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On Name Changing And Weddings—The Follow Up


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

So. Name changing. Turns out we hit a nerve with that one, huh? The lovely Liz commanded me to write a response post, since 570 comments was getting, “A little hard to follow.” That Liz, she’s a master of understatement. So here we are.

I learned a lot  last week.  A whole lot. I learned that we nearly universally dislike the term Maiden Name. I learned that we near universally hate being called Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. And I learned that we near universally thought long and hard about our name choice, no matter what the outcome. But more than all that, I learned empathy. I think it’s impossible to read the epic 570 comment thread without seeing, really seeing the women around us: seeing and respecting their choices, and seeing and respecting their pain, their joy, their sacrifice, and their pride in family. Someone emailed me today to thank me for the post, because it helped them get their head around why other women change their names, and helped her start to learn to be ok with that. And I think the thread was that way for a lot of us (it was for me), in helping us really understand the choices we *didn’t* make (or choices we haven’t yet made).

I spent a lot of time last week thinking of all the women who came before us, who didn’t have choices. We always think of these women as delighted and un-pained by changing their name when they married, and some of them were. But I realized last week that women run deep, and that it was probably not always easy to take your husbands name, or more to the point – to feel like you didn’t have a choice. So I feel like that when we make our choice today – no matter what that choice is – we have a chance to take a moment, and honor all the women who came before us. The women who didn’t get the chance to choose:

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. – Carrie Dee

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. – Avie

I also learned that we have to involve our fiances, because  they don’t necessarily know what we are going through. We have to involve them, because they are OUR PARTNERS, and if this decision is hard for us, they need to be there – to really be there for us through the process:

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. – Sarah

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. – Jennifer

And the always wise Giggles had such an eloquent comment on her choice to take her husbands name:

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. I added, not changed. – Giggles

And finally, Mayweed left us with such a gift. Her brother’s family uses a (somewhat modified) Spanish tradition, that is the single most elegant solution I have ever heard:

My brother’s girlfriend is Spanish, and in her family it works like this: Children have double-barreled 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. – Mayweed

Which means of course, that all women carry the heritage of their matrilineal line, and all men carry the history of their patralineal line. In makes me feel like (finally) there is a equal space for us at the table. I loved this so much, that after some discussion, David and I decided that this is the tradition we are going to try to encourage for our own children. It makes me feel that giving them a double barreled name is a privilege, not a burden.

So thank you all. I’m continually in awe of the magic you create jiving off each other.

And! Of 570 comments, I only had to take ONE mean comment down. ONE. Can you believe that? I love you guys.

PS – David said I’m totally asking for it, posting a follow up. He was like, “Are you CA-razy? You want another 500 comments?” And I love that has become the house threat…

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 Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Oh yay, a response post!

    I am changing my name. No one asked me to – it was my idea. In fact, a lot of people asked me not to. Including my boss, who literally said, when I told him I was getting married, “are you changing your name? oh nnooooo why does everyone change their name?!?!?!”

    I am doing so to honor my partner’s family and to support our own sense of family. He comes from Poland and emigrated with his parents at the age of 9 – illegally. Since the emigration, many familial bonds have loosened – it has been hard to keep in touch, and in fact, most of his relatives are not going to make it to the wedding.

    But we are both so proud of his heritage, anyways. And his family. And I am proud to be accepted and honored as part of that. And you know what makes it all so easy? I know he would do the same for me.

    • Ariel

      I am behind, but I wanted to share. I have a hypenated last name, always have. I love my name. I also have three degrees and published work in my name. It seemed silly to change it. But I wanted to share a name with my husband. So I thought I would have a professional name and private name. I was happy with this decision and, because we live abroad, I was going to have some time to get used to it before I had to make it official on paperwork. And then, two weeks after the wedding my mother-in-law make an appointment for Ariel Hislast and I felt uncontrollable anger. The next day at the second reception for his New Zealand family I was constantly called Mrs. Hislast and it was only the flowing champagne that kept me from making a scene.
      Here’s the thing, it doesn’t cause anger when it comes in the mail or on a card or from anyone else or even when I use it. There is something about the assumption that I have become one of ‘them’ that irks me. Pete’s family has gone through very hard times in Croatia losing children to starvation through numerous wars and taking risks to leave the family behind and go to New Zealand to find work in order to take care of the family even if it meant never seeing them again. I honor that struggle and the continued struggle to maintain Croatian tradition. They are dear, lovely people that I care about very much, but there is a line between honoring and respecting Pete’s family and making decisions about my name to make them happy. I married their son, I did not become one of them. For some reason, their assumption that I had changed my name, makes my blood boil.
      I didn’t expect it. Luckily I still have time to decide what I am going to do. For now, all official paperwork still holds my ‘professional’ name and I chuckle at my ‘personal’ name when it appears. Although I am beginning to think that those designations aren’t the best labels, as if my life is constantly divided.
      The discussion continues…

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    I have a double barreled name. I’m Leah Middle Momlast Dadlast. My parents didn’t do this because of tradition or anything; my mom just didn’t like my dad’s family and didn’t want their name. She kept her own, he kept his own, and we all got both. Having grown up this way, I have a few tips for dealing with a society in which this is not common.

    1. Be very clear about what is the legal last name. All my life, I had thought Dadlast was my legal last name. When I filed taxes at 18, come to find out that apparently Momlast Dadlast was my last name! Who knew? That’s what I should have preferred all along. But every legal everything had just Dadlast on it, so I went to Social Security, pointed out their error, and made them change my name free of charge (I brought in my passport, birth cert, driver’s license and school IDs). Turns out that when my mom filled out SS paperwork, there was just one line for the whole name. Judicious use of commas and asking a few questions would have helped. I think when I get married, I might change my name . . . so that both of my last names are my legal last.

    2. Be prepared for a struggle with people hyphenating your non-hyphenated names. I agree with Meg; aesthetically, hyphens are not for me.

    3. Be prepared for people always call you just by one. I knew who the people who really cared were, because they took pains to use the last name that I wrote on *everything* and not just the legal last name on my paperwork.

    4. Driver’s license. Ooh, boy. I didn’t have to deal with this for a long time, but some states only allow 3 names on your license. How to explain? “well, my legal last is this, but I go by this, and . . . ” Blegh. I ended up hyphenating my middle and Momlast and moving on with life. But that wouldn’t work in this era of plane ticket issues. When I had the Michigan ID, I just used my passport for traveling, since they got it right on there.

    Other than those 4 issues, it has all worked out nicely. I have a good identity from both my parents, I love the sound of my name, and yay for me. I’m still waffling on what my name will be when I’m married. My boyfriend (hopefully soon fiance — I’m proposing as soon as I finish the elaborate bit of craftiness and geocache setup I need for the proposal) doesn’t really care what I do with my name. His name with my mom’s last doesn’t sound as good as my own name. *Shrug* We’ll see on that front. So, the double barreled name works great, but be aware that they’ll still go through name-changing angst when they get married. But maybe that’s for the better, if it forces all of us to really examine our relationships and decide what is important.

    • ddayporter

      uhhhhh I seriously hope you plan to write to Meg about your proposal?? we need to hear more about that after it happens. assuming all goes well. which I’m sure it will because you’re apparently the coolest girl ever?

      thanks for the feedback on the life of a double barreler!

      • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

        you’re welcome for the feedback! Oh, to correct: I meant to say this is the name I *would* have preferred all along. It really irked me when I found out my legal last name could have always been Momlast Dadlast.

        Maybe this is the motivation I need to put that proposal into motion. It involves updating a scrapbook he gave me 3 months into our relationship (we’re now 1.5 years in with lots of little weekend trips to document), and I’m not sure how long that will take. The geocaching should be easy; we geocache for fun, and I even sometimes teach classes in it as part of my job as a naturalist educator. I’m putting that together next Monday on my day off. So the scrapbook is my timeline. I’ll be sure to document it and either send it in to Meg or put it on my own blog :-)

        • Emi

          I’m a double-barreller by choice, too. My parents originally wanted to give me Momslast Dadslast as my full last name, no hyphen, but sadly it would have been very long and a little cumbersome (some people can’t even pronounce my dad’s Ashkenazi Jewish, shortened at Ellis Island name, so I can’t imagine what they’d do with that AND my mom’s four-syllable East Asian last name). So they gave me Momslast as a second middle name and Dadslast as my only last name. I’m actually really glad they did this, because it gives me a lot of flexibility. I can choose to use both names, and now am beginning to in my professional life, but I can still only be Dadslast when it’s the most simple/expedient option. I think this is a good solution for couples who want to honor both last names without giving their children an overly long double name, even though it’s not ideal as it still favors one name over the other for daily use.

          And, zomg, you MUST share your proposal story with all the amazing scrapbooking, geocaching details (preferably with photos!)

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

      I’m a one word double barreled last name. MomslastDadslast. One word, no space, no hyphen, capital D. But you are so right that people want to hyphenate names, even when they aren’t. It was a difficult last name to handle as a kid because you are constantly explaining it and it’s long and cumbersome. But I grew up to love it and can’t even imagine getting rid of it. So I’ll add the guy’s name after mine as a second last name.

      Don’t know what I’m going to do about driver’s licenses though…you bring up a good point there that I’m going to have to consider.

      And yes, please write in to Meg about your proposal after it happens. I want to hear about it!

      • kristen

        ten years later, i’m going to go ahead and respond to this. :)

        when we married, i chose to become a “double barreled,” as you guys are calling it. i won’t go into the whys of that choice here (it is long), but i will say that i have had only intermittent trouble with legal issues. i am kristen middle mylast his last. legally mylast hislast (space, no hyphen) is my last name. social security did this for me no problem. at the tennessee dmv, the lady grumbled about it a bit, but i got her to just see if it would fit. it did. one credit card company didn’t have the room in their forms (so i went first initial, middle initial, long last name). the only place where it was really a problem was at my second graduate school. but when i got off my lazy behind to make them fix it, thinking it was going to be a battle (because when i first submitted the change, someone i don’t know and don’t like decided they didn’t like my choice and dropped my last name altogether), it was easy as pie and the lady who fixed it for me was super nice.

        i now have ultimate flexibility. most of the time i use my whole last name, but more often lately i find myself just using his for simplicity’s sake. if people try to do both and stumble, i’ll tell them it is fine to use just one, but if they make the call themselves to just use his, then i get angry. not sure that is reasonable, but it is what happens. :)

      • Kristin

        I never thought about pushing both names together as one last name! I already have a space in my last name (good ol’ dutch names!) so pushing the names together would be an idea.
        As of right now, we’re both planning on putting his last name, my last name. If we have a child/ren, we’ll give them a gender neutral name, middle name, his last name, my last name. When they are old enough and ready/choose to marry or be with a life partner, they can take my last name if they identify as female and take his last name if they identify as male.

    • Krystel

      First, Meg thank you for the follow-up. I got lost about post 100. I had posted a status about the name change issue on my facebook a few months back and interestingly, only females commented. Only one male (and that was a jest) posted. Why should they be exempt from this consideration? In many cultures, matrilineal is the way. Hey, if your mitochondria are better genetic tracers and come from mom, what about name? ;)

      My friend’s mother is originally from Chile and she mentioned the Momlast Dadlast tradition which I like. She was telling me her daughter kept her last name but that their daughter now has Momlast Dadlast, which is very common there. The mom wishes she had kept her last name when she married. Thanks for talking about a variation of this tradition more fully! I’m starting to consider this more and more.

    • http://seanies.blogspot.com/ Seanie

      *lol* I thought that was you, Leah :-P

      And to throw my two cents in on the whole name debate, my fiance and I are going to both change to his Mom’s maiden name, thus creating a “new” family name for our baby family. Whether or not I will keep my current last name as a middle name (first middle current last new last) is still up in the air.

      The reasoning behind this is that there are negative feelings associated with his Dad’s last name (his Dad passed away when he was young, and family situations “didn’t end on good terms”), and it’s a long German mouthful *lol* So, we’ll be mutually taking his Mom’s (much shorter) name.

      The discussion to make this decision has lasted over a year. Initially, he felt weird when I said I didn’t want to take his last name and keep my current. This discussion brought up all of the feelings and stories associated with his last name, and he realized that he doesn’t want that emotional baggage linked to our new family. Let me just point out that this was a HUGE DEAL for him to come to terms with and realize on his own. We had been tossing different ideas around for a while, when at dinner last week he just said “You know what, let’s do this our way. Let’s take Mom’s last name, and make a new family of our own.” *cue me stunned*

      So that’s our decision. We both discussed what we were comfortable with, and why, and came to an agreement that we were both happy with. It certainly won’t work for everyone, but I’m happy and content that we found what will work for *us*.

      • meg

        Powerful stuff….

        • http://seanies.blogspot.com/ Seanie

          It really is, and it honestly blew me away with how empowered I felt after we came to this agreement.

          We haven’t told our full families “officially” yet that this is what we are going to do, but we included my Parents and his Mom in several parts of the discussion, because we felt it was important to make sure that they understood why we were making the choices we were.

          Thank you, Meg, for not only bringing up the Name Discussion in the first place, but “braving” the 500 comments to give us a truly meaningful follow-up post. You, my dear lady, ROCK.

      • Kate

        My Fiance and I are going this route as well and it really makes me feel better about changing my name. I always just assumed I would change my name, but when it came down to actually doing it, I got really freaked out. I think the fact that we are both choosing to change our names and start this new family makes me feel more comfortable with the whole thing.

      • sidneystiles

        My fiancé and I are (most likely) doing the same thing, for basically the same reasons! He told me he didn’t want to “inflict” his rather, um, unmelodious last name (also German) on me. I wasn’t super happy about the idea of taking it anyway, but I hadn’t drawn a line in the sand and refused yet either…I was waiting to see what he thought. But outside of the rather unattractive last name, he has the added dislike of it being the only tie he has to a father who left when he was young (never to be heard from again). And upon thinking about not wanting me to have to take the name, he realized he didn’t really want to keep it himself. But we both concluded, though, that we did want to have the same last name (even without taking children into consideration). We’ve batted around a few options..him taking my last name (which he has been considering but hasn’t been totally on board with), both of us taking my middle name as our last name (his idea, but not something I’m totally on board with) or both of us taking his mother’s maiden name (which she no longer goes by because she remarried). This last idea is my favorite, because its still the name of his grandfather and his uncle, and because it feels to me like an even playing field…its not just me changing my name, its both of us. And I don’t care if its untraditional, I’m not getting rid of my middle name and replacing it with my former last name..my middle name is more dear to me than the last anyway.

        • JJ

          Ok this is really late…But what I want to do is take the letters from my last name, and the letters from his last name, and play scrabble until we come up with a name we like for both of us to change too.

          • ANI

            I actually know several couples who have done this, very happily. Maybe it’s just my wild west coast friends, but this seems to be more and more common

    • Eva

      This is six months later, so I suspect no one will read it, but for the record I felt compelled to respond as someone who has always had a HYPHENATED last name. I’m Eva Middle Momlast-Dadlast, and have always been (birth certificates, social security, etc.). I find this discussion so fascinating because there aren’t a lot of us multi-surnamed people out there and, as we’ve seen from the discussion above, there are a few different ways to handle it.

      Funnily, although the non-hyphenaters have said people always want to hyphenate their names, I find the opposite is true for me: in fact, many MANY electronic forms (e.g., when buying airline tix) do not allow characters such as hyphens in them and force either a space or no distinction at all. That can be especially frustrating when flying internationally (e.g.), as the airline forces my surname to differ from the one on my passport. Oy.

      Similarly, I have myriad stories of forms cutting off my surname because the two names together are too long (16 characters including the hyphen). For so many companies and institutions, I am Eva Momlast-Dadla. In fact, when I was applying to college several places made two files for me: one for my application materials (sent by me) and one for my SAT scores (sent by the test people, who only allow a certain number of characters in the surname). Completely absurd!

      Alphabetizing is always an adventure as well — will it be under Momlast or Dadlast? Anyone’s guess! That said, finding my name on a list is a piece of cake — just scan down until you see one sticking wayyy out beyond the others. And my name is certainly unique — only my sister shares my surname in the whole world!

      All of this to say: hyphenating or double-barreling is a real challenge, and one that shouldn’t be minimized or taken on lightly. As other commenters have shared, there are constant small annoyances to deal with when you have a “challenging” name in our society, and that goes for unpronounceable as well as long/hyphenated/double last names (I happen to have both, sigh).

      BUT the rather unusual experience of carrying a double family lineage on every official and unofficial document you have is a price I have been willing to pay ever since I had a choice to keep my hyphen or not. I love my hyphenated last name. I don’t ever plan to change it, and I am truly grateful to generations of women before us who have made that choice possible.

      When I marry, I will keep my name as it is. It’s really informed who I am and how I operate in the world. The question will come if we have children. My partner and I have had many amusing conversations about combining our three surnames creatively, smashing together bits from each into funny conglomerations. And we’re not even close to having to make that decision. But if and when it comes up…. who knows?

  • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

    Meg, your first post opened up some conversation for my fiance and I. I’m still figuring out how to craft my response to him about his mom. But I did tell him that I’m leaning more towards keeping my own name, though. He wasn’t surprised or angry, he understood. He even suggested that we wait until after the wedding to see how we feel.

    Oh, and a fellow reader (Kahlia) responded to my comment to your original post with some helpful advice. If Kahlia is reading this, thank you for your suggestion. I haven’t confided in anyone about how I really feel about the name change, and APW has been some what of a safe space for me.

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

      oh! That just made me so happy! <3
      I'm glad to have been helpful, and I totally feel the same way about this awesome community. Well done, everyone!

  • monica

    Maybe I’m just unsympathetic (and im not sure that my former comment wasn’t deleted so maybe i’ll say this in a much more “civil” manner, because what is a dialogue if all the comments on this thing are from people who agree with you, Meg?

    Honestly, how is it that women view their FATHERS last name as THEIR NAME is beyond me. You are exchanging one man’s name for another. Both of them, for most of us, are very dear to us (our father and our husband, that is). Yes women now have to choice to choose their own last name, but the reality is its never really “your” last name- its your father’s name. And so, women will forever be associated by a MAN’S name. Not their own.

    • monica

      wow, tons of typos, I apologize.

    • Camille

      I agree that keeping your father’s name feels like the same song in another key as taking your husband’s name, but may I point out a couple things?

      1)The whole name game is in a great (and sometimes painful) process of changing. You can’t begin a revolution, big or small, without starting somewhere. And that somewhere is here. Because digging back through your history to pick a woman’s last name is fruitless. My mother’s last name is her father’s name, and my grandmother’s last name is my great-grandfather’s last name. At what point do you stop deciding your identity and start going crazy?

      2) Choice of identity is (almost) the whole deal. When my parents divorced, my mom kept my father’s last name because she had problems with her family, and would not go back to it. But she also dislikes being called Mrs Stepdad’slast because thats not who she is. I will keep my father’s name because my sisters and I are the final carriers of that name, representing all the men and women who took it or were born with it.

