch, and right after lunch – right before they close) and go then. Every time I’ve done that I’ve been there for 30 minutes max.
I am team “Kept My Name, You Do You”. I had a mild preference for keeping my name and my husband had a very STRONG preference for me keeping my name. Why? Two reasons: culturally, women from his part of the world do not change their names and he would never change his name for me, so he didn’t want me changing my name for him.
My parents did something more interesting: they wanted the same last name, so my dad told my mother, “You choose.” She chose to take his because if he had taken hers, he’d have the same name as her father. She decided that was weird. The sad part is that she took a lot of shit from her most feminist friends for “bending to the patriarchy”.
I’m a strong believer that it should be a choice and the people who care about you should accept that choice.
I’m not planning on changing mine. My aunt and my uncle kept theirs and when they had kids, gave them both last names (one as a middle name), and most interestingly switched which one was last. So one cousin goes by my uncle’s last name and one kid goes by my aunt’s.
My dad also changed his last name on his own before marrying my stepmother. He had a conflicted relationship with his name, so he changed it. So now my brother and I don’t share a last name with our mom or dad. Which is a fun get to know you fact more than anything else. But we also don’t get offended if someone refers to us with the wrong last name because they met one of our parents first.
I found it most irritating that when my mom re-married at 62, after having just gone through the mess of reverting to her maiden name a few years earlier (she kept my dad’s name until my brother graduated high school), so many people couldn’t believe she wasn’t going to change her name again. Which, they’re not having any other kids, there’s going to be no confusion, why is this an issue.
I did take my husband’s name but my dad’s family has a strong connection and it feels weird that my brother’s wives will one day (they’re not married yet) have a more visible connection to that family than I will. Also, our family name is unique and fun and a lot of coaches in high school called me by my last name. Sometimes my husband calls me that just for fun. I’m a school counselor and the profession helped me embrace my new name. I had to sign a lot of transcripts with my new name and my students embraced my new last name so I got used to it pretty quickly. My new last name is easier to spell and pronounce though and I love the connection I feel to my husband in that way.
Also… 100 times yes to the commenters who said it’s more difficult to change my name on my SkyMiles account than with the Social Security office. What in the world is that about?!?! It took me four years to do that.
For all the same reasons, I opted to keep my own name from years 1-3 of marriage. I loved my last name and still do! But eventually, my very understanding husband admitted it bothered him that we didn’t have the same last name. He never asked me to change it. He just admitted that the idea of never being joined publicly by name would bother him in the long run. So for our wedding anniversary one year, I opted to legally change my last name. I too was afraid of the hassle but there really wasn’t much then or now. I’ve been able to do all kinds of things in my maiden name include checking into hotels, cashing checks, and filing insurance. Professionally and socially I kept my maiden name. I just couldn’t give up my persona for my husband’s name in those arenas. And while it can be confusing when people find out I really have a different legal last name, everyone has been understanding. As it turns out, it’s also been a really helpful dual identity working in a quasi-political world. In the end, I compromised in a way that worked for my marriage and that allowed me to retain a strong sense of who I was. In the end, that’s what really matters.
I changed my name for a few reasons: (1) I liked his last name better. (2) His last name started with an “A” and mine with a “K” so I jumped “up” in the alphabet so to speak. The middle letters always get screwed in elementary school…teachers always reverse the line up but the middle always stays the same. (3) His last name has fewer letters than mine. (4) It made my monogram symmetrical…which made this Southern girl very happy.
I changed my name as a young newlywed. I am going to be fully honest here, I regret that decision.
I work with a lot of Europeans and South Americans and the majority do *not* change their name to their husbands (some cultures ‘add on’). When people meet me they always tell me my last name doesn’t ‘match’ my appearance (red hair, freckles, with an English married name…), which initiates a long discussion about how this is not actually my name but my husband’s. And that sounds kind of bad when it comes out of my mouth.
When I got married I was a 26 year old semi-conservative, somewhat religious person marrying (who I thought was) a southern gentleman. Fast forward 15 years and I am far more progressive, a bit of a feminist and the name change just doesn’t suit my life at this moment. I wish I had given it more thought all those years ago.
I’m single but have always known I wouldn’t change my name because my first and last name have a nice ring and a lot of people have called me by my full name. Most of my married friends kept their names so I’m surprised you got any pushback.
Love this conversation! The only thing that makes me sad/mad about it is that this is yet another thing that we talk about and take on (are made to take on) as women, that the vast majority of men don’t spend a second on. I look forward to the day when there’s a 100+ comment, serious, and respectful conversation about this on a men-focused blog/community.
Whatever makes you happy! Changing my name felt paternalistic to me and I questioned why I should have to give up some of my identity. But it’s a personal decision. I will say one of the biggest frustrations is that my extended family refuses to recognize that I have NOT changed my name, but that’s on them.
ALL. OF. THIS! I didn’t change my name after I got married and this post summarizes my reasons exactly. Although I still get mail and people still call me Mrs. [HUSBAND’S LAST NAME]. It’s fine, and I never correct anyone. For what it’s worth, we have a son now and he has his dad’s last name. We feel no less than the family we are even with me keeping my name. I mean, I GREW our son– so the fact that we don’t share the same last name means nothing to me.
