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On Name Changing And Weddings


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Ok. I’m going to do this. After a huge number of increasingly frantic emails, I’m (we’re) going to take on the topic of name changing. As long time readers know, this is a topic that has… not gone so well in the past. So, before we start, some ground rules: I’m really encouraging people to share their experiences and opinions on this, kindly. Please remember that just because I, or some other reader made different choices than you did, we’re not telling you that you should do it our way. We’re just saying, for better or for worse, that was our path. Also, no personal attacks. In one memorable comment last time we discussed this, someone accused me of hating my grandmother, since I didn’t change my name, and she (rather obviously) did. So, let’s steer clear of that, shall we? Thanks.

The specific question that I get asked over and over is this: how do you decide what choice to make when it comes to changing your name? An increasingly common corollary is this: my husband really really wants me to change my name, and it makes me cry when I think about changing it, and what should I do?

And for these questions, my response is simple and two fold: A) Talk about it with your partner. I mean really, really, really talk about it (especially if it’s painful). And B) Don’t. (I know! I just told you not to change your name! What the mother f*cking f*ck?) But this is what I really mean – you don’t need to change your name now if you are not ready.

Within wedding circles, name changing is talked about as a very binary game: you either change your name or you don’t, whether you change your name or not says something very specific about what kind of a woman you are, and  you either change your name now or forever hold your peace.

This is all total nonsense.

To talk about this, I’m going to tell a small piece of my story. In one sense my story is a simple one, because I was never, not even for a milla-second, going to take David’s name. It just wasn’t on the table. But in another way, the story is very very complex.

First of all, I’m not sure David has strong feelings about my taking his name at all… but… I really wanted David to take my name. Really. And that was also not on the table, which was good for us in a way, because it was very even. He knew exactly why I wasn’t going to take his name, because he was in the same situation as I was.

Second complicated facet: David and I both want a family name, and we want to share a name with our kids, and what do we do about that? Well, the bottom line is, we decided to wait. We’d discussed a million different ideas over our five years together (at one point David wanted us both to take the others name as a middle/pre-last name, and I pointed out then we’d be Meg His Hers and David Hers His, and then everyone would be like, “oh, are the His-Hers-Hers-His’s coming tonight?” And “this is my friend Meg Hers His or is it Meg His Hers, and I can never remember, but anyway she’s lovely.” So we kind of ruled that one out early.*) But what has come closest to seeming do-able to us is hyphenation. Since I felt fairly strongly that the person in labor got to give the kid her name, and David felt pretty strongly that his kids were going to have his damn name… hyphenation has long seemed the default choice. So, we were considering hyphenating our names when we got married.

And then the wedding month came along. And we were really busy, and we were really stressed, and we had a million things to think about and we just couldn’t devote the emotional time to the subject that we felt it required, so we finally just looked at each other and shrugged. And then we told everyone that neither of us was changing our names… yet. Since for us the name changing hinged so much on kids, we decided we were just going to wait till we were having kids, and then see how we actually felt in the moment, instead of how we hypothetically felt in the future.

And then, there is that other painful complicated thing I have to mention. The anger. I have been near blindsided by how angry I still feel over this choice. When mail comes addressed to me as Mrs. Meg His, I ask David to take the label off before I get home, so I don’t have to see it. When someone addresses me as Mrs.** I literally get shaky with rage. And I didn’t expect that response! What is that response? I mean, my mother is a first wave feminist, for gods sake, and she uses Mrs.! Why am I so so angry about it?

And then this weekend I figured it out on a real tangible level. We were having a long conversation with a lesbian couple who are good friends of ours, and the name change discussion came up. After we’d cycled through talking about all the different choices (combining names, hyphenating names, picking a new name, picking one persons name… etc, etc) they started talking about how they didn’t really have any idea about what they were going to do about their kids names (or their names after they had kids, even) and they’d figure it out somehow. And then I fully, fully emotionally realized why I was getting shaky angry, I realized why readers were writing me, literally in tears and rage at the same time (readers who want to take there husbands name write me like this, the same way people who don’t want to take their husbands name write me like this). It’s because we’re used to a level playing field, and on this we don’t have one. It’s not anyone’s fault really, but thems the breaks.

When I tell people that I wanted David to take my name, they always, without fail, laugh like I’m making a hilarious joke. And I always just stare at them. Because I’m not joking. Not even a little bit. When David and I have conversations about how he wants his name to be last when we hyphenate, I feel like I don’t have a even playing field. Not even a little bit. When I get mail addressed to Meg His and he never gets mail addressed to David Hers, it drives home the fact that the playing field is not level.

And so. And so. None of this means that you should keep your name. Or hyphenate your name. Not at all. But what it does mean is this:

If you are trying to figure out what to do, talk to your partner. I mean really really talk to him (in this example I’m using a male pronoun…). Try to figure out what you’re feeling and try to articulate it in all its complexity. If he’s not quite understanding it, ask him to put himself in your shoes, and see how that feels. And then talk some more. And cry if you want to.

Don’t listen to outside voices. In most situations I say, listen to your family… and then decide. But on this one I think the voices that matter in this conversation are yours and your partners. It’s your new family, and this is an emotionally core decision you are making about that baby family, and more than that about your NAME. In my opinion (and I may be wrong, but it is my rather firm personal opinion) your mother-in-law does not get a vote on this one.

Consider waiting if you need to. If you really can’t figure out how you feel, wait. Seriously. Weddings are complicated times, you don’t need a deadline on this decision on top of everything else. There is no reason to talk about your family name at the wedding, either way, so you can take the time that you need to think.

It’s ok if your emotions are… whatever they are. Maybe you’re angry, maybe you’re excited, maybe you’re zen, maybe you’re something else. Maybe you’re zen and then angry by turns (me), or excited and then sad (maybe Alyssa). NORMAL. I suspect that name changing has always been emotional for women, but we’re one of the first generations that has so many legitimate options that becomes easy to talk about the confusion. So. Embrace that.

You have options. Lots and lots of options. They are varied, and they belong to you. You can pick amongst them. You can even change your mind amongst them. Remember that, on the bad days.

And breathe. Because you will figure it out one day… or you won’t… and that will be fine too.

And now, Team Practical’s words of wisdom. Go!

Update: read Part II  here

*Though I think people who do this are ballsy and awesome

**When you don’t take your husband’s last name, you technically stay a Ms.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • C

    This is something I struggle with and for my entire life thought I would keep my own name. But now that I am engaged I’m not sure what I will do. On one hand, I am proud of my fiance and want people to know that we’ve made a commitment to each other; that I’m his wife and he’s my husband. On the other hand, I want to retain my identity and don’t like feeling like I’m property (origins of name change).

    I think I’m going to do what women in Quebec (Napoleonic law) do and use both names as I please :)

    Interestingly, I don’t mind any future children taking his last name,but did consider using a derivative of my last name (O’Neill turns into Neill for boys or Neelie for girls) but my fiance’s uncle’s named Neil and we don’t like him LOL.

  • Steph

    Wow. Your strong feelings and emotional connection to the name-change issue make me feel disconnected. I’ve never given it much thought, especially not before I met my fiance. And since we’re planning to get married, I put about a millisecond of consideration towards it, and decided hmph; I like my name. It is an awesome name. And hyphens are ugly. Why change it? Friends and family have made it clear that my name would be way cooler -news-anchor worthy!- if I changed it to his… but I like mine. He fell in love with me as my name is now. It’d be kind of weird loving someone and then loving that same person with a different name. I digress

    You’ve opened the doors to this whole new realm of thought. Whether this is good or bad I guess we’ll find out, haha

    • meg

      I didn’t have strong feelings till after the fact. I had no real feelings before hand, since, you know, nothing was changing. These things are fluid. Don’t put yourself through borrowed trouble!

      • Alex

        I am SO glad you wrote this post! Your story sounds bit for bit just like mine…neither of us were going to change our names. I wanted the his-hers, hers-his option but he didn’t. Neither one of us really wanted to hyphenate either. We still haven’t decided what to do when kids come along. And what is so WIERD about it is that before we got married I didn’t really care that much…I even considered taking his name so we’d have a family name, but since we’ve gotten married, every time I get mail addressed to Mrs. His First and Last Name I am totally enraged! The worst is when it comes from family…what do you do about that?

        • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

          WOAH. People still adress mail like that??!?
          I’m excited to get rid of my surname (and would never lump it on my kids, I got teased SO much) and am looking forward to getting the mail that says Mrs Basketcase “His Last Name”. But I am most certainly NOT becoming Mrs “Mr Basketcase” “His Last Name”. Nope. To me, that would indicate I was a 1950’s housewife, which I certainly am not!

          Ok. turns out I DO have feelings about this! I totally didnt expect that! Thanks for the post Meg. Very rational. :) I’m glad I dont have the angst. Although, we did jokingly tell people Mr Basketcase was taking MY surname – but thats only funny because his first name is the same as my Dads… :)

        • Betsy

          My favorite variation on this (since I did not take my husband’s name): We get mail from his parents addressed to “His-first His-last and Betsy:” They don’t give me his last name, but they don’t give me mine, either. I just don’t get one at all!

          • Eliza

            HA! That is so funny and yet so very sad all at once! Gosh… people need to get with the times!

  • http://www.marriediwithkittens@blogspot.com MWK

    Whoa, really Meg! You are the only other person I know who really wanted their husband to take their name. I have wanted that to happen since way before I met D$ (and he knew without asking that I wasn’t taking his name and had no interest in me taking it). He didn’t end up taking my name for a fairly good reason: as a scientist he had already published under his name. And that is okay with me. We have also put off the “what will we do about the kids” thing re: last names because the combination of our two names is really silly and might cause them to get beat up in grade school. But I don’t like the idea of them NOT having my name. Background: my mom took my dad’s name when they got married and my siblings and I have my dad’s last name. When my parents got divorced my mom KEPT my dad’s name because she didn’t want to have a different last name than her kids. She remarried someone else and STILL uses my dad’s last name so that she and us kids have the same last name. I never really thought this was weird until a few years ago when I realized how intense that is. But I will admit that I love having the same last name as both my biological parents (and now my step-mom, oddly enough). So we also aren’t quite sure what we will do. I don’t get the rage about being called Mrs D$’s last name (I understand getting it, I just don’t) but I am very very careful not to call anyone else anything but Ms.
    Long comment over.

    • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

      I also thought about our kids. I don’t know if I want them to have a hyphenated last name. My parents are also split up, but my mom, dad, my siblings and I all share the same last name. I never thought about how that kept us connected as a family unit until you mentioned it.

      • meg

        Hyphenating… sort of sucks. In my opinion. No exit strategy. But. We don’t have a ton of options…. given our variables.

        • http://www.superrunaway.com Liz

          I’m going to cause some trouble here, I’m sure, but this is something we’ve been dealing with, as my husband already has a hyphenated name:

          If you hyphenate, and your daughter wants to keep her name when she gets married… what does she do? Double-hyphenate?

          • evi

            This is why here in Austria, you can’t give your kids hyphenated names. You and your partner can hyphenate but at the marriage-act, you have to put down the name your kids will be carrying. It’s because some Mary Miller-Smith and some James Johnson-Ford would have an even harder time on agreeing on a name… ;-)
            I don’t know it’s a good solution – it’s thinking ahead, sure, but it causes trouble now. As you said, Meg, deciding on a name is hard enough, and putting that down for your future kids ahead of time is a pretty hard thing…

          • Lisa

            I’m getting married in August and will not be changing my name. To be more accurate, neither my fiance or I will be changing our names. This has caused quite a stir in my community of friends and co-workers. Everyone has an opinion. So far, I have been called selfish, snidely called a “modern woman” and have been told that people will be confused about whether or not we are married. Last of all, my decision has been linked to potential divorce. I’ve never had so many people interject their personal beliefs into my life about my personal choices. It’s exhausting

          • Ariel

            I know I am months late to this conversation, but I just wanted to put down here for the record that my parents hyphenated their names when they married in 1977 (becoming Ms. Hers-His and Mr. Hers-His) and both my brother and I were given the same last name of Hers-His. This was a huge source of pride for me growing up, and I loved that our little enclave of our extended family had our own gleefully unwieldy name, that me and my brother joked that we’d each only marry other hyphenated kids so that we’d have 3 hyphens in our married names… :)

            And now I’m engaged and my partner jokingly (but with, I suspect, a hidden amount of real emotion) wants me to change my name to HisLast….. and that is completely off the table for me. It is a sad situation, because I met his daughter from a previous marriage when she was 1 year old, and she is Kiddo HisLast, meaning we will never share a name even though she will grow up with me as the mom figure at her dad’s house. The kiddo’s mom, meanwhile, decided to change her name from Mom HisLast back to MomOriginalLastName, meaning that THEY will never share a name. If my partner and I have kids, part of me wants them to have my last name, hyphen and all, because my partner and I will already by raising a kid together that has only his last name…. complicated, complicated. He wants all his kids to have his last name, and this is one of the last things that he seems resistant to look at with a feminist critical lens.

            It was great, simple advice to share with him all the range of feelings I have about this in honesty (and maybe even cry :) )

        • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

          Regardless of whether or not it sucks, it’s the only good option for some of us. As to what about the kids? I figure that Latino cultures and European cultures have dealt with the issue for centuries. My kids can make their own decisions about what they want to do once the playing field is more level. Until then, my husband and needed to do what we could to level it by both of us hyphenating our names.

          If it’s OK for couples to put off the decision until later (and I totally believe it is) then it is also OK for our hypothetical children to out off the decision until they’re actually faced with it.

          • CCR

            If your hyphenated last name child chooses to hyphenate their last name in the future, they can just choose half of their birth name to incorporate into their new last name. This is sorta how it’s done in latino culture. I’m latina let’s say my last name is Cruz Hernandez (Cruz coming from my father, Hernandez coming from my mother) and I’m marrying someone with the last name of Martinez (in Latin America, they would have the double last name, but let’s keep it at one for simplicity). If I wanted to change my name traditionally, I would drop the maternal portion (Hernandez) of my maiden name, keep the paternal (Cruz) portion and tack it on after my fiance’s name (Martinez). My new name would be Martinez Cruz. Any children of this marriage would have the mother’s name, Martinez Cruz. It’s not really intuitive in American culture, but it could help guide couples contemplating hyphenating names. Hope that makes sense, or is helpful!

        • sarah

          My mother kept her name. Her name is my middle name and my last name is my fathers’ name. I’ve had this conversation with my friends who have different last names as their mothers (never their fathers, of course) and none of us ever felt like we wished we had the same name as both of our parents. It just was never an issue for us.

          However, when I have conversations with people who grew up with the same last name throughout their family, the seem really concerned that they or their children will suffer if everyone doesn’t have the last name. They always seem kind of surprised that I didn’t wish to have the same last name as my mother.

          Family names are great, and if you want one… that’s fab, but nobody should change their name because their worried about the fate of the children if there isn’t a family name — us no-family-name kids are just fine. In fact, I was always proud of my mother for having a different name as my father — family name aren’t neutral, and children know it, too. I never missed having the same last name as my mom and I was super proud of her for choosing to keep her name. Our kids will learn about what is possible for them as future women and men from the choices that we make.

          • Bibs

            I completely and totally agree (and thank you for putting it more eloquently than I could today). My mom has a different last name than me, and I have never wished it to be different. It was evident throughout my childhood (maybe because of how adults/teachers reacted?) that her maiden name made my mom powerful, independant, and to me, a bad ass. That’s a strong message to send a second grader about feminism, which is quite the opposite of the damage some people think might occur if a kid has a different last name.

            What I didn’t expect was the reaction (mine) when I would tell people I wasn’t changing my name after marriage. Some said “oh of course not, because your mom didn’t change, you won’t either”. Enter, rage. To me, if that were true it would be just as bad as thoughtlessly changing it because your mom did. What’s bad is not your decision, but reaching it without thinking it through.

            Another interesting note- we got horrifying, nasty comments from some when we’d tell them about having different last names. I suggested the “First His Hers” naming scheme (the Governor of Michigan does this!) and my then-fiance brought up the good point that changing at all would be admitting that sharing a name makes our marriage more valid, which is the whole idea I was so appalled by. He’s a keeper.

          • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

            Sarah, I think yours is great perspective to add to the conversation. It’s good to know that having a different name from your parent wasn’t a hardship.

            I suppose that I never thought to be worried about how my kid felt about having a hyphenated last name for the same reason: kids think whatever their family does is normal even if normal becomes weird once they are adolescents.

            I really wanted a “family name” because I really wanted a family name. You’re probably right that I want it because I grew with a family name (and BIBS is totally right that this continuity should never be assumed) but the healthy mindset that Meg is pushing at APW encourages folks to think about what kind of marriage and family they want and my husband and I wanted one where everyone had the same name.

            So, I guess I’m saying that being worried about the kids isn’t the only thing that goes into making the choice for any members in the couple to change their names.

          • Rebecca

            Coming two years late to the conversation, I wanted to throw out another perspective on the same issue. My fiancé’s mother kept her name, and I had always assumed, like you say here, that it would seem totally normal for the kids. But when we started talking about our decisions on the name changing, he surprised me with his feelings about his mother’s decision. He said he always felt like by not taking his father’s name, she was holding back from integrating into his family completely. Just another perspective to add to the discussion.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      My mom kept her last name. Dad kept his. I became Bunny MomsDads. One word, capital M, capital, no space, no hyphen. So I technically have the same last name as each of them but a unique, totally my own name. It’s a bit odd, but it’s made me who I am.

      • sarah

        my parents are also divorced (when i was really little) and my mom has kept my dads (and my) last name this whole time because she wanted me and her to have the same last name. i feel really happy that she did… but now i feel like it is causing me even more issues w/ my own name changing now because of the fact that i feel bad getting rid of my last name and having her be stuck w/ a different name than me that isn’t even her own or someone’s that she’s married to or cares about in anyway! (as if the issue wasn’t complex enough on it’s own to begin with.. right?!)

    • http://mehe.us ila

      my fiance and i have the same problem = we can’t both change to a hyphenated name because he’s a published scientist. so i’ll be having the super long last name instead.
      as for our kids? we will just give them the fiance’s last name for the sake of simplicity. we will, however, give them our last names as “second” middle names (my fiance has two last names because he had a dual citizenship, and had to give one up after he hit 21. so his lost last name will become a middle name).

  • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

    Thank you for this, Meg. I think waiting, not giving myself a deadline to make a choice, is the best advice I’ve gotten yet!

    I’m lucky in that I live right on the border of the province of Quebec, in Canada, where women are not allowed to change their names after marriage*. But I have the option to change since I live in Ontario. So people in my surroundings (living on both sides of the border) have done both. All of the options are acceptable, really. So for now, I’m happy with just keeping my name. And if I decide I want to change it later on (kids?!), then I can. (Sigh of relief.)

    (It makes me quite mad that freedom of choice is taken away in Quebec, though.)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Adventures Along the Way

      I live in Québec (though I am from the US) and I was surprised to find myself without the choice to take my husband’s name when we got married last fall. But then…I loved it. And in Québec, you can change your name, but it is just like anyone else who decides they want to change their name for any reason. So it would be possible to change one’s last name to their husband’s last name if they went through that regular name-change process. Not easy, but possible.

      But yeah, but not taking the husband’s last name was something I almost never saw while growing up in the south of the US. I had grown up assuming I would take a future husband’s last name, and when that choice was eliminated, I actually felt relieved to be able to keep my name without having to deal with anyone questioning the choice (because I could say, “Well, it’s the law here”). I was wondering how I would feel after the wedding about still having my same last name. Would it diminish the major life change of marriage if I still had my name? But for me, it felt free and confident. And not “less married” like I had worried about. Who knew? (And shockingly enough, my southern, conservative parents are now rooting that one or all of our potential future kids get my last name! But that’s a whole ‘nother thing to figure out later.)

      This whole process would have been different and more complicated if we been married in the US. Though I guess I would have still kept my last name to avoid confusion and problems with moving to Québec later, since Québec only recognizes women by their maiden names, even if they got married outside of Québec and took the husband’s name.

      • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

        :)

        I have this feeling that they made it against the law to change your name in Quebec because if they hadn’t done that, they thought women would be “forced” to change it anyway by their controlling husbands. So to me, the fact that the choice is taken away DOESN’T reflect empowered, free women. But maybe that’s just a crazy idea I have…

        (And if you want to legally change it, you have to find an excuse, like “it’s too hard to pronounce/spell/etc.” otherwise it won’t be approved! Saying “it’s my husband’s name” apparently isn’t an acceptable reason. Pretty complicated process. Although I guess changing your name IS serious business. Which is why I’m pretty sure I won’t do it, at least not legally.)

  • http://i-doux.blogspot.com Hannah

    I love this post. Like Meg I was never going to change my name. Ever. My fiance (also a David) learned all about the reasoning there within months of meeting me. I also grew up with a mother who didn’t change her name, because she was who she was and that wasn’t changing. My siblings and I had our father’s name with our mother’s as one of the middle (so I’m Hannah May Mum’s Dad’s) and I’ve asked my mother and she said she never minded having a different name. In high school I changed my name so I would always use my mother’s name as well (so now I’m Hannah Mum’s-Dad’s) because it was important to me that my name reflect that I was both their child. I’m not sure what I’m going to do to when I have my own kids. I’m loathed just to be relegated to a middle name and it’s very important to David that they have his last name as well. I feel like since getting engaged the number of miserable un-even playing fields have increased. Babies for instance, buying nieces birthday presents. For me though I am not just called by my name, I AM my name and that should not be messed with.

  • sarah

    thanks so much for doing this post! i’m interested to hear what debate ensues [insert heads exploding here]! unfortunately, i don’t have time to adequately respond right now as i need to run out the door to work, but i feel like i’m still not any closer to making a decision than i was when i emailed you last week. i do think, though, that i definitely need to talk to my fiance about it…. even if it means ensuing drama. i feel that he should know all the different, conflicting emotions that i’m going through right now, and it’s not just as easy as “making a decision.” i think the thing that really makes it even harder for me is that i’m about to embark upon my professional career in a new field, one that means a lot to me. so whatever i choose as my name now, i’m pretty much stuck with. so do i want to be Sarah E. MyLastName for the rest of my life if that means not showing that we’re a family yet retaining my independence, or should i be Sarah E. MyLastName-HisLastName, or Sarah MyLastName HisLastName? It’s all very confusing.

    p.s. now that the wedding is only 1.5 months away, and we’ve started receiving checks for Mr. and Mrs. Him & Her HisLastName, that makes me angry b/c people just *assume* that i’m changing my last name… but yes, even worse- Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName just completely sends me over a cliff with rage!!!! It’s like, “first I had to change my last name, and now I don’t even get a frickin’ first name???” what does society say about women in marriage then, it’s an old-timey thing, but it’s basically the end of that woman’s own personal identity. there identity becomes taken over by the unit of the marriage and their duty to it. it’s enough to drive any sane, somewhat self-respecting feministic person into a rage!!!! (and p.s. I do know some people who would react to the same thing with pure glee… that doesn’t make it wrong, but i just can’t find that same reaction within me.)

    ugh.

    • C

      Sarah-your rage about Mr & Mrs his first name/last name REALLY makes me angry; and I am considering taking my fiance’s last name. But you know what? I am my OWN person. Mr & Mrs his last name would be fine with me, but Mr & Mrs his name/last name makes me want to explode in rage.

      • Rebecca

        A friend’s mother, who is in her 60s, says no one of that name lives here whenever someone phones for Mrs Him His. She’s been doing this for almost 40 years.

        • meg

          HA! I love that.

        • http://sarah-waves-hello.blogspot.com Sarah

          When I first met my future mother-in-law, I addressed her as Mrs. HisLastName and she scoffed and said, “Mrs. HisLastName has been dead a long time. I’m HerFirstName.”

          I will never ever forget that. She never had the best relationship with her husband’s family, particularly her new mother-in-law, so sharing the exact same name with her was rough for her to handle.

          Something to think about, ya know? You’re not just sharing your husband’s name when you marry him, in some cases you could be taking on the exact same name as his mother! Yikes.

          • Morgan

            That was my mother, too! Even when she taught at a college level, she wouldn’t respond to Mrs. HisLastName, because that was her mother-in-law. She only responds to her first name, or first name and last, but the Mrs. part still gets her, and my grandmother passed away almost 20 years ago.

        • http://www.onebarefootbride.blogspot.com Walking Barefoot

          Totally! I did this growing up, when people on the phone asked for Mrs. Dad’sName Dad’sLastname – that person was my grandmother (my dad and his dad had the same name), so I would sweetly suggest that the phoner call her in another state. No one ever took me up on the suggestion.

          [The question then arises why I didn't question that my grandmother was Mrs. Husband'sName Husband'sLast - I think it was because she was a widow for more than 30 years, and holding onto that name was a way of keeping true to the memory of her late husband. Plus, she was born in 1907, and things were different then.]

        • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

          Excellent way to deal with it.
          Though I think written correspondence would bother me more, since there’s no clever come-back.

      • Kyley

        You know how sometimes the DJ at a wedding will announce, :”Now, for the first time in public, MR & MRS HIS-FIRST-NAME HIS-LAST-NAME!”

        I told my partner, years ago, that if that ever happens at our wedding I will go out there, fuming, and make everyone start over. Oh, my, I am angry just thinking about it. The first name bit really sends me over the edge.

        • http://pronkyeah.wordpress.com Michelle

          On our DJ request form, we wrote exactly how we wanted to be introduced. I’m gladly taking my fiance’s last name (I’ve got brothers and nephews to carry on my parents’ name), but I still think it’s outdated and rude to call a woman Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName.

        • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

          In the best man’s speech at my parents’ wedding, he made a toast to Momfirst Momslast and Dadsfirst Dadslast. My dad’s mom stood up and interrupted him saying, “No that’s Momsfirst Dadslast.” So my mom stood up and corrected her, saying “Excuse me, but I’m Momsfirst Momlast.” Apparently my grandma spent half the night in the bathroom crying because of it.

        • sarah

          oh yeah… i was thinking about that, or the officiant/religious official pronouncing you. i am meeting with my DJ in a few weeks, and i’m actually going to tell him outright NOT to call us that because “i might actually vomit all over the dance floor.”
          :P

          • E.Weaver

            Our preacher/officiant simply asked us, and gave some different examples. We settled on the casual E+C HisLast. No titles of any sort-how our close friends in attendance would actually refer to us. It was absolutely not an issue-if they regularly do weddings they’re used to it!

        • http://andrewcara.blogspot.com Cara

          When my hubs and I were married last summer, we were able to choose how we wanted our officiant to address us. We went with “For the first time as a married couple, Andrew & Cara”. But, when his brother introduced as at the reception, we became Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Hislastname. Granted, the entrance introduction was off the cuff, but it still irked me that it was assumed I’d magically become another person.

      • L

        Dear young brides to be…

        I know it will sound archaic but if you know who you are, taking your beloved’s name does NOT make you less. In fact, it makes you generous and the person who will truly unify your new family especially when the babies show up. Take it from a mother of four, you don’t want the two different name thing down the years from now. You’ll feel like an outsider. However, if you really need to hold on to your name, I’m sure you won’t be alone. Consider this…
        “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
        By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare

        • http://www.sugaredharpy.com Sugared Harpy

          I’m also a mother, currently of three and in July we will have four. In my previous marriage I changed my name and always hated it. I did NOT make me an insider nor was it any easier with schools. No one worried about my generosity of taking my ex-husband’s name…it was a non issue. After my divorce, I asked my kids how they felt about me taking back my maiden name…they said, “why did you change it in the first place?”

          When I married this time, I kept my last name. I do not feel like an outsider, it is once again a non-issue. My kids do not have my last name, and I’m the primary contact at their school, and there has never been a problem…nothing. So many kids, due to divorce/remarriage/gay couples/and so on in public schools do not have the same last name as their children and the schools handle it just fine day after day.

          Whether you take his name or not, do it because you want to…not because you worry about negative reactions, kids, being considered generous or not, etc. You just need to be true to you and your partner loves you for you. All of you :)

        • meg

          We all make sacrifices for our families, and you should never, ever, ever assume that those of us who are unwilling to make the personal-as-political sacrifice of our names, are not making different and more meaningful sacrifices that you don’t know about.

          I know who I am, and I don’t need my children and I to have my husbands name to tell me that I’m part of a family.

    • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

      I definitely share that Mrs. his first name/last name rage. Beyond rage. I am actually taking my fiance’s last name, mostly because it’s a really cool, unusual name, but also because of some very personal reasons regarding how I feel about my own name. But I’m still entitled to a first name. I’m still my own person. And even though I am taking his name… I’d prefer to go by Ms.

      I’m going to have a hard time not flipping out if anyone refers to us as Mr. and Mrs. his first name/last name. Just thinking about it makes me shake.

      • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

        I am Ms Hislastname. I like it because it surprises people, and when they ask about it I get an opportunity to point out to them how archaic the Mr/Mrs/Miss system is, and that I use Ms purely because my marital status is no more anyone else’s business than that of my husband. It amazes me how many people have never thought about it before – i.e. a lot!

        • http://missbutton.tumblr.com Jenn

          I am the same. The first form I completed after marriage, I put Mrs. Then realised how uncomfortable that was for me, and always use Ms now. I have been surprised by how many times it hasn’t work, and cards/mail/etc have come back with Mrs. But I don’t really have the time/energy to get angry about it, so as long as I’ve tried, I try to just let it pass…

          • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

            I’ve been doing the same, Cate, since I found out Ms. existed/what it meant. It’s nice to make people think (in a positive way). I’ll continue to be Ms. Whatever once married, regardless of what I decide to do about the name.
            Jenn, sometimes forms don’t have the option… though they obviously should! (I’ll comment below on my experience with that when I get done reading all the other comments.)

        • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

          Cate – that’s really great. It is a great opportunity to share with people the differences in each and why you prefer what you do, when someone calls you the wrong thing. That’s a much better attitude to have than my anger. ha. I will actually try and do that, because it’s more productive than just being annoyed.

      • Justin

        I’m a man, and _I_ get angry thinking about my fiancée being referred to as Mrs. Justin Mylastname. If she was me, I wouldn’t be marrying her. There are things about myself I don’t like; beyond that, I have a lot of negative associations with my father’s family (from whence came my last name). I don’t want to tie her up in those associations. I sure as hell don’t want her to change who she is to be more like me. I love, and am in love with, _her_. So why would I want her to change her name to be more like mine?

        ————

        This actually came up recently as her parents sent out invitations. Her mother addressed them whenever possible to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. She (my future mother-in-law, whom I love) was frustrated when we explained that many of our friends (and older friends of my family) don’t share a last name; she thought it was “easier in the old days.”

        We, on the other hand, feel that by allowing the invitations to be addressed that way (even though it’s just for couples who share a last name), we may be offending women like many of you posting here. We let it go, I think for two reasons: 1) my future mother-in-law was very generous with her time and did a whole lot of work addressing our invitations for us, so we didn’t want to appear ungrateful or put any more stress on someone who is fairly conservative and very sensitive; 2) though we haven’t said it out loud, I think we both felt we could pass the buck if anyone does become offended. If someone mentions it, we can say, “Well, her parents sent out the invitations, and they’re from a more conservative family/generation.” We know everyone will understand and let it slide.

        ————-

        My fiancée and I have talked about this issue of what names to take. The first few times it caused a lot of really emotional/angry/sad/frustrated discussion. She didn’t want to give up her last name (which made sense to me), but was suggesting we both change to a hyphenate. Only then did I realize how much of my identity was tied up in my last name, and how loathe I was to change it.

        I was actually more comfortable with the idea of each of us taking each other’s last name (and losing our own), or taking two different hyphenates (mine would be Herlast-Mylast, hers would be Mylast-Herlast). It still had the sense of entwining ourselves to new families, and perhaps some of the generosity that the mother-of-four in an earlier post spoke of… but it was much more fair. There would be reciprocity. There would be balance. There would be equality… My fiancée hated the idea.

        She explained that she wanted to share a name with her family and future kids, that she felt a sense of family unity growing up and wanted her kids to have that. I was blown away, because that never occurred to me. I see “I’m a Mylastname” as an explanation for why I’m strange (and for why I’m sometimes just plain f***ed-up); I don’t see it as something that built a family unity. The most functional things my parents did as a family were read to us (each parent separately, when they had time) and eventually get divorced. But my fiancée’s family is the most functional, loving, unified family I’ve ever met. So who am I to gainsay her desire for a cohesive family name?

        Over the last several months, I was more strongly considering her proposals (even if we both took the same hyphenate in the same order, because one order sounded like a law firm and the other didn’t). Then, while doing taxes, I started to worry about the legal implications, and I asked my dad what he thought.

        My dad’s recommendation was not to change my name. “Keep the name that’s on your degree.” He explained (as an M.D.) that most female doctors keep their maiden names because once you get your degree, changing your name can be a total pain in the ass. It’s not just being known by one professional name. Professionals get tied up in a lot of official, bureaucratic, government and corporate agencies, for legal reasons. Changing your name (or trying to change it) can cause unforeseen problems. He mentioned a nurse practitioner he works with (an ex-nun, married twice) who change her name twice, and has been told by government agencies that her name doesn’t exist in the records.

        My fiancée’s getting her PhD shortly before the wedding. The name she takes scholarly will be her professional name; it’s not as twisted up in legal agencies as an M.D. would be, but it’s how every university will know her. I think a legal name change could cause her unforeseen frustrations. On my end, I would have to inform a number of companies related to various financial accounts, not to mention typical banks, employers, insurance companies, social security administration, etc. Do I really trust every bureaucracy involved to process the change correctly (let alone spell the new name correctly)?

        So I’ve shared with her that I think we should both keep separate names, legally, though we should still consider using the hyphenate socially, if that’s what we want to pass on to our children. We’re still both thinking about it; we haven’t decided, and we need to discuss it more.

        But this post, and the comments, have given us more to think and talk about. It’s been especially nice to hear thoughts from those who (unlike us) grew up with different names from one or both parents; your perspectives were fresh and comforting. Thank you, Meg, for the post (your posts have helped my fiancée stay calm and un-panicked several times over the last year), and thank you all for your shared comments.

        • Emi

          Justin–you sound like an awesomely thoughtful and considerate groom-to-be. “If she was me, I wouldn’t be marrying her,” is a great comeback to the “Mrs. John Smith” thing. I already wrote in another comment that most guys probably take not changing their name for granted, so it’s great to read about one who is discussing name/identity issues so extensively with his fiancee. Good luck to you two and I hope you come up with a solution that works for your new family.

        • jolynn

          There need to be like buttons for comments. Yay! Good luck with the situation–it seems that this is an issue that is coming up more and more, where there are two professionals in the equation and the professional names can’t be changed. Then the practice of career vs. social name comes up, but all too often only the female’s name changes.

    • http://www.puppiesnpancakes.blogspot.com Kristi

      Argh. The ones that really bother me are when we get mail to Mr and Mrs HisFirst His Last. Seriously?!? C’mon! I usually throw that stuff away… unless it’s from his grandparents, because, you know, you’re not going to change everything. :)

  • Emma

    I’m incredibly lucky that my FH is happy to take my name :) Which in turn makes me very very happy! I don’t want to take his, partly because I shouldn’t have to, and partly because it’s his dad’s name and his dad left when he was a few months old and hasn’t been heard from since. And partly because I like my name and the family it links me to. There have been lots of raised eyebrows, but no one’s been really rude. However, when a friend of his got married 18 months ago (before I was engaged) my FMIL said something about being glad his wife was changing her name, doing it properly!

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Dude, good for you guys, it’s nice that both of you are happy to have made a decision without compromising. And, seriously, my reaction to that comment about “doing it properly” would have been a (Miss Manners-inspired) blank look and asking “What do you mean by that?”. Because I firmly believe that politely challenging people’s fixed ideas about “how things are done” is how we’ll get the societal changes started.

    • Justin

      I think that’s really cool of your future husband (and of you). But part of the reason he’s willing to do it seems to be that his associations with his father’s name are almost entirely negative.

      I think it’s harder to ask most guys to do that, because many guys have have strong (often proud) associations with their last name. For that matter, I think it’s hard to ask women to change their name, for the same reason; but many women are eased into it (unfairly, in my opinion) by generations of tradition and expectation. I think it’s a good thing that so many women consider this a hard decision: it’s a reflection of norms shifting towards more equitable marriages.

      In my case, a lot of association with my last name is negative… but I’m still fiercely proud of my individuality, my uniqueness, even my strangeness. And my last name–even the family I didn’t particularly like–is part of that. It’s hard to let go.

      When both spouses have strong positive associations with their families or their identities, it gets harder. There’s no way to have a union where the last name accurately reflects every joining of two families in their recorded family tree. So do we pick the families that are somehow more important? If we let that name (the “most important” family) change every generation or two, do we lose the connection to previous generations?

      I’m starting to think they had it better before surnames came along. Mac-, Mc-, O’-, -son, -sen, -ez, -ov, bar, ben, and ibn all meant “of” or “son of.” Some languages even had female-specific versions (-sdottir, -ova). Even then, when people took only the first name of a parent as their last name, it was predominantly the name of the father. But at least they didn’t worry about maintaining or “letting die” the name of their great-grandfather. (The traditions that did track lineage would track the line of father’s, but only for formal reasons: Bob, son of Jim, son of Jim, son of Pablo, etc.).

      I wish there were a simple way to express that each of us is the daughter or son of two parents, both equally important. I also wish it sounded cool, and not too long. If anyone comes up with a good idea, please let me know.

    • Nichole

      It’s awesome that your FH (probably Husband now) wanted to take your last name. Before marriage was even on the table, my Husband and I talked casually about name changing, and we both agreed we wouldn’t mind taking the other’s last name. I didn’t even think it was weird that he would take mine. We decided ultimately to keep our own because he’s had to change his name before and it’s a pain in the butt! He wouldn’t even allow me to go through that if I wanted to. (Okay, if I REALLY wanted to, but I didn’t care.)

      We plan to adopt in the future, and he wants our child to have my last name – simply because mine starts with B and his with Z, and he hated being last for everything when he was growing up. As you can see, he’s pretty practical, and I feel so lucky to have a husband like that!

  • http://missfancypantsthebride.blogspot.com/ miss fancy pants

    I feel your pain Meg, when I talked about this on my blog, someone accused me of being against marriage all together. It’s such an emotional subject that personal attacks seem to be a given.
    The level playing field thing is huge for me, and I also think that’s why I get so upset when the subject comes up. I always thought I would take his name, until the time actually came to make the choice. Initially, he wanted me to take his name and was upset by the thought that I was having conflicting feelings about it. Then I asked him what he would feel like if I wanted him to give up his name to take mine. Finally, he understood how I felt. For me, it’s like giving up a small piece of yourself. Sometimes it feels small and insignificant and sometimes it feels ginormous and really important. The advice you gave is perfect and I wish I’d had it 6 months ago. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I would wait. I want to share a name with our children, so when the time comes for that, the subject will arise again, but for now, I’m staying me.

  • Rebecca

    Thank you Meg for (once again) an amazing post. I’ve discussed this with my BF, he has slowly warmed to the idea of me keeping my name if we were to get married. I understand what you mean by rage when I’m trying to explain to him the feeling that I’m losing my identity (of almost 30 years) and he doesn’t even need to consider what that would feel like – it’s hard and I’m not sure he’ll ever quite get it.

    That being said. I’m happy to keep my name and for him to have his. For me the complication arises at children. I want them to have one name and I don’t think it’s fair that the one to give birth is automatically dismissed in the naming game. I’m also fine with hyphenated names in general. However, I don’t want my kid with a hyphenated name to marry another kid with a hyphenated name and have four names on the table simply because I couldn’t make a decision. I do know that hyphenated names exist in other cultures and they know how to deal with them from one generation to another. However, this hyphenating thing is pretty new to atleast my WASP culture and I don’t think anyone knows what to do beyond using their own name in a hyphenated name for their child. There is no rule for the next generation.

    And, this is where I stand….somewhere in the middle because I can see it from both sides.

    • Rebecca
      • Kate

        Wow, I didn’t think I had such strong feelings about this subject until I read this article. It made me really really ANGRY. As a feminist, (and the daughter of a feminist) I have always been open to women making choices either way as they feel it is correct for them. FH and I have discussed the name change thing several times and (as his mother is also a feminist), he says that it is up to me and that he will be happy to be married to me either way. I …. haven’t quite decided yet, although I am leaning towards taking his name for various reasons. However, I couldn’t believe that people actually think less of a woman (i.e. that she is less intelligent etc.) because she takes her partner’s last name! I am so upset about this that I actually swore at the computer. And if you introduced yourself as Ms. HisLast, how would anyone know? I hate that there is yet another double standard for women that in society you are “supposed” to change your name and at work you aren’t. Stupid stupid un-level playing field!

      • sarah

        ahhh… my head’s exploding from this article. i feel like this whole added piece just really stings me. i’m in the middle of getting my masters, and i’m about to have a scholarly article published within the next few months, and then hopefully going on to get my PhD after this… so whatever name i choose now, i’m stuck with for all time. it really makes an already difficult subject even more weighty!!!

        • Ivy

          You are not precluded from changing your name just because you publish/appear in court/write for a magazine/went to high school as Jane Doe and now you’re Jane Roe. Your old name doesn’t disappear. It just changes. And more importantly, YOU don’t disappear! You can still put your credentials and publications on your resume or CV. If you want to change your name, you should. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, but my experience has been that it is very easy for people to get used to it. In fact it will be much easier for them than you, most likely!

          • Karen

            As a scientist, I must disagree with this. It does make a difference if you appear under a different name, it can even make a pretty big difference depending on how much you have published under another name. The only time indeed that it will not matter much is on your CV. But very often when a university or so is deciding who to invite for a job interview, before they even take the trouble to read someones application and CV, they will check how often your name comes up in publications and on google. The job I have now had more than a hundred applicants, so google search was what made them invite me.
            This for me is one reason to keep my name. The second reason is because my last name is part of my identity, it’s part of my family history. My family has a rich history and I want to keep that connection. I don’t mind giving my children my husbands name. My children will not have published anything (haha) and it’s not yet part of their identity. I have quite a number of friends with mother’s with a different name, none of them was ever bothered by it, most of them thought it was cool that their mother kept her name.

            I find the cultural different quite interesting. In the netherlands, I have never seen or heard of any woman referred to as husbands first and last name. In fact, my mother completely took my fathers name, but almost all letters adressed to her, from friends and from insurance or whatever, call her by her maiden last name. In the netherlands, almost all official forms will ask you for your maiden last name if this is different than your married name, and I believe they usually use the maiden name, or ask your preference.

    • meg

      As our friends in the post commented, you tell your kids you have a loving partnership, and for you hyphenation worked best. And that you understand that you’ve burdened them with a long name, and one day when they have a loving partnership, they are free to make their own decisions, and we as parents will respect whatever choice they make.

      That helped me a little…

      • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

        And maybe they will hate it as I did when I was little (mine’s not hyphenated, but it’s both their names, one word, no space) because it’s so cumbersome, but then they’ll come to love it when they are older, again like I did. I like to think my name makes me a little more eccentric and I like that.

        • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie (EDB)

          I’m the opposite – I loved the long name when I was little, but now it’s cumbersome, complicated, and makes people just laugh and say “what now?”

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      But it’s not “simply because I couldn’t make a decision”. You’d be making the decision to hyphenate, and that’s perfectly valid.
      In Spain (where my partner is from), all children are First Dad’s Mom’s (no hyphens, no middle names). And it continues like that for generations. So, yes, it is the mother’s last name that gets “lost” when the next generation comes along, but the female partners never have to even consider giving up theirs.
      (Though now that same sex marriage is legal there, I don’t know how the His + Hers challenge would be handled… maybe they just get to decide which sounds better!)

      • Rebecca

        All I meant by the “can’t make a decision” comment was that I know I am very attached to my name and I know my BF is very attached to his. I can only imagine how hard it would be for a couple with 4 last names involved to make a decision when I’m completely challenged by 2 names. I think everyone can do what is best for them and we are incredibly lucky that we have so many options available to us now.

        On a side note, I also wonder if the government will ever step in and limit the number of characters people could have in their name, simply for a practical reason for forms. I know right now my name is 7+8+8 and if my parents had chosen to hyphenate I’d have to add another 8 on there. My name already is tight on government forms, I can’t imagine adding to it.

  • http://weddingness.wordpress.com weddingness

    For my fiance and I, the decision also relates largely to kids. And so we’re waiting as well. At this moment, I think we’re planning to just give the kids both last names (hyphenated or not), but we could easily change our minds on that. I am uncomfortable with his name automatically being last in hyphenation (because, hey, if THEY decide to hyphenate, guess which name would most likely get dropped? it’s stupid and prideful, but it bothers me), but at the moment it’s the best way we can think to handle it. He’s not amenable to a blended last name, or a totally new last name, and I don’t want to take his right now. If I (or we) decide to change my name in the future, I can go through the normal legal channels to do so. But for now, I am Ms. __, and staying so.

  • Emily

    Meg – this post is the reason I continue to read your blog every day, 6 months married.

    I never wanted to change my name. I met my husband and he said it was the only traditional thing he wanted. After many months we came up with a compromise. I changed my name everywhere but work, and I get to name all the kids.

    I thought I’d leave it at that, but then, we would not be able to discuss how much it causes me pain to get things addressed to “Mr & Mrs Him His”. That is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. I have screamed! Cried! Caused a Facebook discussion to rival any other!

    Where to young people (anyone under the age of my grandmother) get off thinking it’s ok to address things that way? Where am I in that sentence? I am not a Mrs., my name is not “him”. When I point this out to people, I wonder if it has ever dawned on the vast majority to think about the implications of not mentioning the wife’s first name.

  • http://frecklesandblondie.blogspot.com/ Adina

    So here is my two cents on how I made my decision.
    Now, I’m still in the planning stages of getting married, but I decided pretty early on that I wanted to change my name. My reasons are A)I like the thought of being a part of my fiance’s family through my last name, B) my middle name is a family name from my mothers side that I intend on passing down to our kids, and C) my first name ties me to my dads side of the family due to it’s jewish roots. So I still show my mother and fathers family history through those my first and middle names and changing my last name will add my tie to my fiances family.

    • http://3b7p.blogspot.com Alexson

      I’m on the same page as you, Adina. I’m lucky in that my first name is very unique and a family name, so changing my last name didn’t feel as earth-shattering to me as it might if I was a Sally or an Ann. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why women aren’t down with changing, but for me changing made sense and felt right. It doesn’t make me any less of a feminist or less of myself. Getting married is a big effing deal and I felt like changing my name was an outward way to show that without losing my sense of self. I’m more of an Alexson than a MyOldName or a MyNewName. It doesn’t work for everone, but it’s how I roll!

      • Kyley

        I wholeheartedly agree that changing your name does NOT make you any less of a feminist. Feminism is all about women having the authority to make choices!

      • Nina

        This is where I am too – I feel like I identify more with my first and middle names than with my last name. Or so I thought… but now the wedding is only 2 months away and the thought of actually changing my name is suddenly causing me anxiety. I think I will still change it, but I might take Meg’s advice and just wait a bit. Let myself get used to the idea of being married first before I take that leap.

        • TrailTart

          This is my situation too, Nina. I grew up in a family where everyone had the same last name, and while I know it’s not a problem not to, I want to be “The So-and-Sos.” My FH also has a unique last name, and I would be the only person with my first and last name, which I think is neat.

          I didn’t think this really had much to do with my family, though I have had some rocky times with my parents and still have some big major problems with them. I just felt absolutely no angst about giving up that name, but also didn’t feel like I was rejecting it. Then FH asked if I would replace my middle name with my surname. No. Way. My middle name was my grandmother’s name and is SO much more important to me. And my first name and middle name belonged to my aunt who died before I was born. The name was given to me very honorifically and I’ve heard the story many times of my mom asking my grandmother for permission. Then I realized that if my last name were from that side of the family, I would be thinking much harder about this question. It isn’t, so I’m not, but it’s an interesting realization.

          • Katie Mae

            Similar situation here – Kathryn comes from my mom’s mom, Mae comes from my dad’s mom, but my last name is so common that I hardly associate it with my identity. HisLast is easy to spell and pronounce, but not as common (I’d come up in a Google search and I have already reserved email and social media accounts with no numbers in them!). HisLast is also a great German name, and since we met in German class, both have German heritage, and hope to spend significant time in Germany in the future, I’d like to have a name that sounds German. I do feel a little weird sometimes, like I’m not feminist enough, but I’d rather have a more unusual and memorable name. As Kathryn Mae HisLast, I’ll be tied to my mom’s family, my dad’s family, and FH, plus I’ll stand out more and Germans will be able to pronounce my name.

            However, since I am a couple years into my career (in the political world, so name recognition is esp. important), I think for a while I will go by Katie MyLast HisLast for work stuff, and of course keep checking MyLast@employer.info as well as HisLast@employer.info. I want my contacts to get used to the idea.

            I’m glad so many of you have decided to be a Ms., either way – I don’t want to be Mrs. HisLast but wasn’t sure if that was really strange. I’ll be Ms. Katie HisLast proudly now. And if I get called Mrs. HisFirst HisLast by anyone under 70, I’ll be mad too!

  • http://www.jeniferf.wordpress.com Jen

    My whole life my mom and step-dad had a different last name then me and my sister. Then my two half siblings were born and they had the same last name as my mom and step-dad. I was one thing they were another. I had my dad’s name, they had step-dad’s name. And I hated it. I hated that parents would send notes home to Mom Dad’s name when it should have been Mom Step-dad’s name. I didn’t feel like a family unit. They were different. I didn’t feel like we belonged together like all the other kids and it bummed me out (this was like 7 year old me). So, I changed my name when we got married. I wanted to feel like a family unit. I wanted us to be the same. And I want that for our kids, whenever they come along, because I know how I felt at age 7, being the odd one out. Luckily, my maiden name is also a female first name. So who knows, perhaps our first daughter will be named my old name. That could work for me.

    • http://meghanvalerio.blogspot.com Meghan

      I grew up in a similar situation, living with my mother, stepfather, and half-siblings (I mean, they’re my total siblings, but technically, you know) with a different last name from me, and I hated it too! It was so awkward when friends addressed my mom by her ex-husband’s name, and it sucked for me when people assumed I was my siblings’ babysitter. Changing my name is basically a selfish choice for me… that Last Name of Awkward Situations is going bye-bye!

      • Justin

        But aren’t your situations a result of your mother taking (and giving to you) your father’s last name? And then (again) taking your step-father’s last name?

        So clearly taking the male’s name did not cause family unity in those cases, right?

        Would it have been better for you (growing up) if you had been given your mother’s maiden name (and she had kept it), or if your mother had kept your father’s last name (yours) during her second marriage, so she could share that with you?

        It’s tough with half-siblings and step-siblings. They usually don’t share a last name… and I think maybe they shouldn’t. To some extent, the age of the children comes into play, but I didn’t ever consider it strange that my step-siblings and I had different last names. Yes, we were different. Yes, we didn’t feel like a cohesive family. But that was more a result of strangers being forced to live together, not of having different names.

        I think it would be harder for us if there were half-siblings involved. The names reflect complicated familial relationships. If the relationships don’t feel complicated (that person would be lucky), perhaps children should be given the option to take the name shared by the people they most consider family?

        • Alexandra

          I have a friend who changed her last name to her stepfather’s when she turned 18, both because he & her mom had raised her, and because they made a younger half-sister, and my friend wanted the shared last name with them. (But also because the BirthLast was not super attractive-sounding.) ;p

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      How sad for both of you. I so hope that our generation’s kids won’t have to go through that, that people will think and ask what a parent’s name is before automatically addressing them by a last name that no longer applies to them (or perhaps never did!).

  • Esther

    I’m so glad that you wrote this. It’s interesting to read about the strong emotional reactions of other people, because my experience with my fiancé has been quite the opposite. We’re trying to juggle a long list of considerations, and it’s hard to figure out what we would *want* to do, rather than negotiating two people who have strong but diverging opinions. Some of the factors involved:
    – His last name is unequivocally cooler than mine.
    – Both of us are feminists who hesitate at the woman adopting the man’s name on principle.
    – Both of us have ambivalent to negative relationships with our parents. (Possibly the biggest reason I’m not just adopting his much-cooler name is because I’m not sure I want to perpetuate his abusive dad’s legacy.)
    – I’m a PhD student who hasn’t published yet (but hopefully will soon!), so I really do need to resolve this sooner rather than later.
    – I personally dislike the look of hyphenation, and our names don’t merge in a good way.
    – We want the same last name for the sake of future-kids.

    Negotiating all these different factors is really hard. So I’d love to read from people who *didn’t* come in knowing what they preferred, and how they eventually made their decision.

    • http://www.ecovintageweddings.com Sara

      I have the type of last name that wherever I travel inside my home state (South Dakota), I find relatives I never knew I had. It’s a good Norwegian name, and I’m so, so proud to carry the same name as my parents, my grandparents, their grandparents, etc.

      My fiance loves his last name. He’s proud to be a HisLastName, and he jokes that when I’m a HisLastName, the world is different. Like blues are bluer or something.

      After much discussion with my fiance (who is wholly supportive of whether or not I choose to take on Mrs. or stay a Ms., and who could care less what last name I choose for myself, as long as I’m happy), I’ve decided to hyphenate my name professionally and take his name in all other avenues. I am (as of this fall!) a graduate student in English literature, and I want to be known by both of my last names professionally. My career is mine, my dreams are mine (my fiance and I have shared dreams, too, but I dreamed these dreams long before he came along), and I want to reflect that.

      However, I also want to honor our marriage and the conscious choice we’ve made to share our lives together (hence taking his name legally). While I understand the cultural underpinnings of what it originally meant to take on your husband’s last name (ownership), I don’t uphold those cultural underpinnings myself. I believe in my own independence, and taking on his name legally doesn’t change or challenge those beliefs for me.

      So, professionally, I will be Sara HerLastName – HisLastName, but in all legal forms (i.e. from Social Security card to Christmas cards), I’ll be Sara HisLastName.