      2.5) My father’s name also relates to our relationship. We have a great one and my mother chose that name as well, so why should I trace back my maternal line to associate with people I’ve never known?

      And a final note: I can understand the paternal name if I consider this: EVERYONE knows who your mother is. You are a 9 month bump in her belly, a painful (possible couple days worth) labour, and attached for years. The father is less evident. He may be the man who raised you, maybe not. No guarantees. So my thoughts are: we have a physical, unequivocal connection with our mothers. If a tenuous name is what connects us to our fathers, how could I begrudge them?

      ps: I like the *exactly!* <3

      • http://finallyawedding.com Aliddabit

        I was going to reply to Monica’s post, but you said exactly what I was thinking, Camille. My mother chose to take her husband’s name. Her mother chose to take her husband’s name. That’s not something I can change — and I can’t help the name I was born with! I’ve spent my whole life with this name, and at this point it is just as much mine as my father’s.

        My fiance’ has both his mother and his father’s names, and when we discussed name changing, he was adamant that he keep both his mother’s and his father’s name. And he wanted me to change mine too. We haven’t resolved the issue completely, but there’s no way I’m giving my kids his parents names and not having any sort of representation from my side of the family.

        On top of this, our last names rhyme. So, the compromise that I’m suggesting is to each keep our father’s names, and I will add his mother’s name to mine. We can discuss what we give to our kids at a future date.

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

        One note on the maternal name thing: the idea that everyone knows who your mother is because she gave birth to you assumes that your birth mother raised you, that you were not born to a surrogate or adopted.

        As the sister of a beloved adopted brother and friend to many loving parents who have adopted their children or went the surrogate route, I think this point is a tad short-sighted and exclusionary in today’s society.

        The fact is that a large part of the Name Game trauma women are experiencing today has to do with the myriad ways in which our views of Family and family units are rapidly evolving and expanding. How do we reconcile our sometimes mutually exclusive desires to uphold traditions, reflect and respect our sense of self (including our many accomplishments under previous names), our sense of loyalty to our childhood families, our sense of loyalty to our new spouse and his/her family, and our sense of unity and creation of our new family going forward? To me, this is the real conundrum.

        • Camille

          I’m sorry, I should have clarified; my first argument is more philosophical than history based. And, like many other ideas, it is limited (ie: adoption, fostering, etc). The choice to love someone, take them in and raise them is wonderful (!!!!!) and often different than most families. Those who are adopted or fostered are also named in a possessive manner, but (hopefully) more in the belonging sense. Creating family and ties.

          But on my philosophic dribble, I like to think that men have needed to possess something in name (women, children, what-have-you) because they could not claim the physical ownership that women could. This won’t address battery, emotional abuse or manipulation, or any other host of issues dealing with the idea of ‘possession’. But realistically, there’s very little aside from DNA testing to guarantee that a child is genetically a man’s.

          Anywho, I’d like to say that everyone of you fabulous women and men are SO interesting to discuss and read about. Kudos on being you :D

      • http://www.verhext.com verhext

        But I don’t think that’s the point. It’s not how much you love your father or that his name doesn’t bother you – I DO love my last name.

        It’s the fact that the man’s name was the one used because the wife & children == property. Literally. There is something to it that feels off, to many women, because of this long history, regardless of their current familial relationships. That should be respected too!

        I’m pretty into the new family, brand new made up name thing, and like the spanish way of doing it too- though at one point, that matrilineal last name probably came from a man as well.

        Maybe we should go back to being sur-named by our trades. I’d be Tamera WebWrangler.

    • ddayporter

      I’m surprised you would call this a more “civil” manner, it seems to have the same exact tone as your first attempt. It’s not about agreeing with Meg, it’s about being kind when you present your differing point of view. Someone else brought up the same question after you on the first post, in an actually civil way, and it started a nice discussion.

    • meg

      First of all – I don’t delete comments that don’t agree with me, I delete comments that are uncival – please read the comment policy. If your comment was deleted that means it was flagged as offensive by other readers.

      Second, you need to be careful about how you generalize. Perhaps, for you, your name is a man’s last name. My last name, however, is MY last name, not my FATHERS last name, and that’s just the bottom line. No further discussion. You don’t get to vote on my life and name, and that’s as it should be.

      • Cupcake

        I want to print this comment out and post it over my desk! It is important to know the history behind things, but more important is what we are dealing with right now, in this moment. And at this moment, this is MY name.

    • Arachna

      Is it beyond you how my father views his name as his name instead of his father’s name? Do you tell your father that his name isn’t his? If no than I owe my name every bit the same as my father owes his name. It’s my name. Why should my relationship to my name be different than my husband’s relationship to his name? His name is his father’s also.

      I mean seriously, why would you call it taking your husband’s name? It’s really taking your husband’s father’s name not your husband’s since the name isn’t really his.

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

      Monica, if you read through the original comment thread, you would see that not everyone agreed with Meg– not even close. In addition, I’m frustrated by the assumption that every name is a man’s name. I have my mother’s maiden (for last of a better term) last name, because my father left us when I was three and I didn’t identify with him or his family. But my mother’s name was her father’s name, and her brothers and their sons and nephews share that name as well. So is that a man’s name too?

      The point here for me is that women have the choice to keep the name that is on their birth certificate or take their partner’s name or take a new one or some combination of all of these things. The choice is what makes it MY name or YOUR name or HER name, not some other man’s name, just as my last name isn’t my mom’s name, it’s MINE. And if I had taken my husband’s last name, it would become MINE as well.

      • Emi

        Exactly. I read almost all of the comments on the original post, and very few discussed the idea of rejecting some patriarchal ownership structure. The point is equality: men may keep a single name from cradle grave, and women should have the same option too, whether or not they choose to exercise it–regardless of who that name “belongs” to.

    • Annie

      So, in this respect, I don’t really have a name, do I? I’m named Ann, after my aunt and my middle name is (oddly enought) both of my grandmothers’ names and my last name is my father’s name (and his father’s and his father’s father’s and etc, etc). OMG, I don’t have my own name! Guess I should start going by my SSN if I want something that is mine.

    • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

      Why is a woman’s last name her father’s, but a man’s last name is his own? He got it from his father just as much.

    • Alyssa

      Okay, so then what’s the alternative? We can’t take our mother’s last name because that came from a MAN also. Even if my biological mother was married to a woman, I wouldn’t be able to take her wife’s last name because that probably came from a MAN too. So would the alternative be to adopt a name that we choose at a certain age, like a rite of passage?
      While that sounds kinda cool, it also ignores the years of history that come from that name, history which includes the WOMEN in that family. I love being Mrs. Hislastname because that makes me the same as his amazing mother and grandmother. And when I’m Ms. Hislastname, it’s shows the world I’m part of the family that includes his aunt and his sister, two of the sassiest and most wonderful women I’ve ever had the pleasure of laughing and getting slightly hammered at family gatherings with.

      One of the most touching things that has happened in my marriage was being at Christmas and when I said something that made Grammy pat me on the head and say, “Yup, you’re a Hislastname now.” I damn near cried in my Arbor Mist.
      Because honestly, that’s AWESOME! I’m a Hislasyname AND a Mylastname. Just because I legally changed it doesn’t mean that I lost my Mylastname eyes or big hips. I was a Mylastname for 30 years and it was fun and I occasionally miss it. Now I’m a Mylastname who gets called Hislastname. And I LIKE IT.

      And as you said, some of us really like the MEN that are associated with those names born from a patriarchal society. I don’t need something to be MINE, I got gold stars for sharing in preschool. So it is an HONOR to be a MyDad’sLastname AND a HisDad’sLastName and I don’t see what the problem is

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

        So I “Exactly”ed this, because I think what you said is extremely important and illustrates your choice (and how it might feel for someone else making the same choice) very well.
        BUT, the reason I’m writing here is to say that the phrases “ever had the pleasure of laughing and getting slightly hammered at family gatherings with” and “damn near cried in my Arbor Mist” totally just made my day. Thank you. (Also, your writing style reminds me of NotThatKindofGirl. And if you don’t know who that is, go look her up, you’ll love her!)

        • Alyssa

          I just looked her up, and she’s awesome! I just subscribed, she may be my new best friend…

      • ddayporter

        aahhh! you’re awesome. I just teared up! and laughed! at the same time. I know exactly what you mean about that feeling of belonging so thoroughly to both families. it is awesome.

      • caitlin

        exactly, exactly, exactly! (i suppose i could have just clicked that button multiple times…) this is exactly how i feel. thank you for the beautiful/hilarious expression. the things that are my “maiden” name are my paternal grandmother’s hands, my maternal grandfather’s arm muscles (thankyouverymuch!), my papa’s eyes, and my maternal gram’s love of books. those things aren’t going anywhere, no matter what my legal name is!

      • Marina

        There IS an alternative to patrlinial last names:

        My sister in law is doing a Matrilinial-Patrilinial last name, except the matrilinial name is a first name. The furthest back matrilinial relative she could find was named Sarah, so her daughter’s last name is Sarahs-DadsLastName. “Sarah” was never a man’s name, first or last.

        • Alyssa

          Which is great and kind of lovely, if you have that option. But most Americans that I know wouldn’t be able to find a matrilineal name, or may object to using it as their last name.

          The other option is to start your own true matrilineal line; take a new last name and pass it down to your daughter and hope that it continues.

          My objection isn’t the lack of options or alternatives; you can choose to call yourself Sprinkles Katmandu for all I care. But the implication that my name ISN’T my name, it’s some MAN’S name is what I find kind of offensive. Statements like that don’t help women find equality, I feel they draw the line deeper in the sand.

          • meg

            Right. Preach it. That might be a good solution for me if I didn’t feel a strong tie to my last name and wanted to represent for women in my family, but at this point my last name *is* me, no matter how I got it. I mean, my poor father. He’s the only man in a family of three totally headstrong women. I suspect if you asked him if he felt like he owned our last name, he would just sigh. Deeply.

            So the point for me isn’t representing for all women of all time. I’m mostly just interested in representing for me and my family. And we’ve got the name we’ve got, and we’re good with that.

      • Sparklekitty

        Yeah! I am excited to add my fiance’s last name to my name because I love him and I love his family. I still have room to love my family, too. I’m still myself- a happily engaged feminist blessed with a great family about to gain a whole new great family.

      • http://naomi.websinthe.org Naomi

        Firstly I understand the comments about whatever last name you take it is a patriarchal name at some point along the line.

        Thus here is my solution:
        In my ideal society when a family is formed by marriage they pick a new family name that matches their vision and values for their family unit. Their children get given that as their family name. When the children marry and start their own independent families, they pick a new name.
        Unfortunately I don’t rule the world, so I will make do with respecting whatever decision other people make regarding changing/keeping their name.

        I’m still trying to gently persuade my fiance (we have ages yet before we plan to have a kid or make things official, so there’s no urgency) that we should both change our names, but he’s scared of his Italian family (he agrees that in his ideal situation he would change his surname, as both of us have surnames that are mispronounced and come with baggage).

        However it irritates me that until I bought it up, he’s never even had to consider changing his surname. Whereas women wrestle with it, men breeze through knowing the odds of them being asked to change their name are low. However I agree that a good strategy appears to be to explain to them: imagine if you were in my situation where most of society expects you to give up your family name no matter how important it is to you, and if you do keep your name you risk not having the same surname as your children because society even more so expects them to be given the father’s name.

        I’ve decided that if I can’t get him to change his name, the kids will have his surname, because I know that if this was not a gender imbalanced world, giving your children your husband’s name acknowledges his role in creating them (even if he didn’t carry them around for 9 months) – similarly if I was in a lesbian relationship I would give the kids the surname of the parent that didn’t contribute the DNA as a way of acknowledging that the child is still theirs. But that’s just me.

        One thing I already do is use “Ms.” as my title as I think it should be irrelevant to the public whether or not I am married. But part of this is my rebellion against churches, as up until recently I used to be heavily involved with Christianity, and in the churches I was associated with, everyone was obssessed with getting married and to be over the age of 20 and not be married (for whatever reason) made you a second-class citizen (hence why even though I was engaged I tried to make sure that all outward aspects of my identity [such as name and title] would not distinguish whether I was married or single so that there could be at least one person in the church who wasn’t flaunting their “privileged” married status in the faces of healthy single people [and contributing to making them feel like there was something wrong with them]).

      • http://stitchgeek.com SarahAyars

        I’m just rereading this thread and I needed to say: Alyssa, I love you. And thanks for this. I needed it.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      monica- i remember your comment (didn’t know it was deleted) but i also remember a number of responses in explanation (mine included). did you go read them? i feel that rehashing what was already said is not the purpose of this post.

      my father’s name ceased being his name after i lived with it for 24 years and invested it with me-ness. 24 years of experiences all my own, under that name.

      though, many do not have their father’s nme- to whom this point is moot.

    • Olivia

      What makes a name your “own” anyway? My last name is my last name, even though it is the same as my father’s. And my first name is my first name, even though my parents picked it.

      Unless you make up an entirely new name, all parts of your name are going to have a lineage. For me, that doesn’t imply that they aren’t mine. It implies that they are integral to me because they link me as an individual to my family history.

    • Lydia

      My last name can be traced back to my grandfather’s abusive stepdad, so it doesn’t have a long family history trailing back, or connect me with my heritage or anything like that. And it isn’t a particularly cool name.
      So I was really surprised when my girlfriend mentioned that she might want to take my last name. We’d been planning on each keeping ours, or doing some combination thing.

      But she wants to be part of my family. She wants to be in the same family as me, and my parents, and my sister, and my wonderful grandmother. Last names rarely belong to a single person, they’re shared by a family, and they connect a family. They describe families, as a unit.

    • Kate

      Maybe this is why it makes me so happy that we are both changing to my fiance’s mother’s name :)

    • Terese

      On name’s being “your father’s”… I had always wanted to keep my last name, I thought (since I feel like its my name that I’ve always had, why should I have to change my name just b/c I’m getting married?, I like my name, I’m not worried about having a different last name than my husband or children someday…). I toyed with ‘changing’ my name but never really wanted to. When my dad passed away, my choice was set in stone.

      My dad was a doctor, so is my father in law. I want to carry on my father’s last name when I am a doctor. I’m really proud of my dad, I really respect him and I can’t wait until I am officially Dr. Dad’s last name that is also my last name. I also respect my husband’s family and their name…but I don’t feel that it becomes my name just because we got married.

  • Rebecca

    Meg, once again I think you really hit things on the head. I now have a much better appreciation of the name change issue and a new respect for all who go through the process, regardless of their final decision.

    Your post and the 500+ responses gave an amazing start to a conversation with my BF on this topic.

    Thanks!

  • Wench

    Thank you so much for writing the first post on this and now the response as well. I spent a long time wading through the responses first time which really helped me to get a handle on how I felt about the whole issue – and also made me realise what a lovely sane bunch of ladies you are.

    I have decided to amend my name and change my middle name for my fella’s surname so I’ll be me-hisname-myname but not to hyphenate so I’ll remain to all intents and purposes ‘me’. I’m the person he fell in love with so for me remaining that person is important.

    I do really respect all of you that have decided differently and would like to thank you for being so honest. Go team practical – I like you guys.

  • http://www.siscostashwedding.com Lauren

    I have been intrigued by this “hisname/hername” discussion from the beginning, and I’ve loved seeing all of the responses. It honestly never occured to me that this would be such a passionate topic. My struggle with the name change has basically been one of apathy for either decision. I love my last name. I equally love the idea of having the same last name as my soon-to-be-husband. our wedding is September 11, and I will probably come to some kind of conclusion about this decision late at night on September 10…but what has always been in the back of my mind is this:

    I will always be “Lauren Dadlastname”. It is printed on my birth certificate. It is written on every single report card from elementary school. It is embossed on my high school diploma. And while I may eventually share a name with my husband, I will always have my mom’s smile and my dad’s sense of humor. To me, those are the important connections.

    So, don’t change your name. Change your name. Whatever. We ladies should do what we feel is right. Because “feeling” is really what it’s all about. We’re all so concerned marriage being about the intangible connection between two people, not what is written on a marriage certificate…so remember that while your written and printed name may (or may not) change, the fantastic part of this whole marriage thing is that it allows you to be a part of two families, names and all.

    • Chelsea

      I’d say you don’t even have to decide by September 10… I’m getting married on June 19 and have no plans to make a final decision by then! At the moment I think I’m going to add his last name to my (already long, thanks mom!) name, and he’s going to add my last name to his middle name. But I change my mind all the time. I have a feeling I’m going to confuse everyone for a few months by trying out every possible combination to see what feels right before I make any legal changes… I also keep joking that I will never fully change until something comes along to replace gmail, because my current e-mail address prominently features my current last name, and his is so common that I’d never be able to find something I’m happy with. Priorities, right? Haha I just figure that as long as we know what we want our kids to be known as by the time they’re born (hopefully not for a while), I’m fine.

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

      OT: We’re having a reception/party to celebrate our marriage that day, too! (Getting married a different day.) And it’s my grandparents’ anniversary as well. I’m all for filling a day that was extremely sad once with love from now on. Plus, it’s a Saturday in September, which was too practical to pass up.

      • Jennifer

        Continuing the off-topic: We are getting married September 11, too. (The date was chosen pretty much completely for logistical reasons – best venue that was most convenient for family in ill health, and then of their available dates, the one that was most convenient for other key people to travel.) I was a little apprehensive of peoples’ reactions to the date, but they’ve been almost completely positive (mostly along the lines of being so glad to finally take that date back for happy things) with the occasional neutral, no negative reactions (at least not to our faces).

    • meg

      WAIT A RED HOT MINUTE! The *whole freaking point* of the first post in the first place is that you DON’T have to decide on your name by the time you get married. Not if you’re not ready to do so. I mean, you can, but there is no deadline… that’s what we’re talking about!

      I feel like 700 comments later we’ve lost the plot. Sigh. Sniff.

      • Paige Morrison

        I just want to point out that *needing* to decide on a name at a certain point in time may not be what the poster above was getting at. I often find that a deadline — self-imposed, postponable, whatever — gives me the clarity I need to make a decision. It helps remove the “should” cobwebs and bare down the question to its underpinnings: “what do I really want?” So while a reminder that it’s better to wait until you’re sure you know what you want before changing/not changing your name is extremely helpful, that doesn’t necessarily make a last-minute decision any less grounded than a decade-long one.

  • Cortney

    Hey Meg!

    Long time lurker, first time poster. Your posts about name changes have been so intriguing, I can’t stop reading!

