Hayley: What’s In A Name?


From "Why not?" to "Why?"

by Hayley Cotter, Writing Intern

Hayley: Whats In A Name? | A Practical Wedding

I always just assumed I would take my fiancé’s name once we got married. Why not? I even tipsily asked, a few months pre-engagement, if it would be creepy to reserve a Gmail address with what I assumed would eventually be my married name. (Spoiler alert: yup.) The thought of keeping my name honestly hadn’t really occurred to me.

So what changed? I wish I could tell you I had some massive feminist awakening over the course of our nearly three-year engagement, but that’s not quite it. The question in my mind has just gradually shifted from, “Why not?” to a plain and simple, “Why?”

In trying to find an answer, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of the Internet, combing feminist blogs and WIC-message boards alike in search of a solution that resonated with me. But aside from vague ideas about romantic symbolism and misguided arguments about “tradition,” no one has been able to give me a really great reason why I should change my name—at least, no reason that wouldn’t apply equally to my soon-to-be husband.

I don’t believe the argument that life will be substantially easier if we operate under one name. I’m sure there would be occasions when this causes confusion or inconvenience, but truthfully, we’ve been managing as a household with two separate last names for years with minimal trouble. The security guards at our apartment address us both using my last name; all our video rentals are done in my fiancé’s last name. We have a handful of bills under his name, and a handful under mine. The P.O. Box is registered under my name, but my fiancé’s mail always arrives without incident. I am just not convinced that the world is going to come grinding to a halt if we continue operating this way after we’re married. (And again, if “avoiding confusion” is the goal, this might weigh in favor of my husband and I having the same name—but it wouldn’t necessarily follow that this requires me to change my name.)

Similarly, I have a hard time even wrapping my head around the (distressingly frequent) remark that a woman keeping her own last name shows a “lack of commitment” to the marriage. Ladies! If keeping your last name demonstrates a lack of commitment, why on earth have we been putting up will all these apparently uncommitted, name-keeping husbands? I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s because we realize that keeping your name (or changing it, for that matter) has absolutely no correlation to the strength of your commitment to spend your life with another human being.

Perhaps the most common justification I see from women who keep their names is that they did so because they were already “established professionally.” That makes sense—it’s certainly understandable that changing a last name would involve an extra layer of complication when one is already established as Dr. Maiden Name, or works in a field where name recognition is essential. I’ve tried using this argument with a few people who have asked whether or not I’ll be changing my name. “Well, I do have this one publication I’m kind of proud of…” I hesitantly explained to one naysayer. “Where?” she practically sneered. “The Harvard Law Review?”

Well, no. Maybe by using professional accomplishments or name recognition as our justification for keeping our names, we’re perpetuating the idea that certain women have acceptable reasons for keeping their names, while others do not. In other words: hey lady, if you’re going to buck “tradition” and keep your name, you better have a damn good excuse for doing so.

I’m not buying the idea that I need to have done something particularly fabulous to warrant keeping my name. I like my name. It’s easy to pronounce, and it rhymes with Harry Potter. (You’d be surprised how many people comment on this.) It took me a long time to sort out how to write it in cursive, but I’ve finally got that covered. If you Google me, you’ll find a few minor publications, sure—but you’ll mostly find a handful of “did not finish” results from my brief flirtation with downhill ski racing, and a long list of near-last place finishes from road races I’ve done over the years. Nothing especially spectacular, to be honest, but I just don’t believe that carries much weight in the decision of whether or not to keep my name. After all, no one is asking my fiancé what he has done to deserve to keep his name.

I haven’t decided for sure yet whether I’ll keep my name or change it. Maybe I’ll keep my last name and take my husband’s last name as a middle name, or vice versa, as many of my girlfriends have done. My fiancé has mentioned taking my last as his middle, so we’d each have both names. This possibility delights me but is, alas, not permitted where we live (yet). (We tossed around the idea of combining our two last names into one name, and the result sounds like some kind of hybrid zoo animal. Obviously, I think this weighs in pretty heavily favor of combing our names. My fiancé strenuously disagrees.) I could also follow my sister’s example, and delay making any change until the wedding was long past and decisions needed to be made about what to call an imminently arriving baby. Who says you can only change your name in direct correlation with getting married?

But I do know this: if I keep my last name, it won’t be because I was published in a fancy journal, or because my name is so well-known that changing it would be detrimental to my “brand.” It won’t be because I’ve won races and accomplished amazing feats that will pop up when searching for my name on the Internet. I’ll be keeping my last name because I am me, and that is reason enough.

Photo by Emily Takes Photos (APW Sponsor)

Hayley Cotter

Hayley is a Boston native who lives in the Caribbean with her husband, Nick. Their engagement spanned the better part of three years, six address changes, and countless flat tires, and they recently tied the knot at a “reverse-destination wedding” in Ohio. When she’s not busy at her grown up job, you can usually find her in a hammock:  napping, reading, and/or pondering married life.

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  • Lian

    Nice article! I never seriously considered changing my name. This is who I am, that does not (should not?) change with marriage. And any way, I like my name. My mom also didn’t change hers, which was more special at the time of course. I never felt like that made us less of a family unit!

    Now, last names for babies is more of a challenge – I understand dad’s last name is the default, and that’s probably what we’ll do, but I’m definitely struggling with the ‘Why?’ about that…

    • Claire

      I struggle with that “why” too. Just because the kids taking dad’s last name is the most prevalent default, doesn’t mean it’s the only option. I think it’s valuable to really examine all the options and bring both partners into the decision with all possibilities on an equal playing field. I think it’s actually good for men to NOT be able to opt out of the naming discussion by claiming the “traditional”advantage, but to have to think through it like women do. Why isn’t my wife’s last name a valid option for our kids or for our family name?

      • swarmofbees

        Ugh, this exactly. We already have a kid and I delayed until we had to fill in the birth certificate at the hospital on deciding what to do about the last name. I *intensely dislike* the idea that it HAS to be the father’s name. But, it is the societal expectation and, more simply, it is just easier. No justifications needed. Because we weren’t married, there was also the added issue of clearly tying the baby to her father given that there was not a default legal assumption of parenthood. We ended up giving her my last name as a middle name, something my grandmother did for my father. So, it felt like a family tradition and she does still have my name. I think the only really fair option is to double-barrel, but that is a long term unsustainable solution. I think that it fundamentally opens the concept of what it means to be married, or to be a family and that is just a fraught issue. Do you change when you get married? When you have a baby? Yes and no, but how do you show that through a name? Do you even have to show that in a name?

        • Amie Melnychuk

          I like the double last name, with a penultimate momlastname. I will try pitching that one! I would love my offspring to be tied to me.

        • Sarabeth_n

          There are other ways to combine your last name than hyphenation, if that appeals to you. My husband and I each kept your last, but gave our baby an unhyphenated combo that mushes together his one-syllable last name with the second two syllables of mine. So, something like Smith + Edgewater = Smithwater. Although ours sounds better than that example.

        • NicoleT

          I’m beginning to realize just how progressive my parents are/were. My mom kept her last name and my sister and I have her last name with our dad’s as our middle names. They just thought it sounded prettier.

        • guest

          There are obviously many solutions that work for different people and situations on this issue but something that I think people often forget, along with forgetting that the child doesn’t absolutely have to have the father’s name, is that there isn’t any reason all the children have to have the same name as each other–my parents each kept their own name, gave me my mother’s last name and gave my sister my father’s last name. This has never caused any bureaucratic issues at all and, from the child’s point of view, always seemed immensely fair in relation to gender and free of all the paperwork mishaps of hyphenated names. My sister and I actually preferred having different names because it kept teachers or other people we ran into from having preformed assumptions of one of us from meeting the other one first–they didn’t know we were siblings until we chose to tell them.

      • Meg Keene

        EXACTLY.

        And that’s why we didn’t do it.

      • Hayley

        This has been hugely important for me – feeling as though it’s a decision we both need to think about, rather than a decision that only I need to make. No matter what we end up doing, it won’t be by “default,” it will be a decision we made together after a lot of reasoned (and ok, sometimes heated) discussion.

        • Lizzie C.

          Exactly- that’s the point, isn’t it, rather than what specific route you go? I keep reminding myself that my friends who took their husbands’ last names didn’t deliberate any less than I did about keeping mine. As long as you know why you chose one way or the other, you’re probably making the right decision.

    • Amie Melnychuk

      I am newly considering this as well. I did not change my name, and this was a long discussion with the now hubs. But now we are getting ready to make our family grow by one, and we are already “discussing” the little one’s last name. I don’t think it is fair that the default should go to his last name. What about me? Why should it not be my name? But he feels so strongly about it because I didn’t change mine that he needs the kidlet to be the same last name as his.

      We are compromising thus far: I get to spell the kid(s) names the French way, to hold on to a little of my French heritage, much like my mom did when she married a Ukrainian and changed her name.

      • Meg Keene

        I didn’t let it stand at “But he feels so strongly about it because I didn’t change mine that he needs the kidlet to be the same last name as his.” We started there. I pointed out that if argument one went to fairness, that did not justify argument two going to unfairness, because he had grown up with an idea that he had special privileges in the world because he had a penis. And that wasn’t something I was going to teach our kids.

        There were years of tears and fights. Every single one of them was worth it, PARTICULARLY since we had a boy. I can’t raise a boy thinking that’s his right and privilege.

        • Amie Melnychuk

          It is surprising how reassuring and comforting it is to know another woman has tearful fights with their husband over something that seems so trivial to those external to your relationship, but feels so enormous to those inside it.

          • Lian

            It really is reassuring. My fiance and I agree on the vast, vast majority of things (including my choice to keep my name) but I know that he wants children to have his last name. These discussions have definitely encouraged me to open up that conversation more (as we have only skimmed it so far). Thanks!

    • Meg Keene

      WHY? As someone who didn’t simply give her kid her husband’s last name, the fact that this passes as just what’s done without debate, even among feminists, makes me crazy. Lot’s of defaults are not good for women, and that’s why we question them!

      • emfish

        In total agreement. I honestly think that women hit a point of fatigue on the name front. A woman who does anything other than take her husband’s last name winds up being asked to justify this “choice” (which for men is not a choice but the default) frequently — to family, to colleagues, perhaps even to her husband. By the time a kid is in the picture, I get the sense that some women are just tired of the conversation and dreading yet more years of justifying to grandparents and teachers and explaining things to pediatricians.

        We do too little to support women who keep their names or challenge the name status quo, which means they are often on their own in trying to justify a choice that no one should ever have to justify. I personally think the answer is for more of us to be noisy about the inherent sexism and unfairness in the default, so women know we have their backs when they sit down to have the sometimes tricky conversation about the kid’s last name.

        • BD

          As someone who started out intending to keep her name, but ultimately changed it, this comment is relevant. It’s not the only reason I did it, but I just got tired of having to justify keeping my name, having to argue for it (yes, with my own husband). No amount of logical debating could stand up to the monolith of mindless tradition.

          • emfish

            “The monolith of mindless tradition” — well put. I feel the weight of that monolith all the time during the engagement process. It’s exhausting.

          • Meg Keene

            It is exhausting. Logic may not be able to stand up to it (true), but I know from personal experience that action can. It’s one pebble at a time, till the pebbles turn to rocks, and the rocks turn to boulders, and then an avalanche takes the whole thing down.

            I have a lot of pebbles, and a son to raise. Give it 20 years, I’ll give you some rocks.

          • Becca

            My last name is hyphenated, and I’m keeping it. This was always a given, it’s *my* name and I like it. But when discussing children’s names — after briefly considering various hyphenation schemes (three names! multiple middle name variants!), we decided that they would have his last name. As a feminist, I’m really ok with this. I think that too often women’s identities are easily blended into their children, and that their male partners — even egalitarian co-parenting, super awesome feminist male partners — can be shunted aside, or people just assume that dad couldn’t possibly be as involved in child rearing as mom. So I like the idea that they will have his name and not mine. Women’s identities are so conflated with maternal identity that I don’t worry about feeling like I’m not ‘family’ with my kids. Giving future-potential-people his name and not mine balances out the scales a little bit, in my perspective.

          • Amie Melnychuk

            This is an interesting perspective on the kids’ name situation. I just need some offline ladies to discuss this with.

        • Meg Keene

          Oh agreed.

          It just so happens that my personal reaction is to not get tired but get LIVID. By the time I’d been questioned about my “choice” for years I was ready to burn the whole thing to the ground.

          • emfish

            The cause needs some anger. This is a subject that people are often afraid to discuss for fear of offending (it’s a “choose your choices” conversation). I love that you’ve brought it front and center here!

        • Claire

          So maybe I’m just the lucky exception, but my experience has been that keeping my last name has been a total non-issue. Sure, the in-laws mentioned it during the engagement period (but in an excited, “so glad you’re going to be a HisLast soon” way, not in a passive aggressive way). And maybe one or two friends asked if I had changed my name right after the wedding, but that’s it. In the years since, it simply has not come up and I’ve never felt I had to justify the choice to anyone. We’ve travelled international and no one raised an eyebrow. We’ve shared parenting duties of two small girls, both of whom have an entirely different last name than either of us, and again the name issue has not been brought up once by anyone.

          My own experience has been that living as a two (or three!) name family has been totally easy and judgement free.

          • emfish

            I think it really depends on your situation. Like you, deciding to keep my name has been largely stress free. But that’s not everyone’s experience. I surprising number of my friends have been on the receiving end of pressure from their fiances/husbands to change their names “so we have a family name.” One such friend, who got married last year and changed her name, just confessed to me that she already regrets it. But at the time she felt ambivalent (she likes the idea of a family name, too) and wedding-planning is a slew of decisions, and can cause a lot of friction with your partner. She didn’t want to have a big fight, she half agreed with him, so she gave in. I feel like we failed her, as a society. When women feel that kind of pressure, we should be leaning in with them to push back, and help people see reason on this issue. A surprising number of women change their names because it’s easier — let’s make it harder.

          • Aubry

            We decided we are the OHM family, I like it. O(my last) H(Moms last) M(siblings last) together makes a unit of energy, or a mantra!

      • Class of 1980

        I think a lot of defaults were for a reason, and they last until the reason is gone.

        Until fairly recently, paternity could never be proven. I really think that’s how the man’s name being given to a child came to be favored in most places. It was a mark of legitimacy at a time when illegitimacy was extremely undesirable and had a lifelong impact.

        Even so, go back far enough historically in the U.K. for instance, and it wasn’t universal for the woman to take the man’s name. The couple took whichever name held the highest status, or the name that was going to die out. Surnames used to be rare, so this fluidity existed in the period when surnames were beginning to spread.

        Gradually, that practice gave way to always taking the man’s name regardless of status. I think as surnames became standard and more important, that marking paternity became more of an issue.

        I mentioned once before that in the 1980s, at least in Texas, an unmarried woman could not put the father’s name on the birth certificate. From the point of view of the state, they had no way to prove the man named was really the father. Legal marriage served as the only way to legally name the father and assure financial support. Establishing paternity was always of vital importance in the past.

        DNA testing changed absolutely everything.

      • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

        I will offer up a “why” that I don’t necessarily agree with (or, I guess, that I don’t think is insurmountable) but that I feel is worth considering in the conversation. I have heard some men say that they are treated like “just some guy” when it comes to their kids…their role is denigrated (as we all know, many people still say men are “baby-sitting” their own kids when they are…parenting their kids?) and they can feel like they are treated as the boyfriend or the stepdad just in general, strangers don’t trust them when they see them out alone with their own kids, and so it’s worse when their kid doesn’t share their name. While I honestly don’t think that that’s most people’s reasoning for defaulting to the kids getting the man’s name, I still can’t fault a man coming at it from that perspective, or for thinking about how labels/names do affect both parents in different ways.

        • Class of 1980

          I think there is something to what you say, Rachel.

          From a man’s point-of-view, family members and society can see a baby belongs to the mother because it lived in her body for nine months. The baby only gets into the world by way of her body, so there is no questioning that it’s her biological child.

          A man never gets the privilege of his fatherhood being unquestioned and obvious in the same way.

          Having that child bear his name, might feel like the only feeble marker a father has got … and this was especially true before DNA testing. Dad’s surname was a signal to the world that this was his child too and that he had parental rights and responsibilities.

          There is research that shows that maternal grandparents spend more on gifts for their grandchild than paternal grandparents do. The theory is that it’s because the maternal grandparents KNOW it’s their biological grandchild, whereas the paternal grandparents might have a smidgen of doubt … or at least not know it in such a visceral way.

        • hey anony-nony

          Ya know… we’re not even seriously considering kids yet, but this touches on the arguments my husband used to talk me into changing my name. Although it’s a given that, considering where we live, I would have gotten flack for keeping my birth name, there would have also been flack thrown at my husband (“What, doesn’t she love you? Why did she even marry you if she doesn’t want to take your name? Who’s the man in this relationship? Woah wait what name will your kids take hahaha???“). I’m more of the “f*ck it” mind set, but unfortunately my husband isn’t very good at just saying f*ck it, and this was a level of pressure he didn’t want to deal with.

        • Alli

          This was huge for my husband and was the primary reason I “gave up” the kids name fight.

  • loxy

    Once upon a time, I think I assumed I’d change my name, but as relationship became more serious… I realized there was no reason for me to change it. I like my name.

    I went through a very brief spell of thinking we should both change our names to our mother’s maiden names. But that’s just because if I can’t keep my own, hers is the next best name.

    The fiance is a very rational guy (who also happens to not be the biggest fan of his father). So he has no interest in me taking the name that came down patriarchally. And the no fuss of anyone changing their names suits him just fine.

    So in three months, the only thing that changes is going from Ms. to Mrs. (Though I’m thinking of opening a discussion up on that one too.)

    • Meg Keene

      So, technically, if you don’t change your name you don’t become a Mrs., because Mrs. means “married too” essentially, so it would imply you were married to… your father or brother or mother or something.

      Obviously, you can choose to flaunt that tradition, but in terms of etiquette, women with their birth names are addressed as Ms. (Thankfully, if you ask me. It’s no one’s business that I’m married, unless you know me personally.)

      • Class of 1980

        You know, the whole point of “Ms.” was that it would completely replace “Mrs.”

        And boy, oh boy, did a lot of people resist the “Ms.”!!! Now, no one blinks.

      • loxy

        Well I’m flaunting pretty much every tradition already with this upcoming wedding. Might as well make a mess of the names too.

      • Iz

        Exactly!! When I told people I wasn’t changing my name when I got married, I was perplexed that several said, “oh, so you’ll be Mrs. Yourlast, then”. Um, NO. I stayed Ms., as that was kind of the whole point. Why should anyone know from my name whether or not I’m married? They don’t from my husband’s….

        • Lizzie C.

          I would love “Ms.” to be the default title, and if someone wants to be addressed as “Mrs.” she can say so. Also, I’m just waiting for the day I can turn an old joke on its head when someone calls me “Mrs. MyLast” and I say “Oh call me Lizzie…Mrs. MyLast is my mother.”

      • Sarah

        Yes! One (male) friend insists on calling me “Mrs. Mylast” even though I’ve told him several times I want to be called “Ms. My last”. Every time I correct him he just says “Well, you’re married so you have to be Mrs.” I find that just so insensitive. On the other hand, I just received a wedding invitation from a not-so-close friend and she got our names exactly right! I was so impressed.

    • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

      I took my husband’s last name, but my title is Ms. I don’t see many people who do that, but I definitely prefer it.

  • Teresa

    Yes. It’s okay to just not want to change your name because it’s your name and you like it just fine. I did not change my name and sometimes it feels like no one respects that choice, particularly the older generation of family members that constantly write the wrong name on our mail. But even though that sends me into a bit of a rage (especially when it’s someone who is my own age and is my friend on FB and SEES that my name has not freaking changed), I have never regretted not changing my name.

    • Eh

      That happens to me all the time too – though I just laugh it off. I almost couldn’t pick up a wedding present from a courier depot because it was addressed to Mrs. [His first initial] [His Last name]. I convinced the woman to give it to me since it was my address, I had the tracking number, and I told her I was just married (which was true) and my new ID hadn’t arrived yet (not true).

      • js

        My MIL does this-writes checks with the “wrong” name on them, birthday cards, etc. The idea that now that we’re married, I’m an “official” member of the family really burns my ass, also. My husband and I dated for six years before we were married, bought a house and had a child and it took having his name to make it real for a lot of people. SO messed up.

        • Teresa

          Ugh. That would infuriate me. My in-laws are, thankfully, very respectful of my choice to keep my name–I’m not sure if they like it, but they honor it and have never said a word about it. It’s the grandmothers, even my own, and the older generation family members, who “forget.” Though, after many holidays of addressing our cards with a hyphenated name, we have finally begun receiving cards addressed to The MyLast-HisLast’s. Even though that isn’t our legal name, it certainly feels like a step in the right freaking direction!

          • Ally

            I’ve seen the same thing with my grandma – she managed to give me a last name that I do not have on a check which was inside a card where she changed my husband’s name from Greg to Doug. Happy 95th grandma ;)

          • C

            We get a lot of cards addressed to “Hisfirst & Myfirst” – I’m ok with no last names for either of us. Better that “Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.”

        • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

          Can you tell her that you can’t cash a check that doesn’t match your legal name? (Because seriously, how does she think that whole “show ID” thing works?!)

          • js

            Our first Christmas after we were married, I made her re-write the check she gave me (they give cash for Christmas…don’t get me started…) for that very same reason. It’s not my freaking name! However, my MIL is very passive aggressive and makes little comments so frequently I’ve almost become immune. Every time I think I’ve made my point, she says something so old-school and I’m completely taken aback. It’s almost not worth it.

          • snowmentality

            I had to ask my credit union about this as I was depositing wedding-gift checks. Their policy was that I should endorse it as it was made out (MyFirst HisLast), but then write my actual legal name (MyFirst MyLast) below my endorsement, and that was sufficient for them. Policy probably varies by bank, though.

        • Eh

          One of the reasons my BIL’s wife took his last name was to be more accepted by his family. (She is still treated as an outsider because her behaviour is isolating – having the same name as them isn’t going to change that.) A piece of paper (marriage certificate) means a lot in this family. We have had more than one family meeting where the line “now that you’re married you are here to stay” has came up.

          So far I haven’t seen any ramifications of keeping my own other than people who are very traditional getting it wrong, which I expected. That said, my husband is more protective of my name than I am. My in-laws have a pool table and we pair up against them sometimes (other times its wives against husbands, or I pair up with my FIL against my husband and my MIL). A few weeks ago one of his parents said “let’s play [their last name] (my in-laws) vs [their last name] (us)”. My husband quickly corrected them and said [their last name] vs [their last name]-[my last name]. I love how much he supports the fact that I kept my name and will correct people (especially when I couldn’t be bothered to correct them).