      We haven’t explicitly talked about our future kids yet (we’re in our mid-20s, and far from mature enough to handle adding to our family, except in the canine department), but I’m sure that’ll be addressed at the appropriate time.

  • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

    At first I wasn’t going to change my name b/c I love it so much. (I have my father’s last name) But after I thought about it, I didn’t want to be a [Surname here] anymore b/c a lot of people in our family associate our last name with alcoholism and infidelity. For example, if a cousin and their partner split up b/c the cousin had a fling with their partner’s co-worker, the elder’s would laugh and say, “Well, they’re a [Surname here].” So I decided to take my fiance’s name. But now I’m having *gulp* issues with my future MIL. (Oh gosh, this is probably going to come back and bite me in the ass so hard.) But I don’t want to be Mrs. G and I don’t want to have the same name as his mom… but I don’t know how to tell him that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      You don’t have to say it exactly like that, in those words; you could say you’ve been thinking about all this name-change stuff and wanted to discuss all sides of it. And don’t say, “I don’t want to have your mother’s name because I don’t like her”, say, “It seems odd to me to be the same as another person and I’m not sure that’s exactly what I want.”

  • http://weddingness.wordpress.com weddingness

    Also — it seems to me that many of the reasons for and against a woman changing her name are emotional, and therefore very personal. In terms of practicality, I just can’t come up with a good reason to change my name. So people don’t have to remember two last names when they meet us? So we don’t erroneously get mail addressed to E & S HisLast? I mean, the only compelling practicality argument I can come up with (correct me if I’m wrong) is for the kids, but at this point I can’t really imagine myself caring about what my kids’ teachers or friends’ parents think upon learning of my last name.

    Also, as HitchDied commented on my blog the other day, “Mommy, why do you have a different name than me?” could be a great time to begin a dialogue about the patriarchy.

    • KD

      I agree with that – I never had the same last name as my parents and it was never an issue (though I could see it being sensitive to it if they had kids with their last name and my sis and I were the only ones with differnt names as previous comments, but I digress)
      Never once was it an issue with teachers. I think we can all agree that the 80’s and 90’s people were less aware of differences and even then no teacher or anyone was really suprised or didn’t get it. They know it happens. I completely agree that it allows for open dialoque with future kids. I really dn’t think your kids will care if they don’t have the same name as their mom, but if you care…then you can always figure out something that makes her happy.

      • sarah

        Yes! As the child of a mother who kept her name thus had a different last name as me… I was always so proud. It was the best education about the patriarchy and my mothers’ strength that I ever could have gotten. My mother’s choice to keep her name was what gave me permission to keep mine and not feel somehow scared for our future children.

  • Emilie

    Such a timely topic again. I am originally from Québec and my first language is French. It has been impossible to change your name when you get married since 1980 in Québec. My mother kept her maiden name and got married in 1976. I have an hyphenated last name (from both parents, obvs). I love my long hyphenated last name. I always sign it all, even on credit card receipts. So basically, this idea of changing my name when I gete married has always been a non-issue for me because really, it just does not happen.

    Fast forward a few years – I met an Australian guy, to whom I will happen to get married in 2 weeks. He comes from a cultural background of “women change their name when they get married, that is just what they do”. So you can see where we run into a problem. His family keeps asking me (in a nice way) what I will do with my name; his lovely elderly grandfather even weighed in on the issue. On the other hand, my parents are saying that I should not even consider changing my name, it is a backwards thing to do. Now add a thick layer of cultural identity crisis (I live in Australia, changing my French name to an English one is a big deal as it feels that I just abandon all of my French-speaking identity) as well as an intense need to belong in my partner’s family (my family still lives in Québec, so my being “officially” part of his family, name and all is important to me).

    All of which to say that really, I pick the waiting option at the moment. Gah.

    • Mel

      I’m an Australian marrying an English guy – we live in Australia, and as part of this decision there’s the fact that I feel like I want to take his name because I’ve taken him away from his family, so it’s more important that we’re our *own* family.

  • http://Marylandmel.wordpress.com Melissa

    My situation in terms of the level playing field is different in my mind due to the fact that my BF actually legally changed his full name when he was adopted by his stepdad at age 21. So he has an interesting perspective here on names not really being so much your identity as a way to connect yourself to the people around you that you love.

    This is challenging my previously held viewpoints about name and identity, so it will be interesting to see where I arrive at as the two of us move closer to being engaged.

    • C

      Sorry to comment so much. But interestingly, I was actually against changing my name in part because I was also adopted by my “step-dad” as a child. I already had to choose my name and identity I didn’t want to have to do it again.

      • http://marylandmel.wordpress.com Melissa

        It definitely made me think a lot more about identity and names. I suppose it’s going to be different for each of us based on our experiences. It was so easy for my boyfriend to make the decision to go from Robert FormerLastname to Lewis NewLastname IV because for him his identity was not so much the name as it was the family he was a part of.

        On top of it all, my last name is Smith so I’m sufficiently and comfortably anonymous in that sense.

      • Kyley

        Same here!!

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        YES, this, C. Exactly. Mine is slightly different, but a similar situation.

    • Morgan

      “not really being so much your identity as a way to connect yourself to the people around you that you love” Yes! That’s exactly what I needed to read. It’s what I feel – I just had never phrased it that way in my head. Thank you.

    • Nina

      It’s interesting to hear people who’ve had previous name changes and how this changes their perspective. I, too, already changed my name once, when I was 11 and my mom got remarried. I wanted to have the same name as the rest of the family. I occasionally regret this decision now, but for me this previous change made it seem more ok to change it again. Partly because it made me identify more with my first and middle names as being the things the define ME and the last name as defining my family (as per discussion further above).

  • Cat

    We hyphenated socially, but legally we’ve both kept our last names. At the time we had every intention of changing it legally asap (non-legal gay wedding, changing by deed-poll was the only semblance of legality we have), but never got around to it. The further we get through, the less inclined I am to do it. I’m in grad school under my maiden name so logistically its easier, and where we live, changing your bank/social security/almost everything somewhat formal details is free with a marriage certificate but costs with a name change cert. As well as the fees for actually changing our names.

    Most people who know us socially don’t know we haven’t done it legally yet, and its working out great for us. We’re leaving the ‘what will we do about kids?’ question until that is an issue. For now we’re just going to run with it.

  • Alicia

    Seems to me this is as much a practical question as it is an emotional one. I am also a child of 70’s feminists and have a fairly straightforward hyphenated last name (2 syllables, moms then dads). However it has caused me A TON of administrative hassles in my life, from not receiving mail to not being able to use credit cards to DMV issues etc etc etc. Plus now I live in the UK and people here think it’s really posh as opposed to hippie/feminist.

    I’ve gotten used to it and I’m sticking with my name, it almost never even occurred to me to change it until his mom said “oh! another mrs, his for the family!” I nearly lost it… I’m trying hard to be dr. me and no way am I trading that in for mrs him. He’s fine with this, would even change it to mine I think if I really wanted but I am happy with us staying as we are. But oh, what to do when we have a fam? I hate my hyphen, don’t want to inflict it on anyone else, and then which of my names would I even use? Mom’s side of the fam has lots of kids, dad’s none at all.. It’s a quagmire I tell you.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Wait, why is it always Mom’s then Dad’s? I’m American with only one last name, but my partner is Spanish, where they always do Dad’s then Mom’s. I didn’t realise there was a “usual” way to hyphenate, and that it was Mom’s then Dad’s. Why do people seem to think that having one’s last name last is better?

      And sorry to giggle, but when you said that his mom said “Oh! another Mrs. His for the family!” it made me think of the episode of How I Met Your Mother when they give Lily a Mrs. Eriksen apron and she freaks out. (Season 1, episode 9 http://www.surfthechannel.com/video/101/38538.html )

      • meg

        Oddly, in the US the traditional hyphenation is the reverse of the way it’s done in Europe. God knows why. The comments have really made me think though, for us, I’m not ok with hyphenation if that means it’s my name that’s eventually the one slated to be dropped. That would seem a bit like…. equality on the surface, but not real equality. Which. Is going to spark some conversations around here.

  • Hannah

    My fiance and I joke that whoever of us publishes a journal article first, we’ll use that person’s last name. We’re both close to finishing manuscripts and I suspect I am a little more serious about this ‘bet’ than I let on. Because it is such a big topic, and because both our names are a bit awkward, and we’ve each developed professional identities with them, it’s not obvious to me how we should proceed, and joking about it makes it a bit more manageable…or at least easier to put off the decision until after the wedding, which is what we’re doing. But you’re right, Meg, that it must be talked through, and thank you for writing this – I’m going to share it with him so we can delve into the discussion.

    (…but now back to my manuscript! :)

    • jolynn

      <3

  • Jen

    People laughed at me too when I brought up my fiance taking my name! I did not appreciate it. Or guys who said it was a “deal-breaker” if their wife wouldn’t take their last name, soooo thankful my fiance is not like that and realizes that it is 2010.

    I’ve struggled with this issue too, but recently I’ve been looking at it like adding to my name rather than changing it, and telling people I am adding to my name, not changing it. So for example, instead of Jen Smith, I’ll be Jen Smith Jones. And we’ve been talking about him taking my last name as his middle name, so he would be John Smith Jones. That is something that makes me feel good about it, we are both adding to our names as we become a family. Everyone else has laughed at us about it, but he didn’t — which is the only thing that matters.

    Thanks for writing about this! It is an emotional struggle I think many women are dealing with, but don’t talk about. At least no other brides I know of right now! So thank you.

    • Tricia

      Jen

      I think you are in almost exactly the same place I am. I did a lot of thinking about names even before we got engaged. On the one hand, it is important to me to share a family name. I think it gives a shared sense of identity and sends a message that we are a family. I totally think that everyone needs to make their own choice and want everyone to do what is best for them and their family, but, in truth, I sometimes find the lack of clear social signals confusing. I don’t know who is married who is unmarried and living together etc and it seems rude to ask. I really shouldn’t care and in most ways I really don’t. Its not like I’m going to treat people differently one way or the other. Nevertheless, it is important to me to send that social signal that we are a family and committed to one another. (For what its worth, I don’t think I noticed names as much before the prospect of possibly changing my own name was on the horizon, and I suspect I won’t notice as much after it is settled either)

      On the other hand, my name is an important part of my identity and I don’t want to give it up. I agree with Jen that the prospect of adding to my name is more comfortable than of changing it and feels more in concert with the life transition I am making. I also like the idea of his adding my last name which would make it fell more (although not completely) even and symmetric (and it would get rid of the IV he is not so fond of). That last hadn’t even really occurred to me before we started talking about it and he suggested it. He doesn’t want to drop his last name entirely, which is understandable, but I am actually really impressed that he even thought of it without me bringing it up. He’s pretty wonderful.

      The other wrinkle to the situation is that I am not only and only child, I am an only grandchild on my dad’s side, so I grew up feeling like I should pass on the family name. That is one factor that rather pushes me towards the idea of hyphenation even though I personally find it aesthetically unpleasing and it passes the dilemma on to the next generation (and it would be a four syllable mouthful). Moreover, that still leaves the question of whose name comes first.

    • KD

      It actually might be a deal breaker if a guy wasn’t okay with me keeping my name. Now I’m thinking that in some ways I feel that it is just as stuborn and uncompromising as a guy saying the opposite… hmm…

      luckily not a problem for me, my fiance would prefer I take his, but knows it’s something I’m passionate about and therefore is totally understanding.

      • sarah

        I don’t think it’s just as stubborn and uncompromising as a guy saying the opposite. If a guy won’t marry you if you don’t take his name, it’s like he’s saying: “I won’t marry you unless you do something you don’t want to do,” but if you won’t marry a guy who says you must change your name, it’s like you’re saying “I won’t marry you if you insist that I do something I don’t want to do.”

        This is all assuming that the woman doesn’t want to take the dudes name — but if she wanted to, nobody would have to be insisting or standing their ground in the first place… so I think that’s an okay assumption in this scenario.

        • Justin

          I agree with Sarah here completely. There’s being stubborn about you maintaining your identity or making your own decisions, vs. being someone being stubborn about inflicting his identity or decisions on his spouse. One is affirming individual/gender strength/rights, the other is oppressive.

    • Chelsea

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for this idea! I’ve been surprisingly uncomfortable with the idea of taking his last name (something I’d kind of always assumed that I would do), but I also don’t want to give up on the fantasy of us having the same name — after all, I expect to eventually have been married longer than I’ve been single, and I do want to define ourselves as a family (not that you need the same last name to do that, it’s just my personal, irrational feeling, not anything I think anyone else should subscribe to!). The idea of him taking my name as a middle name, and me taking his name as a last name, strikes the perfect balance for me — traditional, but also quietly and inobtrusively subversive.

  • http://www.completelyirrelevant.com Stephanie

    I’m keeping my last name. For many reasons, my last name is important to me and to who I am. There really wasn’t any question about it for me, ever since I first knew that was an option when I was younger. I just happen to be really fortunate to have a fiance who is totally on board with that. He has never once asked me to take his last name or to hyphenate or any other alternative. I just one day after we got engaged confirmed, “you know I’m not going to change my last name, right?” and he basically gave me a look, like “duh.” I totally understand why people change their names, but it’s just not right for me.

    We’re still not 100% set on what we’ll do when we have kids, but I am firmly against hyphenation. The people I know who have hyphenated last names talk about what an inconvenience it is. Right now, I am fine with our future children having his last name if that is what my fiance wants (and right now, he does). While I am pretty attached to my last name for myself, it is SUPER common and I like that my kids will have a more unique last name than mine (and won’t get emails and phone calls meant for someone else all the time). Plus, I don’t think people are going to be confused about what role I play in the family… with all the different forms of families out there, having one parent, or even one kid, with a different last name than the rest is not uncommon. I think what I might end up doing is giving my kids my last name as a second middle name, but who knows. I mean, like I said, my last name is really common and there isn’t any concern it’s going to die out if I don’t pass it on.

    I’m guessing I might face a few raised eyebrows from family members (especially some of the older members of his family), and I’m certain I will get mail addressed to me as “Mrs. S,” and I don’t expect to be upset or angry, but who knows… I am not there yet. The two of us are already jokingly referred to as the “HisLastNames” by our social circle, and have been since long before we started dating, and we do the same with other of our couple friends, sometimes with the girl’s last name if she was the friend first, and that doesn’t bother me.

    • http://www.completelyirrelevant.com Stephanie

      Er, in that last paragraph, I meant “since long before we were engaged” — that’d be odd if they referred to us as such before we started dating!

    • mel

      I know this is a super old post, but I just have to say: I had a hyphenated name growing up and I loved it. I still do. To be honest, I’m really frustrated that this “kids hate their hyphenated names” idea is still being accepted as fact when many people have stated on this thread (or perhaps on the follow up thread which I read first?) that they loved their hyphenated names.

  • Meredith

    I fully plan on keep my own name when I get married, but I wanted to comment on the kids/ family angle of having the same name. When my parents married in 1977, my mother did NOTchange her name. All the kids have my Dad’s last name. Growing up (and I’m only 23 so this wasn’t too long ago), I didn’t think anything of it. I knew other Moms and Dads had the same last name and mine didn’t but it didn’t bother me (or my brothers) AT ALL. I suppose I am trying to comment from a child’s perspective of having married parents with two last names. IT. DID. NOT. MATTER. to me!!!, but it may matter more to adults.

    As I got older and realized this was the feminist in my mom, I really respected her decision and in a way, saw her in a completely new light.

    I wonder now, if growing up, teachers assumed that my parents were divorced or never married or separated because of their different last names. Or I went to the dentist and my insurance was under my mom’s name and I kept thinking “Do they think my parents are divorced because my mom’s last name is different from mine?” It’s a thought that never crossed my mind as a child, but that I now think about all the time.

    • Meredith

      To add to my comment: Not that it really matters what they think, but it first crossed my mind only about a year ago that my parents having different last names might (probably) makes people think they are divorced. So now I think about it a lot. I don’t really care, but since it’s a new idea to me, it’s something I thnk about whenever it comes up.

      • http://www.completelyirrelevant.com Stephanie

        This reminds me of a comment my mom made about 15 years ago when looking at birth announcements in the paper. She commented that she was amazed how many children were born to unmarried parents. I told her that some of the women probably didn’t change their last names when they got married, and that my kids’ birth announcements would have parents with different last names. (Apparently, I was sure of my decision even back in high school!) She hadn’t even thought of that!

    • Another Thea

      Yes, they do. My mom changed her last name to my dad’s when they got married, and then changed it back because it didn’t feel right. All my dad’s relatives were upset at first because they thought she was going to divorce him, but other than that, there was no real fuss. All of us kids got her last name as our middle name. It worked well, and I never thought twice about it as a kid–honestly, I think that most kids have more important things to worry about (from their perspective, at least). But as I got older, I did get questions about who my stepparent was, if my parents were divorced, etc, etc. Not a lot, but just often enough to be obnoxious. I just said, ‘Nope, they’ve always been married, my mom preferred to keep her name” and changed the subject.

      I always wondered about women who do change their names: how do you take ownership of it for yourself? I mean, I have 22 years’ worth of attachment and identity around my name, so how does it feel when I’m still me but my name is different? And how do you feel if your daughter-in-law decides to change her name as well? Is it weird, like they’re infringing on your identity somehow (in the nicest possible way, of course)? Is it nice to have someone else who has the same name? Do you not really care?

    • Katherine

      Interesting comment. My mother kept her maiden name when it was not as common to do so, and then had me kind of late in life. So then my third grade teacher asked ME whether or not my dad was my “real dad” because my mother and I had different last names… but of course, my last name is the same as his, so this makes about zero sense to me. In addition to being a strange thing to ask a third grader. Or anyone.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    I felt so strongly about this, 25 years ago, that I kept my name. When I look back, the keeping of the name did not ensure a keeping of my self.

    • Alyssa

      LPC… most valid point! thanks for sharing

    • Melinda

      Good point!

      • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

        Aw. Thanks.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      No wonder you’re so great on Twitter, you manage to fit entire paragraphs into short, concise sentences.
      This was wonderfully explained (and further developed from yesterday’s thoughts), thank you. I think for some people a name change is the obvious sign of the identity change we all face when we enter into a life-long partnership. Maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal?

      • meg

        I think I read this less as – changing the name will not change the self – but more as a warning. We can’t think that simple choices, like keeping our names, will be enough to ensure the keeping of the self.

  • Mayweed

    Meg, I love you.
    I wanted to write about this but my blog (local newspaper frivolous) doesn’t really seem the place. So. I like my name. I want to keep it. It’s not my birth name, but my stepdad’s. and I am fiercely loyal to it. I got teased mercilessly for it at school, and that only made me love it more. It’s my byline at work, and’s it’s identified me in magazines, newspapers, and across the internet. My fiance wants me to take his name, but he’s not the kind to make a fuss if I said no.

    But. I want our children to never have a problem caused by the fact that their parents have different surnames. So what to do?

    My brother’s girlfriend is Spanish, and in her family it works like this: Children have double-barrelled names, mother and father. When they get married, the children drop one half of the name (daughters keep their mother’s and sons keep their father’s) creating another new double barrel for THEIR kids.

    I have no idea what we’ll do yet (am going to worry about it post wedding), but I do at least have the benefit of being able to keep my name for work…

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      It’s interesting that you’ve heard differently about Spain. My Spanish partner (and his family) tell me that it’s always Dad’s then Mom’s, and no one changes when you get married, but then the kids are also Dad’s then Mom’s. So basically the mom’s last name is one “lost” every other generation, but each child is always identified in the same way (they like to know where people come from… the back of his national ID card says “Son of Dad’sFirst and Mom’sFirst”, which both includes where he comes from and implies that his last names are in the “standard” order).
      Spanish people think it’s weird that I have two first names (one’s a middle name in the US) and only one last name. Official government forms are fun, too, as I’m often called Mrs. MyMiddleName because they can’t figure out what to do with my names, all of which are foreign to them!

  • Carissa

    Thanks for writing on this topic. I especially appreciated the point you raised about not having the level playing field. I think that hits the nail on the head about a lot of this. It makes it more challenging to have a fair and honest discussion and debate about the topic if social norms are stacked against you. It is really hard to have a discussion about this topic with your partner inside a bubble. Yet, that is what needed to ensure that both sides are heard and respected and valued equally.

    My partner has been more than supportive of whatever decision I made about my last name. And the idea of him changing his name was never on the table. When the question of the children’s last name comes up, he assumes they would get his last name. When I question that I automatic assumption, he then concedes to at least entertain the idea of this not being the case — but expresses preference if the child is a boy because he wants his “family name to be carried on.” (Insert rage and loud arguing from me here). Where did my sensitive, thoughtful, feminist boyfriend go?

  • http://ladybitsblog.blogspot.com Button Gwinnett

    Thank you for this post, Meg! I also have rage issues when it comes to this.

    For me it’s not even an issue. I WILL be keeping my last name, and not just because my last name cool and interesting, whereas he’s a Smith. (And one of the reasons that I love him is that I think he’d rescind the marriage offer if I wanted to change it.)

    I was shocked at how angry and hurt I was when a lot of my friends started changing their names. I (obviously) kept it to myself, but I was just shocked at how many intelligent, feminist women went ahead with the change because it’s just WHAT YOU DO. I was like “wait! why doesn’t he change his last name?” and they’d all just stare at me and then laugh. How ridiculous!

    It is NOT a level playing field. And if you stop to think about it, it de-values women’s identities, which is utterly maddening.

    That said — my mother did not change her name, so my parents gave me her last as my middle and my father’s as my last. It’s a solution to the hyphenating thing, although it does end up privileging my father’s name — the name I pass along to my hypothetical children will probably be his, not my mother’s. It’s tough.

    • Molly

      The anger and the hurt are the reasons I realized I could never change my name, and it surprised me, too. I don’t have any particular attachment to my last name, and the lack of attachment has nothing to do with family issues – it’s my father’s name, I love my father, I love my whole extended family, and most of us share this name, except my mother, who kept her name – it’s just a name that’s kind of nasal sounding, hard for people to spell, and has no long-term family history because it was given to my great grandfather when he came through Ellis Island to replace an unpronounceable Polish name (a very common practice in the early 20th century).

      So. For years I dated mostly women, and always figured that if I married a woman with a cooler last name than mine I would probably take her name when we got married, and if not, I’d keep my name, or maybe we’d pick a new shared name, or something. I didn’t have particularly strong feelings about it.

      Now, though, I’m marrying a man, and in the last year my feelings about name changing have really solidified. Several of my friends and female cousins have gotten married, including the cousin I looked up to as my feminist icon, and one after another, they all changed their names. Every single time, I felt like I’d been punched. I took it really, really personally that these independent, strong, thoughtful women were taking their husbands’ names, and the reasons they gave were things like, “His is easier to spell.” I know, I know, it’s none of my business, everyone is entitled to do what feels right for her, and I never said a word to any of these people expressing my dismay, but it upset me SO MUCH. And I realized that if every time a friend changed her name it broke my heart a little, there was no way I could change mine. Not even if I was marrying someone with the coolest, easiest to spell, most mellifluous name in the world.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        i found this comment to be slightly insulting.

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          to clarify: the whole anger at women who change their names thing.

          • Molly

            I’m sorry if you were insulted. I tried to make it very clear that I was talking about my feelings when people I actually know, close friends and relatives, changed their names. I’m not saying that there aren’t myriad excellent reasons to take a husband’s name, or that the women here who have made that choice aren’t thoughtful; I’m saying that when my friends and family did it, I was surprised by the vehemence of my emotions.

            And the reason I shared those emotions is because they more than anything else are what led me to my decision not to change my name. My father always says, “You are entitled to your feelings, and you can’t help how you feel.” For me, in those moments, the feeling was visceral and powerful. I tried to share it in a way that was clearly personal and wouldn’t insult the many women on this board who shared stories of joyful name changing. But my truth, my experience, is that when the cousin who introduced me to Ani Difranco and 3rd wave feminism took her husband’s name, I felt hurt, betrayed, and confused. I should be able to share that here.

          • meg

            You don’t need to feel insulted Liz. It’s not anger she’s expressing, but being heartsick. And, I have to say, I have had that feeling many times before. It’s not that we don’t think everyone can and should make their own decision… but for me, for whatever reason, it can be very painful. That doesn’t make me a better person, but I’m not sure it makes me a worse person. It makes me self aware, and emotional. There are a lot of politics tied up in this issue, and having a personal emotional reaction to someone else’s decision – that you think they had EVERY RIGHT IN THE WORLD to make – well, that’s understandable I think. The point is making sure we try to understand why they made the decision, and what that means, and try to learn empathy.

            Which is what this thread has been doing for me.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com Liz

        a reaction based upon prejudice is not excusable simply because you chalk it up to visceral emotion.

        just as you “should be able to share” your feelings, so should i.

        • Sarah

          I don’t think that Molly’s emotional reaction to her close friends’ and family members’ decision to change their names was based in prejudice. Just as women who must choose whether or not to change their name feel rage and anger about the decision-making process, the girls and women who look up to those women have emotions around their name-changing, too. The emotions are real, they don’t come from a place of prejudice, they come from a place of anger about the realities of inequality. Men are given a free pass through the whole name-changing anguish — and that is simply not fair and it’s not just wives that feel that pain — the people who love them as well.

          We have to remember to channel that anger towards the system that allows men to disengage from the process of identity navigation that women are forced to go through when they get married instead of directing anger at women who make choices different from our own. But, I don’t think that those of us who have felt anger around other women’s choices should be told that we are prejudiced — we are feeling a rightious anger, an anger that perhaps needs to be redirected, but an anger that needs to be acknowledged.

          • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

            i do have to admit that i was reading molly and button’s comments in conjunction- and the common thread seemed to be that there is an underlying assumption that a woman who we THOUGHT was intelligent, thinking, feminist, etc no longer is if she takes on her husband’s name. which is not the case. many times, a lot of thought is put into the process of taking on his name… not just because it is, as button said “the thing to do.”

            (sorry bout that- sort of was commenting on both comments at the same time, and didn’t make it clear)

            to assume that a woman is unable to be an independently thinking feminist if she changes her name IS rooted in prejudice.

            i’ve really appreciated that this discussion has maintained a certain level of… i guess, sensitivity? to other women’s decisions. to compare it to similar discussions common on apw, it’s like assuming that everyone who has an expensive wedding hasn’t put time and thought into their decisions to do so. when the truth of the matter is that many intelligent women make many different decisions.

          • Molly

            Thank you, Sarah. “Anger about the realities of inequality.” That’s it exactly. You said what I couldn’t figure out how to say.

          • meg

            I think Sarah has this exactly right, for me at least. Though, again, I never feel anger… but sometimes I feel heartsick about the system, and the decisions we have to make. That in no way means that I think women who change their names haven’t given it tons of rational thought, or are not feminist, or are in any way less-than. But it does say something about my *personal* relationship to an age-old system.

    • Kyley

      I will not be changing my last name, but I think it’s really important to remember the whole point of feminism is to give women the authority to choose. So you’re intelligent, feminist friends are still being intelligent, feminists. They are just making choices, which is what we’re all fighting for.

      • sarah

        Yes, it is about women being able to choose… but it’s not JUST personal… it’s important to remember that our choices create the world around us. And our choices create what is possible for future generations and our choices have consequences beyond ourselves. These choices are politically loaded, they’re not just personal. If women never got up in arms in a loud and angry way about name-changing, no woman would ever have felt empowered enough to keep her own name. As ye olde second wave feminists used to say “the personal is political.” Our personal choices are not just personal — they have implications beyond ourselves and our families. The reason names are a big deal is that they’re public and they communicate more than we often think.

        • sarah

          I actually don’t think that feminism is all about allowing women to make their own choices. Yes, that is one goal of feminism, but feminism is also concerned with changing the circumstances under which women make choices to allow them to have real freedom of choice. Right now, the landscape of name changing is not neutral terrain and the choices that we make on that landscape are fraught.

          That said, I think that any anger and hurt that we feel when our friends make choices we wouldn’t make should be directed at the patriarchy and not at women who are put in very difficult positions tied up with emotion, family, and identity.

        • Fitz

          Well put! Meg, can we get a like button for comments?

        • Kyley

          I agree; the personal is always political, and it important to consider that, especially with these weighty decisions. But choosing to follow a tradition that has its roots in patriarchy isn’t, by default unthinking or unfeminist. As feminists we face these political/personal decisions every day: to wear makeup or not, to shave or not, to wear high-heels or a push-up bra or any bra or not, the act of getting married itself or not. The list goes on and on.

          For all of us, it’s a matter of navigating those personal/political decisions. The name issue is something that, personally, I want to go against tradition. But I love shaving my legs and wearing high heels. Someone else might make different decisions, and at the end of the day I’m damn happy that we’re all making our these decisions.

          I also really like what you said about anger being directed towards the patriarchy, rather than individual women, regardless of your decision. I think that is *SO* important. No one should feel shamed into keeping her “maiden name” (I hate that term), just as she shouldn’t feel shamed into changing it.

          • Justin

            I hadn’t thought about how demeaning “maiden name” could be. Do you prefer surname?

            What if men’s last names were also referred to as their maiden names, or perhaps their “virgin names” or even “boy names”? I think there’s something lovely and amusing about that. It conveys to us males how patronizing the term “maiden name” is… but it also gives it less weight, which might actually be a good thing. Maybe if we thought of our surnames as “virgin names,” more men would be more willing to change theirs at marriage as well.

            I apologize for my previous use of the phrase “maiden name.”

          • meg

            Yes. Exactly. I’ve made a lot of those same choices. And I didn’t change my name, but I wear high heels to work, because it’s “expected” so who am I to talk? We each make our own choices.

            I also want to say that – for all that the name change game can make me really really heart sick, I’m really grateful that women now have a chance to MAKE these choices. And choices implies options – the option to change your name (or add to your name, as someone so graciously put) as well as to keep it.

            This thread couldn’t have really existed a few generations back, and I’m grateful that it can exist now. Because you know what? Reading this, and thinking, I’m not sure this decision has always been easy for women. I think it has caused some joy, but also some pain for time immemorial. The difference is, we’re allowed to talk about it now.

      • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

        Amen, Kyley. Right on.

      • Moz

        After reading all 417 posts (or that’s how many there were when I started reading) this is still the comment that makes the most sense to me.

        We’re allowed to be surprised if someone we thought would change/keep their name doesn’t or does. But ultimately, it’s none of our damn business.

        Whenever people get married, I always ask what they’re doing with names. Not because I’m a busybody, but because I think it is a basic civility to get someone’s damn name right. And because I want to make sure I write the correct names on their Christmas card. If you explain it as such when asking, people are usually touched that you bothered to bloody ASK and don’t mind telling or explaining.

        The idea of waiting makes a lot of sense to me. You probably need a chips down convo with the partner to make sure that should you decide NOT to change, that it’s not going to trouble him at some later date. But weddings are hard enough as it is. You don’t need to do EVERYTHING right away.

        Great post, Meg. Really terrific.

    • Nina

      “I was shocked at how angry and hurt I was when a lot of my friends started changing their names. I (obviously) kept it to myself, but I was just shocked at how many intelligent, feminist women went ahead with the change because it’s just WHAT YOU DO.”

      Comments like this are one of the main reasons I am afraid to change my name. I hate the thought that people will think this of me. I like to consider myself an intelligent, feminist woman but I do think I will take my fiance’s name. And it is NOT because “it’s just what you do” – I have considered this carefully and feel it’s the right decision for me. And probably your friends have too. It is about choice and making the choice with your eyes wide open. So give your intelligent friends the benefit of the doubt!

      • ddayporter

        +1

      • Bibs

        Thanks for this. Good reminder that we all just need to cut each other some slack.

  • Amelia

    This is such an interesting topic to me. I’ve discussed this a bit with my partner, including hyphenating, him taking my last name, my taking his, etc. He’s made it clear that he’s keeping his, as he’s quite fond of it, but doesn’t mind if I keep mine either. The name change ball is entirely in my court. I run in a very progressive circle, and am the very vocal feminist of my family. Quite frankly, after an entire life time of really lame and repeated jokes regarding my name part of me would be happy to lose it and never have to hear someone’s attempt at being clever again. On the other hand, I feel that if I do take his name, I’ll be really, really judged by the community in which I live and work. Like doing the traditional thing makes me a bad feminist, less independent and they’ll push me into a box and identity that just doesn’t fit me simply based on my name.

    • Melinda

      Interesting situation you describe. Ideally, feminists should support people getting to choose what is right for them, even if it is a different decisions than they would make for themselves, but these situations are hard. I am a feminist who is leaning toward taking my fiance’s name, and as with most who have commented here, my reasons are complicated.

  • Alder

    It is interesting how many people want to have the same name for their kids. My name is Alder Middle Dad’s Mom’s and my brother’s name is Flint Middle Mom’s Dad’s, and we have never had any significant problem with having different last names. The whole family shares names in some way (except my parents– they kept their own names unchanged), so we all feel connected. Some people are a bit taken aback at first and school districts do tend to send things to “Mr and Mrs Child’s Name,” but it really wasn’t a big deal.

    Probably because of my background, I have never ever intended to give up any part of my name, but I am considering adding to it. We might add each others last names as middle names– then we have the connection, but retain our own last names. I think my fiance probably is a tiny bit sad that I am not taking his name, but he knew going in (as soon as he met my mother, who tells people who call asking for “Mrs MyDad’sName” that she doesn’t exist) that it wasn’t going to happen. The only downside to our plan is that our names will get really really long– mine would be Alder Middle Dad’s Fiance’s Mom’s, which is a lot.

    • leigh

      This is almost exactly my plan! I don’t plan to change my name. My fiance never felt strongly about it, and if he did, I might have thought more about it. He grew up with divorced parents who had separate names, a stepmom with his dad’s name, and never felt much confusion because of the names. He also knew siblings with different last names, so that’s our plan. If we have a girl first, she gets my name. If we have a boy first, he gets his name. The second kid either way will have the other name. I think it will be an interesting social experiment!
      Besides, we’ve been living together for 5+ years and mail has been addressed to us in every possible iteration. For whatever reason, we find this amusing. I hope I keep that feeling after the wedding. I assume many relatives will assume I’m taking his name, but we’ll clearly sign all of our thank you notes from the wedding with both names to remind them we’re keeping our own names!

      • KD

        oh yay! I love what you’re doing. We have discussed this as a possible solution for kids… but, as someone who didn’t give a hoot that my parents had a different last name than me, I would have been kind of sad to not have the same last name as my sister. So it’s been kind of a debate. I do think kids are fine with whatever though, kids just accept so much – resilient little creatures!

      • Julia

        Leigh, this is exactly what my parents did. Generally, it worked great. I, being the older, have my mom’s name (1st one came out a girl) and my younger sister has my dad’s name. The biggest problem was that my mom had to continually prove that my younger sister was in fact her daughter even though she had a different last name (this was after my parents divorced, so it was furthur complicated, but she had troubles before the divorce as well). Eventually my mom remarried and did take my stepdad’s last name. I have been the only one in our family (besides grandparents) with my last name for 12 years. Now, I’m faced with the choice of whether or not the line will be continued to the next generation. If I don’t keep it, it will be gone. If I do keep it, and do the same thing as my parents, it will be gone anyway. I feel in between a rock and a hard place now . . .

    • Rose

      I am so happy to hear that this worked for someone! Changing my name has never been an option and I’m always secretly annoyed that even for all my friends who have not changed their name (or aren’t even married) the children automatically get the father’s last name. Right now, I feel very strongly about one (some?) of my children having my own last name and I have mentioned that to my partner as a way to bring it up before we are actually forced to decide on it. For many families where the parents each kept their own names, the family is referred to as the Hers His’s anyway, so wouldn’t that still work if some of the kids had one name and the others had the other?

      Then again, while I’m writing this I don’t all the “mine vs. his” talk. It will be a new family, “our” family, and so I can appreciate the meaning in that being represented with a shared name.

      But it still makes me mad that the default is always his name. And then women have to add a disclaimer onto our own views about this that the issue is “silly” or “stupid”. Not a level playing field, indeed.

      Thanks again for sharing, Alder, as this is the first time I have heard of different last names for children working for a family.

    • Kyley

      Oh man, I love your mom!

      I am not concerned about my kids all having the same name, so much as I am trying to figure out how I will navigating the uneven playing field. For example, if we both keep our names, I simply don’t know what we will name our kids. Picking just one of our names for our future children seems unfair, for all the obvious reasons. Our names really, really don’t hyphenate well, so that is out. Maybe we alternate between kids, including the other’s last name as a middle? But to me, the middle name seems like a consolation prize. Maybe all the boys have my name and the girls have his name? Or vice versa?

      Once you open the door, there are just so many options, it is very hard to know what is the best option.

      • Alder

        Funny story– I was born first and when my parents decided on their naming method, my mom thought they were going by gender and my dad thought they were alternating. . . they lucked out that they had one of each! :)

    • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

      I was planning on making a comment about this exact situation. I know some children (I’m a teacher) in this situation. Same family, different last names. The daughter has her father’s last name and the son has his mother’s surname. I thought it was a clever solution, possibly another way to carry on a family name, possibly another option for parents to share their respective surnames with children.

  • http://www.avie.designs.com avie designs

    I just have a small anecdote. I did not change my name when I married last year.

    My very catholic grandmother that I only this year became really close to was in my car the other day. She saw one of my husband’s business card and commented on his last name. She then said my first name with his last name indicating that she thought this was my new name. I quickly responded “Oh, I didn’t change my name.” To which she said “You have that option?” and I said “Yes, you do.” End of conversation.

    • Kyley

      Aw, I find this incredibly touching!!

  • jolynn

    Oh, Meg,

    I always fall in love with you a little bit more after one of these possibly-inflammatory posts. You do an excellent job of balancing!
    “Your mother in law doesn’t get a vote on this one”!! By god, no!
    Thank you for bringing the uneven playing field up, and for touching on what is truly dear to my heart: the kids issue. I hate that I get so worked up about the name change, but it will be probably the most frustrating thing about marriage to me. He has no issue with me keeping my name (his mother is Ms. HerName), but I want us all to share one family name. I don’t love my last name due to my horrible father and have often thought of changing it to my mum’s maiden name, so why does it bother me to have the option of taking his? He won’t give his up, which I sort of understand, as he’s the only male grandchild, but I would want us both to take a whole new name. Hyphens can be a pain in the ass. I think it would level the playing field if we mashed up our current names or even picked a whole new one… but that isn’t and will never be on the table. I have five sisters, and have slowly lost each of my sisters to “HisName” and this drives me insane.

    I too have the frustration of being about to embark on a professional career that may require me to retain my name, which could mean that I keep it professionally at least.

    I think I’m being very stubborn and angry in part because I moved to his state, will live with his family, etc. I want some bit of me that’s mine…but I feel less than intelligent that my stand is coming on something that I’ve always hated (my father’s last name). Help!

    (I kind of like the Spanish culture idea via Mayweed!)

    • ElfPuddle

      I moved to his state, too. Then his parents moved here. I’m four time zones away from my parents, and two from my nearest sibling. We get regular drop-bys from his parents (though his siblings live in the same states as mine).

      I wish I could tell you to make a stand about it, “I’ve given up enough…I’m not taking your name!” and say that would make it all better.

      I can’t.

      But, I can tell you I know the feeling and we’ll figure it out. Somehow. *hugs*

  • Elise

    I took my husband’s last name, and it’s beautiful. We’re joined together, we’re a family… I’m so happy that I’m now a “Mrs.”

    But, if that isn’t for you… You could always do what my husband’s sister and her fiance are doing: Make up a new last name. They are just combining their last names to make a whole new one… A whole new future for them, without the baggage of the past, or something like that.

    • Kyley

      I’m so glad it has been such a pleasant experience for you!! :)

    • elyse

      yay for reading a comment about someone who took their husbands name – i’m planning to do the same next month. maybe it’s because we have such a great first name :-)

  • http://marie-evelaforte.blogspot.com Marie-Eve

    Great post Meg. I feel we should have more options, like your husband take your name, or starting a new family name, and such.

    As it’s been pointed out a couple of times in the comments, I happen to live in Quebec where rules might be different than anywhere else… All women keep their name. Growing up, my mother was ms.her.name, my grandmother was ms.her.name. So it never occurred to me that this was odd or different: it was just how it was! You’re in fact forbidden by law to take your partner’s name. In my family, we saw a great practical application of that when my sister married her now-wife; I realized then this was really well-suited for gay marriages, because in this case who is supposed to take whose name?

    Perhaps because this has always been the reality for me, I never associated names with belonging. The fact that we had a different name than my mom did not make us less of a family unit, and that’s how I also feel about my own family now (I don’t have the same last name as my son, who has my husband’s name). I felt much more strongly about my son having my name than taking my husband’s name (which never even was an issue for me), but after much thought we decided not to hyphenate for different reasons, in part because his first name is already hyphenated and long. So. In the end, I decided that it was just a name. It doesn’t make me his mother any less. It’s pretty much the case for everyone here, and I guess the society is still doing fine!

    Over the years, I’ve come to know several women who did change their names for various reasons, however, and thought that it made a lot of sense: if your last name is horrible and unpronounceable, for instance, or if your husband is from another country where you move, and culturally speaking, keeping your name would be extremely frowned upon and taking his name would make everything easier in terms of paperwork and general acceptance in your new culture.

  • E.Weaver

    I’d always thought that if I got married before I completed medical school I’d consider changing my name and if I got married after graduation that I’d not be open to changing it. MD degree name changes can be logistically and professionally difficult (licenses, board scores, published articles, professional reputation, etc).

    Then, I met my fiance 3 weeks before I started med school. He’s been with me all 4 years since. Together, we decided it was best to wait until I was done with school to marry. We had two ‘optional’ wedding dates-the weekend before and the weekend after my graduation. Suddenly, my ‘easy little matrix’ for name change vs not didn’t work as well! I didn’t see logic in one week’s time determining my last name! So it was back to “do I or don’t I”…in a field where there’s a lot of pressure regarding name changes.

    I’m happy with MyLast. If the name change were unimportant to my fiance, I’d be keeping it. But he feels that the name change is important-for reasons I won’t go into here. After MUCH thought, and a long time to come to terms with the idea (2 years…I can see how those with a 6 month engagement might not have time to process it so fast!), I decided to change it.

    I’ll be going from Ms. MyLast, to Dr. MyLast to Dr. MyLast HisLast all in the space of a week and a half when I graduate and get married. I may eventually transition to just Dr. HisLast-but by having both names legally it should ease some of the logistics of the change (ex-when I sign things with the maiden name), and gives me the option to be “me” still!

    I really do dread the days to come when we get formal mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst HisLast (honor titles should not disappear on formal mail!), or any mail at all addressed to Dr. Hisfirst Hislast or Dr. and Mrs. HisLast (because, you know, girls can’t be doctors).

    • Kyley

      If you were so inclined, I’d be interested to hear what your fiance’s reasons were, for it being particularly important. I will admit that I am inclined to be dismissive of men who feel this way (my partner happens to not care either way) and I don’t think that is a very fair position for me to hold.

      If you don’t want to disclose, feel free to ignore me! Thanks.

      • E.Weaver

        It’s kind of a two-stage decision for us.

        The strongest part is first-He wants for us to have the unity that comes from sharing a name. From it being easily recognizable that we’re married partners to possible eventual kids. He’s ok with it being hislast, mylast, or something different entirely. He just wants us to have the same one. His openness to changing his name really helped level the playing field for me-esp because I know how important his actual name is to him, and he’s willing to give that up for us to have the same one.

        I don’t really like the idea of making up one, and hyphenating our two names would be way too unwieldy for me to successfully use repeatedly every day. (introductions to patients, signing it over and over, etc.) So I vetoed those two options, leaving us to chose one of our lasts.

        The reasons we chose HisLast over MyLast are multifaceted. A big one is that his name is a significant tie to his family. He was adopted, and his name is a strong connection to the family he grew up with, loved, and was nurtured by. His sister (also adopted-different bio parents) is special needs and won’t ever be able to get married (can’t legally make such decisions for herself). So there’s a lot of emotional connection for him, and for his family with him having his current last name. Plus, they’re wonderful kind folks, so it’s not like I have hesitations about “associations” with a certain name. (like some women want to get rid of their last because of how they were treated as a child or by family members bearing that name)

        I come from a family of 3 kids-I have two younger brothers. We all look alike, and look like our parents-the family resemblance runs strong! I get picked out as being “a Weaver” or “a Mom’sMaiden” by folks I’ve never met who know my siblings, or haven’t seen me since I was a tiny baby. Our “family ties” are evident to total strangers. So it doesn’t feel like as big of a deal to me, or anyone in my family, if myself or any of us kids changed our names.

        My reasons for not wanting to change were largely logistical/professional…and I really feel like the emotional value to my partner is greater than the logistical or professional inconveniences I may encounter.

        So for us, it seems like the best option is for us to use his name as our common last name, and for me to keep mylast and use it as my middle name or as a double-last as is convenient. (My resume, for example-to tie together articles and such).

        • Kyley

          Oh, man, thank you so much for sharing this. Your story and your decisions make so much sense. Thanks, again.

    • sarah

      I would love to hear his reasons for why it is particularly important as well. When I think about name changes in heterosexual relationships I tend to think that if a woman wants to change her name, great… good for her. But so many of my friends haven’t wanted to change their names but have been convinced to do it by their now-husbands who really wanted them to. In those situations, I harbor some resentment towards the husbands. I really feel like, if it’s important to the dude to have the same name, he should just change his name. But, I’m married to a woman and thus have sidestepped the whole unequal-playing-field of decision-making around this issue (alas, side-stepping that problem sends you down a whole different path of inequality).

      • E.Weaver

        I typed my long reply just above. I do feel that we were on a level playing field for our decision, but I have seen situations where it isn’t. And those are indeed frustrating to watch!

        • Sarah

          Thank you so much for offering some insight into your decision making process — I’ve found htat listening to so many women’s stories has been really helpful for me as I try to come to terms with some of the resentment I hold towards my friends’ husbands.

    • erin

      Haha, my husband is a doctor and we were sitting down at a dinner during my admitted student weekend for my business school. One of the current students leaned in and asked how it was that my husband was able to arrange medical school and the MBA program concurrently. “Ah,” I said, “I am the half of the couple pursuing the MBA.” He was less embarrassed than he should have been.

      So not only can women not be doctors, they can’t go to business school, either!

      BS.

  • http://www.bathtubbrewery.com Mel

    My last name means a lot to me, and quite frankly, my husband’s name combined with my first name sounds HORRIBLE. So originally the idea would be to tweak my name to My first My last His last. The flow was decent. And that’s how I was announced at the wedding.

    Fast forward to after the honeymoon, after getting a lovely haircut, and my sweet husband asking about when I was going to do all the paperwork for the name change (Just to note, he didn’t think I should change my name, because I was Melissa W*** when he met me and will always be Melissa W***. Or Mel as he prefers), because he wanted to take care of the health insurance change.

    That simple, non-invasive question made me feel like I was drowning. I wasn’t ready, and hell, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to. So I sobbed. And THAT indicated to me that I shouldn’t change my name, at least for now. And my husband Ray FULLY supported it—even said he was relieved! He had considered taking my name, but his name is his brand right now, and I completely understood.

    Nevertheless, we get mail for Ray and Melissa His Last Name. I get checks made out to Melissa His Last Name. And it burns me. Because that ISN’T MY NAME. I have to sign that fake name AND my real name on those checks (and after the wedding, there were a lot). And I can forgive the wedding checks and cards, because my decision wasn’t final then. But it’s almost 6 months later…give me a break.

  • Laura

    Regarding the “we want a family name” line of thought…I had that too. But I still didn’t want to change my name. Then I remembered all the other women in my family who either kept their names or hyphenated and never had a problem from anyone about it. People say “oh, it will cause problems at your child’s school.” Not so, as far as I have heard from these women. My DF’s mother also never changed her name, and she reports no issues with schools or anyone else about it.
    In the end I’ve decided to hyphenate, mostly because the first-wave feminist lurking inside of me who still reads Ms magazine and resents bras thinks it sounds cool.

  • Julianna

    I always assumed I would take his last name, and for the time being that is still the plan. but I am having a few more issues with it than I thought I would, especially in sorting out exactly what form I want my future name to be, what I do with my current last name, etc. I just finished my Ph.D., and will be Dr. MyName in less than a month. I have published under my name. So for academic/professional reasons, I want to keep my name in some way. I was leaning toward using my last name as my middle name but I realized recently that I am really really attached to my middle name (which I never quite knew before) – it is the same middle name of almost every other woman in my family, and I don’t want to let it go. So now I struggle with FirstName MiddleName MyName HisName being excessively unwieldy…

    I am really interested to read about people who have opted for slightly different versions professionally vs. socially – it is something I hadn’t thought about too much before, but could be exactly what I was looking for…. so I can keep my middle name for me, and my last name for publishing. Although again I wonder about the Dr. vs. Mrs. vs. Ms. issue – at this point, perhaps because the dissertation defense process is still so raw and fresh in my mind, I can’t stand the idea of being Mrs. anything. But then I read etiquette guides online (for addressing invitations, etc) and so many of them say that titles like Dr. are not used socially. Is it weird that I feel ok with being Dr. HisName but not Mrs. HisName? I guess maybe because I know I earned that Dr. on my own. At one point in time I specifically wanted our wedding to happen after graduation so that my diploma would have Dr. MyName on it…. So any other Dr’s out there have advice on this one? I know lots of people with Ph.D.s who don’t use their titles at all (including my FIL) and I’m sure my attachment to it will mellow out in time, but I feel like being Dr. HisName may be the only way I can handle the HisName part.

    The timing is another interesting question… I am starting a faculty position in August, and getting married in October. So for approximately 2 months, I will be Professor (or Dr.) MyName. then I will suddenly overnight be Dr. HisName? I worried for a while about all the hassle of changing door nameplates & email addresses & work forms & how students will make the shift, and wondered if I shouldn’t just introduce myself as Dr. HisName on the first day anyways… or wait to make the name change (at least at school) until the spring semester, or something…. And part of me is pretty upset that it is only the female half of the partnership that has to deal with all that crap (traditionally) but then I also realized I needed to stop worrying about the “hassle” or “inconvenience” it might be for anyone else and just be the name I want to be when I want to be it. My students can deal. The IT department can deal. So in that sense I have taken comfort in the knowledge that so many women have gone through the same transition (yes, even in academia) and that everyone else is going to be smart enough to figure it out…. eventually.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      yep, i still call myself my given name at work, for the same reason- students know me by that name.

    • MinnaBrynn

      In three weeks I start a new job, one with daily networking meetings. My new co-workers who are already in the meetings decided (knowing I would end up taking FH’s last name) that I should begin as Me Hislast from day one. They’ve already been speaking of me as a Hislast for the last few weeks. I know their reasoning, that it’ll be easier for people to know me only as one name rather than changing after a few weeks, but I’m not looking forward to a month or so of going between Mrs. Hislast and Ms. Mylast depending where I am or what I’m doing. I’d rather make one choice and proceed with it than waffle back and forth.

      • Julianna

        yeah.. I can sort of see their reasoning and it was what I was considering for a while at first, but then I basically had a “F*** that!” moment of I’m sorry, I don’t care that it might be confusing for a little while… and really, people can be slow sometimes, but they’re not entirely stupid. And much like Meg has referred to in planning wedding entertainment (“your guests are adults, and can entertain themselves”) I think most of the people we work with can handle a change as well (if that’s what we choose). I guess I basically feel like if we are going to go through all the stuff of changing our names, the least other people can do is respect the choice and make the change when we do.

        sorry if that’s an overly heated reaction. it may not be appropriate in all situations, but my realization was made coming after a discussion of timing of having children + tenure and frankly, after that, the idea of having to coordinate my personal life & personal decisions to a work calendar was just not ok with me anymore.

    • http://www.ecovintageweddings.com Sara

      I’m pursuing my MA in English at this point (CONGRATS on the PhD!), but I plan to carry my name hyphenated with my guy’s name professionally. Not a doubt in my mind about that – as I said above, my career is my own, my dreams are my own, and I’m taking ownership of that independence (while simultaneously honoring my marriage) by choosing to hyphenate. My guy just wants me to be happy (I feel so, so grateful!).

    • http://petitechablis.wordpress.com PetiteChablis

      I’m also an academic (soon to be a Dr. too!) and I’ve changed my name legally but kept my maiden name professionally. Legally, I’m MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast HisLast, but my professional name is still MyFirst MyLast. That’s what I publish under, that’s what’s on my CV. I know plenty of women who have chosen to use their married names professionally, but for me, this was the option that just felt right.

      It can get confusing at times (I had to get my new employer to re-write my offer letter to match my legal name, because I need the offer letter to get my work visa in a new country!), but people are dealing just fine. I get the impression that women having slightly different professional and legal names is not uncommon in academia. FWIW, if you decide to use slightly different names socially and professionally, I’m sure you’ll be fine!

    • http://www.onebarefootbride.blogspot.com Walking Barefoot

      I had the same schedule of complete PhD/ begin prof job in August, get married in October. I didn’t change my name – but I did have some funny feelings around being the new, only-junior, only-female professor in my dept. The differences between me and my older colleagues seemed to be highlighted when I returned to campus after the wedding and everyone was congratulating me. It’s hard enough to get taken seriously as a young, female professor (especially the first semester!), and students’ awareness of the wedding seemed to exacerbate that. All this is to say that it might be easier to introduce yourself as Dr. (or Prof.) HisName from the beginning so as to lessen the attention on the wedding and on the female as ‘marked’ category.

    • Justin

      It’s interesting hearing about so many people who treasure their middle names.

      I have no middle name. Nor does my brother, nor our father. And I think I treasure _not_ having a middle name in the same way that others treasure the ones they have.

      But it complicates the issue. I can’t easily take my fiancée’s name as part of my own without giving up my own simplicity. I can’t easily pass on my simplicity to my future children while still linking them to their mother _and_ to myself. And I don’t want my children to simply take my name as my brother and I (and our mom) took my dad’s.