    Just thought I’d give you a little food for thought – here in Sweden (yep, I’m a Swede chick!), our crown princess, Victoria, is going to get married in June. She will be our first Queen. That’s right, no King this time around. Her to-be-husband, Daniel, is going to be the Prince, and we’re going to have a Queen, just like in England. There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not our princess will keep her last name, or take her new husband’s name. A lot of Swedes would be greatly offended if Victoria took her husband’s name, since she would be changing the Royal Family’s last name forever. And I heard on the radio today that there is a very good possibility Daniel may just take the Royal Name as his own last name! Take THAT, American men who say that just “isn’t done”.

    ((For the record, it is pretty common in Sweden for men to take their wives last name, or for women to not change their names at all, though the most common thing is just to have both last names, with no hyphen: for ex. Lisa Svensson Lundkvist))

    • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

      How interesting!

      I think there are a lot of cultural differences on this topic that (something) have nothing to do with current sexism/male dominated society.

      In Germany (where I live) there is also a current “trend” not to change your name – in fact, I would argue that the last name plays an even bigger role in Germany than in the US. For example, I taught at a Kindergarten and all of the children knew the last names of the other children – whereas my mom who also teaches at a kindergarten said her kids of the same age sometimes didn’t even know their own.

      This makes it harder for women (or men… in rarer cases) to part with their last names.

      I think it depends a lot on how you view the importance of your last name and how it ties in (for you) with your identity.

      • KD

        Definitely! I was always called by my full name, first and last, and therefore find a greater attachment to my last since it’s the distinct name that is only shared by roughtly 200 people in the US, not my super common first name.

        Also, for the record, not close with my dad at all – wasn’t raised by him thuogh he was around a bit, but I don’t think of my last name as his. I think of it as MY last name. Since y’know… I’ve had it since I was a bebe! (though I did revel at seeing my grandfather’s name at Ellis Island)

        • Alyssa

          This is slighty off-subject, but I did have a tiny fit when a friend of mine, who’s name was BEAUTIFUL and musical, got married and took her husband’s name. I’d always called her by her full name because it was so fun to say and I whined to her, “I can’t call you that NOW…” and she was like, “Well…why not?”

          So I do, her husband rolls his eyes, she smiles and I’m happy that she still gets to be my beautiful friend with the beautiful name.

          • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

            i have friends like this too! it’s just hard to make the switch with some perfectly composed names.

          • meg

            I totally call my friend like that by her un-married name, and everyone thinks it’s normal (because they do it to). Sometimes we tack her married name on the end as a little afterthought, but mostly we don’t. I think she likes it better when we don’t ;)

    • Kate

      That is so awesome :)

    • sidneystiles

      Cortney, I’m really glad you made the comment about American men saying that just “isn’t done”.. When my co-workers (who are all men) hear that my fiancé is changing his last name (not to mine, but we’re both changing ours to his Mother’s “former” (since everyone hates “maiden” last name), they stop and say “wait, wait, what?!?” and make a huge deal about it. I don’t get it. I know we’re operating on a ridiculous number of years of history of it being done the same way (most of the time), but I dont understand why that gets such an extreme reaction, while the possibility of me changing mine doesn’t create any comment. My guy has even had some friends and acquaintances (all male) make comments like “we’re going to have to talk about that” or “No way man, I can’t let you do that”…like they get a say. Drives me batty.

    • Amelia

      Prince Philip apparently complained that he was the only man in the U.K. who didn’t get to pass his name to his children since they’re all Windsors.

  • Mayweed

    Oh my, Meg. That’s, well, wow. My brother’s girlfriend will be so happy!

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

    Soon after your first post, tony and I were talking about the name change question because the other day we were researching domain names for a new project and he found that my name was already taken, but MyFirst HisLast was not. So I broached the subject gently because the thing is I love my guy, but I am reluctant to take his name given my age and established career. He always surprises me. This is what he told me:

    When he and his first wife (we have each been divorced once) talked about this, she told him, “I hate this, but I am doing it.” He asked her not to do it if it made her unhappy, but she apparently felt the weight of tradition too much not to take his name.

    He views his name as a gift. It is a part of him that is always there for me to take if or when I want it, but given our situation (older, not planning to have children, me with an established career, having just changed my name following my divorce in the past few years), it did not make sense for me to change my name again.

    Of course, when he said this, it made my resolve melt away. How can I not want to accept this gift? I am now back to the beginning of my musings. Hopefully, I will have made a decision by the time the wedding rolls around.

    • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

      Sarah, I mean this in the most loving way — but why is your name not also a gift? Why could he not take your name as a part of you?

    • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

      I see what you mean but I also TOTALLY get the idea of the name being a gift

      I am very honored to be (soon!) carrying my fiancè’s family name. I also feel like it is a gift. It’s true – I guess I could “gift” my name as well – and I am sure he would gladly take it – but I feel comfortable and proud of OUR decision (and that’s part of the point, right? that it was OUR decision and not just mine or his…)

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

      @ Carrie — My name is a gift that I would happily give him, and he knows it. But for very personal reasons that have to do with culture and racism in this country, Tony is extremely proud to be his ethnicity and to wear it on his sleeve. When you have lived your life being excluded and treated poorly because of your name, it becomes a badge of honor to be worn proudly and shouted from rooftops. In the words of Johnny Depp and Robert Rodriguez, he is very proud to be a “MexiCAN.” I love him and would never, not in a million years, ask him to take my English name. Likewise, he understands how much it meant to me to shed my ex’s name and find my own identity again, which is why his name is a gift that I am free to take whenever and if ever I so choose.

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

        Can we get a *sniff!* button?! That is a touching story (both sides of it).

  • Cara M.

    Thank you everyone for this post and all the comments! Name-changing can be so fraught with peril that sometimes you feel like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. When I was deciding what to do I felt like I would offend all of my older female friends if I DIDN’T change my name or piss off all of my younger feminist friends if I DID. I didn’t want my wedding and marriage to become some political statement – I wanted it to be about the love that Chris and I have for each other. In the end I didn’t change it (but I don’t correct my grandmother when she send things to Mrs. Cara K——-.)

    It was so great to hear everyone’s thoughts on this sometimes terrifying subject!

  • Violet

    Meg, thank you for bringing this up again. As a lesbian, it never occurred to me that I would ever change my name (or get married for that matter!). My sister and I are the last with our father’s family name and we are proud of it. I was shocked and flattered when my fiancee said that she wants to change her last name to mine! She has no relationship with her stepdad, whose last name she has and she is adament that our kids have the same last name. So as a woman on the other side of the fence, I respect the wish to keep your name since that is my choice but I suddenly empathize with women who want to take their partner’s name as well. It’s thrilling!

  • elyse

    Meg – I think you may end up with another 500+ comments! I fear it may have been my comment that was removed from the initial post, so i do apologize if i offended anyone. so i’ll just leave you all with this:

    when my grandma (who took her husbands name) was little, she thought that when you got married, you and your spouse looked through a book of last names and picked one that suited you both. hmm. . . maybe that would actually work!

    i do stand by our decision for me to change my last name to his (3 weeks from today!), but i do respect that not everyone’s decision to change vs. not change vs. some other option is a non-issue like it is for us. we certainly have our own big issues that others may think are trivial.

    • Krystel

      Oh my, your grandma was adorable!

      • elyse

        thanks – she still is!

    • meg

      Sniff!

  • Emi

    Here’s a question I didn’t get to ask before. Many people talk about using one name “professionally” and another name “socially,” but I’m curious as to how this works in our modern super-casual society. At least for me, if I’m on social terms with someone, last names never really come up (unless it’s Facebook or a formal invite). I just introduce myself in the relevant context, i.e., “Hi, I’m Emi, X’s friend” (or in the future, “Hi, I’m Emi, Y’s wife/partner,” or “Hi, I’m Emi, Z’s mom.”)

    So for those of us who use one name professionally and another socially in this crazy modern world, how does that work out?

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      i’m one of those.

      i’m a teacher- so my students only know me by ms. givenlastname. it was just easier that way, rather than changing my name midway through the year for them. some of them came to my wedding, know my new last name. i get called both, really. but i find it easier for students to identify who i am (you know they all talk about me behind my back) by using my “old” name. (i mean, come on- i’ve built a hardass reputation on that name! no way i’m giving it up)

      but you’re right- when i introduce myself to anyone, i don’t really do last names. but, “i’m liz, and this is my husband josh,” and the typical default is for people to call me by his last name once they know it. (some people don’t- i’m not offended by either choice)

      i guess by socially, i mean LEGALLY. the only place where i call myself givenlastname as a RULE is at work. if other people do too, meh/ i don’t “correct” them. but if i’m asked my lastname outside of work, i give his.

      …did any of that rambling make sense?

      • Emi

        Thanks Liz, that makes sense. I’m also a teacher, so I totally understand the hardass reputation thing!

        • Whitney

          How interesting, Liz, because I’m thinking of doing something similar, but opposite to what you have done. For me, “professionally” will mean that legally my name will not change, and any jobs I have will be under that name. But “socially”, when people meet me through him (he’s way more social than I), I won’t mind if they call me by his last name, or address letters to me that way. Of course Emi is right, last names aren’t used as often now, so I doubt it will come up too much – and I expect him to be fine with getting called by my last name also. I guess I am looking at names kinda like pets – Evil Brady Anderson will still be officially mine on his vet paperwork, but in real life we will share him, and we will share our names also.
          And I love the Spanish naming tradition! I feel like that’s one we might think about adopting in a few years. Thanks so much for sharing it

          • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

            yeah- really similar!

            i think last names come into play socially when people are like, “hey it’s The Lastnames!” or “hey, Lastname clan…”

      • Bee

        I’m also a teacher! :) Protect that hard-ass rep!! No way am I going to try to switch over my last name either. It. is. not. happening. But I do have a fun teacher-changing-her-name story! I had a friend that got married and her given name was Ms. McLastname, and she changed it to Ms. Hislastname. Our students decide that rather than switch over to calling her Ms. Hislastname they would call her Ms. McHislastname. (basically combining her given last name and her new husband’s last name) I thought that was really cute!
        Cute story aside, I think I would probably feel a lot different about my last name if it wasn’t such a part of who I am at work (I mean, it’s what 90% of the people there call me!). If I knew I was mostly going to be called by my first name, and it would be fairly rare that I would be Ms. Hislastname, I might actually consider changing it. However, I I am not about to be Ms. Histlastname which also happens to be a last name that rhymes with bag and brings to mind images of wort-covered witches in my classroom.

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          try teaching highschoolers with the name Moorhead. yup. no way i’m taking his last name at work. no way, no how.

  • Tricia

    One issue that was raised the comments on the last post that I had not previously considered was that changing my name will necessarily advertise my marital status in a professional setting as well (particularly when applying for jobs). While one of the things that appeals to me about changing my name is advertising that we are married in a social setting, I would prefer to be able to choose when and if I disclose that information in a work setting. It is an unfortunate fact that while being married is viewed positively in most professional settings for men, it is often still viewed negatively in professional settings for women and consequently I am inclined to not let people know I am (or rather will be) married when applying for jobs. If all I have to do is take off my wedding ring for the interview, this is straightforward, but it is effectively impossible if I have changed my name.

    It is quite the wrinkle for me.

    • Courtney

      I’m confused. How does changing your name when you get married advertise to your future employer that you’re married? Am I missing something?

      I’m assuming you’re not putting “Mrs. Jane Smith” on the resume. Jane Smith (or even Jane Jones Smith) could be single or married, divorced or widowed, who knows. Even a hypen (Jane Jones-Smith) could have been inherited from parents . . . ?

      • Tricia

        I guess it depends somewhat on what job you are applying for and what documentation is required. There are a couple of places where the fact that I have changed my name will likely be evident (even excluding the, not infrequent, background checks where you are required to include any prior names in your application information). First, my undergraduate degree is in my current name. Second, I have one publication under my current name. The first at least won’t show up on my resume. The second I have a choice of whether to claim or not. It would, in any case, increase the number of tip-offs available to interviewers and make me more subject to conscious and unconscious bias. (Both of which I have seen in the interview process at my old job.)

        • Alyssa

          There’s also the assumption (if you go in without a wedding ring and your previous name comes up on background checks) that you WERE married and haven’t changed your name back.

          How being thought of as divorced or widowed affects their incorrect assumptions about you, I don’t know, but it’s another option that they might pick…

  • Kate

    Thank you Meg.
    This post (and the earlier one) allowed me to open up a conversation with my Mother about last names and the meaning of changing it. She did not change her name when she married my Dad, but did after I was born because at the time they were living in a very small town and she said that she did not want me to have to deal with all of the questions that she constantly got about her different last name. She said that had she known that we would not be staying in that very small town for more that a few years, she never would have changed her name and that looking back she wished that she hadn’t. Talking to her about this made me so sad, that she felt the need to make that change for me, and so proud that she is my Mum. As her daughter, I told her that I wished she hadn’t felt the need to change her name on my behalf because I would have been okay with questions. The thing that makes it so difficult is that we all (even my Dad) identify with my Mum’s family, not his, so it feels odd to be called by a family name that none of us like. Furthermore, I found out that, my Dad offered to change his name instead (but the aforementioned very small town would have asked even more questions then). This really made me think about how deeply connected we are to our names and how big of a decision it is regardless of what we chose (or feel like we don’t have the option to chose).

    • meg

      AND about how we should worry a little less about what the kids “need.” Kids are hardy and adaptable. They probably need you to be happy more than they need any particular last name structure.

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    (is it wrong to say i’m sad i missed the mean comment?! those seem so rare on here…)

    the spanish name tradition is my favorite. this is definitely one option that josh and i talked over the most when deciding- it seems to pay homage to everyone, to continue all familial lines. lovely.

    the only unfortuante part is that it’s expected in spain, and not over here. so there are still the surrounding (already discussed) issues of people being confused about who’s related to who, what should they call you, how do you fill in standardized paperwork with only two blanks, etc junk.

    …let’s fix that, mmkay?

    (<3 "exactly")

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

      For the record (and I’m only saying this because this is now the second comment to mention it incorrectly), that is not the Spanish tradition, that’s an adapted version (as Meg said in the post).
      Every Spanish person I’ve ever met (I lived there for almost 5 years and am marrying a Spaniard) is First Dad’slast Mom’slast, no hyphens. They keep their names when they get married and then the kids also receive a surname from each parent. No one gains or loses last names at any point in their lives.
      And they think I’m weird for having “two first names” (first and middle) and only one last name! I’m glad that at least in the US we have the option of deciding what we want and then fitting it on official forms! And I’m glad that there are places like APW where we can all discuss it (sometimes more than once!).

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        i wasn’t referring to meg’s choice, but the actual spanish tradition- which i was under the impression is also different from what you describe.

        for example, if teresa garcía ramírez marries elí arroyo lópez, she would add “de arroyo” to the whole shebang (teresa garcía ramírez de arroyo). and then the kids would be mario arroyo garcía (first name, paternal granddad, maternal granddad)

        but perhaps this is in other spanish speaking countries, and different from spain.

        • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

          Can I just say that I have observed numerous people who have these beautiful longer last names being, um, well, discriminated against by people (e.g. receptionists at doctor’s offices) having no idea what the naming tradition is in Mexican culture, and try to make them pick or just act like the person is crazy for having a different name setup? UGH!

          • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

            i’m so confused by people who are unaccustomed to various naming styles/cultures.

            is this kind of confusion and prejudice something that i don’t experience because i’m from a city? (sincerely asking)

          • Elissa

            It drives me a bit mad when people refuse to accept the name someone gives as their own. What on earth makes you (the hairdresser, the receptionist, the MIL?) think that you know better than the person whose actual name it actually is! Infuriating. It’s never happened to me (yet), but reading about it gives me the same kind of feeling of frustrated anger as when someone misspells my name when the correct version is right there (in my email address, or on the paperwork, whatever). I feel a bit sad for the person doing the insisting, being so rigid, so limited in their ideas…

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

          It’s definitely not Spain (I checked with my partner just in case), but I don’t know anything about other Spanish-speaking countries, so maybe it’s typical somewhere else.
          @Jo, that’s so sad!
          @Liz (again!) Yes, I think it is a city thing. It seems like, as a whole, city people are just more used to being exposed to different ways of doing things (in general in life) and thus are more tolerant… even if they don’t mean to be! (Sorry for the generalisation, everyone!)

      • Olivia

        My name is First MomsLast DadsLast. I’ve lived in big cities my whole life and have never met with discrimination, exactly, but most people are very confused by it.

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

          At least it seems like people are moving toward a place where it’s not considered weird. Maybe it starts with only slight confusion in cities, and eventually evolves into being like no big deal elsewhere? Hopefully that’s the case!

          • Tina

            I’ve lived in both Spain and Argentina, and have friends in Chile, Brazil, and Peru. I’ve also read a lot about naming cultures in other Latin American countries. The naming in Spain is different from naming in some of those other countries, but the majority of the countries tend to have some tradition of combining maternal and paternal names. I’m a big fan of it. I like it for the idea of a modified system for my own name and for future children. Similar to what Meg was saying. I did want to point out that these countries are not without their patriarchal histories, however. The tradition of adding the “de” in Spain and other countries implies ownership by the man. From what I’ve read this appears to be declining in most cultures, but older generations still use this as do those wanting to keep up with tradition.

            After the first post, I was so interested in reading more about this topic and learning new things about other countries that I’m not familiar with. I love this community!

  • Tiffany P

    Hi Meg-

    I just wanted to take the time to Thank You for your first post about this topic, and now your response. The evening of your first post I decided it was time to acutally have the discussion about what name I wanted to have. I first sent him the link so he could read what your wrote, and I told him to read some of the comments too (at that point there were not 500!) For months we had been bickering about what I wanted to do, and I finally realized that we needed to talk about (and argue a little) about the reasons I wanted to keep my last name and add his to mine. FINALLY it got through to him, and I want to believe it was becasue he saw how many other woman felt the same way!!

    So thank you (and all you APW followers who posted a comment) for helping me and my fiance finally have a much needed discussion about the dreaded name changing topic!! After the wedding I will be Tiffany mylastname hislastname

  • C

    I completely agree with whomever said names are a cultural concept. In Iceland people’s names change depending on their physical sex ie Dad’snamedaughter or Dad’snameson.

    Which I think is interesting. Although I suppose some might find this very patriarchal and perhaps even think that this identify children as property. On the other hand, in many cultures extended families are incredibly important. Being identified with a family and a place is a way of building connections so I bet the dialogue around name-changing (or not) would be very different.

    • Cortney

      Fun fact: in ancient Rome, daughters would take a feminine form of their father’s name as their first name. For example: Julius would have a daughter named Julia. Sextius woud have a daughter named Sextia. Fufidius would have a daughter named Fufidia. And so on, and so on. Then, when they married, they would take their husband’s family name as their last name. So they had both their father’s and their husband’s names attached to them forever.

      *shudder* I’m glad that trend is no longer fashionable. I would HATE to have been named Pederia.