          • js

            It’s really hard when you have family like this. I can so empathize with your sister. Even though my husband and I had the big-ass house with the 30 year mortgage (which, to me, was a bigger commitment than a lot of people show to marriage) and a child together, I wasn’t “allowed” to host the holidays until this year, when we were official. Ridiculous. You are very lucky in your choice or partner. My husband is sometimes oblivious to the things his mother does/says.

          • Eh

            Every family has a family dynamic and some family dynamics are harder to be accepted into (it’s stupid and it sucks). My husband’s family is very traditional (mine is less so, and I am even less traditional than my family) and his family is run by very opinionated women (mainly my MIL and her mother). My BIL’s wife and I also have very strong opinions (they say you marry people like your parents – and my husband and his brother definitely did). I saw this dynamic when I first started dating my husband, and I pick my battles. My MIL is very much about appearances, she wants us to look like a unified family from the outside. Since my BIL’s wife doesn’t feel like she’s been accepted she refuses to play along (this is a case of everyone acting badly).

            I am very lucky to find a guy like my husband. If my BIL acted like my husband then I think the family would have accepted his wife. For example, there was a rumour about her, and instead of defending her he choose to ignore the rumour. He felt that it was no one else’s business (which was true) and hoped that ignoring the comments would make them go away. Instead the comments didn’t go away and his wife had to defend herself and she felt unsupported (which resulted in her refusing to go to family events – and other isolating behaviour). She is also the go-to family scapegoat, which isn’t fair. For example, my BIL does something that my in-laws don’t agree with and she’s blamed for his behaviour. I have called them out on this (“He did it, and he has to own his behaviour”).

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, the assumption that he family name is his makes me crazy, and I always correct it, sometimes to hurt feelings.

          • Eh

            Meg, based on your other comments I am starting to rethink my attitude towards any future children’s last names. I have always preferred my name to be second (my name is an adjective that is not very flattering so it is not a good idea for it to be first). We want to have a sign made for our new house and we’ve been debating how we want it to look and I was getting to the point of thinking that it was becoming too much bother to actually have a sign made for our house. This conversation has made me realize that even though neither of us use the hyphenated form of our last names that that is our family name and that it’s ok to use it (clearly my husband has already figured that out since he corrects people).

        • Meg Keene

          I actually CAN’T cash checks made out with David’s last name. David wanted me to put it as a DBA (or nickname or whatever you call it) on my account, and I was like “over my dead body.” So now I can’t cash them and I have to give them back. BING!

          • Eh

            Since it wasn’t widely known that I was keeping my last name when we got married (mostly because people assumed that I was changing my name and didn’t bother to ask me) we decided that we’d have a joint account (instead of making everyone rewrite the cheques) and so far I haven’t had issues with cheques with his last name. Another advantage of our joint account is that we can transfer money through it to each other without paying services charges. I did consider adding his last name as a name to my account (or at least our joint account) if it was an issue for cashing cheques. That said, right now I wouldn’t be able to do that since my name was spelt wrong on our marriage certificate.

          • Meg Keene

            We have a joint account. That doesn’t mean I can cash checks not in my name, without making an effort to work that out with the bank, which I absolutely refuse to do.

  • Ali

    Ergh I’m in the middle of this decision at the moment, only 5 months to go. My fiancé is supportive of whatever I decide but I can sense it means a lot to him. I’ve tried out a few new signatures in different options and nothing seems to feel right. I also really like my last name and his weirdly spelt name will always need to be explained to anyone who wants to write it down. I like the middle name idea, I hadn’t heard that before. Seriously – why do they make us choose?! And really, when you think about it it’s one mans name or another, which is so annoying!

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com/ Sonarisa

      Trying out the signature is what I’m doing right now. I’m changing my name (my current last is becoming my middle name) for a couple reasons. Mostly because my current last name is really hard for people to pronounce and spell, and his is much simpler. Still, changing my signature from a C to a G is a really hard one. And my notebooks look identical to the ones I saw other girls have in middle school- completely covered in pages full of “Mrs. FirstName HisLastName” and “Mrs. FirstName MyLastName HisLastName.”

      • Lindsey d.

        Same boat. Changing from a hard to spell and pronounce (and even capitalize) last name to his much simpler last name… BUT, my last name is one you don’t forget once you learn it, is rare and I’m pretty sure I’m the only Lindsey MyLast in the entire world, which is hard to give up. So I’m keeping my name professionally and taking his socially (and legally). Since I’m a spokesperson for the company I work for and appear in the media, I get to keep the name that I’ve built, but actually some anonymity to my personal life. It currently feels like a win-win.

      • Ali

        Yep I definitely feel like I’m in high school again too with all of the scribbles all over my notebook!! I’m sure the right decision will come in time, even if it is after the wedding, when we have kids, whatever. We’re not up for hyphens and his family is strongly tied to their name so he’s not going to take mine. but maybe we could take each others as middle names, I kind of like that :)
        whether you like it or not though, women are the ones who have to make a choice about this the majority of the time. but at least there is a choice now!

    • SarahRose

      Would your fiance be willing to change his own name? It sounds here like the decision is all on you. That’s one of the things that bothers me in terms of assumptions about this process — “they” make “us” choose (when women are marrying men)…but there’s little expectation that a man getting married would have to make a decision about names.

      The name thing meant a lot to my husband (in the sense of wanting to have a unified name) and to me (in that I simply had zero interest in changing my name…hyphenating maybe, but wasn’t particularly excited about it). So the obvious compromise was that he takes my name.

    • js

      YES! That’s why I like the idea of couples who create a totally different name out of their old last names, but my husband would never get behind that idea.

    • KH_Tas

      No, it’s not one man’s name versus another, it’s MY name (which happened to come from my father, but my cousin has her mum’s name) versus HIS name (which also came from his father, but he gets to ‘own’ it while I don’t). Neither of us are changing

  • Grace

    My partner and I decided recently after months of discussion that when we’re married we’ll both hyphenate to be Mylast-Hislast, but to just continue using our current names professionally. To be honest, our names don’t sound fantastic combined, but for complicated reasons (do ask should anyone be interested, but there’s no short answer!) neither of us wanted to take the others name and after considering all options including a completely new name we figured hyphenating would be easiest and fairest, and we chose the order because it sounds marginally better.

    I wish I hadn’t told anybody this. I’ve told a couple of friends (when they ASKED!) and some are quite negative about it and say things like “well that’s a mouthful”. Without taking any interest in how hard the decision was and why. I think of you’re considering your options then it’s helpful to ask others but once you’ve decided I’d suggest making it clear that you’re not asking for opinions.

    • Teresa

      Our names are hyphenated on our marriage license, just in case we ever decided we wanted to change them, as that was our original plan. We did this dispite the fact that my last name alone has 11 letters and is as unweildy and Italian as possible and they don’t really sound good together. My husband’s last name is 6 letters, easy to spell and pronounce. Sure, it would have been easier to just take his name, but that was not a choice that would have worked for me. I’m not sure I ever would have been comfortable with that decision. So, we have our own names now and the option to change them (and we would both change to the hyphenated name) to a crazy long hypenated monster of a name, should we ever want to!

      • sarah l

        I have a 12-letter beast of a last name and over 32 years have grown totally accustomed to just spelling it immediately after saying it. My new husband’s last name is easy to spell and pronounce and it always blows my mind when he is on the phone making a reservation or dealing with customer service that he can just say his name and that’s enough. I’m playing with using his name for easy customer service things, like reservations or the drycleaner, and at work, I’ve tacked his name onto mine, no hyphen, creating a 5-syllable beast. Most people haven’t even noticed though because my last name is so long you don’t actually read the whole thing, you just sort of see it after a few letters.

        Mostly though, we haven’t decided what we want to do yet, 10 weeks in, which seems to bother some people, but whatever. He tells me he would never ask me to change my name for him because it’s all wrapped up in identity and it’s my choice and i should do what I want – but I want him to consider how his name is related to his identity as well! so we’re still deciding and meanwhile I’m just using various combinations as the situation allows.

        One note on same last name as kids: my parents each kept their names and my middle name is my mom’s last name. Growing up in the 90s, people just assumed my parents were divorced, which really bothered me as a kid, but I also ferociously corrected people when they called my mom Mrs. Dadslast – first of all, its MS. and Momslast. Apparently my mother-in-law ended up changing her name to her husband and kids’ last name when my husband started school because it was just easier.

        • Arielle

          I wanted to hyphenate, but my last name is 11 letters which can be enough of a pain every-single-freaking-time I try to do anything over the phone. His last name is 10. I just don’t think I can do 21 letters. It would make my whole name 37 letters long. I love, love, love long names, but not that long!

    • enfp

      I too have noticed a ton of negativity about hyphenation, it’s so discouraging! Not only that it’s a cumbersome mouthful, but also how terrible it would be for our children (should we have any). Sigh. I thought there was just a lot of hate for hyphenation, but maybe unsolicited negativity is a general problem with name changing?

      Our plan is to hyphenate to Hislast-Mylast, we also chose that order cause it sounds better. We’re still contemplating some other options but so far this is the only option that feels emotionally right to me. My plan is to avoid telling people until it is a done deal. Hopefully they won’t offer unsolicited negative opinions when it’s already become my name!

      • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

        Just to add my $0.02: I had quite a few friends growing up with hyphenated last names (or their mom’s name was hyphenated, or everyone took her name, etc.), and it was never, ever a problem. Jane’s last name just happened to Smith-Jones (or whatever), and that was that.

        • MC

          Ditto. As someone who has worked with schools/youth programs for the past few years, there are all sorts of combos – kids have hyphenated names, kids have dad’s name, kids have mom’s name, everyone has the same name. It’s complicated because of limitations in databases (for attendance, contact info, etc.) but not THAT complicated. And also, in most Latin American cultures (and maybe in Spain, too? Not sure) ALL kids get two last names, which I like. I’ve heard that not a lot of states here LET people have two non-hyphenated last names though, ugh.

          • Ally

            CA does! Being able to add his to mine without a hyphen was my ideal option…not that I’ve done anything about it in the 5 months since the wedding though…

          • Lisa

            Living in Spain for several months really opened my eyes to this and was the first time I had any notion that not all people change their names upon marriage. I love that the children grow up with two last names (though usually only dad’s is used) because it provides a physical tie to the maternal side of the family as well. In my ideal world, this is what my fiancé and I would do when we have kids.

          • Meg Keene

            Yes, yes, yes, exactly. It’s not just Spain, in a previous open thread it came up that there are a lot (a LOT) of cultures (including a lot of Asian cultures) where the mom’s name is kept (either by the woman, or through hyphenation) because family ties are so important.

          • Lisa

            I’m not sure, even in a patriarchal society, how we got to the point of completely eradicating the mother’s name! Even when women were used as pawns in building alliances and forging relationships between different families, wasn’t the tie to the original family the important thing? Didn’t it bring some prestige for a Smith son to marry a Doe daughter? Shouldn’t as a result there names have had equal importance, and therefore an equal reason to be passed on to their children?

            Musings while I am sitting at my workplace.

          • Meg Keene

            Right. That’s really it, that’s the part we don’t discuss. We’re eradicating the mothers name and the matriarchal line. We’re wiping it clean. It’s… drastic… actually.

          • H

            What kills me is looking at historical records (future hubs is an avid genealogist). After a certain point in time, and even sometimes in recent history, women pop up as “Elisabeta LNU”, which means last name unavailable. It’s known that she married a Foster, who the Foster’s father was and so on back through time. But as soon as Elisabeta LNU pops up, you’ve lost the trail. It’s cold.
            I’ve actually been working with my FH, tracking down these women using wills. It’s still massively patriarchal (men inheriting from men) but occasionally if you know where to look, Elisabeta LNU will have inherited a piece of property from her family, and then you have Elisabeta Schmied restored to her former, full-name glory. The feeling is incredible…returning someone’s identity to them, if only in public record.

          • Alice

            As a historian of women, yes to this. Basically, without one crucial document (marriage certificate) you have no way of connecting the history of women’s lives pre-marriage with their married lives. Even worse, you have no way of connecting children with THEIR OWN MOTHER before she was married (Father, yes. Mother, no).

          • Class of 1980

            I answered this above. Yes, back when surnames were a new practice, the couple took whichever name had the most status.

            It was only when surnames became established in the whole population that the couple used the man’s name only, regardless of status. I believe it was tied to establishing paternity.

            Although, it was still common to use the mother’s surname as a middle name, so that it wasn’t lost entirely. This is common in the U.S. southern states even today.

          • anon

            The initial purpose of surnames was to aid the state in collecting taxes, which then contributed to denoting status (since very few paid taxes prior to the 20th century). The surnames applied to enslaved peoples is a whole separate issue, but also related to ownership. Surnames don’t have a very nice history…

          • Class of 1980

            Speaking of which, my mother’s maiden name is not unheard of in the black community. That didn’t surprise me at all, but I only recently learned that it was also adopted by many Jewish people who wanted to blend in when they moved to America.

            Whether someone holds onto a surname that was given to their ancestors as slaves, or was adopted only to blend in, is a whole other can of worms.

          • morphingball

            I’m not so sure about that Asian culture one, re: mom’s name is kept or used (as in, mom of bride) — many asian cultures are strongly patriarchal. In Cambodian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures, women keep their last names, but that last name still comes from the father’s side. (There are probably others, but I’m not thoroughly well-versed in all Asian cultures naming nuances.)

            I honestly think the reason no one cares about a bride changing her last name is partially because no one cares due to certain language conventions. In Chinese languages, at least, you’re more often identified by how you relate to others. (e.g., “So-and-so’s wife,” “YourGrandfather’s Youngest Son’s middle daughter,” etc.)

            I sincerely wish I could say that there’s less patriarchal practices in Asian cultures, but they’re just different. But since I live here, I get to use this tidbit to defend against the American sexist BS to a degree.

          • Meg Keene

            It seems to really depend on perspective. Other (Asian) readers have voiced that they feel it has a lot to do with the importance of family.

            At the end of the day, I think our names are our names. Our fathers don’t lay more claim to them then we do.

          • morphingball

            I’d definitely agree with their take as another element to it, too, as well as yours about we decide what belongs to us. (Even if we can’t always openly express it.)

            I just meant to point out that when it boils down to it, my grandfather would accept it as normal for me to keep my birth name, but he’s also the same person who was fiercely disappointed that the first grandchild with his surname came out as a girl. I think women in all cultures have wars to wage when it comes to being treated as equal counterparts to men…it just takes different forms. I tend to have a lot to think about when reading APW, because the struggles are both different than the main ones I tend to have directly in my face, but I’m not any less part of it due to growing up and living in the States.

        • Amie Melnychuk

          I agree, Kids really don’t care. They just grow up know that is BestFriend’s last name, or that is Mom’s last name. They only start caring when someone else tells them something is off about it.

      • Alexa

        Just adding that I grew up with a hyphenated last name and always loved my name. In my case neither parent changed their last name, but in your case you guys will all match, so I’d be surprised if there’s much confusion (with the possible exception of some computerized data bases that have a hard time with hyphens).

      • Meg Keene

        That’s what we did (avoid telling people till it was a done deal).

        Who cares about long names, we’re raising our kids with values we’re deeply proud of, and exactly what we want to teach them. Long names are worth that and way more.

        • KH_Tas

          And an extra *exactly for old times sake

        • Grace

          YES. Ok. Next person who asks, that’s what I’m going to say.

          This whole discussion has been one of my favourites ever. Reading all the different perspectives has been really interesting.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      People are silly, what can you say. I have a hyphenated first name and people wondered if I would be able to remember ALL of my names. I still get perplexed looks to this day , people wanting to randomly shorten my name, drop one of my names or even make up random nicknames that are a combination of the names and I simply do not care. I love my name and will continue to use it and insist others use my full first name. If you aren’t addressing me the way I’ve asked to be addressed, I simply do not respond.

  • MLCinPRC

    Shit, every time I post, I feel like I was born in the 1950′s. But yeah, when I was a kid (middle schoolish age), my dad told me that if I wasn’t willing to give up my last name, then a guy probably wasn’t worth marrying (I had some very young feminist tendencies, especially for the community I grew up in. Thankfully my father has matured). It was actually the late 90′s and now I’m getting married in July, and honestly, I’m not sure…AND the only reason I’m not sure is because I’d like my babies to have the same name as me. Otherwise, I see no reason to change my name. Especially because we are travelers and I have a visa and shit with my name on it…but really I don’t want to defend my desire to keep my name with a reason. Let’s just say that it’s because I’m me! Hell, maybe I’ll change my mind, but maybe I won’t and I don’t need to defend my desire to be myself.

    • Guest

      “the only reason I’m not sure is because I’d like my babies to have the same name as me. Otherwise, I see no reason to change my name.”

      I hate to single you out, but this above anything else is the thing that irks me most when we talk about name changing. To go back to the original post, “no one has been able to give me a really great reason why I should change my name—at least, no reason that wouldn’t apply equally to my soon-to-be husband.” It feels like such a battle just to get people to understand that this reason – wanting to have the same name as your children – IS a reason that applies equally to the man in the equation (providing there is a man!) This isn’t to say you are wrong for feeling the way that you do and I sincerely hope that’s not how what I’m saying comes across – it’s more to say, why are we almost always talking about the topic of children and surnames in these ways? What can we do to change the conversation?

      • MLCinPRC

        All I was really saying is that it is the ONLY reason I would CONSIDER changing my name….I am only speaking my truth. I’m not even sure that I will have children, and I wish it was not the current “conversation” or reality that I would have to change my name to have the same last name as my (non-existent) children, but honestly, my FH is an artist with a well established repertoire, who is not going to change his last name, and I would like for us to all have the same last name (we could get into why I want this, but I am going to say there is no real why for me, it’s just that most people do, so being part of the society that I was born into dictates that I have a higher likelihood to desire this particular “tradition”), but again. It is not a must-have and it is something I really struggle with. I was simply hoping to hear that others have also struggled with this…but I wasn’t trying to be a person who is “always talking about the topic of children and surnames in these ways”.

        • js

          I hear you. Having had a child before I was married who has my last name and now, talking about future children with my husband, I think about this a lot. I hyphenated my name when I got married. It seems mean to saddle my future children with an incredibly long last name “just because”. I also had a best friend who had an incredibly long, hyphenated last name and I saw how miserable she was every time she had to sign it. However, it really, really pisses me off that it doesn’t even feel like something to at least talk about. I don’t like that it’s just assumed our kids will have his last name. My husband is an amazing guy but he is also very traditional and he would take it very personal if our child didn’t have his last name. I think a lot of guys can sometimes see their wife and children not having their last name as somehow making them less manly. I don’t agree with this idea, but think it should be talked about also.

      • Eh

        Because my husband justifies me keeping my name by saying that I did it because of my career/publications, at one point he suggested that he would take my name. We joked about it for a while and then I pointed out that it would probably give his mother a heart attack. She would be very upset if our kids didn’t have his last name (especially if we have a boy since my BIL has three girls). Just as there was little discussion about me keeping my name, there has thus far been little discussion about the last name of any future children (I said they could have his name – maybe when it becomes real I might have different feelings – and he said he had no issue with them having mine even if his mom had a heart attack).

    • Claire

      It is possible to both keep your own name and also have the same name as your babies. Give your babies your last name. It’s my own personal pet peeve that this option is not even considered as an option. It’s usually automatically assumed that the guy has some right to pass his last name on to any offspring. Well, I say that’s just tradition and can be examined and challenged and (gasp) even thrown out if it doesn’t fit with your own situation. I just wish more couples would even consider the option on an even playing field.

      • MLCinPRC

        Definitely something I have considered!

      • Ally

        Agree 100%. We’ve decided…rather, I’ve declared, that if we have kids they can have his last name but it means I get to pick first and middle names, with little input from him.

    • Class of 1980

      As someone who was actually born in the 50s (1958), I can tell you it’s not an excuse to be rigid. We came of age in the 1980s and the discussion on NOT changing your name was much stronger then than it is now.

  • LydiaB

    Definite mid-article scroll up to check out this name rhyming with Harry Potter!

    I will be changing my name to my FHs when we get married. It was a really difficult decision as it will mean the ending of my surname being passed on (no male cousins or brothers!) but I just don’t think I would be able to cope with the questions, hassle and judgement of making a choice that most people don’t even consider to be a choice even now. Everyone I know changes their name, and plenty of women I know have been quite sad about doing so. How ridiculous, and here I am just perpetuating the whole tradition!

    Not very APW I know, but you pick your battles I suppose?

    • scw

      did the same thing re: harry potter!

    • Laura C

      I actually prefer the “it would be a pain and I’d face social pressure all the time and I’m picking my battles” answer to the ones (not seeing them here right now or pointing a finger, but feel like I always see lots of them when this discussion comes up) suggesting that taking your husband’s name is in fact a feminist choice simply because you as a feminist chose it, never mind that men never choose it and women are in fact pressured to do it by decidedly non-feminist forces. So, yeah. “I’m picking my battles” makes a whole lot of sense to me. I hope someone in your circles will be the first sometime and it’ll get so it’s not so hard and women who are sad about changing their names don’t feel like they have to. And when they do, you can be there to support that person.

    • enfp

      There’s nothing un-APW about making the choice that is best for you, and owning that!

    • Ella

      Very APW! It’s APW because it’s a decision you chose that’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to own who you are. I changed my last name to my husband’s, and I don’t feel any less a smart, feminist lady.

      Also, yes to the HP thing, too. :)

  • Ellen

    One of the first things I did after we got engaged was reserve my new name’s Gmail account. If it hadn’t been available, I might have considered keeping my name. As it is, however, I’ll move my current last name to my middle name and take his name on as my last. While I love my last name, it’s really important to me that our future children have the same last name as both of their parents, and something about changing my name makes it more *real* to me- like we’re not just married, but we are, indeed, a family.

  • Violet

    So interesting, and so many good points, Hayley! I love seeing different perspectives, because it really shows there is no “right” or “wrong,” just what feels right for that person. (I actually think it’s a major issue that men can’t change their names as easily, at least in some states, because it takes away an option for them to do what’s right for them.) I’m more of a “A rose by any other name,” gal, myself. That is, I am NOT my name, my name is NOT me. My mom plucked it out of thin air the day I was born, under pressure from the nurse to name me before we were discharged. When my parents got divorced she ditched the name, so for me, having a shared name is tied to a “family.” But only because our shared name dissolved when the family did. Not true for everyone, but true for me. I don’t like how my mom, sister, and I can’t refer to ourselves as “The So-and-sos” anymore. It reminds me how our family fell apart.