    • Aine

      On using both versions interchangeably: my mom told me when she married my dad in Ireland, people called her either “Mrs HisLast” or “HerFirst MaidenName”. I kind of like that; its like well there’s this title she has and then there’s her name.

    • Alexandra

      A friend of a friend changed her name, legally, to her FH’s a few months before they got married, so her law school degree would have the correct name on it.
      You could do that, if you wanted to & the hassle now was less than it’d be then.
      (Though it’s already August now, so…)

  • Jennifer

    I find it so fascinating that it seems to come down to what to do with kids for so many people (not just in the comments, but among my friends as well). Most of my married-with-kids friends are couples with different last names, with the children all having the (same) last name of one of the parents — usually the father, but not always. The same is true for my not-married-but-with-kids couple friends, and several single mothers I know. Reported hassle of different last names? Minimal. Usually it’s just a matter of “this is John Doe, Susie Smith’s father, I’m calling about….” and there you go. (What is apparently a hassle is having multiple middle names – several of my friends have gone the route of giving the last name of the parent whose last name the children aren’t using as a second middle name – Susan Smith’s full name being Susan Jane Doe Smith – and school forms etc. apparently rarely accomodate this.)

    Meanwhile, one of the reasons I am choosing to change my last name is because, while we would like children, there is no guarantee (for a combination of reasons) that this will happen for us, and because our culture still seems very biased towards defining a family as parents+children, I want to have the same name to reflect that yes, we are a family unit. (As for me changing my name, but him not changing his – well, he’s a junior, who shares his name with his late father, so his name means more to him than mine does to me. And, luckily, my middle name is by parents’ own admission somewhat of a throwawy, so I don’t feel I’m losing much going from Jennifer Middle Birthlast to Jennifer Birthlast Hislast.)

  • http://www.sarahrusin.com Sarah

    I was never going to take my husband’s last name. Partly because I truly did love my old last name and a tiny bit for professional reasons, changing your name at work is a nightmare. And in my business your rep is all you’ve got, and mine was good, to start over with a new name got me down. And the nickname I’ve had since elementary was always the same, the result of a cool last name. Basically I just really liked my name.

    And then. Two weeks after the wedding my dad left my mom and ten years worth of affairs came out. And suddenly I had no issue with changing my name. Suddenly I could not change it fast enough. And I know, this is an emotional reaction, but I do not regret it. I feel lighter with this new name. It would be awesome if we could just make up a new last name together, but that’s not a real possibility for us.

  • Kerry

    A very timely post for me, Ms. Meg. I’m in the trenches of alerting his family to the non-name change right now and am loving all of the positive and polite thoughts in these comments.

    A few months ago it was my man’s birthday and his mother sent him a card in the mail “from” our dog, Tabitha, wishing “dad” a happy birthday (i know…i know). The card was signed Tabitha Hislast. I’m blaming much of this on an epic bad hair day, but I started to weep, asking why she would be so thoughtless as to assume the dog had only his name.

    This is to say I’m quite positive there will be many days of hand-wringing and collapsing on the floor in agony when the mail begins to arrive without my name. Now I must go sweep the floor in preparation (dog hair).

  • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie (EDB)

    Sigh. Changing my name to his was not an option, and hyphenating was not an option. Why not? Because my name is already hyhpenated. My parents filled my dance card for me and any option involves changing one of my names, all four of which I love. I have no solution, so I’m just waiting. Maybe in ten years, something will work more than it does now.
    I will say that as a hyphenate, I’m not a big believer in hyphenation. My fiance thinks that is what we should do with our kids, but I can’t make them go through what I’ve gone through. I went to court and the judge said, “what?” when I said my name, like I was joking. The world should have caught up to hyphens by now, but it simply hasn’t.

  • Saartjie

    It made absolutely no sense for me to change my name professionally: and because I “am” my business, my bank account, car registration docs, ID number and whole life stayed in my own name. I therefore remain “Sara MyParentsSurname”.

    Nevertheless, one of the first things I did when we were married was to change my last name on Facebook, and THAT has been one of the most liberating experiences! No more worries about the appropriateness of various weekend activities in the eyes of clients or colleagues: they don’t know my husband or his surname, so they can’t find me!

    I was, however, overwhelmed by the “backlash” from some of my feminist friends: “We NEVER imagined *you* changing your name to your husband’s! Surely real strong women don’t give up their names???” Shock! Horror! Sies!

    I actually feel rather ambivalent: I feel no surge or shift in how I describe myself – and I frequently use either name interchangeably. I remain me, whatever my surname. I have a very strong identity with my family (and the values instilled in me by my parents) that will not dissolve when (if?) I ever take my husband’s surname. THAT is the legacy. I think of a surname being no more than a title* and I can’t imagine how chosing one over the other will undermine the importance of the coming together of two personalities into one family or favour one legacy over the other. If anything, I think women often (or typically) have an upper hand in passing on personal/familial values to the offspring anyway (but THAT is a whole ‘nother boiling pot).

    Meg: you’re a legend. Thank you again for sparking more conversation…

    * er, but (in a completely irrational manner:) DON’T ever call me Miss. Or Mrs. I’ll be happy with Ms thankyouverymuch – my marital status has nothing to do with anyone who wants to use a title…

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      sorta like this, i keep my given name at work. just because students know me by that name- and my husband’s name could make for a few crude jokes (which is just a bad idea with highschoolers) also, i’ve built a bit of a reputation- losing my last name would mean rebuilding that professional rep.

    • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

      Ooh, you hit the nail on the head there, Saartjie! If our relationship is so formal that you’re using my title, we’re not intimate enough for you to know my marital status.

  • Sarah Beth

    Wow. I am so thankful that this is not an issue for me. I have absolutely NO desire to keep my name. I don’t really like my fiance’s last name (the first time I heard it, I giggled) but it’s not horrible, and by taking it, I will be making a connection with the man that I love.

    I might have been in doubt about this if my parents had never gotten divorced and re-married, but as it is, the only person I share my name with now is my dad. And he’s a cheater who didn’t respect his own marriage, so I am more than happy to leave that baggage behind and make my own choice about whose family I “belong” to.

    But that’s just me.

    • Amy

      Sarah Beth- I am with you 100% on this. The decision of whether I would change my name was never really a decision at all. I have been waiting the entirety of my adult life to change my name because I have absolutely no ties to it nor do I feel like it’s any part of my identity whatsoever. My parents divorced when I was quite young and I haven’t spoken to my father in over 5 years, so I have been waiting to cut that final tie by ridding myself of his name.

      • andialexandra

        I commented on this later without reading yours. Exactly, I am in the same situation re: father, and I can’t wait to get rid of his name. I already have my mom’s as a middle name, so I’ll just keep it and add FH’s!

  • Jennifer

    Also, Meg, I wanted to comment on this: “**When you don’t take your husband’s last name, you technically stay a Ms.” which sort of seems to imply that you can’t stay a Ms. if you do take the same last name as your husband – is that what you meant? My understanding is that Ms. is always correct for a woman, regardless of the origin of one’s current name or marital status, but that Mrs. is restricted to married women sharing their husband’s name thus one can be Ms. Herfirst Herbirthlast, Ms. Herfirst Hisbirthlast, Ms. Herfirst Newlastname, Mrs. Hisfirst Hisbirthlast, or – though not technically proper, quite common and no longer necessarily indicating a divorced woman – Mrs. Herfirst Hisbirthlast. Just not Mrs. Herfirst Herbirthlast.

    • Jennifer

      (Because while I plan to be Jennifer Birthlast Hislast, and will happily be Ms. Jennifer Hislast or Ms. Hislast, I am less than thrilled at the thought of being Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. I mean, I know some people will do that and I like to think I’ll take it in stride, but really? As far as I remember, even Miss Manners and Emily Post say it should be Ms. unless you know the woman’s preference for another form of address.)

      • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

        This was the only sticky thing about keeping my name, and the only time my husband ever reacted strongly to my decision. I had to explain the whole Ms. & Mrs. concept because he thought I was intentionally forgoing being a Mrs. He reacted because he thought for some reason I was against advertising my married status.

        I recently moved to Texas where every student calls their teachers Miss or Sir depending on their gender. Many of them seem perplexed by the fact that I am married and am still a Ms. (Yes, even at the end of April). This was a great addition to our discussion about some cultural differences between current times and Elizabethan England.

        Anytime a student calls me Mrs. I remind them that is the name of my mother.

    • KD

      why is it a rule that I couldn’t go by Mrs Mylast if I choose to keep my last name? Who decided that I can only be a Mrs if I take his last name?? I guess I’d never heard of this until Meg’s post (and I guess my friend’s MIL mentioned it at her wedding saying you’ll never be a Mrs because you’re keeping your name, but I just thought she was crazy then guess that must have been what she was referring to)

      • Cara

        Ms. was conceived as a generic title for women regardless of marital status (or name change). Unless someone has expressed desire for some other title, I always refer to women as Ms. whether they’re married or not, whether they kept their birth name or not. “Mrs. Name” is – technically speaking – the wife of “Mr. Name”. Thus, I am not Mrs. Myname because I’m married to Mr. Hisname, not Mr. Myname.

        That said, I try to respect the personal naming choices that other people make. If someone requested to be called Mrs. Hername, even though her husband was Mr. Hisname, I would comply with her request.

        • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

          In French, the norm is now to use “Mrs” (Madame) for all women, regardless of marital status. I like it that way.

      • meg

        Yup. That’s just the rule. It doesn’t mean you have to FOLLOW it, mind you, but it’s the rule. There actually is a logical reason (it’s icky, so get ready)… Mrs. signifies who you are married too. So, if I become Mrs. Mylast…. well…. what that says in a formal sense is that I’m married to my father (or grandfather, etc). Which doesn’t mean you have to abide by that, but it’s always helpful to know the rules of the game before you break them, no?

        That said, I would have been a Ms. no matter what my name change decision was. 1) Why is my marital status so important that it has to be signaled to the world as part of my formal title? and 2) If marital status is that important, then why isn’t my husband’s signaled to the world as part of his title? Plus, like Cate has said round and about these parts, if you don’t know me well enough to call me by my first name, you don’t know me well enough to know my relationship status.

        So yes, any woman, any where at any time can be called Ms. That’s the whole point :)

        • Justin

          Take Wikipedia’s truthiness as you will, but I find its entry insightful here:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs.

          Mrs. (pronounced “Missiz,” “Missez,” or “Missus”) was derived from Mistress. That originally referred to wed or unwed women (just as Mr., Mister, and Master referred to wed or unwed men), and the difference between Miss and Mrs. evolved sometime in the 17th century. I suspect that was around the same time Master evolved into Mister, and Master became reserved for young men or boys.

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    geez, meg. all those arguments over non-existent financial claims whet your appetite for argument??

    meg already knows what an old-fashioned nerd i am. so i’m gonna preface by saying, “i’ve taught high school women’s studies. i consider myself a feminist” for the rest of yous guys.

    that said.

    i approached the name change the way i did all other traditional aspects of marriage (wearing white, “giving away the bride” etc.) outside of the realm of not only what is expected today, in modern marriages. but also outside of the long-time roots of where these traditions originated. for some reason, in the blog world we are HARDCORE about distinguishing what marriage means to US as individuals, but we don’t seperate marriage from its (sometimes, gender-biased) roots.

    wearing white to me does not connote my worth as a virgin, having my dad give me away doesn’t mean to me that i am no longer his possession, but now belong to this other man. etc. these are parts of my wedding because of the meaning they hold for ME.

    it sort of reminds me of some friends i knew who were opposed to halloween. they argued that by dressing up in costumes and going around asking for candy, we were endorsing a long-ago tradition of satanic worship and ritual. yeah, that’s where halloween has its roots. but that’s not the meaning the holiday holds for ME.

    this goes for the name change thing. i don’t feel the weight of ages of struggle for women’s rights whenever someone calls me mrs. i am happy to be connected to my husband in such a decided way. it says, yes… “i belong to someone,” but not in that anti-feminist, possessive sense. in the “we belong to each other sense.” the same way wearing a ring speaks volumes to strangers. “mrs.” is just another way i let people (who often know nothing else about me) know i have someone at home waiting for and caring about me.

    i’m at work and only half-focused on writing this comment. i reserve the right to recant, haha.

    • http://www.loveatthelodge.blogspot.com Erica

      I have somewhat of the same feeling. Deciding to change my last name to my fiance’s after we get married in October was actually one of the easier decisions I made in this whole process. I ignored all the theory and weight of history and went with what changing my name means for ME. I want to change my last name. I want to publicly identify myself as part of his family. It’s not that I don’t love my own family, but I am just not that attached to my current last name. I have my father’s last name, and I have almost no contact with his side of the family, so there’s no strong emotional attachment to people with my last name other than my immediate family. I haven’t put much thought into the Mrs./Ms. issue (probably because I know that I can’t really control what people call me and since my fiance and I have owned a home together for two years now we get mail and phone calls all the time that screw our names up). At first blush I’d prefer to be a Ms., but we’ll see what kind of reaction I get when someone calls me Mrs. I have a feeling it won’t bother me that much though.

    • Sarah Beth

      I think you just described my feelings perfectly. :)

      • Rachel

        I agree, Liz. It’s not a big issue for me, being called Mrs. His Last Name. In fact, I am somewhat looking forward to it! The thing I mulled over was keeping my middle name and dropping my last name altogether or changing my last name to my middle name and dropping the middle. My initials spell a word and I kind of love it! But my married initials (if I kept my middle name) would also spell a not-so-awesome word. So I decided to drop my middle name altogether. Hyphenating is not an option because my maiden name and fiancé’s last name rhyme, so it just sounded dreadful.

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          i just had a really fun time trying to imagine your rhyming last names.

        • Kinzie

          I feel like your situation is a math problem. You know, like, Sam has twice as many jelly beans as Mark, who has 7 fewer jelly beans than his sister Jane and blah blah blah. Now I’m trying to figure out your current First Middle Last word, what the new one would be, and how the two last names would rhyme! Oh the mystery!

    • ddayporter

      yep Liz you’ve pretty much described my feeling on this too. I just don’t feel that weight on me about it. Sometimes I feel like a silly girl who doesn’t care about history, but then I’m like NO. I have enough to worry about, I do not have room for this kind of burden. On the other hand I totally get why other people do get riled up about it, the level playing field point is an excellent one that had never fully occurred to me before. Reading this post I had a moment of “damn it that really pisses me off now!” and I doubted my name change decision for a second. But then I realized that for me, this makes the most sense, and it’s ok.

      I am in limbo right now, still legally MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast but planning to change my name after the honeymoon next month (passport/reservations issues), to MyFirst MyLast HisLast. At work and socially I changed my name immediately, the legal business will come later, and I can’t wait to get that over with because I’m with a commenter above who expressed frustration with this weird “what’s my name when I’m talking to you?” situation.

      I chose to change my name for the family-unit reason. I adore my parents-in-law and admire their marriage; becoming Ms. HisLast makes me extremely happy. All his friends say “Hey it’s the HisLasts!” when we walk in a room and it makes me giddy. Although I think that’s just because it’s a reminder that we just got married, less than it’s joy about the name itself. I was NOT planning to ever go by Mrs. HisLast, but I’ve found fighting the Mrs. to be too exhausting, it just doesn’t bother me anymore. I understand the rage over it though! I do get annoyed that everyone assumes they can call me that.

      I also want to +1 on Jennifer’s comment above, because I’m going by HisLast but I still prefer Ms.

      • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

        I’m Ms Hislastname and I don’t get annoyed about it when people call me Mrs Hislastname (unless I have specifically told them otherwise, which has happened, ugh) but I do correct them, “actually I’m a Ms.” Usually they ask why, which I like because it gives me the opportunity to point out to them how silly the Miss/Mrs thing is (especially when there’s no male equivalent). I like when it comes up, as lots of people have never given it a second thought in my experience.

    • http://3b7p.blogspot.com Alexson

      *applause*

    • http://sheenaandsimon.blogspot.com/ .twist.

      I agree with all of this! I didn’t for one second question whether or not I would change my name. For ME, changing my name to his was important, it joined us. I am not (and have never associated it with) being a “possession” of his. As said somewhere else in here, it will be a representation of who I will be once I’m married. I’m still me, but different. That’s OK with me.

      I do love my last name, however, and we have talked about the different options. To us, they’re laughable, they are not the right choice for us. Our last names do not hyphenate well.

      As a part of what I am doing to keep my last name with me always, I plan on having it tattooed somewhere on my body, small, beautiful, nothing flashy. It’s not an option for everyone but I’m sure it would be a great idea for others!!!

      • Clare

        I am not planning to marry, but for my own personal reasons I have my last name tattooed in a beautiful script on my wrist. I love the connection in gives me to my family, and it can result in some very interesting conversations.

    • http://shinyprettybits.com kc

      This is the comment that has resonated the most with me because it’s exactly how I feel.

  • http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com/blogs Janna

    My cousin and her husband combined their last names and hyphenated them with his first – he is Chinese and has a very short last name, and she is Caucasian (primarily British) and has a longer last name. The wife of another cousin didn’t really hyphenate her last name with his, but tagged his on the end – with a space in between – and has a two-word last name.

    I will be adding my fiance’s last name but keeping my maiden name as a middle name. Personal preference as well as professional considerations come into play – I don’t have a strong professional career going yet, but I am well-known in a more relaxed capacity and want to ensure people can find me if they need me. :)

    • http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com/blogs Janna

      Hm. Been reading through all of the comments since I made my first one, and thought of something else.

      In Canada (where I live), there isn’t a big process to taking your husband’s last name after you get married. Once we’re married, I’ll go into the bank with our marriage certificate (i.e., official proof that we are now married) and tell them that I’m assuming his name. I will do the same for my driver’s license and our utilities and so on – simply notify them that our household now consists of Mr & Mrs J lastname. (Our first names both start with the same letter, so the J could mean either one of us.) Should our marriage dissolve at some point in time (which it probably won’t, but you know) I will simply have to notify all of those same organizations that my last name is reverting. There is no need to let the government know (beyond my driver’s license and health care), and there are no name change forms that need to be filled out. The only reason name change forms would need to be filled out is if I were changing my legal given names (first and middle), or if we were creating a new last name (like my cousin and her husband did).

      I guess because of the way it works in Canada, it just doesn’t feel like it’s as big a deal for me as it probably would if I were in the US. It’s a lot simpler here, and it doesn’t seem as permanent.

  • MinnaBrynn

    1) I am one of two “young” people with our great/grandfather/father’s last name. If my brother doesn’t have kids, it feels like the end for them. And that matters to me.
    2) My FH and my brother have the same first name, so it would be confusing and impractical for FH to take my last name, even though it’s what I’d really like.
    3) Both our last names end in “son” which makes hyphenating a non-decision. Neither of us can swallow Herlastson-Hislastson, though if the names had worked together, we would both have loved this solution.
    4) Partly because of who he is, and partly because he’s adopted, family connections are very important to my FH. He knows I’m not thrilled with the idea, but he’s admitted that he would feel rejected/unwanted on some level if I did not take his last name.

    I still get upset about my choice, but in the end, I know my taking his last will mean a lot to my FH–partly because I have been open about my feelings and struggles with it. He knows I’m not doing it out of tradition or without thought, but that I am deliberately choosing to take his last name just as I am deliberately choosing to marry him.

    We do get mail to Mr & Mrs Me Mylast. I secretly love those pieces of junk mail.

    • Tara

      Your first point is exactly why I want to keep my last name when I get married. My dad’s sisters changed their names and their kids have their husbands’ last name and his brother didn’t have any kids. So my immediate family are the only people with my dad’s father’s last name. I feel like if I don’t keep my last name and pass it on to at least one of my children, then that’s it for our last name! And call me crazy, but I really like it.

      I also am against hyphenation/ridiculously long last names. I remember as a kid, anyone who had hyphenated last names (which was pretty uncommon then), usually ended up dropping the second one socially.

  • Liz

    I wrestled this for a while. My husband didn’t want to change his name (to mine*, to a hyphen, to a combo) because he had been named for his grandfather, and I was loathe to give up any of my names (surname or middle). But I wanted us to share a name.

    So I tacked his name onto mine, and moved my family name to be a second middle name: First Middle Hers His.

    Sure, there are some problems (it doesn’t all fit on my drivers license, and for the first 4 months, work thought I had a double last name), but it works for me – I can include my old last name when I want to or drop it as I see fit.

    *Actually, I had no desire for him to take my name, because his first name is my dad’s first name – so if he took my name… that would be extremely bad.

    • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

      Oh, the driver’s license issues! A dear friend of mine took her husband’s last name (which is hyphenated) and the two of them basically spent an entire Saturday at the DMV getting her license changed because the clerk was first convinced she was trying to get away with having two middle names and that one was not allowed to have a hyphen in one’s last name. (Her actual words were: I physically can’t put a hyphen there. I’m not allowed to My friend: But the hyphen button is RIGHT THERE. How about I press it? No one will have to know!)

      • Chelsea

        This is sort of the problem that I am having now, before I’m even married — my mom kept her last name, and all of us kids have two middle names. So, pre-marriage, I already have four names: First Middle Moms Dads. So if I add his to the end, I will suddenly have five names, but if I drop one of my other names I feel like I am choosing between my parents. So then I figured I could drop BOTH, but it just seems to strange to go from having four names to having three. I suppose I could drop my middle name, but I like it.

        And this is even before anything emotional comes into play! Needless to say, I’m in “wait and see” mode for now.

        • Hugh

          I’m Chelsea’s Fiance, and I think what we just agreed to do is that I will add a middle name, and she will take my name as her new last name, just like her mom did. My mom did the same, but she ended up with her name, middle name, maiden name, ist husnad’s name, 2nd husband’s name, whew! For the record, I think if more men knew how mad the idea of taking their last name makes you, things would be different, I honestly had no idea.

          • meg

            Awwwwwwwwww……….. Hugh! Comment of the day!

            This opened up some serious discussion in our house too, let me just say.

          • ElfPuddle

            Thank you, Hugh!!

        • http://kristythecoffeegirl.blogspot.com Kristy

          Chelsea, I commented quite a bit down the page, so I’m sure you haven’t seen it, but I started out with 4 names, too. And now I have 5; I just added my husband’s name to the end. I got a funny look at the DMV, but there were no issues with actually adding a 5th name. So that could be a possibility, too.

          • ANI

            Yeah you’re all good. . .So long as you don’t hyphenate!!!

  • http://www.olivialindquist.com/blog Olivia

    I loved this post! I am pretty traditional I suppose in that I am really looking forward to taking my fiance’s last name, but…he is taking my last name as a second middle name. This really comes around to your “level playing field” comment, and quite frankly, if I’m filing tons of paperwork and legally changing my name, I’d like him to know exactly what that’s like. We do have a joke combined last name that we currently use, and our friends often talk about “going to the Bowquists”, but we ruled out actually changing our names to that.

    Mostly I wanted to thank and applaud you for opening such an honest and open discussion on this topic. Brava.

  • LizA

    This is very timely as I was thinking about this last night and FH and I discussed it for the first time last night. I’ve never not considered taking my husband’s name. But I was thinking about the origins of the name change coming from a switching of ownership and I kind of got myself worked up about it. Then I realized that while it might be where this whole thing came from, it’s not what it has meant to my mom (who took my dad’s name), or to my father, my FH or to me. It makes me giggle to think that I’m currently my Dad’s “property” and in 7 months I’ll an asset transferred over and become FH’s “property.” I guess the conclusion I came to is that it’s all personal; it’s about what it means for me and for my fiance.

    It was interesting when I talked to my fiance about it after thinking this all out on my way home and he said, ‘You don’t have to take my name if you don’t want. I always thought it would be something I’d want, but now, it’s totally up to you.’ His main reasoning is that there’s only one male cousin in my family to carry on our family name while he’s got a million cousins and there’s no chance of the name disappearing.

    I think I’d have different feelings about this if I didn’t love my family or FH’s family. Or if I didn’t have one of those WASPy last names that can easily drop the ‘s’ and be a first name. Or if FH didn’t have an awesome last name. But I still get a little sad when I sign my name as it is now. It’s a pretty good one and while I do want to be Mrs. MyFirst HisLast, I’m going to miss my name.

  • LizA

    This whole discussion makes me think of Phoebe changing her name to Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. heehee

    Olivia, I love the idea of your husband taking your last name as his middle name. My fiance doesn’t have a middle name. **wheels spinning**

  • S

    The hardest for me was and is my husband’s disappointment. He always knew that I wasn’t going to change my name (I like it, and it connects me to an ethnic identity that would be made invisible if I took his last name), but he wished I would, and he did wonder aloud if it meant I wasn’t proud to be marrying him. Obviously, we’ve talked about it and talked about it, and he’s okay with it, but he would really be happier, I know, if I had taken his name.

    It has never occurred to his parents that I wouldn’t take his/their name; they regularly address things to me as Mrs. My First His Last, and honestly, I can’t be bothered to correct them over it. As in, it literally doesn’t bother me, nor does it bother me when Christmas cards came from our various aunties addressed Mr. and Mrs. His First His Last. I know that’s not me, and it doesn’t really bother me that they don’t. (This is perhaps a reflection of just how distant I feel from them; if one of my *friends* addressed an envelope that way, I’d be making a phone call!)

    I was happily surprised, though, by how pleased my very traditional father is that I’m keeping my name; I am the last of the My Last Names, and he’s rooting for me to that name to any future children, too.

  • http://peacockfeathersdiamondrings.blogspot Rachel

    To Meg, and a couple of other readers, it will come as no surprise that I did change my name and am delighted to be known not only as Mrs Rachel Hislastname but also Mr and Mrs Hisfirstname HisLastname.

    In reading this post though I think I know now why it makes me so happy. Being Mrs Hislastname represents me as who I am now: me, married. I have my first two names which I have always had but in leaving behind my maiden name I left behind the single person that I was before I stood up with my husband and declared in front of all our family and friends that he was my soulmate, my family, my most important. Still me, but different. Same with the name. That moment changed my life forever and I love that I have my new name to commemorate that.

    Also, my identification and definition of who I am, of me, comes (in name form at least) from my first two names (Rachel Catherine). My maiden name has little to do with that as I also share that name with my two sisters (and my Mum & Dad, and paternal grandparents). It is my first two names that differentiate me from my sisters, not my maiden name. Just a thought.

    {and of course, it goes without saying that this is my personal view/opinion and in no way a comment on or criticism of anyone else’s choices, be that the same or different from my own. (maybe that should be my blog header)}

    • SweetAdeline

      I totally understand what you’re saying here. Just to play devil’s advocate, what announces to the world that he is now him, married and is no longer the single person HE was before you two got together? It’s interesting to me that the woman has to make this distinction to the outside world, but the man doesn’t.

      That said, I’m planning to take my fiance’s last name, but I’m not thrilled about it. He seemed really upset when I mentioned having reservations about it, and it seems to matter more to him than it does to me. I do wish he’d be a little more sensitive to my feelings about it, but I guess it’s something that some men just don’t understand never having been faced with such a decision.

      • http://peacockfeathersdiamondrings.blogspot Rachel

        True, he still has exactly the same name. I guess there is no answer to that unless we had got a double barrelled name. But that would have been rather a mouthful (dahdahdah-dahdah).

        mmm. My reasoning for me still stands though!

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com Liz

        rather than feeling imposed upon because i HAD to make that distinction to the world, i always feel a little sad that he doesn’t GET to make that verbally recognizable distinction of his newly-married-ness.

        i remember someone being really excited for us, and calling him, “soon-to-be-mr.-hislastname” and then they laughed at their mistake- he was ALREADY mr. hislastname. but it sort of pointed out to me that he doesn’t get to have that fun of the newness and excitement.

      • meg

        Have you talked to him? Said, I’m seriously asking you what it would feel like to take my last name. Can you tell me how that feels? And don’t let him off the hook with “that’s just not how it’s done.” Then say – that’s how I feel now.

        It’s not that I think you shouldn’t take his name, maybe you should. It’s just that I, in a rather fiercely protective way, think that the sacrifice you are making – or if it’s not a sacrifice, simply the feelings you are going through – should be treated with the utmost care and respect… and gratitude, really.

        We all make sacrifices for our relationships and families. I made some rather major non-name related ones. And it’s REALLY REALLY important that those sacrifices be recognized. If they are not, they can be this pain that we carry with us. If that makes sense.

        • http://memyselfandbride.blogspot.com/ Jen

          That right there is it. My FH and I have been trying to tackle this problem to no avail yet and that is what I feel – that I may be willing to make the name sacrifice but he needs to understand how I feel about it and treat that sacrifice with respect. I feel like, right now, he is pushing for the default option of me taking his name and its less of a discussion than pushing.
          What a crazy topic this is!

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        situations like this make me sort of sad. i imagine it’s one of those areas where women have different standards and priorities, and can tolerate different things in their spouses (i can’t handle a temper, but whereas some women would be super frustrated with josh’s forgetfulness, it really doesn’t bother me.)

        same goes for here- i don’t know that i would have married someone who wasn’t willing to have an open discussion about this stuff. i think meg is right- more talking is needed. he probably feels that your unwillingness to change your name is personally directed at him- a lack of love or commitment, etc. talk talk talk.

  • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

    Thank you, Meg. I love this topic. And it looks like so far it’s been a really intelligent conversation among a bunch of intelligent people.

    I am definitely in the minority here, but I am taking my fiance’s last name. Well, I’m privately taking his name, and publicly using my own. I own my own business, and my LLC is my name, and my business identity is my name – I don’t want that to change. It’s too much of a hassle. But – legally – I am going to take his name.

    I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity (unless someone calls me Mrs. his first name/last name – and then I fly into a blind rage) and I still would prefer to be called Ms. whether someone is using my name or his name. (Any suggestions for putting this out there so everyone knows – please don’t call me Mrs. him/his… please call me Ms.?)

    I’m taking his name because – aside from my business – I don’t have a super strong emotional attachment to my last name, just because of some family stuff. I’m sort of ready for a fresh start. Also – I know, this is silly – but I love his last name. It’s very unusual.

    My fiance never expected me to change my name. He has been very much… whatever you want. I think he’s happy I’ve decided to change my name, and we did briefly discuss hyphenating our names together, but it didn’t sound very good and like I said… I just don’t have that attachment to my name. I think I would keep my name if I had a very strong attachment to it. If I had my grandmother’s last name, for example – I would keep it. Because of my feelings toward her.

    I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. I think it’s whatever is right for you. It’s so interesting to read about the choices everyone makes, and why they make that choice.

    • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

      Ugh, Mrs Hisfirstname Hislastname reeeeeeally pees me off too. But I’ve never got it from anyone of our generation, so I have to forgive the offenders, they’re just doing what they were taught is technically correct. (Back in the dark ages, ha ha.)

      I’m Ms Hislastname. It’s on all my post, all the cards in my purse etc. so people do notice it quite a lot, and they usually ask about it, so most people close to me know I’m a Ms. If anyone calls me Mrs I just say “actually I’m a Ms” with a little smile, the explain, if they ask, that my name change was my choice and it doesn’t make my marital status anyone’s business. The people who matter to you will find out one way or another soon enough, and the others will probably catch on in another 50 years or so ;)

  • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

    Meg, you’re absolutely right that the decision to change/not change your name is a deeply personal one. That said, oddly enough I think I realized I wasn’t going to change mine after I discussed the topic with a good friend.

    Ya see, I never really thought I’d take my partner’s name. But then we started talking about kids and things got, er, Complicated. To be clear, I got no pressure from him (if he ever leaned one way or another, he kept it totally hidden, which was both awesome and slightly confounding at times). Yet I couldn’t stop worrying about all this family name business– what it meant to share a name with your children & partner, what it meant to be a mother, whether having different names could potentially confuse/alienate your kids (that last one isn’t something I actually believe, but nonetheless it floated, rather insidiously, across my mind).

    But then I talked to a pal whose mother didn’t change her name. And this particular friend told me about how, as a little girl, she would boldly correct any person who referred to her mother as Mrs. Dadsname. You know, in that straightforward, confident way that young kids announce things: “That’s not what she’s called! It’s Ms. Momsname.”

    I melted. Because (in addition to all the other reasons that I wanted to keep my name) this seemed indicative of something really important, something that I needed to hear: your kids will get it. They might even celebrate it in their proud, lovely, uncomplicated way. And so it was settled.

    • Julianna

      ok, I love this! I think it reinforces what I was thinking earlier about how one piece of the name-change dialogue seems to be that we assume a level of discomfort/unfamiliarity/stupidity from those around us. and sure, there are plenty of examples to lead us that way… but making a choice because we worry people won’t be able to “figure out” the version we really prefer, I think is doing both ourselves & them a huge disservice… because the people who matter, even the little 7 year old ones, will get it.

      • Molly

        Exactly! My mom kept her name, and even as a young kid I knew that this was because my parents were both feminists, and because women are equal to men, and that it was an unusual thing to do but my parents had to do what they thought was right. It always made me very proud. As a result, I never for a minute worried about how my future kids would feel about their parents having different names.

        • Kyley

          I have two friends who’s mother’s kept their names upon marriage, and all our lives they have been really proud of the fact that their mom’s had different last names. And both are very excited to keep their own last names when they get married (one was married last October, actually). Part of the excitement about the decision is about honoring their moms, which I think is neat when you consider that their last name is actually their dad’s, so they are honoring and admiring both parents in one action.

          This comment is rambly, but these stories of smart men and women making thoughful decisions about something so complicated–it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!

  • Erin

    I’m going to second what one of the Liz’s said (“…i don’t feel the weight of ages of struggle for women’s rights whenever someone calls me mrs. i am happy to be connected to my husband in such a decided way. it says, yes… “i belong to someone,” but not in that anti-feminist, possessive sense. in the “we belong to each other sense.” …” and everything else she said.)

    I changed my name, knowing that my own mother’s family and father’s family histories would continue to be very much a part of me, and we have a lot of sordid stories and hurts and triumphs wrapped up in both those names. I took my husband’s name knowing we’d be forging something new ourselves, and that we were responsible for ensuring the equality and trust and reliability of our own new family, regardless of what we call ourselves. And, I liked changing my name — reminding myself that my identity and character is fluid, and evolving, and hopefully growing deeper and more creative as I grow older. My new initials, e.g.g., are my favorite part. They feel like something I have to live up to, so much promise.

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    I am SO frustrated that this is the only day at work this week that I have no time to read the comments, because this was such a struggle for me, and I hope it’s the worst issue we ever face in our relationship, because it was bad. Really bad. I wrote about it here: http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-is-in-name-after-all.html

    Thanks for bringing this up, Meg!

  • Erin

    Also, I’m sure there are some really wise women out there who could explain how they went about sharing their name choice with family/friends. We have friends who recently got married, and we’re positive that she did not take his last name. However, we have no idea whether they’ve hyphenated (we’ve received mail from them addressed as such), or each kept their own name (we’ve also received mail from them that way). I realize that they may still be deciding, but we want to respect their name choice, and still have no idea to whom we should address our own thank-yous :)

    • Another Thea

      On a totally different note– that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard for doing your thank-you notes ASAP–so that everyone (theoretically) knows how to address you!

      • Justin

        I think I’m going to discuss with my fiancée the possibility of putting our initial decision into our wedding programs, so that everyone can read ahead of time and know how to not risk offending us.

  • http://naurnie.blogspot.com Naurnie

    i changed my name. i did it last week, only a week after we got married. there were lots of reasons for me changing it so quickly, and i won’t go into that here. but i didn’t expect to have much of a reaction about it at all. but when we got out of the social security office? i cried. like big fat alligator tears. i ended up dropping my middle name, and using my maiden name as my middle name. and now i have a new last name, which wasn’t why i cried. i think that when i decided to change my name, i wasn’t thinking about the fact that my middle name (the name that i dropped) was my grandmother’s name. i was really, really close to her and we lost her to cancer this year, 2 weeks after our engagement.

    so i also don’t think i realized how attached i was to my name. but i’m alright now, and i really do like my new name. and i just decided that if we decide to have children? they’ll just have my grandmother’s name. i have to remind myself that just because my name changed, the core of who i am hasn’t changed.

    and i like being a mrs.

  • Jenn

    This is such an interesting issue for me, as part of a generation whose parents might have made a non-convential choice themselves.

    My mom kept her last name, as did her married sister, and when we asked her about it as children, she and my dad were quick to assure us that she didn’t change it because she didn’t want to. We were told, particularly by my father, about how my mom was one of 6 women in her class of over 50 chemical engineers, but still finished 2nd in the class, and that her decision not to change her name reflected her desire to be seen as a independent professional. I have always associated not changing the bride’s name with strong, intelligent women like my mother, and I am happy to follow in her footsteps in this.

    My sister and I have my dad’s last name, which never worried us much – I would go so far as to say that I enjoyed correcting teachers who asked who it was signing my permission slips, or hanging up for telemarketers who were asking for the wrong person (I still do, because 30 years later, they’re still asking for a person who doesn’t exist).

    When I get asked about changing my name, which I don’t intend to do, I just explain that it is too much of a hassle to renew my green card, and boy does that ever open up a different can of worms!! I have been a permanent resident of the US for almost 20 years, and I don’t intend to give up my citizenship to get married either!

    • Jenn

      Having re-read my own comment, I feel should add that I am also supportive of women choosing to take their husband’s name. Is it is such a personal choice, and everyone should do what feels right to them. I just wanted to offer perspective as someone whose mother didn’t, for everyone who might be worried/interested about the having kids aspect of the decision.

  • Autumn

    Man, I struggled with this one. Part of me really didn’t want to change my name (I’d had it for 29 years! Used it professionally for five!). I’m a feminist. This stuff drives me crazy. But part of me really wants to become a family unit and have the same last name as our hypothetical, someday children. My partner (wonderful man) told me early on he really did not care, that it was up to me. Maybe he would have cared more if I had said I wanted our kids to have a last name that wasn’t his, but I never really thought about hyphenating theirs, or changing both of our names.

    Anyway, I decided to KEEP my own name (all three of them), and ADD his last name at the end. Did you know you can have four names? You can. The nice people at the social security office will help you figure out how to do it on the forms. For some reason, adding his name to my own made me feel like I wasn’t losing something, instead, like I was gaining something.

    I introduce myself (usually) as Autumn Hers His. Some people hyphenate it, and that’s fine, even though it’s not how I do it.

    I still get boiling mad when we receive mail addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. David His” (this is often, we live in the south). Where am I in that, anywhere? Friends who know it gets me riled up and like to tease me send me letters addressed to “Mrs. David His.” I’m trying not to take it so personally. But I think talking about it, and letting other people know it’s OK to talk about it, will move the conversation. And maybe my hypothetical daughter (or son!) will have an easier time of this.

    • Sarah Beth

      OMG! Autumn, I am so with you! While I am more than thrilled to take my fiance’s last name, I have such a violent and emotional reaction to “Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast”! We’re also in the South, and people do this all the time, and it makes me furious.

      I’ll probably burn the first piece of mail that comes to me like that, or if I were feeling especially bitchy, mark it “return to sender” and put “This person doesn’t live at this address. The woman here has a first name of her own.” on the outside of the envelope.

      Ok, probably not, but I will have a total bitch-fit standing out by the mailbox. Lol.

    • Meredith

      Oh I definitely knew you could have 4 names! In fact, my wonderful parents named me with 2 middle names (as well as 1 of my brothers, but not the other (oldest) one, figure that one out, I certainly can’t). I don’t think adding another name is really in it for me, as then I’ll have 5 names. FIVE!

  • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Just to share my story, my husband and I both hyphenated our names in order to have one family name. It goes his-hers because he didn’t want to interrupt the cadence of how his name fit together. He does get phone calls for Mr. His.

    I wanted some solution where we both changed our names because I had changed my name twice already from my first marriage and divorce and I a)didn’t want to do that again by myself. By myself, I tell you, because of a wedding, which is about not being by yourself. I b) didn’t want to be an outsider in my own family once we started having kids. Plus, you know, c) the level playing field thing. Someone needs to level it and I knew, I just knew, that we could help.

    We did exactly what Meg advises so I uphold her words. We had 5 different conversations that involved much cursing and crying and apologizing for crying as a way to explain that I was not trying to manipulate him with my tears because that would be a bad precedent for our marriage. Say that last bit all in rush to get the proper effect.

    After our visit to Social Security, I bought him very expensive stationary. I wrote about the whole experience here: http://princessmax.blogspot.com/2009/10/one-great-month.html

  • Roxanne

    Meg, thank you so much for this post. You’ve managed to take this topic and make why the choice is so difficult really understandable. I’d like to share my story too, even if no one reads it.

    I got married last July. And I never , ever thought about changing or keeping my name until we got engaged. And then all of a sudden, I really wanted to keep it. But I felt bad. So at first I thought I’d hyphenate it. But that still didn’t seem right to me. This was kind of hard because for each person in my life who supported my choice, there had to be 2 that didn’t. Even my partner didn’t understand at first. We had a converstaion with a friend about it, and at first he tried to defend it but in the end just said “yeah, it would be easier if she just changed it”.
    And now, after all of it, he gets it. He get it and we feel good about it. I feel great about. I can not imagine changing my name. But I still think it’s so interesting how many people tried to change my mind, and the reasons they gave me. My dad (who has always supported me being very independent) gave me a lecture about how “some things you just have to do because G is the man”.
    But I think the best part is that this descion has become part of me. It’s a choice that I made that maybe wasn’t popular and people didn’t understand, but I made it and I’m proud of it. We haven’t decided what the kids names will be but one day I will be able to tell them with confidence that sometimes you just do what’s right for you, even if people think you’re crazy.

    • Kyley

      I read your story! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • http://www.emilinda.blogspot.com Emily

    I am looking forward to reading all the comments after work! My husband and I both changed our names. We are both legally MyLastName HisLastName with no hyphen. Somedays I wish we had hyphenated, b/c a lot of people alphabetize us by HisLastName. A hyphen makes it a little more clear that the names belong together. But, people often get this smug look on their face, roll their eyes, and say, “Oh, you hyphenated?!?!” (not sure why hyphenating is so awful to some people), and I can confidently say, “Nope.” I love that my husband was willing to change his name, too. He was really gung-ho about it, even got new business cards before I did. I love that we have a unique family name. I’ve found that when I calmly explain my name to people they accept it and use it. Junk mail, my bank, other random mail….it is often addressed to Mrs. HisLastName. However, one such junk mail company addresses mail to my husband as Mr. MyLastName, which I think is hilarious.

    It’s so cool that these discussions are happening. When I was a kid, I didn’t even know it was possible NOT to take your husband’s name when you got married, and now I considered about 10 different possibilites with my husband before we figured out our plan.

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

      Even with the hyphenation, I’ve been to a few conferences/meetings (in only 6 months of marriage) in which my nametag or name on a registration list was alphabetized under hislastname rather than mylastname-hislastname. I was kind of baffled by that.

  • Ellen

    Before deciding to get married, I always assumed I would keep my name–that’s what my own mother did. But in the end I decided to hyphenate my name, but we decided that my husband wouldn’t hyphenate his. We don’t want to inflict hyphenated names on kids, so they’ll just have his last name. And by my taking a hyphenated name, I still get to keep the name I’ve always had, but also have a name-connection to my husband and future kids.

    It’s not ideal, though–it’s going to totally confuse people in Japan (where I do research), and hyphenated names are kind of clunky. But in the end it was the only solution I felt I was okay with.

  • Carrie

    I am having a couple of issues about changing my name and would love some sane advice.
    I’ve never loved my last name, and growing up I always assumed that I would jump at the chance to change it if I ever got married (I was one of those girls who doodled her name with the last name of the crush-of-the-moment, although I completely understand and respect those who want no part of changing their name). Conveniently, I love my fiance’s last name…but:

    1) I am 37 – too old to go through the hassle of changing? How much hassle IS it, anyway?
    2) This will be my first marriage but his second, and he already has two daughters and we won’t be having any kids together. Is it weird that it seems a litle presumptuous to me to have the same last name as my stepkids? Like I’m trying to “claim” them as my own?
    3) His ex-wife still uses her married name, presumably so that she has the same last name as her kids, so I sort of feel like his name is “taken,” even though I know that’s silly. It makes me kind of sad to think about being Mrs. HisLastName #2.

    Joining a “pre-existing” family has been tricky at times and downright terrifying at others, but I love them and am so excited for us to be a family unit of whatever sort (and the kids are too). Would changing my name help me feel like I have a real, official “place,” I wonder? Or should I just get some therapy instead. :)

    • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

      I think the question of divorce (generally taboo on wedding boards) is a real issue with the name questions. My mother was married before she met my father and was left with her previously-married name for years. It had become her professional identity, even if she wished she could shed her former husband. And it was a giant PITA on the paperwork front. She always railed that she’d only change her name again to go back to her maiden name. And, eventually, she did. And it was a giant PITA professionally. And it always struck me, as a child, that it was unfair that women get saddled with the weight of name issues. She was left with the divorce ramifications for far longer while she lugged around this dead-marriage name. And she had to explain her marriage choices and deal with the name politics all over again, 10 years later, when she finally got around to changing her name back to her maiden name (which was a HUGE paperwork issue that took over a year to sort out entirely) and not to my father’s name. People freaked out that they were getting divorced, felt justified sharing their opinions about the maiden name decisions, and she had to go through a formal board hearing at work to announce the legal name change (so she could keep contract signing authority). And, throughout it all, my Father – her still-husband – has been entirely supportive. Because he knows that a name doesn’t reflect the state of the marriage at all. Which is the part that made it all okay.

      I’m not saying women shouldn’t consider changing their names. But I think the perspective on names and divorce has made it much more complicated.

      • http://www.sourismariage.com Mouse

        My mother had the same thing to say about name-changing. She’s changed twice, once for my dad (divorce) and once for my stepdad, who passed away. She told me that if she had it to do over again, she’d keep her maiden name.

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        THIS.

        Everything associated with my professional identity was tied up with my ex h’s last name: two diplomas, all of my awards, professional memberships, business cards, email addresses, professional contacts, articles I had published. Absolutely everything.

        Just yesterday, I received a call from my alma mater asking about how I wanted my name to appear on two alumni decorative “tiles” that would be added to a pillar at the school as a result of years of donations. And then they proceeded to check the spelling on my … ex h’s last name. This happened yesterday.

        As I sit in my office at work, my former H’s name is visible on 6 plaques and numerous other items throughout my office.

        If you google me by my former married name, I pop up all over the place. If you google my actual name, the only hits you will get are for an out of work British actress who has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

        When I decided to change my name at the time of divorce, I lost a big part of my adult identity. I’m glad to have my RealName back, but what a PITA.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      what does the hubs say?

      how do the kids react to you?

      i think whether or not the kids would like you to have their last name should play a role. they’re probably undergoing their own little transitions, themselves.

      if you’re not anti hyphen, this might be a prime example of a GOOD time to hyphenate.

      • Carrie

        The kids, thank goodness, are 150% behind the marriage and keep asking me if I will become “Mrs. TheirLastName.” And the fiance is fine with whatever I choose to do but says he would be “honored” if I took his name. So I guess I just have to DECIDE! I do think that divorce adds a whole new layer of complication, for women especially. I have to keep reminding myself that the ex is probably not keeping his name just to get on my nerves. :)

    • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

      And to reply better to your specific issues (and not just the divorce wrinkle, which I was relieved to just see addressed here).
      1. 37 is not too late. It’s never too late for something that’s important to you. BUT the paperwork is a giant hassle, particularly if you are well-established in a career-type job. Depending on your professional context it could really matter (like I said, my mom had to go through a PUBLIC BOARD HEARING about her name change for contractual reasons. Blech.) You may consider a legal name change but keeping your professional name the same, depending on your career and if you decide to change.
      2.It’s not presumptuous, since name changing is still the default norm (and default norms hold a lot of emotional weight and help smooth things considerably). But I think it does require a conversation with them to suss it out. And It may be better with a name-compromise like a hyphen or something similar, for the emotional impact only. Or the public/private combo could similarly couch-but-connect things. But, if they’re old enough, feel them out.
      3. You’d have been the second HisLast anyhow, if his mother changed her name :). It’s a name, and if you choose to change it, over time (probably years down the road, based on what my girlfriends have told me) you’ll grow to inhabit the new name, regardless of the first wife, his mother, his children, or anything else.

      Good luck.

      • Carrie

        Thank you so much. I absolutely love this blog and the smart community of women behind it!

    • FM

      I just want to note that I don’t think it’s always THAT much of a hassle to change your name. I mean, it’s a pain because it’s stuff to do that you otherwise wouldn’t have to do, but in my experience it was mostly not that bad once I figured out the order in which to proceed (for me, ss card, then work and driver’s license and passport, then banks, then bills/frequent flier numbers, then everything else as I come across it). There are websites that offer a service that helps you change it, but I didn’t use one and I didn’t think it was that hard to figure out on my own. The exception is work-related changes if you have a professional identity or professional license that requires hoops to jump through, such as those described by some others in the comments. Also, in many states it can be more difficult if you are doing something other than changing your last name to your husband’s last name (many states require a court order to change your middle name or hyphenate or other variations, so that requires a little more effort). The worst things are standing in the lines at the DMV and social security offices if those lines are bad in your city (and I wouldn’t have had to physically go to the DMV if I didn’t combine changing my name with exchanging a license from my prior state to one from my current state). Make sure you get a couple of certified copies of your marriage license to use for these name changes – 2 or 3 should be enough. Many people require an official certified copy with a raised seal (but some like the ss office, dmv and passport folks give it back to you), and others require just a photocopy of it.

      The flip side is that when you change your name everyone assumes you got married (which in your case is correct!) so you get lots of congratulations over an extended period of time. Although the assumption bothers me philisophically, in each moment enjoyed the fun and warmth of it and it kind of counterbalanced the hassle for me. Also, I note that my first name is unique so I wasn’t really worried about people not knowing who I was when they got correspondence from me. I have a note about my new name/email in my work email signature and have additionally kept my old last name in there for several months (also waiting for my professional license to officially get changed, which wasn’t that hard to put in motion but takes a bunch of months to process and finalize). I’ll get rid of that sometime before my first anniversary.

    • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

      My mum and stepmum are both Mrs Mydadsname (although my mum is Mrs Mystepdadsname too sometimes) and I honestly never thought until I read this comment about them both using the same name, or my stepmum being Mrs Mydadsname #2. So long as you have different forenames(!), I don’t think anyone will think anything of it. Nor will anyone think you’re trying to “claim” your stepkids. You’re marrying their dad, (and becoming part of their family), if you want to take your new husbands name, you should go for it.

    • BesideThePoint

      Carrie,
      Me too! On the first-for-me, second-for-him marriage and the ex-wife who kept his name after the divorce because of their son. I also posted a comment looking for thoughts about the name question from this perspective.

      Much has been written on “blending families”, but it’s usually about both partners bringing kids to the equation. I think it’s different when one of you is joining the pre-existing family without kids of your own. It sometimes leaves me feeling very marginalized. Thinking about taking my fiancé’s last name, I too felt like I would be horning in on a family unit that is bound by the name, if no longer by the marriage that passed it on. I’ve thought long and hard about whether taking that name would make me feel more “official”—officially part of my new family, and officially an equal partner in this household (because it can be a fine line between the ex-wife’s role in parenting decisions, and the ex-wife’s influence on how things operate in our household—these are, indeed, tricky boundaries to set and maintain).

      After much deliberation (my fiancé is fine with my keeping my name or taking his), I decided what’s best for me is to keep my name. For me, that’s the decision that makes me feel more empowered as a partner going into this marriage. That’s just me! For the record—and here I’m going to respectfully disagree with two points made in other comments to your post (honestly, respectfully: the points are valid, but I simply feel differently)…

      1) I made this decision without consulting my stepson. He’d be thrilled if I took his dad’s name, and I love that he would love that. But, to me, this isn’t a decision a child gets to have a say in. In my view, although children have a huge role in their family and their opinions certainly should be valued, the adults are responsible for the marriage, including the decisions it involves and the successes or failures of those decisions. The kid gets to help name the dog; he doesn’t get to name me.

      2) To me, there is a huge difference between being the second Mrs. HisLastname after his mom, and being the second Mrs. HisLastname after someone he used to sleep with. Very, very different, in my view. I’m just saying so because I think it’s totally OK if it makes you sad to think about being second here. I just want to validate that particular emotion (and empathize).

      Sorry to get so lengthy…I’m excited to find someone wrestling with similar stuff in similar circumstances. Best wishes!

      • Carrie

        BesideThePoint:
        Thank you!! Where do you live – let’s go have a glass of wine! :)
        I really appreciate your perspective. I mean, I appreciate all of the perspectives and advice here but sometimes feel like I am the only one on earth in this particular situation, which of course is not true. I do struggle with feeling marginalized and, frankly, with some jealousy of the ex-wife, and the name issue just brings all of those feelings to the surface. And I agree that the kids don’t need to have a say in this although of course I try to respect their feelings. It reminds me of what my mom told me recently when I was getting a bit obsessive about the best way to include the girls in our wedding ceremony – she very gently reminded me that while it will be lovely to have them play a part, I need to remember that this is my wedding, to my future husband, and that it’s okay for US to be the focus of OUR wedding.

        • Jess

          On the flip side, my parents got married when I was 10. He’s actually my step-dad, but I think of him as my dad. Haven’t had a relationship with my own father in goodness knows how many years. Regardless, my parents had two additional children. Just like I don’t think of my step father as a step father, I don’t think of them as my half-siblings. They are my brother and sister. However, I don’t share their last name. They all are Dadslastname and I never was. Even my much younger brother was confused. I always wished that we shared a last name because we were a family, regardless of the circumstances. I hated how everyone said he wasn’t my “real” dad, because to me, he was.

          So, I’m changing my name to my fiances. For me, it was never an option I had to think about. I want to create our own little family, and for me at least, that means having a common name. I’m glad to be rid of my birth fathers surname and I feel honored to take the name of my fiance’s family, because they are such great people.