      • Whitney

        You know what’s worse – these ancient Roman women didn’t even get to be the only one with their name. _All_ of Julius’s daughters would be named Julia. I think it was along the lines of Julia Prima, Julia Secunda, something like that, but I could be remembering wrong!

        • Cortney

          Nope, you’re exactly right!

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Hehe, on BOTH my driver’s license and social security card, my name actually goes onto a second line, so MANY times people will not see the married name I took at all.

    As a side note, I have dealt with issues surrounding my name my entire life. I have a hyphenated first name and you would not believe (or maybe you would) the amount of grief I get over that. It’s interesting how people can have such definite ideas and opinions about what YOU should call yourself. Almost everytime I tell someone my name is Marisa-Andrea and not just Marisa or Andrea, people literally freak out. There’s a stunned look in their eyes and they furrow their brows in confusion and it all begins.

    In light of that, it is not surprising that people get so…livid about a woman’s choice and decision to change or not change her name upon marriage.

    • Olivia

      My fiance has a hyphenated first name and has also run into issues with it. He sometimes complains that it’s hard to order things online because the forms don’t let you hyphenate and then it doesn’t match his credit card info!

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

      One of my Bosses has this problem, her name is Ann-Marie, and I can’t count the times people call her Ann, Anna, alternately, Maria, Anna Marie, Anna Maria, etc. She always corrects them, and they have the same response as you mentioned. Stunned.

      Anyways, sorry for getting a tad off topic there!!

    • Sarah Beth

      Oh my goodness! I am so with you! I have a double first name (so says my mother) But it isn’t hyphenated, so nobody gets it. I was raised as “Sarah Beth”, but explaining my name is usually a trial.

      “Is that one word?” (“It’s two words.”)
      “Is the ‘b’ capital?” (“Yes, they’re two words.”)
      “What’s your middle name, then?” (“It’s Beth, why is that so hard….?”)

      On school rolls though, “Beth” is assumed to be a middle name and is just listed as “B”.
      So in grade school I was Sarah Beth, in college I’m Sarah. And even though my fiance first knew me by both names, he now just calls me Sarah. And I’m just Sarah to anyone new,, because that’s how I choose to introduce myself. Unless my mom is present, because she will loudly correct me!

      “Sarah BETH. Her name is Sarah Beth.”
      :S

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

        I grew up in the south of the US and knew a quite a few people with double-barrel last names, including a Sarah Beth. :) And now in Québec, there are tons of double name people too…Anne-Marie, Jean François, etc… I quite like it. :)

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      this is odd to me.

      i thought the two first names (hyphenated or not) was a little more common. weird that people wouldn’t be on board.

      my husband’s name is joshua, and he prefers being called joshua. (he thinks “josh” sounds young, haha). but it’s always interesting to me (and him) when he introduces himself as joshua, people IMMEDIATELY call him “josh.” odd.

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

        I imagine that happens to “Michael”s a lot, as well. It’s always seemed a little rude to me to give someone else a nickname, even it’s a common one like “Josh”… I would assume that if he introduced himself like that, it’s what he wants to be called, and I’m always surprised that other people don’t think like that.
        But I’m also surprised people in the US don’t know what to do with Ann-Maries and Sarah Beths, it doesn’t seem that uncommon to me there. (My bank in Spain, however, used to address all my correspondence to Mr. Middlename, and it took THREE phone calls to customer service to get them to put Ms. Lastname… they just don’t have multiple first names and didn’t know what to do with me!)

        • ddayporter

          yeah! my friend’s name is Elizabeth and she has many times said she prefers Elizabeth, and still many of her closest friends refuse to call her anything but Liz. and I once worked with a woman named Mary Helen and she would always say how difficult it was her whole life for anyone to get that her name wasn’t just Mary.. my sister’s name is Marnie and one of my friend’s moms actually said to me that she’s just going to call her Marty because it’s easier. whaaaat? I could go on. it really boggles my mind how people can’t handle certain names, or force a nickname on you, or whatever. it’s fascinating and infuriating at the same time. BUT yeah this is a bit off-topic sorry!

          • Tricia

            My full name is Patricia and this is a significant reason why I routinely introduce myself as Tricia (my preferred contraction). When I introduce myself as Patricia, I get called either Patty or Patsy (names I *will not* answer to). It even happens in places like doctors offices. They look at my record, see Patricia, and proceed to call me Patty. Argh!!!!

          • Kayakgirl73

            I have the double first name problem. I go by Mary Kay, but many people want to call me Mary which is my Aunt’s name on one side and my grandma’s on the other.

      • Sarah Beth

        It is quite common here; that’s why it baffles me. I know at least half a dozen people with double names, but they are all hyphenated, and nobody else has trouble with it. So, from personal experience, the hyphen is sort of a flag that tells you to say both names together. But my mom didn’t include that, so, honestly, there’s no way for people to know unless I tell them.

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

        Funny. I have always called my son by his shortened name and never think of him by his full name, but all of the teachers and students at his school call him by his long name. Whenever I hear it, I have to remind myself that they’re talking to/about my son.

      • Jessica

        My first name is Jessica. Always has been. Always will be. I ALWAYS introduce myself as “Jessica” and no one, not even my family, will use the full name. With my family, they get a pass, they’ve been calling me “Jessie” since the day I was born. Even friends I can forgive calling me “Jess.” However, coworkers? people on the phone? Almost perfect strangers? There’s a reason I said my name was “Jessica” and not “Jess!”

        When I was in elementary school (and even into high school), my skin would crawl when people called me “Jess.” I’ve calmed down a little as I (ever so slightly) matured. I even think it’s cute when my fiancé calls me “Jessie” in reference.

        I always feel bad for Richards- most people automatically assume “Rich” but what about the odd one who thinks “Dick?”

        • Debbie

          My name is Deborah, but my family call me Debbie and always have. Only when I moved to Australia ten years ago did people start calling me DEB. And ditto, I have the same skin-crawl reaction. MY NAME IS NOT DEB. I introduced myself as Debbie, call me Debbie. I’m glad to hear that some people feel the same as I do about name shortening!

      • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

        I think that is weird too how people always want to find a nickname or shorten your name upon meeting you. Growing up, I had a hyphenated first name and I grew to hate introducing myself. People didn’t want to call me by my full name, they wanted to call me by one or the other or something else entirely. I was very adamant about what I wanted to be called. I would let people up front know that I wouldn’t respond to anything other than my full name. It irritated me so much, but I suppose it garnered a huge respect for names in general. I always ask people what they prefer to be called. I also love to call people by their full name, if they wish me to. I love that Joshua goes by Joshua. :)

        And I am particular at spelling. I always want to make sure I am spelling people’s names correctly as well. I think it’s important and shows respect.

      • Bee

        I find that so frustrating! People meet me and shorten my name to Brit all the time and there are so many that I correct and say Brittany, but if you need to shorten it, it’s Bee not Brit who then just ignore that and call me Brit anyway! It feels really disrespectful to me when someone willfully calls you the wrong name even when you have gently corrected them (or not so gently corrected them when it’s the 6th or 7th dozen time they’ve called you the wrong name!).

  • Eat Broccoli

    It would be really interesting to know what Emily Post’s or Miss Manner’s take on the whole name change discussion is? Browsing through the comments from the previous post I was kind of surprised it didn’t come up! Beside the whole patriarchal business surrounding name change I am sure there is etiquette reasoning behind name changes. How am I, as a friend/ relative supposed to keep track of everyone’s post wedding name preferences? I view Mrs His First His Last as the proper social etiquette for addressing a married woman and quite frankly it simplifies my life! Now it may seem lazy but in my mind its a whole lots simpler, if everyone did the Mrs His Name thing I wouldn’t need a database to keep track of my friends’ names post wedding!

    • Emi

      Miss Manners says: “The pressure to standardize female life—not just nomenclature but whether mothers should have jobs, what constitutes good mothering and so on—is relentless. We do not now have a standard form of address for wives.”

      The whole column is very interesting, but her basic answer is “etiquette = individual’s preference.”

      http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/05/04/1039612/a-matter-of-preference.html

      • Eat Broccoli

        Thanks for posting the web link.
        I find it interesting that she states how weary of this name debate she is, and wishes people would just give it up! So it looks like if i followed Miss manner’s etiquette I will be building my post wedding name database for friends and relatives new name preference!

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          broccoli, girl. i see both sides of the coin, here- i think part of it is, yeah, sucking it up and remembering what your friends want to be called because you care about them and invest the time in remembering something important to them. but the other side is… um… maybe people could be less sensitive about it?

          for example, my name is elizabeth. i prefer to be called liz. but through my life, people have called me everything from eliza to beth and all points in between. who cares? if they ask, sure i’ll tell them i’m liz. but if they slip and call me betsy… meh. it doesn’t change who i am. i’m still liz, no matter what they call me.

          i don’t want to appear as though i’m missing the political implications of slipping calling someone the wrong name. i see them. but i’m wondering if over-sensitvity and defensiveness is the way to go?

          • Emi

            I think Miss Manners considers the emotionally-charged debate to be useless for her, because her pragmatic philosophy centers around treating everyone with consideration and respect–not around reasons for why something “should” be a certain way.

            Liz, I agree–people make honest mistakes and it shouldn’t be a big deal. However, from reading previous comments, it seems like most of the rage and hurt that many people feel is directed at a) a society that takes it for granted that they will make a certain decision, or b) people who openly contradict them once they’ve made their choice clear–not necessarily at individuals who make a casual slip-up.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      as one who embarrassedly DOES own emily post’s wedding guide, i can say she does recommend addressing wedding invites to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.

      never occurred to me to look into the reasoning.

      • Stephanie

        Yes, I wanted to explain this last time when so many people commented about how angry they got when sent a letter addressed to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. If someone is trying to follow etiquette rules when addressing letters, they might just follow the formalities without considering that it might offend the woman.

    • Jennifer

      Emily Post is really awesome on this…I struggle with the idea of Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast being the standard when someone shares her husband’s last name, and the Emily Post Institute’s web page actually does include multiple option for addressing a married woman who uses her husband’s last name:
      Mrs. John Kelly
      Mrs. Jane Kelly*
      *Nowadays this is acceptable
      Ms. Jane Kelly

      Also, in addition to the Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast, we have options for a married couple with the same last name, but she prefers Ms.:
      Mr. John Kelly and Ms. Jane Kelly
      Ms. Jane Kelly and Mr. John Kelly
      (Do not link Ms. to the husband’s name: Mr. and Ms.John Kelly is incorrect)

      http://www.emilypost.com/everyday/forms_of_address.htm

      • Katie Mae

        Emi and Jennifer, thanks for the links! When I got married last year I decided to become Ms. Katie HisLast, but I’ve had a really hard time getting folks to accept that. This morning one of my close friends, who is pretty liberal, insisted to me that I had to be Mrs. since I took his last name. I felt like I got punched and realized that I need to expect resistance from EVERYWHERE and be prepared.

        The Emily Post and Miss Manners references will be a helpful tool. Just like in wedding planning, it’s good to have credible sources to prove that this IS, in fact, done.

    • Nina

      To be quite honest, I could just do without titles for most everything (and maybe this is my scandinavian background influencing me here, as we don’t use titles). For our wedding invites I just addressed everything without titles (“Jane Doe and John Smith”, or “Jane and John Smith”) and I hope no one minded!

      And I’ll also second that we should give people a break if they do make mistakes, though I can’t guarantee that if I get something addressed to Mrs. HisFirst HisLast I won’t go into a blind rage at least for a moment :-)

    • meg

      Here is the thing, and I am adamant and inflexible on this, which is a bit rare for me on wedding issues: You call people by their NAME, period, even if it’s a pain in the neck for you. I love Miss Manners (obviously) and think she trumps Emily Post on this one a million times over. Etiquette is about respect, and treating people as you wish to be treated. If you address me as Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast or as Mrs. Hislast, that it impolite to the Nth degree. Why? IT’S NOT MY NAME. Period.

      So yes. If you are using people’s titles and last names, you need to find out what their titles and last names are. If you don’t know, and can’t be bothered to find out, that is a rather strong hint that you are neither close enough to them nor care enough about them to have them at your wedding.

      • Olivia

        I work in a place where I have to write down the first names of people all the time. I always take the moment to ask them how they spell it. There are a lot of ways to spell “Carrie.” People are consistently impressed and thankful that I bothered to ask.

        Our names matter to us. First, middle, last, and nicknames. These threads aren’t just long because of the implications of changing or not changing our last name. They are about everything that is tied up in our names, period.

        So to me, it’s only polite to ask people how they prefer to be addressed. Because most people will have a preference.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        broccoli’s comment made me think of one cousin i have in particular. but she has this bad habit of getting divorces and moving in with new guys and moving out. and changing her effing name every time. not legally. just socially. wtf.

        i just addressed her invite to Kelly. to save myself the trouble.

        other than those rare instances- i have no clue why you WOULDN’T know what your friends want to be called.

  • Heather

    I changed my name. I love it. Growing up, I always thought I’d keep my “maiden” name; especially considering that my father died when I was young. 13+ years later I was engaged and couldn’t imagine NOT changing my name–I loved my husband so much (obviously) and we are both pretty traditional. I liked the traditional idea of changing my name–in SOME ways, marriage is like taking on a new identity and for me, changing my name just fit with that. By new identity, I mean your “agenda” changes, and you now live your life in a way that benefits your new family, even when it’s not easy and goes against your own preferences. Now, I know that this happens to your partner as well, so why doesn’t he/she change his/her name? Well, he or she can! I just chose to be more traditional and change mine; it’s my choice. I personally think it’s symbol of what happens–two become one, and as such have one name. However, if a couple chooses to keep their own names, I know they are not any less “one” than my husband and I. Those are simply my reasons for taking my husbands name. :)

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t want to take his name. He wants me to. This post isn’t about our respective reasons why.

    It’s about how much weight we can/should give his conception of what a wife and a family means? To him, it means having us all, including future children, have the same name as an outward show of unity; surely, wives aren’t the only ones with a conception of what family life is like.

    I also, up until now, haven’t been able to put my finger on why, whenever we bring up the Great Namechange Debate of 2010, I end up angry and PO’ed. I think bugs me so much is that if I took his name, it’d be no biggie. But him taking my name feels like he’d make some Big Statement (about feminism? patricarchal norms?) which I’m not into, either (and he is unequivocally NOT taking mine, anyway.)

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

      Elizabeth- I went through this exact same thing (wrote about it here if you are interested: http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-is-in-name-after-all.html). We fought about it for the full year of our engagement, and I cried and got angry every single time (as did he.) Some conflicts are not able to be resolved because each person has rooted their entire concept of family and identity in the outcome. In the end, it was my choice and I chose not to change mine, but it wasn’t easy or simple because I do feel like I let my husband down. I am NOT writing this to open up a debate about whether or not it is ok for my husband to be upset that I chose not to take his name. I am writing this because this is a hard issue, and I often feel that husbands in the blogosphere are represented primarily by super-liberal, feminist, open minded men, and I want to say that they are not all like that. This is not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. It is ok to get super pissed off every time you talk about it with your husband- I did. It wasn’t fun, but it helped me understand how I wanted to approach deeply emotional conflict in our future life together. Good luck to you- it isn’t easy!

    • Laura

      I’m so glad you wrote this. I was starting to feel weird that I seemed to be the only woman reading this with an FH that really wants me to take his last name.

      And it’s hard for me… I obviously love and respect him, or I wouldn’t be marrying him. He’s not possesive or demanding or sexist. We aren’t super traditional, and on most relationship issues he takes my lead. I guess my point is, he’s a nice guy – not a controlling jerk (like I stupidly assumed men who wanted their wives to change their names naturally must be.)

      I feel really bad that I can’t give him something he wants. He knows that I feel strongly about it; I’ve wanted to keep my name since I was a child. We even talked several times about it long before we ever talked about marriage. He says that when we got engaged it was suddenly became big deal to him. He wasn’t expecting it, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. He knows it’s my decision, he agrees that he doesn’t have a great reason support his feelings, and he’s said he’ll support my decision to other people (if, say, his grandmother gets upset.) But he can’t tell me that he doesn’t care, which disappoints me. And I can’t tell him that I will take his name, which disappoints him.

      So I guess that’s where we are for now… luckily we have a while until the wedding and, like Meg suggests, that doesn’t have to be the “due date” for the decision anyway.

  • Sarah Beth

    I’ve decided to take my husband’s name, because I have no attachment to my given name. Personally, I feel that my last name does tie me to my dad (he and I are the last people to have it in our branch of the family tree). And I also view that choosing to carry someone’s name is a way to honor them. And he hasn’t earned that honor.

    And I am more than happy to take my husband’s name. I don’t feel compelled to make up another. But what I’ve found is that most of the trouble comes from the expectations attached to the name, not the name itself.

    My fiance’s grandmother makes copious references to “fitting into this family just fine” and “when I’m a Hislast”. And I feel like I should feel warmed and welcomed by these comments; instead, I cringe. Not because of the name, but because of her ideas about what it means to be “one of them”.

    Admittedly, I’m not super close to my family, but I do love them, and I miss living close to them. But because my relationship with my dad is hit or miss, and my mom lives 9 hrs. away, I’ve spent most holidays with my fiance’s family. But in his grandmother’s view, I have two choices: spend the holiday at her house, or go see my family by myself. She even had the nerve to ask where I was on Mother’s Day my mom still lived here. She has this idea that when you get married, you become part of your spouse’s family, exclusively. (And I guess YOUR family just spontaneously combusted?!)

    Interestingly, this wasn’t gender exclusive. She and her husband have two daughters and no sons. And neither daughter has spent a SINGLE holiday with their husband’s families. Not once in the 20 or 30 years they’ve been married. And, yes, these men have good relationships with their families.

    But I have tried to head this off by “swapping” holidays. If we spend Christmas with them this year, we spend Christmas with my family the next, etc. I know that we will spend more of the “little” holidays with his folks because they’re closer, but I don’t plan to give up my family completely just because I’m married!

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

      I think switching is a good solution, and doing it from the very beginning is a great way to set that standard. And, you know, at first on the holidays you’re not with them, they will probably comment about you having TAKEN him away. But so what, it was your (joint) decision and they need to learn to respect it (and they obviously need to learn to be a little more flexible!).

      This: “because of her ideas about what it means to be ‘one of them'” was very interesting to me. We just had a discussion with my fiancé’s parents about something unimportant (who should sit at the head table at the reception) that ended in his father yelling, “We are in Spain! And we are going to do it the Spanish way!” And it occurred to me in that instant that the reason they have such a hard time accepting our “non-tradition” decisions (about everything in our lives, from jobs to where we live) is because they do actually expect me to adapt myself completely to fit into their family (in their culture). So I kind of know how you’re feeling on this one, and I don’t have a solution yet, except that we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing (making decisions together, presenting a unified front, etc.) and hope they come around. And I hope it’s sooner, rather than later (a woman I know had a similar issue (in the US) and it took 20 years, but her in-laws finally told her that they were glad she was a part of their family and that she had done a good job of building a strong, happy baby family).
      Sorry this was so long; I hope it makes sense and maybe helps a bit!