    But my REAL reason? I decided when I was a teenager that IF I dared to get married, I’d change my name if the guy’s was more aesthetically pleasing, and keep mine if it was not. So last year I visited the Social Security office, and that was that. In the end, superficiality won me over.

    My point being, all reasons, either for why or why not, are valid. It’s a drag we feel like we need to defend ourselves, a drag people feel they can question if we made the right choice for ourselves.

    • Adele D.

      I think this is just as legitimate of a reason as any other out there. I never really questioned keeping my name, but I could definitely imagine considering it if his last name were more sonically/aesthetically pleasing.

    • Diane

      Haha, I also changed my last name mostly because I like the way it sounds more than my unpronounceable and long birth name :-)

    • Emily

      I struggled for a while about the name-changing thing, despite:
      - always imagining I would change it
      - it never being an issue that resonated with me (but rather something I support other women in fighting)
      - always feeling decidedly ‘meh’ about my last name
      - being endlessly irritated by the comical struggle people have pronouncing my TWO-syllable birth name
      - the fact that my parents discovered when I was two that my father’s cousin had also named his daughter Emily, a few years before I was born… and she has grown up to be a successful collegiate athlete, had an exciting stint in government work, and now has a large, engaged social following (and therefore despite only having this one competitor, she completely drowns out my pathetic Google results)

      Once I was engaged I suddenly felt like I was supposed to really care about this, like it would be un-feminist to not struggle with the decision. But at the end of the day, I love my FH’s (common) last name, no one will ever misspell it or pronounce it, I absolutely love the idea of us sharing a name, and with our two names combined (Emily MyLast HisLast) I’ll sound like a Scottish authoress and I just can’t resist.

      Honestly the hardest part was letting myself feel okay about WANTING to change my name.

    • FM

      Ha, that was my reasoning about whether I’d change my name growing up as well. My last name growing up wasn’t terrible but also not one I was particularly fond of, aesthetically, and I knew lots of people with totally awesome last names that I would have gladly taken on as my own! My husband’s last name is harder to spell and pronounce than my old one, and yeah, not more aesthetically pleasing, but I ended up changing my name anyway because he is VERY proud of and attached to that name and very much wanted me to share in its glory.

  • Eh

    I grew up in a small town and my husband is also from a small town – so our relatives have fairly traditional values. I am the first one of our relatives to keep my last name (in our generation alone there are 16 siblings/step-siblings/cousins who are married and in all of those cases the woman changed her name – I do have a step-sister who kept her last name professionally but goes by his last name socially).

    My husband was pretty ambivalent to the last name discussion (I told him I was keeping my name he shrugged his shoulders and said meh – he said he doesn’t care because he doesn’t think it has anything to do with our commitment to each other). When he told his dad that I was keeping my name he mentioned that I have articles published in my name (I have an established career in health care research). He didn’t tell his mother. She asked me at our reception after we both had a few glasses of wine. It was the perfect time, place and intoxication level for the conversation.

    Using my career and publications as a justification is something that’s easy to understand for people but the decision was more complicated than that. As a little girl, I always thought that I would take my husband’s last name (I didn’t know any different). I thought it would be complicated to not have my husband’s last name. Then I went to university and met people whose parents didn’t have the same last names. I went on and did a Masters, published some articles and started my career. I dated guys who have last names that sounded weird with my first name (or at least the combination sounded weird to me – this is especially true for my husband’s last name, you would not name a child my first name with his last name, it would be weird). Another factor, that I didn’t realize was so important to me until we were planning our wedding, is that my last name was my mom’s last name (she passed away when I was a teenager). She did take my dad’s last name so it may not seem logical that this is important to me, but it is – it’s a connection to her and as the years go on there seem to be fewer and fewer of those.

  • js

    I hyphenated my name when I got married. Even though I am not a professional woman and had no “excuse” to want to keep my name, this was always the plan. It was a very big deal to me that my daughter (who is not my husbands child biologically) and I have the same name. It was a big deal to my husband that I take his. So I made the first of one of many compromises in our married life. The thing that annoys me sometimes is when his family drops my name completely. Mrs. John Doe-Smith is my name, on bank accounts, credit cards, social security card. When the drop the Doe, it’s like they’re dismissing me. This issue is so complicated, for many reasons, but I am happy with my choice. It’s obvious Hayley’s giving this a lot of thought, too.

    • JessPeebs

      This. 100%. I, as a compromise, hyphenated my name, so I’m now Jess MyLast-HisLast. I really dislike (hate?) being referred to as Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, and it’s his family that does it the most. Particularly for wedding invitations and birthday cards! My first name is not “HisFirst”. My last name is not “HisLast.” I don’t mind being refered to socially as Jess HisLast, really. At least let me keep part of my name. Geeze.

      • js

        We had a destination wedding, and because we didn’t discusss it with the minister, he introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. I detested it. I am so proud to be his wife, but why the hell should that mean giving up so much of yourself?

        • Ally

          I think our friend who officiated actually announced us as Mr. and Mrs. Mylast Hislast, even though he’s not changing his, I’m adding his sans hyphen. I just got a nice lol out of that memory – I wonder how many of the older generation in the crowd was appalled.

      • Kendra D

        My husband’s grandmother sends me birthday cards as Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. It makes me laugh, but only because I know the passive aggressive behavior is aimed at her daughter, my MIL, and not me. My MIL kept her birth name and eventually, some 15 years later, hyphenated it. It helps take the sting out of it, though in jest I make my husband open those cards because legally I am not Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.

      • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

        Getting addressed as Mrs. HisFirst HisLast makes me rage.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          THIS drives me NUTS. Being addressed as Mrs. HisLast I say whatever, but why do I have to lose my entire name?

      • Kat Robertson

        I hate the Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast, too. Even though I’m taking his last name, I’m not taking his first. I get that it’s faster and “more traditional” for addressing mail, but I think that practice cannot die fast enough.

        • Kendra D

          I have actually decided because of my own amused dislike of being addressed this way that I will not be formally addressing our ceremony/reception invites. Everything will be going to He and She LastName.

          • Kat Robertson

            I did the same thing! Honorifics went out the window. My mom still wanted the husband listed first on all of them though. Sigh. Baby steps.

      • BD

        Oooh I hate that too! When I personally made all the invites for our wedding, I intentionally avoided doing “Mr. & Mrs. HisFirst HisLast” on all the addresses, even for older/conservative people who might be okay with it, cuz BLAH! Took me a lot longer to type all of it out, but at least I didn’t feel icky afterward.

  • Em

    This is one area that is definitely, blessedly easier, in terms of public perception, because I’m a woman marrying a woman. The questions I get are more along the lines of “What are you guys doing with your names?” or “Are either of you going to take the other’s name?” which makes me want to kiss people. It’s so refreshing, especially since we haven’t escaped lots of other heteronormative questions about who proposed and who’s “the bride” (wearing the dress) etc etc…

    I do wish for a unified family name, especially because we’re a same-sex couple, actually… when we have kids I want it to be patently obvious that we all belong to one another. But as neither of us really wants to take the other’s name and there are no good combination name to be made, it’s unlikely. Our kids will probably have our hyphenated names, or they will take the name of the non-carrying partner.

    • Lauren from NH

      I am also the one pushing for a shared name, because as an interracial couple I am remotely concerned about one of those extremely awkward moments at the mall where people may think I have stolen my kids. Not sure we are having kids but it still is a small factor in my mind. But as a feminist I don’t want to take his name, which he is fine with, that’s not how the tradition works in his family’s culture, but we can’t seem to agree on a solution beyond that.

      • Adopted

        As an adopted kid of a white dad, I have had really awkward moments where they think he’s some lecherous old man taking an Asian mail-order bride out to a nice dinner. I still haven’t figured out a good solution for this aside from calling him dad when the waiter’s within earshot. But our last names sort of backfire, since I think some people actually assume I’m his WIFE since we have the same last name…..it’s complicated.

    • Annie

      Agreed! People ask with such openness, which is great. We won’t be legally recognized as a family in our state. Us sharing a name is our way of saying “Like it or not, we’re a family.” I like her name, plus I’ll probably carry the kids, so I’m taking her name.

    • Mezza

      Yes this! Everyone who has asked whether we’re changing our names has just had a total non-reaction when we say we’re not, which seems like the way it should be for everyone.

      I do also find myself wishing for a unified name, though. I’m definitely not changing mine for various reasons (including that I like it), and ours don’t hyphenate or combine well, but I’m wondering whether it’s worth asking her to change hers, six months after the wedding. I’m pretty sure she only kept her name out of a general “meh” at the whole decision, so I might try to have that conversation. It’s a little exciting to think about both of us and future kids having my name.

  • S

    Early into dating my partner – possibly even before we started dating – he mentioned that he would be more than happy to take any future wife’s name. The fact that he sees it as an equally valid option is possibly what made me start to think I might one day want to marry him. He knows I will never change my name and that any future children will have my name (NOT hyphenated, though I think I’d like any boys to have his surname as a second middle name), and he also knows that while I’d love him to take mine (because, HELLO, how many guys out there are awesome enough to do that? I feel like we need so many more examples of men changing their names before the world can recognise both as valid) I totally believe it is his choice, and if he wants to “just” hyphenate, or keep his own name completely, it’s his call.

    The hardest part is thinking about the in-laws. I don’t care what strangers think, I don’t care what my friends and family think. But my only sibling is my brother, and he only has one sibling – a sister. This means that if we do get married and have children, the family name will end with his sister and possibly himself, if he doesn’t change his name – providing his sister doesn’t do what I do and give her children her name, which would be RAD but probably won’t happen. I don’t want to be responsible, and I don’t want his parents to think badly of me – but the fact that it’s possible that my desire for equality might be seen as “robbing” anyone of anything is so awful to me.

    Of course, this is all a long way in the future – neither of us are ready for marriage, I’m not even certain I do want to be married, and I’m only about 75% sure RE: the kids question. Still – knowing that he understands fully that the name sacrifice thing falling to the women as default is totally bullish*t? I wouldn’t be with him if that wasn’t the case, end of story.

    • Meg Keene

      One: YAYYY go you.

      Two: In laws (of male partners) are hard on this issue, I’ve found pretty universally.

      • Lizzie C.

        I totally agree that relatives of male partners (especially his parents) seem to dig in their heels most about name changes or lack thereof. And honestly, I can see why; there are so many issues bound up in having a son give the family name to a spouse and children, including but not limited to:
        -Fear of the family name dying out
        -Fear of their family identity being subsumed by their daughter-in-law’s family’s identity
        -Indignation that the family name isn’t “good enough” for their new daughter-in-law
        -Public embarrassment at the son’s defiance of social norms
        -Disappointment from the mom that she won’t get to share a “Mrs. HisLast” name with her new daughter-in-law (silly but apparently a bonding thing)

        None of these are a reason to cave and change one’s name, but I find it helpful to remember that there ARE tightly-held reasons for name-keeping pushback, beyond some in-laws just being pushy control freaks.

  • Cynth

    I wanted to jump in on this bit in particular “My fiancé has mentioned taking my last as his middle, so we’d each have
    both names. This possibility delights me but is, alas, not permitted
    where we live (yet).” That is exactly what we did- I took his last, changing my maiden name to my (second) middle name, and he changed his to take my maiden name as his (second) middle name, so we are both MyName HisName, and I can keep using the whole thing at work, we choose when to use the long version and when to use the short (hisname) version. Our children will also get both names. Yes, it’s not an easy option, you can’t just check a box on the marriage certificate application- he had to file a name change in court, publish the change in the paper (old NY law), then update it with social security. But it’s totally possible, and I love that he did all of that because it’s important to me to not leave my last name behind, to have his as connected to my family as I now am to his, and also that we now have the same name for our growing family.

    These are important decisions, and whatever you decide, don’t let “easy” or “options they give us on the form” hold you back. Perhaps if more people did this type of change we’d slowly see more “easy” options on the form appear. Why shouldn’t we all be able to just write in whatever version we choose? All of this “You can hyphenate this way but not that way etc. is BS. Decide what matters to you, then work out how to legally make it happen. Best of luck whatever you decide!

  • Marie

    This piece really nails the bothersome double standard at play in name changing discussions. I think there are plenty of compelling reasons to share a surname with my partner– but no one’s managed to give me a compelling reason why *I* have to be the one to do the name-changing! When people ask if I plan to change my name, I tell them no– and that he’s not changing his, either :) I have also asked men if they plan to change their names upon marriage; it makes a clear point in a humorous way.

    • swarmofbees

      Hear, hear! So far, I haven’t gotten many of these questions, but I fear them at the wedding. I think your response is perfect. Maybe add in “If keeping your last name demonstrates a lack of commitment, why on earth have we been putting up will all these apparently uncommitted, name-keeping husbands?” if the questioner pushes and I think I should be good.

    • Teresa

      I think I will now start asking engaged men if they plan on changing their name. AMAZING.

      • Liz

        YES. Genius.

      • Meaghan

        I read this on APW ages ago, but now I always ask if either partner is planning on changing their last name. It’s a small but important distinction, I think.

      • Jennie

        My husband and I both changed our last names to a name we both liked from our family tree. Most people think it is really awesome and since I really didn’t want my last name anymore, but also didn’t like his ‘bachelor’ name, I was glad we could find one and go through the process together! No one has preemptively asked if we both changed our names, but I make a point of telling people that we both did, to get people thinking.

        • Alyssa Waddill

          That’s what we’re doing, too! We spread out both our family trees and picked the one we liked best. He’s having to do a whole legal name change court date thing, and then I’ll take “his” name when we get married using the marriage certificate. Immensely annoying that there’s a legal double standard, especially since it’s costing about $150 to get his name changed.

          • Aubry

            Same deal here! He was going to change his name anyway to his mom’s maiden name and I said I would take it if he changed it but not if he didn’t – because I really dislike his current last name. However, I don’t love all the questions he gets about his decision. I like to point out that I will be changing my name soon as well, to put some perspective hopefully.

      • Hayley

        Me too! I love this idea, if only to make people actually stop and think for a moment, instead of assuming…

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, years later, if people say something about me not changing my name, I always loudly and clearly say, “NO. Neither of us changed our names.” I refuse to have the conversation on any other terms, period.

      • Grace

        Meg, if you don’t mind me asking, what did you decide about your child’s surname? Part of our decision to hyphenate is around not wanting to have the exact same argument when we have a baby, though I realise that it doesn’t really make any difference whether we change our names or not. I’m just curious. Friend of mine who hate the idea of hyphenation and want to keep their name (completely fine, obviously), I’ve asked how they’d name a child (because we’re still considering options) and generally get “uhhh… No idea!” as a response.

        • Meg Keene

          We hyphenated, but mine is last, so it can’t be dropped by people (the many many people) who hate that we hyphenated. Plus, it’s a small drop of fairness in a see of unfairness. Men’s names are always used, or always used last, so we did the reverse.

          Just to forestal questions, no, we don’t think it’s unfair to the kid. Plenty of cultures in which families are particularly important have culture wide hyphenation, so while is name might be longer than average in the US, it, for example, has nothing on the length of spanish names. And yes, we think there is an exit strategy. We’ll encourage our kids to re-hyphenate with their partners if they so choose (in theory boys would keep David’s name, girls would keep mine).

          And no, we don’t think that we all have to have the same last name to prove we’re a family. We all have different last names and we love it!

          • Grace

            That’s interesting, the reason for choosing your name second. In my head I keep more of my identity if my name is first but I’ll have to keep thinking about it, I hadn’t considered that people might just ignore my name. I know we don’t have to change our names, but neither of us have much of a name legacy (super complicated – neither of us have a surname that any of our parents were born with. Seriously), so I liked the idea of creating a new family name that could be passed on, maybe. I’m clearly not as decided as I thought I was!

          • Meg Keene

            Oh, for sure, names get dropped. We know it was going to be an issue because family members so routinely and disingenuously referred to me with his last name “Oh I didn’t know! Still. Five years and a zillion corrections later.” OR (and we still have this issue, though hyphenating at least gives you a retort) as “David’sLast family.” The latter makes me FUCKING BANANAS. Like, you can keep your name, how cute, but obviously the family name is still his.

            Now, with a kid with two names, I can tell you that one name or the other is pretty routinely dropped on paperwork and such, and needs to be corrected. It’s a little bit of a contest who’s name gets called when he’s at the doctors. That said, the first of the two gets dropped more often.

            HOWEVER. The best argument **of all time** for women keeping their names is that when the baby was born, he had a little bracelet that said, “Baby Keene, Male” because he hadn’t been named yet and he **came out of me.** <3 <3 forever.

          • Lexilogical

            On that little bracelet that says “Baby MomsLast”, that was actually what opened up this whole argument for me when I was young. When I was about 15, one of my aunts had gone into labour while my family was visiting, so we ended up being the first people to see the new baby. And I remember my aunt (who had kept her last name) remarking that the bracelet had her last name and not her husband’s. And I had just never realized before then that some women keep their last name when they get married, and basically decided from then on to keep my own.

            Course, when push came to shove, I ended up calling that decision into question, a lot, but in the end, I stuck with my own name.

          • Meaghan

            Do you actually have a hyphen, or is it Baby Davidslast Megslast? Because I can see people dropping if it’s two separate last names, but I am shocked that people would mess with your punctuation like that!

          • Meg Keene

            It has a hyphen, but hyphens get dropped or left off all the time. Including by us because whatever you rush.

          • Brit

            Love this idea! I’m not changing my last name, I’ve had it for almost 30 years, why become someone new? :) We’ve decided our childrens’ middle names will be my last name. It can get dropped which kinda sucks, but at least it’s being passed on. Plus, who likes their middle name anyways? It’s okay if it sounds kinda funny to have a last name as a middle name, right? :)

          • Gretski

            Thank you for writing this! I had honestly not seriously considered hyphenating names, but now I am. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I love this thread. I just want to share that there was a boy who I went to elementary and middle school with who had a hyphenated last name that was pretty epic. We’ll call him Boy S——-J——–. Both of the names were so long that people routinely called him Boy SJ instead of using his full hyphenated name. We ended up going to the same college, and now I find out that he has grown to so strongly identify with SJ as his last name, that he is legally changing his name to Essjay. It’s quite possibly the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard.

          • Lizzie C.

            “And no, we don’t think that we all have to have the same last name to prove we’re a family. We all have different last names and we love it!” AMEN, SISTA.

            My husband and I both kept our names, and as for future kids, we plan to adopt through the foster care system. I expect that the children we adopt will already have their own family names (if they want one or both of ours, that’s cool too), and we may very well be a family in which everyone has a different last name. That’s how it is in Iceland and some other Nordic countries anyway, and the world doesn’t end over it.

          • CB

            “And yes, we think there is an exit strategy. We’ll encourage our kids to re-hyphenate with their partners if they so choose (in theory boys would keep David’s name, girls would keep mine).”

            I believe that’s the standard treatment for naming in most ex-Spanish colony countries and I’d love to see it become the standard in North America.

            To be fair regarding your comment on hyphenation – you have a ONE syllable last name. Lends itself beautifully to hyphenation. If only my husband has a simple name like that hyphenation would look so much more attractive for our future theoretical kids. I’m considering skipping straight to giving the girls my name and the boys his name, but think that maybe that’s too complicated.

        • Alexa

          My name choice was complicated because I grew up with a hyphenated name, but wanting to have a combined last name to give our (hypothetical but planned for, future) kids was the only reason I decided to do anything with my name. I now have a brand-new hyphenated last name that our kids will share. My husband considered hyphenating as well, but ended up deciding he didn’t want to (largely because it wasn’t worth the paper work; where we are a woman changing her name shortly after marriage is free and fairly easy, but that option isn’t necessarily available to men).

          Growing up with a hyphenated last name I got asked (jokingly) as early as kindergarten what I would do. Options I considered: not get married, marry someone else with a hyphenated last name and see how many letters of the alphabet we could cram into our children’s names. Options I did not consider: “just” taking my future spouse’s last name. No judgement intended in that, just my personal preference.

          • Grace

            Out of curiosity, how did you choose which name to keep? I guess if our kids marry it would be an issue. Though now I’m thinking waaay too far ahead, and it will have nothing to do with me. Ha.

          • Meg Keene

            We’re hoping our kids will re-hyphenate their kids names. Theirs too, if they want, but considering neither of us changed our names, who knows if they’ll want to change theirs.

          • Lily

            I’m the kid whose parents hoped she would re-hyphenate (and, exactly like you guys, encouraged me to keep my mom’s last name). Ironically, I fell in love with a guy who grew up with a hyphenated last name and hated it SO MUCH that he went to the trouble of changing his name when he became an adult.
            So, I’ve been saying to people all my life when they ask whether having a hyphenated name is a pain in the butt, “no, I actually have one, and I actually like it.” But then, he’s been telling people all his life, “I actually have one and it’s awful!” (I sometimes think the universe sent us to each other just to confound each others’ expectations on this issue.)
            So we’re both keeping our names when we get married this year. But all of this leaves us with NO IDEA how to choose our kids’ last names. The best laid plans, and all of that.

      • kelly

        Permanently remembering “Neither of us changed our names!” to use forever & ever! Such a succint and perfect answer.

        • Mallory2

          Both my husband and I have adopted this as a response when questioned (usually it’s only directed towards me). He’ll often even jump in with the response when we’re together. It either shuts people up or begins a great conversation that has the opportunity to increase one’s awareness and reframe the questions they may ask others in the future.

        • KH_Tas

          I keep on meaning to and then ending up spluttering something about never changing my name. It’s a work in progress

    • Lisa

      I actually got into a heated discussion with my fiancé’s best friend/best man’s wife about the fact that I want to keep my name. I wish I had had the foresight to respond with the fact that he doesn’t plan to change his name either! It was only the first taste of the backlash I think I will get from my conservative family/hometown/state.

      I actually told both of my sisters that as of now I plan to keep my name so that they can spread the word amongst our family that they shouldn’t buy me anything monogrammed with my “new” initial.

      • Lizzie C.

        Good call getting the word out early…I gleefully told my friends and family I was keeping my name, but my in-laws’ relatives never got the memo and (albeit generously) gave us checks made out to J and Lizzie HisLast. What a fun way to start a feminist marriage: hand over our shared money to my new husband because I can’t legally deposit it.