        • meg

          Indeed. I actually really worry when kids are called in to make their own vows at a wedding, or are given a ring. I think kids need to feel like they are part of the family, but as someone so eloquently put above, they should not be made to feel that they are part of the marriage. It’s not their choice or their responsibility. And part of the wedding and party is about celebrating your family, but part (the ceremony) is about this huge adult commitment that the TWO of you are making.

          • ANI

            FROM THE KIDS POV

            My mom and step-dad married when I was 14 yrs old. It was my step-dad’s third marriage, my mom’s second. They had been dating for many years, and they had started blending our families – holidays/weekends/etc- when I was 11 yrs old.

            My step-dad had 3 biological children. Two sons who have his last name, from his first marriage, and a daughter from a woman he did not marry, that daughter has her mother’s last name. My biological brother and I have our father’s last name.

            My mom took my father’s last name when she married in the 70’s, despite being a Super Fierce authentic feminist, and my father totally supporting/aligned with her world views. She (like many of the women here) felt no good associations with her maiden name, having complicated relationships with both her father and her step-father.

            When my mom and my father slip up (when I was 7 yrs old), she kept his name in part because she didn’t feel much attachment to her maiden name, and in part to have the same name as her two children.

            When she married my step-father many years later, she discussed with everyone as a family (but as an Inform, not for the kids to give input into the decision). She said she was ready to put her first marriage behind her, that was important to her. She also said she felt her biological kids were old enough now that her not having the same name as us would not be a big deal. Also, since between 5 children there were 3 different last names, having a same name as “the kids” was not really an option.

          • ANI

            that should have been “split up” not “slip up”, being what my parents did when I was 7 :-P. And I wanted to say that when my mom and step-dad married, my mom gave his sons watches, and he gave her kids watches. To show that they were choosing us, but clearly distinct from marrying us! BTW each watch was completely different, chosen for each kids unique taste/style/age, etc.

        • BesideThePoint

          Any chance you’re in New England? I could go for a glass of wine. :) It’s really so helpful to hear from someone in a similar situation–I’m a total outlier in my peer group on this one. For me, too, the name question emphasized my anxiety about figuring out where I fit in the scheme of things. It also made me anxious about *exactly why* I wanted my name one way or the other…because I want to be sure I’m not making a decision out of some sense of petulant retaliation (I guess probably nobody wants to feel that way) or getting caught up in wishing things were a way other than how they are (I don’t, of course, wish that. But sometimes there’s that niggling feeling that “if…”, this would more closely resemble the experiences of my trusted friends and would therefore be easier! Reading through the responses here, I’m reminded there are a slew of reasons this decision is tough and complicated in a range of situations.)

          And, by the way, sage advice from your mom! Mine, too, has been a superb sounding board on that front. And! a nice shout out from Meg on the issue of differentiating the family-extending celebration versus the family-foundation that is built from the couples’ vows. Exactly. It’s helpful to have feedback on where those distinctions are, because it’s hard when you’re in the thick of it, so thanks!

          • Carrie

            NO, I am unfortunately not in New England, but YES! to everything else you said.
            I really want to make this decision for the right reasons, and thanks for helping me think about what those reasons should be. And should you ever be in Atlanta, wine is on me!

  • http://www.superrunaway.com Liz

    I’m cheating and writing my story here before I read all the comments, because damn, there are a lot of comments.

    I have an awful, ten-letter-long, impossible-to-pronounce-or-spell, Germanic name. I always thought I would ditch it in a second. But when the time came, I realized that it was very much a part of me and I was not going to give that up, though I considered keeping it professionally and taking my husband’s name for married simplicity. (Mostly because having suffered through an awful name makes me want to make things easier on my future kids.)

    However, my husband’s name is also awful. And hyphenated. And very much a part of him.

    Neither of us wanted to lose that piece of our identities, but what about the kids? We just decided to wait and hope that we figure something out in the future.

    But, because our names have always been something of a joke amongst our friends, so we decided to run with it at the wedding. My invitations were “Hello, our name is…” themed. We asked people to suggest names for us. We wanted to put it right out there and acknowledge that we’re in a funny position, and no matter what we decide to do, it’s not going to be traditional. And you know what? Most people got a good laugh, and had a lot of fun with it. But I still get cards from my Aunt addressed to Mrs. Liz His… and I still fume about those :)

    • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

      Haha, Liz, I just spilled my entire story a few comments down, but yeah, part of my decision was made easier by the “But your last name is AWFUL, even worse than my last name, which caused endless teasing” factor. It’s awesome that you and your fiance acknowledge that part of the decision, since I feel like I can’t really come right out and say to people, “But part of the reason I don’t want to take his last name is… I mean seriously, have you heard it?”

  • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

    I think your discussion of anger hit it on the head. I’ve always known I wasn’t changing my name. It was never up for discussion. And I have the full support of my maiden-named-but-married mother and the full knowledge that children know exactly who their mothers are, regardless of last name differences. But you’re right, it’s the inequality that’s hard to swallow. It’s the issues of how do I manage his more traditional families and their expectations. It’s all of the Mrs talk I’ve heard already… without any similar expectation on his part to “change” for us and this. I wouldn’t want him to, because I can’t fathom it for myself, but I really chafe against the broader expectations and the fact that there’s no good solution that makes us both feel good. None. But he always seems to get to feel *better* with the available options.

    At the moment, we’re leaning towards taking each others’ names as our new middle names. We’re not sure, but it feels righter (if either of us can be bothered with the paperwork). Because this really is all about emotions, somehow. And I want to *feel* connected to my children and family with a similar name, but only if he feels connected to me by name as well. So the middle name feels right. We’re still us, we still hold onto our unique histories and labels, but we can share something too. It would bond us as a family in a more private personal way, and the world at large can go shove it anyhow. And I’m already in the process of reminding myself that it’s okay if my children have a different last name and that I never felt less connected to my mother because her name was different than mine.

  • Sarah Beth

    Out of the handful of options women have about names, the most common solution in the South is that woman makes her maiden name as her middle name. This is what all the women in family have done. Presumably, it’s so that her family’s name isn’t “lost”,and you could tell where she came from. I’m not doing this.

    My first reason is that I don’t want to be associated with my dad’s family.

    My second reason is that I have a double name, so dropping my “middle” name would mess things up. And my mom is VERY insistent that my name is Sarah Beth and not Sarah (to the point of loudly correcting me in front of people when I introduce myself as just Sarah. It irks me.)
    The funny thing is that I only ever use my first and middle when there are other Sarah’s present. Even my fiance and his family, who I was introduced to as Sarah Beth, now just call me Sarah. Go figure.

  • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

    Growing up, I’d kind of always assumed that I’d take my husband’s name when I married (primarily because I have the kind of last name that gets you teased in grade school). But after I got I engaged, I suddenly found that I’d have these awful visceral reactions to the thought of changing my name. Out of all the things that blindsided me after the proposal, I think the abrupt strength of my emotions on this issue surprised me most and I’m glad that I’ve been lucky enough to be with a guy who is progressive enough to say, “Those emotions are important and we should listen to them.” (Though even as I write that, I realize how sad I am that a guy not being bothered by his wife not changing her name is termed “progressive” rather than “normal.”)

    Like many of the other commenters, a big part of my decision not to change my name is the professional aspect. I’ve published under MyLastName and I’ll soon be in a graduate program, so I want to keep my academic identity consistent. Also, my parents were immigrants to this country who worked extremely hard to provide for my education, and so I feel very strongly about eventually being Dr. MyLastName in the academy as a way of honoring their sacrifice. (Ironically, when I mentioned this to my parents as one reason I’m not taking HisLastName, they were both like, “Meh, that’s nice, but not necessary.”)

    Also, MyLastName is distinctly Chinese, whereas HisLastName is Korean, so I want to keep a marker of my ethnic heritage as part of my name as well. Thankfully, I don’t think we’ll get too much grief from his family because in both our cultures women don’t change their last names when they get married, or even if they change them legally, they are still known as Ms. HerLastName socially.

    I’ve found (at least so far) that I’m okay with our kids having HisLastName only. Primarily because any way we do it, our kids are going to get made fun of, since HisLastName has just as much of a tease-factor as mine does, and hyphenating just increases the awful (so hyphenating was always off the table for me as an option anyway). We’re just going to see the unavoidable teasing as character-building opportunities for our kids, and if they feel strongly later in life about having a different last name than mine, they can always change it themselves.

  • catriona

    i’ve been following your blog for a while (love!) but this is the first time i’ve been moved to comment. interestingly enough, i haven’t seen anyone with the particular issue i’m having with this whole thing. i’ve known since i was a kid that i wouldn’t change my name, as i’m very emotionally attached to it and there are few last names that sound good with my long very scottish names. well, my fella’s actually does, but i’m still not changing it. i proposed that he take mine, but he’s very attached to his last name too. no real issue, except when the prospect of children comes up. it’s not even that i want a unified family in name (although, reading other comments, it is seeming more appealing), it’s that i desperately want my children to have *my* last name. so does he. we both have only sisters, and my dad is the only branch of his family to have come to canada. fella sees himself as the last way to perpetuate his family name, but so do i (who knows what my sisters will do, and i don’t want to count on them).

    (as an aside, i have a long last name and we’re not into hyphenation.)

    we joke about flipping a coin when the kid comes out for which last name it’ll get. it may be my anthro degree talking, but i’m very into the culture, history, and lineage my last name conveys, and it reminds me of all the family traditions we have and i want to make my hypothetical future children part of it (some day). as it stands, i guess we’re waiting to see what’ll happen when it comes down to it. anyone else out there dealing with something similar?

    • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

      I didn’t face the same issues but I think the idea of randomly choosing is actually valid. I’ve known families that gave the girls the mom’s name and the boys the dad’s name. You could also go every other.

      A family name is not a requirement for a good, close family so if that’s not a high priority for you and you don’t want to give last names as first names then what you propose might actually work.

  • Ms. Brookland

    My girlfriend and I puzzled over this for a while, basically trying a bunch of variations of our last names mashed up. As lesbians, we’ve got some wide open cultural space to work with here; however, we’re also going to have a family and I want it to be casually clear that we’re both parents to a child (who also shares that same last name). If I was straight, I’d totally keep my last name, but that fact that my marriage won’t be legal most places we go makes traditional markers of family cohesiveness matter way, way more to me. Even if we just picked something out of the blue (which frankly, is a great option and underscores how it’s all a little arbitrary — if yes, incredibly culturally weighty and meaningful — to begin with), I’d want us BOTH to be “Ms. Squarepants” or “Ms. Cowbell” or “Ms. Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

    I think that basically, all things being equal, I wanted the name change to be pain in the ass for *both* of us, lol. This meant that we were both going to be giving up or changing something (bring on the dual paperwork!), which I felt the traditional I-took-my-partner’s-name lacked. We’ve settled on each making our last names our middle names because we both like them and would like to individually retain them and then both taking her middle name, which is a family name sort of in the same Anglo-y sound-genre of our last names. So I’ll go from being Myfirst Mymiddle Mylast to Myfirst Mylast Hermiddle. I think that will work for us.

    • Liz

      I’m with you on this one. If I were marrying a man, I would keep my name, no question. But since I’m marrying a woman, having the same name has become extremely important, as a marker of *us*. But how/if that can be accomplished, I’m just not sure. She is attached to her name, I think almost more by default than by conscious thought. She was married previously, and she and her partner played around with hyphenating and using both last names (although they never changed them legally), and her mom at one point said something about it being silly – so she’s not feeling hyphenation. Plus, her last name is very latin-sounding, and mine is decidedly not – so they don’t “go” together anyway.

      I would love to just pick and use a new name, and we even picked one out – but again, she’s attached to her name. Plus, I’m about to graduate from law school and so there’s a slight thought about my professional name changing (although because my job is corporate, I’m not too worried about that).

      So – bottom line is, we’re still not sure. Hopefully we’ll figure it out in the next year and a half. :)

      • http://www.sourismariage.com Mouse

        I have some friends who used the first and last halfs of their mothers’ maiden names. It was pretty. And uniquely them.

    • http://roughit.wordpress.com Roughit

      Ms. B, you say it well when you say we’ve got “wide open cultural space to work with” – one nice thing about wedding planning as a lesbian! I, too, have always felt that having the same last name is important as a lesbian couple. We are not planning on having children, and without children to unite us to the public as a family, the shared last name feels like a big deal. My last name is hyphenated (thanks, Mom and Dad), and her last name is one that she very thoughtfully chose many years ago, and is reluctant to change and unwilling to give up. We had finally agreed to bump the first half of my name and for us both to hyphenate the other half with her last name, but now my parents are separating and I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m erasing them from my name… ugh, it’s tough. Sometimes I wish it could be as easy as being seen as a family without a name change, or that there were clear roles for us to take.

      • meg

        This is interesting. And there is more to come on that wide open cultural space. We discussed that the very same night with the very same friends re: this blog, and it was fascinating.

      • Nicole

        “I, too, have always felt that having the same last name is important as a lesbian couple. We are not planning on having children, and without children to unite us to the public as a family, the shared last name feels like a big deal.”

        exactly EXACTLY how I feel, I am in the same situation. It has been no-contest to me, I was going to take her name because (a) I dont have any particular attachment to my name, it’s rather plain (b) I wanted us to have the same last name, and (c) her Firstname Lastname sounds so good together I wouldn’t dream of asking her to change it because I love it the way it is.
        She has said she doesn’t care either way, that she likes my last name but if I want to become a Herlastname, that would be fine. But I’m beginning to think she might like me with Mylastname more than she’s letting on, it’s kind of come up a couple different times, and not until I wrote the above “I wouldnt dream of asking her to change it…” is it finally hitting me that she might feel the same way about MY name…. hmm.
        When I told her that I really want us to have the same last name, she (somewhat jokingly, and half asleep, I think) said “Oh, that’s just the straight person in you talking” which really rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldnt find the words to explain how I felt at the time so we just went to sleep. She IS the first woman I have ever been with, I am bisexual, but I didn’t realize until the next day that I was so offended because it exactly NOT my “straight side” talking. Were I marrying a man I would have second (and probably third and fourth..) thoughts about just changing my name, but as I am marrying a woman and people mistake us as just friends all the time as it is, I want this extra step to unite us as a couple. Only now as I’m reading these comments and typing this out am I figuring out how to exactly put this feeling into words… thanks guys for being here and making me think and (hopefully) not minding that I’m rambling through my own issues in this comment!! We’ve definitely got a lot to talk about tonight / in the coming year or so until we’re married…

  • http://ohmeohmei.blogspot.com/ Maria

    my wedding is a year away and already people are assuming. the whole idea had me in a panic. thanks for reminding me that i don’t have to decide right now. how do you always know what i need to hear?

    • Tricia

      My wedding is 4 months away and my mother has been insisting she needs to know what name I will go by so that she can make labels for bubbles of all things. I refuse to be pressured into making an important decision for the sake of bubbles. They can be labeled with our first names. They can be unlabeled. I really don’t care. But they are clearly less important than the names issue and they need to stay in their proper place in the hierarchy.

      • Rachel

        That’s moms, unfortunately. The things my mother have found phenomenally important were all trivial to me, but, at the root of it, maybe she’s just asking because she wants to know. Moms are funny like that.

        • meg

          Remember that is it’s own blessing. My mom was too ill to help with any small aspects of the wedding, and it was really really sad for me.

  • https://galfromawayweds.wordpress.com/ Dawna

    I’m going to join in the chorus of people who are thanking you for posting this. This is an issue I’m facing, and even though I have 100 days until we get married, it’s not making the decision any easier.

    My FH is supportive of whichever decision I make, be it hyphenation, taking his name, or keeping mine, or even using mine professionally but taking his name outside of work (which I don’t know how complicated that would be), but he would be happy to have his wife share his name but would understand if I wanted to keep my name, and wants our kids to have his name as well. My inner voice is wanting to keep my family name because I’m going to be 39 when I get married, and my career is established by that name. And I like the name, plain and simple. :)

    It was interesting, based on that thinking, to read the following article in the Globe and Mail:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/work/married-women-should-say-i-dont-to-changing-their-name-study-suggests/article1547482/

    I’m not sure if this study applies only to those in a particular demographic, career level or whatever, but it did intrigue me and gave me more to think about.

  • Elissa

    I kept waffling about this when I was engaged… I weighed pros and cons and they kept coming out even. I even thought about hyphenating for a minute before I realized it would be 15 characters long, and that was not going to fly. I even thought about us changing our name together, or combining our names, but none of the combinations sounded okay (they sounded damn stupid, actually). Finally, two days before we got married, I just picked one. Yes, I’ll take his name. It was pretty much a coin toss. I got the legal stuff (SS, driver’s license) out of the way the week after we got married. It’s been 6 months and I’m still not used to it. Sometimes I regret my decision. But I feel like I will grow into the name, and I’m not bitter or resentful or anything that I changed my name. My mother-in-law kept her maiden name when she got married, so she supported me in keeping my maiden name if I wanted to. My parents supported my choice either way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I made a decision. I stuck to it. I guess I’m okay with it.

  • http://www.sweetdigitalphotography.com Vanessa

    Ok wow. Lots of comments. I figured I’d add my story too. When we first got engaged I wasnt really sure I wanted to take my fiance’s last name. Partially because I didnt like the way it sounded with my first & middle name. lol. Wow that sounds so lame. But the other part was the fact that I’ve been a “lastname” my entire life. Its part of my heritage, my identity– my roots for Christ’s sake. My sister and I are also the last of our blood line, so there will be no more “lastnames” in our family. So we had a 17 month engagement and I had plenty of time to think about it. Except I didnt really have much to think about. My husband (then fiance) actually brought up the topic one night asking if I was taking his last name. Well, my answer REALLLLLYYY upset him. He never thought he was going to get married. His past, his family– had basically proven to him that marriage doesnt work and that it isnt worth it. Until he met me. THen he WANTED to get married, he wanted a family, he wanted to try and make it work. There was no doubt in his mind that I would take his last name. That we would be a REAL family. So by me denying his last name, I was essentially not only desrepecting him but also his entire family. If I didnt want his last name, well then obviously I didnt want him. He even said he didnt want to marry me if I wasnt willing to take his last name. SO what did I do? I hyphenated. I still have my family name, but I also have his. Our children will have his last name. And now 9 months being married, I am finally wondering if I should just change my name to hislast only. Because it doesnt change who I am, just what I’m called. And I think I’m beginning to be ok with that.

    The only problem with hyphenated names is different databases dont take hyphens, so some places you will be combined into one last name or choose which last to go by. Its a pain keeping all your records straight.

    Whatever you decide, its an extremely personal issue, and you need to decide whats best for you.

  • http://committedca.blogspot.com/ Carrie Dee

    I have struggled with this decision for 11 months. I’m getting married May 29, after a year-long engagement and in that year I have run the whole of the name-change-emotional gauntlet. Last May, month one, I was in the camp of just assuming I would take the Mr.’s name. Ever since I was a kid I assumed this would be how it worked. I thought I was prepared for that. I thought, “hey, I don’t really like my last name all that much anyways” (it’s a name that is easily made fun of on the playground). And then, I *actually* started thinking about changing my name, and that brought me to tears with worry and self-doubt. Would I be the last of my family to have this name? Would I offend my fiance’s family? Am I less of a feminist if I take his name?

    I came up with every possible combination of names (you know the list already) and nothing seemed to fit. Each time I thought I had figured it out, I would declare to my fiance, “decision made!” and then inevitably, I would feel regret.

    I am now very close to the wedding and still struggling a little bit. I have decided to take my fiance’s name. Mostly because I want to share a family name with him. More than anyone else, he is my family, my emotional support. But that still doesn’t mean I know what to do. Now I’m stuck on my name as a second middle name, or dropping it? I really, truly have no idea what I want on that front. I worry that two middle names is logistically difficult. How do I fill out forms with “middle initial please” prompts?

    If I have learned anything from this experience, it is this: being a feminist or not has nothing to do with your ultimate decision. Go back 20, 30, 40 years and how many women gave (or were able to give) the whole name-change at marriage idea a second thought? Today, what each women decides regarding her name isn’t the point, it’s the fact that *she* decided. One’s name is so important to a sense of self of who one is, and while I have struggled so much with the name change, that struggle has given me a great opportunity to reflect on who I really am. So often in life we run through each day, taking ourselves for granted. This decision gave me a chance to slow down and really take stock of who I am. Even though I am not keeping my name, the process of deciding gave me a new appreciation of my family, and a new awareness of what marriage IS. Without this struggle, I’m not so sure I would have become so consciously aware of my true feelings regarding my new, baby family that I am about to create.

    This is an incredibly personal and difficult decision. For me the struggle has ultimately made me happier and more emotionally connected to my fiance. It’s not the decision everyone makes (because it it was it wouldn’t be a decision at all!), but it’s right for me. Own the struggle. It’s worth it.

    • Heather

      You’ve said so well a lot of what I’ve been thinking reading over these comments. There is a flipside to everything, and the added thought and grief and decision-making is something my grandmother didn’t have, because the choice was essentially made for her. I am lucky that even if I choose to do the “traditional” thing, it was my decision to make, for whatever reasons I deem worthy.

  • Gretchen

    I had always thought that I would keep my name. I’m 35 and have a law degree that I worked really hard for that has my maiden name on it. It was never a question and frankly I didn’t even talk about it much with my fiance until we were standing in the county clerk’s office to get our marriage license. That’s an awkward time to embark on that discussion, let me tell you. In the end, I hyphenated. I would have gladly lived out my life with two last names – mine and his, but the law required hyphenization. That’s ridiculous, as someone can change their name to Ochocinco, but can’t simply have two? Anyway, it was far more important to him than I would have imagined. I still intend to keep my maiden name at work and in most of our life, but when necessary, I can refer to myself by his last name. I have started to think of it as my secret identity. It makes me feel a bit like a Bond girl.

  • Courtney

    I grew up in a very traditional household (stay-at-home supermom who I think secretly ran the world, full-time working dad who made sure we were financially taken care of) and it never occurred to me that one theoretically COULD keep one’s last name. I loved the idea of being a Mrs. someday because my mother made it look pretty amazing and powerful and fantastic. When I got to college and had my first interactions with a married woman who kept her maiden name and still had adorable, non-traumatized children (and had an easier time of it as an academic professional who had kept the same name she had in grad school) a light-bulb went off. I could keep my last name and the sky would not fall. Or I could take a husband’s name someday, but it wasn’t necessary. I finally realized I had options. I lean towards keeping my name, but if it became a sticking point or I decided to change, again, I have a spiffy role-model in that regard.

    So both the feisty feminists who change their names to their partners–or pick some in-between options, as I’ve known women who did that–and the feisty feminists who keep their names, really expand the options for the next generation.

  • Courtney

    It’s not an option. I’ve known since I was 13 that I would not be changing my name. That’s my choice. If/when we have kids later, I may reconsider, but for now I feel like I’ve spent 23 years becoming who I am today and that’s not changing just because I’m getting married.

    Also, I won my argument with my now-fiance when I asked him, “Would you change your name?” to which he responded, “HELL NO!” Point and case.

    I wouldn’t do the hypen thing either. Hyphenated, my full name would be TWENTY NINE letters. Uh uh.

  • Karen

    I always wanted my husband to take my name too. I come from a family of girls, all else of whom took their husbands name and now I’m the only one left with our family name.
    (I’m also the same person that wrote in our ceremony “you can now kiss the groom”, so I don’t think people would have found it surprising.)

    My mother-in-law’s (Karen B.) first name is the same as mine and my husband was freaked out that if I took his name he would then be “married to his mom” and so was perfectly happy with me keeping my name.

    But yes, the kid thing is where it all changes and while we also have had discussions, we have not quite come up with an answer. He is not a fan of hyphenated names.

    And I do feel a little sad that we don’t share a name, as I feel no shame in shouting from the rooftops that we are married and a unit and a joint-name easily expresses that.
    But not sad enough to become the next “Mrs. Karen B.”

  • Katelyn

    Wow, the comments EXPLODED this morning! Great topic, and I think the most important thing for everyone is to *think* about it, and talk about it, and (eventually) make a decision that they own up to. Which is why I love and adore this blog like none other.

    Me, I’ll be taking his last name. Eventually. I am also like other commenters- my first and middle names are fairly unique, and I most closely identify with those, not my last name. So while we’ve talked about it, it wasn’t a particularly difficult conversation.

    Religion, on the other hand……

  • Katie

    I am changing my name, because that’s what I decided I want. There is the odd issue that I am getting my phd right before the wedding, and I’ll have had a paper or two submitted before then, so my maiden name will be on my degree, but I’ll also be starting a new job right after the wedding, so I can sort of start my career with a new name.

    My fiance would do whatever I told him to do (on this issue…unfortunately not on others :/). I think his preference would be that we both change our last name to Batman.

    • Katelyn

      <3

      "I now present you Mr. and Mrs. Batman"

      Looooooove it!

    • Kyley

      hahahaha! I love it so much!

    • Cat

      Hahaha, we briefly tossed up taking a whole new name until my partner decided it was Batman or nothing and ‘Cat Batman’ just doesn’t roll off the tongue…

      • Kinzie

        My boyfriend and I are pretty excited about the idea of creating a new name that we can share; he’s thinking of moving his current last name to his middle name, while I really don’t give two darns about staying “linked” to my father’s family. But, that said, he’s convinced that Kangaroo would be the perfect last name — it would keep my name alliterative and … well, that’s where I stop justifying it.

        How do you begin to pick a new name, if it’s not a combination of your already-existing last names??

        • Alexandra

          Re: how to choose a new name–

          I saw someone else on here talk about friends where the couple each picked their favorite three letters from their names, then combined them to make a new one.

          A friend of mine chose a name out of a book, largely because she liked the meaning.
          I think that picking a meaning you like then finding a name that embodies that, would be a really cool thing to do.

          Or if reverse-engineering is too difficult, maybe pick a bunch of names you like the sound of, then research their meanings?

          Good Luck! ;D

  • Alice

    Wow. So many comments. I’m afraid that, 3 and a half weeks out from the wedding, I can’t read them all.
    I have an interesting situation.
    1. I’m in the second year of my PhD. I’m about to start publishing. Whatever I start publishing under, I’m going to have to stick with.
    2. I’ve never liked my surname. It’s difficult to make people understand on the phone, and it’s aesthetically meh.
    3. I’m adopted. I don’t have a genetic connection to my name, or to those who’ve had it before. It’s not that they’re not family, but I’m not that emotionally involved with it.
    4. I quite like his surname. It goes well with Alice. His name is Malcolm, and when we started going out at least 3 different groups of people started calling us Malice. (note: this is over 10 years ago, way before celeb name melding). If I take his last name, and you do his first initial (M), mine (A) and his surname (D), you get MAD, which is, frankly, awesome.

    The long and the short. I’m changing my name, but I’m remaining a Ms. As an old boss of mine once said “I’m nobody’s Mrs.!”. Also, if everything goes to plan, I’ll be a Dr in a couple of years, and would lose the Mrs anyway. Decision made.

    • Julianna

      on the publishing front, I had a former professor get married a few years after she started teaching (having already gotten her Ph.D. and published substantially under her maiden name) and what she decided to do is go from Sarah HerName to Sarah HerName HisName in professional documents, that way if anyone googled or did an author search for “Sarah HerName”, her more recent publications would still come up. I won’t have published *that* many articles under my current last name, but will have at least 1 or 2, so I’m leaning toward doing the same thing, professionally.

  • Katie

    This whole topic is so interesting to me. I grew up with divorced parents and a three last name household (my mom remarried but kept her last name, us kids had our Dad’s last name, and my step-dad had his last name). I went to an all-female, quite feminist college and generally all the woman in my family I would consider strong feminists.

    That being said, I never quite knew what I’d do when/if I got married. My last name was my Dad’s – who I’m not very close to. But I also have one of those last names that somehow EVERYONE says with my first name (it flows well or something). I liked the idea of having one, shared family name after living with a three-family household. But the idea of losing my identity scared the bejeezus out of me.

    When I finally talked to my future hubby about it I realized two things:
    1) He really, really cared about it (so much so that after much discussion, I jokingly asked him what I’d get out of it if I agreed to change my name and he took a minute, then seriously said that when we buy our first house, I get to make the final decision on which house to buy! My eyes got really wide and I said, “wow, you really care about this!”). And since I was on the fence, I realized that this is what marriage is all about. If there’s something that I can do to make him happy, and it’s something I can roll with (and I realize this is ME – not all women can roll with this), then why not do it?

    2) Most importantly, I realized that for me, a lot of this name-changing stuff was about fear. All of the reasons I didn’t want to do it were related to my fears. What would it MEAN to lose my name? What would people think of me? What would my feminist mother think of me? Who would I be? Would my diploma from Barnard be revoked? And I realized that I felt like making a slightly more difficult choice because I didn’t want fear to drive my decision. I wanted to see if I could still stay ME with a different last name.

    I don’t know yet if I’ll succeed. I haven’t gotten married yet. I suspect the transition will be really difficult for me. But long story short, the positives outweighed the negatives and I made the decision that felt right for me.

    • Erin

      “And since I was on the fence, I realized that this is what marriage is all about. If there’s something that I can do to make him happy, and it’s something I can roll with (and I realize this is ME – not all women can roll with this), then why not do it? ”

      Yep! This is me too. I love doing stuff that makes him happy, especially when I don’t have a strong opinion, because I know he’s thinking/doing the same back for me. Ahh marriage.

    • FM

      This was me too, both parts. I realized my reasons for not wanting to change my name ultimately came down to what people would assume about my values if I did (but I’m a feminist guys! die hard!), and that still bothers me, but didn’t ultimately matter to me as much as changing my name mattered to my husband (for his own reasons). Not that what your name says to others about your values isn’t potentially an important and totally valid reason to guide your decision, just for me it ultimately didn’t trump other factors. Because I’m comfortable that people who I feel need to know will figure that out about me plenty of ways other than my name.

  • kt

    Dear Meg,

    I just want to say thank you so much for writing this blog post. I ended up calling up my whatever-you-call-them person I am marrying and 1) talking, 2) crying, 3) admitting that when his stepmom gave me a charm bracelet at christmas with my first two initials and HIS last initial on it that I was completely blindsided (hadn’t even started thinking about it) and hadn’t been particularly clear about what I wanted in subsequent discussions. And you know what? He actually wouldn’t mind taking my very-full-of-history last name, if that’s what I want. (which I have secretly wanted from childhood!)

    But part of me also wants to make-up a whole new last name, somehow, with pieces of both of ours in it. So we will see. But either way, thank you so much for bringing up the subject, despite all the emotions, hair-pulling, etc, etc.

    • Sarah Beth

      My fiancé gave me an “engagement present” (other than the ring): It was a beautifully embossed leather Bible with “S. B. Hislastname” engraved on the cover. And he actually handed it to me (immediately) before popping the question.

      Whenever I tell the story of how we got engaged, my über-feminist friends reel back and get this crazy-eyed look because it sounds so presumptuous. But in my case, we’d already discussed the name change thing, and he knew I was more than ready to dump my name and take my husband’s.

      I think it’s important (although hard, sometimes) to remember that people probably aren’t being inconsiderate when they assume that a woman will take her husband’s name. The option of keeping your name has really only been on the table for about 50 years, while the assumption that you’ll change has been around, well….forever.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com Liz

        i’m surprised when people DON’T discuss the name change before getting engaged/married.

        it’s like not discussing if you want to have kids.

        • Molly

          Totally. I told my boyfriend on our second date that I would not be changing my name. And I’m pretty sure we talked about kids on our first date. As my beloved advice columnist Carolyn Hax says, if you can’t talk about Big Subject with a person before you’re engaged/married, how on earth do you think you’ll be able to talk about it afterwards?

    • meg

      I love this, and the post opened a conversation up.
      And I’m going to disagree with other commenters and say, I don’t think it’s ok to make that sort of assumption with a gift without asking. It may be well intentioned, but the mail I get that is not addressed to me, but what people think I should be called? That’s well intentioned too, but it doesn’t make it not hurtful.

      • Natalie

        I completely agree with you, Meg. When I first read this post (a friend sent me the link; I hadn’t found your blog before), I sent it to my husband, and he asked me if I had somehow started sleep-blogging — it was like you were inside my head. We also got married in August 2009, and we went through the same conversations you and David did. Part of me wanted him to take my name, but I could never ask him to because I would never want him to ask me to take his…and vice versa. For many years, I had always said that the answer to the age-old name question should be that both parties take the name of whichever half of the couple has the “cooler” last name. If there’s not an obvious winner (like “Hisname Smith” versus “Hername Infinity”), then the couple should put it to a vote among their closest friends. And I slept easy, knowing that I had one of the coolest last names of all time. But then I had to go and marry someone with an equally cool last name, and all my plans were shot to hell. Before the wedding, we, too, settled, albeit uneasily, on both of us hyphenating. And we, too, still haven’t quite gotten around to actually changing anything.

        But the point I set out to make in commenting has to do with the anger — I, too, shocked myself with how incredibly angry I became when the mail started arriving. Like, wanting-to-tear-it-into-little-pieces-and-then-set-the-pieces-on-fire angry. I had expected mail to Mrs. Natalie Hisname from my traditional Southern relatives, but it came from all quarters. (And yes, sometimes I don’t even get a first name. I have a whole different, much more frightening, level of anger for the people who f*cking rob me of a first name.) And my gut feeling is, it is so very not okay to assume. I notified the world that I was getting married — I said nothing about changing a fundamental piece of my identity. Why on earth is it logical to conclude that I up and decided to have a last-name-ectomy with simultaneous reconstructive surgery? Altering one’s name is a huge, huge deal. It takes a lot of time and effort. If I had done something like that, and you and I are even remotely close, wouldn’t I have told you?

        I’m willing, through clenched teeth, to give my gaggle of Southern aunts a pass. I can’t deny that it still makes me angry, but at least I’m not surprised. But it’s the ones who should know better — peers; friends; thoughtful, progressive-minded individuals; people who have spent any amount of time with me; people who know anything about my personality, my identity, my beliefs — those are the ones that really hurt. Because when they sit down and address those envelopes, it doesn’t matter what they put inside them — the message they are sending me is that either they don’t know who I am, or they don’t care. To me, that is practically the definition of inconsiderate. It’s so easy to just ask! Many people have done so.

        Thanks so much for providing this forum for people to rant, sort out their thoughts, share their experiences, realize they’re not alone, etc. I wish I had known about it while I was planning my wedding!

  • http://www.caracorey.com/ Cara

    Ah, thank you for this post. I have known for a long time I was going to change my name, but I guess I still feel a little uneasy about it. Like I should want to keep my name more than I do. Being an established writer I hesitated to change my name, but I have this strange problem when people pronounce my full name they mishear my first name. And I’m not even kidding, it happens EVERY day. I also want our future kids and us to all have the same last name (we decided hyphenation was too complicated), so I’m going to change mine. But I feel good about it because my partner didn’t give me one ounce of pressure about it, it was 100% my choice, and I’m kind of stoked about my new name. I also know women who have one legal name, but use their maiden names whenever they feel like it, and I could do that, too. My future brother- and sister-in-law actually combined their last names into a new last name, which is super fair, but then both family names are sort of lost. I say do what feels best in your heart. If your partner is insistent you change your name, something that big, that seems like a red flag to me.

  • M

    I sort of joke with my boyfriend that I’ll take a mash-up of our names…it would sound like Rocketbombco…which just sends me into laughter every time I suggest it. Though, reading this, I’m not sure that I seriously thought about what I would do. Thanks for the eye opener!

    • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

      Mine would sound like “Gumshoe”!! :D

  • http://newlydomesticated.blogspot.com Newly Domesticated

    My fiance doesn’t care, and I’m lucky in that way. My job (which involves a byline) so revolves around my name that it’s hard to imagine changing it; it’s like my entire history will be erased. I will, however, be taking my fiance’s last name simply because I like it better. It’s a cool name. If it were a crappy name, I wouldn’t do it. For professional reasons, I will continue to use my current name, with my new name tacked on at the end. That way the google machine will still work when prospective employers look me up.

    But I, like you Meg, wish America were open to the idea of us taking both of our names. My Puerto Rican great-grandfather’s name was Manuel Monserrate y Soto…the Monserrate from his father and the Soto from his mother. I think that’s super nice.

    A high school friend of mine had a blended last name; her parents created a new name for the family and it seemed to work just fine.

  • http://www.apeachywedding.blogspot.com CaitStClair

    I don’t have time to read all of the comments but I was also torn so here’s what I did:
    My sisters and I are the last ones in our family with our last name so I wanted to preserve it (even though it’s a fairly common Scottish name.) I felt pretty strongly about this until I realized that my mom’s maiden name also went away with her generation. I couldn’t “save” all the names so what made one more special than the other?
    Also, his last name is much more common and I didn’t love it. Not to mention, he has a poor to nonexistant relationship with his biological father so I didn’t really want to take the name of a man I didn’t admire. I suggested taking his stepfather’s name who we both love very much. Unfortunately, his name is very tied up in his career and would have been very difficult to change and probably detrimental to his recognition. So that was out.
    I’ve never felt all that connected to my middle name so I decided I would change it to “First MaternalFamilyName MaidenName HisLast” and have two middle names. I really came to like this idea (the names flowed very nicely) but then it got difficult. They would let me move my maiden name to my middle but it would take a court order to change my current middle to a family name, even if it was on my mom’s birth certificate. I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing for 6 months.
    Finally I decided it wasn’t worth it. I am now First Maiden HisLast and it’s really growing on me. I never used my middle name before but now I do all the time. I love it.
    That just leaves future children. They will have his (now our) last name but I’m claiming rights to their middle names which will come from my side of the family. It’s a compromise that works well for us.
    (He later admitted that it would have been very hard for him if I had decided against taking his name but he very wisely didn’t say that until I had already made the decision for myself. :-)

  • Gretchen

    I’ve been thinking about this all my life. My parents never even gave me or my sisters a middle name, because in the South it was assumed that we would drop either our first or middle name someday when we got married, anyway (my brother has a middle name). This always seemed like a supremely unfair assumption to me, so I set out to be stubborn about keeping my name from the beginning!

    By the time I got married last fall, I felt less adamant than I did ten years ago, but I still kept my name without much debate. My husband didn’t feel strongly about it, and he isn’t very close to his father or his father’s family, so I didn’t see any reason to assume that name as my own. I realized that I do very strongly identify with my family name, and I have no desire to comb through my life and remove that name from everything that identifies me. I’m not sure why it surprises me so much, considering that a name change was assumed for me from birth, but I am still completely taken aback every time someone asks me what my new name is without asking first if I have changed my name. I thought keeping your name had become more accepted.

    I am sad about a couple things. First, I will probably never have a middle name. And, I really, really wish we had a family name so that people could call us The LastNames. I love feeling that we are a family unit now–I wish there were a less fraught way to identify that way, but I’m not willing to give up my own identity to make that happen. I’m not sure what we will do when we have children–they will probably take my husband’s last name, but it hasn’t fully been decided. For sure, though, they will all get middle names!

    • Lauren

      In the South? No. People still assume you will change your name, regardless of how forward-thinking they may be in other areas. Because, really, to most people around here, “that’s just what you do”.

      Sort of sad, isn’t it? But also predictable– an inordinate amount of people are still waving Confederate flags around, 150 years later. Things change slower ’round here, y’all. I love my manners and sweet tea and southern accent, but sometimes… well. It really is cultural. I’m sure that in, say, a Spanish culture, people would be shocked if the mother’s name WASN’T passed on to her daughters, at the least, and usually her sons too. Changes shock people. In this case, it’s probably a good thing. Shock them!

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    as a sidenote- i’m surprised by how many are writing that they want their husband to experience the same “hassle” of name-change.

    i think my husband has called the social security office more times than i have (theyre being a pain in the ass about things, of course- it’s been 3 months since i sent in my paperwork). he’s experiencing the hassle as much as i am.

    (and that leads to ANOTHER sidenote- i relegate confrontational phone calls to him because of an annoying track record of people respecting a male voice on the phone more than a female… another post for another time?)

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      “relegate” should obviously be “delegate”…

  • ashley

    I’m not sure what I have to add after so many comments, but this is also something we’re going through now. For very personal reasons, taking my fiance’s name hasn’t ever been an option. Luckily, he not only understands this, but agrees with it. We decided that we’re just going to make up a name. We’ve had very fun nights looking up the meaning of certain last names to decide what fits us best. We are proud to inherit the features and personalities of our parents and honor them with our actions. We think these are the important things to pass down in telling what family you came from, not a name.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com Giggles

    I settled this by deciding I wasn’t going to “change” my name. The word “change” just seemed so weird to me. I wasn’t changing who I was fundamentally so why would I change my name?

    What I was doing was adding to who I am. I was taking the person I’d developed over the course of my life time and who I’d come from through my family and adding wife/lover/my own family to it. So rather than “change” my name, I decided I would add to my name. And as I was adding my husband to who I am, I added his name to mine. And I don’t really care that he didn’t add my name to his because that’s his choice and not mine just like my name was my choice and not his.

    I added, not changed.

    BUT, I already had three names, so most people figure I dropped one or did some other weird thing. No. I have four names now. And it drives me bonkers that I can’t list two middle initials on forms. Or that the state decided that they’d give me two last names instead of two middle names when I went to update my driver’s license (I moved my previous last name to the middle so the husband and I could be alphabetized together, and then the state screwed it up and said it didn’t matter when I pointed it out. grrr!!). Or that the doctor’s office has decided that my first name is now a slurring of my first and middle. Four names is not that uncommon, so why can’t forms recognize that fact!?!

    • Julianna

      “I added, not changed” I love this. I think I am going to start using this phrase as well! Although I am a bit dismayed about the form issues. I would have thought 4 names was more normal now.

    • meg

      Love this.

    • Bex

      BINGO!

      “name added, not changed”

      I am one of the frantic people that emailed Meg asking for Help with this topic. I’ve read and contemplated all the discussion so far and while it’s all been helpful, this is the ticket (for me).
      Adding not changing – feels good and I love it.
      THANK YOU all for this fantastic, intelligent debate.

      • Olivia

        I love this too!

        I’ll be a four-namer soon too, we’ll see how that pans out logistically.

  • Erin

    My name change decision was easy. You see, when I was 14, my mother remarried for the second time. Before this, I was Erin A, and my mother and sister were Cindy and Erika B. We all wanted to become the C Family, so that we would all have the same last name. Unfortunately, at the last second I realized how important having my father’s name was to me, and I became Erin A C (no hyphen). This led to years of confusion whenever anyone had to put me into a filing system, and we STILL weren’t the C Family. I felt like an outsider.

    So when I thought about marriage, what I most wanted was a clean slate. I briefly thought about keeping my father’s name as mt middle name, but I didn’t want to keep both last names and didn’t want to offend anyone. I am now proudly Erin D, and I will be able to pass that along, without confusion, to our children. It might not be the choice that everyone makes, and I still feel a bit of a pang when I think of lonely name A, but I know that I made the right choice in visibly and legally creating a new family, with a new (to me!) name, with my husband.

  • Maureen

    Phew! So many good comments, such a good and important discussion. To echo lots o’ readers:

    1) I grew up with a different last name than my mom and step-dad and hated it. He was a really intense man who would rage if someone addressed him by my (and my bio Dad’s) last name. Awkward City.

    2) I’m a Ph.D student so the publishing thing comes into play.

    3) I don’t really like my last name and his is way awesomer.

    and yet…

    1) I don’t think I want kids, so non-issue

    2) When I think about this one I realize I’m not giving people enough credit. If it’s on your CV, they know it’s you.

    3) But it’s mine! I don’t like my Texas-sized ass all the time either, but it’s mine. And in certian jeans it is rockin’!

    So, I like the do nothing and wait approach. Why do I need to decide this now? And I also like telling people I’m not changing it now and seeing their expressions go from confused to more confused. Sigh…it’s the little things.

    Meg, if you weren’t already married I’d try to marry you. :)

    • Roxanne

      3) But it’s mine! I don’t like my Texas-sized ass all the time either, but it’s mine. And in certian jeans it is rockin’!

      I love this. :)

  • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

    It’s funny, I didn’t really have a strong feeling about this. My mom kept her last name, and their plan was that girls would have her last name, boys would have his. That was scrapped at the last second (good for dad, since they had two girls!) so we have his last name. But it’s nothing really special, I actually like my mom’s last name better. So when we got engaged, I knew my parents wouldn’t care, and I asked my fiance if his parents cared. They didn’t, but he mentioned that he’d like me to take his – he’s much more traditional than I knew, and I’m realizing that as wedding planning progresses! So I’m taking his, because it’s easy. And yes, it’s a cop-out.

    But my favorite was how two friends of mine were getting married, and each secretly picked their favorite three letters in their respective last names. He picked U, R, and N, she picked A, L, and N. So they combined them – into Urlan. Evidently barely anyone has this last name, so they like how unique it is. Their parents had conniptions, but whatever, right? It’s *their* last name.

  • Natalya Hopper

    Ooh! I need help on this, on the practical side of it actually. I decided long ago to take his name but logistically I am having issues deciding WHEN to do it. Here’s why: Our wedding is May 30. He is British, I’m American and I’m going to be applying for my UK settlement visa shortly after the wedding, and feel I should have my name changed first. We are going to St. Thomas the week after the wedding so my maiden name is on my plane tickets and passport. But I have to go to London for an important conference the first weekend in July and I’m not sure what name to put on that plane ticket. Will my name be changed already? Will I have to get an expedited new passport? Argh! Also, I am graduating with my Masters in 2 weeks and trying to get published. So what name should I publish under? I know it sounds simpler to just keep my maiden name but I’ve never been particularly fond of it and my brother and married sister still have it, so good enough for me. I didn’t have time to read all of the comments but if anyone has any advice on the process of name-changing I’d appreciate it. I’ve looked into one of those name-changing kits and I’m curious – are they really worth it? Best of luck to everyone on whatever they decide to do!

    ~natalya

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

      Oh gross. As part of an international couple, I definitely feel your pain.

      If I were you, I’d take it one step at a time — go to St. Thomas as you are now (have fun!), and then put in the paperwork for your name change. If you can wait to do the UK settlement paperwork after your conference in July (and book the tickets with your name as it is now), I’d do that. From my experience dealing with immigration forms, it’s best to have things as simple as possible, so I’d hold off on that until after your name is officially changed and then apply for everything.

      If you wish to publish under your changed name and also use your changed name at the conference, I say go right ahead.

      That being said, I haven’t been through the process yet — maybe someone else here can advise on the length of time necessary in their particular experience.

    • Julianna

      I also wondered about timing re: honeymoon & international travel, because we are going to Australia (from the US) for our honeymoon about 3 months after the wedding. The tickets are already booked, and both they & my passport are in my maiden name, but I am planning to change (or, as previous commenters have said, and I love, “add to”) my name. We asked the airline agent about it and he said we could bring a copy of the marriage certificate to the airport (if my forms of ID are in my new name by then). It is worth double checking with whatever airline/airport/country/immigration office you’ll be dealing with, but I would lean towards booking things under your current name in case paperwork can’t get done on time, but then go ahead and apply for changes as soon as you want.

    • Natalya Hopper

      Julianna and Kim – thanks for the suggestions and good luck to you as well!

    • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

      Take the trips as you are, but put your married name on your thesis.

      Why? The trips will end. It’s an experience and then it’s over. If you meet anyone interesting and you exchange names or even calling cards, just explain the situation: people will understand.

      But the thesis will be a published (albeit limitedly) document with your name on it that will start your career or further study in your field. It will be around for as long as your professional and academic life and beyond. A lot of women complain about how hard it is professionally to change their names – so it’s best to keep as much professional stuff as possible (esp. published stuff: a few people you meet at a conference and network with is something that can be dealt with more easily) in the name you’ll be using in the future.

  • SingColleen

    The discussion thus far has been pretty awesome, so I probably don’t even need to add this, but here goes:
    I made my decision (take his name) and I stand by it, but it’s still weird sometimes. I still even question whether I should have kept my last name as my middle name, or hyphenated, or whatever, but it was important to him that I take his name, and he doesn’t usually have strong opinions about this kind of stuff. And it’s not like he sprang it on me after he proposed. It was something he mentioned several times as our relationship got stronger, so I had time to consider it.
    After I went and did all the paperwork, almost all the guys at work (I work in a male-dominated field) who had anything to say about it were pretty cynical, saying that I was going to regret that when my second marriage came around (wow, because, I suppose, in this day and age I should plan for at least one divorce. wow). I also got a few raised eyebrows from women that someone as independent as myself would subscribe to such an antiquated tradition.
    But trust me, it’s not a slippery slope from taking his name to doing his bidding. And if you want to keep your last name, for whatever reason, you’re not hedging your bets on the relationship (yes, I actually got that one too).

    • LL

      I’m with you – I took his last name. I kept mine as a middle name because I’m the end of the line for it – no sons in my family, no cousins with the same last name. I love my maiden name but don’t feel that it ever defined me, and I wanted to take his name because it makes me feel new – like it is a new identity we are both taking on, our own new identity as a family unit. He didn’t have to change his name for me to feel that way, but that’s just me. . . I can see how it’d be different for other people.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

    I made it to the end of the comments! As a reward to myself, I’m posting my own. :)

    In my particular case, my last name is the same as my father (which is 100% cool, no emotional family issues or anything like that). Because of this, I feel that whether my last name is my father’s or my husband’s, I don’t really care one way or the other. I like my last name, I like his last name, but the only “important” name to me is the one that was given to me by both of my parents, and that isn’t going to change either way. I strongly agree with Saartjie though, in that my name isn’t who I am. My name wouldn’t distinguish me in a room full of people, and I don’t feel as if I am who I am because of what I’m called. Whether I’m called Kim or Kimberly or I go by my father’s last name or my husband’s last name, I am me. A rose by any other name, or something like that.

    When addressing our invitations, though, I flatly refuse to make anyone a Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname. Because while a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, that particular rose strikes me as very, very thorny and unpleasant.

    What bothers me most is the expectation of the name change — which is why I was so pleased just yesterday when a (married) friend of mine asked if I was planning on changing my name. No assumptions, just a question. When we started discussing it, we were able to discuss without any kind of judgment whatsoever, and that in itself was really refreshing.

    As Elise mentioned, I do know people whose parents compromised — the last name of the children was part of the last name of their mother and part of the the last name of their father combined. I always thought that was pretty cool. And man, would it make for some interesting combinations!

    Am I going to change? I dunno. I might just do as many posters have mentioned and keep my name in print, but change my name legally; he isn’t insisting upon me changing my name, but I know that he would prefer it and I feel that it just matters more to him than it does to me. My passport doesn’t expire until 2011, so I figure I’ll wait until then to figure it out. My boss did mention, however, that if I changed my name to Myfirst Mylast Hislast, my initials would be KGB . . . which I found inappropriately amusing.

    So to sum up . . . *shrug*

    And I will always me a Ms.

  • Olivia

    Another thought on kids – my mom kept her maiden and it is my middle name. I’m Olivia Mom’s Lastname Dad’s Lastname. It’s not hyphenated, but I always go by all three. I like having the option, and I like the lack of hyphen. And in some way it’s neat to get to decide on my own to represent both names, because I could just as easily go by Olivia Dad’s Lastname.

  • FK

    Oh, this is the first time I’ve commented on the new website! It’s so nice and easy! So, I commented the last time it came up, but I think it’s worth saying again, just to communicate that it has been done…. My parents are feminists, and it is a second marriage for both. My mom kept her name; my dad kept his. They agreed that if I were a girl I’d take my mom’s last name, and if I were a boy I’d take my dad’s. Turned out that I’m a girl. So my name is First name, Middle name, Dad’s last name (my 2nd middle), Mom’s last name. My professional name is First name, Mom’s last name. Occasionally I did have the feeling that people thought my dad was not my biological dad, but it never really fazed me. I mean, who cares what a stranger might think. My gent and I have talked about choosing whatever sounds best phonetically for our kids. I do like the idea of having one name for the family and to pass on to the kids, but I am the only grandkid carrying on my particular name. Also I can’t stand my fiance’s father, so I do not want to take on his name (even though it’s a much awesomer sounding name than mine). So. Also, yeah, as a kid I was way into the idea that my family was untraditional. My dad worked from home and was the primary caretaker, my mom had the higher profile job and made more money. It worked. On the other hand, I kind of think it’s a blessing if taking the name feels right. So simple! Some good friends of mine just got married, and the bride changed her name. She’s more traditional in general, and I know she feels perfectly happy about it.

  • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    Wow, over 100 comments already…

    It probably doesn’t help that I’m finishing up reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the second time, but your thoughts on this really resonated with me. I’ve said before on here that we kept our names and that was largely my husband’s decision. To quote: “I don’t know who the hell Stephanie D- is. I fell in love with Stephanie G-.” And yes, that is just one of the reasons I married him. We toyed with combining (very, very bad options) and both of us taking my middle name because it is kind of awesome, but since both of us are published with our current names (me academically and online, and he musically) we decided to keep them.

    However, because I’m not to attached to my last name (not that close to dear old dad) and my middle name is my totally feminist mom’s last name which I care more about, I don’t get too upset when people screw it up. Luckily it doesn’t happen often. Our friends asked once and that was it. His work assumed I took it, which is annoying, and a few of his relatives assumed too.

    So we opted for the easy for now road, too. We have no idea what we will do when we have kids. I’m not really looking forward to it. My husband likes the idea of giving the kids the last name of the opposite gendered parent, but that has all sorts of problems in my feminist brain. But at least since we live in the bay area parents having different names than their children aren’t that unusual so that option can stay open.