    • Alyssa

      I’m sorry to hear that about your family and I hope that the situation gets better. Some people don’t realize what a wonderful thing it is when a family expands and grows and actually spends time apart so that the time together is all that more special! (My mother and I decided long ago that although we adore each other, any more than 3 days together results in my reverting back to being 15 and her wishing she’d tied me up in a gunny sack and drowned me at birth…)

      A friend of mine has to sit down with her husband at the beginning of every year and decide where they were going to be for each holiday. They both hate it, but as she put it, “Until Mom decides to be a grown-up and stop pouting about not having me for every holiday, she does not get to decided when she gets me; I make the decision for her.” It’s protecting her baby family and while it doesn’t really make ANY of them happy, it keeps the peace.

    • jolynn

      Ah! Hug!

      I feel you quite intensely on the issue with becoming all “his family” and yours falling by the wayside. I fight against it hardcore, but his family lives within walking distance and almost all of mine is hours of plane rides away. I grind my teeth about it.

      Swapping holidays is absolutely important. I need the balance in that little bit, at least.

      Here’s my own tiny tantrum. I grew up incredibly legalistically religious, and am not that way any longer at all. When families attempt to tell me that I will be part of them, I like to ironically and sardonically refer to a verse in Genesis that states “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall be one flesh.” It says jack-shit in there about me having to leave my family. :)

    • Kendall

      Hey Meg,

      Could we talk more in depth about this holiday thing and balancing life with two families at some point? It has been a hugely emotional issue for my fiance and I (tears! every time!), and it looks like it strikes a chord with others, too!

      • Julianna

        yes, please! I would love a post about this issue.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      this is very odd to me simply because if we DO go by old school etiquette and tradition (which, when impractical, we don’t)- the standard is that the woman is supposedly closer to her family. hence, when a man and woman get married, the majority of time (ie, holidays) is spent with her family. (maybe this has a little to do with the “cleave” verse listed above…?)

      that aside, we do the switch-off that i think was mentioned before. but another good practice to start early is to have US holidays. (we talk a lot about baby families on here, right?)

      just for an example, take christmas. josh and i spent one day with his family, another day with mine. but there was one day at christmastime that was OFF limits. it was OUR holiday time, as our new little family together. (sorry, christmas is like all of december + january in my family)

      thanksgiving, we have to ourselves (volunterring at a soup kitchen til i learn how to make a turkey… mmm, not likely) but we’ll visit one or both families for pie after.

      start building into your own traditions. make it clear that holidays ARE about family- and you have a brand spankin new one now.

  • Kat

    I LOVE the double barrel names idea! This is perfect for my bf & I.

    I’m the only one in my HUGE family not changing my name — (my reasoning is multi-faceted, some of it good and some of it kinda silly, but all of it talked through logically with my partner who agrees whole-heartedly). And I get comments left and right like: “When I was getting married, I just loved my husband so much I couldn’t wait to take his name!” And: “I just feel I wouldn’t be as connected to my children with a different last name.” All I can think is if that baby is coming out of my fricking body then I think I’m going to do fine with the whole connection thing, thanks.

    Instead, I’ve found that I deflect with stupid jokes about his name not being as pretty (which it’s not, but that had nothing to do with it), or how we’ll name the kids simply: MyLast HisLast for a girl and HisLast MyLast for a boy since both of our names are also common first names (even though this would yield names silly enough to delight any playground bully).

    This double barrled Spanish naming convention is really going to work for us though for real. I’m really excited, thanks for sharing it!

    • KD

      Hooray for first name last names!

      Mine is, fiance’s isn’t – if we double barrel our hypothetical children we’d have to go his first otherwise they’d think my contribution was a middle name.

  • Melinda

    I think my previous comment was eaten by the Internet, but it’s probably a pertinent point to bring up now. I think it’s interesting that we very much talk about names in terms of identity, but there are very few of us who really chose our names. We were given a name from birth, by our parents. We were dubbed certain nicknames by family and friends. And it means different things to different people. So the fact that we DO come to a choice is the first time, ever, that we are really facing a change in name.

    For me, my name is not really the embodiment of my identity, so when I changed (or added to, as I technically did since my middle name is now my former last name) my name after getting married, I didn’t feel a great weight, a real change other than annoyance at having to change legal documents. Plus, I don’t really see it as taking “his” name, but rather, creating “our name.” It’s now just as much mine as his, after all. It is a REFLECTION of my identity, of that baby family (and it also ties me to his daughter, which she was very excited about), but I am the same person through and through, and feel really no detraction or addition to myself as a result.

    So I suppose what I’m saying is that the reason it’s such an individual thing is because the significance of a name varies so much from person to person.

    • Alyssa

      You brought up an interesting point on names and nicknames. I’ve had a LOT of nicknames through high school and college, but one that has always stuck was Lyssa. (Because pronouncing that extra “Uh” is a bit taxing for some people.)

      But after I started dating The Boy, I made a comment on the dearth of original nicknames I’ve been given and he asked me if I’ve ever been Ally. I said no and he started calling me Ally. (Two l’s. He insists they’re both important, I don’t know why.) So when he introduced me to his family and friends, they started calling me Ally too. And for some reason, this REALLY annoys my friends. To the point that my man of honor, who’s been my best friend for 25 years, started pointedly calling me “ALYSSA” when he’s around me and my husband’s friends. Nevermind that he called me Oreo in high school or Alyssa Mulatto in college (I’m mixed and he’s funny…), apparently Ally is offensive. (He may be gay, but he doesn’t like sharing me with other boys….)

      This has taught me two things.

      1) My friends are kinda jerks sometimes and occasionally need a Come to Jesus meeting.

      And 2) Your name isn’t just who you are, it’s also who you are to the people who love you. And if they think that’s changing, even when it’s not, they will push back and reject it.

      It’s so interesting how identity is or isn’t wrapped up in your name, depending on who you are. But it’s also interesting to note that it isn’t static and can change, depending on how your life changes. (You out-grow and nickname, stop abbreviating your first name, start being called by your last name at work, etc….)

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        i wanted to take credit for my “exactly.”

        so… exactly.

      • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

        My husband started calling me by a nickname shortly after we met. We met online and he used a variation of my online name. He’s the only one who uses that particular variation and I absolutely love it. The online name was a name I chose for myself and I love that he adopted it for his own use. This could be a whole other spin off post.

      • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

        I never thought about it like that before, but you are spot on. One of my best friends has always gone by her first name the whole time I’ve known her. But after she went away to graduate school, people she met and knew there referred to her by her first initial. It was really strange hearing her be called something different. If I am honest, I did bristle at first and did feel a little like something fundamental had changed, but I got over it. I still call her by her full name as does everyone else not from graduate school. She doesn’t require us to call her something different. It is strange when you hear someone you love being nicknamed by others in their shows of affection. Emotions can be really odd at times.

  • Katie L

    When the hubby and I got married this past fall, I changed my name as soon as we got back from the honeymoon. I was so excited to be so attached to him, and – for me – it was a proud moment when I was referred to as Mrs Hislastname. What I hadn’t even thought of was how big of a decision it really was. While I don’t regret it, in the weeks following our wedding I found myself thinking that no one will ever call me Katie Herlastname again. And I had to go through a short mourning period over it. I am still the woman I was before we got married, who I have always been. I have in no way “changed” who I am. I, as Giggles so perfectly said, have ADDED to myself. So whether you keep your last name, take your husband’s name, hyphenate, etc take the time to fully think about your decision.

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

      Yes, absolutely, and I would add to give yourself the time and space to go through whatever adjustment period you need. The name thing is just one part of all of the “tiny deaths” that come with a marriage- it is incredibly joyful and it’s easy to blame yourself for being sad or introspective about the things that you lose throughout the process. For some people it’s a name, for others it’s the knowledge that we’ll never live alone again, the career or personal sacrifices we make to support our spouse (and they for us), etc. There are mourning periods that come with even the happiest decisions, and I would love to see more women be open about these and forgiving of themselves and each other for feeling however they feel.

    • Alyssa

      Can I get an Amen??

      Me? I cried in the car.

      I’m better now, but it was sad.

    • Olivia

      When I was trying to decide about changing my name (“taking” another name, to adopt the new nomenclature), I surveyed my married friends about their experiences. Most said that it was a challenge getting used to the new name, and that it took about a year or more. I’m glad to have that piece of info in my pocket as I approach this change.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    It’s interesting. So many people associate with the feeling of “adding” to a personality, and adding a name… Frankly, I think that getting married IS a big change. My life is changing, period, and having my name change is an outward expression of that difference. I’ll be a Mrs., I will have a husband, and we are sharing a name. It’s almost a shame my fiance doesn’t have the same significant change to mark this moment in his life (he’s already published under his name, otherwise we would have considered adopting an entirely new name).

    Personally, I’m excited and a little nervous about changing my name. Right now, I’m excited and have no qualms about it– but I’m nervous because I don’t know how my emotions will change as I get closer to actually changing it (as evidenced by so many amazing women in this community telling stories of crying in the car or changing their minds after the wedding…). Tricky. But since my fiance and I have discussed it, and since I’ve brought it up with my family, and since I have this community to support me– I’m not worried. Even if it is more (or less!) emotional than I expect, I’ll get through it just fine. :)

  • Katie

    Thanks for these posts! I remember reading the post a while ago from Alyssa about crying in the car, and that was the first time I stopped to think about it. I had always assumed I would change my name. I completed identified with her, like in a whoa we are the same person kinda way. So when this post came up the other day I spoke with my fiance about it. He simply said to not change my name, that it is a hassle, and how will people find me if they are looking for me by name. Although I thought I would want this reaction, I was actually a little sad that he doesn’t outright WANT me to take his name. Now I just feel more confused, I’m not sure what I want, but I have time to think about it and discuss it. This topic is tough, thanks again for bringing everyone together to share their experiences, the reason I love team practical.

  • Kyley

    Ever since your epic 500 comment post, I have been very observant of the names of the women around me. I see their names as a marker of their thoughtfulness, and choice, and I really appreciate the dialogue you have created on the topic.

  • Gabby

    It’s funny, I just had this conversation today with some ladies in my office. I was recently engaged, and I feel as though I’ve sort of “joined the club” with these women, who are all around my mother’s age. When I said that I didn’t think that I would change my name, at least right away, one of my co-workers piped up and said: “Oh no! You shouldn’t do that to him [my fiance]! I feel that if you keep your father’s name, your devotion is to him, and not to your husband.” I was totally baffled by that response. Because it neglects any kind of female identity in this scenario. It was just one version of patriarchy over another. I said that this was a decision about my own self-identification. I absolutely have the option to choose, and not in way that gives preference to either of the men in my life.
    Anyway, I love this post series. Great discussion!

    • Emi

      Your co-worker’s comment struck me as very sad for a couple of reasons: your comment about no female identity, see also the above discussion of the false “dadsname” vs “husbandsname” dichotomy; you were spot on with your response.

      Whatever we choose, I don’t think that the discussion should ever be couched in terms of “rejecting” anyone’s name. If you start describing it that way, it’s a lose-lose situation. It should be about *(re)embracing* the name that you feel is best for your identity, whether that’s your birth name, your partner’s name, a whole new name, or some combination thereof.

      • Emi

        And by “ever” I mean “never.” D’oh.

    • Jennifer

      Coworker conversations can be enlightening, because they are often more likely than family or friends to be coming from a different worldview. I just had a name change conversation with a coworker today, who upon my mentioning that I would be changing my name in a few months (we’d just been fixing a database issue around an employee who had changed her name since her previous stint here, so it was a semi-work-related comment) responded with “oh really? when my wife and I got married I absolutely insisted that she keep her name” and I could not begin to decide how to respond.

      His use of “insisted” irked me, but a) not my business and b) there well could have been an unspoken “..rather than feel pressured to take mine” or “because she’d often talked about how much her name meant to her” or anything along those lines. Also, cf: the posts about the last name being a gift, I guess it would be a man’s right not to give that particular gift, though I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’m trying to remember if the other post had any comments where a woman wanted to change her last name to her husband’s and he didn’t want her to….

      Anyway, instead of pursuing his statement (too deep a discussion for the time & place), or taking it as criticism of my choice, I went with acknowledging that it had been one of the very first decisions I made after we decided to marry, because it was a big and important choice for me, and because I wanted time to live with the idea of that change (along with all the ideas of all the other pending changes!).

    • meg

      Ew. Can we just make a rule that maybe people shouldn’t use the words “father” and “husband” in a super related they-are-kind-of-interchangeable way? It’s icky. When people do it maybe we should just say, “BZZZZZZZ!” and then whisper, “wrong answer.”

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        haha- my first thought on reading the coworker’s response was, “hmm… daddy issuuuues…”

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    Meg, I have to say, I don’t think you hit a nerve, I think you hit the jackpot – this is the most amazing, huge mix of thoughtful and soulful comments I’ve seen on this blog, or any blog, about such an important topic! YAY!!!

    I actually tried to comment on the original post and share my experience, but failed (stupid back button), and I think my experience was well-described by others so I’m ok with that. However, I will say that today I was talking to a newly married woman, and she shared that she had decided to take his name on a whim and made a joke about it making her work life easier because it was shorter. Then, more seriously, she asked me (now married almost 7 months!) if it was hard to do all the name change stuff, and I honestly told her that yes, it was hard, and it wasn’t just hard because of the bureaucracy, but it was hard to go through the identity crisis that came out during that process. And I told her that now that some time has passed, I am really joyful about my choice, hard won as it was. And she paused and took that in, and I felt like I gave her a little Practical Wedding balloon of sanity and reality and community in that moment. Dunno for sure, but maybe. Let’s hope.

  • Marina

    Depending on where you live, name change can be expensive.

    I had plans to add my husband’s last name to the end of mine and also add several grandparent’s last names as middle names, and my husband would add my last name as a middle name. But when we filed the marriage licence application, we found out that the state of Oregon offers you five choices: original first middle last, first middle yourlast-partnerslast, first middle partnerslast-yourlast, first middle partnerslast, first yourlast partnerslast. The good thing is both partners are offered the same choices. The bad news is I didn’t get to do what I’d planned to do.

    At that point we decided we’d go through a court ordered name change process after the wedding. But after doing some research, we discovered that it would cost several hundred dollars for each of us, and require making an appointment six weeks in advance then going back for a second appointment another six weeks later. Remember that changing your name requires changing your SS card, driver’s license, car title, insurance, passport, etc. and waiting for a court ordered name change process to go through would mean waiting three more months to do all of those things, waiting in a multiple-legal-name limbo. Ugh. I decided not to do it.

    So I’m Marina OldLast NewLast, and pretty happy with it. If at some point in the future I decide a different name is worth a few hundred dollars and several months of time commitment, it certainly remains an option. But… yeah, just wanted to be clear that the name change can be a monetary as well as emotional issue.

  • Christina

    I’m facing the question of whether to change my name when I get married next year, and, if so, what to change it to. It’s easy for me to get upset about, both for reasons of personal identity and political views. But, I try to think about it this way: language is symbolic. My name is just a signifier, a human-created word that labels something in the same way that the words “cat” or “refrigerator” are used to label the actual items. My name is not unique to me. There are many other people with my first name, current last name, and potential married last name. My individual personality, my beliefs, my life have nothing to do with my name. It sounds corny to say, but my name doesn’t make me, I make my name. And in my mind, when I think of myself, do I call myself anything? Does my consciousness need a name?

    My answer is no. Names are needed for communication only — so that other people will know how to address me. It doesn’t resolve the issue of which name to take, but still I find it comforting: to know that I am not my name.

  • Nina

    Meg, your comment about learning empathy through this discussion is exactly how I felt after reading (most of) the comments on that epic thread. After a while the decision at the end of the story didn’t even seem like the point – the point was the story itself, the journey of thinking through your name and what it means to you and your identity, your family history and hopeful future. I loved reading the stories, because it shows that our histories and our identities are so much more complex than the simple judgements that are often made based on what you decide to do with your name.

    And finally, I also learned empathy for those people who do actually have sad or angry reactions to others’ name changes – I don’t think jumping to judgement is right, but I realized this reaction comes from a different place. And I’m ok with that – as long as it opens a discussion.

    • meg

      As I said on the last thread, I don’t think sad or angry reactions are wrong or unusual (I’ve had them for sure) it’s how we actually ACT, and what that teaches us.

      I’m totally totally not against anger, when appropriately recognized and (not?) acted upon. Anger is one of the best teachers in the world… it tends to point very hard and very insistently to our own truth.

  • sarah

    I felt compelled to try to read through as many of the 500+ comments as I possibly could, especially since I had personally requested the post from you! It made me gleeful to read so many interesting opinions on the matter, and to hear that there are others out there that are equally confused/conflicted. However, I am also in the midst of my finals for grad school… so every time I kept coming back to the post, I forgot where I left off, and couldn’t get through them all. I think I gave a solid effort to at least half, though!

    The main conclusion that I’ve come to from all of this is basically that it is a very difficult and intensely personal decision. We all have our reasons for changing or not changing our names, but whatever the reasons, we’re all entitled to our personal opinions and choices.

    Giggles’ comment also really resounded with me… just re-framing the subject can really have an effect. I think I am going to do the Sarah MyLast HisLast … but like she said, instead of looking at it like I’m changing my name… I’m just adding to it. ;)

  • Rosanna

    Meg, I think it’s not true that women decide. We are left to “decide” whether to be labelled (and defined) by our father or our husband. Where is the decision? It’s like being a cow – our name changes when the “owner” changes.

    • Alyssa

      Sweetie, did you read all those comments on the other post and this one? It’s FULL of women deciding. Standard society rules may make it seem that we are not able to do that, but all of us on APW are deciding all over the place.

      I took my husband’s name, but no one owns me, and while I may occasionally (and gleefully) act like a completely heifer, I’m certainly not a cow.

      I’m sorry you feel this way, maybe the other comments will give you the inspiration to realize that it doesn’t have to be that way.

      • Alyssa

        Sidenote – I apologize if you find the “Sweetie” offensive.

        I’m Texan, we can’t help ourselves.

      • meg

        Well, I had to type out Exactly on this one. Hitting the button just wasn’t good enough.

    • Tricia

      I know this has been pointed out elsewhere (in both threads) but I have to agree with Alyssa, you do have a choice. You have a choice to take your husband’s name or to keep your name or to come up with something else entirely. Moreover, while your existing name is your father’s name for most women, it is not for all. Some women have their mother’s name (and maybe your children could join those ranks). Some women have already changed their names to something meaningful to them because they did not like their father’s name. Some women have their mother’s and their father’s name and may have some additional choices to make beyond keep or change. It’s all very personal.