        • Lisa

          That’s a good point… I definitely should tell my fiancé to let his family know so they can pass it down the grape vine!

    • Lily

      I am adamant about not changing my name, but it’s also not important to me for us to have the same last name. My mom kept her name, as did the mothers of a lot of my friends growing up, so I didn’t have “one family-one name” as the norm. My feeling is that, because my fiancé is the one who wants us to have the same last name, he should change his. Which, as a practical matter, leaves us with no one changing names.

  • summerwedding

    This is the hardest conversation we are having. I care really strongly about my kids having the same last name as me; I really like the family unit concept, especially because I saw all the little ways my mom was alienated or dismissed or challenged because she chose to keep her name while we all had a different one. Keeping my name while he keeps his feels almost like giving in – I’ll be the one who bears the brunt of little daily inconveniences and questions and comments, while he’ll just keep on keeping on. He gets that, but he doesn’t have the same strong feelings about a family unit having the same moniker and he’d really rather no one change their name. Where we are now is the kids will probably have my last name, not his – which gets closer to addressing my concern, but still feels hard. I wish there was a tradition of creating last names so it didn’t feel so fake and forced; ours wouldn’t combine well anyway, but if there were socially accepted standards, it would be easy. Of course, if there were gender-neutral socially-accepted standards, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.

    • Erynn

      I am getting married in Sept. of this year, and one of things I’m most looking forward to is taking my fiance’s name…I appreciate my maiden name as representing where I’ve come from, and I look forward to my married name for where we are going. That said, to your point about there being a tradition of creating last names: my aunt and uncle scrapped both of their last names when they got married and did exactly that—made up a last name (literally, just made one up!) and legally changed their names. I always thought that it was kind of a cool way to about the name thing…

    • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

      My boyfriend is also a little scarred from being teased as a child for his mom’s having a different last name (something I absolutely do not understand–where I grew up, there were a bunch of different last name combos that all seemed perfectly normal to me), so much so that it was something he asked me about pretty early on in our relationship. I don’t feel super strongly about keeping my name (I like how it sounds with my first name, but being at the end of the alphabet suuucks), but I want him to have to change his name, too. Because, seriously, why am I the only one who has to deal with this shit? Anyways, I’m with you on the desire for a name meld. I actually think our names would sound pretty good together (and I like the symbolism of the whole thing), but he’s not on board. We still have time to decide, but I feel like I may be on the losing end of this one.

      • Meg Keene

        If I were you, I’d say, “Oh, cool, I totally get that and I think it’s rad that you want to take my name so we all have the same name!”

        • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

          Oh, that is totally in the arsenal (although, I’m not sure how useful it will be, since he knows I don’t really want to keep “Winokur”). I haven’t given up hope yet and have slowly been building my campaign for the name meld. Like so many of my ideas, he thinks they’re crazy at first, and then he realizes the inherent logic of my argument and is forced to come around.

          The other option I’d be OK with is for us both to be double barreled, which he’s already agreed to. We have some time to decide, so we’ll see…

    • Eh

      My husband likes combining our last names into a new name. This has come up a lot because we bought a house and we joke that it needs a name that unifies us.

      • Hayley

        I would love this so much, but it is probably my fiance’s least favorite out of all the choices. Bummer.

        • Eh

          My husband and I talked about this last night. Unfortunately to actually have a combined name (i.e., making up a new one from our names vs hyphenating our names) would require us to legal change our names and that is out. We haven’t settled on what our house will be called (though we are leaning towards the first syllable of my last name and the second syllable of his last name since both last names are two syllables), but we did settle on a family name (his last name-my last name) and we are even considering giving that name to any future children. Since we both grew up in small towns where the wife always take the husband’s last name we didn’t have many examples in our cycle of friends/family to get ideas from so this discussion was really helpful.

    • summerwedding

      I’ll also add that I’ve been very forceful about making him seriously consider changing his name to mine. I think it’s absolutely unfair that only women face an identity crisis when they get married; both people should have to think about who they are becoming in a unit. He has thought about it a lot – which I really appreciate – but at the end of the day, our best compromise seems to just be the kids having my name. It wouldn’t be fair to push him into actually changing his name when it bothers him just because I want to make a point.

      • Lauren from NH

        We’ve been having this conversation also. I have been a bit of a pesty since I want him to fully consider it and drop the damn whipped narrative. Fear of friends and family being assholes I don’t think should play a factor in our decision. They will come around and should for Pete’s sake! But if it really is not right with him beyond that, then it’s not right for us.

      • Lisa

        This is a topic that we keep having to come back to because my fiancé, who is progressive in so many other ways, is very attached to the idea that creating a family unit means having the same last name–his name more specifically. He doesn’t like having to think about and be challenged on the idea that he could also take my name if it’s so important to him for us (and our future children) to have the same name.

        I’ve offered what I consider to be fair compromises (both of us hyphenating, creating a new name), but he doesn’t want it. He also doesn’t like the idea of hyphenating future kids’ names if I keep my own.

        I wish their was some kind of societal pressure on men the same way there is on women so that they could understand the expectations that friends, family, and strangers have of women to conform to this “tradition.”

    • Meg Keene

      Also, just to throw in our experience: with all three of us having different last names, everything is totally fine :)

      But yeah. I felt the same way. I wasn’t about to be the only one in the family with a different name.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        You mean the world hasn’t fallen apart? You’re still a family? That’s AMAZING!

  • Ambaa

    So far I haven’t legally changed my name. Mostly due to laziness. I always thought I’d be eager and happy to change my name, but it turns out that it doesn’t feel very important at all.

    So now I’m half one name and half the other. My email account is his last name, my credit cards are mine. Mail comes to both. One of these days I’ll make a decision one way or the other. Maybe when we have kids.

    • Ally

      I’m in the same boat – I feel both lazy and bratty, like “why do I have to have to waste my time in lines at the SSA and DMV and he doesn’t have to do anything?!”

      I’m wondering how long I can get away with only changing the basics (SS card, license and passport once it expires). I’m also not actually “changing” mine but just adding his to mine, sans hyphen.

  • Dom

    Note: I only speak for myself + my life. My reason that in 7 months I will be changing my name? Because my mother. Her family wasn’t good to her, she didn’t want anything to do with her father’s last name as he wasn’t family in the ways that really matter. Changer her name to my father’s symbolized more than just them becoming a family unit, united under a singular name – it also symbolized her fully becoming part of the family as a whole. Obviously, if she hadn’t changed her name she would still have been accepted and loved, but it was all for her that she changed the name – my dad couldn’t care less, and is from Quebec where no one really does anyways.

    Now, I love my father and my family. But I grew up with the knowledge that my last name is my fathers. Its identity is wrapped up completely with my moms need to be emotionally, physically and legally part of a loving family in some outward way. And I want to be emotionally, physically and legally part of my mans family in some outward way. The symbol of a ring doesn’t cut it for me, but knowing that from the day we get married to the rest of my life I will be signing every document using his last name? That is the outward devotion I’m looking for.

    Plus, I will always be me no matter what I call myself.

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah, that happened in my family too. Though my name is my name, and my dad has no more right to it than me. So. It stays my name. If we want devotion, he can change his.

  • Lollygagger9

    I assumed I wouldn’t take my husband’s name without a very compelling reason. We aren’t having kids, so that wasn’t a concern. In the end we created a new last name out of letters from our last names. I love it, he loves it. His dad, however, lost his mind over it and stopped talking to us for six months. We didn’t see each other over the holidays, and even though he and my husband are starting to talk, my father-in-law ‘blames’ me for this name change (oddly it was actually my husband’s idea). I’m still happy with our decision but so pissed that societal norms created a world where my father-in-law’s reaction was even possible. One other thing that has come out of this is that I never use the term “maiden name” any more, as a) I wasn’t a maiden for a long while before I got married and 2) it can come across as a bit sexist when I realized there seemed to be no equivalent term for men. So now I always say birth name, and use it in my response if someone asks for my ‘maiden’ name.

    • swarmofbees

      Love the idea of a birth name! I hadn’t thought about the issues with the term “maiden name.” Thank you for pointing that out.

    • Alyssa M

      Growing up, my best friend’s father took his wife’s last name, and we always giggled over him having a maiden name.

      Birth name works so much better.

    • http://batman-news.com mere…

      birth name/ I totally love this! I have always hesitated before using the phrase “maiden name” because it just sounded off to me, but I could never quite place why. I am so excited that now I have an alternative.

      I have always loved the idea of creating a new family name… well, once I learned that was a thing you could do. My husband is very attached to his family name and takes so much pride in “being a (last name here)”. So I knew it wouldn’t be an option in my case, but I have so much love for those couples that choose to do this.

      • Lollygagger9

        Thanks! In our state we had to treat it like a regular legal name change, which was expensive and kind of a pain. But we like sharing a last name. I can appreciate being attached to a name – not the case with us, as my husband’s birth name had only been in the family for a couple of generations, and mine was such a pain to use because literally no one spelled it right on the first try. So I got the added bonus of fewer frustrating interactions!

    • Alyssa M

      ALSO, I feel I have to point out how VERY creepy the term maiden name is. In our ridiculously prudish society it’s astounding how often we’re willing to discuss women in terms of their assumed sexual status.

      • Lollygagger9

        Yeah, until my husband had to face that I hadn’t *really* thought about it much. But now it’s become a sort of personal crusade. Even as a question to verify identity with a bank or something, if they ask “mother’s maiden name” I say “her birth name is…” Not rudely or anything, just trying to subtly shift the conversation.

      • Class of 1980

        To be fair about it, “maiden” never meant “virgin”. It meant “unmarried”.

        • Alyssa M

          I’ve definitely seen it used to mean virginity, especially as a root in other words (maidenhead, maidenhood). This is likely due to the fact that when the word originated unmarried woman=virgin, but I still find it creepy.

          • Class of 1980

            I understand what you mean, but the dictionary definition of “maiden” alone is only “unmarried”.

            “Maidenhead” refers to virginity, but “maidenhood” still mostly refers to being unmarried. By that definition, you can be a maiden living in maidenhood and not be a virgin. ;)

    • Meg Keene

      Having a kid is not a very compelling reason to take your husband’s name. It might be the reason some people use, which is fine, but nothing about a kid compels you to take your husbands name, or give the kid your husband’s name.

      • Lollygagger9

        Eh, I actually think it can be if that last name would end there. Not the only consideration, but if, say, a family was able to keep a name after horrible events, or after people trying to erase their history, and the name would end there? I think that would be a compelling reason. But that seems to be a pretty rare occurrence.

        • Alyssa M

          That’s not really an issue only pertaining to men’s name’s though. How many family names have ended throughout history because there were no son’s?

          • Lollygagger9

            Probably loads. I should clarify that I think this specific reason goes both ways – if I were the last of my family name and it were meaningful to me, I would want my husband to take my name as well as our (non-existent) kids. So I see it as less about taking a husband’s name and more about taking a spouse’s name. But I also like the idea of shared family names, and that can get super problematic.

          • Meg Keene

            The issue is, for women, good luck with that. Some blessed men will go for it, many feminist men can’t or won’t. They’ve spent their lives thinking they’ll never have to give their name up. They can compromise with you, but they can’t give up their name entirely.

            That’s obviously what happened with us, but, I got more on that front than almost anyone I know… and I still didn’t win. Dudes win on that issue All The Time. Like 99% of the time.

          • summerwedding

            And, to be fair, it’s a very hard argument to make that the guy should change his name – because on one side is “you are you, and it’s your choice” and on the other side is “i want you to do this because it matters to me.” The reason I think it’s so easy for people to be comfortable with women “keeping” their name but they still can’t get to that next step of men actively changing theirs is that the first option is all about individuality and self-identity, and the second one is asking men to be the ones to “give something up.”

          • Meg Keene

            “the first option is all about individuality and self-identity, and the second one is asking men to be the ones to “give something up.””

            This, exactly. Or perhaps extrapolating, keeping your name is about individuality, but passing our name to our children (in one form or another) is where we start to change the social structure. The latter is far FAR more threatening, which means basically everything and everyone will stand in your way, because you are literally threatening the foundation of how our society and the patriarchy works. So you BET your husband is going to lead with “it’s just so important to me” and that’s just going to be the beginning. However, it’s so threatening because it’s the thing that leads to change over time. And that’s why it’s so important. Because this issue isn’t just about self-identity. It’s about what values of equality we want to pass on to the next generation, and how we want to change society as a whole to be a more equal place for everyone (and a better place for our children, boys and girls).

          • Lauren from NH

            This rocks my feminist socks! And brings absolute clarity to the issue at stake.

          • Carvaka

            Oh my word.. I LOVE this whole paragraph. This, so so so much. I kept my own name after marriage and I only have one other friend who kept hers. Everyone else has changed their names one by one. I’ve pretty much decided to hyphenate any future baby names. The first time I brought it up with my very feminist husband, he went quiet and started down the whole ‘but don’t you like my name?’ path. I said the baby can have *just* his name when he can make the baby *just* by himself. The most push back I get on my own last name and my future baby name plans is from my MIL and other women. It’s like the foot soldiers of patriarchy can sense the threat and instinctively resist.

          • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

            “the baby can have *just* his name when he can make the baby *just* by himself.”

            Perfect argument.

          • Kelsey

            “a better place for our children, boys and girls”

            This just made me think about how the spread of feminism is good for everyone, not just women. I can’t find the comment now, but someone was talking about the fact that women sometimes take their husband’s names because they hated/didn’t know their father, or because they didn’t like their name, but the same idea was never used for men. Generally speaking, a man would take a woman’s name either because his wife wanted that, or to be “revolutionary”. She was presenting it in the light of the unfairness facing women, but I just instantly thought of it as an example of the patriarchy being bad for men, too. If your a man and your father was a deadbeat, and you want to get rid of the emotional baggage tied to your last name, you’ll either be lauded as a champion of feminism, or emasculated for giving in, and your real reason for changing it will be ignored/invalidated.

          • Helen McConnell

            Well thanks for calling everything into question again! I’ve been having this argument with myself for years, & thought I was finally settled on an option I was happy with (both of us & our future children all have my last name as a middle name & his as a last name). But if the future feminist structure of society is at stake, I better reconsider! I’m genuinely not being flippant, you make a very convincing point.

          • enfp

            I was naively surprised to discover that dudes still win this 99% of the time. I just kind of assumed that times had changed, until my friends started having babies. I don’t know one woman who won this either. Their (feminist, male) partners could not entertain the thought that they might not get to pass on their last name to their children. Men who have otherwise been great about checking their privilege, who generally get compromising/giving things up. The assumption that women change their name on marriage has been broken down (at least in our circle), but the assumption that children should have their father’s name is weirdly stubborn and untouchable (at least for the hetero couples I know). So rage inducing.

          • Meg Keene

            This is why it’s such a MASSIVELY huge deal to me that our kid has my name last.

          • Claire

            Sorry, meant to reply not down vote! Stupid smartphone.

            Anyway, just wanted to agree that men do win this one (almost) ALL the time. Even my girlfriends who kept their last name (rare, by the way) have ended up using their husband’s last name for the babies. Whenever I ask have you decided on a last name for little Annika or Aiden, the response is always amused shock. Oh, Josh would never go for that.! Or I didn’t even bring it up because I know what the answer would be.

            And, yeah, I get picking your battles. But why is this a battle with a foregone conclusion? Why are women so out ranked that they aren’t even willing to broach the question? And why does “it’s important to him” automatically trump what’s important to the other partner and close the topic?

            Uhg, rant over.

          • Aubry

            Huh, I was curious so I just asked C if in a hypothetical situation where I kept my name and we had a kid would he be OK to give it just my last name – his reply was *shrug* “sure, doesn’t matter”. I realize this is a flippant conversation about a hypothetical situation, but that is the response I expected from him. Another reason I love him! I just can’t imagine it not even being in the cards or open to discussion. If it mattered a lot to me I would definitely push it. I am going to have to ask all the men I know now, to see if that is an isolated incident of if my friend group is in a similar mindset. I expect at least 75% would answer the same, but of course they may change their mind if presented with an actual situation in their life.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            We have to remember that men are a part of this society too and like we all have cultural baggage to work through, so do they. That was not a battle I would win in any way in our home so fortunately for me, I didn’t care at all and baby got husband’s last name.

          • Hayley

            The best part is when you bring up the possibility of a man changing his name and get an answer along the lines of, “but why would I give up my identity?”…..and yet the same man pushes for women to change their names…

        • Alexa

          This is actually the reason my friend and her husband (who both kept their names) chose to give their daughter my friend’s family name, because that was the only way it would continue. (My friend’s husband has brothers and my friend has a sister who had already taken a married name & given her son that last name as well.)

        • Meg Keene

          WELL. I’d go along with that argument except it’s NEVER APPLIED TO WOMEN EVER.

          My name would have died out in this generation. His already hasn’t. Did I get to use my name alone for that reason? FUCK NO. Because “he always thought his kids would have his name” so we had to compromise. Which is what married people do, even when they don’t want to. Unless, of course, it’s men’s privilege.

          • Lollygagger9

            That sucks. But I think having these conversations can help – I mean, many people don’t think a new last name is an option, but now dozens of people can point to me and my husband of an example of it working and the world not ending. These message boards are awesome, but I also feel like I need to have the conversations and use these examples with more men in my life so that no one starts with the gendered assumptions we have now.

    • emfish

      I hate the term “maiden name” too! I actually just wrote a blog post about this. It’s such a relic of a bygone era — I refuse to acknowledge it as a thing and would like it wiped from the vernacular.

      • Claire

        In the words of Dessa,
        “I’m still living with my maiden name, the name I came with, the name I made.”

    • cate

      i don’t like the term “maiden name”, but as an adoptee, calling it a “birth name” doesn’t work for me either.

      • Lollygagger9

        God such a good point. We’ve also used “given name”. Does that better fit?

  • Jillian

    “I’ll be keeping my last name because I am me, and that is reason enough.” Love this. I wish I said this more, but sometimes the grief I get makes it easier to say, “Oh, I’m established….”. And for the record, it’s very easy to manage a household with two last names. :)

    • KEA1

      Well, if you’ve lived as your birth name ever since, um, birth, and are old enough to be legally married, you ARE “established” under that name. So it’s accurate. %) Plus, don’t adopted dogs who had a different name pre-adoption still remember/answer to their old name? If it’s good enough for a dog to identify with a given name, then it sure as hell better be good enough for a woman…

      • Jillian

        I can see how my earlier post was unclear, I meant established as a writer/photographer. My name is my brand.

        • KEA1

          I had a feeling you were probably established in professional respects as well as your life’s worth of personal awesomeness. :) I don’t think that anyone should *have* to fall back on professional accomplishment to justify personal decisions, but I also don’t think that anyone who does that is disqualified from holding the line on “I am me, and that is reason enough” either. You’re definitely enough, and I am sure you’re also kickass professionally.

  • Lauren from NH

    Just to add info on another tradition to the mix. My partner is 2nd generation Ethiopian American and in their culture, both partners keep their names in marriage but the kids’ last is the father’s first. I don’t know if there is rationale for this, but there it is. His first name is very long so that option has been scraped for the (theoretical, probably not happening) kids at least. Where it comes to us, his father has been such a negative force in our relationship so far I have refused to take that name, solo or hyphenated. He is struggling with the idea he may be seen as rejecting his family and culture if he were to take my name. Since he doesn’t have a middle name I have always been for shifting his last name over, therefore nothing gets lost. The jury is still out. I am okay with creating a name, but our creativity is struggling, also there’s something I like about my name. BLAH what a mess!

  • Claire

    “But aside from vague ideas about romantic symbolism and misguided arguments about “tradition,” no one has been able to give me a really great reason why I should change my name—at least, no reason that wouldn’t apply equally to my soon-to-be husband.”

    Logically, yes, it’s true that all the reasons why a woman should change her name also could be applied equally to a man. But, in reality, people just don’t seem to apply the same rationale to both genders. And that really makes me sad and angry at the same time.

    In my social circle, I’ve heard women praise men as progressive for letting their wives keep their last names or agreeing to let her make her own decision about which last name to use. As if he actually had the right to impose his name but was graciously allowing her some input. Never, ever heard a guy say he was lucky that his wife is gonna let him decide on his last name and support him either way. For the most part, the idea of the man taking the wife’s last name isn’t even remotely considered. A man who would take his wife’s last name is viewed as revolutionary at best and laughable or whipped at worst.

    • Claire

      To be clear, I don’t really give a hoot what last name anyone chooses to use. I do actually respect women who choose to change their name for whatever reason they damn well please. What gets me is that this decision is not being made on a level playing field. And it’s a decision that is, for the most part, entirely the woman’s burden to bear while men get a free pass from even having to consider the name change question.

      • Hayley

        Exactly.

  • Nicole

    I plan on hyphenating my last name, but then using one or the other. Professionally, I’ll be Dr. Mylast and personally, Mrs. Hislast. That’s been my compromise to the question, “But what about the children?!” because I can feel more secure in having them named Hislast name since it’s mine too.

    I’ve had a few people tell me I shouldn’t do it because it’d be confusing, but, to me, it’s no different than having friends use my nickname and professionally going by my real name. Plus, I think it will help keep some anonymity from patients if I have a different last name, say on facebook, so that I can avoid the awkward “patient sent me a friend request” scenario.

  • april

    My half-joking response to the few people who have asked about my decision not to change my last name was that I fought too hard for it.

  • lizperk23

    thank you for this! I don’t plan to change my name, for the me-is-me, and I like my name reasons…W doesn’t really care, but he wouldn’t want to change his name either (he is totally supportive of me doing whatever I choose). an added layer is that we’re interracial (he has a traditional Korean last name). and of course I think about kids, eventually…

  • C

    We recently got the “But what will you name your kids?” question from a friend’s mom. M had just said how he changed his middle name to my last name while I didn’t change any part of my name. I quickly told the friend’s mom that *IF* we have kids, they will have my last name. Thankfully, nobody said anything more. In reality, it’s possible that kids might not even have my last name because we would prefer to adopt an older child and I’m not interested in forcing a kid to change their name if they don’t want to do so.

    • Kelsey

      My FH and I would really like to adopt, possibly older children, and, while we would definitely leave the decision up to them if they were old enough, there is something about changing your name as you change your identity–the day we adopt any future children, they go from being an orphan to being our very loved daughter/son, and giving them a new name helps solidify that. This could be especially true for children who were fostered for a long time before they are adopted–yesterday you were loved and cared for, but not a family member. Today you’re a _______. This is obviously very situation dependent–why are they separated from their family, is there a continuing relationship, would changing their name make the situation more scary, etc…

      • Meg Keene

        Though, for many of us who kept our names, family isn’t something that means a shared name. Ask Maddie how she feels about that, in a family full of half siblings with various names.