  • Amy

    I think I’m probably in the minority here but I am going to change my name after our wedding in June and the thought of keeping my name never even crossed my mind. To be totally honest, I’m excited and relieved about taking his last name for a number of reasons:
    1) I have ZERO relationship with my father. He and my mother divorced when I was 4, he remarried and I got stuck with the wicked stepmother. I spent every other weekend with them but only because I had to per the custody agreement. As soon as I was old enough, I stopped going over there all together and then when I was in college I cut all ties with him and his family. We haven’t spoken in over 5 years and I have been so looking forward to cutting the last remaining thread that ties me to him: our common last name.
    2) Because of the lack of relationship with my father, I don’t feel like my last name is at all tied to my identity. I was adopted and I have much stronger ties with my first name (my maternal grandmother’s name) and my middle name (my “original” Korean name).
    3) There’s a well known professional in my field with the same first and last name, which causes confusion.
    4) His name is about 100x cooler than my last name.

    That said, I completely understand why some/many people grapple with this issue. A few of my friends are going through the same internal debate at this time and I can see how difficult it is for them. I think my family issues have been a blessing in disguise when it comes to this because NOT changing my name was never even an option that I had considered.

    On a lighter note, one of my friends married a guy with the same last name, so for her the name change issue wasn’t an issue at all…

    • Jennifer

      In college I had a huge crush on a guy with my same not-very-common last name and used to joke that we should get married and hyphenate our names. Since my current middle name starts with a J, I could have been J. J. Lastname-Lastname, which would have been awesomely ridiculous.

  • JKL

    I have always wanted to keep my name. I love my names, my initials, the meanings… the whole thing. Luckily, my fiance was the one who said “I wouldn’t want to change my name, so why should you have to change yours?!” So, that’s settled.

    The more difficult conversation, as it is for many couples, has been around the issue of naming children. I want us all to be one big happy family, “The Soandsos!”, but my name-keeping choice and our aversion to hyphens means that just won’t happen. Plus, he is the last of the Hisnames, so he wants kids to carry that name, which I can understand.

    I think we’ll probably follow the example of some good family friends: As a family, they are referred to as The Hisnames and the kids are named Kid Hername Hisname. She kept Ms. Hername as her legal name and uses it regularly. But we often call her Mrs. Hisname by accident and it’s not a problem. She knows it’s just because we’re identifying her as part of her family, and she actually embraces the mistake. I think this is pretty healthy and is a good model for me.

    One last note: I will never be able to understand why you would EVER address things as Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname. I know my grandparents think it’s proper, but I find it just rude to leave one human being completely out of the picture! Meg, I feel your fury!!!

    • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

      I really like that example! Thanks!

  • Alison

    I didn’t read through the very large response, so apologies if I am repeating. I totally agree on the lack of a level playing field, and went totally livid when my own grandparents sent a card to Mr. and Mrs. his first and last name. Really?! I plan on keeping my name, but the question is what do we do for any future children? I don’t like hyphenating, because then future children will be stuck with 3 or even potentially 4 last names that they need to merge if they get married/have children down the line. However, my husband is adamant that both children have the same last name to create the sense of a family unit, which I don’t dispute. He understands that I want equality, but he doesn’t like my last name (which I admit does have drawbacks). Our last names don’t lend themselves to blending either (one solution that I really like).

    The only idea I’ve come up with as a solution is to link the gender of the child with the last name. So if the child is a girl, they get my last name, and a boy gets his. Since we want children with the same last name, the gender of the first child determines the names for any potential additional children. Not the greatest solution, but it makes me feel better that the decision is being left to nature, rather than patriarchal tradition.

  • Colleen

    so glad we’re talking about this (like most things we talk about here!). i was really torn up about this for a really long time. i just kept feeling this massive weight and pressure, like whatever i decided revealed how i conceptualize myself as a woman, a professional, and a partner. it felt a lose-lose situation for so long. once i realized that my struggle was because i was suffocating under that pressure, i was able to crawl out from under it a bit. i just made the decision recently, about a month ago. i decided to take his name, and was a bit surprised by it. in the end, it came down to particulars of my/our situation, not grandiose identity issues. i realized i wanted to have the same name as him and our children, to really feel like a family unit (ok, maybe that’s a grandiose identity issue). then the questions was – what name? his? mine? a new one? here’s where it got particular – i really like his name and mine is a bit of a bore. his name is super unique, and mine is brutally common. that seriously played into it. and then there’s the professional issues. i always thought i was supposed to worry about confusion in my publication record (science/medicine). but then, one day, on a whim, i search pubmed (google of medical/scientific literature) for his last name and there were NO hits. i giggled. if you search for my last name in pubmed, well, you get a gazillion hits. suddenly changing my name to his seemed like a brilliant thing for my career! sure i’d have a few older publications with my old name, but all the new ones would be super easy to find and identify. anyway… just wanted to put it out there that some times it’s the particulars and maybe that’s okay.

  • Mollie

    I’m changing all three of my names. Yep, first middle and last.

    See… Mollie is a nickname. One that I’ve gone by my entire life, but still an odd nickname for another name. Like, as if my real name is Marianne Elizabeth O’Malley (just an example for the internet).

    I don’t consider myself a Marianne, I never have– always been Mollie– my parents have called me Mollie from the day I was born. I am legally Marianne because I’m named after my mother.

    So thinking of changing my name to Marianne Elizabeth Hisname was NEVER going to work. Not one of those names are ME… because I am Mollie O’Malley!

    So I decided to change all three names…
    Marianne to Mollie (to finally be what I’ve always been)
    Elizabeth to O’Malley (make my maiden name my middle name)
    and O’Malley to Hislastname (the traditional change when women marry)

    So my name is going from Marianne Elizabeth O’Malley to Mollie O’Malley Hislastname, which seems odd to the people I am meeting for the first time at grad school orientation, but feels 100%, authentically me.

  • Melinda

    I got married a few months ago, and I changed my name to Melinda MaidenName OurName. I use those words deliberately. I don’t know if it’s my head trying to justify the continuation of a questionable tradition, but for me, when we got married, it was no longer “his” name. It was Our Name, the one we share, just as much mine now as his. There was also another variable: he has a daughter, and she was thrilled I was going to end up with the same last name she has. So the choice for me wasn’t really fraught with complication, especially since I feel much more of a connection and tie to this new name, a “family” name, than I do with my prior last name (which is legally my middle name now, which keeps a connection to that name).

    • http://www.palindromebride.blogspot.com Melinda R.

      I think that distinction is very important and I make it in my head as well. I want to have a family name that is ours. So I changed mine. It was harder than I thought to turn in my old social security card. In fact, I haven’t completely transferred my new name to my driver’s license because then it will feel so final. Personally, I love hearing Mrs. HisLast. I joined a host of women in the family who married into the name and I found a sorority of sorts that I like being a part of. Maybe it’s wishful thinking and justification, but sharing a last name makes me feel like we belong together.

    • Colleen

      Yeah, that is such an important distinction. I think I was conflicted when in my brain it felt like HisName and then over the course of our engagement and our envisioning of our lives it grew into OurName and I knew I wanted it. Well put.

    • Kelly

      Thank you for putting my thoughts into words and now I have a response when people ask why I decided to take “his” name.

      I’ve been reading all these comments and I totally get that everyone feels differently for their own reasons. But I was wondering why this wasn’t an issue for me, and that’s it— it’s OUR name now (and a million other people’s too, because it’s “smith”)!

  • Ms.

    I never thought that I’d be a name-changer. My mom changed hers, but not completely….her bank thinks she’s First MiddleInitial HisLast, her college diploma (earned a few years ago) is First MaidenIntitial HisLast, and her work is First MiddleInitial MaidenInitial HisLast. She is, after 40 years of marriage, having to change her name…and she doesn’t know what to do, especially given her rocky relationship with my dad’s dad, step-mom, and mom.

    This coming year, I’m getting married. My fiance already has two children, so I will be changing mine….I want to have the same name as my children, and since they’re already born, I have to decide now. My plan is to keep all for of my names, and use First MiddleIntitial MaidenInitial HisLast as my legal signature. I plan on being a Ms, but won’t have a cow if I’m called Mrs. (My students sometimes call me Mrs. Maiden now, and did before I was engaged.) I will have a cow about being Mrs. HisFirst. I’m nearly 40, and am far too old to give up being me, even if I was so inclined. I won’t answer to it.

    My mom’s mom prefers to be Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, and I don’t care. That’s her choice (especially since she’s a widow, she can do as she likes to remember him).

    We have talked about having kids (it isn’t likely), but not about their names. We’ll have that talk once we’re married.

    This is absolutely something that all brides AND grooms need to discuss. How many future grooms worry about this?

  • Heather

    Bravo Meg, this has made for such fascinating and positive reading! Clearly name related feelings run from the practical to the highly emotional, from keeping history alive to starting over fresh. I hope the comments stay in this vein of sharing, learning, live-and-let-live.

    For me, this has been a great reminder to resist the urge to judge. It isn’t right to force emotions/politics into what is for someone else a matter of vowel sounds, and vice versa! Boo to any social pressure to make one “correct” decision. The correct decision is the one you make for yourself, for your own reasons.

  • Casey

    First of all, kudos on keeping this a mature, accepting, chill conversation – much nicer than most name-changing threads I have seen! This is such a huge, loaded topic – the decision has been by far the biggest struggle I’ve faced this year. There have been so many hurtful comments (“if you don’t take his name, you’re not really committed”), and well-intended but likewise hurtful assumptions (“how’s the future Mrs. B today?!”). I guess the best we can do is keep our heads high, be gracious but firm in declaring our choices, and know that it’s nobody else’s decision. Meg, thanks for pointing out something that I only realized very recently: you don’t HAVE to choose right now! Things like having or adopting children, changing your name, getting engaged, getting married – they are all very personal choices that you should only make if and when you (and your partner) are damn well ready. They don’t have to coincide perfectly or go in any particular order. I knew when it was time to get married; I’ll know if and when the time is right to change my name.

  • http://www.nearlyweds.com Rachael

    I am so glad you posted this. I got married last year and there was no way I would take my husband’s name for several reasons. 1) I am the last in my family meaning I’m an only child and my dad only has a sister, so there are no other “have my last name” kids under my grandparents. 2) I have never really felt like I was part of my husband’s family. Which is sad, but true and he most definitely is part of my family. 3) My husband’s dad was adopted so no blood connection to his last name.
    So the final decision is that we will join our last names. Not hyphenate, make one last name. Luckily my last name is short and his isn’t too long and confusing so it will be fine. Our officiant (pastor at my parents’ church) has a hyphenated last name with his wife so he helped my husband be more ok with it. We haven’t changed our names yet because we both got new passports last year and don’t want to pay for new ones again soon.

  • Melinda

    Very interesting discussion! Most of my “pros and cons” have already been mentioned (feminism, etc.), but here’s what I have to add.

    CON:
    1. I am attached to the Eastern European identity conveyed by my last name. He has an extremely Irish name but feels no connection to his heritage, its tradition, or his geneology, and has a fair amount of resentment toward his father who is the source of the name. I’ve said this is a good reason for him to take my name, but my supposedly feminist guy looks at me like I’m nuts when I say this. (My other many Cons have already been mentioned.)

    PRO
    1. It will create a pleasant aliteration with my own first name.
    2. Despite my non-simple thoughts about it, there is something simple about just biting the bullet and going for it. Streamlined. Family unit-clan.
    3. Of course I’ll still be my kick-a** self, just like always. I know myself, no matter what name I have.

    OK and here’s number 4 on the Pro side, the one that kind of put me over the edge to want to change my name. This wedding planning and engagement process has been WAY more fraught with pain and conflict than I thought it would be. The criticism I’ve received from my mother for our choice to get married outside of the Catholic church has cut so deeply that it may have cut my family name right out of me. Suddenly, I was in a situation where I had to ally myself with my fiance in a conflict situation and stick up for us as a family unit. It’s made me reflect a lot – and grieve – the extent to which this marriage process is TRANSFORMATIONAL. I feel different than I did before; I am different than I was before. My alliances have shifted. I want to change my name to reflect that transformation, on my own terms. In a way, I feel bad that my fiance, through choosing to keep his name and its emotional baggage, doesn’t get the opportunity to reflect on the outside the transformation that is occurring on the inside. It feels deep and ceremonial, and has in some ways been influenced by reading the book A Conscious Bride.

    This being said, I love it when I hear my friends are choosing to keep their own names and think everyone should make the decision that’s right for themselves.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    I love this topic. I wrote about it recently from my perspective as I head back into this decision for the second time. For my first marriage, I took HisName as my last name and used MyLast as my middle name. This meant sacrificing my real middle name, which was a family name I shared with my mom, both grandmothers and a greatgrandmother. It was a huge sacrifice.

    I have agonized over the name-change thing three times now: with my first marriage, with my divorce (I have two children with my ex), and now with my pending second marriage. It’s agony every time. My fiance happens to be my first boyfriend from way back when I was 14-16, long before any feminist ideals came into the decision. I still have high school notebooks with my “married” name scribbled in so many different forms: Sarah MiddleInitial HisLast; Mrs. Sarah HisLast; Ms. Sarah MyLast HisLast, Ms. Sarah MiddleInitial MyLast-HisLast. So it is not an easy decision to forego the tradition of taking on HisLast as my own. But a lot has changed since then, and all of these changes impact my decision:
    – We both adore my family, and he is excited to become a member of my family (shouldn’t he want to take MyLast?)
    – Although not at all close with any member of his family, he is nevertheless extremely proud of his mixed race heritage and wears it as a badge of honor. HisLast must stay.
    – We’re not planning to have any more children, so less of a need for a “family” name.
    – We’re both well established in our careers.
    – I am ridiculously happy to have my RealName back after my divorce.
    – My kids have adjusted just fine to me having a different last name than them.

    When I divorced, I spent some time helping my oldest understand why I was changing my name back to my RealName (I hate the term “maiden name” because it suggests that my family name was a temporary name when in truth it was a huge part of my identity from my earliest memories). I explained that my ex’s LastName was his LastName, which he had loaned to me to use while we were married, and that I was giving it back to him so that he could give it to someone else if he ever meets someone else he wants to marry. And that’s when it hit me: nobody else’s name is MyName. I love my fiance. I love my children. But their names are theirs, not mine.

    So I’m keeping mine. If someone calls me Mrs. HisLast, I won’t cry or get angry (this really bothered me during the early years of my first marriage when I tried to use my RealName as my business name but my efforts were constantly thwarted by those who insisted on calling me by my ex’s LastName). I will answer politely to Mrs. HisLast with a smile and say “Actually, I’m Sarah MyLast, but thank you.” I know that I will secretly smile when I see mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast or to Mrs. Sarah HisLast. Because long ago, I wished for this marriage more than anything else in the world. But, now I know that although he is the husband of my heart and in truth, HisLast is not MyLast.

  • Jennifer

    Because there aren’t enough comments on this post, I feel compelled to add more, this time on the “level playing field” question. It does suck that in this culture the bias is towards the husband’s last name for naming both couples and children, and that women have to wade through a lot more name-related crap than men do. But the flip side of facing disapproval or confusion from someone no matter what choice you make is that there is more freedom to make that choice based on whatever factors are most important to us personally, and (generally) have it treated as a personal choice.

    For men, any change from the default of keeping their own name intact inevitably becomes a Huge Statement (slightly less huge with hyphenated names, but a Statement nonetheless) and I’ve noticed that people seem much more entitled to an explanation of why the choice was made if it’s a man making it (which, if it’s because he is choosing to distance himself from abusive parents, say, he may not really want to share with coworkers). For women, now, in 2010, it’s much easier to just get by with “no, I’m not changing my name” or “I’m taking my husband’s last name” and because at this point, all choices seem so common, the personal reasons for making that choice can more easily be kept personal.

    Though admittedly maybe I just operate in rarified circles where no one ever seems to assume a woman’s name will or won’t be changed upon marriage — true, the question is always asked of women but not of men, but it is a question that is asked.

  • Anna P

    I have finally read every single comment and even though I don’t really have anything new to add, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss this in such a great community of people. Because it has been a struggle for me, too.
    I think for now I am going to follow Meg’s advice and wait. And, hopefully, the answer will come to me. Eventually.
    I know I want to keep my name professionally – it’s already out there that way – all 3 names actually. And my fiance goes, professionally, by his first name middle initial and last name and I don’t want him to change it.
    He doesn’t care what I decide to do one way or another. Which would be awesome if I had any idea what to do.
    I do love that if I use his name people won’t expect me to spell it as soon as I say it. (It’s not actually that hard. Just the way it sounds, people! Which is inevitably what they say once I’ve spelled it).
    I once made a reservation (before we were engaged) for us and his family and gave them his last name because it’s so much easier, but then they asked my first name (which I wasn’t expecting) and I thought it was a little thrilling that that might be the name I would one day have. Which makes me think I must in some way want to change it. But then recently I wrote my name with his last name and it just looks weird. And when I say it it in my head it just sounds weird. But it should right? Because it would be a totally new thing. But who is that person with that name? And which name becomes the middle name? And if I have my old name professionally am I going to start liking one more than the other? That would be a mess.
    I’ve often been known as “Anna P” (in a nickname kind of way) so what happens if I don’t have the “P” anymore?
    I have a boy cousin, so I don’t need to worry about carrying on the name (well…. unless he takes his wife’s name or doesn’t get married or who knows what else, but oh well).
    And changing my name legally but keeping it professionally seems like it might get complicated. Although I am encouraged that several people have commented that they used both interchangeably.

    If I decide to keep it (and keep spelling it every time) I don’t worry about any hypothetical children having a different name because I have my dad’s last name and my mom’s maiden name as my (only) middle name. And, yes, schools sent stuff to my parents with only my dad’s last name… I think often I was more upset about it than my mother…. which is interesting considering what she went through. Which brings me to her story – similar to a lot of the other moms of commenters who got married in the ’70s:

    My parents got married in 1970 and my mom dutifully took my dad’s last name. I’m not sure what she did about her middle/maiden name at that point. After a little while with this moniker my mom decided it wasn’t the right decision for her. She suddenly didn’t know who she was anymore with that name. It just didn’t feel right. So she decided to change it back. But, keep in mind, this was 1970. My (amazing) mom was only 22, but she felt so strongly about this she changed her name back to her given name – with the support of my (also amazing) dad. I doubt he ever cared one way or another being the laid back kind of man he is. Here’s the catch: to take my dad’s name all my mom had to do was to sign her new name. To take back her name she HAD TO GO TO COURT! And she did, because she felt that strongly about it. And, luckily they got a somewhat liberal judge in a pretty conservative state/time. I think this makes my mom inspirational. I can’t imagine what is was like to explain to people, yes, she had taken her husband’s name, but now she was once again her maiden name, and yes, they were still married! I know it angered her that she couldn’t just have her name back when all she’d done to change it was sign my dad’s name after her first name one time. Yet by the time she had me and by the time I went to school I think she was used to people being confused and sometimes getting her name wrong. It was enough for her, I think, to know she was her name to the people that mattered, no matter what the outside world might call her. I always knew her name and once I learned the whole story, well, basically, I tell everyone I know whenever the subject comes up because what a strong woman I have for a mom and what an amazing thing to do, right?

    However, I still can’t make up my own mind. What’s up with that?

    • http://www.missgiggles.com Giggles

      I love your comment about spelling. It’s nice that my last name is no longer MyLastName-M-y-L-a-s-t-N-a-m-e.

  • Nell

    It’s great to see this discussion somewhere other than in my head and between a few close friends! I’m recently married and after much though decided not to make any immediate name changes. I love being a member of my family’s ‘clan’, and my husband didn’t really care one way or the other. We explored the idea of his changing names, but as the last member of his family carrying the name he felt obligated to keep it. If I do make a change, it will be to swap out my middle name for his last name, which will keep my middle initial the same.

    I just wanted to add in one thought. The fact that almost ALL cards from his side of the family were addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName/HisLastName drove me completely crazy. However, it made writing thank-you notes more satisfactory because I made it a point to spell out MyFirstName/MyUnchangingLastName & HisFirstName/HisLastName in the return address. I figure it is a polite way to correct any assumptions to the contrary.

  • Emily

    Meg, I’m pretty sure your mom is a second-wave feminist. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott took their husbands’ names, but I bet they had strong feelings on the matter. (1960s-70s feminists were second-wave, and we’re on wave three by now.)

    • meg

      While that might be technically true, that’s often not the way it’s discussed. I would consider myself wave three, yes, but there is half a generation between my mother and I. I think earlier feminists are usually thought of as more foundational.

      • Emily

        In women’s studies, history departments, etc., “first-wave feminism” refers to the movements of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. While there’s a lot of debate over where to draw the line and whether specific figures were a part of one wave or the other, there’s pretty much universal agreement that the feminism of the 60s and 70s was second-wave feminism. (See, e.g., http://www.georgetowncollege.edu/Departments/ws/1st,_2nd,_3rd_wave.htm or anything else that comes up when you Google “first-wave feminism.”)

        I’m comfortable with keeping these definitions stable, not because I think it’s good to neatly label our mothers or ourselves, but because I think of them as defining specific historic events movements rather than individuals. It’s a really interesting distinction you draw, though, between what a term connotes for one personally vs. an academic definition, especially when you make the distinction consciously. It could also feel like a more accurate way to describe someone who’s concerned more with, say, equal property rights than employment discrimination.

  • Christen

    Meg- thank you.

    For me, it never was much of a decision. I just plain LOVE my last name and kind of think my first name sounds and looks silly with anything other than mine. Plus, there is only one male on my dad’s side of the family to carry on the name, and our heritage is a HUGE source of pride for our family … and really for me. However, my fiance has a great last name as well and I realized that by choosing to hyphenate, not only would I have a kick-ass last name that’s uber strong, but would also be adding to my sense of identity by including his heritage … which he is also very proud of. I have friends who have hyphenated or done the hers-as-middle his-as-last because, as they’ve explained it to me, ‘no one would know who they were … like on facebook and stuff’ (yep, direct quote). Which, fine for them, that speaks to their sense of identity in as such as being socially recognized. I understand that. I don’t feel that way, I wouldn’t have such reservations just for social reasons, though I”m not a hugely social person. For me, it’s really about being able to carry on my family name … just as my father’s middle name is my grandmother’s maiden name, and if we decide to have children, we will incorporate that somehow.

    The greatest thing for me is that my fiance is well aware of how important keeping my name somewhat intact is to me. And he was the one who suggested I just keep my name. But once we realized how freakin awesome the hyphenation sounded, that was the obvious choice.

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

      Christen, I didn’t put this in my comment, but the biggest reason my husband wants our kids to have his last name is because he is the only child of an only child of an only child (all males), and he wants the name to be carried on, which I truly understand and respect.

      I also LOVE the feeling of having a name that includes both my heritage and his! Every time I see my name in print, I’m like oh yeah, I’m part of this family AND this family, and it is AWESOME!

  • http://www.puppiesnpancakes.blogspot.com Kristi

    Ah. This is always so hard. I love hearing about other people’s decisions and knowing that people struggled like I did.

    Where I live, and the people I know… well, it’s just not something that ever comes up. I really don’t know many (any?) people who DIDN’T take their husband’s name. I’d never even had a discussion about it with my friends or sister or anyone who was married before me. So when I knew I wanted to keep my name it felt like THIS HUGE THING, even though I didn’t understand why it should be.

    I finally settled on MyFirst MyLast HisLast. But I use MyFirst MyLast everywhere. Still, legally I am both, which really opens up a lot of options for the future, for naming kids, for changing my mind.

    My best advice is to wait. If you don’t know, don’t do anything. Wait a few months or a few years even. Things look and feel differently several months down the road.

  • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

    I’ve pretty much always wanted to hyphenate my name. Before we were even engaged, my husband and I discussed it and he was very much against me not just taking his name. “Because it’s what everyone does.” But as I pointed out, since when do we do things just because “everyone” else does? We are your “atypical traditionalists” too, Meg, and so we do sometimes do the traditional thing, but not without thinking it through first.

    People asked me “it’s just a name, why does it matter?” JUST a name? It is a MAJOR part of my identity, and I love my family and my association with them! Another line I heard, that it shows you are really being accepted into his family, makes NO sense for us – he is basically estranged from his family and we are both super close to mine. By that reasoning, HE should take MY name.

    Anyway, he finally realized it was very important to me as part of my identity and as part of my feminist/equality viewpoints (and by me pointing out how he would feel if he was Joe Doe instead of Joe Schmoe), and admitted he was more concerned about the name our children would carry. I hyphenated, but our children will have just his last name. I am OK with that, because I understand his thoughts about wanting us to be the “Schmoe family”, as well as the whole what do your kids do when they get married if they ALREADY have a hyphenated name.

    I’ve had many friends ask me what they should address us as on invites and such. I tell them the “proper” way, and that I’m also OK with The Schmoe Family or even Jill & Joe Schmoe, because especially right now not everyone knows I hyphenated (fairly recently married). But man, being addressed as Mr. & Mrs. Joe Schmoe really bothers me. The Mrs. instead of Ms. for one, the lack of my real last name being used, but more than anything, I HATE that traditional etiquette has the woman being referred to only via her husband’s full name. ICK!

  • Elizabeth

    Even as a not-yet-engaged-person, this is something I think about a fair amount. My mom fully intended to change her last name when she got married (though my dad encouraged her not to), but she said the first time she went to sign a check with the new last name, it was too weird for her so she never changed it :) So my brother and I both got my mom’s surname as our middle name, and dad’s surname as our last name. I had always thought I’d like to hyphenate when I get married (ok, depending on my fiance’s name), so my name would be Me Mom Dad-Husband, and then totally describe all my family connections. Still though, I’m undecided. The multitude of options is a little overwhelming, though I am quite sure that I don’t want to give up any of my current names.

    I discovered recently while talking to my partner about the potentials if we were to get married, that he does not want his family name passed on to his children. It turns out it was an adopted name a couple generations ago, and all the men who carried that name (until him, I might point out) were abusive and manipulative in a variety of horrible ways, and my partner has no wish to carry on a name with that legacy. So, in fact, he might take a different name at some point, maybe his mom’s family name, as the history of that family more accurately reflects his values. I have a hard time with that idea, because to me his identity and who I love is him as his name is now. When he mentioned the possibility of taking my name, I was a little surprised to find that I didn’t want that to happen, but that I was willing to take on his name in some way. A strangely traditional side of me coming through.

    On a related note, my brother is getting married this summer, and his fiancee, whose first name is very similar to mine, is changing her last name to our surname. I unexpectedly found myself totally weirded out by that- like by doing so she is stealing some of my identity, too. How did I get to feeling so selfish about my last name that I don’t want anyone else to share in it, even if they are joining the family and I think the world of them?

  • Melissa

    A good friend of mine got married two years ago and her husband took her last name. He felt no connection to his last name because it was his step fathers who he didn’t have a good relationship with, and there was no one else on her side of the family to carry on the name. I thought it made perfect sense but i do know many people thought it was the strangest thing. At the end of their ceremony the officiant (who was her brother-in-law) fudged and announced them as Mr. and Mrs. Jayson Rylee. He completely left out any last name and in a way it was kind of perfect because even though they got married they were still teh same people regardless of who took what name

  • Nini

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    Lame? Sorry =)

    I almost feel ashamed that I do not feel as passionately as many of you about the name change situation. As for me, I will be keeping my last name (for now) for the pathetically lazy reason that his last name is far more popular than mine and I want to keep my email address (It’s my proper name and NO numbers!) – hey, a good email address is hard to find! I’m also not a fan of paperwork and doing all these changes – bills, mortgage, license, etc.. Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll change my mind. I’m one of those indecisive folks.

    P.S. I absolutely LOVE reading all these unique stories of how certain names came to be. I must say, some of your parents and friends (and yourselves) are far, far more creative than my family ever was. Love, love, love it.

    • Kelly

      YES! That was totally going through my head as I read every post!

  • Tristen Chang

    Hoh man. The names.

    We got married in August and literally just filed the name change paperwork three weeks ago, it took that long to decide on exactly what we were going to do. Not to mention save the small fortune required if you want to do a name change that includes more than a last name.

    We, like probably everyone else here, had some complicated things going on. For one thing, I:
    1) Already had three middle names. (Yes. Three.)
    2) Grew up with divorced parents and did not share a last name with my mother, which I hated. I knew I wanted a family name, that the kids would get, etc. I also wanted to get my mom’s family wedged into my name somehow.
    3) Am part Asian, but you’d never know it by looking at me. I wanted to keep my Korean name as proof that, yes, I’m not quite white. And that came from Dad’s side.
    4) Married a man who is pretty traditional, but, thank God, does understand where I’m coming from.
    5) Married a man with a tri-syllabic last name.

    He:
    1) Did not have a legal middle name, but had been using his dad’s first name as his unofficial middle name his whole life (It’s Russian tradition to take the father’s first name as a middle name)
    2) Under no circumstances did he want to take my last name (father’s or mother’s)
    3) Wanted us to be “the ______________ family”
    4) Understood and accepted the fact that he would have to make a name change too.

    So, I had a few goals:
    1) Get my mom’s maiden name as part of my real, legal name (which it wasn’t)
    2) Get rid of my other middle name that I feel no attachment to whatsoever and haven’t used since I was ten years old
    3) Keep my Korean name as a good party trick
    4) Decide on a family name we could both agree on for the long haul
    5) Not end up with 50 bajillion names (I already have two lines of names on my license, I’d like that to change)

    When we got married, we were only allowed to make changes to our last names. We knew we didn’t want to hyphenate (the other thing I should mention is his 3-syllable last name and my 1-syllable last name RHYME) but would want to something that involved changing our middle names as well.

    So. On our marriage license, he is Mr. E. His, and I am Ms. T. His. No changes other than that.

    It just didn’t feel right.

    To change our middle names, we had to go to court. Actually, it’s still in progress as we speak. It took a lot of paperwork, and a lot of money, but it feels good knowing that, on June 22nd, we will have the names we want. We’re not hyphenating, but we both took my mother’s maiden name as a middle name, and his family name as a last name. He also officially added his father’s name as his middle name, and I lost the middle name I’d hated for so long, and kept the Korean middle name.

    So, in some ways, it feels like a huge “We are the _______________ family” gesture, but at the same time, we’re both doing something highly personal and not at all related to our marriage. I feel like I am reclaiming my identity, in a major way. And I am pretty freaking excited.

    I know this isn’t an arrangement that would work for many people, but for us, it’s perfect:
    Mr. E (Dad’s name) (My mom’s maiden name) (His last name) and
    Ms. T (Korean name) (My mom’s maiden name) (His last name).

    Oh, and I don’t even UNDERSTAND the whole Mrs. E. His thing. Who even came up with that?

  • http://www.tbonelee.blogspot.com Jess (or T-Bone)

    I have always known that I would take my husband’s name….not because I am extremely traditional or not a feminist, but because I can (in a very real way) remember as a child how secure I felt in the fact that my parents both had the same last name and I had that same name too. It made me feel part of a unit and I want to give my kids the same experience. My fiance refused to take my name but told me he has no strong feeling one way or the other about me taking his……and that made me sad….surprisingly sad. I would have been angry if he had demanded I take his name (which he would never do), but I wanted him to feel the same warm fuzzy feeling about having the same last name. It took a lot of conversation to figure out that he did indeed have a feeling about it, but he wanted to make sure I didn’t feel pressured and made the decision on my own. We are three months away from the wedding and got a card from his grandmother address to Jessica and Chris His Last Name and I took a picture. I’m still keeping my last name as a second middle name though. :)

  • http://ssarahtops.blogspot.com Sarah C.

    Having not read through all 218 comments, this may be redundant…but as a married-as-I-can-be lesbian I changed my name. My wife and I were married twice. 1st time in our home town where gay marriage is very not legal with 100 of our closest friends and family. 2nd time was in a state where it is legal. We gained nothing by that piece of paper except the validation of hearing, “By the power vested in me by CT I now pronounce you married.” We back and forth-ed quite a bit about what to do about our names. Both our last names are too long to hyphenate and there’s no way to combine them gracefully (trust me, we tried). So I went to court and had my name legally changed a few days before Christmas. Since then I’ve gone through all the rights of passage straight couples usually endure from getting a new drivers license and social security card to changing my name on our bank account. It’s been 4 months and I’m still not used to my new last name, but I do love it. While I love getting mail to Sarah and D C, the biggest reason we did this is that we plan to start a family soon and it’s important to us that we have a family last name.

    • http://ssarahtops.blogspot.com Sarah C.

      Oh…and I suppose I should mention, I didn’t drop my last name. I had it legally combined with my middle name. So now my name reads Sarah Middle Last Her Last. I still use my first middle initial, but it’s comforting to still have my last name in there somewhere.

  • Laura

    Meg, I’ve been reading A Practical Wedding for ages and have never got around to commenting. Before I get into my rather unwieldy response, I just wanted to say that I love, love, love your blog and your eminently sensible (and sassy!) attitude towards weddings and marriage. Yours is one of the only wedding blog I read post-wedding because it’s one of the few that keeps thinking and re-thinking about the meaning of weddings, marriage, and being a wife.

    I was surprised by how difficult the name change decision was for me. I’m a dyed in the wool feminist, so I always assumed I’d keep my name no questions asked. As we got closer to the wedding, though, I became less and less sure and started to seriously consider changing my name. I went back and forth on it about a million times, talked to my fiance (who had no real opinion on the subject) about it constantly, read everything I could on the topic, and finally realized that my gut was telling me that, for me, the best choice was to keep my name. Once I figured out that I should trust my gut, the decision just fell into place for me.

    To be honest, I’m glad that I had such an active internal debate over the issue because it really helped me see the various facets of this decision and realize how difficult the it can be to choose one way or the other. And, more importantly, it increased my respect and understanding of women who decided to change their names. Changing or not changing your name is a deeply personal choice, and going through the decision process myself helped me embrace that it’s the ability to choose what’s right for you that’s important–not what side of the debate you end up on.

    One thing I’m struggling with now is dealing with friends and family who simply refuse to acknowledge that I kept my name. Never mind that my husband and I were announced at our reception by both our full names or that EVERY! SINGLE! thank you note we sent out had both our names written correctly, most of the mail we get from people who KNOW us and even attended our wedding comes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Kevin HisLast or Mrs. Laura HisLast. This drives me absolutely batty!.

    Meg’s point about this not being a level playing field REALLY hit home for me here. We’re trapped in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation with no way out. It’s to the point that I can’t even explain why keeping my name is important to me because I feel like I’ll be stepping on the (very, very conservative/traditional) toes of my friends and family. And even though I constantly remind myself that the reason my friends and family don’t address me by my name isn’t that they don’t care about me or my choices, it’s that they assume there isn’t even a choice. In the end, I almost feel like I brought this upon myself by forcing a choice where one didn’t exist before (at least in my world). This is especially frustrating because it makes me feel like my anger and disappointment with their, well, thoughtlessness is invalid because I stepped outside the norm.

    This has gotten to be a bit of a ramble that I don’t know how to wrap up. The most important lessons I’ve learned from the Great Name Change Debate are: trust your gut and go with what’s right in the context of the family you’re creating with your partner and respect other people choices regardless of whether you agree with them. And failing that, have a really big glass of wine and just say screw it.

  • karin

    Just to share a laugh, I’m one half of a lesbian couple, and literally one of the first questions out of my dad’s mouth after we told him we were getting married was whether I was keeping my (his) last name. (I am, for now, until we reach the kids stage in life.) It’s apparently a REALLY big deal to him that someone carry on the family name, and as funny as it sounds, I think it’s actually made him glad he has a gay daughter. Who’da thunk?

    • meg

      We have lesbian friends where one of the very traditional fathers is on a full scale lobbying campaign for them to have a kid with his last name and his daughter’s DNA. It’s sort of hilarious.

  • Morgan

    I changed my name. I seriously debated losing my middle name, which I’m not attached to, and replacing it with my maiden name, but frankly, the paperwork and the money and the getting fingerprinted by the RCMP was too much for me to bother with. (Intertia for the win!)

    I just got my new driver’s licence this week. Can we please talk about how freaking WEIRD it is to have a new name? I mean, I choose my choice, I am happy with my new name. I’m happy going from a super rare last name to an even rarer (but easier to pronounce) last name. I’m happy to be the only Morgan LastName in the whole world. But it’s so strange. Developing a new signature. A driver’s licence with a different name. Trying to break 28 years of habit of writing/typing my old last name. I’m happy with it, but please tell me I’m not the only person who struggles with just how strange it feels…

    • Erin

      Tell me about it! I never had to think so carefully about my signature in my life. Combine that with moving to a new state at the same time, and all my new ID documents have me feeling like a stranger. But I do love being Ms. Erin Ourname

    • harmke

      Same here!
      My now-husband reallyreallyreally wanted me to have his name. I wanted to keep my own. My name is rare, his is common, I am my own woman, my parents woud’ve loved me to keep my name, and most of all: I just coul’dn’t get used to the idea. I just am (still) a MyLastName. Name and identity are somewhat connected in my head.
      But in the end, after a LOT of talking and thinking and all, I decided to change my name. For him. Call it our (my!) first marriage-compromise.
      And now, I never introduce myself with any last name, I pick up the phone with only my first. I just can’t get used to it. Every time I call myself Harmke His I don’t really believe myself. And I would change my name again. Because it is do important for him, it really makes him happy, and I decided I was willing to give him this. But. It just takes time getting used to it!

    • Kelly

      I just got my new DL this week too, and it’s totally weird. It’s a little less so because I changed my “old” last to my middle, so the identity is still there a bit.

      One good/bad thing, my “new” last starts with the same letter as my “old.” My signature is so sloppy, you couldn’t ever read much past the first letter of my last name anyway, it just looks like KellyS… so, can I just keep signing the same way in my head, because they’ll look the same in the end? Or do I concisously need to concentrate on thinking the new last name when signing? :)

    • ddayporter

      YES it feels very strange!! I haven’t even changed it legally yet so I haven’t even seen my license with my new name on it (man it was rough enough changing it from Maine to Virginia, can’t imagine what it’s going to be like seeing my new name on it for the first time). makes me want to ask every woman in my family about their name changing experience, what it felt like for them, was it a choice or a requirement, etc. It’s weird, now that I think about it, EVERY woman on both sides of both of our families has changed their name to their husband’s. would make for an interesting documentary….

      • Tristen

        That never occurred to me until I realized the final change was only three weeks away… now I feel like one of those high school girls with a crush rewriting her name all over her binder. I am literally practicing. The good thing is, the last letter of my old name is the first letter if my new name, so that’s a start.

        But, gah!

  • Molly

    This conversation has been amazing and open and impressively free of judgment. So I hope the rant I feel compelled to share isn’t read as a flame… it’s really not. It’s an entirely semantic rant, which I think this crowd will appreciate, and it’s something that has been brewing in my head pretty much since the moment people started talking to me about whether or not I would keep my “maiden name.” I hate the term “maiden name.” I desperately wish we could banish it from existence, and I would love it if Team Practical would help me out with that. “Maiden name” means “the name you had when you were a virgin.” Which now you are not of course, because now you are married. Maiden = virgin, it’s right there in the OED. Continuing to call it a “maiden name,” in 2010, is troublesome. I know that some people are virgins when they get married, and that is entirely up to them, but statistics tell us that a resounding majority of American women (and Canadians and Western Europeans) have sex before they get married. I think if we could divorce the language of marriage and marriedness from the language of sex and sexuality, that would be a wonderful thing for a lot of reasons. So please: call it your unmarried name, call it your family name, call it your given name, call it ANYTHING ELSE. What should sex have to do with it?

    • Anna P

      good call, Molly!

    • Allie

      OED defines maiden name as the surname of a married woman before her marriage. I understand your semantic rant but it’s not wrong to call it a maiden name even if you’re not a virgin.

      • Molly

        Yes, but the OED defines “maiden” as “virgin.” So while yes, absolutely, common usage and therefore the OED defines “maiden name” as “unmarried woman’s name,” my problem is with the words that make up the phrase. No, it is not technically wrong to call the surname of an unmarried woman her maiden name, but it is highly problematic, because of the fundamental implications of virginity rooted in the language. We’re all about challenging the usually unchallenged here at APW, and to me, “maiden name” is something that warrants a challenge.

    • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

      I too hate the term “maiden name.” Even if it is now used to refer to your name prior to marriage, it is an unnecessary and gender-specific perjorative for which there is absolutely no male equivalent — nothing coming even remotely close.

      What about “premarital surname”? I call it my Real Name, but that is partly because I divorced and took it back. Clearly, it can’t be my “maiden” name as I never relinquished it (I kept it during my previous marriage and simply used both my Real Name and my ex H’s surname), I used it during marriage, I continue to use it after marriage and I will keep it as part of my legal and emotional identity for all of my days.

    • jolynn

      Right on! I think “society pages” say nee to mean maiden name–example Jane Doe, nee Smith.

      Way to bring the question of sex in again, patriarchy.

      • Alexandra

        “Nee” is French for “[was] born”. It is gender-specific, being a romance language; the male version is ‘ne’–but doesn’t actually mean ‘virgin’ or ‘unmarried’…

        So maybe Birth Name would be good, but that’s often used for first names, maybe? BirthLast would work on these boards, for sure…

        ;)

    • meg

      Yeah, I really dislike the term maiden name. Less because of it’s virginal implications, but because of it’s connotations. It feels very dismissive – that was your name when you were a little girl, now you are a woman.

      NO. Change or no change, no matter where your name came from, that was your f*cking name. Not your little girl name.

  • http://www.verhext.com verhext

    holy effing comments, Meg.

    not that one can actually read 221 comments, but I’ll add mine…

    I know 4 families who decided on a new name altogether, which I think is super sweet, especially the one who chose “Home” as their new last name.

    I am not changing my name. Though hyphenating so that I have a name that said out loud sounds like “Leaf Arrow” is super tempting, his last name just doesn’t suit me, which is a whole other can of worms — what if your last name reflects your ethnic heritage, and your partners does not? However, hypothetical unborn babies will have his last name because it’s easier to say and match first names with. My brother and sister in law gave the babies middle names that were HER family names (Hazen and Lull, how cute) and she and the babies took my brother’s last name. Lots and lots of thoughtful compromise and variation.

    I’ve already been called Mrs. His Last Name in hotels & a few other situations, it’s TOO BIZARRE. It’s not me, period. I’m not a Mrs (I get crazy when even called ma’am, for cods sake.) And it -is- upsetting and strange and un-level that Mrs. His Last Name is so easily the default.

    There’s a system that’s residual from women-as-chattel where changing one’s name and being known by the mans name was simply what was done, and now, as reflected in the post about Alyssa, women want a process, a ritual, a well thought out meaning behind what they’re doing and why it’s being done.

    We’re smart and self aware and analytical in everything we do, including this. When people don’t honor or respect that by being as thoughtful as we are, it is jarring! (It’s symptomatic of the whole culture, though, think of how easily & without awareness slurs are tossed around i.e. “Oh, I never thought about the word ‘gyp’ as an insult” etc etc etc.)

    • http://www.verhext.com verhext

      ALSO. I would like to note that the FIRST THING out if his father’s mouth when we announced the engagement was “Is she taking your last name?”

      So weird. It’s not even THEIRS, it was changed recently enough at Ellis Island.

  • Carolyn

    I knew that I would change my name to my husband’s solely because I wanted ONE name for our family. I knew families where the wife didn’t change their name, and the introductions always went like this: “This is David and Chase Brown. and Diane Smith.” I didn’t want to be an appendage or give my kids a long hyphenated last name. In so much of life, simple is usually better.

    My husband wasn’t tied to his name at all and we thought about changing his (want to watch your in-laws explode? Tell them their son is going to change his last name.) but it is actually a bit difficult. We also thought about making a mashup of our names, but the one that stuck was the absurd sounding one, of course. Both of our last names are very good examples of each of our backgrounds (we’re steadfastly interfaith and intercountry), so to change either and adopt the other means to lose a bit of one of our cultures to take on the other’s. We’re not into that.

    So I decided to keep my original name for professional purposes, and tack on my husband’s name legally and for personal instances.

    HOWEVER, we will have been married a year in June. I still have my one last name. I just couldn’t let go of it. I come from a large family, and we were defined as a group by our last name. I still want to be part of the group! I’ll change it someday. Probably when I am about 6 months pregnant.

  • Michele

    My own experience was quite similar to yours, Meg, in that I never envisioned myself changing my name upon marriage. I did afford my partner the respect of at least THINKING about it once we decided to get married, although like David, he was perfectly fine with me keeping my name. So I tried his on for size, writing my first with his last, saying it outloud to myself, having others say it outloud and just trying to get a feel for what it’d be like.

    But ultimately, I decided it just didn’t fit. I really, really love my last name. It’s rare and quirky and very, very me. So much so that about half the people in my life use it exclusively when referring to me. My disinterest in giving it up had nothing at all to do with not having brothers and worrying about the longevity of our family name – those are things I truly could not care less about. But it had everything to do with an identity that was 31 years in the making. It also had a little bit to do with me being incredibly lazy and not wanting to deal with the actual process of changing my name.

    And like you, I hoped my partner to take my last name, but he was having none of it. His reasons were very different from mine (he’s ambivalent about his name at best, but did not want to change mostly for reasons relating to the inevitable response that people would have), but I chose to respect them.

    And like you, I also decided that not changing my name immediately upon the conclusion of our wedding didn’t mean I could NEVER change it, if I so wished. IF we have children and I have a change of heart (or if HE has a change of heart), that is an option that is available to us.

    We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

  • peanut

    woah, hot topic! I’ll admit I haven’t read all the comments, but here goes: we’ve already had the legal stuff, and in Cali both men and women are allowed to change their middle and last names. We both have mylast hislast, except for him, mylast is a middle name, and in mine I have a no hyphen double last name.

    I plan on sticking with my “real” name in the professional realm, going by hislast in the social/family world, and the double last name no hyphen legally. I know of many women who do this, and to me it encapsulates all that I hope to be: successful career woman and mother/wife (not that you need to have the same last name to be a good mother/wife, but I prefer the unity that a single last name provides). Our children will have mylast as their middle name.

  • http://stacymaried.blogspot.com Stacy Marie

    Oh Meg thank you so much. Just…thank you! My fiance was really hurt and offended that I didn’t want to take his name, and it has been the hardest conversation to have. I guess I need to force him to have it, because if I change my name just to appease him I will be resentful of it for the rest of my life.

  • Jen

    Meg thanks for opening the discussion. I have to admit I never wanted to change my name, it was never up for discussion. He knew from the beginning how strongly I felt about my identity, with that being said as we got closer and closer the wedding his feelings started to change and even though we aren’t planning on having children at least for the time being, his thoughts on them not having his last name and me not being a part of his family identity, was his only “traditional” requests. It should be said that I’m hispanic and he’s asian, so to me taking on his name was not only a name change, but an entire ethnic identity change. I would no longer be known as ms. x but mrs. y and this presented a total crisis for me. Long story short, it took me over a year of discussions and conversations on the topic and we felt that hyphenation was our best compromise, I did not want to get rid of my name and he was never going to take mine (though I tried and tried to get him to think of that as an option). I know that this choice feels like a cop-out to most but it has worked out for us. For one I get to keep my name professionally and socially but legally we are a family (so we dont have to explain ourselves everytime we’re travelling or legal documents). For us its been the best choice. I really do feel its the most important and personal decisions in the entire wedding planning. Its not something that should be rushed through. As Meg has stated over and over in this blog, a wedding is about the family you both are creating, sometimes that takes compromise on both ends, I say talk to your partner, listen to each other, sometimes we dont know why they feel so strongly on a subject until we take the time to hear each other out.

    I will share one extremely funny experience from our honeymoon. Our travel agent booked our hotel under my name, so for the entire 2 weeks we were there the staff kept addressing him as Mr. Her Last Name….I can’t tell you how great that was to hear for a change! thanks for listening to my long rant. :)

    • Aine

      My Dad occasionally gets mail addressed to “Mr. HerFirstName HisLastName”. I don’t know how he feels about that, but I always got a kick out of it.

  • Jenna

    For some reason I’ve never been that attached to my last name. Am I the only one? I have my dad’s last name, and we were never very close to his family for lots of reasons that I won’t go into. We were, however, close to my mom’s family, who have a dutch last name that starts with Van. (My mother, incidentally, did take my father’s last name. But never really identified with it.) But I always considered myself more one of them, the Van clan, not part of my-dad’s-last-name family. Then I found myself engaged to someone who’s last name also is one of those dutch Van names. So I guess it’s not really that odd that I feel more at home with his last name then I do with my own. I never felt like I was worried about losing my identity or anything because I don’t really identify with the family that my last name comes from anyway. I do identify with the dutch side of my family. So I guess I should feel lucky that my decision to take his name was so much easier than it could have been!

  • Ling

    I really like my husband’s family name and we decided that my name looks good with his. So of the places I could change my name, I did, which for right now is all in my head & on my resumes since the SS office won’t let me change my name as I’m here on a dependent visa, not a work visa. It’s kind of ridiculous. Though to be honest, I still struggle letting go of my name on the resumes I’ve been sending out post-marriage. It’s weird. But we decided that when we have kids, they’d get his family name in English and they’d get my family name in Chinese. I think the fact that I still get to keep my family name in Chinese makes me less attached to my English name, which is just a translation of my Chinese name.

    Just a little extra tid-bit of info: In Chinese culture a woman’s married name is just the husband’s family name + her full name (full name = family name + name) and that’s only when used in formal settings/formal paper work. In everyday life, the woman still goes by her original name and is addressed as either Mrs. [husband's family name] or Ms. [her family name]. Basically the woman never parts with her family name =) Or at least that is what I’ve come to learn.

  • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

    I just don’t see any compelling reason to change my name. So I’m not changing it. As you say, Meg, the option is always open in the future if I do change my mind.

    About the only name-change option I’d be happy with would be for both of us to hyphenate our last names. We already have that domain name registered (without the actual hyphen), and it feels right to refer to our family/household by both names. Our names are short, so this would only result in a 3-syllable, 10-letter last name. I don’t want to hyphenate if he doesn’t, though. Even if we don’t hyphenate our own names, we’ll still refer to our family and household by the hyphenated name — like Jane Smith and Joe Brown make up the Smith-Brown household. Right now I think we’ll give kids the hyphenated name.

    And I really, really, REALLY hate the uneven playing field. It frustrates me so much that women have to agonize over this and defend their decision all the time, but no one ever asks a man “Are you changing your name?” Men don’t talk about how their wife’s name was earlier/later in the alphabet, or was more ethnic/WASPy, or was shorter/longer, or more common/rare, or flowed better/worse with their first name. They very rarely even consider it.

    Even some comments in this thread show how uneven it is: men (if anyone even mentions it) simply reject taking the woman’s name, and it’s an unquestioned final decision, but women almost always at least consider the possibility of taking the man’s name in some form. If a woman refuses to even consider it, it seems disrespectful. And if a man does change his name, it’s a big deal and there’s drama.

    I’m not trying to judge individual people and individual situations, or say it’s right or wrong to change or hyphenate or add or whatever. I don’t know you guys personally, and I absolutely HATE feminist cred pissing contests. I’m not more feminist or better or whatever because I’m not changing my name. I know and respect women who have gone with basically every name option.

    But the unevenness still bugs me.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      i think it’s just the beginning of the shift.

      i know quite a few men who have mulled it over.

      i think i see the reverse in the “uneven playing field”- like you said, the feminist cred pissing contest. when folks know i’ve changed my name, there’s this assumption that i mindlessly, numbly did it- without considering it, or putting thought into it.

    • http://www.soyoureengayged.com Wasabi

      My parents have different names and everyone refers to us as the Smith Doe’s. Like you say, you certainly don’t have to hyphenate to do that.

  • http://www.bearandhoney.net Juliana

    Oh, thank you thank you. I attempted to tackle the name-change thing (Just talking about my personal choice) on my blog last week. It is such touchy territory. You’ve verbalized a lot of what I struggle with.

  • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

    Meg, you’re so right about this. There’s no hurry.

    I was going to use Hislastname socially and Mylastname professionally. Then we went on our honeymoon and we were married and suddenly I realised I wanted to use Hislastname everywhere. It just felt right, even though I saw myself as a keeping my name kinda girl.

    18 months later my brother married his girlfriend Catherine, who took his name i.e. my maiden name. Suddenly it all made sense, I would have hated to have the same forename and surname of my (very lovely!) sister-in-law, I had made the right decision – following my gut :)

  • Persephone

    Maybe the solution is just to drop our last names altogether… like Madonna. :)

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      if i had a name like persephone, i WOULD.

    • Melinda

      Or become just a symbol, like Prince.

  • http://www.soyoureengayged.com Wasabi

    We started this conversation almost four years ago, and just came to a decision together in the last few months. It takes time and lots of talking! My mom kept her maiden name, and while I prefer a common family name for myself, I also know having different names can work well for a family too. (For those worried about kids and school issues if you keep your name: Some will make honest mistakes assuming what your name is, and if you can graciously correct them/ignore it, it will be just fine and they will adapt to it, even kids) If I was in a straight relationship, I bet I would feel differently. But, since I’m marrying a woman, it’s important to me to outwardly show we are part of the same family with a common name that we will share with our future children. It’s also a bit easier to change your name in a same sex relationship. No one has an expectation of what lesbian couples *should* do with their last name. And, my first name will never be dropped out of a formal address because we will be Mesdames Ginger and Wasabi Whatever-name-we-choose. In this way, the playing field is more level. My big hang up was that one of us would be changing and one wouldn’t, and that didn’t fit with my idea of our equitable relationship. It finally came down to either me changing my last to her last (I want to keep my middle, but am not as attached to my last), or both changing to my mom’s maiden. We thought about taking my mom’s maiden alot. We both like the name as well as the idea of us both changing. However, as I work toward my conversion to Judaism, it makes more and more sense to take her Jewish last name as our family name instead of both changing to a Irish Catholic last name. So, I’m changing mine to hers and keeping my middle the same. I think my dad (who loves to call me by my first and middle smushed together) would be more upset if I lost my middle than if I drop the last name we share.

  • mysparethoughts

    Thank you for a very well written post, before we got engaged I was convinced I would keep my name. I’m the youngest of three girls so the family name ends with us (I only have male cousins). Since we have been engaged I’m becoming more and more keen on having his surname. Neither of our surnames are particularly special. The name I’m most attached to is my Mum’s maiden name and I hope we can incorporate it with our children’s names. So I’ll be changing my name because that is what feels right for me.