      My desire to pass on my father’s name (which I consider my own as well) is shaped by my lack of any siblings or cousins on that side whereas on my mother’s side my oldest cousin already has a boy and girl and I still have more cousins who may pass on the name as well. Family matters to me. My mom’s family has it covered. My dad’s does not. I might feel differently if it were the other way around.

    • meg

      And maybe you need to pick an all together new name! Lots of women on this thread and the last have.

      I can’t imagine any of the ladies on this thread being owned by anyone, and I pity the poor man or woman that tries.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      when i first got married, a good friend of ours mistakenly called us by my last name- “Hey, it’s the MyLastNames!”

      knowing this guy, he DID not do it to make a political statement (trust me). just purely a mistake.

      but it demonstrated to me that when people consider a joint last name, TODAY there is no longer a direct correlation to ownership or a piece of property. joint last name means just a shared connection. no matter whose last name.

    • Marina

      Perhaps you are trying to say that any decision takes place in the context of history and culture, and therefore it is impossible to make truly feminist decisions within patriarchial culture, and therefore the only possible feminist decision is to not participate in any element of patriarchy?

      Because that seems like LESS of a decision to me. There’s only one option that makes me not a cow? Hm.

      Or possibly your definition of “decision” is different than mine. I spent a lot of time thinking and talking with my partner about what it would mean to change either of our names, and what we wanted to get out of it. Then based on the emotional and logistical elements that were clarified during that process, I took action. Are there other ways to make decisions that I’m unaware of?

      Your comment is judgmental and derogatory. You imply that the choices I made are invalid. That seems at least as anti-feminist to me as an assumption that I would change my name to include my husband’s.

  • long-married

    Thirty-five years ago when I got married (yes, 35 years) I did not change my name at work, on my driver’s license, Social Security card, or IRS forms. My husband introduced me as his wife, MyFirst MyLast Name. I have a passport with MyFirstName HisLastName as proof we are married for those times I need to prove it (mortgages, e.g.) This issue of name change/co-option/ownership is painful and not yet solved. We just need to continue to put it out there. Many of my “generation” are entirely sympathetic since we, too, had those concerns and struggle with them today.

  • Becca

    You ladies are awesome! So many perpectives and so little judegement =) And Meg this is the most incredible forum for me as an aspiring grown-up – You have begun a great thing!!

    Maybe this already came up – I have to admit I skimmed the other 500! But I’m so bummed about this wee incident that I feel compelled to share it…

    I’ve been married only a few weeks and have struggled since we got engaged over what to do about changing my name. I’m a PhD student working hard to build my professional reputation, I grew up a kid with divorced parents and am very aware that marriages begun with worlds of love and best intentions don’t always work out. But equally, I love my Mr and I want to have the cohesiveness of a name for our baby family (not become part of his family at the exclusion of mine, but to build our own new one with a family name which I’m happy to be his birth lastname).

    Anyhow, I’m currently leaning towards keeping my given lastname for work and using his ( adding in a nonhyphenated sense) for social stuff, and this decision is admittedly partly because I want to protect myself if things don’t work out long term. It’s also because I am who I am, I feel pretty attached to my name as part of my heritage and identity. I’m not upset if people call me one or the other – but was absolutely devastated to be told by a close friend (haha I typed fiend first by mistake) that my decision meant I was not committed to my marriage and thus I had in fact doomed it to fail.

    It’s hard enough being 50:50 cynic:hopeless romantic and making peace with it for yourself without loads of cr*p from people who should be supportive =(

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

      Here was my experience trying to use MyLast as my work name: it didn’t work. Not that I didn’t try valiantly, but it just didn’t work. You see, my work required my legal name for its documentation. Legal name and social security were required for payroll, insurance, benefits, accounts payable, my business credit card, etc.

      They then used my legal name to set up my email account, my web profile, to order my door plaque, my stationary, business cards, etc. Because my legal name was the name in their system associated with my personnel number, my office equipment (every computer, blackberry, cord and what not) was also labeled with my legal name. When I arrived at my job, even my inbox had been labeled with my legal name.

      The people I work with/for called me by the name on my door plaque because that was how they learned my name before I even arrived. Did I mention that they printed my legal name in a facebook that went out to all the current employees before I started?

      Oh, and I’ve been divorced and changed my name back. Two years later, I’m still getting calls related to my former married name and running into problems with my current id not working with doormen/etc.

      Also, my articles all ended up being published under my former married name because that was the name that was attached to my web profile.

      In my experience, it’s easier to pick a name and stick with it. BUT this may be different for people who work for themselves or as contractors.

      • Becca

        It sucks that it was so hard for you! I’m hopeful that it won’t be so bad for me; according to NZ’s Deaprtment of Internal Affairs:

        In New Zealand a person can call themselves by any name. Usually, if they are not formally changing their name on their birth registration, they will establish their new name through usage and reputation. An example of assuming a name is acquiring a spouse’s/partner’s surname after marriage/civil union.

        So to change my name in the places that I want it changed, all I need to do is to take my marriage cert, possibly pay a small fee (like for drivers licenses) and voila! Because I hope to head overseas to work at some point, my intention then is to use my given name as my legal one – it’s on my passport, birth cert and tax records etc. But when I’m introduced to someone outside of work, I’m happy to be Mrs Hislast. I am not sure how much confusion will result, but from a legal standpoint and thus for work, I’ll (hopefully) be Dr Mylast.

        For me it’s not the unintentional ‘what to call her’ slips that hurt, it’s the “but not changing makes you less committed” BS with its implicit “why are you even getting married you jaded old emotional cripple”, and to a lesser extent the “but it’s just what you DO” cr*p. That stuff really, really stings. Like a punch in the stomach stings.

    • sarah

      Your friend is full of it.

      Imagine if you agreed with her and believed that holding onto the identity you’ve had your whole life and taking your career seriously meant that you weren’t committed to you marriage… then you’d be full of it too! Thank god your not. Phew.

    • Nat

      I’m currently negotiating this very confronting and confusing topic and I have a question for the women who have ‘added’ to their name with their husbands. What did your husband do? Is he now hisfirst yourlast hislast or hisfirst hislast yourlast? I’m just very curious as I will definately NOT remove my current last name, however I am starting to be open to the idea of adding his to mine. For me though, unless he does the same with my last name, it wouldn’t feel any less ‘expected’ if that makes sense??

      We’ve both discussed the idea of taking a completely new name, however I just don’t think I could pull it off…

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      i think this needs to take some long and hard thought. because i think what you just described is what a lot of men fear when they hear the “i don’t want to change my last name” conversation start. they hear, “i’m afraid that it might now work out.”

      i definitely disagree with your friend. there is a difference between a realist and a cynic. and acknowledging that divorces happen is just realistic.

      but i think, too, we’ve discussed a few times on here the concept of taking divorce off of the table. for me, it’s not an option. it doesn’t even enter the mindset, let alone the conversation. this isn’t to say that we’re one of those couples that blindly believes, ‘that will never happen to us!’ or that we aren’t capable of hurting one another in deep and lasting ways. we’re young and newlywed. we have no concept of what our relationship will be like in ten years. but it’s kind of a “cross that bridge when we get to it” thing- i never think, “what if we get divorced?” we’re not going to get divorced. if anything changes, we’ll talk about it then. but as things stand- that’s just not going to happen.

      as a sidenote, keeping your name at work isn’t that difficult- and if, like you said, you can call yourself whatever in NZ then go for it. i started my job before getting married, so all of the paperwork they used was pre-name-change. so i just never showed them the new stuff. someone above also mentioned changing just their passport, so you can pick and choose what name you give to whom (as you have proof of both belonging to you).

      • Becca

        I totally understand what you mean – but I do feel a need to add that, while “what if” DOES form a part of my name-change rationale, I absolutely don’t view this as planning to fail – any more than having house insurance means I’m planning to burn my house down, or taking out medical insurance means I want to get sick! I don’t view divorce as an easy out if my marriage hits a rough patch, in fact I know first hand just how hideous an option it can be.

        Working out how I feel about marriage/commitment/being an adult with a back ground of fairly bitter divorce has been a bit of a rough journey at times. For me (and this is only me, and I know it’s not something everyone will agree with), acknowledging the rough bits and the possibilty of failure makes me feel even more sure of my decision to marry, of my partner and of myself.

        Hope this doesn’t come across snarky, I really do agree with you!!

    • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

      My sister-in-law is a doctor and didn’t want to change her last name mostly for professional reasons. Legally, herlast is still herlast. however, socially she uses her husband’s name. And it works for them. If that is what you are leaning towards, then I say go for it. Do what feels right and makes sense for you.

  • Paige M.

    My last name is currently one of the famous last names of a certain tragic Shakespearean couple. My fiance’s last name is 12-letters, phonetic, but difficult for people to say/spell.
    Growing up I had always wanted to take my husband’s name. But now I’m struggling with loving my own last name and not sure if that’s the path for me. I’m very glad that I have the option. I could always wait to have kids to decide, who says you have to change you name right away when you get married?

  • http://whitehindu.blogspot.com Carolyn

    I left the comment on another post, but it is so relevant here too…

    My best friend’s husband chose to add her last name as a middle name when they married. They both have her name as a middle name and his as a last. When they went to get the official name change, the clerk literally told him that he couldn’t change his name because he was a man. He had to get the supervisor over.

    My mom, back in the 70s, didn’t change her name until she had children, five years after she married.

  • Adela

    We decided before we were even officially engaged that my fiancé would be taking my last name, for a lot of very complicated reasons. Considering how rarely I’ve heard of men taking their wives’ last names, I’m surprised we haven’t met more resistance. Still, this whole conversation makes me think more about what he might be feeling about changing that piece of his identity.

  • Mr. Chris

    Has anybody addressed the idea that it’s a way of following the y gene?

    • Alyssa

      I don’t think so, but I’m not sure what you mean…

      • http://www.verhext.com verhext

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_DNA

        “In sexual reproduction, mitochondria are normally inherited exclusively from the mother. The mitochondria in mammalian sperm are usually destroyed by the egg cell after fertilization.”

        • Alyssa

          I know THAT, I just don’t see what this has to do with changing your name. Yes, it’s a way of tracing male lineage, but bringing that into the discussion is a bit like bringing the history of papermaking into an etiquette discussion on how to address envelopes.

          Am I missing something here?

    • Marina

      It’s obviously correlated with following the y gene, but I’m not sure what that has to do with… well, anything, actually.

  • Class of 1980

    I don’t have much to add to the emotional or practical component of the conversation. Just an observation from someone of my generation.

    A couple of people commented that women hardly had the option to keep their own names 20, 30, and 40 years ago. I was surprised to hear that, because I clearly remember the option was a big topic of discussion in the 1980’s when it really gained momentum. My impression was that it reached a zenith in the public consciousness in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and that it’s been fading somewhat as achievement by women has become taken for granted.

    (One of the articles said the subject first came up in the 1920’s!)

    So, when I saw how big the discussion was here, I privately thought, “Wow, is this still A Thing?” As far as the practical side of the discussion, I’m feeling a lot of deja vu because you all are hashing out the same practical considerations I remember hearing in the old days. We never did find a solution that worked for everyone back then and I think we got weary.

    I got curious though and scanned the internet to see what I could find on the subject and came up with these.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2097231

    http://www.azcentral.com/families/articles/0716fam_marriedname.html

    They sort of confirm what I thought was happening – namely that keeping our names is declining. Personally, I believe it’s because women have come so far that it’s beginning to seem like a fairly minor issue and that’s a good thing. Obviously, not everyone feels that way, hence this huge discussion. Just thought you might enjoy some historical perspective.

    • meg

      No, I meant that when my very southern grandmother got married in 1945 she didn’t have much of an option of keeping her name. When my mother got married in 1975, she OF COURSE considered what she wanted to do – having a not-so-hot relationship with her family at the time, she changed as fast as she could, but she had options.

      I would definitely NOT read this thread as evidence that women not changing their names is declining, or that women feel that they’ve come so far they don’t need to worry about there names – in fact, this thread is proof that women haven’t come far enough, and that many men still view their right to not change their name as unassailable and their right to pass on their name to their kids exclusively as unassailable (and that’s got to change NOW).

      For some perspective – 70% of the women in my home town changed their name when they got married. But I live in San Francisco and lived for a decade in New York, and in my current circles not only do 95% of women not change, 90% of women say they never even considered changing their name an option for a second. More than that, in my circle it turns heads when women change their names. My parents married in San Francisco in 1974, and while women had options, it wasn’t the case that 95% didn’t change and 90% didn’t even consider changing. Not at all. So by my reckoning, the debate has come a looooonnnnngggggg way since 1980. But it’s going to rage for generations.

      Someone on this thread linked to the ever-wise Miss Manners saying that the anger induced by the name change debate was part of the attempt to homogenize women’s lives in a way that made sense to everyone. And we’re getting closer and closer to there not being a uniform standard (as evidenced by the multiplicity of decisions talked about here). That variety is going to shake people up for a long time to come. That’s my prediction, at least.

      • Class of 1980

        I’m not reading this particular thread as evidence that there is a trend to change names. This blog attracts a certain demographic where that wouldn’t be the case.

        The articles are just saying the practice has been declining as an overall percentage..

        And what I meant by being surprised, is that I thought we had gotten to the point where if the woman didn’t want to change her name, she just didn’t. If she wanted to, she did.

        I am still surprised that either choice has the capability to shock anyone in 2010. From the perspective of my generation who were the first to put the option into practice in meaningful numbers, I really thought the emotional aspect had died down and women and their families felt fairly easy about it either way.

        I didn’t realize that the pressure to change still felt so strong.

        • meg

          I’m really surprised that you didn’t know it was still a hard choice!

          That said, I have a seriously hard time believing that less women are keeping their names. By which I mean, I don’t believe it. Almost none of my contemporaries have changed theirs – and even among my parents progressive friends, the women who hadn’t changed were somewhat rare.

          • Emi

            Meg, I had a hard time believing it too, but now it strikes me as probably accurate. Like you, I grew up in a pretty liberal bubble. My mom and most of my friends’ moms and my aunts of the same generation had not changed their name, and of course when I went to college, neither had the vast majority of my married female professors. Of the women I grew up with who are now married, I would say it’s about 50/50 for keeping/not keeping (although most of the time I was able to “call it” beforehand knowing their personalities and family backgrounds).

            I was talking about this with my guy, who is from a totally different part of the country (geographically, demographically, politically) and he was really surprised. He said that of all the moms he knew when he was growing up, not one of them had kept her name. And then I started meeting people my age, both men and women, from other places who were basically like, “Huh? What?” when presented with the idea of a woman not changing her name, as if this had never ever occurred to them. For some reason, encountering differences like this is always way weirder to me than encountering differences in religion and politics! (Although they’re definitely related). Of course I was also surprised to learn that women keeping their name in the US had always been in the minority–it gave me a lot of perspective on where I lived and the people I had grown up with.

            So, yes, it’s weird to me, too, but I can definitely believe it. As to why, I guess that vague wishy-washy sociological generalizations are the best we can do. Personally, I think it might be a generational thing, where offspring react to their progressive parents by embracing more traditional values. So who knows, the trend might be reversed with the next generation.

          • meg

            EMI-
            Ah, but what you don’t know is, I grew up in one of the most conservative places in the US (so did David). Conservative, poor, old school. So my perspective is very different. People assume I’m from a liberal bubble because I live in SF and lived in Brooklyn. Not so. Also? I work in a SUPER conservative workplace… and even there lots of women keep their names professionally.

            But still – I don’t believe the percentage is going down. It’s even beginning to infiltrate the consciousness of my hometown.

          • Emi

            Ah, really? That *is* very interesting, then. Shame on me for making assumptions!

          • Class of 1980

            Two things …

            I’ve spent my life in the Southeast and it skews traditional. Most women here change their name and/or their “maiden name” becomes their middle name. There is also a custom of giving their “maiden name” as a middle name to their children of both sexes. A lot of professional women use Their First-Maiden-His Last all spelled out in the workplace. A small number of professional women keep their names. Even though most change their names here, a lot of them hate to be addressed as “Mrs. His First-His Last.

            As far as my surprise …

            See, it was SUCH an emotional discussion on a national level in the 1980’s. After going through that as a society, I think people my age just can’t drum up any further emotion either way.

            Evidently my age is THE factor in my being surprised.

    • meg

      And, for the record, many of us are finding ways to not change our name and to pass on our name to our children that we are very happy with.

  • Class of 1980

    Oops! My comment below …

    “(One of the articles said the subject first came up in the 1920’s!)”

    was in the wrong place. It was referring to the articles I lined to.

  • Class of 1980

    Typo: “linked” to

    Clearly I can’t type today. ;)

  • Bex

    Hi Ladies, thanks for generously sharing your thought provoking tales and experiences. Here is mine; last night my beloved went to his company stag do – currently five other men and one woman in his office are engaged and getting married this year so the company took the team out to celebrate, pretty cool hey? – and he brought up the topic of name changing upon marriage. This has been THE hot topic in our house this week after the comments on the last post gave us the tools to work through this issue. Reading all +500 was so worth it! He explained to the team that he is adding my name to his and I am adding his to mine and the various reasons for our particular choices. He talked about us both being really affected by the comment in the previous thread that ‘a name is a way of connecting you to the people that you love’ and how that had made him really sit and think about his initial expectation that I would simply take his surname and abondon mine with no questions asked. A couple of his friends were totally shocked and commented they had never even thought about what it would mean to their partners to change their names, they had just expected it to happen as ‘that’s just what you do’ and had NO CONCEPT that it might affect their partners’ notions of identity or belonging. It started a really passionate discussion (not least of all because the beer was flowing!) but ALL the guys agreed that it had really challenged their assumptions about this topic. One of the lads who is about to ask his girlfriend to marry him (is there something in the water in their office?!) said he would go home and start a discussion with her about whether she wishes to keep her name/take his name/add his name etc. which simply would not have occured to him to do before. My that beloved bringing this issue up (prompted by APW)had really made him think about what he had assumed/expected in his own relationship and he wanted to share the conversation with his partner. Sorry for the huge essay but it made me smile SO MUCH to hear about Team Practical’s honest open discussion getting out of blog-land and making a tangible difference out in the real world that I thought I would pass it on.

    • ddayporter

      uhh! I got a little misty-eyed from your story. that is amazing.

    • Emi

      That. Rocks.

    • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

      That is truly awesome.