      • C

        While I wouldn’t force any kid to change their name, I am aware that many of the children available for adoption in my state come from cultural backgrounds different from mine and my husband’s and a kid might want a last name that “matches” their outward appearance or helps them connect with their heritage. Hell, a part of why I didn’t want my husband’s name is because I didn’t feel like a 10-letter, Sicilian last name with multiple capital letters was the right name for me (an adopted but-probably-Scandinavian-person with a completely Irish name).

      • Adopted

        I want to chime in on this. My parents adopted me at 2 days old, and all my family share one last name, including my adopted brother. I grew up in a very conservative area in which families were built from one template, where no one divorced and women all changed their names. I was the only adopted person I knew. Adoption was a joke, by the way, the kind that was made when you wanted to explain why someone was different or weird (as if there aren’t biological children who are different and weird). And kids tormented others with names that weren’t “American” sounding (one kid from Bosnia they were very cruel to and many Asians who went by Asian names were mocked). My skin is a totally different shade than my parents’, so it’s very clear I’m adopted.

        My point is this: I just didn’t need to be any more different than I already was. I was an Erickson, and I had that to hold onto when all sorts of voices tried to convince me that real love was only by blood. I took pride in the Ericksons and being a part of them. Would it have made a difference if my parents had named me Erickson-Cooper? Maybe not in the long run, but I’m glad they didn’t. I learned to own who I am much quicker than kids who were able to blend, but IT WAS TOUGH….the remarks about skin tone, the shape of your eyes, the “where are you from” questions [answer: AMERICA. FUCK YOU.].

        Then, in high school, my parents divorced. My brother went through four high schools, one boarding school, and thousands of dollars for a diploma, came home to live, and got kicked out of the house promptly, and disappeared off the map for some months. My mom had serious issues and I bounced back and forth between parents. My family had seriously imploded. The dust has only just begun to settle, but I am still immensely glad that at least the four of us (who live in 3 different states now) share a last name. It is hard to feel like a family with everyone scattered to the wind. That being said, I plan to change my name when I marry, because mine just has too many bad memories associated with it as this point.

        It could certainly be different if I had been adopted as an older child. In that case, giving choice is really important. If I had any trace of birthparent name in my name, oh, I would keep that, for I so long to even KNOW what their names were. But I imagine where I grew up, I probably would have wanted to move those to “middle” names and then take on my new family’s name to solidify my membership there when I was emotionally ready. Family’s not just a name – this is very true. But in my case, a name is all I have, when by choice all its members have dissolved the union.

        I nearly wrote a submission on all this for March, but I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and deal with all this sh*t. Maybe in the future.

    • emfish

      Someone asked me recently about the kid thing (we don’t even know for sure if we’re going to have them, but it’s always the first thing people ask when you say you’re keeping your name), and I said with a straight face, “It will probably ruin their lives.” It got a big laugh, actually, which is the appropriate response to all the pearl-clutching “what about the children?” garbage when it comes to women keeping their names.

      • Alyssa M

        “It got a big laugh, actually, which is the appropriate response to all
        the pearl-clutching “what about the children?” garbage when it comes to
        women keeping their names.”

        aahahahaha so true. that just made my morning.

      • KC

        Nice! We’re giving our kid two last names, no hyphen. When people ask, I tell them “s/he can keep the name of whichever parent s/he loves better.” When they freak, I point out that it’s not less ridiculous than giving them the name attached to the penis.

        • KC

          edit brain fart – *it’s not any more ridiculous.

    • Meg Keene

      You. Go.

      I couldn’t win this one and I’m over the MOON every time I hear about a woman who did.

  • Violet

    I feel like one of the few progressive women who is not agonizing over this decision. When we get married, I’m taking his last name and changing my middle name to my maiden name. I’ll use MyFirst HisLast legally, and MyFirst MyMaiden HisLast socially and professionally, Hillary-Rodham-Clinton-style. If MyMaiden gets left out from time to time, I won’t be too upset. In truth, I want our family to be “The _____s”, I want him and I to be “Mr. and Mrs. _____”, and I don’t care enough about this specific thing to fight an uphill battle against “tradition”. As someone said below, it’s not the feminist thing to do, but I’m picking my battles and this is just not one of them.

    • Allie

      I’m pretty much with you here. I always assumed growing up we’d both hyphenate, except the reality is turns out the guy I met has a name as long as mine. Hyphenated we’re looking at 22 letters = too long! My mom’s first name is my middle name, and she died when I was young, so I won’t replace that name with my current last name. I think that makes the desire for me to have a common family last name really strong. I have built a career on my maiden name, and will soon be Dr. MyLastName. But I’ve seen academics change, hyphenate, change back, etc their names and I mean people are smart, they can figure it out on a CV. At the end of the day, I stopped stressing and realized it’s what works best in this situation. I do try to try to contribute to the battle by explaining it as the conclusion we came to after considering all the options (including him changing, new name, etc).

    • kcaudad

      FYI- I planned to do a similar thing – to keep my surname professionally… until I got a new job and they refused to let me use a name that was not listed on my SS Card and Drivers License. In my USA State, you have to change your Drivers License to match your SS Card. Therefore, the new employer put everything in my new last name. So, I defaulted to my ‘new’ last name (husband’s) and it has stuck.

      • Hayley

        That’s so interesting! I’ve thought about the possibility of going by a particular name professionally/socially while avoiding the hassle (and maybe the finality?) of making it official, but I wondered if complications like the one you’re describing would ever pop up. Someone (NY Times, maybe?) wrote an article about it a year or two ago – “situational name use,” I think.

    • ItsyBit

      As long as you’re making the choice that’s right for you, then yay! While the name debate is important to me it doesn’t have to be important to everyone, and it doesn’t make you any less feminist. I’m aaaall about picking your battles. :)

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

    No joke, my place cards were just like this! The old-school tag, the stamp, the name! LOVE!

    And now I’ll read the essay :-)

  • emilyg25

    This is my rational as well. I kept my name because … I wanted to! That’s really all it boils down to. And my darling husband did the same, for the same reason. Actually, we’ve started using the Meg-suggested statement—”We both kept our names”—instead of saying I didn’t change my name. It kind of turns the assumption on its head and highlights the fact that this is a thought process that many more women go through than men.

    • Sophie

      “We both kept our names” – love that! Great re-framing :)

  • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly Pollard

    I’ve decided to make my last name a second middle name and take my fiance’s last name. My fiance is Indian. I’m pretty sure I’m already going to get some weird looks once I have kids since they are almost destined to look more like him (he’s dark and handsome, I’m pale pale pale :) ). I still considered keeping my name, but also it’s like Em said below, the family unity aspect is important to me. Plus his name is tied so strongly to where he came from, the struggles his parents went through to bring him to the US, all of these things. I think it’s important to honor that for me personally. Plus I love his unique name.

  • Kelsey

    “After all, no one is asking my fiancé what he has done to deserve to keep his name.” Boom. This point. Nicely said, Hayley.

    • http://estherminusts.wordpress.com/ Esther

      this x03284032. Also the part about changing last name showing commitment. I actually demanded he change his to hyphenated version with both our names and he had to use his publication excuse. Which I understood, especially since he said maybe once he is through the phD program, (and therefore publications won’t matter as much) he will seriously consider it. so here we are, keeping our last name. What’s the law on having different last name but calling our child with hyphenation of our last name?

      • JessPeebs

        I’m pretty sure, from what I’ve read, that as long as it’s ok with you and your spouse, that your suggestion of a hyphenation of the two is legal in all 50 states.

        http://www.gwlr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/80-1-Larson.pdf, if you’re interested.

        • http://estherminusts.wordpress.com/ Esther

          Oh great thanks so much!

  • Emily

    I had long-decided that when I got married, I’d keep my last name. I do have professional reasons, but even before I have chosen my career path, I simply liked my name and thought it was “progressive” and “independent,” which isn’t a bad thing. I’d healthily challenge peoples’ preconceptions, and maintain my identity, and be in control of myself. No one was going to tell me what to do.

    But since meeting, dating, loving, and ultimately getting engaged to FH, the idea crept into my head that I’d really enjoy taking his name. He and I never talked about it, he didn’t try to sway me one way or another. But as we got more and more serious in our relationship, I started looking forward to changing it. I like his name, and I don’t feel that I need to hyphenate or create a new one for us to share. Practicing it in my head, scribbling it on note paper. It felt right, it felt good, it felt nice, best of all it felt completely unpressured by outside sources. No one was “telling me what to do” because I never even had these conversations with anyone — I was still deciding for myself. It wasn’t me losing my identity, it was a representation of an evolution into a partnership.

    I am much more than my name, I am the sum of my parts – and now, those parts include FH.

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

    Great piece! I changed my name with no real qualms about it, and while I certainly don’t regret it, I am small-minded enough to know I wouldn’t have wanted to if he had a weird last name . . . or if I did have a really unique last name. Is that dumb? Probably. But going from one “generic” last name to another didn’t seem like a really big change. My huge crazy family is still my huge crazy family, even though I don’t carry that name any more. Just as his family would consider me one of them even if I didn’t change my name.

  • UpstateNYBride

    I’ve decided to take my fiancé’s last name….although I do feel like some friends and peers my judge me for it, I am taking it not because I feel I have to but because I associate my current last name with my father who was absent from my life and was abusive to my mother. I would rather take my fiancé’s last name that is associated with a caring sweet group of people (My fiancé also comes from a single mother and changed his name to his mother’s as a teenager. So both our names will have changed in the end). Plus it rhymes in a pretty way with my first/middle name.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    A lot of it for me came down to what we call it: taking his name. This is instead of what it really is: changing our name.

    My name is my name. I am Amie, and Amie means me. And that Amie includes a last name that I hold dear.

  • anon

    I honestly get so stressed about the name-changing game because I’m in a situation that I never hear discussed. I got married in my early 20s, changed my last name, and then got divorced in my late 20s. I decided to keep my ex’s last name. I already had a college degree in that name and had established myself professionally with it. I really like how my first name sounds with my ex’s family name. I also absolutely hated my birth name — no one could spell or pronounce it correctly.

    When I got engaged to my fiance, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my last name. Changing to my birth name requires a lot of hassle and paperwork and money. Keeping my current last name means keeping a family name to a family of which I’m no longer a member. (And although I firmly believe that my last name is MY last name and that my ex-husband doesn’t OWN it, I still recognize that it’s a name which links me to his family.) My fiance’s last name is, like my birth name, difficult to spell and pronounce. And I’m much more of a feminist now than I was when I was younger, so the idea of taking a man’s last name feels patriarchal to me instead of like a loving symbol.

    I really don’t know what to do. I’m weeks away from getting married, and I’ve been engaged for a year, and I still haven’t figured out what I want to do.

    BTW, for anyone who suggests keeping my name professionally and changing to his legally, I’m unfortunately a licensed professional who needs to maintain a legal last name that matches what I go by as a professional, so that’s going to be tough.

    Anyway, I’m not really looking for advice. I just wanted to whine and feel sorry for myself. :(

    • js

      I had a friend who had an incredibly long hyphenated name that took forever to sign (you sign your “legal” name more often than you might think) and it stuck with me how awful it was for her. She was married and divorced young. She took his name while they were married and then after the divorce, changed her name to her Mother’s maiden name. Now she’s re-married and they have a family name. That’s four names. It’s crazy to me how much importance we pass on a name, which all has to do with a man anyway.

      • anon

        Ugh, and I thought I had it bad with three potential names. Four sounds like a nightmare. :(

    • jhs

      I know someone who did this! She was married when she was 18, divorced, and in her second marriage kept her first husband’s name. The divorce happened so young that honestly, most of her social circle didn’t even know it wasn’t her maiden name.

      At this point, that name is your name! Keep it if you want to!

    • Meg Keene

      I know people who have kept their previously married name once they were established under it, if that helps. Awesome people. Like this one: http://mightygirl.com/

      • Peabody_Bites

        And my Mum – who kept my father’s name even after she married my step-father so that she could keep the same name as her daughters.
        One of the things I am least proud of about myself is that I HATE that my step-mother took my father’s name and do anything I can do avoid addressing letters etc. to her with that name. Quite childish. But I do genuinely think less of her for taking it.
        I love my own name and kept it.

      • anon

        Sigh. I just feel like…if I don’t have kids with my ex, do I really have a good reason for “keeping” “his” name? (Even though I do actually feel like it’s MY name?)

        I just wonder if it’s weird to have a man’s last name who isn’t my father or husband. OMG, just writing that out made me realize how insane it sounds. Maybe I need to explore the idea of talking to my fiance about combining names or coming up with a new one altogether.

    • Hope

      My sister, like you, married and divorced in her twenties and kept her ex’s last name. An added complication in her story is that she then had children with a man she didn’t marry and the children have their dad’s last name. Now she is getting married to someone new. I should ask her what she’s planning on doing with her last name. I can’t imagine she’ll change it to her new husband’s but it’s interesting given she already has a different last name from her children, so maybe she will change.

  • Brooke

    Thank you for this! Please keep us updated on your thoughts on this through your internship. I’m hopelessly stuck on the name change decision.

  • http://3upadventures.com Beth

    Your fiance might have thought that reserving what *might* be your married name on Gmail is creepy. I think doing so is just plain wise once you reach a certain stage (pre-engaged, or “I’m pretty sure this is coming, just don’t know when,” etc.) Digital branding and such is important these days and it’s just smart. (Think of it like a pre-nup or something…just covering your bases.)

    • FM

      Yes, thank you. I did not understand at all why this would be creepy. If you think you’re going to need it, isn’t it called PRACTICAL to plan ahead for it? It’s not like it costs any money.

      • Hayley

        I should point out that it was said in a very good-natured way :) It wasn’t in the context of a serious conversation.

  • Ashley Douglass

    In 8th grade I was confirmed and chose a confirmation name with the letter C so that my initials would be ABCD. At the time I decided I wouldn’t change my last name unless his last name started with an E and would continue the alphabet. I am no longer a practicing Catholic, so the confirmation name doesn’t really mean anything any more, but I still feel how I felt when I was a kid, my name is mine. It is a part of my identity and it is not something I plan on changing. Luckily I met someone who does not expect me to change my name and is actually against it. He even agress that if we have kids they should have my last name.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      For me too… it’s very much tied with childhood. It’s just like.. that’s the name I learned how to write when I was 5, or whatever…

  • WhalenWolf

    “Similarly, I have a hard time even wrapping my head around
    the (distressingly frequent) remark that a woman keeping her own last name
    shows a “lack of commitment” to the marriage. Ladies! If keeping your last name
    demonstrates a lack of commitment, why on earth have we been putting up will
    all these apparently uncommitted, name-keeping husbands? I have a sneaking
    suspicion that it’s because we realize that keeping your name (or changing it,
    for that matter) has absolutely no correlation to the strength of your
    commitment to spend your life with another human being.”

    This is so huge! I have recently decided to keep my last name (at least until kids are
    realistically on the table, although I don’t see myself changing my mind) after
    a lot of soul searching, and this one idea keeps popping up at my most insecure
    moments. Not that I have doubts about my own commitment, more so that I
    worry other people see it that way. I’ve had friends who’ve gotten married and
    changed their last names on Facebook by the next morning! Social media puts
    everything out there for discussion and criticism, so normally I just choose
    not to participate, but in this case lack-of-change is making as much of a
    statement as change. I just hate feeling like I need to justify my choices to
    everyone I’ve ever met, especially because I’m in the “I just like my name
    because it’s me” camp which unfortunately seems to not be a good enough
    reason to a lot of people.

  • Alana

    Articles and discussions like these always make me feel a bit uncomfortable, because for me not changing my name was never an option, and I always feel a bit judged in feminist areas because of it.

    I hate my last name. I do not feel that it identifies me, I do not feel it is a part of me. All it does is tie me to a father who was abusive, alcoholic, is responsible for essentially ruining the lives of my mother, myself, and the older two of my younger siblings, and has not been in my life for over a decade now. I have no attachment to it, and I decided very young that I would be changing my name when I got married because I do not want to keep my last name. I don’t really have professional reasons to keep my name; I do art, design, and writing, but I have always used my first and middle name there, never my last. I was always very careful about that so that nothing would be tied to that name.

    If I had gone through with the idea I had a few years ago of changing my name to my mother’s maiden name, then yes. I’d be far more likely to keep it. But my last name? Honestly I can’t wait to be rid of it, and good riddance when it goes.

    • Marie

      And I bet there men out there who feel similarly!
      My feminist goal in this arena is a world where upon marriage, people (not just women) decide if they will share a surname, and if so, what that name will be (not just defaulting to the man’s name)– and no one gives them shit about their choices.

      • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

        Here, here! I always try and bring this up with my younger brother. I try to leave gender completely out of our discussion and plainly tell him: one of the reasons I’ve always felt open to changing my last name was because it was my father’s name, someone I was estranged from for many years before he passed away. If he feels similarly, maybe he should think about changing his last name (to his future spouse’s or something else altogether) later on.

        • rys

          Indeed. Divesting oneself of a name with bad associations can occur at anytime and could be done by men and women alike — pick a new name and jump the legal hoops to make it happen. But American society repeats the women’s-name-changing-occurs-at-marriage so much that the assumption (of a young child, in the case above) is that marriage is the only time at which this shift seems possible.

          At the risk of sounding judgmental, as much as I’m sympathetic to the desire to rid oneself of a malingering name and recognize that marriage makes it convenient/easy (for women), I’m skeptical of it as a rationale for name-changing *upon marriage.* To the extent that it’s convenient or easy, that’s because society and social norms have made it so. Which in turn makes it hard and problematic for men (who may also harbor name dislike/discomfort) and for anyone who marries late (and thus is “stuck” with a name for a long time). If you want to change your name, just do it.

          • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

            Oh, I absolutely thing the whole system of name-changing (the level of difficulty, extreme cost, lack of available information, etc.) is pretty messed up. There should absolutely be a more streamlined process for adults who want to make the change independent of marriage. However, for me personally, I had a complicated relationship with my father (and, thus, his and my name), yet I’ve never felt a “desire to rid myself” of it. My feelings are more of an openness to change should there be an additional catalyst, and, for me, marriage will probably be that thing. For my brother (who’s a young adult, definitely not a child anymore–wahhh), I just want him to be aware of the many, many choices that are out there, the majority of which it took me way too long to discover.

      • Claire

        Yes to your feminist goal!
        My hope isn’t so much that men start taking the wife’s name upon marriage. What I actually want is to overturn the idea that one partner automatically has to give up their name and that partner is selected based solely on gender.

    • AR

      It seems to me like you have a very good answer to the question posed by Hayley above: “Why change my last name?” And the decision you made sounds like it was both well considered and true to who you are. It is unfortunate that you have felt judged for your decision. I think you should be admired for your strength and courage. I will not be changing my name, and that decision fits with my personal answer to the “Why?” question. In my opinion, neither partner, be they male or female, should be judged by their decision to keep or to change their name.

    • Meg Keene

      I feel like that’s a reason EVERYONE should understand. That might only be because this happened in my family, but I totally get that.

      And I’m with Marie, I’m working for the day that can be an easy option for men from abusive backgrounds too.

    • Class of 1980

      I’ve never personally had a horse in the name thing, and I genuinely don’t care what other people do. Just tell me what you want to be called and that’s all I need to know. ;)

      That said, definitely one of the reasons I changed my name at marriage was because of my ridiculous abusive father. I could not wait to get rid of it. It never occurred to me to change to my mother’s maiden name prior to marriage. Also, changing it upon marriage made it seem like less of a direct insult to my father.

      Fast forward to today, and I am divorced and still have my ex-husband’s last name. I kept it because I wasn’t up to the hassle and I still didn’t want my dad’s name.

      Only in the last year have I decided I don’t want my married name anymore. I’m going to change to my mother’s maiden name. It’s not for any feminist reason. It’s because my mother’s maiden name represents an entire family of people I love, admire, and want to be associated with. Those memories are golden.

      I am not currently speaking to my father, but he will eventually find out and he will take it as an insult. But I want to go back to a family name, so I choose the healthy side of the family.

      • Class of 1980

        Clarification: “a horse in the race”

    • Hayley

      I think the main point, as far as I’m concerned, is working toward a point where people (women and men!) are actually thinking about the decision, rather than doing something because it’s “expected” or “traditional” – that’s not a decision, it’s a default. There’s no shame in changing (or keeping!) your name, if it’s the best choice for you.

  • Rae

    Great post, thanks for continuing this discussion Hayley and APW.

    I’ll throw out a question for the group — if I hyphenate my name, and I feel comfortable with our (future) children taking my maiden name as their middle, and my FH’s name as their last name, why do I still feel a little miffed that my FH didn’t have to make any changes? What can/should I do about that? I’m hesitant to give the future kids a hyphenated last name (which would be another option, ie hyphenate ALL the names!), but I’m also starting to think … on that issue, maybe I should think about “why not?”

    Would love to hear thoughts from APW-land!

    • js

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but my husband and I talked about it and he was adamant he wasn’t changing his name because he already “gave in” in a lot of aspects of our relationship. It was kind of feeling like he had some sort of power still in our relationship where, for various reasons, I had a lot of perceived control. I think this is what not changing your name is about for a lot of women also, so I felt this was a valid point. I didn’t even know this was an issue until I started reading APW. However, going through the name change process, I was extremely angry with him for not having to do any thing with his name or inconvenience himself. He never had to do to the Secretary of State and sit there for hours or change all his credit cards. He’s not going to have to fight for the rest of his life to be called by the right name but I deal with it constantly. My hyphenated last name is also very long and difficult to spell. You can imagine the joy of having to call any number or business where you have to spell your name over the phone to them and have it mispronounced all the time. My husband lost nothing and I sometimes feel like I had to start giving up little parts of myself the moment we got married. So, angry, yes. I’m not sure what to do about it, exactly, because my husband is the most easy-going guy ever, except on this subject. He and I have yet to discuss what we name future kids, though I suspect that he would feel just as strongly about our kids having his name.

      • Rae

        Hm, the control issues are tough. To me, compromise is not the same thing as ‘giving in’ — compromise is meeting in the middle or finding a better ‘solution #3,’ whereas ‘giving in’ is giving up your power, which is what he sounds like he is feeling about this. Hopefully names are more about finding a better solution for the new baby family unit, than giving up power. This naming issue is such an emotional minefield! Good luck!