  • Sara

    Maybe it’s because I wasn’t super fond of my maiden name, but I never even thought about not changing it when I got married. I just think that a family should all have the same name, and hyphenating is cumbersome not just for you but for your children. What happens, then, when your hyphenated daughter grows up and gets married? When do you stop adding more last names to the string? The man could take the woman’s name, I suppose, but there is something to be said for tradition and convention, even if it’s based in “the patriarchy”. It wouldn’t be any less biased if we all switched to taking the woman’s name, and beign wishy-washy about it just makes things confusing. When we all follow the system of taking the man’s name there is no confusion. As for keeping “my own identity”, well first of all I replaced my middle name with my maiden name, so it’s still legally there, and second why is my identity so tied up in what my last name is? I didn’t get to pick my old one in the first place.

    • Roxanne

      Sara, if someone asked you to change your first name how would you feel? Your name, your WHOLE name is part of an identity. And if you choose to change it that’s fine, but is it so hard to undertand why people think of it as part of themselves?
      And maybe it’s not the name, but maybe it is the decsions. Maybe the option to NOT “all follow the sytem” is part of the identity.
      And I don’t necessarily think people are saying the tradition should switch to taking the woman’s name, as much as that it is not mandatory to take the man’s name.
      As for the issue of the kids, what if there are no kids? What if the child with the hyphenated name opts to keep it when they get married? What if they like the fact that they have a piece of each parent with them? I hope that whatever I choose to do with my child’s last name, they can know that I thought throught the descion of what to do about it, and that it wasn’t simply rooted in sexist history. That’s what I hope my child thinks about their last name.

    • Sarah

      I wish you had said “I think MY family should all have the same name” instead of “I think A family should all have the same name.” My family didn’t all have the same name and when I read comments about how someone thinks families SHOULD be, I feel like family diversity is being discouraged.

      • meg

        Amen to that.

  • Kat

    Thanks for this Meg. I just recently blogged on the same issue and have been stewing over the matter a lot lately. My situation is frustrating to say the least and reading about others experiences is helping me process somewhat.

    In my case I have a choice regarding my name, but in a way I don’t have a choice regarding my childrens’ names. I feel angry and powerless about it. You see, my fiance is Egyptian and he wants our children to have dual citizenship. Unfortunately, in Egypt you take your father’s name by law. You cannot even legally change your last name when you come of age. I have spoken with a lawyer about it and she informed me that even if they take another name in the US we would have to have them issued birth certificates with their father’s name on it for them to receive Egyptian citizenship.

    It’s funny, I always wanted to keep my name and have my children share both my name and my husband’s (hyphenation or a combination of the two), but I never thought I would be faced with not having a real choice.

    As much as I want to argue the importance of equality in this matter and push for our children to have a hyphenated name that, in itself, would not be equal. How can I ask him to allow his children to give up their Egyptian citizenship when I would never accept my children not taking American citizenship? The answer is…I really can’t. I still find myself angry about the idea though.

    My respect for my partner and my desire for our relationship to be equal puts me in a position I always considered unequal. Odd, yes? Lol! The problem with all of this is that I am extremely angry about the entire situation. I feel powerless because a portion of my life that I always considered mine to govern has been taken from me by the Egyptian government. My fiancé and I are both activists. He fights for social and political change in Egypt, but you have to choose your battles. Allowing legal name changes is low on the list of priorities for activists here these days.

    …but I always thought I would get a chance to decide and I am in morning over my loss. As it stands now our children will take his last name, which actually consists of five names (five generations of the men’s names in his family), and I will keep my last name. I am saddened by the fact that I won’t share their name, but still do now want to change mine. My name is a part of who I am. I will not compromise my own identity in that way.

    -Kat

    P.S. Sorry this was a REALLY long comment! Cheers to anyone who made it all the way through! =)

    • Melinda

      Kat, thanks for sharing, this is really interesting. I would be terribly frustrated too. I think your kids will learn a lot by the story of the family names and be better for it, especially being raised by activists. Good luck to you!

    • Roxanne

      Thanks for your story Kat! I agree with Melinda. Even if your children aren’t able to have the name you wanted, they can have the knowledge of what was intended to happen, why it didn’t and why it’s an issue.

    • Kyley

      As others have said, thanks for sharing!

      I have three very close friends who’s family names are structured like the one you describe (Mother has one last name, Father & Children have another), and both my friend’s really loved that their moms had different names. The have all said that, because of it, they have felt very free to make their own decision about keeping their names upon marriage.

      One of these friends was married recently, and she said that keeping her father’s last name also felt like an awesome tribute to her mom.

      Anyway, I say all this because, if I were in your shoes I would feel sad too, but the dynamics might set a great example for your future kids!

    • Alexandra

      Wow, that is INtense about the Egypt laws! Best Wishes, sounds like a rough patch to navigate.

  • Brianne

    I’m think I’m really lucky when it comes to changing my name, because this time I get to have a choice in the decision. My mother legally changed her last name while she was pregnant with me in order to pretend she had gotten married and keep her job as a school teacher. (apparently single mothers weren’t looked upon favorably in the South in the late 70s.) So I started off the last name of a man I have still never met.

    Then my mother married my stepfather when I was 9. He adopted me and I ended up with his last name. But he’s a horrible, awful man and she greatly regrets the decisions she made in order to give me a father. So I have his last name though I have not spoken to him since the day I turned 18.

    This time, I get to take the name of someone I love and get to be in a family with. So I’m quite happy to be taking my fiance’s last name.

    • Melinda

      Wow, what a story! I’m so happy you get a name you are happy with!

  • M

    My situation is slightly unusual. My future husband is Italian, and in Italy women do not take their husband’s name….so he thinks it’s weird that I’m considering taking his name……whereas in the UK it’s more or less the norm for the woman to change her surname upon marriage (unless her professional profile may suffer by changing her name – even then, most women would still change their name in their personal life while maintaining their maiden name at work).

    I have a complicated and unusual first name, which combined with his Italian surname risks becoming unwieldy….and my first name pairs well with my current surname so I’m unsure if I want to lose the sound and balance of my name that I am so used to. I think ultimately I will change my name in my personal life and try keeping my name at work for a while to see if the hassle of the dual name thing is worth it.

    One thing that doesn’t seem to have been touched upon much…..I don’t fully see how taking your husband’s surname is any different from keeping your own surname upon marriage at least when it comes to the issue of female identity….since MOST (admittedly not all) women of our generation were given their father’s surname at birth, this means that either option means a continuation of the male line with the female line giving way to the male (either the mother’s name giving way to the father’s, or the bride’s name to the groom’s). The only equitable and simple solution would be the Spanish one as it sets a cap on the double-barrel confusion (never more than 2 surnames).

    • ddayporter

      well, that’s a good point about the female identity issue. however I think when you are named as a baby, it is not just your dad’s name anymore, it is your name, and you own it through adolescence and into adulthood. for some it is a negative connection to a father they don’t like/don’t know, but for many there may not be any negative or positive feeling about the origin of the name, it’s just YOURS. so when the question is to-take-his-name or to-keep-your-name and never will-he-change-his-name, I think it’s oversimplifying things to say that keeping your name is the same as taking his name.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        ditto dday.

        it’s not “my dad’s name” that girls are worried about giving up- it’s the identity wrapped up in the life they’ve led while bearing that name.

        that’s exactly why i’m ok with taking on my husband’s tho- because i know once i take on his name, it’ll be MY name. my identity isn’t in what people call me.

      • Roxanne

        “I think when you are named as a baby, it is not just your dad’s name anymore, it is your name”

        This is exactlly what I was going to say. The meaning changes and it is your name know. Similar to when family names are passed on. John the Third would take the name on as his own, even though it’s his father’s right?

    • meg

      It’s not my dad’s name, it’s my name. It’s my name, and it was the name of my grandmother (who took it when she married, and was SO proud of it) who I loved and very much respected. I want to keep the name she loved. And the name my mom chose to take and love. And my sister has. My dad gave up it being “his” name a long time ago, if it ever was his.

      And yes. I think the Spanish system is by far the best

      • Sarah Beth

        I wish I did feel this way. (that it was MY name, and not my dad’s) But the truth is, it just doesn’t feel that way. Our branch of the family tree is a dead end, as far as father-to-child naming. I’m the only child. None of my dad’s siblings had kids, and his dad didn’t have any nieces or nephews, so I’m it. Dad and I are the only ones with that surname. And my parent’s marriage ended very badly. They are now both remarried.

        So, really, my last name just feels like his name, and his mark on me. I am very anxious to get rid of it, and I don’t feel that I will be losing “my” identity. In fact, I’m choosing it. I’m choosing to identify with my husband and not my father.

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    WOW. Lots o’comments. I have not changed my name. Yet. Probably when we have kids. Which may be soon. The main reason I have not is becuase I didn’t want to. That simple. Also in my line of work my patients and colleagues know me by my name and there are many legal documents that would need to be changed. When we do change names we have decided to be “first name my name his name” and we are both doing it. Dumping the middle names. It is something that we are both comfortable with.

  • Michael

    I know a couple who sidestepped a lot of the issues by picking a completely unrelated non-family name that they liked and both changed it to that. I have always liked this plan.

    • Jillian

      My cousin and her husband did this. Eyebrows raised at first and then it was forgotten.

  • M

    wow, spooky – as I finished writing my comment (now a few below yours!) I refreshed the page to find that you wrote the same thing at exactly the same time….

    • Sarah A

      I always just assumed that I would take my future spouses last name. My mom didn’t change her name, which until recently I found out was basically out of spite because my dad liked his name better, and my fiance’s mom and sister hyphenated and didn’t change their names (respectively). My future hubby doesn’t understand why I would even want to change my name. But I do. I want the same name as my kids, and although probably a very unpopular view here, I like the tradition of taking the man’s last name (daggers shooting into my head from readers…i know).

      But what I’ve really decided is that i’m doing first, middle, my last name, his last name, no hyphen. And I decided it on my own, with no pressure from him. He would probably only react if I told him I was changing it to Cat Woman or something like that. I don’t think i’ve thought about this as much as some of you, but I hope that everyone can make the decision free from pressure. We are the ones that will have to sign it over and over again.

      Also…I get a little giddy at the grocery store when people call me Mrs. Hislastname.

      • Bee

        Haha! Your comment about your fiance only reacting if you changed your name to Cat Woman made me smile! I’m reminded of the episode of Friends where Phoebe went to change her name, and upon discovering that she could change it to anything she wanted she changed it to Princess Consuela Bananahammock, so Mike changed his name to Crap Bag in retaliation! Love it!

      • Marisa-Andrea

        I did the same thing :-)

      • Arachna

        The other option to wanting the same name as your kids is to give them your name, it doesn’t necessitate changing it. Not that I think you should or have to do that! I just get frustrated when this reason keeps showing up and keeps showing up and the idea of giving the kids your given name never ever gets discussed. I wish it would be considered.

        • Arachna

          grrr, I can’t seem to figure out the reply function.

        • Elphie

          I wish it would be considered too! Maybe in the next generation…

  • Jillian

    I have no attachment to my last name. It is long and annoying. It has ben mispronounced my entire life. My fiancee’s last name is shorter,easier to pronounce, and still Italian like mine. So I’m going for it. What I’m having trouble with is my professional name. I am a first grade teacher and the kids call me Ms.C. My fiancee’s last name starts with an A. It makes me so sad to think of not being “Ms.C” anymore! It’s a huge part of my identity now. Way more than my full last name. I think even after my last name changes I’ll remain Ms.C.

  • KD

    I’m pretty sure in 1980, Kristy or some variation of it was in the 10 most popular names – at least in my area. I went to school with what seemed like 100 girls named Christy, Kristie, Kristi… etc. Throughout my entire life I was always refered to as Kristy Lastname. It flows like 1 name – people say my full name now even that there is only one other Kristy at my office. Or – Some people even just call me by my last name rather than my first.

    I also have a VERY, VERY uncommon last name that is a constant conversation starter. By that fact and the fact it’s used so much, I have always felt much more attached to my last name. As it is, I would actually be much more inclined to change my first name than my last. It was never a question that I would NOT change my name… I will have been Kristy D about 30 years when we get married, and I just think it would be odd to change it now.

    At first my bf was kind of shocked, but is super great about it now. We discussed it years before getting engaged, and now he supports my decision and completely gets it. At first though he was concerned because he knows no one who didn’t change their name besides my friends and thought people would think it meant something was wrong, like I was bracing for divorce. Now he fully understands where I am coming from and explains my decision to his friends/family who are where he was a few years ago. <3

    I also for 9 years have exclusively called him by his last name (when we met he lived with another Brian and a Ryan). Most people call him by that rather than his first name. I think of his last name as his first name – my friends giggle when we talk about how silly it would sound if I took his last name (like Kristy hisfirstname). Not that that's the reason… but it's extra incentive to not even consider the change.

  • http://www.silvercharmevents.com Liz Coopersmith

    After 299 comments, I’m coming a little late to the game, but since I promised I’d have your back, Meg, here I am.
    My personal opinion is that the only people it really matters to are you and him, so, yes, it starts with what YOU TWO are comfortable with, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. They’ll get used it, and/or they’ll move along.
    I decided to change my last name for a couple of reasons. Truthfully, the first was that I thought it would be easier to spell than my birth name. The second was that it made my mom finally feel like she could change back to HER birth name, after being divorced from my dad for almost 30 years. Irony? No one can spell “Coopersmith”. “Coppersmith.” “Cooper-Smith” My FIL made a speech about it at our wedding, and people laughed. I thought he was kidding. Nope. Second bit of irony? My full married name, “Elizabeth Coopersmith”? RHYMES. Sigh.
    But I would never question anyone’s choice in that regard, because it’s none of my business, just like what I chose to do is none of theirs. Judge not lest you be judged. I think it says that in a book somewhere.

  • Morgan

    Great post- as someone who recently received monogramed crystal waterford champagne glasses from her future mother in law (with fiancee’s last name) I can relate. I’m not changing my name, I love my name, it’s my mother’s last name, and has a tons of history. I also unfortunatly can’t hyphenate my name with anything- it’s complicated. My fiancee has no feelings on the matter, I don’t think he ever expected me to change my name. Recently I’ve been thinking of taking his last name as my third name (which is currently my fathers’s) just so we have so legal name relation. If we have kids I would love to have them have my last name but that’s battle that we’ll have to cross when we get to it. He looked at me a little crosseyed when I suggested it but as someone who grew up with their mother’s last name I don’t see why its a big deal. I think people should just do what they feel is right- if you love your name and its important to your identity, keep it. I’ve also heard the arguement that you didn’t pick your father but you did pick your husband- so take his name :).

  • Nicole

    We just don’t use last names. At the wedding, it was always Chet & Nicole! And, we still use that. It works for us for now. We’ll see what happens if/when kids come along.

  • Anicka

    For me, the decision to keep mine and take his name was easy – I see it as a clear sign, that I’m now part of both families, and that’s just one reason.

    Now, in Slovakia, where we’re both from, the law specifies that if you’re keeping your name, his name has to come first, there can be no hyphen (and I happen to like hyphens- it turns two surnames into one)….and (this is the fury-inducing part), you have to take the female form of his name. The female form is formed by adding -ova to the end (as a bonus, NameOva literally means ‘property of Name’).

    So instead of the quite nice Anna HisName MyName, I ended up with Anna HisNameOva (in other words HisMother’sName) MyName (of course, also ending in -ova)….a long, impractical and not a very nice name.

    However, I went with it, because it was better then just taking his name or just keeping my name….and I keep hoping one day I’ll be able to get rid of the -ova.

    Also, as many people here, I’m (hopefully) soon going to publish for the first time…and still have no idea what name I want to use for that. So the surname saga continues…

    • http://www.verhext.com verhext

      Holy cow, this kind of relates to my comment. But PROPERTY OF? I’d be losing my mind.

      • Anicka

        Heh, from an outsider’s point of view, it seems pretty horrible. But it’s really a question of tradition at this point – no one sees anything behind it (I hope). And to be absolutely precise, there is a slight difference between the possessive -ova and the the female surname ending -ová, which I totally forgot about yesterday…that’s pretty embarrassing and what happens to you when you live abroad long enough. Though I’m pretty sure it’s only for rhythm purposes (á is pronounced longer than a).

        Anyway, it’s pretty annoying that we don’t have a choice. Even the possibility of having two surnames is a pretty recent thing in Slovakia (since 2001).

  • Fitz

    This is the best name change thread ever!

    I kept my name. I never wanted to change it, and, to be petty, I don’t like my husband’s last name. It wasn’t a big deal for my husband (he admits my last name is nicer, but wouldn’t change his name because his family would be hurt).

    My two biggest surprises were 1) my 80 year old grandmother encouraging my husband to take my name (for serious! I was delighted) and 2) how irritated I am when I get called Mrs. His. I didn’t think it would bother me at all, but it does. My husband’s family and friends all address things to Mr. and Mrs. His, and instead of letting it roll off my back as envisioned, it drives me crazy.

    While we’re on the topic, can I make a confession? I get a little peeved when male partners weigh in on women changing or keeping their names. I understand the cultural/sociological context, and I understand talking about your choice with your partner as you create your family, but – for me – I just feel uncomfortable with the idea that anyone besides you should have a say in something as personal as your name. (I know not everyone thinks of names this way. I think it stems from my dad having guilted my mom into changing her name. She is happy with her married name, but I’ve always kind of resented his interference on her behalf.)

  • Amy

    Wow the comments! I am in an interesting situation as I debate this several months out from my wedding. I never knew what I’d want to do when the time came. I have talked to my fiance about it, he says it would be nice if I took his name but he understands if I don’t want to. I would probably just take it without much other thought, but his last name is the kind of last name that kids get made fun of for (even though it is still rather common where we come from). It has a dirty word as part of it, and the rest of the name makes the dirty part sound even worse! I even had a conversation with his mom (who took the name when she married his father) and his aunt (who had the name growing up) and they had lots of funny things to say such as “it is character building” and “you know you don’t have to take it!” But my kids will still have this name because that is important to him and I am not opposed. So maybe I should too so we can all be in this together!

    On another note, in the city where I live women are very open to taking the name, not taking the name, using the name socially but not legally, etc. I think there is an entire new category of women being uber laid back about it all.

  • Bonnie

    My situation is a compromise. Im taking my husband’s last name when we get married…just because I have never felt uncomfortable about doing it and I will be actually proud to take it. In saying that, I have been publsihed under my maiden name and for that reason I will definitely keep my maiden name for anything I write before and after marriage. That is a very important thing to me.

  • lola

    I’ve pretty much always said I was going to keep my last name (it’s a awesome polish one, with w’s and z’s), and have been pretty happy that the Mr. is cool with it. He even assumed that we were going to rotate future kids between my name and his name. Although we aren’t, it was a sweet idea.

    That being said, the biggest fight we’ve ever gotten into was when we were talking about it over dinner and he said that was was cool with “allowing” me to keep my last name. OMG, the storm that erupted from that statement. I know that’s not what he meant, (he meant to say he’s cool with it being my decision) but wow-the word ‘allow’ was just horrible and I said so.

    My other reason for keeping my last name? I’m in my mid-30’s now, and instead of all my friends/co-workers getting married like it was out of college and my mid-20s-the divorces are coming. As in 5 in the past year, and 8 in the last 18 months. And each one of those the wife changed her name back, which caused so much stress and pain. Some of them were congratulated on getting married when their names changed back. Some of them met the new Mrs. Hislastname during custody change overs and it was rough on them. I don’t believe that’s in my future, but all of those situations really freaked me out, and convinced me keeping my last name was right for me.

  • Lisa

    Wow! I skimmed through the latter comments, but I kept this window open all day at work.

    My fiance and I are both hyphenating. I was not interested in changing my name ( I LOVE my name), and I certainly wasn’t about to be the only one hyphenating. Personally, I really like long, weird names. We’re imaginative people and our new name expresses that. It’s got whimsy. It’s got style! For our anniversary, I bought him a rubber bookplate with our new name on it, and he bought me beautiful stationary with the same name at the top. It was quite funny, but we’re both really excited about it.

    In the end, the future kids are going to have to go through the same soul-searching we did. We’ll give them our crazy hyphenated name, and more power to them if they choose Smith in the end. I just can’t burden my present self with the expectations of imaginary future babies.

    In the end, you gotta follow your heart and do what’s right for you, but I have to say, I really don’t get all the hyphen hate! It is really just a tiny little dash.

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  • KristieB

    Wow. I’ve had zero time to read through the hundreds of other responses (which I will assume are awesome, thoughtful, etc).

    The name issue came up with us years and years before we got engaged. David always just thought his wife would take his name because that’s what people did. Well…then he met someone who has to debate everything…even when she is for something (I need to know WHY I am for something).

    I could go on and on about why I was damn sure I would never ever change my name or ever become a “Mrs.” Reason 1: My mom added on my dad’s last name when they got married. This was something she never wanted to do. She also wanted her kids to have both last names…and that never happened. Fast forward 15 years to when they split and she had to go through the pain-in-the-ass-ness of removing the extra name (some of her stuff still has my dad’s name on it). Reason 2: Not an even playing field. Ya. That pisses me off. If dudes ended up with a different title when they got hitched, maybe I wouldn’t hate Mrs. Actually, I probably would because Mrs. sounds old like Ma’am. Reason 3: I like my name. I didn’t as a kid. I used to hate my really boring/ common name. A part of this was that my last name linked me to my ginormous dysfunctional well-known family. I’ve come to terms with all of that and now really like what my name connects me to. I don’t want to have to go through all of that with a new name.

    Name changing is something super-duper personal. Both of my besties changed their name when they got hitched and I support that. It would be nice to have a family name and be known as “the LastNames,” but I’m totally not cool that it has to be “the HISLastNames.”

    Anyway, when we did have the discussion, I asked D “how would you feel about changing your name?” He was like “uuhhhh…no.” So, I said “now you know how I feel.” We talked a lot about hyphenating, but neither of us felt like doing all the paperwork. In the end, we decided that we would both stay as we are and our dogs/kids/other creatures would have a combined/ possibly hyphenated version of our last names (both very anglo, short and starting with a B). chances are, our kids, just like us will be called “FirstName B” just like we both were growing up (in fact, I have school-friends that actually thought “Bee” was my last name).

    The whole thing is ultra personal, like naming your kid after your dad or “Sparkles.” I mean, should we say there is a “right way?” Is there a “right way” to get married? Chill out, talk about things, then move.

  • http://hegotdownononeknee.blogspot.com/ Angela

    I’m planning to take my fiance’s name although did struggle with this decision.

    The reasons I don’t want it:
    I’m not particularly proud of the rest of his family
    I didn’t want to have the same name as his mum
    I love love love my name as it is
    I didn’t want to feel that I had ‘submitted’ and ‘done the dutiful’.

    The reasons I do want it:
    I want to be the “HisNames” (as in me and him, not his extended family)
    I don’t want people to assume we aren’t married
    I don’t want administrative complications.

    So I’ve decided I will take his second name but will add my current surname as a middle name (I don’t have a middle name now). My current surname is a male Christian name so in a way I will still have an unusual name.

    I’m trying looking at it that I’m not taking his family’s name, I’m taking his name because I want to be associated with him, not his family.

  • Eat Broccoli

    I would like to share a story of a family I knew growing up. When Mom and Dad got married (before they had kids) Mom did not change her last name. They had kids ( kids were given father’s last name), and as those kids grew older and reached their tween/teen years they approached their parents about the different last name their mother had. They explained that while they knew they were a family, the kids wanted the whole world to know too. The children then asked their mother if she would change her last name to her husband’s ( the dad’s last name) so the whole family would have the same last name. She changed her last name.

  • Red

    It’s great that women feel like they have the choice to keep their name or take their husband’s name, but it makes me sad that alternative ‘family’ names seem to be such a non-starter. Both me and my fiance’s mothers kept their names, but we want to have a family name. We have 4 to choose from, and right now we’re pretty set on taking my mom’s last name. I think this works nicely because he would have a hard time taking my dad’s name (just because my dad’s difficult), and I would have a hard time taking his dad’s name (for feminist reasons), but choosing one of our mothers’ names is non-threatening (and it’s a nice name). This way we’re both changing our names, but honoring our families and creating something new together.

  • http://birdcageblog.wordpress.com Audrey

    This is a really interesting discussion for me although I live in Iceland and we don’t have family names.
    My name in english would be something like Audrey* MyFathersFirstName’sdaughter. I was thinking how fortunate we are not to have this kind of trouble with taking up another name but realised that I have a problem with our system too. I think it’s really unfair that my children are automatically Winston’s*son or Winstonsdaughter. They’re just as much Audrey’sson/daughter. Some feminists have taken both their parents names and my mother was thinking of giving me her name instead of my dad’s which was in the late 80’s. So I talked to my fiancé about this earlier today (while trying to keep up with all the comments!) and we decided to give our daughter(s) his name and our son(s) mine. Thank you so much, Meg, for bringing up this subject. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have thought about it till I had children and it’s so good to get things like this out of the way beforehand.
    I do think the double barrelled spanish way is the best solution yet though.

    *name translated to english ’cause most of you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it!

    • meg

      I HAVE A READER IN ICELAND????

  • jane.girl

    I just wanted to say I just got married and I took his name and just added it to mine. No hyphen, just Name Middle MyLast His Last. I figure academically I can go by mine, socially by his and people who are actually respectful enough to care will probably address me by the real name which is Mrs. MyLast HisLast. (and if we have kids they can have his name – something he felt strongly about and I figure I have my dad’s name and it worked out fine for me so why not let my kids have their dad’s name). Just my two cents. Everyone is so amazing and here’s hoping you all find the solution that is perfect for you.

  • Corinne

    I haven’t read all the other comments, so if this is repetitive I apologise. I guess I’m lucky, but this is something I haven’t given 2 seconds thought to. I am changing my name, simple as that, I never thought I wouldn’t. For a few reasons 1) I like my fiancee’s last name and the family it belongs to, 2) I won’t have to spell my name all the time! and 3) I don’t like the family my name belongs to. I would have probably changed my name years ago to my mother’s maiden name, but I was lazy and she has now remarried and changed her name again anyway. I guess I just dont put that much emphasis on a name (sorry I know that some people do) and I’m planning on avoiding the Mrs problem by insisting that everyone calls me Dr :) (just kidding).

    The kids issue and names didn’t really cross my mind either, but then I’m not sure I even want them and let me tell you when you tell other woman that you don’t want children it is worse than anything the wedding industry can throw at you, but that’s another story!!

  • CCK

    Hi Meg,
    Thanks for writing on this; it’s exciting to read so many opinions on this topic. I was born with a hyphenated name. All the women in my mother’s generation kept their names when they married; my father actually offered to take my mother’s name when they married (and it was the 70s, no less!), but, believing that there would be a loss of autonomy on both ends if that happened, my mother suggested that they both keep their own names and my brother and I would have hyphenated names.

    To be honest, growing up, there were many times when I really wished I didn’t have a hyphenated name, especially when I was a young kid. I teach in Women, Gender and Sexuality studies now, but when I was seven, all I really knew was that my name was different, hard to pronounce, and it made filling out standardized test forms a pain in the neck. I didn’t know anyone else with a hyphenated name until I was in tenth grade, and I think, even on a silly, tertiary level, my name somehow may have signaled my peers to that my family was “different.” And in many ways, that’s the whole point behind hyphenating your name and hyphenating your childrens’ names. You want to give a public link between a very private goal of having a family that is based on values of autonomy, equality and the love that links them. You want to signal that your family is trying its best to be “different” from a long history of patriarchal familial structures. For many people (including my awesome parents) the hyphen symbolized just that.

    But it’s also just a punctuation mark. Now I’m at the point where I am with my life partner and we are starting to discuss how we are going to commit ourselves to a future together. But, even if we never have children together, our life, and the way we name it, will be about a family, not just two individuals. And I think this is what really has to change about the discourse of how we name ourselves when we decide to make these life commitments — it is never about you taking your partner’s name or your partner taking yours. It’s about how you will name your family. And even though I love my hyphenated name, I think this is perhaps something my parents did not really consider. Because it’s hard to imagine that moment when your adult child has a fantastic, egalitarian hyphenated name — and still faces the same issues of creating and fairly naming a new family of their own thirty-ish years later. I’m still faced with the problem of how I’m going to linguistically identify not only my love for my partner, but also my autonomous membership within the family we’re building. Welcome to post-hyphen America!

    In short, I grew up in an amazing family that was built on the same love, hope and idealism that drives feminism. But this would have happened even if I didn’t have a hyphenated name. No matter what I name my future family, I have faith that I’ll be able to lay a similar foundation for them. And considering all the intelligent discussion I’ve seen here on this topic, I think this applies for everyone on Team Practical.

    • CCK

      Sorry, I know it’s probably gauche to comment on one’s own status, especially since there are already so many voices on this thread, but there were also a lot of advantages to growing up with a hyphenated name. I didn’t really go into them, because I didn’t want to sound all high-and-mighty against regular “binomials.” But it’s been really wonderful having my name that is a true reflection of both my mother and my father. And for whatever challenges I might now face in forming the name of my own family, I don’t think I’d trade having that sense of identity while growing up for the whole world.

  • Jamie

    My fiance and I just talked about this. He’s letting me do what I want. Our kids will have his last name because future father in law is worried about the last name carrying on and I don’t care (plus, I have a brother who can “carry on” my father’s last name).

    He told me that guys he works with get teased when someone finds out their wives didn’t change their names when they got married. When I asked him if that bothered him, he said it didn’t. When I asked why it wouldn’t, he said “Because fuck them, that’s why.” He also said that if they teased him, he’d direct them my way so that they could receive a verbal ass kicking (which sort of makes me sound like I’m some kind of pushy bitch)

    He totally gets why I would have struggle with it. When we were talking about it, I said “This might sound stupid but…” and then he finished my sentence with exactly what I was going to say. He gets it, and doesn’t care if I want to keep my name, take his, hyphenate, take my current last name as a middle name and use his last name as my last name. Because we’re still husband and wife, no matter how I sign my checks. And it makes me love him even more.

  • Christine

    Why does there need to be a hyphen? What about James Van Der Beek? That dude totally does not have to hyphenate. My betrothed (who is not JVDB, btw) and I are both planning to change our names legally to a double, non-hyphenated last name.

    Half of his siblings have both of their biological parents’ last names, and the other half (my guy included) have only their dad’s last name. So we’re both going to add his mother’s last name.

    We want to have the same name, for family-unity purposes, but I also think it’s only fair that he should have to go through a name transition, even if it’s not huge. Also, although I am a hardcore egalitarian, I also get kind of giddy-swoony about being a Mrs.-husband’s first husband’s last. Could be because I’ve come from a long line of nuclear families with virtually no divorce, and all the feminist women still taking their husbands’ names, though.

    Luckily, he’s always been jealous of his dual-surnamed sibs, and I don’t want to add anything to my name (it’s a long Polish ridiculousness, and I love it, but I don’t need him to love it).

    Just wanted to rep as someone who is so.totally.stoked. to be a Mrs., while also being weirded out to lose her family name.

    First-post, long-time reader! Whoo!!!

  • Lauren

    I think that the crux of the matter, for me, is that I have never felt any particular ownership of my last name. I always knew (sort of) that I would change it, but really… even my first name doesn’t have a big attachment for me, and I tried to change it several times growing up, only to be told by my mother that she had given me my name and I was keeping it. And of course, at 22, changing my first name would be impractical, as everyone who has ever known me knows me by that name, and I can’t tell the whole world. And my fiancé loves my first name, so it stays.

    The idea of taking his last name was a “duh” decision for me. I don’t have any real attachment to mine, and he has a huge attachment to his. I’ll be the only Mrs. HisLastName, because his father died when he was a child, and his mother has her new(er) husband’s last name. His older brother’s wife kept her name. His younger brother might have a wife take his name someday, but maybe not. Honestly, he may decide to take his step-dad’s name, because he didn’t know his father well at all before he died. So for now, I don’t share a name with any of the women in his family. I don’t know that it would make a difference to me either way if I did, but I know that the fact that I will be the only one makes a difference to him. He feels very strongly about passing on the family name, and knows that although his mother and father had three sons, he is the only one who will probably have children to pass the name to.

    Honestly, I’m sort of scared that I might offend my feminist mother because she went with HerFirst HerLast HisLast, keeping her maiden name as her middle name and dropping her given middle name. I’m sure she assumes that I’ll do the same, but honestly, my middle name is the only name I have that I really love the sound of, and I’m not giving it up– even though it has never been a name I used to identify myself. I just like it as a name.

    I suppose it’s another example of how I connect to my world differently from the way a lot of people do. I am not my name. My name does not define me. I define me, and my actions define me, and I feel like those will be the same regardless of how people address mail they send to me, and the people who care about me will know that I am still a strong, intelligent woman who believes in equality and fairness for everyone. I can see how people who connect strongly with their own names might have trouble giving them up, and am glad that you aren’t required to. I’m also glad that I am given the option, because it would have been a huge hurdle for my fiancé, emotionally, if I hadn’t. Not because that’s just how things are done, but because he honestly wants to share a name with me, and he could never give up his father’s name.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

      Hear hear!

    • meg

      But not changing your name is not about letting your name define you. It is about making your own choices in the world. Look, talk about name not defining you: I changed my middle name and nickname I went by as a child, for very complicated personal reasons. That makes me totally unwilling (even aside from the other issues) to change my last name. I don’t want to die with a name that is totally different from the name I was born with.

      So, I think maybe the decision is often way more complex than you are giving it credit for.

  • Erin

    My fiance already has a hyphenated last name and the amount of problems this adds to our decision is enough for me to vow that I will never give my children a hyphenated name. So his name is HISDADSNAME-HISMOMSNAME and my last name is HERDADSNAME (although my mother kept her last name). So in discussions about what to do with our names we have a million issues.

    1. If we choose his name, do we take all of it – and then are children (and me) carry on both of his family names, but none of mine – way too weird – everyone would figure those were our names hyphenated.
    2. If we pick one of his names we have to choose one – eeek.
    3. Almost all of our discussions don’t involve my mom’s name – wtf?
    4. I love my name.
    5. Even though I am kinda OK with us keeping our own names – I am officially the anti-hyphenated name for kids – so we still have to figure out what our kids will be named.

    When my fiance asked his parents about what they had envisioned happening when he got married the reply was basically “not our problem – do what you want”. That really pissed me off because it just felt so lazy – they obviously felt that names were valuable enough to keep both of them, but when their child was faced with an even bigger issue (now that three names are essentially in the mix) they just bagged out.

    So I offer this advice to those of you who are thinking about keeping your names and giving your children hyphenated ones – Imagine if your fiance’s name was already hyphenated – what would you do? Because that is what your kids will have to deal with later on – and if they are anything like us the choice will not be so easy.

  • Michele

    Oh, and while my husband and I both retained our original last names, the vast majority of our friends refer to us as ‘The My Last Name’s” socially.

    Which cracks me up.

  • Melissa

    I want him to take my name and he won’t. If I google my last name, there are maybe ten of us in the United States. His last name is probably one of the top five last names in the country. After reading this, I’m all worked up about it. I want my kids to have my name. My branch of MyLastName is dying with me otherwise. We don’t know the other MyLastNames that are out there.

  • http://www.365daysdonnaclarisse.blogspot.com Donna

    I’ve read most of the comments but not all of them because there were well over 300 comments when I started reading this post!!

    Until marriage became a real possibility for me, I had always assumed that I’d take my husband’s last name. Then marriage became a likelihood and I struggled with the issue.

    I love my surname, mostly for superficial reasons ie it sounds pretty with my first name and I wanted to keep it. My fiance wants me to take his last name for a lot of the reasons that other commenters have already listed as reasons why they took their husband’s names but is more than happy with me hyphenating or simply adding his last name to my own.

    Reading the posts above mine made me realise that my identity is mostly wrapped up in my first & middle names. I was named after each of my parents and have my father’s surname. My family calls me by my middle name but everyone else calls me by my first name, probably because that’s how I was enrolled at school. So taking my fiance’s surname and not keeping my current surname won’t really affect how I perceive my identity. My reasons for wanting to keep my surname at all are mostly superficial and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that.

    Interestingly, my parents are divorced and my mum kept Dad’s surname because she liked it and also to have the same name as her children. She’s recently remarried and is now using Dad’s surname professionally (because that’s how she’s been known for years) and Hermaidenname-Husband’slastname socially. I don’t know whether she’s “officially” changed her name yet.

    I still have some thinking & discussing with my fiance to do before I reach a decision but wanted to say thanks to Meg & to all the other posters for sharing your experiences & thoughts on the issue because it’s really helped to clarify my own views on the matter :)

    • http://www.365daysdonnaclarisse.blogspot.com Donna

      I should add that my initial preference is to add his name to mine, but after reading this post and the comments, I’m considering taking his last name and not keeping mine – for the same reasons that have been listed by many of the other posters (wanting to share a name, wanting a name to represent our new family etc)

  • http://www.kellyoshiroevents.com/blog Kelly Oshiro

    I’m on the same page as you are, it was never even an option, or even discussed, that I would change my name. My mother never did, and there was such a stigma of being “owned” by my husband if I took his name. Anyway, when I was growing up, there was my mom’s last name (which happens to be more first name), my last name (my dad’s) and my stepdad’s. It led to a lot of confusion (and some hilarious mail for fictitious people) but I’m ok with my future kids having just my husband’s name.

    • http://www.kellyoshiroevents.com/blog Kelly Oshiro

      As a side note, our friends joking refer to us a The Fischiro’s which cracks me up.

  • marjani

    Honestly, I’ve known for a long long time that I was not going to take my husband’s name. I have decided that I will be Mrs. My last name (as opposed to Ms.). As for the kids…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Fiance is okay with it, his father however comes up with a new reason I should take his name each time we talk to him.

    I’ve gotten the most surprised reactions at my job from some of the older ladies I work with. But they got over it pretty quickly.

  • kari

    Growing up i never thought i woudl get married, let alone change my name. However, that all changed and i have now done both. I took my husbands name as it was important to him and i wasn’t that fussed with my old name (its very common and technically isn’t even my proper name- my dad has his changed by his mum when he was 9). I didnt feel the attachment to it even though i have a PhD and publications in it. I found it easy enough to change and people are starting to get used to it. I like feeling like i am being linked to my husband and feel my first name is my identity, rather than my last.

  • Mary

    I think I would’ve given it more thought if I hadn’t always been pretty ambivalent about my maiden name. Also, I love the flow of my name with my husband’s surname. I’d always hoped for some sort of awesome sounding Irish or Scottish surname from my future spouse since I feel far more connected to that portion of my ancestry than my very English maiden name (wouldn’t Mary O’Shea or Mary MacAskill sound awesome? I’ll pass on my ancestor’s name of Mary McGarry though).. but my new seemingly made-up-in-Tennessee one will suffice. Plus, I cut 5 letters out of my signature which is mighty convenient.

    Yes, with my relatively new name of Mary Cyrus, I definitely get a lot of cracks about a certain pop star, but I take it gracefully. I grew up with a million weak nursery rhyme jokes about my first name, as well as my boring last name (the town I lived in was the same as my surname; everyone found that way more amusing than I could comprehend). I’m used to it.

    When I dated guys before my husband, they were certainly never in the run for marriage, but I still daydreamed about whether I would take their name if I hypothetically married them one day. The answer was generally a resounding, “Probably not.” I’m not sure if that was inspired more by my indifference toward the relationships, or by the moderate ickiness of their surnames.

    As for hyphenating your kids’ names, obviously I won’t make any judgments on your (or anyone else’s) decision in that realm. I will just make the observation that the majority of my friends and acquaintances that were given hyphenated names at birth have dropped one or the other of their names once they reached adulthood. I’m not sure what percentage of those people have divorced parents, and that certainly may play a role if they’re not fond of one of their parents. It may also just be because their hyphenated names were pretty clunky. “Carlsen-Landy”, “Clarish-Patterson”, “Lang-Turner”, etc.

  • Amanda

    Wow, first of all thank you so much Meg for posting this!

    When I got engaged I assumed that I would take my husband’s last name and drop mine. My last name is fairly common and I thought it would be fun to have a more unique last name. And I liked the idea of having the same last name as my future kids.

    So that’s what I did…and then I had some serious buyer’s remorse (still do have, really). All of a sudden I realized how much my name meant to me now that it was “gone.” So while my name is legally changed, I have kept my maiden name at work (the professional life that I’ve built for myself) and on my personal email address. For me, that gives me my old identity but also a shiny new one that connects me to my husband. Sometimes I think about having it added with a hyphen, but the thought of the paperwork and process is overwhelming, and I do really like the sound of my new name.

    And our first child is going to have my maiden name as their middle name….which was my wonderful husband’s idea that I love. (Incidentally, he didn’t care either way what I did with my name, so all the doubt / worry came entirely from within my brain.)

    And one last rant…I HATE when I get mail addressed to “Mrs. Husband’s Full Name.” (Which always comes from my husband’s family) I refuse to open it. Refuse.

  • http://kristythecoffeegirl.blogspot.com Kristy

    Wow. I’ve had this tab open all day and just now read through most of the comments. It was at 353 when I refreshed the page to read it, but there’s no telling where it is now. Anyway.

    I have a question. Since when (in the US) can you only have 3 names (first middle last)? I know it’s customary to have 3 names in the US (and in the UK, too, I believe), but why would you have to remove your middle name to make your unmarried name your middle name and your husband’s name your last name? Couldn’t you just add his last name at the end of your full name and have 4 names? Or are the laws different from state to state?

    I’m asking because that’s what I did, and I had 4 names to start with. My mom is from Brasil and I don’t think I know anyone there who doesn’t have both mother’s & father’s names as part of their names – in addition to a middle name – so 4 names is totally normal in my world. My brother, sister, and I are all First Middle Mom’sLast Dad’sLast. It was really important to me to keep everything because that’s who I am and I wanted to maintain my heritage. Plus I’m really stubborn and independent. ;) So now I’m Kristy Middle Mom’sLast Dad’sLast DJ’sLast. I had no issues at the social security office or the DMV. And I’m from Texas, which is pretty conservative/traditional.

    So can anyone enlighten me?

    • Alder

      This is exactly what I am planning on doing (except that I am adding my fiance’s name as my 3rd middle name). I’ve never had a significant problem with having 4 names before (I’ve lived in New Mexico, Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota), but I was a little bit nervous about going up to 5. I’m glad it has worked for you!

      • http://kristythecoffeegirl.blogspot.com Kristy

        Not gonna lie; I’m pretty excited to hear about someone else who will have 5 names, since my mom is the only other person I know (in the US) that has 5 names, too. And I’m also glad to hear you haven’t had any issues, either. =)

  • http://www.shesaidok.com christine

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I needed to read this and needed to know that other women wrestle with this issue. All my life, I never thought I would change my name (actually for most of my life I never thought I’d want to get married either, but that’s another story entirely!) Now that I’m a few months away from saying “I do” when people ask me if I’m going to make the switch all I can say is “I don’t know.” And the thought I get stuck on, like a petulant 3 year old is “It’s not fair.” You put it much more eloquently with the playing field not being level. I appreciate you delving into this topic with so much sensitivity and grace.

    And I am so grateful for your blog – this is my first time commenting, but I have been lurking for a while. Once I got engaged I made a vow that this would be the only wedding site I read, so as not to be brainwashed into thinking that I should succumb to all that is WIC. So far so good. Thanks for keeping me both grounded and inspired!

  • http://panopoly.org Lynae

    I was super-excited to see on Twitter that you were writing about this, and even happier to read it.

    I had never really planned on getting married so I never had any real thoughts or game plan about my name. I’ve never really liked my name in general, not just my last, and always thought about changing it, but not in a marriage context.

    Then I ended up falling in love with a man whose parents passed on a long, hyphenated last name to him. It has a space AND a dash in it. It’s ridiculous. I love his parents, but yeah. He doesn’t like his last name, or his first name, much like myself with my own name. I personally am pretty indifferent either way, and if he felt strongly that I take his last name, I probably would–but as someone with a very complicated long FIRST name (that I don’t even go by), I would probably end up changing one or the other.

    So in the end, we talked about it a lot. We realized that neither one of us were fond of our names, and while I was okay with my last name, neither of us liked the “statement” that people would think we were making if he took my name. (Not that I have any problem with people who do that–but for me, our marriage wasn’t a political statement, it really is just about us forming a new family for ourselves and going down a shared path. If I wanted to be political about it, I wouldn’t marry him at all, because generally speaking, I’m queer and don’t want to buy into a lot of the heterosexual institutions, even if I am with a straight man.)

    Finally we came up with what probably seems like a radical solution, but to me feels very “us” and very transformative and very meaningful. (We’ve already been living together for years, so it is nice to have something that clearly delineates our married life from our living-together life.) So we have made up an altogether new last name for ourselves, and while we’re at it, we’re changing our first names too. So we will be walking into our marriage as “new” people altogether.

    I would really like to suggest taking a brand-new last name as a solution to other couples who don’t want to hyphenate or take each other’s names, but want to have a family name to pass onto their children. The name decision is always hard, and we have had to work hard to not upset our families over it, and really make it clear that it’s nothing personal about them, that we are not trying to distance ourselves from our families, but that it is really about focusing on our partnership. But I think it has definitely been worth it.

  • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

    Holy s**t, there are a lot of comments. It’s going to take a while for me to read through these (and I want to read them ALL, but I have to still take the dog out and it’s almost bedtime), so I’ll write this first, and then follow up. :)

    Meg – so glad you wrote about this. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart. I’m currently grappling with the “to hyphen or not to hyphen” argument. FH and I are undecided/ambivalent about having kids, so the “family name” is not an issue. Even if we did, though, I don’t think that “Bobby’s mother having to explain to him why Susie’s parents have different last names” is a valid argument. I know some people feel strongly about a family name, and I respect that, but I don’t think worrying about what the PTA moms think about the matter is relevant. But, that’s me. There are worse things to explain to your children than Lucy Stone-ers.

    Anyway.

    I legally changed my last name when I was 18, to that of my (maternal) grandfather’s. It caused some eyebrow-raising, both in my family as well as my small town, but people were generally supportive. So, therefore, I’ve gotten the “Don’t call me that, it’s not my NAME!” rage out of my system. In other words, if people refer to me as Mrs. FH’sName, I don’t think it will bother me all that much. However, dropping what is now my name is not an option, and never has been. The name change was the first adult decision I made, requiring adult follow-through and with adult consequences, and as a result I really, really love my name. It’s part of my identity in a way that my old name never was. I can’t really explain it. (It doesn’t hurt, though, that I also ADORED my grandfather, who was an extremely important influence in my life. I wish he was here to see me get married. He died before I met my FH.)

    The decision on whether or not to hyphen is my grapple. FH’s family has been so warm and welcoming, that I truly am honored to join their ranks. If I had my old last name, it wouldn’t be a question for me (of course, I really hated my old name, but that’s beside the point). I have an (I think) justifiable attachment to my name, and I want to keep it, thank you.

    At this point, I’m leaning towards hyphening socially, but not legally or professionally. My name is one of those pesky Irish names with an apostrophe, so the aesthetics are icky. I know that shouldn’t sway me, but it does, I can’t help it. FH has a PhD and an established career with his name, so his changing it is not on the table, nor would I even ask it. Plus, his name (unlike mine) is the only one that we know of even in this country, aside from his two brothers. He’s fine with whatever I decide, and knows how important my name is to me. IF (BIG IF) we do have kids, they’ll have his name (I may incorporate a portion of my name as a first or middle name instead). If PTA parents want to call me Mrs., whatever. Professionally and legally, I’ll have my name, and that’ll be that. I think. Unless I hyphen. But, you’re right – I DON’T need to decide this right away, and I don’t think I will.

    However, I work in a career where it not only wouldn’t be an issue if I changed my name, it’s surprising to people that I’m not. In fact, I was in a meeting today where my red hair and Irish name were discussed, and how someone else in my office has that name (no relation), and one of them said, “But you’re getting married this year.” “Yes, but I’m not changing my name.” “Oh.”

    • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

      Er, reading this I want to clarify my 2nd paragraph, because that sounds snarky.

      What I meant was, if you want to change your name to have a family name, and all of the non-tangible things that go along w/ that, it’s great. It’s when people use the excuse, “Oh, the parent of a kid in my son’s class kept her name, and it’s SO CONFUSING for everyone” make me RAGE. Really? It’s confusing? Please, enlighten me, because I don’t understand why that’s so confusing.

      *ahem* Don’t mind me …

  • Jessica

    I have been reading your blog for a few months now (since before I got engaged) and I have to say, I love your discussions, especially ones like this.

    Personally, the name decision for me was easy. I decided long ago that I was not going to change my name- my father is the only son, and he had only daughters, so I always felt so sad that my grandparents would die all over again with him because there was no one to carry on the name. As I got older, I also realized just how much it helped me feel connected to my family, no matter how far apart we were. When I would get into a serious relationship, I would “try on” their last name, and nothing ever felt right, because to me, my name was “Jessica MyLastName” and nothing else. When I met my fiancé, it was one of the first “big” things we talked about, and he volunteered to take my name. If he felt uncomfortable doing so, I would never ask him to (in fact, when I read this post I asked him again if he really truly wanted to change his name, and he gave me a list of reasons why he did), but it does solve the issue rather handily in my favor. The only issue I now have is, I do not want to be “Mrs. MyLastName.” That’s my mom. I don’t think I could handle that.

    In my experience, hyphenating when you have kids is not a horrible prospect My best friend’s mom did not take my friend’s father’s last name, so my friend was always “J. HerLastName-HisLastName.” I do not remember anyone ever making fun or her or looking down on her for her name, and it recognized both sides of her family equally.

  • Kayla

    I was hesitant to take my husband’s last name, but not totally opposed to it. It meant a lot to him for me to take his name, so I did it. I got married fairly young (22), so I didn’t have a professional history with my name; that probably would have affected my decision. Of course, it helped that his last name is the name of the town I grew up in—kind of fun! I kept my last name as my middle name. It was difficult to drop my middle name because it is my grandma’s name. However, I reasoned that my grandma dropped her middle name when she got married, so she would understand. In my mind, I am First Middle MyLast HisLast, but legally I am First MyLast HisLast. It’s just easier when I have to fill out forms that only have room for one middle name.

    Although I was unsure at first, I ended up being very happy that I took his name. I haven’t felt a loss of identity, because I still feel that my former name is a part of me. It might not be what everybody calls me, but it’s not like I will ever forget that I was once First Middle MyLast.

    I really enjoy sharing a name with my husband. Early on in our marriage, we started a tradition of congratulating each other by saying “Go Team LastName!” For me, sharing a name does make me feel more connected to him. That’s not to say that those who don’t share a last name are not connected, though. I do get very angry when mail comes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst Last. It’s like I don’t even exist! And I prefer to be called Ms., but I don’t get upset if people call me Mrs. I try to pick my battles.

  • redfrizzz

    We’re battling with the hyphen.When some old high school friend addressed me at the grocery store as future “Mrs.hislastname” I calmly said that actually, I’m a MS. and I’ll never be a “hislastname” because we’re hyphenating. This high school flashback then proceeded to chastise me about the anguish I’d send my children through, and joked that her kids were going to throw tomatoes at my hyphenated kids.
    wtf?
    I have friends who couldn’t decide what to do, so before they had kids, they decided to pick a new name. And it rocks. And when people ask them about their cool name, they have a great story to tell about how they picked it.
    who knows…

    • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

      “And I see, your mentality is still stuck in grade school with the tomato-throwers.”

      What a jerk!

  • http://meaghanking.wordpress.com Meaghan

    I had to comment because my partner and I just had a lengthy conversation about this very topic, and Meg, you summed up EXACTLY how I feel about name-changing. Neither of us want to change our names or for the other to change theirs, but what makes me so frustrated is the “level playing field” issue – I don’t understand why, for people who want to have the same last name for whatever reason (family unit, easier on kids, whatever) it can’t be equally as likely that they take the woman’s name rather than the man’s.

    I hadn’t thought about the Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast, but if that happens to me I’ll probably freak out.

    Interestingly, what got us started talking about it today was this article:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/work/married-women-should-say-i-dont-to-changing-their-name-study-suggests/article1547482/

    And finally, I think after all this, I’m going to suggest to my partner that we change our last name to “Lastname.”

  • EBHB

    Thank you so much for this post and all of the comments that have followed! To put it bluntly, this decision sucked for me.

    As a young girl growing up in a small town, I assumed that I would take my husband’s name when I got married….someday. Flash forward 20 years, with a Ph.D. in hand, and changing my name was the last thing I wanted to do. I hated the idea of it and the strength of that reaction ran more deeply than I ever could have imagined. At the same time, I struggled with the fact that I knew my husband really would have liked me to change it.

    I smiled politely, while daggers shot out of my eyes, when the county clerk (in my small town) issued our marriage license and told me I was a “good girl” for taking the paperwork about changing my name, and when one of the stores we registered with started sending me mail as Mrs. Hisname, I nearly lost it. I’d earned a doctorate under my own name, had launched a career under it, and was a 4th generation Dr. MyName.

    In the end, I decided to hypenate legally and use my name professionally and socially. I hate receiving mail addressed to Mrs. Hisname, and it annoys me to no end to see one of the names cut short on address labels. (To: Firstname MyName-HisNa) Was it the right decision? Eh….maybe.

  • Katherine McKinney

    As the mother of one who is an avid fan of this blog, I offer my comment. In 1973, I, too, dealt with this issue; I didn’t want to give up a part of myself by changing my name. On the other hand, I used my father’s name and I had it as part of a continuum of patriarchy, so whose name is it really? Moreover, I did not want to keep my name as some sort of feminist statement about myself. As I read the comments, it would seem that the playing field is only marginally more level than 37 years ago. I decided to take my husband’s last name because his is easy to spell and my maiden name was impossible to spell. However, I absolutely was not and never Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName. That doesn’t stop others from using that form. In 1973 my MIL happened to see my name written in that patriarchal form and said to me, “I saw that name written to you and I said, ‘That’s my name.'” I said to her, probably too quickly to be polite, “You can have it; I don’t want it.” When I informed my university of my marriage, they automatically changed my name to Mrs. HisFirstNme HisLastName. I went through a lot of correspondence to get them to use my first name. I reasoned that my husband could change wives but the new one might not be a graduate of this university; I wondered if they would award the new Mrs. my degree.