  • http://www.mmhassler.blogspot.com Michelle

    Wow, I just read this post because there was link to Snippet & Ink and I must say I never knew that there were so many opinions about changing your name! I personally don’t know anyone that kept their name. In my family I was considered “controversial” for changing my middle name to my “maiden name” (I read you all don’t like the word, but I couldn’t think of a better one). I’m really happy with my choice. We have been married for 2 years. When we were planning to get married my husband said I didn’t need to change my name if I didn’t want to, but he would feel honored if we had the same last name. Ultimately we decided to make his last name mine because we wanted that sense of family and unity. I feel like so many couples lead very separate lives. That’s not what we wanted in our marriage, and a joint name is a symbol of that. That’s just our reasons though… so many people have so many other reasons and I think as long as you and your significant other are on the same page, then you made the right decision for you!

    p.s. Some times I think keeping my name would have been easier because my name is Michelle and my husband’s name is Michael… so now we have almost the exact same name! haha.

    • Blue

      I think a good option instead of “maiden name” is “birth name,” whatever that may mean to you. *Sorry if someone already suggested this…I’m not finished reading all the post. :^)

  • Zeke

    When I was much younger, dreaming of my future, my wedding, my life I actually had a hard time with my FamilyName. Not a fan of the first letter and being more connected with my Mother’s Family, thinking I should just take HerLast when I got older. But realized especially being a Military dependent, my FAMILY was the only thing constant in my life. So I grew to love and cherish my FamilyName we never viewed it as HisLast, but it kept us closer as an entire unit, especially when we uprooted and moved every few months to couple of years. And OUR FamilyName being unique, I never ran into another one in any educational or professional organization I was involved with.

    My Fiance and I have talked briefly about this subject, but I would be honored if she would accept this FamilyName as our Family and be able to raise our kids with one name. Not begrudging double-barreling names, but I find it as a lack of a decision. Oh we couldn’t decide, so we used both. I think I would honestly be hurt, as my FamilyName isn’t good enough.

    My only Sister when she got married two years ago, took her Husband’s FamilyName and she hasn’t lost her identity, but claimed a new one, with an equally strong FamilyName of his own.

    • Emi

      Zeke, it’s great to hear one more groom-to-be’s perspective and story, especially about why family names are important to you. I don’t mean this in a confrontational way, I’m just curious: How does your fiancee feel about her family name? What if she is similarly attached to it, for reasons as strong as you are to yours? If she has a strong attachment to it like you do, do you think she would also be hurt that her name is “not good enough” for her to keep, or to take as your new family name, as well?

    • meg

      But here is the thing, I’m a woman, and that is exactly how I feel about my family name . Exactly. And because of that, I am just as unwilling as you are to give it up, and feel as passionatly about my kids having it as you do. Since my husband feels the same, we hyphonate. That is a very clear decision (and yes, compromise) for us.

    • meg

      I wanted to flesh out my reply here a little more, suss out some issues:

      You say you would be hurt if your fiance didn’t take your last name, because you would think she didn’t think it was good enough. But if we hold that logic, aren’t you saying her last name isn’t good enough by not taking it? Here is the thing – I assume you’re NOT saying her last name isn’t good enough. I assume you are just attached to your family name, and would like it to stay the family name for your kids. And that’s great… but you have to understand women may feel exactly the same way you do. And that doesn’t mean they are rejecting your name, that means they are attached to theirs.

      You say your sister didn’t give up her identity when she changed her name (of course), she just gained a new one, with a new family name. That’s sounds like it was a great choice for her. But for many women (me, for example) we’re not interested in joining a new family and leaving our old one behind. We want our kids to be part of OUR family and have OUR names. I mean, for goodness sake, if a baby is going to come out of my body, you have to understand that I might want to give it my family name, right?

      So, what I’m asking you to do here is expand your thinking. Realize that woman can (and do) feel all the emotions you feel about your name. Then think for a minute *very seriously* about how you would feel if your fiance wanted you to take her name. Now…. that may not be how your fiance is feeling, because she might be jazzed to take your name. But how you are feeling, when you think about taking your fiances name? That’s how I feel when I’m asked to take my husbands name. And that’s how lots of women feel. And when both people feel that way, a new solution is needed. Maybe it’s a brand new name, or maybe it’s hyphenation, or maybe it’s something else. But hopefully that will make you see how we feel, and why hyphenation is the ONLY choice that works for some of us.

    • Zeke

      In the midst of my last post, I lost sight of what I set out to mention and I fear I may have offended some in their decisions about this topic. First and foremost apologies.

      This topic has challenged these dreams I’ve harboured for so many years. I have had big dreams of my wedding since I was a child (something not many men have, especially with the ‘Wedding Market’ so Bride targeted). I looked forward to so many things, including the aforementioned desire for my Wife to have taken my FamilyName. My plea for understanding of the Groom’s side with so many years of fostering these hopes turned to confusion and frustration and even anger (regardless of the multitude of perfectly good reasons backing these decisions) in my writing. Again, apologies. I just hope that the Groom’s desires do not get disregarded in any matter.

      On the heels of this post and the responses I received spurred more dialogue between my Fiance and myself, which isn’t resolved, nor will it be anytime soon as we still have plenty of time to decide how we want to join our Families together.

      • meg

        No offense taken. My husband and I had a really long talk about your comment last night, and we talked about the ways in which he had to morn ‘what he thought would happen.’ Oddly, he didn’t feel like he had to morn me not taking his name – that wasn’t a big deal to him somehow (and he knew from the get-go 5 years ago that it wasn’t an option, so if it was hard for him, it was hard 5 years ago). But he said he did have to morn the idea that kids were not going to have just his name, and that he might have to change his (or that we might hyphenate with my name last not his). It was very interesting….

  • http://www.swoon-online.com Giovanna

    since i’ve apparenty been living in a hole and missed all this awesomeness, it’s probably a little late to weigh in, but as usual, meg, your follow-up was eloquent and rational and just makes all kinds of sense. whether we choose to take on a new name, an additional name or just keep the name we were born with, the point is, we have a choice, and i’m grateful for that. i’m also grateful that my future husband totally respects my choice to keep the name i was born with, and after this followup post, i think we’re going to seriously consider the Spanish tradition of double barreled names.

  • Pingback: 8 Days Until the Big One: What’s In a Name? « Anomalistically()

  • http://christymemos.blogspot.com/ Christy

    Any ideas on name changing laws? My husband is from Mexico. His last name includes his father/mother’s name. When I married him I thought I could just take his fathers name. But when I went to get my license renewed they informed me that I too needed to have his father/mother’s name as my last name. Talk about a long name when it includes a middle name!

    I’d rather just have his father’s name. Was the DMV correct or do I have a choice to change it? Any help would be great!

    Thanks.

    • Marina

      Different states have different laws. But you’re always able to do a court-ordered name change to whatever you want, although it can cost a little extra and take a little more time. Call your county courthouse and ask them about it.

  • http://theambershow.net Amber, theAmberShow (Amber Marlow Blatt)

    When we got married in 2007, I didn’t change. It felt dumb, and neither of us cared.

    Then, post-wedding, I stopped speaking to my parents. The entire side of that family also stopped speaking to me (it might have had something to do with the 2008 election, and me blogging about my support of Obama?)

    I wanted my OWN last name, so I chose one (Marlow, because it’s wonderful!), and dropped my lifelong middle name, one I shared with the mother I no longer spoke to. Then I tacked his onto the end (Blatt). This was in 2009.

    It was a beautiful way for me to handle it, and one I felt totally comfortable with.

    I have named myself Amber Marlow Blatt. The power of that decision still gives me chills.

    • meg

      Chills indeed (says someone who picked her own middle name/ nickname).

    • http://zellain.net Zellain

      Went through something very similar to you and I totally agree that the name change to me was more of a relief for many reasons.

  • Class of 1980

    Interesting Facts:

    I used to follow a blog written by an Iraqi woman who was writing about the war over there. She wrote that women have never changed their names over there.

    I also read that Chinese women don’t usually change their names. When they have children, the first child might get his father’s last name, and the second child might get his mother’s last name. It’s completely random.

    In western culture, during the Middle Ages, the couple chose whichever name was attached to the most power and wealth and they both went by that name. When land became more scarce, fewer daughters were inheriting land and instead brought “moveable wealth” into the marriage. That’s when the man’s surname started taking precedence.

  • katie

    My fiance’s reaction when I told him I was taking his last name was rough – basically he said that I’m Katie LastName and that’s how he knows me. So he wasn’t wild about me changing over to his. It was definately unsettling! We’d joked about combining our last names but the combo is goofy and (I feel) almost disrespectful to the current last names, which are both rare in the US. So for me it wasn’t what I expected at all – while I appreciated him not presuring me during the process, when I decided for many good reasons that I would take his last name, when he balked it wasn’t fun. Didn’t he like and get excited for this choice?
    Just wanted to share another side since even when us ladies go along with the idea of taking the man’s name, there are still hurdles sometimes.

    • Emi

      I thought about this, and realized that that’s what my reaction might be if my guy suggested dropping his name and taking mine. Not because men “aren’t supposed” to do it, but because names are very important to me, and like your fiance I’ve always known my guy as Hisfirst Hislast; I think I would be uncomfortable with the idea of him giving up a part of himself unilaterally. On the other hand, I can totally understand you feeling miffed that he wasn’t happy about your wish. You’re right, it’s important to consider that men can have the same range of reactions to this issue as women.

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  • Megs

    Am I wrong to not really have strong feelings on this topic? Other than the drama of changing the medical license, I’m fairly ambivalent on the matter – I identify much more strongly with my mom’s family, so shedding my Dadslast isn’t terribly traumatic, and Mr & Dr Hislast is kind of sweet (although completely incorrect according to E. Post). You guys are making me feel like I need to have some kind of drawn-out emotional soul search on this topic. : (

    • Marina

      Hee! No, I also found it a fairly easy decision to change my last name to my husband’s. If it isn’t a big drama for you, more power to you!

      I do think it is worth thinking about, though–I mean, a) women changing their names due to marriage has a very weighted history, and b) other people have very strong opinions about it, and it’s nice to be prepared for that kind of conversation.

  • Gabrielle

    Hi,
    I am overwhlemed with the responses here! So many voices! Love it!

    I mused about the name change thing for quite awhile. I jokingly asked my husband if we could combine our names into one mish mash of both. But I, and he, both felt this was a bit of a mockery of both our family names. He then told me that it was my decision what to do about my name. He was happy either way, and NEVER expected me to take his name. I love this man.

    I found this to be one of the hardest decisions to make, as far as marriage goes. And, obviously so did many of you.
    Thanks.

  • Class of 1980

    I never did address in my earlier comments what I myself did about my name.

    My emotional issues didn’t congregate around the issue of keeping my name. Since my father and his entire family were dysfunctional (to say the least) I couldn’t get rid of my last name fast enough.

    My first and middle name have always seemed like the part of my name that is ME. To me, a last name identified a group of people you were connected to. If I had been able to have positive feelings about my father and his family, I have no idea whether I would have changed my name or not. I wasn’t lucky enough to have that loving association.

    I did get divorced later and there were no children. A lot of women would have gone back to their original name, but I kept my married name because I still wanted nothing to do with my father or his family. I don’t even speak to him anymore.

    My ancestry is English-Welsh-Irish-Swiss, but my married name is Middle Eastern. People are always surprised by my last name and sometimes I worry about the reaction of prejudiced people in this age of terror. Yet, I STILL want nothing to do with my father’s family name so I keep it.

    I would have loved to have my mother’s maiden name because I associate it with wonderful people, but even she doesn’t have it anymore and my grandparents are gone, so I’d be the only one. I expect that if I remarry, I will change yet again.

  • Isobel

    This has been a fascinating post to read thru, especially as so many people have different perspectives depending on their family situation. I am changing my name to his for several reasons, but firstly for practicality, borne of childhood experience – i grew up in a three separate surname family (me + sis, mother, stepfathers) and it was a pain constantly being called by the wrong name – i’d prefer my family to all have the same name. 2, i’m not in touch with my father and have no familial fondness for the name. 3, it’s a negative real word, and invites negative comments. My mother has married a few times and has always kept her original maiden name – i always assumed i would do the same, but my situation is different to hers. I must say – if i had been given her surname at birth i’m pretty sure i’d be keeping it now as that side of the family is very important to me. I considered at 16 changing my name to hers or my grandmothers (legal by Deedpoll here in UK), but decided to leave it as was.
    I really like the Spanish matrilinial-patrilinial (?) tradition mentioned above – i think that would have been the perfect solution, but hey!
    One last thought re the ‘It’s not your last name, it’s your dad’s last name’ – i was given my surname when my birth was registered so i consider it my name, *via* my dad, but mine. Personally, i would prefer if babies were given their mother’s surname, but even so, the surname i was given at birth is my name, whatever route it came from.
    Great discussion, thanks!

  • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

    I just wanted to gripe that last week the president of a board I am the VP for made a new template for meeting agendas. He emailed it to me, saying “I couldn’t fit both of your last names in the template form. I hope that is OK.” I’m sorry, I DO NOT have two last names. I have ONE last name that happens to have a hyphen in it. You wouldn’t put your last name as John instead of Johnson because it fit better, would you?

  • Class of 1980

    I order a medication from a mail-order pharmacy because the prices are better. This pharmacy has a policy that married couples must have the same last name if they want their meds to ship in the same package. If the couple has two different last names, they are forced to have their packages sent separately and incur two shipping fees. I think the reason cited is patient privacy. It is surprising in this day and age, but the pharmacy does not want to get in trouble because of violating a patient’s privacy. There is no easy mechanism for them to prove that a couple with different last names are actually married. Part of the problem is that U.S. pharmacy regulations are far stricter than other countries.

  • http://www.sillygoosefarm.com Deanna

    I didn’t change my name basically because my last name was WAY cooler – going from FOX to GOLDSCHMIDT? I don’t THINK so! But, both of my kids have my husband’s last name (and super-sounding Jewish first names, poor babies), and if they ever wanted me to change my name to match theirs, I would. My husband is a doctor, and I’ve always wanted to be a “Dr. and Mrs.” anyway, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, I already answer to “Mrs. Goldschmidt” whenever a telemarketer calls the house.

  • Bonya

    With so many different possibilities for a post-wedding name, and so much possible distress over being called the wrong combination of names… I just want to hope that everyone clearly communicates to the relevant parties in their life about what to be called. I have friends recently married where I am not sure who has which name now, and especially after reading these discussions, I don’t want to offend! My boy & I hemmed and hawed for quite a while about how to write out a check for a wedding gift last fall. If you’ve made the decision before the wedding, maybe something to put on the invitations, wedding website, etc?

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      the usual (err, traditional) way to do this is to have little cards that have the new names and their new address (as, of course, you wouldn’t have lived together before getting married).

      or, they’ll let you know in the thank you notes (another reason to get them out ASAP)

      • meg

        Which *of course* I’ve already written about on APW ;) Look up “at home cards.” But seriously people, if you don’t know how to make out a check, ASK. I won’t add David’s last name as a DBA to my account, because I think people need to learn my name. But, we had some wedding checks that I almost had to send back, because the bank didn’t want to take them. So really – knowing your friends name is not just socially important, it’s practically important too.

  • tae Richmond-Moll

    First of all, i admire your ability to make your way through so many comments!! I tried to search for key words to see if anyone else posted what i am about to write… and i didn’t find any, at least as far as i could tell, so here goes (also i’m coming into this discussion a bit late, only having read the follow-up post and not the original post and comments):

    my husband and i were married in may 2009, and we joined our last names together with a hyphen… we both hyphenated. so now our new name is: mylastname-hislastname. For us there were many factors involved but primarily it seemed to make more sense to us that our families were being joined together to create one new family; and that we were both undergoing change as we became one in marriage. we also want our future kids to have the same last name as us. it was great because we BOTH had to go to the social security office and change our names, and change our passports, drivers licenses and everything else. it was such a great experience doing all that together.

    we have a friend who is our age and her parents did the same thing about 30 years ago – they were rather progressive and we admired how they did it.

    as to concerns about “online ordering” and such (i saw that in one comment) with hyphenated names, you can drop the hyphen in those cases…. but it’s rare, and it’s given us some laughs at times, but it doesn’t pose too much difficulty. and when it comes to people knowing who we are, they know us by our new hyphenated name – our unified name – which is most important. and if our future children ever fall in love with a “herlastname-hislastname” person (or vice versa)… well, they can figure out what works best for them when the time comes : )

    ps- we chose my last name to come first primarily because it sounded and looked better… aesthetics are important!

    • http://werondwif.blogspot.com Stacey

      This is what we’re doing too and it works for us! :)

  • tae

    oh gosh there goes my anonymity… auto-fill stuck my last name right in there for me… so now you all get a real-life example.

    also, after spending more time looking through the comments i realized that there were some variations or discussions of what we did; but i hope my comment contributes anyway.

  • Megan

    Just wanted to share an interesting idea that relates more to the former post about having a common family name for future children in our lives. Two of my female cousins were not given middle names at birth. This was in anticipation of when they were married later in life. They both use their “maiden name” (ugh, i hate that phrase!) as their middle names now. This still obviously doesn’t help the equality issue. They are still not using their former family names as their current last name, however, I like that my aunt and uncle had that forethought.

    Mister and I were discussing the name change issue the other day after having read a couple of the posts on the subject. What makes the whole issue harder for us is that combining our names with a hyphen makes us have a fairly silly last name. It would be King-Popp (hers-his) or Popp-King (his-hers). Every time hear these options I giggle. I think of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, each time. What do you do when you really want to combine the last names, but the combination is either humorous or ridiculous?

    • Emi

      Haha, my first reaction to names like that is, “That’s awesome! Own it!” Of course if it was my own last name I might think longer about it.

      And since we all seem to dislike the term “maiden name,” maybe we should declare a voluntary moratorium. I tend to say “original name” or “birth name.” Can anyone else think of a replacement term for the dreaded m-word?

    • Amelia

      My mom and her sister weren’t given middle names for the same reason. My mom, being awesome, just added my grandmother’s birth name as a middle name (she didn’t change last names when she got married).

      That’s my tradition: my name is the First Mom’sLast Dad’sLast.

  • JM + MJ

    I’m a little late to this party because I just took a vacation (sans internet!), but I wanted to add what I think is a different take on this issue. Name changing is something about which I know a thing or two, and the most salient thing is that it’s always a really emotional process. Because names are such integral parts of our identities, they’re really powerful. They are often one of the first things we disclose about ourselves and are often filled with deep meaning or stories.

    Traditional practices of passing on maternal or paternal names are a very heterocentric practices. Same-gender and queer couples have a number of naming challenges that are different from heterosexual couples. Many queer couples cannot get legally married (or can only get semi-legally married or are against government intervention in relationships). For couples who want to get married but cannot, sharing a name is a very powerful symbol of creating a family. It sends a very public message about their commitment to one another. (This is not to say that choosing not to change one’s name is a lack of commitment, though.) When you are denied rights or respect based upon your sexual orientation or gender identity, powerful symbols might be all you have.