    • jhs

      I think one of the things that makes me miffed about the whole conversation is that no one is even asking my FH about his name change plans. It’s all me having to justify or explain why I’m keeping my name, but no one asking him. I try to battle this by saying “we’re both keeping our own names,” but everyone looks at me strange for even suggesting he would.

      This got better after my FH and I had a conversation about all our options. We knew from the get-go that we would settle on keeping our own names, but knowing that he had to go through at least one conversation in which he thought about all the options made me feel a lot better!

      • Rae

        Agreed! Few men are asked to justify the status quo, so I guess it is our job then? :)

        Having a conversation between partners seems like the best path, and hopefully we ladies can feel heard at the very least. FH and I have talked about it, which is how we came up with the above-mentioned plan, so I should definitely count that as a positive thing. I know he heard how I was feeling and I think that is a huge step in the overall discussion.
        Thanks!

    • AG

      Just wanted to speak up as a child of parents who did that! My sister and I both have our mom’s last name (since she didn’t change hers) as our middle name, and our dad’s last name as our last name. There was never any confusion as far as I know.

      I’m leaning towards not hyphenating names for the very simple, very dumb reason that our last names kind of rhyme and I think it would sound weird.

      Don’t know what to do about feeling miffed about the definite inequality in the name game. Personally, while I don’t want or expect my fiance to change his name, and I’m OK with giving future children his last name, I do feel like I need to explain that it IS more of a sacrifice on my part (not having the same last name as my kids), and one that society never expects him to make.

      • Rae

        Cool, thanks for sharing that! I bet there are APW’ers here for all naming solutions:)

        Also, not dumb, just your own decision! I hear you on at least wanting to explain and feel heard about this issue though, go for it!

    • enchanted

      My parents did that too! I have my mother’s name as middle name, and my dad’s last name as last name. They wanted to give us the option of using one or both names. In high school I started going by both their names hyphenated. I don’t know why I started doing that exactly (my sister did the same), but I’ve loved my name ever since. (Perhaps it was because we went to a French high school in Canada outside of Québec and hyphenated last names were very common — probably because of Québec and the fact that women don’t change their names there.)

      If anything, I wish they had just gone ahead and hyphenated our names. It’s such a hassle using one hyphenated name but officially having half of that name be a last name, and the other half a middle name. My sister and I are both seriously considering changing out last name to reflect the one we use: a hyphenated combination of both parents’ last names.

      I guess all this shows is that there’s no way to predict what name your children will like!

      • Rae

        Wow I love that, thanks for sharing!! That is a really interesting perspective and kind of opens the door in my mind towards hyphenating kids names after all :)

  • M.

    Love the simple question: Why? Over the first 6 months of a 9 month engagement, I went from reserving a gmail account with my fiance’s last name to deciding staunchly not to change my name. It was part feminist awakening, part starting to ask Why?, part discussion with some trusted friends. This news story also informed my decision: http://thinkprogress.org/home/2013/12/31/3108571/passengers-ridicule-canadian-airline-sexist-ticket-policy/ http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/12/31/air-canada-surname-last-name_n_4521679.html It was a fight I never thought I’d pick, but I ended up thinking…it needs to be OK for this to be commonplace, and I can contribute to lessening the hassle with my choice.

  • Kat Robertson

    This has definitely been the hardest decision to make approaching marriage. I love my name, and if given my pure preference I would keep it, but I’ve decided to take his anyway (with more than a few tears). I work in a ministry leadership position at a conservative Christian church, and this battle is just… too hard for both of us. When it comes to subverting the patriarchy I have bigger fish to fry than last names, which would probably be a distraction and hurt me professionally. He’s marrying my career (the ministry spouse thing is rough, and people don’t know what to do with a man in that role) so marrying his name seemed fair somehow. In a tiny act of defiance, my current last name will become my middle name, and I’ll probably fight pretty hard for it to be in the mix for future children’s names.
    I’ve tried to think of a million ways to justify this decision to my feelings (Abraham and Paul changed their names at significant points in life! His last name is shorter! And higher in the alphabet!) but I think the fact is that it just kind of sucks. And this post is a great reminder that I don’t have to justify either the decision or my feelings about it to anyone. I just hope when my nieces are grown up these things will be a little less angsty.

  • Jessica LK

    When I told my family I wasn’t changing my name they had pretty much zero reaction, as if it were non-news. My aunt asked “why” followed with “not that you need a reason.” I had anticipated some level of questioning, but was surprised to receive none. As for kids? Our current plan is two, alternating middle and last names. So first kid TheirFirst MyLast HisLast and the second TheirFirst HisLast Mylast. I mean, it could certainly change, but that’s the plan for now. It might be slightly more complicated, but it works for us, so that each child has both of our names in some format since hyphenating isn’t something we’re considering.

  • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com/ Addie

    I feel like a cheater in the whole name change conversation. We decided to hyphenate because our hyphenated name MyLast-HisLast sounds ten times better than our already pretty awesome last names. Double bonus? My last name is his mom’s maiden name. She changed hers after she got married but now we joke that our decision made her a retroactive feminist. Since half his relatives have my last name already, most of his family thinks it’s great we are hyphenating.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I love my last name because it is so ethnic. My husband’s last name is boring. I have strong ties to my heritage with my first and last name. Take away my last name and say it with his last name, and you get none of that. The Ukrainian is gone, the French is gone. I sound like a normal everyday Ontarian with an English background. When I am not. I am a great granddaughter of French Ukrainian settlers on the Manitoba prairie. I will hold onto that and all the hardship my family has went through by not changing my name.

  • Michelle M.

    I love the name-change discussion! Shortly after I discovered APW, I went back and binge-read every article and comment on name changing that I could find. I have no desire to change my name, and never really did. I shared that with my partner before we got engaged, and he was a bit surprised at first, but mostly because he had never thought about it before (privilege!). He said that made sense, because he didn’t really have any desire to change his name either.
    We would like to have children at some point, and they will get both of our last names. But we haven’t decided what order the names will be in, and if they will be hyphenated or double barrelled. Are there any implications of which name is first vs. last in a hyphenated or double barrelled situation? Can anyone share their experiences? Love this community!

  • LifeSheWrote

    Love this, thanks for your sane logic! I’m planning to keep my last name right where it is, take my fiance’s last name as my middle name, and drop my current middle name which is after my Grandmother who’s wedding anniversary we will soon share. I love the solution, but it took me a long time to get to it. And I AM in one of those professions that makes it acceptable to say I want to keep my last name for professional reasons… but I’ve been trying hard not to claim professional reasons for the decision I’ve reached. I love my last name and I love the family I’m marrying into and I am looking forward to having both names within my name – though my last name will still be my last name.

  • MC

    Thank you! My fiance and I are both keeping our last names and when people ask me about it I ALWAYS feel like they’re waiting for me to justify it… when really, there’s not a “good” reason. My last name is hard to spell and gets mispronounced ALL THE TIME, whereas Fiance’s name is relatively normal without being super common. But it’s my name, and maybe because I’ve had years of spelling it out, teaching people how to pronounce it, I feel connected to it. I’m the first woman to marry into his extended family and not change my name, so I’m a little nervous about answering these questions over and over at the wedding, but his immediate family is fine with it. We’re actually thinking of taking each other’s last names as our middle names, which are both just names that we have no connection to. So I’d be MC Hislast Mylast and he’d be Hisfirst Mylast Hislast. Downside? It would require an annoying amount of paperwork, so laziness might win out on that one.

  • Alyssa M

    I’m changing my name. I really just want his last name, and couldn’t give a damn if it’s feminist or not. My big struggle now is deciding if I will keep my father’s name as a 2nd middle name. It’s not terribly profound of me, but I kind of want to do it just so it makes sense if I don’t/can’t change over all of my online accounts. The HASSLE of name changing in today’s world is ridiculous. I’m surprised more people don’t discuss it on those terms. Maybe many women aren’t “established” in a career, but we ALL have bank accounts and credit cards and email accounts and disqus accounts etc that we’re established in.

    • Laura

      I changed my name legally (to a double-barreled, non-hyphenated last name of “Mylast Hislast,” allowing me to use my maiden name professionally and his name socially). Despite using Hislast socially, I cannot (CANNOT!) bring myself to abandon my email address. I have changed the way my outgoing messages appear to reflect my new name, but the email address itself is staying. His last name is more common than my maiden name, so I couldn’t find a configuration of names and initials that didn’t require me tacking a bunch of random numbers at the end. Dealbreaker.

      • Alyssa M

        My email address that is my name is the first thing I did as a soon to be college grad in establishing my “adult” identity. I signed up for car insurance with it, put it on my resume, gave it out proudly to my doctors. It was, to me, the mark of a mature adult over the made up jr. high screen name I’d been presenting myself with for 10 years.

        Now, years later, I’m waay more attached to the e-mail address than I’ve ever been to my last name.

  • Meaghan

    I keep seeing in the comments that people get flack for not changing their last names, and I’m totally perplexed. I don’t know if I live in a particularly progressive place, or just that everyone who’s met me has been able to notice the “STRIDENT FEMINIST” neon sign above my head and keep their mouths shut, but I’ve never had anyone make any remarks or give me any grief about it.

    • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

      I wish that was an actual neon sign that would follow me around.

      • MC

        I think, as far as my in-laws are concerned, that sign does follow me around. They direct any question that may launch me into a feminist monologue (such as name changes, my dress, etc.) to my fiance when I am not around. Can’t say I mind TOO much.

    • scw

      we’re still engaged so the issue hasn’t come up much but I was a little worried to tell both of our parents I wasn’t changing mine and they all took it well. my mom laughed and said “I just told your dad yesterday that I bet you weren’t going to change it.”
      also, I’d definitely hire one of those signs to follow me around!

    • Meg Keene

      Pretty much all of the flack I’ve experienced has been from within our families, and I think that’s usually the case. Or at least often the case.

  • Lindsay Rae

    I think APW is spying on me.. how else could all of these posts come at the perfect time?!?!?!

    I’ve never given a second thought to changing my name. For me, it’s just what happens. I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity, I don’t feel like I’m disconnecting from my roots. My mom changed her name. Also, my F-MIL changed her name but everyone knows her maiden name (her family is well-known where we are) and they constantly gather together, calling the events “Her-maiden-name Sunday.” After this thought-provoking piece, I’d be curious to ask her if she ever felt like she was losing some of her identity in changing her name legally.

    I had an “awakening” this morning – in email correspondence with a wedding vendor, my last name was spelt wrong, and when I corrected him for purposes of the contract, he apologized over and over… and I was thinking “It’s not a big deal, it’s actually a very common misspelling which I encounter maybe 3 times a week… and besides, it won’t be my name much longer anyway.” Then it felt like a punch in the stomach. Where did that come from????

  • Samantha Miranda

    I’ve been asking these questions myself.

  • Kayjayoh

    This discussion always wraps my brain in knots. I *wish* I like my last name. I like my initials. I like my signature. I hate the sound of my last name. I hate having to spell it every time. I have wanted to change it for ages, but could never decide on one that felt right. (Plus, I really do like my initials.)

    I had hopes that my fiance would want to combine our names, but he wants no part of changing his name *and* he doesn’t feel that I should, either. While I’m happy that he isn’t pressuring me to change my name, I had to express frustration to him that this is an issue *I* have to decide and regardless of what I decide, people are going to make assumptions and it is going to be a pain in the ass and that he doesn’t have to deal with this issue.

    I want to be happy about keeping my name, but I’m not. I want to be happy about changing my name, but I’m not. The whole question makes me feel stressed and resentful.

    • Alyssa M

      You know, I’m pretty set on changing my name, and this is still something that irritates me. My partner prefers to “just stay out of it” in order not to pressure me one way or another, but it leaves me feeling completely alone in having to deal with this decision that he can just ignore.

      • Kayjayoh

        I half-jokingly want to start pressuring him to take me name, not because I think he should change his name, but because we should both have to wrestle with this.

        Not fair!

        • Alyssa M

          EXACTLY

        • Meg Keene

          I did pressure David in just that way, until he was as fully involved with the issue as I was by default. It was good. It was, in the end, a game changer for how he viewed the world. It also sucked a lot in the interim, as all game changers do ;)

    • Grace

      Yeah, I had this problem. I had to express in very clear terms that him not taking an interest in the issue of our names was incredibly sexist as it assumed that just because he’s male he doesn’t have to participate. That got him interested!

    • Sarah E

      Same. Boat. (At least we can share the rowing.)

    • ART

      I want to change my name, but I feel the same about my initials. I’m way more attached to those than my last name. But since I started commenting on APW, I’ve been using my married name initials just to get used to seeing it, and I like them now, but I know I’ll miss my old ones. My last name is a pain and not important to me, but his is so common that I DID reserve a gmail account because it took about 8 tries to come up with something reasonable that wasn’t already taken (the writer says that’s creepy, but I really need a reasonable gmail username and not ART2398490!)

      Interestingly, his is an Ellis Islandization of an equally difficult last name, but he’s very attached to it so when I floated the idea of us both changing it to his “old country” family name, he looked at me like I had three heads. Oh well, gotta try :)

  • Gina

    I halfway changed my name for purely practical reasons. I decided to change it professionally and legally, but keep my name socially, just to keep my professional and personal lives completely separate. My pre-marriage name is a jumble of letters and pronunciation, so I realized this was finally my chance to escape having to spell it out repeatedly for the guy at the insurance company when I called! I feel like I got the best of both worlds, and, most importantly to me, my husband didn’t care either way. He offered to take my name, although he was somewhat concerned he’d finally have to learn how to spell it. (Kidding.)

  • Diane

    So I had a long and unpronounceable German birth name that I hated spelling ALL THE TIME and changed it so I now have a short and alliterative name that I like. Whenever I see a woman with a nice sounding name that sort of rolls of the tongue, such as Hayley Cotter, change her name I’m like “Why are you changing your name?! That is a downgrade! What’s wrong with you?!”

    Certainly, a superficial reason for keeping/changing but it’s your name so you should like it.

    • Jen

      That is one of the reasons I want to keep my name! His is long and incredibly difficult to spell and mine is short and easy. He accepts my decision but I rarely discuss this as one of the reasons- because he and other people have basically called me shallow for thinking this way!! I kinda feel like it shallow as well- which is silly, because shouldn’t I like my own name?

    • Sarah S

      I went in the opposite direction, I kept my name and consciously deciding to do so has made me way more accepting of my often-mispronounced last name. I feel noticeably less annoyed spelling it out for people now than I did before!

  • emfish

    I never really considered changing my name, and didn’t even view that as a choice I was consciously making. I have a name, I don’t want a new one. But society definitely sees it as a choice, even though I’m just defaulting to the status quo. And when my fiance made the exact same choice, no one even bothers to ask him — it’s assumed he’ll be keeping his name.

    Side note: I’m known to a considerable number of my close friends by my last name. Sometimes it actually feels weird when people use my first name — I think I have a separate, more polite, “first name personality” for people who address me this way. But I’m my truest self among my friends who just call me by my surname. How could anyone expect me to change my name in that circumstance? It would feel like becoming a different person. No thanks.

  • BD

    I actually started out intending to keep my birth name (I like that, Lollygagger9, i’m gonna use it) but then ended up changing it to my husband’s family name a few months after marriage. And maybe it sounds bad, but the reason I changed it, ultimately, is because it was more important to my husband than it was to me. He knows this too, as we talked about it extensively – that I didn’t want to change my name, that taking his name means nothing to me, that I only did it because he pretty much begged me to and I love him and want to make him happy. I guess it’s like Meg has said before, with feminism, you have to pick your battles, and this is one I decided to drop.

  • AG

    I’m leaning towards not changing my name, although I haven’t 100% ruled it out. I don’t especially love my last name, but it is MY last name, and I’ve never imagined having any other. I would consider changing it if my fiance felt strongly about it, but even then I don’t know. As it is, he doesn’t seem to have strong feelings either way.

    Also, I can say that as the child of a mother who did not change her last name, there was never any confusion about who my family was.

  • http://www.blackgirlunlost.com Jubi The Great

    I’ve been adamant about not changing my last name for years; in fact when my fiance and I first started dating, I told him that if we got married I wouldn’t change my name. I still feel the same way, and I still have yet to hear a reason to change my last name that good enough FOR ME (emphasis on that part because I don’t want to disparage any of the reasons other women have changed their names). Most likely I’ll be Mrs. FiancesLastName socially, but I’m not going through the hassle of changing all my documents because I’ve gotten married. He knows how committed I am to him and our future marriage, and he knows that changing my name isn’t a representation of that. I love my name, it’s who I’ve been for years, and I don’t want to change it – simple as that.

    I do feel there’s a cultural component to this as well – I don’t see the Black community as accepting of a woman keeping her last name as others, but maybe that’s just my view since I’m in the demographic. I’ve had so many conversations with men that take it as a personal insult when a woman (who they aren’t marrying) asserts that she wants to keep her last name.

    • MisterEHolmes

      Props to you for being willing to have those conversations–though it must be frustrating to do it over and over and over.

      • http://www.blackgirlunlost.com Jubi The Great

        Oh it’s extremely frustrating, and I’ve been called all kinds of names because I won’t “submit” to a man & take his name, or how i’m not committed to the marriage, blah blah blah. But I am genuinely interested in the dialogue, and each conversation strengthens my resolve that sticking to my principles on this is the best thing.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I would agree with this. I think this is very very much true. They take it as an insult and that usually is followed by “that means she wouldn’t be submissive” which is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

      • http://www.blackgirlunlost.com Jubi The Great

        Oh man, the submission thing in the Black community is SUCH a hotbed issue. You hit the nail on the head.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Listen, back in the day when I was an active Christian, I heard some of the most interesting (and convoluted) arguments as to why a woman changing her name upon marriage was biblically mandated.They were interesting if not convincing. But on the name issue, submission (and not necessarily religious) is typically the first thing that comes up.

          I don’t know about you, but I was telling Meg that I am definitely an anomaly among black women in that I changed my last name but I wasn’t thrilled to change it nor do I use my married name. I understand why many black women go hard for the name change, but let’s face it: there’s a lot of patriarchal bullshit backing that up as well.

  • Erin E

    “Are you changing your name” was the question I was asked most frequently (out of EVERYTHING) during my wedding planning process, which I thought was interesting. I kept my name… and I also put my name first on everything wedding (or house) related… like invitations, return address envelopes, signs, website… everything is my first name (or both names) followed by his. The reason I did this is because I remember, as a kid, seeing my mom’s checkbook and noticing that she put her name first on the checks – it was her one tiny way to “subvert the powers that be” a little bit. I kind of loved that – so now I do the same on everything that carries both of our names on it. My husband makes fun of me, but I ask him why he thinks he should automatically be top dog on all family correspondence!

    • Eh

      My name is first on everything too. I am the primary owner of our car and of our house (my husband just finished school so I was the one with the money supporting our family). When we bought our house we noticed that some of the paperwork that the lawyer did up had mine name first and other paperwork had his name first. The things that had his name first were things like the letter to the utilities (we joked that they were the less important things and that all the important legal things had my name first). Since the utilities can only be in one persons name they are now in his name (this actually caused us a couple of issues since our utilities at our apartment were in my name).

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I was a bit miffed when the accountant listed my unemployed spouse first on our tax returns last year. It was basically my tax return, with him only listed for purposes of deductions and exemptions. I did our taxes this year, listed myself first, and when my husband took them to the post office, he even put me on the proofs-of-mailing. “I just wanted to put down your name,” he said.

  • Beth

    I feel like I am at an impasse with this particular situation. My name is really important to me…it’s part of who I am, I love it, and seriously, why should I have to change it?! But it is important to my fiance that we have a family name to unite us and our future kids, and I agree with him on that. He doesn’t want to take my name, hyphenating is out of the question, and we debated with the idea of not creating a new last name, but taking one from our family history (my mom’s maiden name or his mom’s maiden name). That last one was my favorite compromise, but we are no closer to a decision than when we began the conversation. However, I’m very glad that he knows this is a difficult decision and understands that we need to talk it out together.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      The great thing is you can change your name at anytime!

    • lovenmarriage

      In our situation, the person who cared more about having a family name is the one who ultimately ended up compromising. It only seemed fair.

  • Sara Goodwin

    My very traditional coworker was asking the other day what my fiance’s last name is. I told her and she said “Oh, that’s going to be your name soon!” I sort of smiled and said that I hadn’t really decided yet on if I’d be changing it. She looked at me with the most confused look, and said, “But… if you have kids, people won’t believe they’re yours if you don’t have the same name, and might think you kidnapped them!”
    What.

    • Meg Keene

      What.

    • Eh

      My cousin and her son have the same last name and people don’t believe that she’s his mother, so that is not a good argument. My cousin had her son when she was 18, and she still looks very young so when he was a teenager people would mistake her for his sister.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Yes. I think exactly this whenever I meet a woman whose last name is different from her child’s. I keep 911 on speed dial just for this purpose.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m a little worried about what will happen when/if our kids have my last name and not his – will people assume my husband is their stepfather? will that be a problem? (e.g., with his signing school permission slips) – but I figure it’s a bridge to cross when/if we get there.

  • Caroline

    I too, originally thought I would change my name but then started wondering why. My mom hasn’t changed her name and it hadn’t caused problems. If we wanted the same last name, why should I be the one to change it. We both have very unusual ethnic last names. That means they are hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and more important to both of us, because they are so rare, it’s a virtual guarentee that anyone in the US with our last name is related to us, at the most a 3rd cousin. Which is pretty awesome. There were also a lot of reasons why not when I started thinking about it. My sister and I were always the “Ourlast girls”. And often other alliterative names based on our last name. And I like my last. And most importantly, it is just who I am.

    The reasons why were skim on the ground: he wants at least some of our kids to have his name, as a last boy of the name. (But that wasn’t an actual reason to change my name). A vague sense of family unity (but time brought us that before we married and without a name change anyways). He wanted me to (but he change his mind and decided it was up to me).

    The final straw for not changing my name was at a family holiday dinner after we got engaged when the family asked if I was changing my name. I said no, I wasn’t planning to (but I had considered hyphenating or something although our names are really too long to hyphenate). Everyone in the family (even the ardent feminists) asked “but then what will you name the kids?!!” That pissed me off. Why should I change my name so we have something easy to name our kids? Why shouldn’t he be at least asked to? This was my side of the family, not his. shouldn’t they be rooting for my name? At that point, I decide this was an important feminist thing for me, to not change my name.