    The spelling thing ruled out hyphen names as well, but some names just don’t hyphen well anyway. I have friends who each use their own names and hyphenated their children’s names with the understanding that each child would choose their last name by the time she reached her majority. It worked very well and by this time each child has chosen. I knew another couple who each kept their names and vowed to last-name their children by sex–girls last name like mom and boys last name like did. I would add, too, that having the same last name in a family is easier–on everyone else. Nowadays, most families have a variety of names because mom kept her name or she’s married to a man other than the child’s father or some other reason. When I need to know her last name, I might be stuck; sometimes she’s “Sarah’s Mom.” This is a nomenclature that teachers often use.

    As far as children’s reactions to the last name you give them is concerned, I think it is important to realize that children are resilient. When your child knows she is loved, valued, nurtured and supported as she goes out into the world, she has an armor that protects her from most of bombs that do fall onto the adolescent landscape. When her parents are comfortable in who they are and live their lives in confidence, children see that as the way to be. Our names represent who we are, but no name has to be permanent.

    • meg

      This is my mothers story exactly.

      And I think it’s funny and fitting that she would not allow herself to be addressed as Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast, and that I won’t allow myself to be addressed as Mrs. It’s one more step along the path, and it’s a step I couldn’t have taken if the first steps were not walked before me.

    • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

      I would add, too, that having the same last name in a family is easier–on everyone else.

      Exactly. Easier on everyone else. Not easier on the family, or even necessarily on the kids (if anything, having a different last name than a superstar brother or sister may be a blessing for a kid).

      I was reading up on Icelandic nomenclature the other day. They don’t have a family name, but their names are, quite literally, patrilineal. For example, you may have a man named Jon Andresson. His wife wouldn’t be Kristin Andresson – because the name literally means Andres’ son. Even if her father had the same name as her husband’s father, her name would be Andresdottir (literally, Andres’ daughter). More likely, though, it would be, say, Gunnarsdottir.

      Jon and Kristin’s kids would then be named, say, Karl Jonsson and Katrin Jonsdottir. While it’s not very common to do so, it’s not unheard of to do this with the mother’s name, either … so they could be Karl Kristinsson and Katrin Kristinsdotter. Or Karl Jonsson and Katrin Kristinsdottir … etc.

      Any way you look at it, though, everyone in the family has a different name, and there’s no question as to whether or not you drop your name when you marry, because you don’t. There is no Mr. or Mrs. The formal address in Iceland is the first name.

  • http://sparklefishmarriespistolfish.blogspot.com/ Mandy

    Holy cow, I’ve never seen so many comments in my life. I should probably get out more.

    Just to throw my two silly cents in…I’m one of those who can’t WAIT to take her husband’s last name. In fact, I even get excited about the prospect of receiving mail addressed to Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName. I love my family, I love the name I’ve grown up with, but becoming the next Mrs. HisName in his family tree is very important to me. I honestly wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t do so, and I’m not one bit ashamed to say that.

    Am I a 1950’s housewife sometimes? Yes, actually. I get teased gently at our theatre company for vacuuming the greenroom in Marilyn Monroe dresses and high heels. One of my favorite things in the world is baking pies totally from scratch for my family. I clean up after my fiance when he’s too busy working or rehearsing to get to his dishes (and we don’t even live together; I just let myself in with a key while he’s gone). In a lot of ways, I think some people might think that I am a feminist’s worst nightmare.

    The thing is…I AM a feminist. I have a choice; we all have choices, and it’s so wonderful that we do. It sucks that it’s so much harder for those women who decide to keep their own names, or hyphenate, or give their name to their new husbands. It’s really not fair that it even raises eyebrows, because it shouldn’t. At the same time, it can be frustrating for those of us who chose to be 1950’s housewives in many senses of the term to be viewed as suppressed, airheaded women who don’t know what they’re doing.

    And I love APW because it’s a place where all of these viewpoints can come together and be accepted and safe.

  • Pingback: More on the Name Game | Getting Hitched

  • elyse

    okay – i really wanted to read through all the comments before posting but its getting late and i’m exhausted and missed my usually morning reading of APW due to an early flight so i apologize if this has already been commented and replied on, but. okay, here goes . . .

    i don’t understand the whole issue. i just. don’t. get it. and i never have. i always knew i’d change my name to his, and plan on doing so as soon as we get married next month. i’ve always tried out my name with the last name of whoever i’ve dated over the years. i always found it confusing growing up having friends with different last names as their mom. you get married, you change your name. you have one name for your new family. and i have no good reason why it should be the man’s name, but i have no objection to it being that way. i don’t see it as me taking ‘his’ name, because it becomes ‘our’ name.

    now, i’ve never liked my last name, and never felt the name defined who i was (its an uncommon name and my dad only has sisters, so my brother and i are the only ones in our immediate family with the name – so yes, i come from a family where everyone changes their name). i’ve always loved my first name, and it defines me so much more. would i feel otherwise if i loved my last name? i can’t say for sure, but i don’t think i would.

    i realize that sometimes for professional or other reasons, it can be challenging and not always beneficial to change it in those circles. i personally am not so far in my career that changing my name will be detrimental, but even still my boss talks about it as ‘handling my transition’ when i do come back after the wedding with a different name, like i’m going to be a different person!

    coming up with a new name, or combining your names (i’ve certainly had friends wrestle with this) just overcomplicates what really should be a simple issue. sure its weighed down in all sorts of cultural baggage. but at this point, aren’t we beyond ‘mrs. hislastname’ defining who we are? aren’t we still accomplishing our own things and having our own successes? isn’t that what we should be focused on, and not getting angry if mail comes addressed in a way that differs from how you define yourself? i guess that’s where i really get stuck. i know who i am, my fiance knows who i am, and we know who we are as a couple. if someone addresses us in a different way, so let them (or correct them, if you can).

    i’ll admit i wouldn’t love the idea of being called the same name as his mom, as we’ll be living in the same city as his parents once we’re married. but i’ll be mrs. hislastname and she’s dr. hislastsname. so i guess i’m in the clear :-)

    • http://howthefuturesdone.blogspot.com Katie

      Elyse, I’m sure any number of the commenters today could give you a history of why this is an issue, but I think Meg spelled it out pretty clearly: it’s the asymmetry in the name changing. The woman in a marriage is expected to change her last name, the man is not. You may not have any attachment to your name, but those of us who have lived several decades and built professional reputations and personal relationships, not to mention identities, with our names might have pretty strong attachments, and you can at least respect those attachments for those women. Previous waves of feminists may have given us the option not to change our names, but I believe what Meg is pointing out is that they weren’t able to force the whole of society to give up expecting us to.

      On whether it’s “his name” or “our name:” again, it comes down to the asymmetry. Each of you come to this marriage with a name you’ve gone by your whole life. The one doing the name changing is taking on the name that has been someone else’s identity. I suppose the most precise phrasing would be “she will take the name that he has gone by,” but that’s just a little more unwieldy than “his name.”

      Yes, we are defining ourselves and having our own professional successes no matter our names, but language does matter. When someone calls a woman “Mrs. Hislastname,” it’s a symbol that she is just a peripheral to him. It’s also a really public signal of her marital status, which is absolutely none of anyone’s business in the professional sphere. In the personal sphere, when my friends change their names, especially longtime or childhood friends, it feels a little like they give up some part of themselves that has our history in it.

      Of course not wanting to change one’s name as a woman does create complications for life as a new family entity. We’re all grappling with that, and none of us has good answers. Hyphenation, her last name, his last name, new names…it does get complicated.

      But this topic wouldn’t provoke 400-some comments if it weren’t something we all care about in deep, complicated ways. It feels a little trivializing for you to say you don’t get it – it should be simple – get married – change your name. Trust me when I say it is not at all that simple for many, many women. Just because you have always imagined changing your name and tried out all your boyfriends’ last names with your own first name doesn’t mean that’s how every straight woman does or should feel. And it’s exactly because we give So. Much. Thought to our decision that we really want others to use the name we choose.

      • robin

        Katie, Thanks for this really thoughtful reply to Elyse’s comment. I agree, that Elyse’s comment feels dismissive to me as well- and there’s not much more to add to your response. But I’ll throw this in…

        Elyse, I think if you took the time (and I realize it’s a lot of time, given the number of comments today) to read this thread, then you might recognize the complexity of this issue for so many women, and their partners. But I think it’s not in the spirit of this community to admit that you have not read what others have said, but to still be critical of their opinions, choices, or struggle. As a member of this community, I value your opinion. And I respect your decision about your name and your marriage, and appreciate you taking the time to explain your viewpoint in this forum. I think the next time you want to share, or join in a discussion, you should do so fully informed. I think many, if not most, of the earlier comments would have explained how and why this feels like a complex decision to so many others– and while you might disagree, you might just get it– what this “it” is for so many of us.

        • elyse

          I do get that it’s an issue a lot of women (and their partners) need to discuss, and maybe i feel the way i do because i can make the choice that is right for me / us, and sure its not as simple an answer for some people. I guess what i struggle with is ‘the rage’ as its been referred to many times (and i did read through the majority of the comments before posting) of getting mail addressed as mrs x or being called by a title that isn’t your preference. that’s what i can’t quite wrap my head around. but hey, glad there’s a forum to discuss it. . .

          • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

            Elyse, I think for those of us who choose to or are forced to grapple with a non-simple decision when it comes to whether or not to change our names, the very struggle, regardless of the final decision, becomes part of who we are and part of the marriages we are actively trying to build.

            Where the envelope-rage comes in is feeling like those choices and that struggle can be dismissed by a single flick of someone else’s pen. Yes, an address line is a small thing. But our choices were no small things, so to have all of the struggle, the debate, the agreement distilled into an inaccurate depiction of our choice at The End of All That… can be incredibly hurtful, because once again it’s like we are being told on this uneven playing field that no matter what we decide, no matter how much effort we put into this conscious choice… it STILL doesn’t matter. THAT is why we get angry.

          • meg

            What Sharon said.

            What if after you got married, your grandmother just started addressing you with the first name of “Jill”? She said, “That’s just how I think it should be done, and what I think you should be called now.” That probably wouldn’t be super blase for you. You’d be angry that she was calling you by a name that wasn’t yours, that you didn’t pick, and that you’d told her you didn’t want to be called by. Why would you be upset? Well, A) it wasn’t your name/ identity and B) She was disrespecting your wishes.

            It’s like that.

  • Bee

    I’m not sure how I feel about the identity issues with changing my name. Mostly, because it is not, in my mind, an option for me. I’m a teacher, and have been a teacher, and all my students know me as Miss MyLastName. It would be fairly confusing and frustrating for me to have to suddenly become Mrs. HisLastName. I know that eventually it would switch over, and I would be the only one to remember the frustration, but my other (and admittedly vain, but very real) concern is that being Mrs. HisLastName in a high school would not be good. His last name is one that would open me up to comparisons to warty witches, and despite the fact that I am a super fun (hahaha) teacher, it would happen. So, Ms. MyLastName it is for me! I’ve never really considered using a different name personally than I do professionally. That also seems a bit complicated… Oh well, I’m pleased with my decision, and my fiance could care less either way, as long as it’s a decision I’m comfortable with, and I know my FMIL (also a teacher) greatly regrets changing her name, mostly for my very vain, aforementioned reason, my grandma didn’t change her name, my parents don’t care, so there’s not been any resistance on the family front either (that I know of)!

  • dylanhope

    I have a logistics question for those who aren’t changing their names or grew up in families with different last names. Sometimes when addressing mail to an entire family (parents and kids) I find it easier to address it to the “Smith Family.” Is this incredibly rude and offensive? Should I address it Mr. Hislast, Ms. Herlast, Kids Theirlast. This just can get lengthy and cumbesome. If its simply a couple with different last names I address it to both by their respective last names but I never really know what to do when a family has different last names. I want to make sure I respect everyones preferences.

    • robin

      I think this is actually a personal preference, and will vary from family to family. My sister kept her name, but doesn’t mind cards or the like sent to the HisLast Name Family (which is the name her kids have). I don’t have kids, but I do consider my husband and I to be a family, and I would not want mail sent to us as the HisLastName Family. If I don’t know, I like to err on the side of inclusion- you can do The HerName/HisName Family– which doesn’t make any assumptions, and includes everyone without requiring you to list everyone individually.

    • http://casapim.wordpress.com carapinzinha

      i belive it’s the contrary, at least in countries like mine, where you have lots of id cards. if i change my name, i would have to change ALL my cards and ALL my mail references.
      so, as you see, it’s only a matter of point of view.

      in my country it wasn’t very common for the brides to take the husband’s last name, specially among the poor people in the north (were i’m from). 1st, there are very fiew names compared to other contries (i mean, we all have almost the same names, so the last name isn’t that relevant).

      my grandmothers were humble and poor women, very catholic and simple, but they kept their names. so did my boyfriend’s grandmothers. and nobody ever doubt that they were married or that their kids were theirs ;) my mother changed her name, but i’ll do as my grandmothers did :)

    • meg

      I wouldn’t be pleased (by which I mean I’d be upset) if we got mail to The Smith family…. since that wasn’t my name or my kids name. I think informally The Smith Other Family is good. Formally, you’d use all the titles and names. Difficult perhaps, but respectful.

  • lana

    I have a whole other point of view on the subject. I would have gladly taken my husbants name if only it wasn’t so rude in english. We are Dutch. My last name is “van Leeuwen” Translates to from lions. Cool huh? His last name is “Kock” yes it is spelled different but still. I don’t want my children to have problems in this ever globalising world where everyone speaks English.

    To get the same last name we decided to get Kock-van Leeuwen for the both of us. We could not decide and this way we both have the same name. I’ll still be using van Leeuwen as I am a journalist and am known as Lana van Leeuwen. It just sounds right.

    The jury is still out on the future children though. But this way, whatever name we give them, Kock, van Leeuwen or a combination, we’ll still both have the same name as our children.

    And now I have to go to my final dress fitting

    • http://casapim.wordpress.com carapinzinha

      ahahah, same thing here, except i won’t had his name. our names together makes something like “warrior’s milk” or “milk warrior”, well, it’s lame. and it might be lame for our kids, but maybe till then i can convince him to give the kids my last name (we can do it here :) )

  • robin

    My decision-making process followed many others- and I don’t think telling it adds value here. The short-version: thought long and hard about changing my name, and decided not to. For now, however long now turns out to be.

    On the Mrs. HisName rage- I feel that. I was floored by the number of wedding gifts/checks we received that were made out to Mr & Mrs HisName. Even more bizarre/outrageous, were the few checks we received made out to Robin HisName. Not both us. ME, but with his last name. I don’t know what to be more bothered by– the assumption of my name change or the exclusion of my husband from several wedding gifts.

    I really try to call people what they want to be called, and was surprised that no one asked me what I was doing with my name, and just sent presents addressed so many different ways, most of which were with his last name only…

    That said, when we’re in a hotel, and they call me Mrs HisName….I kind of like it. :)

  • http://community.livejournal.com/wtf_sexism/ Allie

    I’m keeping my last name for sure, but I may drop my never-used first name and take his last name as my middle name. It makes sense, I promise.

    The “but what will we name the kids!” part of the equation doesn’t bother me much. Half of my family goes by a different name as it is, and I have step, half, and adopted family members. They’re all equally my family. I understand the urge to be one family united under one name, but in my experience it just hasn’t mattered much.

  • Emma

    M (my husband), wasn’t initially enamoured with the idea of me keeping my name, more to do with an old-fashioned idea of what you should do when you get married than anything else. But when he proposed, his question to me was immediately followed by “and you can keep your last name and I promise I won’t complain”. Despite saying this, it was slightly through gritted teeth and we did have a few “discussions” about the issue in the months after getting engaged. My argument has always been – would you change your name to mine? No? Then it’s not an issue to discuss. Because unless you will consider taking mine, I don’t see why I should consider taking yours.

    Anyway, the weird thing is that after about six months of being engaged, M suddenly had a huge turn around and was fiercely proud of me for keeping my name and would get pretty annoyed if anyone suggested otherwise. Sensible man.

    I don’t like getting post addressed to Mr & Mrs W, and like you, Meg, it does fuel a bit of rage, especially when it’s from people who should know better. Like his mother. Seriously. Firstly, the day after our wedding, she said to me “I know you’re not a W, but can I still call you my daughter-in-law?”. Um, yes. Because that has nothing to do with my name, and everything to do with the act of getting married to your son. Then, at Christmas, we received a card from her addressed to Mr and Mrs W. Despite the fact that we have explained countless times about my name. I was absolutely fuming and couldn’t talk to her about it for fear of completely blowing my top. Thankfully, M confronted the issue – her answer? “I didn’t know what to write.” Erm, how about just addressing it the way you have for the last six years that we’ve been living together – just as Emma and M? Or using my surname which you’ve also known for the last six years?

    Anyway, rant over. Just wanted to add my two-cents worth to this great discussion.

  • Moz

    It seems the one thing everyone agrees upon is hating the ‘Mr Hisfirstname Hislastname’.

  • Kimby

    I know a couple who chose to hyphenate, but chose to make it the same for everyone and chose the name order based on flow (i.e Engler-Young sounded better to them than Young-Engler). The Engler-Youngs created an identity for themselves such that most people can’t remember whose name was whose before (I believe in the end that Young was the wife’s maiden name….but honestly I don’t know). I feel like they’re more themselves with their combined name and levels have never been uneven between these two. So perhaps a good option is not fighting for a dominant position, but finding a way in which your names work in harmony and being happy with that.

  • Kayla

    Food for Thought:

    Women is several Asian cultures do not change their name when they get married, but keep their family name.

  • Emily

    I read about a heterosexual couple who couldn’t decide who should take whose name, so they decided it with a softball game. Their friends all got together, formed teams for “HerLastName” and “His LastName” and whichever team won was the name that they both took. Perfect!

  • http://aweddingofourown.blogspot.com Lindsey M

    I have gone back and forth over this for the last year. So many reasons on both sides. It’s really interesting, because most of my friends who know me as a liberal feminist expect me NOT to change my name. But then my friends that know that I have never been close with my father, and that I do not share my last name with any one I am close to, sort of expected me to change it.
    Me? I don’t know. My partner? Wants me to do what makes me happy.
    We are getting married in a month, and for now, I’ve done nothing. I think that I may take his last name as an extra last name in the future, but there is no rush. Maybe if/when we have kids? Maybe on a random Tuesday? We will see.

  • Bridette

    A technological approach – Ditto on all of the above. I don’t want to change it – He is severely hurt that I don’t. I am a pretty traditional girl (despite the high-powered finance career) and he is shocked that I don’t want to take his name. But Im practical and his name is short and easy but everyone mispronounces it and turns it into a very ugly sounding name….like a bad adjective not just unpleasant sound. Im actually MORE worried that we have to pass this problem onto kids.

    BUT – I am really thinking of changing it for the search engine reason. If I change my personal name to his and keep my name at work, I cut out half or more of the mispronunciations. I keep my very good work reputation and previous clients can find me at my new job. MORE importantly, my work has a clause that outside activities can get you fired. If I change facebook and online persona to married, it gives me a little cloak of secrecy….I mean, I don’t think I really need it but a little distance between my business and personal life would be appreciated. I hate it when clients want to be FB friends. I don’t want to be constantly asked for financial advice when Im at home relaxing…Thoughts?

    • meg

      Nice!! And I feel your pain. It sounds like you want to do it… so go for it!

  • Whitney

    What a great post! I wish I had time to read every comment. I grew up with a 70s mom who kept her maiden name. It was very occasionally a pain growing up, but as a kid mostly people’s reactions to her different name just told me if they were cool or stupid (gotta love a 10-year-old’s binary view of the world). Family names are a big deal in my family – we all have middle names that are lost maiden names from previous generations (mine is my great-great-grandma’s), and they carry a lot of weight, both good and bad. I can’t imagine giving up that history for his name, which doesn’t carry any meaning for me, except that it’s his. Especially because he’s not interested in his family history and most of them live far away, so I don’t have a good sense of what it means to be a Hisname. My decision is confirmed by the fact that Myname and Momsname are both difficult three-syllable names, and Hisname is difficult but four-syllables, it might have been a more difficult decision if his were easy. Luckily for me, when I mentioned that I wasn’t planning to change my name, he said “yeah, I pretty much guessed that, and I’ve had time to get used to it”. I don’t know what we’ll do when we have kids – I like the idea of girls with my name and boys with his, but I don’t know if he’ll go for that. In theory, the creating-a-new-family-name idea is great, but having seen it in practice, I’ve found that it’s just really confusing. Interestingly, one name I think of as “mine” isn’t part of my actual name at all, it was my grandmother’s maiden name, and we spent every summer with her family in a place they had been for decades, so I got used to introducing myself “hi, I’m Whitney Myname, I’m a Grandma’sname”. I hope that even if my children don’t carry my name I can give them ownership of it like that.

  • http://twigl.tumblr.com becky

    wow , a day later and 450 comments later, this will probably not get read, but here’s my 2 cents anyway. I didn’t want to take my husband’s name, his father changed it from their family name anyway when he moved to the states. I’m also taking on much of my husband’s family Jewish identity, and changing my name in addition felt like a big ole dump on my background and family. I was also adamant that our children have my name, whatever it ended up to be, and my husband wanted his last name to at least be part of our kids names. I got people’s opinions, and everyone’s was different and none felt right to me. So me and the man talked and talked. And I decided to be Ms. Becky His-Hers. I get so many weird looks when it comes up, because the ‘standard’ (ha!) hyphenation is Hers-His. Well I didn’t like that as much. So he remains Mr. His. I’m Ms. His-Hers. And our future family will be generally known as His-Hers. Bottom line, do it your way, people will get used to it and so will you.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kim

      I keep coming back to read everyone’s comments, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

    • meg

      Yes. I was in the same boat with Jewish Identity. The name was one thing to many, in a lot of ways.

  • Rachel

    Even though my husbands last name is a monstrosity compared to my maiden name, I changed my last name almost instantly. Not because I felt like I had to or even because I’m on the more conservative side. I changed my name because to me it represented truly the transition from relationship to marriage. I was taking on a new persona, a new role as wife (and mother) and I felt it appropriate to become part of my husbands family in that way. I know that even with my name change I’m still on an equal playing field with my husband, who understands my feminist side all too well. My maiden name is now my middle name, I felt it was important to keep my past as part of me, but my future isn’t my family, it’s my husband. That’s how I chose.

    I spent a lot of time discussing it with my honey. I graduate in May and I felt like it would be insulting my parents to graduate as anything other than Mymaidenname. My husband was extremely supportive, he told me it was completely my decision and so long as the ring on my finger and the love in my heart said we were married than a name didn’t matter. That support, that lack of pressure, made it really easy to choose to change my name. I wanted to be apart of him and his family.

    Oh and like Sarah I too git a little giddy when I’m called Mrs. Hislastname

  • Angela

    I’m glad you put this post up, Meg. It’s such a personal choice and it’s good to see the posts about all the different ways people have decided to go.

    The reaction I got was shock from my friends, family, and co-workers that I did change my last name. My mom was especially surprised, and then I reminded her that she took my dad’s name! The truth is I didn’t think I would ever take my husband’s last name. It just seemed so steeped in old tradition that had connotations of suppressing a woman’s individuality. I was much too independent, and too much of a feminist to do that. And then when my husband proposed, within a couple of hours he also asked me to consider taking his last name and explained how much it would mean to him. (and his reasons had nothing to do with suppressing me, or making me his property; which makes sense, because obviously otherwise I wouldn’t have wanted to marry him). And he got all choked up and it was clearly very important to him.

    So I thought about it, and I realized, that what I didn’t want to do was symbolically lose part of myself by dropping my name. I had been that name for 30 years, and I wasn’t planning on losing part of myself (in name or otherwise) just by getting married. But I was adding a new dimension to my life, and I also realized that I like the idea of sharing a name with him, and sharing a name with our (future) kids. In the end I added his name to mine, and didn’t take anything away. So my name is First Middle MyLast HisLast. No hyphen. Technically I now have two middle names, and my official last name is HisLast. But anytime I want to I can write my name First MyLast HisLast, or any combo, really. It also important to me professionally to keep my last name in some capacity since I am established and published in the field I intend to remain in, and I didn’t want to lose that name recognition.

    These choices are very personal. And there is no right way to do it. There are so many things surrounding weddings and marriage that are steeped in an old tradition that might have come about for reasons that we don’t agree with (e.g. veils), but perhaps they speak to us for some reason other than the original reason they were created (maybe we just want to wear a pretty veil darn it; or maybe we don’t want to hear how we aren’t a bride if we don’t have a veil, thank you very much!). That’s the beauty of the day and age we live in now. We can make choices because they feel right to us, not because of their historical context, and not because of what anyone else is going to think.

  • sarah

    wow, is this the most commented apw post to date?! i’m amazed that despite the varying opinions on this topic, the majority of the discussion is intelligent and respectful of other’s own opinions. :) i can totally relate to both sides of this, and believe it’s a completely personal choice that one can make with or without input from one’s SO. i’m still undecided as to what i will do, but luckily, my wedding isn’t until next year so i have some time to carefully consider all possibilities.

    i’d like to discuss the rage at being refferred to as mrs. hisfirst hislast. as someone who’s in the stationery biz, i address envelopes all the time for clients. the majority of those addresses going out to couples are addressed as mr. & mrs. hisfirst hislast… not because the client(your friend/family) is trying to piss you off, but because they believe that’s how you want to be addressed. now, the fact that it’s assumed that’s your preference, is totally a problem! however, because taking on your husband’s name is common, it’s become expected. i’m not saying that this assumption is right or wrong, it just is.

    the easiest way to let your friends and family know how you’d like to be refferred to is to send out at home cards… either with your invites, or thank you notes. it’s also helpful to have your officiant announce you in the way your prefer. and if someone calls you “mrs.” try to be understanding… they may not be trying to uphold archaic patriarchal traditions, or insult your decision, but just simply trying to address you formally. then, use it as an opportunity to discuss why you chose to be a ms. my instinct is that once someone understands your logic, they won’t have any trouble remembering how to address you in the future. :)

  • BesideThePoint

    My fiance’s ex-wife kept his name after their divorce so she would continue to share the name with their son. This is my first marriage, and I don’t have children. And I’m keeping my name. If we have kids, we’ll give them his last name. Honestly, for me, keeping my name is more of a statement about how (to me) family connections exist independently of names, rather than dissent about partriarchal naming conventions (though, for the record, I’m not much of a fan of those either). The FH’s last name is a package deal: I can’t share it with him without sharing it with his ex-wife, too. And truthfully, I’m not too bothered by the idea of not sharing a last name with my future kids. But I then also have to accept my kids will share a name with his ex-wife. There’s no solution in our situation that doesn’t involve someone either losing a name-connection they value (like between my fiance and his son) or gaining a name-connection they’d prefer not to have (like between me and the ex-wife). There’s no winning, so I’m choosing to not keep score.

    I’ve definitely wrestled with this question. I’m curious about others’ experiences in similar situations!

  • Alyssa

    I am proud to say that I read through every one of these comments. EVERY. ONE. I feel I need a cookie or something, whew!

    Being the Alyssa mentioned in the post, I wanted to read through the comments before posting since everyone already knew my story. (Decided to change my name, was excited to change my name, actually changed my name and then cried in the car because I didn’t realize how BIG of a deal changing my name was.) I love all the different views, it totally proves that you can say that there’s a “typical APW reader” but you totally can’t define them.

    Meg’s advice is SO true. Seriously, heed it. You will feel SO much better. Especially that breathing part. Once you stop and slow down and realize that, come hell or high-water, it WILL be okay, you will actually FEEL okay.

    Now that I’m like six months into my new name, I like it. I’m sad that I’m not that unique anymore; my previous last name was pretty uncommon, now I’m one among many Alyssa Hislastname’s. At least according to Google alerts. (Anyone else use this? It’s helpful for bloggers, but totally narcissistic for regular people. I’m not ashamed…)
    But I’m sad in the way that I’m sad about missing experiences that I had in college or the way I miss the experience of my wedding. It’s fleeting and kinda of makes me sadly smile, but it doesn’t ruin my day. But that’s because I’ve made an effort to not let it bother me. And it easily could, for all the reasons that Meg and many have stated. But because I think I made the best decision for me and my husband, I’m okay.

    Yes, I’m the last of the Mylastname’s, but when I asked my dad if he minded, he gave that look of, “What are you talking to me about and why are you interrupting NCIS?” Plus, he took his mother’s maiden name, so we’re not REALLY extending a line of heritage anyway. Problem solved.

    Yes, all my accomplishments have been as Alyssa Mylastname, but they still stand if I’m Alyssa Hislastname. Plus, now I can pretend all those crappy shows that I was in wasn’t me. “Alyssa Mylastname? Nope, not me. Nooooopppeee….not me at all.”

    Yes, it was important for me to keep my last name, but it was even more important to The Boy for me to take HIS last name. He even admitted that when we were dating, before marriage was even on the table, he said my name and his last name together a few times out loud to see how it sounded. Which is sweet. (Only because we worked out. If we didn’t, it would have been creepy…) Of course, I told him immediately that he was a SUCH girl, but inside my heart melted a little.

    Yes, I do feel a little bit more separated from my family because I have his last name, but honestly my parents get a kick out of calling me “Mrs. Hislastname.” They think it’s funny and kind of cool and I’m okay with that. Plus now as Mrs. Hislastname, I get to have the same title as his amazing mother and grandmother. Yeah, because of patriarchal conventions people assume that means I belong to them, but more importantly that also means they belong to ME.

    Figuring out what you want, what you TRULY want, and then owning that decision will solve all your problems. If people complain, if they throw fits, remind them that it’s your life, your decision and they can just eff off. Unless it’s your grandma or your boss. Then use nicer words.

    And on a sidenote, I realize that I can sign my new name without a thought now, but if I initial something I still use my old initials and cannot stop. Anyone else have that problem??

    • Morgan

      I’d like that cookie too, please.

      I’m only a few weeks into the name change, and I’m comforted to know that before too long it will become instinctive. My signature is/was practically just my initals, and I keep trying to figure out how to blur a K into a T. It’s… silly looking.

      I thank you for writing the rest of it – totally onboard. Thank you!

  • http://ecoyogini.blogspot.com EcoYogini

    Hmmm, I considered not commenting…. just because I might be covering something (ok probably) already discussed- I really tried, but mostly skimmed through the comments!

    We are both hyphenating and I cried when he agreed (and so did he). Although, our last names go terribly together (seriously, they do) but it was important to me to share his name without “losing” mine. However, in Nova Scotia, you actually never “lose” your maiden name. It’s always there to change back to whenever you want. but anyway.

    The drama, really, was when we told his parents. His parents who really aren’t that big on family, aren’t that big on cultural heritage (not like mine)… Also, Andrew is one of three boys in the family- so not like he’s IT for “carrying on” the family name.

    We told them in person while they were visiting- they flipped out, made me cry and were terribly upset. Said some pretty mean things. In public.
    Called and wrote to Andrew every.single.day for a week when they KNEW I wasn’t there to try to convince or guilt him into changing his mind. Said we were being selfish, uncaring, inconsiderate and childish. Hours of terrible phone conversations that Andrew had to go through while still firmly standing his ground and trying to remain calm because he loves his parents (and they love him).

    Finally, we went six months without talking about the wedding, or the name change (they live a province over, so visits were strained, but they happened). Then, his mother announces that she is alright, just his dad is still VERY upset and hurt. Alright.

    We’re getting married in October, and I am SO thankful we told them 14 months in advance. Cuz it looks like they really were going to need that time to mentally adjust.

    Andrew and I have had numerous conversations (initiated by me) about backing out to save family connections, but he’s firmly, each time, informed me that he chose to hyphenate because HE wanted to, not to make me happy. Sigh. I love him so much.

    I had never actually thought that we could simply WAIT to choose our last names… actually- I’m not sure if in Nova Scotia we CAN wait…. I wonder if afterwards it would be considered a legal name change and the whole “keep your (maiden-for better alternative) name” option goes down the toilet. I’ll have to look into that.

    Thank you very much Meg.

    Many Blessings,
    Lisa

  • http://pantalonesdelfuego.blogspot.com Emily

    Late to the discussion – but we came up with a solution that worked well for both of us. Us, in our relationship.

    We wanted the same last name, a family name, especially for future kids. Neither of us was especially wedded to the idea of keeping our current last, but neither of us liked the other person’s last enough to take that one. I’m not thrilled with mine, as it’s my father’s name and we are essentially estranged. His last has only been his family’s last for 2 generations (long story). So what did we do?

    We both changed our name. In fact, it was his idea, and one he came up with before we even got engaged. We both had a long, long time to think about it and prepare for it, as it was more than 3 years before we got married when we decided to become the Newlasts if and when we ever did get around to tying the knot.

    As in, we took the letters from mylast and the letters from hislast and realized that there were enough similarities to combine them and make up a newlast that we both liked, that’s an actual surname (though not one from a nationality that either of us hold; it’s Dutch). Now we are Emily Newlast and Dan Newlast and have been, at least socially, since the wedding. It’s been 2 years. I go by Emily Newlast on Facebook and amongst friends and family. He goes by Dan Newlast professionally (with his freelance work, anyhow) and on facebook and amongst friends and family.

    Sadly, because we got married in a different state from that in which we live, the process of changing our lasts legally is a pain in the rear (and also very expensive.) So we will change our last names legally when there’s a baby Newlast on the way.

  • andialexandra

    I had the same experience as many of the posters, my parents got divorced when I was very little and my mom remarried. I have a terrible relationship with my father, and I grew up in the stepdadname-momname-myname family. I thought about changing it to my mom’s or my stepdad’s, but it was just too late in childhood – plus I still spoke to my father and he would’ve killed me. After I was 18 we stopped talking and now (in my 20s) I have no attachments to my surname whatsoever, and would prefer to be rid of it. I’d keep my mother’s last name as a middle name and take my husband’s name on marriage. Unless it sounded *really* terrible with my first. I would just want to share a name with someone I love, rather than with someone that I don’t speak to. Though, sharing my MIL’s name might be a little odd.

  • http://knitsmcgee.blogspot.com Shayna

    I was trying to make it through all the comments (since yesterday morning!), but I think I’ll say my peace for now, and work through the rest in my own time. Recently I wrote a post on my own blog about this very same topic (it’s here if you’re interested: http://knitsmcgee.blogspot.com/2010/03/name-game.html). Deciding this question is a big deal to me, and almost as upsetting as the dilemma itself is the ambivalence I’m facing from all the important people in my life whom I’d love and opinion or any kind of feedback from. Basically here’s my situation:

    * Mr. McGee doesn’t care one way or the other if I take his name, but doesn’t want to take mine.
    * I already have two last names, Momslastname and Dadslastname. And I have a middle name.
    * In my generation of cousins (my sister and I and my aunts’ kids) there are no boys to carry on the Dadslastname. I have no idea if Dad cares about this fact at all.
    * My mom kept her name, so there’s no pressure from my parents from that standpoint, one way or the other.
    * I don’t really love my last name, or Mr. McGee’s, I’m kinda ambivalent at all.
    * That said, I’m picky about names when I can pick.
    * I don’t want to hyphenate. Or have five names (It’s hard enough to fit on official forms as it is. My driver’s license can’t fit even three.)
    * I really really want to have the same last name as the rest of my nuclear family. To me, it’s like a team, a unity thing. I’m not worried about having a different name from my kids (though the fact that the kids get the dad’s name when the mother gives birth gets my goat, and if I wanted serious leveraging power – like the kind that earns you lasting resentment, I could threaten to only give my kids my name), I just like the idea of having a common identity with the person I chose and the people we will (eventually, hopefully, someday in the faraway future) make.

    The easiest way out would be to take Mr. McGee’s name. People are assuming I will, and to do it would certainly simplify many things. But the feminist in me absolutely hates that idea and turns into kicking, screaming, protesting child when I consider it. It doesn’t make me feel more wifely to give up my name (I realize that might be crucial, that I view it as giving up my name rather than taking his. Though I do think that given the choice to select the name I assumed would assuage this discomfort.) What’s important to me is having the same name, not that the name be his.

    What I would be most happy with (and to merely say happy is an understatement) is for both Mr. McGee and I to create or select a new name together and assume that name when we get married. He has begrudgingly agreed that if I come up with something “totally awesome” he’d “consider it.” He really doesn’t want to change his name. I can’t say I really blame him for feeling that way. His name is part of his identity and he was raised with the societal patriarchy of names. I know I should respect his feelings, but I don’t know how to navigate this when he and I feel so differently. I suppose this truly is our first foray into marriage.

  • http://smartassbride.blogspot.com julie/smartassbride

    we’re still not sure what we’re going to do for last names. we tried combining (ridiculous, in our case!), or coming up with an alternative name that held some meaning for us, and nothing has really stood out (despite the contest we ran on facebook). we’re a couple months away from our wedding and so i think for now we’ll just be keeping our own. we may change stuff around in the future, or not.

    it bears mentioning that i’ve worked in a few schools over the past couple years, and there has definitely been a huge increase of families without the same names since i was a kid (in the 1980s). whatever peoples’ choose, i don’t think it’s going to make your child different from everyone else.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    Personally, my fiance is a doctoral candidate, has been published at least once and about to be published again. My career hasn’t really taken form yet, and I’d be going to grad school after marriage. We want to have one name that unites us as a family; my fiance offered to seriously consider taking my name before I stopped him (see: his professional life already taking off). We won’t hyphenate, either– six syllables, two very different ethnic names? No thank you… I love my family, but because we are so close knit, I have no qualms about changing my name. They are still a strong part of me, and have accepted my fiance as one of them for such a long time. I know they are my foundation and my support, and my name has very little to do with that. I did ask my father for his feelings on the subject, a gesture which he was touched by, which really was the purpose of me bringing it up with him. I know that my fiance and his family will be beyond honored that I would take his name, and I’m really looking forward to doing that. I feel lucky that my fiance acknowledges my struggle and offered to bridge the distance, and has helped every step of the way as I do this. There are days I can’t get over how lucky I am to be able to call him my partner, and my husband.

    …And here’s the thing. We’re all telling our stories, discussing our difficult decisions, our moments of anger or fear or sadness. And it’s not about what the decision is– change it, don’t change it, hypenate, create a new one, WHATEVER– it’s the inequity in the situation itself. It’s that WE are the ones who have this Big Decision to make. That WOMEN are the ones who are Making a Statement by keeping their name, or being Passive to the Patriarchy by taking their fiance’s name. It’s a decision that impacts us most of all, and so it should be important to us, but men don’t even come close to having a decision like this. Having my fiance be there for me, and his honest realization that he doesn’t have that kind of pressure, is priceless.

    The sheer societal freedom — yep, the “wide open cultural space”– of lesbians deciding what to do is brilliant; it’s an opportunity for equality and love and the creation of a new family. Run with it.

    Thanks, Meg, for talking about all of this. You’re the best.

  • Arachna

    I think it is so important to really think about this and do it thoughtfully.

    But also and even more rare I think it is very important to think about why it is that the children are going to get his last name (something like 90% true among couples where the wife doesn’t change her name) and so often I think this aspect gets brushed aside. As if of course the children will have his name, who could possibly argue against it? Which leaves me feeling very alone in my desire to give at least one child my name.

    And I think it important to talk about why it was important to him that his wife change her name, which several commentators brought up. I think it being very important to him is an entirely reasonable reason to change your name (not that anyone needs my approval) but the reason it was important to him and why that reason was not as well satisfied with him changing his name is also important and worthy of discussion.

    • Kristen

      My reasoning on giving the kids his last name is largely that it is my peace offering in the compromise. And simplicity. It does irk me a little but I see it as baby steps. I want them all to be the same, though. I don’t want a split, especially between hisname and myname and ever feel weird about it and what it says for our love for all of them. I did know kids where the parents each kept their name but combined their names to make the kids’ last names. I loved that idea but if their classmates wanted to look them up in the phone book to call to see if they could play – their name isn’t in the phone book.

      But I’m now thinking about for quick legality stuff, doing my name as Kristen mymiddle hislast mylast, and then possibly for the kids, adding my name in as a middle or second middle. I just worry that I’ll need to give consent on something and I’ll get questioned about guardianship. Which is especially important because my fiance’s a pilot and won’t be available all the time.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Here goes…
    Deciding to change my name was a painful process for a number of reasons. One, I lost my brother, the only male in my immediate family and with his death came the painful thought that my father’s name, my family’s name would be lost. I’d never felt or thought I had such a connection to my surname until that happened. And then I did and I didn’t WANT to change my name. Two, I felt some resentment that I was expected to change my name and the guy wasn’t. I decided I just wasn’t doing it. Third…I met Chris. I came to love someone who is a pretty traditional guy when it comes to certain things like name changing. It was VERY important to him. EXTREMELY. Like, this is almost a deal-breaker important. I won’t get into all of the reasons why, but needless to say there was a lot of talking and fighting over this issue. Certain compromises just cannot be made and this was one of them. I considered hyphenation and then immediately rejected it for obvious reasons. Going through it I learned that sometimes in partnerships, you suck it up because you love something greater than you love yourself. Yeah, I think that historically, women get the short end of the stick in this department as in, we end up being the ones who make all of the sacrifices for men in the really important stuff for US, but I also think that doesn’t mean the sacrifice still isn’t required. Yes, keeping my name was important to me, but changing my name was MORE important to Christen. So I let him have this one. Sometimes marriage is wonderful and at other times, it’s really hard to trying to navigate and hold onto my feminist values. I just have to gut-check and remember that sometimes, a decision can still be the right one even when it’s a culturally loaded one.

    Ultimately, I decided to keep my last name as a middle name and be Mrs. Shelby. And I don’t regret it for a second.

  • Jennyusagi

    Wow, I can’t even process the huge discussion on this, but I wanted to put in my two perspectives – mine & my mom’s.

    When my mom remarried, she kept her old married name because she owns a business and the paperwork to change her name would have been even worse than usual. But her husband really wanted her to take his name. So their compromise was that she’s still legally Mrs. Old Married Name, but socially she goes by Mrs. His Last Name.

    On the other hand, for me it was an easy choice to take his name. My dad had already had his name changed to take his new wife’s last name, and we don’t really associate much with his side of the extended family either. Plus I grew up with my name always being mispronounced, so I was more than happy to take my hubby’s last name, especially since I wouldn’t even change initials. Taking his name probably helped relations with his foreign and very traditional family too. Not that it would have been a deciding factor at all, it was more of an added bonus. I was lucky too that he’s so easy-going that he’d be happy with whatever I decided.

    And you’re right about the anger, I’m way more annoyed than I thought I’d be to still see my old name when I’ve requested the changes. It’s not like I hated the name and had been eagerly waiting to get rid of it.

    One point I was surprised about is that if you don’t take his last name, you technically stay a Ms. – I really wanted to be a Mrs., even if I’d kept my last name, I would have wanted to go by Mrs. My Last Name to signify that I was married.

  • Amelia

    I spent oh I don’t know from 10.30pm until midnight reading these comments last night..

    I’m not married but my partner (of many many years) was initially very adamant about me “taking his name”. It actually wasn’t until I somehow oddly got him to read “The Conscious Bride” that his mind shifted to “whatever you want”.

    I always thought I’d take his name socially and keep mine professionally..and I’m definitely staying a Ms.. I already have two middle names so i have no idea how I’d add mine in as a middle name..

  • Chantelle

    I had such a strong reaction to this post! Mid post I stopped and shouted out “I love you Meg!!!!!” , hope you felt the love.
    This is huge big stuff for me, and so very often I feel like no one gets why it is huge big stuff for me.
    At this point my fiance and I are looking at combining our names, although secretly I don’t love my last name (no one pronounces it right) I’m too damn stubborn to change it.
    Our names might sound horribly awkward one after another, and maybe our kids will hate me, but hopefully they’ll identify themselves with both of our families and their stories because of it.
    Thanks Meg, really thanks, your site is amazing!

  • Daphne

    There are several things about my upcoming wedding that have caused me unanticipated feelings of rage… I was really glad to read about your shaky rage in the post, I feel much better somehow about my own… 1) I know I do not want (and will NOT allow, I swear I will behead the DJ) the “typical” introduction of “Mr. & Mrs. His Name” when bridge and groom arrive at reception, the thought of this has annoyed me from the start, to the extent of shaky rage at the thought of it happening despite being explicitly banned in large font type on the DJ schedule… 2) people telling me my dress MUST be long, and MUST be a shade of white. This is making me look at black just to be obstinate. Only I have to find a shade of dark gray that will look amazing in pictures…black might not.

    Anyway, thank you for the great post.

  • Holly

    Hello, Thank you for this blog entry.
    As many people have stated, this is a very personal issue and while I completely understand every woman who says that taking their future husbands name isn’t for them.
    I, on the other hand, have a rather unique situation and I think it warrants some understanding. I will, with out a doubt, be taking my fiance’s last name for the following reasons. 1) I am an only child born to parents who have been divorced since I was 6 months old. Neither of my parents are very great role models and I have not been close to either one of them for over 10 years. I am very close with my grandparents on my mother’s side, but we already do not have the same name. 2) My fiance’s parents have been my “extended” family for the entire time we’ve been dating (6 years). They are amazing people and they have taught me so much about healthy married life. I will be honored to (finally) take my fiance’s last name when we marry because I will finally feel as though I am part of a tightly knit family.
    I feel a bit defensive when people say that I am not fulfilling my side of woman’s history by not keeping a name that has caused me a lot of heartache and loneliness. When I take my husbands name, it will be with pride and recognition that I am now part of a happy network of amazing new family members.

    For me, the day I change names will be more significant and more emotional (in a positive way) than I suspect my wedding will be. I hope my feminist friends will be understanding of my decision. Thanks.

  • http://www.kaylachism.com Kayla

    So I think I have a very different view of my last name (I’m not married yet) than most other commenters. It’s my name, the name I have lived with my whole life, but to me it doesn’t make me any more independent than when I take my fiance’s name. It actually is the reversed, it ties me more to my parents, which doesn’t make me feel independent at all.

    I think it probably has a lot to do with growing up in a small town where everyone knew my father, and being the “baby” of the family. When I was a teenager people my age would introduce me as My Father’s First and LastName’s daughter, and I would be just as angry as all the people who get the Mr and Mrs HisFirstName HisLastName. While I have moved since then and have begun to establish myself as my own person, it still is that last tie that keeps me to my parents, and I am very excited to get a chance to break free from that and start out in life as a new person (at least that’s what it feels like). Not that I have resentment towards my father or my family in general, not at all, I just am ready to cut that last string.

    So to me, changing my name isn’t a big deal at all because I didn’t choose my name. It was something that my father gave me. Now I have a choice, I chose who I’m going to marry, I’m wonderfully excited about it, so I kind of also for the first time in my life have chosen a new name.

    Oh, and for the record, my fiance has a horrible last name. Our kids are so going to get made fun of in school, but I can’t wait nonetheless.

  • Jacqui

    I am not married or engaged, but I am approaching that stage and have been thinking about this lately. I think that even if I change my name I will always think of myself as a ‘myname’. My mum is one of 5 girls and particularly when they are together I think of them as ‘theirmaidennames’, even though only one unmarried aunt actually has that name now. The family identity is deeper than the name. I thought I would also mention a family I know where they gave all their kids (5 of them) individual first and last names, but oddly I believe the mother uses her husbands name!

  • Tamar

    I didn’t have a strong opinion about name taking. Initially, I planned to take my future husband’s name (this is back when I was a kid) because my last name is the “title” that they called Hitler, and being a Jew, having that last name put a lot of my family in danger during the holocaust. In school, I got teased for my last name, getting “heils” and what not. So naturally I planned to change my name.

    However, my fiance has a really similar last name. As in unhyphenatably close (unless if you want a garble of 3 letters). And his name sounded kind of odd with my first name. So it just seems like more sense to keep it. Regardless, I don’t judge people who keep their names as “feminist” just like I don’t judge those who change their names as buying into a patriarchical society.

  • Emi

    So I’m late to the game here, but I have read all(!) the comments, so I feel I deserve one of my own.

    I think it’s really interesting that this is an issue that provokes, on the one hand, such strong, visceral emotions in many of us, and on the other hand, such fascinating, intensely personal stories that incorporate so many Monstrously Giant Issues (feminism! being perceived as a feminist! your future potential nuclear family and kids! your relationship to your own family/partner’s family! professional/academic life! cultural traditions! personal identity! et cetera!).

    Really, the only other issue I can think of that can provoke such personal, emotional discussion among progressive, independent and smart ladies (and sometimes bitter disagreement, though not for this post, you guys rock!) is that of the “mythological” (Meg’s apt description, thanks), debate between working moms and stay at home moms. I point this out NOT to open any in-depth discussion of the latter issue–unrelated & unnecessary here–but only to further the original discussion of the “unequal playing field” and why many of us feel so much rage with both of these issues.

    As many of you have already pointed out, the vast majority of even the most progressive, feminist dudes would never consider changing their name upon marriage (kudos to the ladies and guys who have at least had that discussion, regardless of outcome!). They’re given a free pass and allowed to remain neutral, whereas so many women, regardless of what they end up doing, agonize about what to do with their names with the knowledge that no matter what they end up choosing, someone somewhere will end up making some judgment about them based on it. Same thing for (false binaries) of the working vs. staying at home debate; historically a new dad is simply expected to keep up his career, no questions asked, whereas it’s the WOMAN who “must” make the tough decisions/sacrifices, and be held up for judgment and scrutiny no matter what she picks. Please note that I am painting with a very broad brush here–I know that most real modern families make decisions/changes/sacrifices for their kids as a unit, not just as mom vs. dad. HOWEVER, most of the public debate in both these issues is still conducted by, and centers on, WOMEN–their choices, roles, and obligations. In my (very) ideal world, both of these things would cease to be only a “woman’s” issue and simply become general marriage and family issues–most importantly, individual and personal issues!

    So it’s a double-edged sword here. On the plus side, as women we have choices, and we get to have these amazing conversations and examinations of our values and identities that men might not even think of in the first place. On the minus side, we have choices, and we are forced to rationalize everything and know that our decisions will be placed under a microscope. And THAT is something that I wish that more men would be aware of, not just the hassle of dealing with the social security office (though that sucks too).

    P.S. Not related per se, but I would like to add that my mother did not change her name when she got married. My brother and I have her last name as a second middle name, which I love and am very proud of. Both my parents’ names are on all of my diplomas and official documents, and I know that this probably makes my mom’s parents especially proud. I am now starting my career and have begun to also use my mom’s name professionally as well, because I like it and it gives tribute to my full ethnic heritage.

    BUT the best part of having a mom with a different last name (imho) was dealing with telemarketers. When I was a kid, if someone called asking for “Mrs. Dadsname,” I could (1) immediately tell that this was someone who did not actually know my mom/our family, and (2) truthfully and politely say, “I’m sorry, there’s no one by that name here” and hang up.

    I think my mom’s decision and my pride in it is part of what has made me very pro-name-keeping from the age of, oh, 10 or so, but I have LOVED reading all of these personal stories from everyone on keeping/changing their names and how they reached their decisions.

  • TLVBride

    It has never been a question. I always knew that I would not be changing my last name, even before I met my honey bunny. The mother-in-law was a bit shocked when I said without even the tiniest hesitation that, no, that was not happening. And my parents are relieved. But the thing that bothers me, Meg, is exactly the part you said I can postpone worrying about: Kids.

    Honey Bunny is adamantly against hyphenating, out of fear that our future children will be mocked and scorned. Maybe I grew up sheltered, but I never knew any hyphenated kids who were teased for their names. So, okay, hyphenating is not an option. BUT I would really like my kids to have my name and his name. So do we call them firstname middlename mylast hislast? Seems kind of long, but our names sound nice together. But I refuse to create a new last name. I love and value our family history and getting rid of our last names seems like it would be erasing our heritage. Especially as Jews who lost family in the Holocaust, this seems especially important. Along the same lines, we really want our future family to feel like a family unit and Honey Bunny thinks that a big part of that is sharing a name. But is it?

    So what other options are there besides hyphenating or a new last name for kids with parents with different last names? How did you guys decide?

    And, yes, I know I am worrying about something that is probably not going to be an issue for at least another 3-4 years, but I’m nice and neurotic like that and I think its important to have some sort of idea of how this stuff will work ahead of time.

    Please, shower me with your wisdom!

    • Amandover

      @TLVBride, The family who’s mom didn’t change did exactly what you’re thinking for the kids: First Middle Herlast Hislast. It didn’t cause them any issues that I know of (but then, I agree, neither did the hyphenated kids get teased).

  • Amandover

    I’ll be amazed if anyone reads this far down the thread, but, I had to put in my 2 cents.
    My mom hyphenated; my brother & I have our dad’s last name. When I was in high school, we became friends with a family whose mom didn’t change hers, and the kids went by their dad’s last name. We refer to them as the Herlast-Hislasts. My mom said, “Well, if I’d known I could get away with that, I wouldn’t have hyphenated!” So I agree with the people who say, don’t worry about the kids. It really doesn’t cause any confusion anymore. The only consideration is the continuation of your family name. But in the end, as the “double-hyphenators” have pointed out, names will get dropped, whether it’s in one generation or two. So, for me, it comes down to aesthetics – how do the names sound together? Do you like one better? At this point, I’m planning on us both keeping our names, and offering people a “nickname” combination, so they can refer to us with one word, but we don’t have to change our individual names.
    When it comes to kids, I have a friend who has her mom’s last, and her brother has her dad’s last. They’ve had no problems. But then, they grew up in Manhattan. My FH has an easier name, so we’ll probably just use that. However, I will correct anyone who ever calls me Mrs.