Kept my name. I like my name. My husband is from a very traditional rural part of the country, but didn’t bat an eye when I told him I planned to keep my name.
Our wedding gift from my brother and sister in law was an embossed sign that said Mr. & Mrs. His Last name established Date of Wedding. Did not even occur to them that I could keep my name or that they should ask my plans. My MIL now sends me cards addressed to my name, and I find it very touching that she recognizes my choice when it’s not common to do so where they live.
I changed mine – and my husband *sort of* changed his. My last name was hard to pronounce. My husband had a hyphenated last name, and was sick of all the confusion in created. We talked about merging our names or taking something completely new, but couldn’t settle on anything. He ended up dropping his mom’s name and we both took his paternal surname. And, when it came to actually make the change, he had to go through all the paperwork and bureaucracy too. That made it seem more fair. The thing that was important for me was that we talked about it, and decided together. Sounds like you’ve done that too. I wish you both every happiness!
I kept my last name. I have published work under my name that I didn’t want to get lost with the name change. Also, my parents only had girls, so it was very important for me to keep the last name going for as long as I could. Funny enough, all the girls have kept their last name. I worked it out with my husband and the kids took his last name, no hyphens for us. They have middle names that are related to my family, so I’m good with that. It’s such a personal decision, so I accept any reason why you change your name. You do you!
Drago Cucina says:
I kept my name as a second middle name. I formally have two middle initials. Granted I didn’t have a strong attachment to my last name. My father had left before my birth and I had used an abusive step-father’s name for much of my school life. So, changing my name wasn’t too hard.
For decades when doing marriage preparation my husband has tried to convince couples to come down the aisle together. As two adults approaching marriage as equals. The only ones who have opted to do this are those who are getting married again. He also reminds them that the minister only acts as a witness. He’s not marrying them. They are marrying each other.
It’s hard to counter the wedding industry and movie expectations.
I kept my last name. My husband and I are an interracial couple, and we both have very unique last names. I love my last name and am very proud of it. The thought of changing my name never crossed my mind when we became engaged until one day during our wedding planning he said he was so excited to one day hear our wedding DJ announce, “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.” I told my husband that I would hyphenate my last name if he wanted to hyphenated his. (The answer was no.). Why would I give up my last name if he wasn’t willing to give up his? My husband accepted the idea readily. Neither of us is very traditional so I don’t think he was surprised. I’m also a doctor so all my degrees and licenses are in my maiden name. If we had kids, then they would have my last name or we would hyphenate our names.
I hyphenated. My name + his name sounded good. He just kept his name. I sat on the decision for a year, but then my passport needed renewal and I had to choose. Changing my name was easy since I was in grad school in a small town and had a flexible schedule.
However… when we got divorced two years later in DC, I had a horrid time changing my name back. My schedule was fixed, the lines were long, offices were hard to find. I cried in the waiting room of the DMV. Changing my name the first time was a reminder of something joyful, but changing it back was the exact opposite. Every minute I spent on it felt like a punishment.
When I married the second time we both kept our names. There was no way I was going through that again. Our son had my husband’s last name. I suggested using mine and he balked… but this thread had convinced me to insist on my last name for our next child.
My spouse and I both changed our last names when we married. I added his and he added mine. Our names when spoken together are long and clunky and awkward, but we don’t mind. We have two young kids who share our cobbled-together names. We aren’t worried about it: they’re smart—they’ll figure out the spelling eventually!
I’m nearing 30 and grew up with a mother who kept her maiden name. Yes, I got questions from friends and others in the community while growing up (and even now — I moved back to my hometown where my parents live). But I *NEVER* felt like I wasn’t a part of a family. I’ve always respected how my mother was a strong, loving role model.
I’ve also always had this thought of breaking the patriarchy. I am the last family member with my surname — my dad and his brother both had daughters and I’m the one who is unmarried. It was always a ‘dream’ of mine to keep my last name and give it to a son (if I chose to have children) so that my name continued on. If men can do it, why can’t women? As I’ve gotten older that idea has fallen by the wayside.
Who knows what I’ll do if/when I get married? All I know is I love my name and will cross that bridge when I get to it.
Cheers to you and Kyle!
I kept my name, for professional, personal and lazy reasons. 3.5 years and one kid later, no regrets or issues, just the occasional misaddressed envelope. I am somehow the only woman in either of our very large families (dozens of aunts, cousins, sisters) to keep her name, but no one has ever said a word about it. Our son has my husband’s name, at my request — I guess I have my own traditionalist streak! Plus his last name is better than mine.
I changed and then I changed again.
Initially, I staunchly was keeping mine because it didn’t feel like “me”. He said he was fine with that. But when I saw his face light up at one point I said I had thought about changing it, I knew I wanted to give him that gift, to change to NewName.
So then, I was going to hyphenate. But the Social Security lady sweetly said “its none of my business but it’s a pain to hyphen…always makes office visits and forms confusing”. I hadn’t considered this. So I completely converted to his.