    I have lesbian friends in which one partner and all of their children took the other partner’s family name because her family was more supportive of their relationship. Another couple I know has each taken the other’s name to show the power of their union. They live in a small town, and legal name changes forced their co-workers and neighbors to recognize their relationship in ways they otherwise would not have. One couple I know decided to keep their own names and decided their children’s last name based on the day they were born, and other dear friends took on a new name together mark the creation of their new family. Despite their different choices, each of my friends deeply explored their options and chose their names based on what felt best to them. Many transgender people have an entirely different conundrum. My partner was assigned female and given a very girly name at birth that just didn’t fit when he decided to undergo a gender transition as an adult. Like many of our trans friends, he chose a new name. Being able to define his legal identity was so important and so empowering. It was also exciting and scary and life-changing in ways that I didn’t know it could be.

    The process of choosing one’s name – in legal marriage or unrecognized queer partnership or through a gender transition or for some other reason – is a process of defining one’s identity, so it’s not surprising that we have so much emotion around it. Telling the world our name is a public declaration of WHO WE ARE. And the burdens of tradition and ideology are heavy ones. A woman choosing not to take her husband’s name is eschewing years of tradition (in WASP-y culture, anyway), and a feminist who feels strongly about the moral imperative of disrupting the patriarchy is equally compelled. And then sometimes these two things come together in one life and, then, ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

    As a queer couple, my partner and I feel that we’ve been given a few gifts. Since our marriage isn’t exactly sanctioned, there are fewer expectations. We can do whatever we want to our names. Knowing that is both freeing and a little daunting. We don’t yet know what we’ll do to our names (if anything) when we marry in October, but I can say that we both feel the weight of the decision. I’m glad to have a supportive community like APW where we can all talk about touchy subjects, and that (for the most part) we can be kind and respect one another’s ideas. I believe that, whatever decisions we make about our names or our marriage, we will be better and for having grappled with the choices and reasons behind them.

    • Blue

      Thank you for this post.

      With my first marriage (to a man), we both adopted a new last name that combined parts of our birth names. We referred to it as a new “family name.” It was very complicated for him to legally change his name. It cost a few hundred dollars (Cali), he had to go before a judge, and he even had to post something in 2 newspapers announcing the change. I, on the other hand, being a woman, simply had to tell whatever institution was involved that I had gotten married and show them the license.

      9 years later…I am divorced (no kids) and I have returned to my birth name. I am now engaged to my soul mate, a woman, and we have talked at length about this topic. However, we only began discussing it when we decided to consider having children. Before that, we figured we would just keep our own names. But with children, we want them to have the same name to represent a family connection, especially since they biologically won’t be linked to both or either of us (depending on who births them, one of us, or someone else, i.e. adoption).

      Having done the new “family name” before, I like that option, but in our case, it brings up the memory of my last relationship, which I am not comfortable with. So, we are back to the drawing board. Not sure what we’ll do, but I wanted to share my story since it is fairly unique.

      Thanks for providing a forum for these discussions, APW!

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  • Beth

    My parents divorced and my mum remarried, meaning that for most of my life I’ve had a different last name to my core family unit (my mum, my stepdad, who is basically my father, and my eldest half-sister). Though it’s hardly something traumatic, when filling out official stuff or handing in passports, the fact that I was somehow “seperate” to them was clear. When I do get married, I want us to all have the last name, so we can be the Hislastnames, because I was always excluded from being the Stepdadslastnames.

    On the other hand, my last name is unusual and it feels like a part of me. I met one of my best friends in school because our names were next to each other in the alphabet. Plus my boyfriend’s name sounds weird with my full name.

    So, I like the idea of keeping my last name and adding his onto the end of it (but not hyphenating it, cos aesthetically I just don’t like that) so that I can be a part of a new little family unit, without losing links to who I am.

  • http://zellain.net Zellain

    I took my husband’s name when I got married. Mostly because I thought my name sounded and looked WAY better with his last name as opposed to my old one. Now it’s four letters, three letters and four letters instead of four letters, three letters and eight letters.

    My mother in law and her mother both got married several times in their lives. Each time they just added a name to their full name. Meaning my mother in law’s current legal name is now five names long with her first name, middle name, maiden name, previous married name and current married name. Complicated, but she enjoys it even though it infuriates her current husband to no end. Her response to his frustration, “That was my name for 25 years. My two kids still have that name and I’m not changing it now.”

    That being said my husband and I are still of the mindset that in the future we will choose new family names and possibly new names entirely to change to because that feels more personal to us, being able to choose our names entirely have them be our own creation.

    Names are weird.

  • Mack

    I didn’t change my name and really thought that over the years I would probably consider it and lean that way, if anything to make it easier on school records with the kids.
    Over time I increasingly can’t stand my in-laws, and now there is no way I will change my name to theirs. I married their son, not them. I am happy I have girls as it seems a given for them to make their own choice when the time comes, or before it if they fancy.
    I am surprised at how many people ask what my new name is and how many people just assume I changed it, at times this includes my husband and in-laws.

  • Leticia

    Hi! I´m new here, and I wanted you to know I loved this posts, I guess it´s a tough thing for those who have to decide that, ando for those who can´t even make the choice.
    I wanted to make a little observation: I´ve read on your post a comment saying in Spain we have a tradition of getting our mom´s last names, and boys getting dad´s. I really don´t know what part of Spain is she from but the thing is we use both of the lastnames (by law, and in official formularies you are asked for both, if you just have one parent, you use her/his’, both), but is usually dad´s lastname that goes first and mom´s second, and when you have kids, mom´s is usually lost as YOU are the new mom. This means in Spain we don´t lose our mother’s last name, but our kids do(Unless you go and legally bound both, and that´s how we get to have these eternal last names in Spain such as Name Grandpa1-Grandma1 Grandpa2 y Grandma2). The good news is you actually have the choice, if you agree with your couple, to do otherwise, but is not the general norm AT ALL, not in Spain, at least I haven´t met A SINGLE PERSON in my entire life, in wich I´ve lived in several parts of the Spanish geography, following this tradition. Maybe she is from another Spanish speaking country, that might be it. But my first last name is my dad´s dad, and so is every single person’ I know in my country.
    For me this post is really interesting.
    In Spain we don´t give up our last names for our husbands’, but I can tell I wouldn´t give up my last name even if I was asked to. It´s absolutely part of me. I want to give it to my kids, why should I let it go?As to reinforce the feeling of a family, Why doesnt he give up his?I really doubt it can be stronger than mine!To me, it´s not something I´m even willing to discuss, so sorry…
    Anyway,I like it the way it is for us. The family has both, leaving perfectly clear where you come from. But, hey, don´t get me wrong: I absolutely respect every decission as long as it comes from a choice and not something imposed, and the fact that I wouldn´t do it doesn´t mean I judge who decides to go that way or that I give for granted that my last names mean for me more than yours to you!
    Thank you very much for this post, it´s great to learn from other country´s traditions!

  • K

    Maybe I’m the only one (I just don’t have the time to read through 800 comments between the two posts!), but my new fiance has been called by my last name and has received mail using my last name numerous times over the years. We’ve found it quite amusing!

    • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

      Happens to us all the time too, especially because a lot of the bills are in my name. :)

  • http://knittoo.blogspot.com vanessa earl or marcoux ???

    a name change is not necessarily an identity change. a name change is, to me, just paperwork. an identity change has to do with a LOT more, like being married. so even if you don’t change your name you still have to deal with a new side to your identity: you are part of a union, a partner! but you can still show your individuality in many ways — your name doesn’t say everything about who you are.

  • sam

    Hi everyone, this seems like a happy, lively place… in our culture (Filipino) it is customary to take the husband’s lastname. Over the past 2 decades, it has become an option to retain one’s maiden name and many more Filipinas have been doing this. Yay!

    All of my sisters use their husband’s lastname, just like my mom did. But since I had the option, I decided to GIVE that option to my husband and asked him what he wanted, what his thoughts were. Being the gracious man that he is and to answer my question, he said it was really up to me to decide but since I asked him, he would like me to take his last name in honor of his father. Since he gave the option back to me, I decided to use his last name and now, I am still getting used to being called Mrs Hislastname or Sam Hislastname that sometimes, in business transactions, there’s a slight delayed reaction to the name. haha
    Double barreling was definitely out of the question since my parents gave me THREE FIRST NAMES, adding another one will make it tedious to read… :)
    Imagine: Sarah Anna Marie Momlastname Dadlastname Hislastname.
    There’s just no room to breathe anymore… haha

    Like the others, in social situations (facebook, etc) I still use Sam (acronym of my 3 names) Mylastname because not many people know that I got married. Same with my married friends, I still call them by their birth lastname and they don’t seem to mind. So it really depends on what you see fit for you and it’s great to talk about one’s choices. I love your blog! It’s a keeper!

  • Alexandra

    Wow. I read them all, both posts! Great discussion and neat to see traditions from other cultures & countries, as well.

    I was never a ‘dreaming of marriage’ girl, and am quite a feminist, so this topic is something that I’ve thought about quite a lot in the last several years, as it became clear that I’d be spending my life with my guy.

    For me, my father was mostly a good dad, but not so much to a lot of his other kids, and it is a common-enough last name, so I don’t feel compelled to carry it on.

    Additionally, my fiancé’s lastname reflects my [known] ethnic heritage better than my birthlast, AND it has a super-cool meaning. Plus it’s ten letters, so hyphenation or double-barreling is much less appealing, especially since my firstname is already 9! ;o
    AND my new initials will be better. ;p

    In regards to the family stuff, I realized while reading, MiL having a diff LastName [they divorced when my sweetie was young & she’s remarried] makes me less concerned about being Mrs. HisName; the previous Mrs. LN was his awesome Gram, and of his father’s brothers, one wife hyphenated, and one still has the name but is a long-time widow and co-habiting with her partner of several years, so probably a Ms. now, I’m guessing. ;p

    If he had a ‘bad’ name, or his mother had the same name, I’d be more compelled to make up our own name–and might insist on it!

    My decision on this is much easier because I don’t have published works under this name so much; so if I go to grad school, it’ll be a fresh start in the future.

    I’ll miss having the same name as my mom, brother, and youngest sister, but my middle sis is already married and name-changed.

    So, the whole confluence of things made it easier for me, but I am NOT looking forward to the paperwork…and I brought up this discussion with my guy & his dad the other night, as an example of something that needs to be thought about, and not just done because “that’s what people do”…so I’m glad that I got to make them think about it. My middle is my mom’s birthlast, and that’s the one I’d have him add as a 2nd middle if we did that.

    Cheers! ;D

  • jlc12118

    Holy late to the game (side note: just discovered this blog – and let’s just say not work has gotten done the last couple of days! Thanks!)

    I’m still toying with the last name thing. My fiancee, bless him, is totally letting it be my choice. He knows how important my “father’s” name is to me… and getting married at 32 means that it’s been my name for a long time. It’s a well-recognized and respected name in my community, and my workplace since my father and I both work for a large municipality. I have earned the respect of having this last name myself and it’s very much a part of my identity (even my online tagline is my initials…)

    *However – I feel very strongly that the right choice for my family – the one I am creating in November and will grow and cultivate for the rest of my life – needs to have one last name. Bless all of you who doublebarrel and hyphenate, etc., etc. – I think it would just annoy me to pieces. We’ve toyed with the using-my-last-name-as-a-middle-name thing – plus adding a real middle name – we didn’t dig it.

    So – I think the solution we’ve come up with is this. I am officially changing my last name to his. Our family will have his last name (I should note that his last name is also very much part of his identity – his friends call him by his initials – he did actually offer to take mine as well…). But, I will professionally & in the community use Jennifer L. myname hisname (sometimes Jennifer L. C. hisname).

    I am – however – definitely changing my work e-mail – which follows the form of FirstInitialLastName@… Because my father and I work for the same place AND share the same first initial, his seniority trumped mine and I wound up FirstNameLastName@… – which isn’t convenient – people know the general form and he gets e-mails for me all the time… so, leaving my last name in the signature, but changing the address…

    i think the really, wicked, important, awesome point of this is that we do have a ridiculous number of choices that our moms, and definitely, our mom’s-moms didn’t… and how blessedly awesome is that?

  • http://www.gracefullygirly.com Kimberlee

    Thanks for the bravery to tackle such a heartfelt topic. The only thing that made sense to me (after those long discussions w/ my other that you so wisely suggested) was to keep the name I’d had all my life and add my husband’s. That way we were united with one family name and our children and I would have the same last name. I didn’t lose anything, just gained a name. It’s seldom difficult to explain the looooong name on my driver’s license; and I love it. After nearly 5 years now, I have no regrets.

  • Mits

    Such great stuff. And there’s a lot I want to say, so I’ll try to be succinct.
    1) I’ve ALWAYS known I would keep my name. So it was really fantastic to read about the thoughts and struggles women who don’t have that luxury go through. It was really eye-opening for me.

    2) A standard argument I hear (especially from my future in-laws) is WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?!??!? (usually cried like I announced plans to mutilate my unborn kids) The answer is very simple- they don’t give a flying f**k. As long as you and your partner stand together as a united front against all those raised eyebrows, your children will never mind. My mom kept her name and never have I felt that somehow not sharing a name meant we weren’t a loving family. When people question my parents separate names I love my dad’s tension-breaking response of, “I kept my maiden name”. If you and your partner are ok with this choice, trust me, your kids will be ok too!

    3) I love my boss’ story of why she ultimately kept her name and want to share it. They were in the standard “he wants me to take his name but I like my name and am already professionally known by it” predicament. She finally told him she would take his name but HE had to fill out ALL the paperwork and accompany her to EVERY bank, DMV, etc. End of story? He decided maybe it wasn’t so important to him after all!

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  • http://www.caitlinscharacters.wordpress.com Caitlin

    I’m newly engaged and just starting to think about this, and new to Practical Wedding as well! Thank you so much for these articulate, wonderful posts and comments. The thought of changing my name makes me swell with sorrow – I have a very unique last name that people have created nicknames from, rhymed with, and generally been delighted by my entire life. It’s also an alliteration with my first name, and very memorable. It has always given me (naturally shy!) confidence in social situations to say my name and know that it will stick in people’s heads and cement who I am.

    My fiance has a very plain, very common name. Doing them both is not really an option since together they are overwhelmingly German and quite unpleasant. I want desperately for us to have the same last name, to have things sent to the both of us and be identified as his wife to people we meet. But the thought of losing my name feels like voluntarily throwing away an essential part of me that has given me so much happiness and fun throughout my almost 30 years with it. I tend to think I will just not fill out any paperwork for a while after the wedding and see how things feel. Once we’re living together and truly creating a life for ourselves, I might not need the protection and delight of my old name. Or maybe I’ll need it more than ever.

  • Jade

    I hereby motion to refer to a woman’s “pre-married” name as her “BIRTH NAME.” Maiden has nothing to do with it, it is the name you were given at birth (or yah know, some where around it) and the title seems appropriate.

    On a related note, my mother was named in what I have been informed it the traditional Portuguese manner of Firstname Middlename (de Religiousrefrence de Mothersbirthname) Fathersname. With her mothers birth name as part of her middle name, literally “of her mother.”

    My mother kept her full birth name through multiple marriages and us kids were given both of our parents names hyphenated. Mother’s – Father’s, with Mothers – Father1 for those from her first marriage and Mothers – Father2 for those from the second. Confuses the heck out of people who don’t know us that well but we love it! Only problem we ever have is with the hyphen in forms that don’t allow “special characters.”

    My FH and I haven’t figured out quite what we are doing. Right now the most likely is that I’ll add his last name to mine without a hyphen (although I might make it the last and put mylast as part of my middle name.) He had independently considered whether he would change his last name and decided that he was really proud of his last name so he will keep it, I haven’t yet broached the possibility of adding my name to the mix as this is all rather new (engaged less than a month so far). He also considers a females matrilineal connections to be more important than her patrilineal and a males patrilineal connections to be more important than his matrilineal. So the “Spanish” double-barreled naming convention may work well for us as regards our kids. *shrug* we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

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  • Martha

    I love this discussion. I am getting married in May and have never considered not taking my fiance’s name. I come from an extremely large family, so there are plenty of others left to “carry on the family name,” as it were. My fiance and I discussed this topic, and for us it seems so natural for me to take his name. He is the only male member of his family left who will pass on the name (not that it’s overly unique, but no matter). We approached the topic from an honor standpoint – my fiance is overjoyed to GIVE me his last name. We view the name change/update/addition as a gift, as if “I love you and want you to share in my heritage.” So for me this was an easy decision that I am very excited about.

    Conversely, I have two very close friends who are really struggling with the decision. For one, she simply loves her last name. She is very close with her father and wants to be known professionally by her original name, and consequently would prefer to avoid confusion by simply keeping it. Furthermore, she has a somewhat tumultuous relationship with her future mother-in-law. In her case, having been privy to the details, I completely understand why she does not wish to change it.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Meg – this is a very personal topic for everyone and it would be great is society at large did not make assumptions. Three cheers for everyone who posted making their own decision with their partner! I also really like Meg’s idea of waiting until children come along to make this decision – I might suggest this to my friend.

  • Molly

    I am getting married in June and I never really entertained the idea of taking his last name. It just looks sounds and feels too weird. I know a name doesn’t have to be part of an identity, but for me, it really is. I’ve had my name all of my life and I’m not becoming a different person when I marry him, so why should people expect me to change my name or get upset that I’m not? It’s not fair that no one is question his decision not to take my last name. Not to mention I just prefer my last name to his.

    I’ve been reading posts like this because I would like advice on how to handle letting everyone know that my name is not changing. We have yet to tell his parents. I’m considering just putting it in a short email, as kindly as I can. I don’t know if they’ll be offended that I’m not taking their last name.

    I also think (as someone mentioned in a comment) that my guests to the reception should know of my name before they show up/write cards/address gifts. Not only for the simplicity of check-cashing (that hadn’t really occurred to me) but also to avoid the awkwardness because they might feel silly to learn that they’ve labeled the gift or card wrong and it’s too late to change it.

    Also, though I respect everyone’s decision to do whatever with their names, I personally would probably get quite annoyed if I have to hear at my reception fifty times in half an hour, “Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Blah!” I just know it would bother me, and I want that party to be a happy time of celebration, not a time of barely-holding-back-feminist-rants.

    The issue is that I don’t know how to let people know. Is it tacky or inappropriate to make a Facebook post and hope everyone sees it? (Maybe mass-tag in the comments?) Should I write a Facebook note with a short explanation for the decision and tag everyone? Should I just try to casually mention it in natural conversation with each individual guest? Should I enlist the help of my parents to spread the news to their respective families? Is there a way to appropriately mention that I will retain my original name on the invitation somewhere? Is that tacky? Ugh.

    It’s still the right decision for me though. Future kids may cause us to revisit (if we both change our last names). But I’d probably want to hyphenate their last names whenever they come along and keep my last name as-is. I think that any alteration is too much for me.

    Will anyone read and respond to this comment?

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