  • Belle11

    First off – a little cultural tidbit – my husband is Chinese and in his culture, it is much more common for the female to keep her family name.
    I changed my name however, and to be honest, I think a lot of the reason I changed my last name is because his last name is adorable (pronounced like “shoe”). Plus our first names are each three letters long, so the symmetry is great. Yeah we want to have kids and I want them to have the same name. And yes, it is much harder and more expensive where we live for the male to change his name. But really, I did it cause his name is cute. However, no one questions me because I did what was expected.

  • http://blog.stephaniecourt.com/ stephanie court

    We’re coming up on our six-month anniversary and I haven’t changed my name yet. Surprisingly enough, I get more pressure about it from the women in our family than the men. My husband has asked a few times “if” I’m going to change it (not “when”) and my answer is usually “probably.” But with many of the other women in the family (particularly on his side of the family, mine seem to know me well enough not to even ask…) just automatically assumed it was changing and began addressing letters, mail, etc to us as “Mr. & Mrs. His First and Last Name.” I didn’t even get my first name in there! I even received a birthday card addressed to “Mrs. His First and Last Name.” *I* am nowhere in that name! For some reason, that just pushed me into stubborn mode and now my attitude is, “I’ll change it when I’m good and ready to change it and no one is going to pressure me to do it a second sooner.” I’ve also decided NOT to drop my last name but to simply add his onto mine and keep both. We will have children eventually and I do want us to be a family unit and I want that family unit to be joined by a common last name. But being married and starting a family has not changed my own personal identity, it has simply added a few more layers to it. So for me, adding his name to mine, but still keeping my full birth name, is my way of symbolizing that.

    • Jen

      Just this weekend I had a discussion with my fiancés family about how to address invitations- his sister-in-law went off on how it is supposed to be “Mr and Mrs His First and Last Name” and I literally responded with “eww”. Needless to say, I may not follow Miss Manners but my invitations went out as “His First and Her First Their Last”… or sometimes “Her First and His First Their Last” depending on who we are closer to in the couple :)

      • Amanda

        Yes! I am doing Mr and Mrs His First and Her First Their Last on our invitations as well. I started to think about how I would want things addressed to myself after getting married. And I came to the conclusion that hey, the wife has a name too!

    • Meg Keene

      YES. In my experience all of the pressure and passive aggressive behavior and shit comes from women in the family, not men. I think it’s the classic internalized patriarchy. If you had to do something like change your name, you’re going to turn around and be the enforcer for future generations.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Other women are some of the best and most effective guards of patriarchy.

        • Meg Keene

          One thousand upvotes for the truth.

      • Class of 1980

        Well … any women in his family who got married in the 1980s really didn’t have to change their name. Not changing the maiden name was heavily promoted then – more than today (except on APW)..

        The women in his family that married prior to the 80s probably did feel there was no other choice.

        • Meg Keene

          We were born in 80 and 81, so we’re a little old for that. BUT. I actually think it still holds, since both of our mothers considered their options (to different outcomes) in the 70s. Weirdly, people that had options can still be enforcers though.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      The only flak I’ve gotten was from unrelated men, in conservative religious contexts. My conservative religious comeback is, “I didn’t change my name because my husband didn’t want me to.”

  • sarah l

    super jealous of my friend getting married in a few months to a man with her same last name (a very common last name, and actually not the first couple I know where both partners came in with this particular last name). her fiance, who is generally not particularly progressive, has been saying he’s taking her name. Personally, I want them to hyphenate :)

    • Class

      “Personally, I want them to hyphenate :)”

      Too funny.

    • Mezza

      I have TWO friends who married men with last names only one letter off from theirs! Both changed their names to their husbands’, but one of them jokingly hyphenated hers on Facebook for a while and I found it hilarious.

      • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

        My paternal grandparents had the same last name so nobody “had” to change their name at marriage. I was rather young when I found this out and it resulted in some very amusing conversations with the grands…

    • H

      This is me, sort of. It recently came out that the man I thought was my great grandfather, whose name I have currently, was not actually my great grandfather. It’s been known for years that he was a serial cheater, but what no one knew is that my great grandma (what a badass) went out and had herself a fling of her own. The man she had an affair with is my real great grandpa, and his fairly common last name just so happens to be my soon to be husband’s. So I think I’m going to “take his name”, or rather the name that should by all rights be mine.

  • Alive

    I have a long name, and I wouldn’t really have minded changing it – provided my husband changed his, as well. We’re from Brazil, where double last names are common: when you are born, you are given your mother’s and your father’s last names. So my proposal was for each of us to give up our mother’s last names and adopt the other’s last names. (In reality, this is still very male-oriented, because it would mean keeping only our father’s last names, but since they are the names we use, this fact doesn’t really matter for the discussion.) So we would both be MyLast HisLast, for example. But he didn’t want to give up his mom’s name (because his dad was not around much, so his mom is his family) and didn’t want a longer name. And, honestly, neither of us could come up with a good reason why we should do it.

    He never expected me to change my name, didn’t want to change his own, so that was that. When we have kids, we’ll just give them both last names. I don’t have any major publications, but I am in Science, where women frequently keep their last names, and these days it’s not unusual even out of the scientific field. I think my friends would have been surprised if I had decided to change my name!

  • kcaudad

    FYI – for those of you considering changing only your middle name (ex: take husband’s last name as your middle name, but keep your current last name) or adding a last name to your current name: in my USA state – it is just as much of a ‘pain’ to change just your middle name as it is to change your last name. It is also just as much of a pain to hyphanate or add a last name without the hyphyn. As the Social Security office worker told me, either way you are CHANGING YOUR NAME and the steps are the same. That is part of the reason I just decided to ‘give in’ and change my last name. If I had to go through all that anyway, then why not just ‘give in’ and change my last name to husband’s last name.

    • Sheila

      I didn’t have a middle name before I got married, and decided to take my previous last name as a middle name and my husband’s name as my last name. (Mild regret about this now but it’s been seven years, so moving on…). Social Security office had zero problems with this. Local BMV made it a HUGE hassle. They said I would have to go pay to get a court order altering my birth certificate to say Sheila LastName LastName, and THEN they would change it to Sheila LastName NewLastName. Umm…no. When I asked why I was told “because of 9/11″ (this was in 2007). I waited a few years, got my license renewed, and just put my full name down and they accepted it with no problem. BUREAUCRACY LOGIC FAIL.

      • MC

        Yep, I’ve heard this from a few people as well – Social Security office is great, DMV office is terrible.

  • cmasuch

    I’m finding this to be really challenging. In university, I studied sociology with a focus on gender studies and learned about all of the feminist issues around women changing their names. It was then that I decided to keep my name, no matter what. Well, that was 10 years ago and now I’m engaged and dearly love my fiancee and a testament to him is that I’m even considering changing my name. We’re one month out and I still haven’t decided. I will say that I have scrapped all of my thinking around feminism/my professional life/etc and have boiled it down to emotional arguments on either side. One the one hand, I have a very unique last name that everyone mispronounces and it is ‘me.’ My aunt, married for over 40 years, says she wishes she had kept our family name because of the uniqueness. I find it weird to all of a sudden be a different person, have a different name. On the flip side, I do love the idea of having the same family name. Being one unit, in name, along with our future kids. Us against the world, bound by a name. Of course, it is just a name but these two arguments are the ones that are ultimately pulling me. I haven’t decided where I land yet but I guess I better decide soon!

    • emfish

      Might I suggest that you don’t need to decide soon? If you feel conflicted about it, maybe it makes sense to just keep your name for now and see how you feel upon getting married. You might find that the emotional aspects are more clear once you’ve had the wedding.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Yes, in most states, while you usually have to decide if you want the option to ever change your name when you apply for the marriage license, you don’t actually have to change your name immediately after the wedding, even if that’s what you indicate on the license.

      • Sarah S

        This. I had the same emotional arguments as you and before the wedding, and after considering all sorts of options we figured that we would both change our names so that Mylast was the middle name and Hislast was the last name. I liked this compromise because we had a family name, I kept my unique name in some way, and I wasn’t the only one having to change my name/identity. But after the wedding….I just had no desire to change my name, and him changing his also didn’t feel right (after all, as much as I am Myfirst Mylast, I fell in love with Hisfirst Hislast). So neither of us ever did, and I have no regrets. I’m glad I didn’t rush into changing it.

  • MerlyBird

    Much like I always thought I would grow up and marry a boy, I figured I would eventually grow up, marry and change my name. Welllll… Now I’m growing up, I’m marring a *girl* in a year or so and she has zero attachment to her last name, soooo… It looks like maybe she’ll be taking *my* last name.

    The feminist in me should be beside-herself-giddy. We have discussed a few other options of course, like blending our names somehow or just keeping our first initial (we’re both b’s) and finding a new name, but so far nothing seems to fit. What I am surprising myself with, is the number of times I’ve qualified the whole thing with “nothing is set in stone yet” or “we’re still discussing our options”. I like my last name, I have really strong ties to my father’s family – especially my father’s mother who was the leading elder of the family – but I just haven’t been able to jump on board with this yet. It’s not exactly a fabulously interesting last name and runs along the likes of “Smith” or “Brown” so I wasn’t very attached to it growing up. And I also can’t seem to escape the feeling that it’s all too easy for me just to keep my last while she changes hers (which begs the question – how the heck can guys just let this slide all the time?!). I find myself wanting to go through a *process* together and to come out the other side of it as our own unique little family. Maybe… maybe it’s all just a learned feeling. Maybe it’s just hard to shift out of an idea we’ve held in our mind for years, and maybe I’ll just learn to be okay with it all soon. After all, I come from a pretty great clan of strong, independent, immigrant, feminists (female *and* male) – and that’s something to be proud of regardless of how cool the name sounds. Or, maybe we’ll work to find something that reflect this step for both of us. Regardless, I see some more interesting conversations in our future… :)

  • LN

    I didn’t change my last name. My mom didn’t. My grandmother didn’t. I never considered it. The only women in my family who have changed their names are the non-Vietnamese who have married into my Vietnamese extended family. My husband didn’t care and it was never a contentious topic between us. However, his mother continues to send “Mr. & Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName” mail to us even though I have made it very clear that we are “His Name + My Name”. I find it very passive aggressive.

    • LN

      To make things easier, we refer to ourselves as “Mc(VietnameseLastName)” since his last name is McScottish and mine is totally Vietnamese. Our friends address our mail like that, which I appreciate. I doubt his mom will ever digest it.

    • Laura

      That does sound very passive-aggressive. My role is the reverse of yours from a gender standpoint (he is Vietnamese American, I am Scotch-Irish-French American) and we’re having trouble navigating the name change thing too. But only because of family, because neither of us really care.

  • Brooke

    Part of my reason for wanting to maybe keep my name IS for professional recognition purposes, but since my business is a small one, I’ve gotten kind of scoffed at for citing that reason. Is it really so ridiculous, as a small business owner, to want to keep the name I started the business with? The name that is IN the name of my business? Changing my last name means also changing the name of that business. Sure, my clientele is small and loyal and they all know I’m getting married and will be able to follow a name change just fine…but still. What if clients from the past try to find me and I’m not at myname.com anymore? Keep the old site and have it redirect, I know…I really wish there WEREN’T easy solutions to these things, because they would make a nice explanation. One excuse that may hold more water is that my maiden name makes my business name alliterative and easy to remember. If I change the last name on my business to my fiance’s name, then it will become difficult to remember, pronounce, and spell, and will often be mispronounced as a curse word! And I work with kids. The truth is, though, I built a business from scratch and it’s very successful. I’m darn proud of that. And that business is named after me. I’m proud of that, too.

  • Keakealani

    We’ve done a lot of these solutions combined. Husband is taking my last name as his middle (fortunately, it’s very similar to his original middle name, so it’s a really minor change), and I’m taking his last name as a second last name (in order to keep my middle name, which I like a lot and has sentimental meaning). So we’ll both essentially be Mr. and Mrs. Mylast Hislast anyway, with options to use other names for professional or social reasons as necessary. Fortunately our state has a pretty lenient policy about changing names with marriage – you can use any combination of the existing middle or last names of the people in question, to change to any middle or last names of one or both partners of a married couple. It helps that we now have equal marriage, so there isn’t even gender-specific language on any of the documents or forms.

    We also had our wedding a full year before our legal marriage (which hasn’t yet happened), due to logistical reasons and because I wanted to wait until marriage equality was legal in our state before throwing our hats into that mix. So we’ve been experimenting with name changes before it actually gets legally cemented, allowing us some opportunity to get cold feet or change our minds until we need to submit the actual documentation. Not sure if things will change if we decide to have kids, but we’re very much not sure kids are in the picture at all, so we didn’t see the sense in worrying about it pre-emptively.

    Either way, though – I agree completely. There is just no reason why there should be a double standard about names, and most of the arguments that boil down to anything other than “whatever you and your partner choose” are usually based on weird biases and preconceived notions, which are really neither here nor there when it comes to your individual decisions.

  • Brooke

    Oh, another potential complicating factor to keeping my name…I’m actually kind of afraid of FI’s mom. She has the ability to be unbelievably cruel to her family. FI can handle it relatively well since he’s used to it, but he’s certainly scarred. She said some things to him at Thanksgiving that were worse than anything I could ever imagine a mother saying to her child, and he’s REALLY suffered in these last few months because of it. She hasn’t done anything horrible to me yet, but I have a feeling that might just be because I’m not completely part of the family yet. I worry that 10 years down the line, when she feels 100% comfortable with me, she’ll treat me the same way she treats the rest of them. The last thing I want to do is give her something to yell at me about or throw in my face. I don’t want to do anything that could potentially piss her off, y’know?

    • Meg Keene

      You know what you have to face (I’m so sorry, I’m saying this from a place of empathy). Family members who are cruel will be cruel. The problem with making a decision to avoid their cruelty, is they’ll be awful anyway, and then you’ll resent not doing what you wanted in your heart. Sad fact: she’s going to yell at you and throw things in your face anyway. Do what you need to do. It’ll will mean you don’t resent the decision, and it’s good practice. You’re going to have a lifetime of needing to practice doing what’s right for you, and then facing terrible cruelty, unless at some point your husband cuts himself off from her (a decision that will never really be in your hands).

      And girlfriend? Get a therapist to help support you through this. You’re marrying into something really tough.

      • Class of 1980

        1000% correct. No matter what you do, she’s gonna be cruel just because she is.

        Might as well do what you wanted in the first place, because cruel people will find any excuse to be cruel. If it’s not your name, it will be something else. And it won’t be 10 years down the road, because she won’t be able to hold off that long. :(

    • Lizzie C.

      I’m so sorry you’re in that crappy position. I haven’t really told anyone, but it was a similar thing that influenced my steely resolve to keep my last name. I know my in-laws are going to be manipulative and petty no matter who has what name, but keeping my own feels like a shield sometimes, a way of saying, “I may be part of your family but I am not OF you.” Do what you gotta do and stay strong.

  • Elizabear

    I changed my last name and sometimes I am a little sad that my Italian-American identity is missing. We joked about combining our last names to “Schulbardo” where you have to say the “schul” part with a strong German accent and the “bardo” part with a strong Italian accent. I think that was an awesome idea.

  • K.

    I’m changing my name because I want to. My original name is a dissonant, logistical nightmare without any aesthetic value. I’m a run of the mill white chick, so I don’t have any particular identity tied to my heritage and my family certainly doesn’t care one way or the other (my mom says she regrets taking the name because of the previously mentioned logistical nightmares, my dad just says that I should professionally go by K. [Original] [New] for about a year so there’s no confusion). I will be taking my original name as a second middle name to honor my upbringing (because my parents are awesome) and we are probably going to do the Spanish tradition of giving our kid(s) incredibly long names, incorporating both his mother’s original name, my original name and our “family” name.

    Overall, I feel pretty good about my choices, except for the white faced balking other women sometimes give me which makes me question everything all over again. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – my feminist friends SHOULD be making me question this decision. I know it’s not my most feminist choice. I own that and I know, in some ways, I’m letting people down the same people who are shocked that I’m wearing a white dress, but on a much deeper and societally prevalent way. But ultimately, it’s my name and I have to do what I’m most comfortable with, and changing my name has always felt like the right choice, in my gut. Do I recognize that it’s swayed heavily by a patriarchal tradition? Hell yeah. But I also know that I’m a feminist and I’m marrying a feminist who really doesn’t care one way or the other what I do with my name. I could change it to Princess Consuela BananaHammock and he’d be fine. Ultimately, that attitude was more important to me than the actual decision. And I hope that the way we live our lives and the choices we make as a married couple will contribute to the gender equality movement and that we can provide real help in the strive for change, even if I didn’t live it in this one (out of probably many!) instance.

    • Amanda

      +100 points for you for the Friends reference!

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    The lack of committment argument has always peeved me because the fact that you actually legally and spiritually (if you believe in that sort of thing) bound yourself to someone doesn’t show how committed you are, but what name you call yourself does…

  • Bets

    I love the idea of saying “Neither of us are going to change our names.”

    Something I find helpful to keep in mind is that it’s not the cultural norm for women to change their names in many cultures – in fact, a quick glance at the wikipedia article shows great variation in how this is done around the world. In Spain, Italy or in Chinese cultures, women keep their names, although they might use their husband’s name socially, and in Quebec there is no legal procedure to change one’s name upon marriage. Apparently some cultures have customs of the married couple declaring/choosing a new name upon marriage. For me, this goes to show that it shouldn’t be assumed that women will de facto take their husband’s name, or that we have to defend their choice in not taking it, but that these are valid questions that different cultures have come up with their own responses to.

  • Emily

    I had not even considered changing my name, until last week when my wallet was stolen and I had to update all my cards. The nice (nosy) lady at our credit union suggested I wait to change my checks until we get married because “you’ll need new ones so that your name can be on the joint account”. So now, not only does the bank teller expect me to change my name but also CHANGE MY BANK ACCOUNT. Livid and ranting is the only way to describe my mood for the next 48 hours. My FH finally calmed me down by calling the credit union and asking if he would need a form so that he could change is name and be on our new account. The lady was startled, and I was amused and have tried to let it go.
    I don’t understand what the point of changing my name is, and more importantly I don’t understand why the entire universe feels compelled to care so much. Change, hyphenate, make up something new…it in no way affects anyone but the new family.

  • Anne K

    I won’t change my name into his, just because I like mine. Somehow my most important reason is that I am still thinking about a phd and Dr. … sounds so much better with my name. Maybe I get it changed if we will have kids, but to be honest I don’t think so.

  • Amy

    I’m feeling very conflicted about his same issue… the only difference being that I’ve already changed my last name to my husband’s. Though our Big Wedding is still a few months away we ended up needing to do the quickie Legal Wedding last fall when I lost my job and needed to get on his health insurance. When filling out the paperwork at city hall I realized I needed to make a decision right then and there about something I hadn’t thought a great deal about. In the spur of the moment I went with his last name – perhaps because that’s what I had always expected would happen, traditionally speaking. He told me it made no difference to him what I chose, so it’s not as though I was being pressured into it.

    Now that I’m through the horrific bureaucratic process of getting my name changed on EVERYTHING (which actually makes me happy we did our semi-secret Legal Wedding months in advance, because dealing with all of that immediately post-Big Wedding would have driven me insane), I have some twinges of regret. I’ve actually been using both names in my professional life – FirstName MaidenName NewLastName – even though it’s not my legal last name, because that’s how people know me. I don’t think I would legally change it after the fact because I really like my middle name (which, coincidentally, is an maiden name from one of my ancestors). So in addition to using both last names informally, if not legally, I’m thinking about ways my maiden name might resurface in the future, maybe as a middle name for our children.

  • Antonia

    The argument for name-changing I hear from women that really chaps my a$$ is “Well, I’m not close to/hate/don’t know my dad,” or “My last name sucks.” Those are actually viable reasons for wanting to change your name. BUT YOU NEVER HEAR THEM FROM MEN. No matter how sh*tty/absent/whatever some dude’s dad is, or how crappy his last name is, he’s keeping it, end of story.

    My best friend is set to marry this summer. Her fiance never knew his father, and his last name is… not awesome (rhymes with “screech”). But whose name are they taking? His, of course.

    • K.

      I totally agree with this, but I also don’t think women should have to keep their sucky and/or emotionally difficult last names just to uphold a feminist ideal either. Ideally, it would be societally acceptable to change your name whenever you want or that men would also feel like they have that option. And yes, I know that the solution is more women keeping their names or changing them when they want to whatever they want, but not everyone has the circumstances that makes those choices right for them. But then, the name-changing battle is far from my personal vested fight, so I’m coming at it from a different, probably less modern/feminist viewpoint than most people here.

      • Antonia

        I agree with you, K. Like I said, I think having a last name you don’t like/have no family connection to is a great reason for changing it (if/when you marry or whenever you choose). It just irks me that women seem to do this and men NEVER do.

        (For the record, I did change my name when I married. Both my husband and I are close to our fathers and have fine-sounding surnames. Obviously name-changing isn’t a cause I’m willing to fight, freeze, fast, and die for, but the double standard isn’t lost on me…)

      • Hayley

        I agree. I don’t necessarily think that changing your name is inherently anti-feminist, and actually it’s what a lot of my (very feminist) friends have done. I think there are a million good reasons for changing, or keeping, your name, and it’s unfortunate that it all gets heaped on the ladies to justify whatever decision they make.

  • Crayfish Kate

    I’m not planning on changing my name when FH & I get married. Thank god no one’s really asked about it yet (probably b/c we haven’t started planning anything), but if/when they do ask, my answer is “Because I don’t want to change my name” or “Because I want to keep my name.” That’s the bottom line, end of discussion. (Of course there are many practical reasons why I’m keeping my name, but I don’t owe it to anyone to explain that.)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    My first name is an unusual spelling, and I’ve had to correct people all my life. I think it made me a stronger person. My mother is a doctor, and I’ve run “My mother is ‘Dr. Smith’” interference with friends, teachers, etc., all my life, too. It was totally not a make-or-break aspect of my childhood.

    I’ve been a nanny for a family where the mother was a doctor with a different last name from her children. The camp staff addressed her as, “Mrs. [child’s last.” I don’t know how she felt about that, but I do know any confusion didn’t cause any problems with registering the kids or picking them up or whatever.

    But to Meg’s experiences of the doctors’ offices getting the baby’s name wrong – I’ve been that receptionist, and it’s a problem. For us, it’s usually that the chart needs to match the insurance card, and the insurance for whatever reason can’t get the name right.