  • Kristen

    I am so happy to see this posted. For weeks after we were engaged, I was obsessed with the name change issue. For years, I have been planning to keep my name. I would be generally sensible about it and not get crabby if people who knew our kids’ last name called me Mrs. Them. On paper and truthfully, my name would still be the same but it would be a bit fluid. I even told this to my fiance early on (meaning, if you can’t deal, I’m not the girl for you).

    But, I got shaky after we were engaged. When I mentioned something to my dad as, “but of course I’m keeping my name” he was surprisingly unhappy. Kevin, my fiance, I could tell was trying to be supportive but was a little disappointed. He felt like I was rejecting his name and was disappointed that we and the kids wouldn’t have one family name. Which, I could see the family name thing. I wonder if it’s strange to have a different last name from your kids. I had also always said that if I had a bad last name or he had a bad last name (ie Butt), we would just go with the good one. Both of our names are good, though. He wasn’t pushing very hard but I could tell he was disappointed at the prospect of keeping separate names and that he was hoping that I would change my mind.

    So I went through all of these perumtations on what I could do for a name (I do have a middle name and I like it and am not dropping it). I could hyphenate but that leaves me with a 14 character last name. That won’t fit on forms. I could have four names ending with his last name. I could have four names ending with my last name.

    I obsessed and I agonized. On a completely irrationally superstitious note – there hasn’t been a couple in my family where she didn’t change her name and they aren’t divorced now. But really, I think that those ones actually didn’t change their names because they didn’t expect the marriage to last when they were getting into it and didn’t want to change back later… Then I would read things about the legality stuff and it sounded like the only time that doing the name change was very easy was doing it as you signed the marriage certificate. Finally one day, I don’t remember what was going on, but I dissolved and burst out with, “I feel like I’m supposed to assimilate into your life! I’m supposed to move into YOUR house (he already owns, I have an apartment) and take YOUR name!” Then, the tears. And the lightbulb for him. “Oh my gosh, I had never even thought of it that way. We’ll make the house OURS and you just do whatever you want with your name. I understand.”

    Phew. I hadn’t even realized I felt that way until I heard it come out of my mouth. And I could see how before I said that, there was no way he would have understood how conflicted I was. He was just excited about starting our own family and in that excitement, he couldn’t see anything besides, “Of course it’s going to be wonderful!” I support whatever people choose to do (although I am a huge fan of both of them picking a new name together) but personally, for now, I’m relieved to be keeping my name.

    However, I am still considering putting his name into the mix (since I think we’ll give the kids his last name) because I wonder if it might help show guardianship. Does anyone know how all of that works? Or are people getting used to women keeping their names so that a Ms. Smith isn’t questioned when she takes Sallie Franklin to the doctor (or whatever)?

    • Emi

      “On a completely irrationally superstitious note – there hasn’t been a couple in my family where she didn’t change her name and they aren’t divorced now. But really, I think that those ones actually didn’t change their names because they didn’t expect the marriage to last when they were getting into it and didn’t want to change back later…”

      Hehe, it’s completely the opposite with my family…the one couple where the wife took her husband’s name ended up divorced. That’s very strange, re: that particular reason for not changing your name. If you don’t expect the marriage the last, why get married at all? (That’s a general rhetorical question, btw, I’m not expecting you to answer for your absent relatives ;) )

      With regards to running into trouble because you have a different last name from your kids, I know that my mom never had a problem with that and from the comments it doesn’t seem like most people do. These days plenty of parents have different last names from their children for a whole mess of reasons, and I think it’s really unusual for people not to recognize that.

      Anyway, I’m glad you were able to discuss your reservations with your fiance and I hope you feel good about your decision whatever it turns out to be. :)

  • Susan

    I’m getting married in the fall so I am doing the requisite reading of “wedding blogs” – mostly for daydreaming, not actual help. This is the first comment I’ve been compelled to leave on a “wedding” blog and I just wanted to tell you how amazing I thought this post was.

    I’ve been struggling with this topic myself (as many of us have) and no answer makes me happy. I want to remain part of my own family lineage but I also want to make a statement that my fiance and I are building a new family of our own (kids or no kids). It’s a hard decision made no easier by the assumptions that people seem to make (will you keep your own name as a middle name? I have a middle name, thank you).

    I get angry too about this baseline assumption that I will assimilate into him rather than what this should be – some sort of commingling or what have you. I’m not going to go live in his hut or something so maybe we should investigate new ideas about this tradition as well.

    Strange to admit but I never thought of him taking my name. That doesn’t feel quite right to me either. I don’t know what we will do but I appreciate you posting this and bringing light to it. I even forwarded it to my fiance.

  • Missing the beginning of the Alphabet

    I changed from my perfect easy-to-spell, easy-to-pronounce maiden name to my husband’s name late last year and I hate it. It’s a fucking girls name that’s got a weird spelling. Now I get people thinking it’s my first name, especially when ordered LAST, FIRST.

    But the kicker is: now I’m totally used to it, and my old name doesn’t feel right anymore. FML

    • Alexandra

      Oh, man. Sympathy.

      Not much more to say, but wanted you to know that someone read & cared. ;p

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  • Jessie

    This post. These comments. So good.

    Part of why I want to keep my name is because I am basically the last one left with it in my family. My guy has 4 younger brothers who all have the chance to carry on their last name, if that’s what they’re into, but there is something really sad to me about giving up my name willingly. It’s like watching my family die (as melodramatic as that sounds.) Not to mention, I have a badass last name!

    I know my guy wants me to take his name. And though we’ve broached the subject a bit, we haven’t had the big sit down and discuss thing yet. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding it because I KNOW feelings will be hurt, etc, and I just don’t know how to stand my ground without seeming like a total bitch about it.

    This post gives me hope though. Waiting for kids is not a bad idea, one I never really entertained before. I think I feel a little more motivated to get this conversation started after reading about so many other women who are in the same boat.

  • Janna Giesbrecht-McKee

    I’m really glad you wrote this post, Meg. My husband and I decided to hyphenate our names- his last name is Giesbrecht and mine is McKee, so we became the Giesbrecht-McKees. Everyone asks us why his name is first instead of last (which is annoying), and it’s because it had a better ring than the other way around.
    We decided to hyphenate because we felt it was the most equal thing to do. I wanted him to take my last name, because I’m proud of the Scots-Irish, I love my family, and it’s much easier to say. But he didn’t want to leave his family behind either. In some ways, I wish I’d kept my last name and we’d just taken different last names, because I miss the simplicity, people not blankly staring at me at me after I say my name. I want our kids to have a family name, though. I get the anger, though. I hate receiving things in the mail addressed to “Mrs. Alex Giesbrecht, and thinking- none of those words represents me, that’s just a Mrs. in front of my husband’s name, and I’m not a Mrs!
    Thank you for your words. As always, you are full of wisdom and good sense. The worst part of this all is- it’s NOT practical to have a name with fifteen characters. :)

    • Alexandra

      Oh, man. My LN is 6 letters, and my fiancé’s is 10!
      So I think hyphenating would just be too much.
      (You are confirming this thought.)

      One of his aunts-by-marriage hyphenated, but her LN was only 4 letters, and her first name is shorter than mine, too. ;p

  • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

    I will come back and read these comments later: as usual, I am reading this excellent entry not long before I have to go to work.

    I had/have the exact opposite problem of many women: my fiance doesn’t want me to change my name. “I’ve just never considered you the sort of person who would change her name to her husband’s.” He is the one who feels it’s an outdated, sexist practice.

    I kind of agree with him, though now that the choices are changing for everyone and it’s now a choice for each woman rather than something society forces upon women, it’s better than before. It’s in the realm of acceptable to me, because changing my name would be my choice, not one that was made for me.

    On the other hand, I actually want to change my name for no reason other than aesthetics. I have a very long, difficult Polish name that I’ve made my peace with, but still don’t care for. He has a nice, short, pleasant-sounding name that is still not too typical (not like Smith or Jones – it’s something where if you Google it, you may actually find the right person).

    If he had the difficult name and I had the nice name, I wouldn’t change. End of story. But I kind of *want* his name. It’s a *nice* name. I suggested that we both change to a name in one of our families that we can agree on, but he doesn’t want to change, which is fair.

    So, we talked about it, and he came to realize that first of all, my desire to change my name to his (or any woman’s desire to do it, as long as it’s her desire and not something she’s told she has to do) has nothing to do with who I am (or who anyone is) as a woman or person, and that “I never saw you as that sort of woman” is simply unhelpful as well as a little judgmental. He understands my position and I’m down with his.

    If the brute force of the world were telling me I had to change, I wouldn’t change just to be rebellious. But that’s not what’s happening: I feel pressure not to change and I don’t like being told what I should do. So my decision to change it, while not a “rebellion” per se, is rooted in the fact that nobody’s making me.

    So yes, I’m changing. And I’m OK with that because it was my decision.

    I don’t mind the “Mrs,” thing though I intend to use Ms. after marriage, despite taking his name. I DO mind the “Mrs. John Smith” thing. That is ABSOLUTELY not cool with me and does leave me shaking in rage. My grandmother, upon hearing my voice when she suggested that invitations should go to “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” and my reply of “Why? Doesn’t she have an identity too?”, immediately dropped the issue. Bless her.

    Also, the “SoontobeMrsSmith” screennames on wedding forums kind of bug me – even on Offbeat Bride – but then it’s not my screen name, so it’s really none of my business what someone else chooses. I just instinctively recoil at any notion of a woman’s identity changing to mold to her man, even if that is not the poster’s intent in creating the name.

  • Audrey

    Thanks for this post!

    I ended up surprising myself – I was totally set on keeping my name, but the DAY BEFORE my wedding I had this sudden “well, maybe MyFirst HisLast would be kind of nice” reaction to the whole thing. I wonder if part of it is because frankly the wedding/marriage itself hasn’t been a life-changer at all, but changing my name would be. Strange, frankly. At the time it really shook me up, but it’s nice to be reminded that you can change your name any damn time you want.

    In the meantime, I’ve calmed down from that a little and haven’t decided for sure – but most likely I will keep my name.

    He’s actually kept completely neutral about the whole thing, under the “it’s your name” explanation. In the end I’ve really appreciated that.

    • Audrey

      (oh, and in the meantime I’ve decided that if his family wants to call me MyFirst HisLast on anything unofficial, I’ll respond to it)

  • ARH

    I can see why some people get so worked up about it, but honestly, a name is only a name. If you are a feminist, that comes across in how you act and live your life. My mother took my father’s last name, and kept her maiden name as her middle name. And she is an accomplished physician, well known for her in her specialty. I never once questioned the fact that she was a strong, feminist role model because we had the same last name. I was always proud of the fact that she accomplished so much professionally, yet she always made quality time for me and my siblings. Not to mention her mother, my grandmother, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry–and she was born in the 1920s. She also took my grandfather’s last name and made her maiden name her middle name. And she still kicked major feminist ass. The name is symbolic and has implications, but at the heart of it, it’s superficial. Change your name, keep it, or make up a new one–but live your life the way you believe, and question the stereotypes in our society that run deeper, and are really invidious.

    • meg

      I think that it’s fine to say that FOR YOU a name is superficial. That’s totally valid. The point is for many of us (including me) our name, what we are called every single day, is not superficial. It’s a core part of our selves and our identity, and that’s what women are grappling with as they make their decisions.

      You know that are policy is to be very respectful of each other in the comments, so I think it’s important that you couch opinions as yours in a way that doesn’t de-value a bunch of other smart, thoughtful women’s experiences.

  • kate

    meg. i know it has been said often… but thank you.
    thank you for creating a space that made me cry when i found it last summer leading up to my wedding… and that is relevant enough to keep me checking in months after the party.
    and i know so much has already been said on the subject of name changing… but reading though the comments above is just such an intense reminder of why i love being here that it made me want to comment.
    and i never comment.
    anyway. i did change my name. didnt add, didnt hyphenate, straight up changed.
    ive never cared for my last name. it is super unpronounceable. no one can spell it. i just do not like it. and ive never felt like it was a part of my identity. maybe that is weird. oh well. whatever.
    but i love my husbands last name. and after sitting at the social security office for 3 hours and the dmv for 4 hours (yes i did make an appointments, is anyone else experiencing this madness or is it just california?) i felt like crying on the drive home. it wasnt because i missed my old name or felt like i had lost a part of me. but that for the first time i felt like i had a name i clicked with. that i loved.
    i love my family. i love my husband and his family. and if i had a last name that i really felt a connection with or that i felt simply rocked you better believe he would have been the one changing his name.
    and after reading everyone’s opinions on the matter i guess the main thing im left with is how different things get us so riled up.
    i understand the frustration some might have towards the name change thing. i really do. and it is a really personal decision… like a lot of things surrounding marriage. and weddings.
    and while the name change thing doesnt get me super riled up (though it would drive me effing crazy if it wasn’t what the individual changing their name actually wanted) there were things during wedding planning that made me want to poke out my eyeballs. like having my dad walk me down the aisle. i really love my dad. but the thought of being “given away” makes my skin crawl. i got ready in the same room with max and we walked down the aisle together.* and it was the most amazing thing ever.
    but i realize that isnt for everyone.
    also the white dress thing makes me a little woozy. but that i actually did do. although it only cost 6 bucks and was from goodwill. so yeah. what do i know. but looking back i wish i had held out for not white.
    just to clarify. i have no problem with dads or any other family member walking people down aisles, or white dresses- these were just a few of the things that i personally did not want. the point is everyone approaches traditions differently. and that is ok.

    *on a side note i totally recommend this. esb posted a couple weeks back about dress shopping, first looks, etc. meg i adored your comment in that thread. but again, it just goes to show how we all interpret traditions in our own way.

  • Caitlin

    OH NO. I just realized my STDs have “The future Mr. and Mrs.” written on them, and I knew it bothered me but I didn’t think why and now I know. But it’s on there. And I feel silly for not really thinking about it. Sigh.

    One more story to get you all mad again: a coworker told me about a man she knew who got married and hyphenated, but instead of hers-his, they both did his-hers. My coworker said in response “wasn’t that submissive of him”. RAGE. Complete and utter rage.

    This whole name-change thing has me tied up in knots, but thank you all for commenting and for giving me more of a vocabulary for expressing how I’m feeling about it and almost sort of deciding.

  • Theresa

    Right on the nose, Meg! You just described EXACTLY how I feel. My husband and I decided to each keep our own names for now, and talk it out periodically until we come to something that feels as right as this does for now. Probably when/if we ever have kids.

    There was a time when I was in the kitchen in TEARS because I couldn’t handle the expectations and the questions that I was barraged with, when he got off scott-free because of the patriarchial nature of the whole thing. I don’t think he really understood, but I think he felt sympathy for me in my frustration. You see, Jake feels that a name is just a label-it doesn’t change who you are, or your relationships, yadda yadda. But the truth is (and any psych student knows) that labels do change how OTHERS perceive you, and thus how you feel perceived in society. I am a wife now, girlfriend to the same man for 8 years. 8 happy years. And we’re a family. And I want to be recognized as such, but being willing to fight for small graces is…exhausting.

    You said everything I’ve said, extremely eloquently. And I feel good reading my own thoughts on your public blog, because I know I’m not crazy, I’m not a radical, and I’m not the only one. Thanks again for a great entry!
    -Theresa

  • mary

    I am surprised that the hatred for the “Mrs.” While I can’t speak for all of the commenters, and I don’t actually know Meg, given the way you (Meg) described your wedding/marriage as so incredibly meaningful I guess I’m a bit surprised that it enrages you so much to see your name as Mrs. Meg HisLast. As you said, the term Mrs simply means “married to HisLast” – doesn’t it make you proud to see people aknowledge the significance of your marriage by referring to you as Mrs.?

    I am not meaning any disrespect here at all….I am just surprised at the reaction to the title Mrs.

    I ultimately changed my name (or added as it turned out – I am now Mary MyLast HisLast) but I am happy to be called Mrs. becasue to me, being married is a huge, huge thing and I am really glad to be married to my partner and gladly embrace it publically. I don’t believe anybody uses Mrs. to signify ownership or status within the relationship, to me it just signifies “married” -which I am.

    • meg

      As Cate Subrosa (who did take her husband’s last name) so eloquently said, “If you don’t know me well enough to call me by my first name, than you don’t know me well enough to know my martial status.” My marital status is not public business. Think about it, no one has any idea if your husband is married or not when they look at his title – and no one thinks that’s information they need. As such, they don’t need that information for me. As a woman, my status is not determined by whether or not I am married.

      Or put otherwise, I like being married, yes, but I don’t think it’s the outside worlds business. I’m not better or worse or different from and unmarried woman or a divorced woman.

      And besides, I didn’t change my name, so I can’t use Mrs. Using Mrs. Mylast would say I was married to my dad.

      • Elphie

        “Think about it, no one has any idea if your husband is married or not when they look at his title”

        That is an excellent point! Unless I changed careers and became a school teacher, I don’t think I’d ever address myself as Mrs. I don’t know any young women who do. Since I’m in academia, and so is he, we’ll both eventually be Dr. His, although I’m still deciding about whether I want to be Dr. Mine His (see below). That would be giving away that I’m married which is, as you put it, nobody else’s business.

  • Elphie

    Thanks for this discussion. It made for an interesting dog walk this morning. ;)

    My fiance is a published scientist (like so many other fiances talked about above!) and is sticking with his name after we get married. I’m also in academia, but not yet published and he will be doctor of philosophy before me. Part of me feels like he “beat me” to publishing, so I have to take his name if we’re going to have the same name, which is completely ridiculous. I will probably keep my last name as a second middle name, and give up my current second middle name; the last name of my great grand parents/grand father/ father that was changed in the 1950’s due to anti-semitism. In retrospect, I would have preferred to have had my mother’s maiden name as my second middle name since I am much closer with her side of the family. Plus, it would have been a nice tribute to her.

    I haven’t told my fiance that I’m a little hurt that he won’t even consider taking my name as a second middle name. This morning he said “I think middle names are stupid. Why would I want a second one?” Fair enough.

    Getting rid of my great parents name (even though I was close to them!) and keeping my not-really-a-family-name-but-it’s-what-I-have name as a second middle name is the only decision I’m pretty comfortable with. I will probably insist that our future children have two middle names like me. If they want to change their names in the future, they’re welcome to.

    Before Meg mentioned it, I wasn’t aware that this is yet another example of the playing field not being level! That boils my blood, even if my fiance doesn’t completely understand the issue in our case, as he is not asking me to change my name at all.

  • Wilson

    I always knew I was never going to change my name. It wasn’t even in the cards. However, I managed to go and find a boy with the same last name! Now everyone assumes I did change my name which is also infuriating, and because our last name is the same people feel free to call me “Mrs.” and I hate it!

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    I already have two last names (not hyphenated — two separate last names) from my parents that both kept their last names. So, I don’t really want to add another. I love my last name, so I don’t think I’ll change it. My boyfriend and I have discussed names seriously, and we’re both fine with each of us keeping our own names. With kids, we still have to decide, but I am pretty much at peace with the idea of our family being the HisName family and our kids having his name. I like my last name, but that doesn’t mean it has to be passed on.

    One of my friends did something interesting. She had a hyphenated last name, and she chose to move on of her last names to her middle name, take her husband’s last name, and use a three name system. It was an elegant solution that actually sounds really pretty.

    I think the real solution is for people to do what works for them. It always makes me sad when friends of mine pain a lot about changing their name (down to having panic attacks about it) yet still change their last name. Do what works for you.

  • Nasoan

    I am so relieved to see such a lively dialogue on this subject. My fiance and I have talked about this A LOT and it has brought up some interesting feelings. First, I must mention, that being the child of counter culture folks, I have a hyphenated last name (first name, moms last-dad’s last) that for 38 years has been a heavy moniker to carry. I also must mention that I have a 9 year old daughter who bears my last name as well (long story, absent, deadbeat dad, blah, blah, blah). Lastly, I have a career as a lawyer and as a published writer using my last name.

    My fiance, has his father’s name and is a a II, as in first name middle name last name II. His father passed away 6 years ago and since then my fiance (who has always had an interesting relationship to his own name) has become sort of fixated on how important it is to carry on his family name. I also must mention that we are also pretty non-traditional folks. My fiance is an artist. So when we first discussed the name change thing, I was stunned to find out how much my fiance wanted me to change my name to his last name and how certain I was that I wouldn’t for good reason (all mentioned above).

    I also, like some other commentators, did not feel any particular connection to the archaic notions (Property ownership, physical ownership etc) behind naming conventions in our culture. My fiance was hurt and did not entirely understand that all of my reasons for keeping my name had nothing to do with how much I adore him and how much I know I will feel like his wife-even if I don’t share his name. He had concerns that if we had a child it would feel “funny” having a different name than me. But I couldn’t quite understand that either, since my dad never hyphenated his name and I always had a different name than him. Ultimately we have come to an uneasy truce on the subject and continue to discuss it as we prepare our wedding ceremony with our officiant. And a dear friend has made up her own hypenation of our last names that is at once endearing and ridiculous and we now joking refer to ourselves by that name.

    But I can’t say that we have become comfortable yet with the name change dilemma–I imagine it will be something we work through in years to come!!!

  • agirl

    To quote on of my favourite blog-ladies, bugger me with a bunch of bananas. Crazy response to this post.

    I’m not even going to pretend that I was able to read all the comments. (If only!) I’m just adding my small voice to say that I thought I’d change my name. Then we got (legally) married, then we got (properly) married, then we celebrated anniversaries, and what do you know, my name was the same. And I started getting irritated by the assumption that it had changed. And now I don’t think it ever will.

    I’m also confused about what to do when little come along. I’ll cross that bridge when we get there I think.

    (One thing I did do? I tried out my potential new last name on Facebook. It never really felt right somehow. Useful experiment I suppose…)

  • V

    In Korea, women don’t change their names at all, but are instead referred to thereon as “So and so’s wife.” I can’t decide which is worse (to lose your last name or your entire name) or if they’re even different ultimately, but the sense in which women are referred to after they are married doesn’t make one think she has been subsumed into her husband’s identity, but rather that she and her husband are a new entity. Professionally and on mail she will still be called her name. It’s only in reference to the couple when the “So and so and his wife” is used, and when the couple have a child, the first child’s name will be used to refer to the family unit; e.g. “Michael’s family” or “Michael’s parents.” In other words, neither parents’ names are used after the first child is born.

    Of course this is a cultural difference so it won’t translate here very well, but if you wanted to feel like one unit with one last name, maybe you could take on a new last name, but one that somehow honors both of your families. I know this sounds a lot easier than it will be, but I could see both of you being happy in the end. I have a friend who’s considering a new last name that will be Irish in form (honoring her grandmother) but also happens to include one of her fiance’s parent’s first names I think.

  • elisabeth

    I was so happy to take His name! Not only is it worlds easier to spell and write in cursive than my Maiden name, but I love that old fashioned “I’m married to HIM” feeling.

    I’d like to point out for those still deciding that other cultures might offer other options. For instance (as some Canadians have pointed out) it is not a French custom to change names, in fact some place prohibit it! Almost every country has their own way of doing things, and a little research might yield some new-to-you ways of doing things!

    But I don’t recommend doing what the Hungarians did (and some still do). They took not only the Husband’s last name, but his first as well! So my Great grandma Helen Szilagyi married Alex Shigo, and became Shigo Alexne to all but family and close friends. Thank goodness customs are changing (if slowly!)

  • Ash

    If I had had a more joyous childhood filled with loving parents and all the beautiful memories a person should have, I’m sure I would have a problem dropping my last name. But I really can not WAIT to rid myself of my last name, in a sense. I am truly embracing this new beginning. It is both wonderful and sad to look back and examine what went down and then leave it behind. It has no power over me and really embrace my new life and new name. In fact I can say that happened to someone else entirely. New woman New name.
    * Plus my name will rhyme which I think is just corny enough to come off as charming

  • Jacquie

    Unlike many ppl, my decision to take FH’s last name is fairly simple: he has a cool last name. I do not. I don’t think a name defines a person, so I don’t mind changing mine. Kids weren’t a factor in this because it really wouldn’t bother me to have a different last name than the kids.

    What DOES “bother” me, is the thought that people will judge me for taking his last name. I’m a total feminist and many of my friends and family have been giving me very confused reactions when I tell them I’m planning on taking his last name. This saddens me a little and makes me wonder what other people–coworkers, etc–are thinking about me.

    I just like his name better than mine. Given the choice, I want his name. If he had a crappy name, I’d keep mine.

  • Ash

    Thank you for this. Looking back at my comment and examining my feels about this have been helpful to me.

    • Ash

      apparently i’m tired. please read what i mean and not what i write. Thanks

  • m.

    I know I’m late to the party, but I am SO GRATEFUL for this post.

    It literally never occurred to me my fiance would want me to take his name. He’s a very liberal guy, I’m a very serious feminist, and we’ve known each other close to a decade. When he asked, I was stunned, and frightened. Who does he think I am? Who does he want me to be? Does he expect me to turn into a sitcom housewife immediately upon saying “I do”?

    We talked about it. A lot. He did not think any of those things. He wanted our family to share a name. This, I thought, was nice. But “sharing a family name” could not mean “abandoning my name and sharing HIS family name”. That would not be my family. That would be HIS family.

    So I asked if would consider hyphenating *with* me: as in M. Hers-His and S. Hers-His (or His-Hers, whatever). To his credit, he took a few days to really consider it. And decided he didn’t want to. It would be weird, and hard, and he wasn’t interested.

    And here’s where it gets complicated: technically, I’d gotten my way. I didn’t want to change my name, and he didn’t want to change his, and so we were even. He told me that taking his name was still his preference, but he understood–better, now–why I didn’t want to.

    But now I’m kind of angry. He wanted to share a family name, but only if it was HIS name? He says that part of the problem is the fact that my last name ALSO happens to be his middle name (a grandmother’s maiden name), meaning that if he hyphenated, he’d be S. Jones Jones-Smith, and that would be ridiculous. Instead, I should take HIS name, and we’d be M. L. Jones Smith and he’d be S. Jones Smith. Except…THIS IS NOT A COMPROMISE. This is not growing and changing with me–his name wouldn’t change! The name he got from a grandmother might be the same word, but it does not come from me, and therefore is not MY name. His grandmother and I are not (thankfully) related. He asks what he would do about his middle name, as if this is an unprecedented question. Every single married woman who changes her name faces this question, and they all seem to handle it somehow.

    I guess what upsets me is that he doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t understand why I consider his middle name and my last name DIFFERENT names when they’re both “Jones,” and I’m frustrated that he was able to get through 25 years on the planet without ever having to consider changing his name, and why he could wax poetic about sharing a family name without ever considering that we might include MY name in OUR family.

    We, too, have decided to wait until children are a more pertinent issue to deal with their names. But now I get testy if he so much as jokes about me changing my name.

    • m.

      PS: The only name-changing jokes that don’t make me crabby are the ones about how we’re both changing our name to “Awesome,” as in Ms. M. Awesome & Mr. S. Awesome.

      Because that’d be awesome.

  • Eli

    I have a truly unique last name. My mother and father both kept their last names and my brother and I have a combination name of the two. Basically my last name is a joining of my parents last names (no hyphen, a completely new name formed from the first syllable of each of their names). My mother remarried and those siblings have combination names from my mother and stepfather. So you see, hardly any of us have the same last name and we love it! I am keeping my name when I get married this month because I love it. And as for children, I’ve always thought they would have my fiance’s name because although I love my name I’m also looking forward to having little ‘fiance’s names’ children. But I like the idea of fluidity of emotion and the importance of communication when it comes to these matters, good things to keep in mind for the future! Thanks everyone for conversation.

  • E

    Ugh! I am getting married in the fall and I flip back and forth on this issue all the time! It would make things easier, in my mind, if older folks and men did not ASSUME that the name-change is something that will happen. This is a big deal and it’s hurtful to treat it flippantly.

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  • shaulyte

    Hi, I am reading this blog for several months and wanted to thank Meg for all sanity and kindness which spreads through this place.
    I live in small country in eastern Europe which is considered to have a very ancient language, that’s why we are having (at least one’s like me) some trouble with our family names. First of all our family names have suffixes that shows right away your gender. For example husband has a name Rutkus, wife’s name is Rutkiene. What is even more family names also shows woman’s marital status, for example Rutkus daughter has a family name Rutkyte, see the difference, while english speaking counties have one name for all of them. For several years this topic have been discussed a lot and linguists allowed to use woman name suffix that cannot show her marital status, now both mother ant daughter can have a same name Rutke. All this seems perfectly fine and up to date until you try it say aloud that it would be nice to have your family name this way, I have heard many things from calling these women wanting to hide their marriages because they are free behavior, to naming them feminists with a lot of contempt, the least is saying that these names are ugly or that it is demolition of our traditions and family values. It is no surprise that only ten percent of newly married woman chooses that “new” name form. Such untolerant, narrow minded society is driving me mad every time I hear judging new bride who made her choice, whats worse a lot of judging comes from other women.
    By now my and my fiance are in preengagement status, which of course means me puting our names and family names together in many combinations, and often I come up with wanting both my maiden name and his family name in form not showing marital status even if it sounds a little strange in that form. Having two family names after your name is still considered strange, unusual and demonstrative, while it is every ones free will and personal right.

    sorry for long and not so coherent post, and unfluent english, bet I just had to write it down.

    • Alexandra

      I’m really glad you wrote your story!!! Your English may be unfluent, but it is perfectly understandable. ;)

      The linguistics of naming sounds very difficult there.

      I have a friend in Denmark who is transgender, and one problem that he faced early in transition was, what name to be called by: In Denmark, there are specific lists of what first names can be given to children of each gender, and there aren’t many overlaps between the sexes. There are dispensations for people from outside cultures, but even adults who are Danish must choose from the list.
      He didn’t want the female name on his passport, and so found a name on both lists to go to. ;)

      Thanks for sharing your story. I love reading about other people’s experiences.

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  • Julie

    For me, changing my name was a decision I’d waffled on since I had my first serious boyfriend. My mother didn’t change her name, I believe as my father told her “not to change it” (not sure on the reason). When I was born, I was named “Julie Kakas Nelson,” the Kakas being my legal middle name. My brother was “Frank Kakas Nelson.” Actually, until the third grade, I thought everyone got their mother’s maiden name (I’d figured out that most women take their husband’s name) as a middle name and I was dismayed to find out that everyone had middle names like Marie, Lauren, and Elizabeth. I felt a little bit ripped-off, especially since my middle name (not really my middle name here, but an ethnically similar example) sounded really weird compared to all the Maries out there. By the time I got to high school, though, I’d embraced my ethnic identity and was proud to have a unique middle name that showed I was related to my mother, too, even though I don’t use it from day-to-day ie: I am not Julie Kakas Nelson, just Julie Nelson (I do sign the middle initial, though).

    As for being engaged, my wonderful fiance has no preference as to what I do with my name. He did say that he knows me as Julie Smith and he considers that to be who I am, which is cool. His only statement was that he was not going to change his name because it would be “weird,” a statement with which I don’t agree (it is atypical, but weird?) but I’d never considered asking him to change because I didn’t want him to ask me to change.

    I have no sentimental attachment to my last name. It’s (the real one) a German name, not common but not unique, and I was not close to the grandfather from whom I inherited it. My relationship with my father, while not bad, has been an emotionally complicated one for most of my life. But, his name was given to me and as an adult I now see it as “my” name that just happens to be the same as his. I don’t wish to shed it because of emotional associations, in fact, I think I’m indifferent to its origins (but I do love the origins of my middle name).

    My fiance has a very common German name. I’ve considered becoming “Julie Beck,” “Julie Smith Beck” with Smith as a middle name and dropping my mother’s name, and “Julie Kakas Smith Beck” for about 5 seconds because I sounded like a phonebook.

    In the end, I decided to keep my whole name. No changes, no amendments, no hyphens. It isn’t any priority to me to have the same last name as a family; it worked fine for my parents. As for children, I would like (and we haven’t discussed this) to make them “Baby Kakas Beck” or “Baby Smith Beck” so they have something from me. It makes no difference that they take their father’s name, which I think is what he wants. I’m not going to hyphenate them. I don’t know that my future in-laws are aware of me not intending to become (legally) Julie Beck, but that’s their deal to deal with, so to speak. Socially, I guess I could be Mrs. Beck, but I’m not going to encourage it.

    As I once heard a lady say, “one man’s name is as good as another.”

  • Adele

    Well, I never really liked my husband’s last name. And it doesn’t sound great with my first name. However, neither was I attached to my own name. I haven’t seen my father in over 20 years and my mother has since re-married a lovely man and taken his name. So, I did something different.

    I wanted to keep a part of my own family in my name, so I adopted my mothers maiden name. She is one of two sisters and their line of the name had stopped. As my granddad (quite sick now) is enthralled with his family tree, I thought it would be a nice gesture to hyphenate this with hubby’s name. Hubby wasn’t up for ditching his name altogether, but after some ‘talks’ has come around to the idea of at least modifying it and has hyphenated his to match, so we have a family name.

    I was never a big fan of hyphenating (though some combo’s do sound pretty good – sadly ours isn’t one of them). It was just the best compromise for us. As for kids, if we have them, we’ll give them the hyphenated name to start with and see what happens. We have actually both chosen to use our own halves of the hyphenated name casually or just as it pleases us. So I can be Adele M**** or Adele M**** – M**** as I please.

    I also have chosen to be Ms as I don’t see why everybody should know my marital status if they don’t know his. I’ve had a few raised eyebrows on this one, I don’t think it’s too common in UK yet to be a married Ms. But I figure, somebody’s gotta start these things.

    Incidentally, his parents are rather offended at his modifying of his name. But they seem to have been offended at every step of our wedding plans too. That’s a whole other story…

  • Cari

    I’m getting married in May, a week before I graduate from Medical School. I have no plans to take his name, it seems too much of an identity change for me. Like, that has been my name for the past 27 years of my life, I see no reason to change it after years of living in sin, just because we’ll be officially married. I am however, very much looking forward to getting mail addressed to Dr. and Mr. :)

  • http://www.knitmetogether.net Christy A.

    I know I’m late to the party, but I just read this and had to chime in, because this issue was a Very Big Deal for me as well.

    I don’t want to go into a whole big history thing, but in a nutshell marriage was never on the table for me. That is, until I dated a man on a whim who slowly but surely became my future, and I had to change all my ideas about how I thought my life would go because I never had to account for anyone else before. Suddenly I was plunged headfirst into wedding planning, registering, all these things I apparently Had To Do, without the cushion of forethought that dreaming of this day since I was a kid would have given me, including making huge life-changing choices such as whether or not to keep my name.

    It had never occurred to me that I would be known as anything other than Christy L***. I had a great last name! Fabulous! People commented on it all the time, and it also worked as a ringing and memorable stage name. My (now) husband’s name was…..eh. Not fantastic. At least, not when I compared it to the awesomeness that was Christy L***! But after we got engaged he (respectfully, but wrongly) assumed that I was planning on taking his name. Imagine a record scratching to a halt when he let that one slip. I was a fully-formed, independently-minded, feminist-of-a-new-generation woman. He loved that about me, yet here we were locked in a stalemate because I wasn’t into changing my name and he assumed that I would.

    Fast forward several months to the time when we Had To Decide (your advice that you don’t HAVE to decide before the wedding would really have come in handy back then!), We’d had a few ugly misunderstanding fights – I thought he was trying to oppress me and stifle my voice, he thought I didn’t want to be joined with him and didn’t respect his feelings. But then we remembered that we were marrying a good-willed person who loved us sacrificially, and we sat down to really talk about why this name thing was so important to us.

    My side: In all honesty, the side of the family my name came from is pretty screwed up. My desire to keep my name had absolutely nothing to do with honoring my history, and I HATED it when people would suggest this as justification for keeping my name. I wanted to keep my name because it was part of who I was. I worked very hard to re-define the story that historically went with my surname, and it was part of how I identified myself. People used my last name as a nickname for me before knowing it was on my birth certificate, that’s how well it suited me. Eventually I realized that I was more afraid of losing myself than I was of losing my name (even though Aaron loved me just as I was and never asked me to change), and my name had become a symbol of independence for me. And as a bride-who-almost-wasn’t, every little bit of me that had to bend to join in holy matrimony with another was a severe internal battle for me.

    His side: His dad left when he was two. His mom remarried an emotionally and physically abusive man and took his name, while Aaron kept his birth name. When his mom divorced the scumbag (not long after they were married, thank God) she didn’t change her name (too much work, she said). Aaron grew up as an only child with a name that didn’t match his mothers’, with almost no extended family on her side and none on his biological fathers’. People assumed his mother was unrelated to him because of their different last names, and he hated it. Really hated it. The only person he shared a name was his estranged father, a nomadic hippie who chose drugs and ‘finding himself’ over his son. Like me, Aaron had worked hard to re-define what his name meant, and was proud of the life he had built. He grew up dreaming about having a family – a good family, a whole family – who all shared one name. When I told him I didn’t want to take his name, what he heard was that his kids were going to have a different last name than one or both of their parents, and were going experience the same misunderstandings that haunted him as a kid.

    At the end of the day, it meant a lot to me to keep my name, but it meant more to him to have me take his. And so I did. This wasn’t an easy decision, but it typified the kind of sacrificial love that has defined our marriage. We’re not selfless people, but we can love the other above ourselves. We cherish the other as an individual, but make decisions that benefit the whole. This was by no means an easy decision for me, and I had to pray a lot to come to peace with it. But it was absolutely the right decision for me and for my family, and I have never regretted choosing to honor my husband in this way.

    The hardest part? Actually changing my name after the wedding. Not because of anything I was feeling, but because of the cheerfully unhelpful buffoons behind the dmv/social security/magazine subscription desks who would ALWAYS see my former surname and say “Oh! You’re changing your name?!? But why, hon, it’s such a pretty name! If it were me I would have kept it, you should talk to that man of yours!” Talk about engraged! I’m not a violent person, but after the third one of these I felt like hitting someone. No, stranger behind a desk, I don’t want your completely unsolicited advice about a decision I made that may seem like no big deal to you but actually took moving a mountain in my heart to make!

    Anyway, here’s where I’m at now: My old last name is now my second middle name. My husband has two, now I do too. I (reluctantly) go by Mrs. when the person doesn’t know me, but ask to be called Ms. with people who do (with the exception of my irony-loving little sister, who has chosen to nickname me “Mrs.”). I REFUSE to be known as Mrs. Aaron A*********, and ask friends addressing cards and invites to use both of our names. I’m not a judgey person by nature – live and let live, that’s me – but I Do. Not. Get. women who melt at being called Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. And I’m happy with that. Oh, and I kept my original awesome stage name. He can’t have them all. ;)

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  • MeganKozi

    I know I’m a bit late on this issue, I’ve only been a member since October. Sorry. My fiance is Puerto Rican, born and raised on the island. It is customary for women of Latino descent to not take their husband’s name after marrying, however, it is the father’s name that gets passed when those children have children. Why? I never could find an answer.

    That being said, my fiance DID NOT want me to take his name (he thinks the European/Western practice is bizarre), and to hyphenate our future childrens’ names, as is customary (his name-my name). Although I do have two brothers, I have no idea as to when, let alone if, they’ll be having children. You can say that I’m still debating the issue. It would be easier to just keep my name-no paper work-but it would be weird having my Mother’s title of Mrs. Koziol.

  • Liz

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but at least from the first page I think I am in a pretty small group regarding names. My mother kept her last name, and both me and my brother have her last name (with our dad’s last name as a second middle name). So, Liz Middle Dad’sLast Mum’sLast.
    I have no plans to change my last name if I get married, as I think it’s a cool name, even though no-one pronounces or spells it correctly (it’s not actually difficult at all, so I’m not sure why this happens).

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  • Kat

    I LOVE this blog. I am so thankful that one of my friends sent it to me. I am getting married in 7 months and the name-changing is definitely an intense issue. There was never any DOUBT in my mind, even in my little-kid-fantasy-imagining-my-wedding mind (yes, I did imagine it once or twice…but not in a cheesy date-movie kind of way) that I would NEVER change my name. I was raised by a feminist artist, and although she changed her name and never told me not to change to mine, I was taught to believe that as a woman I was equal to any man on the planet. Thus, why in hell would my name not be adequate?? After all, I’ve had this goddamn frustrating, hard to spell, hard to pronounce last name for 31 goddamn years and it’s MINE. Why would I suddenly become someone else? Like a possession!! So, yeah. That’s that. Plus, I’m the very last person my in line of geneaology to posess this last name (being an only child of an only child of an only child…) and I am going to keep this name until the day I die!!

    But, a more intense issue has surfaced, and Meg, I could REALLY use your input. And that’s the issue of conversion. I was raised Irish Catholic and my fiancee is Jewish. I renounced Catholicism a long time ago and have no connection to it, other than memories and a cultural tie. My fiancee is not religious (actually, he’s kind of athethist) but he identifies with his religion on a culural level. (His name is David, actually…) He wants me to convert so that our kids can be considered Jewish by the state of Israel. His family was actually surprised it meant so much to him. I foolishly agreed, on a whim, saying it would be my “wedding present” to him. What a f**king idiot I was. I am not scared by the work involved or anything of the sort, in that sense, bring it! But, I am truly and utterly disturbed by the implications of it. That I am CONVERTING, changing myself to fit my man. So, he identifies culturally with Judaism, what about my Irish Catholic cultural identity? What about my religious grandmother who would never speak to me again if she knew? David says if I’m not taking his name, then I should convert. Like I OWE him something?? He gets me for the rest of his life, isn’t that enough??

    Like you, Meg, this issue has me shaking angry. If I were a cartoon, smoke would be blowing out of my ears in billows.

  • liz

    THANK YOU SO MUCH – I wish I had found this blog last year when everyone was in full flow. However I’ve just spent a couple of hours reading all the comments and felt I must say that the discsusion has been so considered and thoughtful whilst still enabling people to state their views. It was also a revelation to me that others feel real rage at being incorrectly addressed – I thought I was the only one to tear up and burn any Mr & Mrs His His envelopes or even any Myfirst Hislast ones!

    I also loved Meg’s comment about the unequal playing field. I have tried to summarise why I feel so strongly about the naming issue for years and realise now that it is quite simply a matter of fairness so the “unequal field” sums it up perfectly. I have stuck at being Ms Myfirst Mylast through 2 marriages over the past 25 years and despite it being hard-going at times with people and bureaucracies not getting it I know it was and always will be totally the right decision for me.

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  • Storm Monroe

    I personally see nothing wrong with a person changing their name. I feel that it is a personal choice. I changed my name and I have gotten a lot of backlash from it, especially from the African American community. They all told me that I shouldn’t do it, especially since i changed my whole name. I went from Montrez C Nixon to Storm Chase Monroe, and I love my new name and do not regret it one bit.

  • http://www.actsofbeauty.co.uk/wordpress ActsofBeauty

    Hi, it’s so nice to hear of all this rage – seriously, rage is underratted as an agent of positive change in the world, and it’s so brilliant to not be alone with the rage, or as my friend says “The Red Mist” (she knows good rage).

    I’ve changed my name twice already and I’m not anywhere near a wedding yet. And I definitely won’t be taking his name when I finally get there. I created my last name myself, so it’s not a family name. He can keep his, I will keep mine. I grew up in a hyphenated family, and since then everyone (mum, dad, brother, me, sis) have all had different/changed names at one stage or another and it has never been an issue.

    The interesting challenge I will face is when I have children, they won’t have my name – it’s not a family name but personal to me, and I also don’t want them to have his, to me that would be strangely imbalanced and honouring his father’s line only. I want to create a new name for them. Hmmm, should be interesting.

  • Anja

    I will admit to reading only about a sixth of the comments so far, but here are my thoughts on the whole matter. I am a bit under 20 and engaged, while this may seem completely mind-blowing to nearly every person who hears of our engagement, I am happy, and do want a miserable, stretched out adolescence past my twenties just to “get to know myself” through parties and booze. If this is women’s “empowerment,” then I don’t want that slice of it and would happily opt for tranquil domestic life instead.

    My FH has, throughout our courtship, told me various times that he wants me to change my name. While we are traditional in nearly every sense of the word, and I do not object to it (rather have always looked forward to it), I simply didn’t like his last name. It is short, simple, and not representative of anything spectacular. It is even a bit comical.

    Meanwhile, mine is foreign and even though it is special, I have a brother who can carry it on. I have never wanted to keep it forever. FH is upset because he adores his last name for some reason I cannot comprehend. For if that was my last name, I would change it _as soon as I could_ to something more respect-demanding. Anyway, he wants me to take it, but agrees to let me have my own last name if I absolutely dislike his.

    Slowly, I’ve been warming him up to the idea of modifying his to at least match the length of mine. We definitely want children, and we definitely want them to all have the same last name. There have to be at least two or three more years of engagement, but when the time comes, I would be happy and blissful if anyone decided to write Mr. & Mrs. HisFirst HisLast or Mr. and Mrs. HisLast.

    It IS about ownership, we would own each other yes, but (this may enrage the 30-40ish feminists on here) I love the thought of being his. I don’t want to ride off into the sunset with him on my own horse, I want for him to put me on his horse and carry me off on his horse, as ONE unit, not two friends playing house and calling each other married. With all due respect, but if you do not even respond to “Mrs. HisLast”, what does that say about how much respect you have for him?

    Lastly, what is issue with being a (potentially actually a virgin) “maiden?” It is your maiden name because your are a maiden, if you are older, then you are just an unmarried woman, big deal. When people started addressing me as “ma’am,” is was actually distressing because I am a “miss!” However, when the time comes, I would welcome “Mrs”. or “ma-am”.

  • Contessa

    I happily changed my name when I was married. Now that I’m divorced I still see my “married name” as my name, not necessarily his. It’s the name I had when I created my adult identity, it’s what my students and Scouts call me. It’s my name. My last serious boyfriend wanted me to change my name if we married because he couldn’t be married to me if I had my ex-husband’s name. My arguments that he couldn’t tell me that my name wasn’t mine fell on deaf ears and made me so blind with rage that a breakup was inevitable. The memory of his voice shouting, “It’s not your name” still make me feel sick.

  • Meredith

    I got married almost a year ago and I knew I would never, never change my name. I honestly made the decision in high school. My last name was too long and weird to hyphenate and therefore… well, my option was to just keep it. Going through life assuming I would keep my name honestly made it easier when I got engaged. (And really, it surprised no one that I would keep my name.) And besides, why should I have to change anything if he doesn’t?

    However, I found myself getting really angry over the process during my engagement. I’m not angry at getting mail addressed to Mrs Hislast, or even acquaintances who made reference to being “Mrs. Him.” (Though sometimes now when I see things that say “Future Mrs. Jones” I get irrationally angry about loss of identity and whatnot, which is another story.) It was the fact that I had to think SO HARD about the subject at all. I questioned myself. On several occasions I pictured what it would be like to change my name. And it always made me want to cry. But I was angry at the unfairness of it all. The unfairness than 99% of men who get married don’t have a tug-of-war inside their head about their name. 99% of men don’t think about what their in-laws response will be when they find out their new in-law will be keeping their birth name.

    At the moment, my husband and I have decided our children get my last name as a second middle (my husband has his mother’s maiden name as a second middle), and his last. But more and more, I’m dissatisfied with this compromise. While hyphenating isn’t really something that works with my name, I’d like to create a new name with part of mine and his (mashed together, no hyphen). If the children have 50% my DNA, and I’m responsible for 50% of their care and upbringing, well, it’s only fair. The Lucy Stone League has information on naming gender equity which is fairly interesting and discusses how women are often raised to believe their names don’t matter because it is assumed they’ll change them anyway.

  • Lindsay

    I realize this comment is ridiculously late in the game, but I’m hoping typing out my situation will help me clarify things for myself.

    *I always assumed I’d keep my name as is, and maybe if I were marrying a (cisgendered) man, I’d still feel that way. As it is, I’m surprised that I feel so inclined to want a shared name for my new queer family – we’re Canadian, so everything’s legal, and the symbolism of sharing a name should be less important, right?

    *My mother changed her name, but we always joke that it was a fairly easy choice, since her family name and my father’s both mean the same thing, only her’s is English and his is French.

    *No one pronounces my last name properly, including myself and most of my family. We use a very anglicized pronunciation. I have attempted to use the proper french pronunciation for work, as my job involves communication in french, but I frequently forget. There is also the problem that my first and middle name are utterly unpronounceable in french, making it very awkward to say my full name with the last name pronounced properly. I’ve never really cared for any of my names, but I could never get any attempt at changing my name to stick.

    *I’m not generally a fan of hyphenation, as it just puts off the name issue to the next generation, and my name is really too long to hyphenate well, but I kind of like MyLast-HerLast, anyway. She doesn’t though, so it’s a moot point. Also, I was very surprised to find out that my very traditional cousin, who I would have assumed would take her husband’s name without a second thought, hadn’t changed her name, but had instead chosen to hyphenate our already long french last name with his even longer polish one, making a 7-syllable last name.

    *Her last name is nicer, more pronounceable, etc, but sounds awful with my first name. We both (rather shamefacedly) admitted to each other that we had briefly considered both of us using her name, because she’s more butch, before realizing how terribly heteronormative we were being. Also, I think my parents would be hurt if we took her last name.

    *We’re considering adoption, and wondered if a solution might be to keep our own last names and keep the birth last names of any children we adopted, as a way of honouring where they come from. I do worry that this would make an adopted child feel like less of a part of the family though, which would be the opposite of what we want.

    *Making up a new name really seems like the best option, but our names don’t combine well. Duke, Dueller and Dell are really the only viable choices, and the only one I like is Dell, which is unfortunately also the first name of a relative of hers, so it may not be an option. That leaves starting from scratch. She’s suggested ‘Zilla (as in godzilla) as a joke, but I would like to be able to be taken seriously at work. We’re thinking something nature-y sounding, maybe, and if we’re choosing an existing name, we want it to come from at least one of our backgrounds. Given we have English, French, German, Scottish, Cree and Blackfoot to choose from, it shouldn’t be so hard, but it is. We’ve been reduced to reading random words off signs to each other in the hopes that something will sound good.

    It’s a good thing we have two years to the wedding, because I’m pretty sure it will take us at least that long to come up with something that works.

  • Andrea

    Meg – I am coming into the game late but I have loved sitting down and reading all of the comments. I have often felt that this is such a heated debate and have (unfortunately) seen comment threads that are hostile and often threatening. I have often felt like I am some social pariah for not wanting to change my last name.

    I am the first woman in my family and in my husband’s family to not change my last name. 3.5 years later – we are still getting grief about this! There are members of his family (who have been told several times) that I am not Mrs. HisLastName. I don’t find it cute and actually get really upset by the lack of respect that I feel. I feel that I have respected their decision of changing their last name and I should get the same level of respect for not. We may not agree with each other’s decisions, but we should at least respect them. My sister-in-law (who married into the family a year after me) told me that I was not a real member of HER family because I did not want to be Mrs. HisLastName.

    I never thought of myself as a feminist until I got married and didn’t change my last name. I grew up with a hypenated name (child of divorce) and dropped my birth father’s name (no relationship) when I legally could. I told my husband that I was willing to hypenate my name but I was not willing to change it outright due to the fact that I had already begun to establish myself professionally before we met. His comment “I wouldn’t want to change my last name, so why should I expect you to change yours”. That was the extent of our conversation.

    I have constantly felt the need to correct and justify people who show no respect for my decision. A “close” friend of mine thinks that it is cute to address all of my mail to Mrs. HisLastName. A year ago, I started sending them back “Return to Sender – no such receipent”. She still hasn’t gotten the hint.

    My husband and I want to adopt older kids. These children will have last names that they have grown up with and are a part of their identity. We will not have a family name, but will be a family. For us, we have realized that it is not about a name that holds us together, but a shared sense of values and goals.

    Thank you all for being civil and creating an environment of respect. I think that it is a hard decision – regardless of what you choose. You get criticized for changing it (not being a feminist), criticized for hyphenating it (indecisive and confusing), or criticized for not changing it (crazy feminist who is not committed to her relationship). Can we ever really win?

  • Sierra

    I think I’ve made my name decision, with lots of help from the posts of this community! But I don’t actually know how to go about making my choice my reality; can someone give me some advice on how to have my cake and eat it too? I want to keep MyLast professionally and be HisLast personally. How do I do things like taxes or driver’s licence and passport if I have two different and valid last names? Can I even make this my reality? I was hoping that box on my taxes “Other known aliases” would let me be both. Thanks!!

  • Kate

    Looks like I’m a little late to the party here (try 2 years late!), but I just wanted to say thank you for this article. Though I was one of those little girls who would write “Mrs. Current-Crush’s-Last-Name” all over my notebooks, in my adulthood I’ve decided that becoming a “Mrs.” isn’t quite the shrieking-with-joy honor I always envisioned. In fact, I rather hate the idea of changing my name, and am frustrated that my fiance doesn’t understand my reasoning. (Fortunately, he knows me enough to know that I’m stubborn and that I tend not to back down on things that are important to me… so rather than press on with his side, he’s starting to offer “compromises” like hyphenating, etc.)

    In trying to justify my feelings (to myself and to him), I’ve read several articles online on the topic. The more I read, however, the more angry I get that the primary reason (sometimes the only reason) these articles cite for women keeping their names is for career-related purposes. Some of these shallow (shallow as in, not exploring all sides) articles don’t remotely suggest that there would be reasons beyond career for a woman to want to keep her name. These write ups about the “progressive woman” do little more than reiterate the fact that the playing field is far from even. I think that’s what I like the most about your article – the fact that you put it into the words I’ve been at a loss for… how we don’t even get a chance (even in 2012) to feel equal in that regard, and that cultural assumptions are still taking us back into the dark ages.

    (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to imply that a woman who changes her name is living in the dark ages… just pointing out that our decision to change a name is often overlooked as an option that we have in the first place. If changing your name is for you, then more power to you for making that decision!)

    Thank you for this article!!

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