Except I didn’t really. At work I was still known by my maiden name since I’d worked there so long with it. My nicknames were tied to my maiden name too so everyone still used those. I still had credit cards in my maiden name whose credit lines I didn’t want to lose.
Meanwhile, Parents introduced me to their kids as Mrs. NewName. Taxes were paid in my NewName. Outwardly and officially, I was a new name but internally, I was my old self.
Was I conflicted? Yes, I was.
Until I wasn’t. Somewhere, at some point in the 15 years we’ve been married, NewName turned into my name. I actually feel like NewName *is* my name now. It has become my identity. It doesn’t feel like the burden it felt like when we married. It doesn’t feel like an alien. It feels like “me”.
I got married very young (a complete surprise that I would even marry, let alone find someone I wanted to spend my life with that young), at 22. I hyphenated as a compromise because my husband wanted us to have the same name, whatever that was (he offered to take my name if necessary). Now, 10 years later (and still quite happy), I would have kept my maiden name. Hyphenating is a hassle, and many people still don’t know what to do with two names (we live in the midwest now and its been more difficult here). I end up just giving one name, my maiden name or my husband’s name, to make things simpler at the pharmacy, etc, so I might as well just have kept my own name. I love my maiden name. Its concise but reflective of my heritage, and I come from a large female-empowered family that I associate the name with, so I would never let it go. My husband has a generic anglo/saxon name and is only close with his mother’s family, so no emotional ties to it either. It depends on the couple and their attachment to their names. I’m glad you are doing what feels right for you.
I really enjoyed reading this thread and your post, Abra.
I kept my maiden name and have no regrets. My husband was already a hyphen, so I, or we, would have been what, double hyphens? We recently had a baby and hubs really wanted him to have his last name, and I was ok with that. Now if we have a second, I may push for my last name. 🙂
I just need to shout out the wonderful online community you’ve built, with all these amazing women supporting each others’ choices. Love reading all the comments! (And yes, I kept my name when I married.)
mARILYN MONROE MILLER says:
I kept my last name because that name was on my diplomas, which I worked my @$$ off to get! The only grief I got over keeping my name was from the military community. It was an abrupt reminder of how traditional and patriarchal that community still is.
I completely agree. I regret that I changed my last name to my husband’s when we got married. I kept his name for four years and then I missed my maiden name so much, I legally changed it back. So we’re still married after 5.5 years but I have my preferred name.
I wrote about it here!
Thank you for this article! I am also engaged and feel very conflicted about changing my name. For many of the reasons you described above, I don’t want to change my identity, however, I know my family (and possibly his) will not be as understanding. As someone who works for the government, as has a security clearance, is it possible to go by your maiden name at work but legally have your married name? I considered this but thought with a security clearance, this may not work. In the end, I am leaning towards not changing my name.
I’m sorry we still live in a day/age that these choices have to be defended! I share your brand of feminism that doesn’t judge, but encourages every woman to know it’s a choice to keep/change her name and to make whatever choice she wants.
I have an extremely boring last name that doesn’t even jive well with my first name, but it was never a question that I would change it to my spouse’s last name. Our daughter has a portmanteau last name (a mashup of each of our last names). Lots of people freaked out about me not changing my last name/her having a made up last name, but for all the justifying I have to do (similar to your post above!), I get a lot of positive feedback from people saying they wished they had/could do that (they can!).
Congrats to you and Kyle!
This subject is near and dear to my heart! My entire family had the same hyphenated last name growing up, my father included. I never minded it as it represented both my parents. Some official systems and documents do make it difficult as they don’t allow long names (15 letters!) but I just end up with a shortened first name on things like plane tickets. I’ve been fortunate that the schools I’ve attended and places I’ve worked have made it easy to have a hyphen.
My mother passed away when I was a teen and my father ended up remarrying years later; he changed back to the last name he was born with. When my brother married they discussed mashing their names together into a new combo name but ended up taking my father’s original last name as he had only sisters who had changed to their husbands’ names so the name was slowly dying out (my mother’s last name is still widely used in my extended family). My immediate family now has a mixture of last names and it doesn’t bother any of us that we don’t all “match”.
I get challenged sometimes by more traditional people on what I’ll do when I marry but I will have to see what happens if I get to that point – I can’t see myself losing all my names. If people are really rude with the question I tell them I plan to marry another hyphenate and we’ll both hyphenate our names into one long string. This usually shuts them up.
I think everyone has the choice to do what they want but I wish that more people (especially men) thought critically about it and felt more comfortable going against American patriarchal norms.
Best wishes on your engagement!
I did not change my name. I had a professional career with publications under my own name. It would have been absurd. I occasionally will answer to Mrs. “husband’s last name” or identify myself that way in public simply for ease of communication.
I took my husband’s name, it was never a question. We are Southern and I didn’t know anyone who kept their name. I love everything about being joint with him…name, money, decisions. I love it all. It’s been 27 years and we have 4 children. If the boys marry women who don’t want our last name, it won’t bother me. My baby girl has already told me she plans to drop her first name, make her middle her first (she’s always gone by it), our last her middle, and take her husband’s name. Whatever she wants, I don’t care. I just want them to live the life God has called them to. That’s it!