  • Emily

    I never even considered changing my name and I think my fiancé intuitively knew I wasn’t going to change it; for us it’s been a non-issue. I’ve always known I wouldn’t change my name; I remember thinking as a child “It is my name… how could it change?” In middle school I was teased a lot about my last name (it sounds funny) and this cemented my ownership of it. I have a “that is my name, I’ve fought for it” feeling about it.

    Oddly enough, it was his ex-wife who made the comment that “We will have the same last name!” (She changed hers when she married him). It was a comment made out of the blue and totally confused me which must have shown in my face. “You are changing your name when you get married, right?” Ah, no.

    I do have the sense that his kids (live with us) wish I would change my name because they want us all to have the same last name. If he and I have a child I’ve thought about that kid having my last name.

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison Toback

    Loved this! My husband (then-fiance) and I had this conversation:

    Him: It’s important to me that we have the same name.
    Me: Why?
    Him: It’s what you do…
    Me: If it’s so important to you, why don’t you change your name?
    Him: But… I like my name!
    Me: ….
    Him: Oh. Well…
    Me: What’s more important, having the same name, or having the name you like?
    Him: Point taken.

    At the moment, we have retained our given names. We also toyed with the idea of combining our last names into one new one, but either way it sounded like a Pokemon or a weird condiment. (Bartotoback or Tobameo). No dice. I guess we’ll see if I change my mind when we have babies, but for now, I’m happy keeping mine and he’s made his peace with it, too.

    • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck Winokur

      I would love to get a holiday card from the Bartotobacks. That one would totally make the fridge.

  • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

    Thank you!! Everyone assumes that I will not change my name after marriage because I’m a feminist who’s professionally established under my current name. They’re not WRONG about me not changing my name, but I feel like it’s not about the reasons I’m not changing it. I know plenty of people who changed their names after getting published. Some of the most ardent, passionate, brilliant feminists in my life are people who changed their names after marriage. And I feel like while both things are true (I am a feminist; I am published professionally), that’s not WHY I’m not changing my last name.

    The reason why I am not changing my last name boils down to your distinction: the question isn’t, “Why not change it?” It’s, “Why change it?” Instead of focusing on the reasons that I want to stick with my name, let’s ask ourselves why I’m supposed to want to change it. And when you look at it that way, you end up asking, “Well, if all these reasons to change it are valid, then why don’t men do it as often?”

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Thank YOU! I

  • Rebekah

    I just want to take a moment to stop and thank every single one of you. This conversation is one that Meg has been facilitating for years on the site, and one that has *always* made me stop and seriously consider my options and the reasons behind each potential choice. I’m 8 weeks away from marriage to a man who, due to his education and training, can’t reasonably consider changing his name, even to add part of mine. I grew up in an area (and a family) where it was assumed the woman would take her husband’s last name (and we didn’t know any same-sex couples). I made this assumption about myself, but with APW’s questioning, I’ve come to realize how much my full personal name means to me and that I don’t feel comfortable giving it up.
    So thank you all. Because of you, I’ll be able to do what’s right for me. In my case, it will not mean “taking his name” but actually “adding his name to mine.”
    All my love, you guys. Seriously.

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

      That was how I came down on it too. I added. I didn’t take or change.

  • Lily

    “Ladies! If keeping your last name demonstrates a lack of commitment, why on earth have we been putting up will all these apparently uncommitted, name-keeping husbands?”
    THIS! Just the fact that everyone is asking why I’m keeping my name and no one is asking my fiancé why he’s keeping his name — that alone is enough to make me want to keep my name.

  • Sarah

    I honestly didn’t think it would even be an issue when I decided not to change my name. I didn’t even really discuss it with my partner, I just decided what was right for me and he was completely on board. I’m continually surprised by the level of opinion people have with this decision that has nothing to do with them. My best friend’s boyfriend used the argument that “what will the kids do? In 4 generations they’ll have 8 names” which seemed utterly ridiculous to me (so what if they do?), but the worst was when my new father-in-law actually called me lazy for not wanting to go through the name transition process (one of the reasons I thought he might actually understand). I think from now on I’ll use Meg’s line of “neither of us changed our names” and stop the conversation there.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      People make the most mundane things so incredibly complicated. Like, obviously you will, if you have kids, pick a name for them and move on. Deciding WHAT name might be a difficult or involved process but the kid will just have their name and live their life.

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

    When I graduated college and started working in my chosen profession, I felt like I needed a name change to mark the occasion. I had stepped into a new role in life, a new stage, and I wanted to reflect that change with an alteration of my name. Lisa was who I had been growing up. I needed my adult name now. Within the year I was going by Miss Giggles. Not exactly the name change I’d been looking for, but considering the types of nicknames elementary kids can come up with, I was going to take that one they’d given me and run with it.

    I altered my name when I got married for a similar reason. This is a new stage in my life and altering my name allowed me one way to recognize that fact.

    Now that I think about it. Perhaps I need to alter my name a little more to reflect my new stage as a mom. When I graduated last year I added the ability to add “Dr.” in front of my name when needed (like when writing to politicians). I should figure out something to indicate my role as mom too.

  • Helen

    Here here! I’m marrying a lady, so there’s no traditional option. We like the idea of having a team name, so we’re toying with the idea of choosing one for ourselves, maybe based on the road where we first met. We’d keep our names professionally – not sure what to do about facebook. So crucial.

  • Keren

    My girlfriend and I are going back and forth on this at the moment. Main arguments against: Everything listed above. Main argument for: Having a clear, loud pronouncement that we’re a Team (particularly when/if kids get involved). We’ve been talking about inventing a new name for our tiny new family. Thinking about how surnames were developed in the first place has provided some interesting options – most commonly either “son of dad’s name”, “of family seat”, or “profession”. Mrs and Mrs Strategist is a bit weird but we kind of like the idea of taking our name from the location our little family began – the closest thing we get to having a “family seat”. Mrs and Mrs St George is pretty rad, even if it is a bit pretentious!

  • Cathi

    My path to keeping-my-namehood was…exactly this. I don’t have any “compelling” reason to not change my name, other than “…why would I?” and an increasingly sick stomach as I contemplated it.

    I share a name with someone who frequently wins Oscars, and while watching the Academy Awards at work this weekend I had the following conversation with my coworker–someone I’ve worked with for two years, who obviously has been around for the year and a half since I got married.

    “Hey! Congratulations on your win!” she joked. “Oh… well, I guess that only used to be your name.”
    “No…it’s my name…” I said, slowly, with a bit of confusion.
    “No, I mean, that’s your maiden name,” she said.
    “I don’t have a maiden name. It’s just my name. I didn’t change my name.”
    “…really? Why?” she demanded.
    “I didn’t want to? Why would I?” I asked.
    “That’s really weird,” she declared, and then walked away.

    I had to work really hard not to smash things–which is actually semi-acceptable at my work since it’s a bar and I have plenty of excuses for dropping a glass or empty bottle. This shouldn’t be so emotionally hard.

    • superdaisy

      “Why didn’t I change my name? I share a name with an awesome actress! Why would I *want* to get rid of that?!”

  • Beth R

    I took my husbands last name with little thought and no regrets. I’ve never been a huge fan of my maiden name and happen to like his better. To me, it felt like I finally had a choice in what I was going to be called as opposed to just being stuck with what I was given. I think this choice can work both ways and that either is acceptable if it’s what you feel comfortable with.

  • Anne B

    So many great comments here and I just wanted to join. I never even considered the idea of changing my name (except for the odd scribble of Mrs Leonardo Dicaprio on my bedroom wall in the Titanic days), because my mom never changed hers. Our family having different last names never affected my sister or me in the SLIGHTEST and so I never really had to think about it. My sister and I were given my dad’s last name, which was important to him since most of his family was murdered in the Holocaust. My mom’s name is super common and her extended family is huge so she thought this was fair. All of our family friends just refer to our family as the “Dad name-Mom name”‘s (or vice versa – really this goes both ways). One time my partner referred to my parents as the Dad-names in a public thank you speech and was so embarrased and apologetic afterwards.

    Now I’m getting married this year and my partner is totally fine with me keeping my name – the idea of us having a family name hasn’t even crossed his mind. Which now is kind of a problem for me because I wanted to start to talk about what we will name our future kids. It bothers me that men never even consider that this is a DECISION to be made and talked about. His response the one time we talked about it was “well, we should just do the easy thing and give them my name”. Cue yelling and crying. I know that he isn’t trying to repress me, but he just never thought about this at all.

    I want us to keep talking about this but it’s hard seeing as he just doesn’t have the background or interest in really understanding these ideas and issues. Tough.

  • Alex

    I’m not changing my name and it was a personal decision I made years ago. I tell people it’s because I’m going to be a doctor (1.5 years to go!) and I worked very hard to get that title next to my name. But it’s really more than that. I love my last name. It’s somewhat unique and being part of a very small family, I’m only one of a few family members left to pass it on. Not only that, I really identify with that part of my family and heritage. I am my name. I’d almost feel naked without it, like I was leaving an important part of myself behind. This seems hard for people to understand for some reason. What people (i.e. future in-laws) need to realize is that it’s a very personal decision and really none of their business to criticize or judge.

    • KH_Tas

      Yes, this is me; the going to be Dr (not nearly as soon for me, sadly), the loving my name, that it’s my identity and heritage, everything

  • Chelsea

    I’m getting ready for a backlash from my feminist cohort for taking my fiance’s last name. Why am I doing it? Because my last name is BORING and his last name is AMAZING and Polish. We are both obsessed with learning languages (I’m working on Russian for my ph.d) and he loves French. Am I going to be called a bad feminist? I already have. But, I’m taking my fiance’s last name because it’s a CHOICE. And that’s what I think it’s really about.

  • superdaisy

    My first name is very common, so common that my sister in law and I share the name. (Holidays are a little awkward–for everyone else! We’re used to being one of many Jessicas and guessing from context.)

    The only person who has made a peep of protest about me not changing my name is my grandmother. Of all my reasons, “my sister in law already is Jessica M, there’s already a Jessica M in the family” was the most compelling for her. Go figure.

    • Eh

      I love that logic – and it’s cute that it was something that your grandmother got.

      Having the same name as another family member can be an issue (I don’t have a very common name but I have the same first name as one of my step-sisters, we’ve never had or will never have the same last name but it’s still confusing). My SIL change her name and now has the same name as the maiden name of one of the cousins. When people hear/see her (first+last) name they assume that it’s the cousin even though the cousin has been married for 4 or 5 years and change her name.

  • KCha Cha

    REMEMBER THE LESBIANS: My partner is an only child. She’s Sweedish with a 10-letter last name. I am one of two girls with a distinctively Armenian 8-letter last name. We both feel very connected to our own last names, and we both are very likely the end of our name lineage (bad luck? but neither last name will live past our generation unless my sister keeps hers, which is unlikely). An 18-(plus the hyphen)-letter hyphenated last name seems cruel, both to those who work with us in professional settings AND to any future children of ours. Dropping one of our last names feels arbitrary and unfair. Keeping our own separate last names is just one more reason/way for society to not acknowledge us a legitimate couple/family (never mind the question of what happens when and if we bring a child into the mix). We’ve considered combining last names, but nothing will keep what we each love most about our names – primarily the link to our heritage. HELP?! We are getting married in December and have been pondering this question since long before we got engaged, and haven’t made any headway with it.

    • ART

      This is not helpful, but I think a hyphenated Swedish-Armenian (or Armenian-Swedish) last name sounds *adorable*

    • Mezza

      I understand the thing about wanting to be acknowledged as a couple/family. Not sure if you live somewhere with marriage equality, but I’d imagine that in a place without it, that would be even more important.

      About the potential kids’ names, though – my wife and I are currently planning to alternate our future kids’ last names. I’ve asked that the first boy, if there is one, get my last name, so I can continue a very old family naming tradition (tied to the oldest boy) that would otherwise die out, but otherwise one will get her name, the next will get mine, etc. Maybe that would make sense for you?

    • KH_Tas

      My biased opinion is that a 19 character name isn’t cruel, and people will get over it. Plenty of cultures have very long names and get on just fine. Of course, I am going to be giving kids a hyphenated name (only 14 characters, but still)

    • Caitlin_DD

      I’d say hyphenate away. It may be 19 characters, but that’s not cruel, it will be something unique and important that you can be proud of. I think your name says who you are, and is a special, intimate aspect of yourself that YOU get to have control over. If someone else doesn’t like it… too bad!

  • Laura

    My fiance and I had a several month discussion on whether to have the same last name – but not simply whether I will change my name. We discussed whether I will change mine to his, he will change his to mine, or we will both change to something different. For a while there he was pushing a bit more for changing his to mine, while I was pushing a bit more for changing mine to his. We went back and forth and we have decided that I will change mine to his, but not simply because it is the ‘thing to do’. Similarly, we did not decide on keeping my name simply because it challenges the norm.

    When I was a little girl, I once told my father that if/when I got married, I would never change my name to someone else’s unless that person at least considered changing his to mine. My father basically told me that I was dreaming, there was no way I’d ever find a MAN who would consider taking a WOMAN’s name. I didn’t tell my fiance about this conversation until well after we’d started the ‘last name discussion’. I’m still a little astonished that I somehow, unintentionally, proved my father wrong. I very much like the idea of my fiance and I having the same family name, and I’m perfectly happy to change my name to his (which probably would not have been the case if it had been ‘expected’ of me).

    I apologize for the arrogant tone of this coming paragraph, I’m not a good enough writer to avoid it while still expressing these thoughts. I wish that my story wasn’t unusual. All of the reasons why women historically changed their names are outdated and misogynistic. The remaining romantic, ease, commitment reasons to have the same name are equally applicable to either gender/partner, or to both. I wish that I didn’t feel extraordinarily lucky to be with a partner who accepts without question that we are equal, and moving for each other doesn’t make us less of a man or a woman. I wish that it was just ‘normal’.

  • H

    All my life, everyone talked about how my cousin (the only male in my generation) would have to marry and procreate if we wanted to “keep the line from dying off”. A lot of the time this was said jokingly, but I was always outright incensed when someone brought it up. The idea that somehow my children would have less claim to my family than my male cousin simply because of what they were called set off a spark of hot rage inside me. On one hand I didn’t want anyone assuming I wouldn’t keep my name, but I also didn’t want to have to do anything because of something so stupid!
    At the end of the day it worked out, my family name wasn’t what we thought it was anyway ;) Gotta love family secrets!

  • Aubry

    I decided, after a long story in a previous relationship I won’t bore you with, to change my name. As I said below, C is changing his before the wedding and I will take his new one. Most people have been fine with this, if respectfully asking what I will do, but I have had a few loudly voiced oppositions. I get that it is not necessarily considered “feminist” by many people, but to be honest I didn’t expect it. My godmother was quite upset when she heard I was planning on changing my name, and she knows the whole story and I assume can understand why I would. However, she never changed her name and her son has her name as well, without any inkling as to him ever having his fathers name, so for her it seems unfavorable maybe.

    I had one client reply “do people still do that?” when I said I was changing it, a statement that made me quite happy actually. The general feeling I get is that people assume I won’t change my name, and are surprised but wouldn’t be displeased either way.

  • GLB

    Does anyone have any good ideas on how to discuss this with partners, we’re “pre-engaged” (just waiting for a jeweller to make me an awesome non-traditional ring) and made the decision to get married together. Partner is an otherwise amazing guy, and we are totally equals in the way we are with each other. Except for this – I told him I’d been thinking and I realised that I am really attached to my name – its my identity and I feel a bit sick at the thought of giving it up. His response, total kneejerk-patriarchal “you will change your name, or there’s no point getting married”.

    Furious does not even cover it. Plus, he should know by now that that sort of statement will make me dig my heels in even more! I said i’d be willing to compromise when it comes to kids, and that at the very least i would keep my name and not change after we got married and think about it again when kids come along.

    Now I know that he is doing that thing that people (men and women both) do when challenged with something that they have never ever had to think about before, feel threatened and react badly. But since he’s been a little dismissive – as if “well it’s not something I’m bothered about so I don’t care”, i sent him some APW articles, but he’s not talked about it with me. One good thing is that I stood my ground with him and told him “I give a shit about this, so even if you don’t, you have to respect the fact that it’s something that upsets me and therefore you have to try”. He apologised, but I still don’t know how to enable him to see it from my point of view – that the expectation that I will give something up when he is never even asked to consider it – is precisely why it matters.

    For you wonderful people out there who have had an awkward partner – did you find that any lines of reasoning or argument have worked well? Or found ways to deal and work this out in a positive and progressive way?

    P.S. Thank you all so much for being a source of support in this!

    • Eh

      Sometimes you just need to give people time to digest things, especially when you are challenging their beliefs.

      Another suggestion is to use posts/discussions like this on APW to start a face-to-face conversation with him. My husband is very agreeable on almost every topic but sometimes I have a hard time finding words needed to express my feelings and posts on APW have helped us discuss things. APW also helped while I was planning our wedding when responding to my MIL’s requests and concerns (she’s very traditional and wanted us to get married in her church, and I have never gone to church and I wanted to get married in a train station that was converted into a theatre).

      • GLB

        Thanks Eh, thats what i’ve been doing – thanks for the advice, i’m sure he’ll come round to being serious about it! :)

        • Eh

          Good luck! My sister did not want a large wedding party. They had already each asked three people. Her fiancé’s sister had made it clear that she was pretty upset that she wasn’t asked. So her fiancé started pressuring my sister into adding her. She said that if she added his sister than she wanted to add me too but that she also wanted the sides to be balanced so that would mean five on each side and she felt that was too big. She then suggested that he add his sister to his side since she is his sister and she would add me to her side. His response was that his sister is a girl and should be on the girl side. Anyways months and months later he came around to the idea so I’m going to be on my sister’s side and his sister is going to be on his side. It did take months but he did change his mind.

  • laddibugg

    I just ask that if you don’t change your name, please don’t get upset with people like me who have no reason to know you and someone else are married. In my job I can assume that two people named ‘Smith’ are married if they have the same address but I wouldn’t know that ‘Smith’ and “Howard” are married since our database doesn’t have the option to search by address. Obviously I don’t mind correcting things but please don’t yell at me! (It has happened)
    I don’t know what *I* am going to do–my SO doesn’t care what I do, but I would like for both of us to have the same name. Who knows, maybe he’ll take mine.

  • sc2373

    I clearly live in a weird alternative bubble of society. In almost all of the opposite sex married couples I know, both the men and the women changed their names. Oddly though, in half of the cases the name they changed to came from the man’s side of the family, not the woman’s. In the other half, the names combined the two, in various ways.

    I changed my name to my wife’s name because I never cared for my name, and her name is awesome and would die out otherwise. We felt that it was important for us to all have the same name, but if I had felt strongly about us both taking both names, she gladly would have. But that’s probably because we are both women and have been generally raised to be more open to the idea of changing names for the sake of blending families. If I had married a man, I’m not sure how I would have felt about it.

  • Alden

    This is just another reason why I love this website — it’s breaking down traditions and embracing a new take on them. It might seem weird ( and it certainly will to my family), but my fiance and I are planning to changie both of our last names. Neither of us is particularly attached to our own last names, he actually doesn’t really like his, so we have selected a new last name to take together.

    He suggested that we take a new last name together, since we will be starting our own family together. I loved this idea and the name we have chosen has a sentimental and personal meaning to us. I doubt his family will mind, they are very open-minded and just happy that we’re going to be getting married. My family, on the other hand, won’t get it at all. My immediate family will think it’s weird, but my extended family might even be judgmental about it.

  • Allie

    I have to say I have mixed feelings on the subject. My mother recently confided that she had wished she’d kept her maiden name and considered changing it back but it upset my father so she remains a Wilson. I have no emotional attachment to my current last name (it’s so common and boring imho) and have always assumed I would take my husband’s name and even though I know this is not the case and I don’t think this of anyone else, I feel like it somehow makes me a bad-feminist (anyone else?)

  • Heather

    I can’t believe I didn’t write this! This is such an amazing article that perfectly explains my viewpoint. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  • Maggie

    Thank you! I might have to forward this to a few “What do you mean you’re not changing you last name?” friends.

  • CB

    I’ve got to say, I’m AMAZED by how many people here are getting flack for keeping their own name. I kept my name and the general response has usually amount to something like, “go girl, do yo thang.” General flavour is that people don’t care with a dash of think its cool.

    Maybe it’s because my name is so awesome that people can see right off the bat why I wouldn’t change it? Maybe my community is evolved? Maybe people just realize that I’m a bad ass feminist in my own quiet way and assume I wouldn’t change it? Maybe people aren’t expecting me to get around to it until we have a bebe?

    BUT, it concerns/enrages me that it is so far outside of people’s comfort zone to imagine a man changing his name. When a co-worker asked if I was changing my name I answered something along the lines of, “no, neither of us are going to change our names.” He chuckled because he thought I was kidding and said something like, “why would he change his name?” The co-worker is a nice guy and not an (intentional) sexist…it had legitimately never occurred to him that a man would change his name for marriage.

    I feel bad for men in this regard. If they want to change or hyphenate their names they have to take a lot of flack. I would have been overjoyed if my husband wanted to take my name (he did not) but I know he would have NOT had support from my family, much less his and society at large.

    We still have some work to do.

  • Maggie

    My parents have different last names and I always absolutely hated it growing up. No one knew what to call my mom (I share my dad’s last name) and it was just annoying. When people referred to us as a family they kind of hesitated as to what to call us, which felt weird when I didn’t know why they were just looking at me with a confused face. I don’t think either partner should be expected to change their name but I wish my family all shared a name — any name. Maybe not everyone’s perspective but wanted to share mine.

  • EvanMyers

    I told her that if she doesn’t want to follow the gendered woman taking the man’s name, I will go along with that but I get to deep six the gendered traditions I don’t like, including buying a diamond engagement ring, having to propose, and the one I hate the most, wearing a stupid wedding band. I think that’s a fair trade.

  • VenusAD

    The only thing I will say is this: Choose what you want and stick with it. And get that same name on ALL your IDs. As a person who works in the security field where identity proofing is regularly practiced, it is endlessly frustrating how women (it’s generally women) are shocked to find out their is an issue when all or some of their IDs have been switched over to a completely different name, but all their company paperwork is in their maiden name for “business reasons”.

    This is all well and good until you’re trying to get cleared to enter a federal agency. Yeah. So whatever you do, just please keep it consistent. It will save you a lot of headache and trouble in the future.