Name Changing: Don’t Be Quiet About It

It’s been awhile since we discussed name changing on APW. And funny enough, in the time that we haven’t talked about it, it hasn’t gotten any easier, nor have the answers become any more obvious. So here is the first thing I want to point out: if you’re in the middle of making this decision, you have lots and lots of options. Society tends to present a black and white world view: you change your name, or you don’t. But thinking about it that way just disempowers you. As illustration, let’s look at people we know in the APW community:

  • APW staffer Lauren was going to change her name, but then decided that felt wrong to her. She and her husband decided to hyphenate at the last minute. A new name for a new family.
  • Cate changed her name, but was adamant about using Ms., not Mrs., because, “Because you shouldn’t be able to tell a woman’s marital status from her title any more than you can a man’s.”
  • APW staffer Kate has a dream husband (hi Kevin!) who offered to take her name. But after a lot of discussion she decided that she didn’t want to keep her often-mispronounced-as-a-bad-word last name, so she changed her last name, and took her maiden name as her middle name. Well, socially. She hasn’t done the paperwork yet, and it’s been more than a year. She goes by Ms. as well, in case you were wondering.
  • Brenna changed her name, and then it didn’t feel right, so she changed it back.
  • APW Staffer Alyssa changed her name, and then cried about it, mourning the loss (which in no way made it the wrong decision for her).
  • Marie-Ève lives in Montreal, where it’s actually illegal for a woman to change her last name upon marriage. We had a long conversation about this, where I said, “People here think that to be a family, you need the same last name.” And Marie-Ève said, “That’s crazy. To be a family, you just need to be a family.”
  • And then there is me. I didn’t change my name, and I didn’t have any heartache about it. If you ask us what we’ll name our kids, however, you’ll get some flustered arm waving. Don’t think I’m going down without a fight.

So you have options. You have way more options than I’ve listed here, but this is just to get you started. You don’t even need to make a decision right now; you can wait til you feel ready. Or you can make a decision, and then change your mind. But don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t have choices.

But here is where I have an issue: for most of us, this decision isn’t an easy one. Even if we take the most traditional route and change our names and go by Mrs., the process is often emotionally difficult, leaving us in tears, feeling like we’re mourning a loss. And if there is anything I’ve learned from the ongoing APW discussion about name changing, it’s this: the men in our lives, by and large, don’t know how hard it is for us.

Why? Well, I’d argue that we’re being too quiet about it, and we’re wasting far too much time judging each other for making choices different than our own. (Every second you spend judging a woman for making a different choice than you is a second you wasted.) For whatever reason, we’re internalizing a lot of the painful bits. Maybe we’re talking about it with our partner, but we’re not talking about it with the world at large. We feel like, “This is the way it’s always been,” and “I just need to figure out what I want to do,” and “There just are not any great solutions,” instead of saying, “I’m just not willing to put up with this anymore!” or “You need to know that this is painful for me,” or “I want more options, damn it, and better options, too,” and then politely lighting something on fire.

In the middle of a long conversation with a lot of my best ladies about name change, and what we name our kids, and how even when women don’t change their names, they rarely get to pass down their names to their kids, LPC at Privilege, our resident wise woman said, “It seems to me that this issue is causing a lot of women a lot of distress and the situation won’t change until society prioritizes a resolution. Twenty-four years after I first become a mother I still wish I could have shared some part of my kids’ last name without giving up my own.” She pointed out that, society is really good at coming up with solutions when it needs to. For goodness sakes, we’ve sent people to the moon, so we can figure out how to make women feel honored during the name game if we put our heads to it.

But we have to start talking about it. And we have to stop judging each other about the choices we make, and start making it a priority to have better, and more, choices for all of us. We have to make a stir. After the initial public reaction to her book How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran wrote in her column for The Times, “As Steve wrote: ‘People forget that sexism is bad for men, too: it makes the women they know unhappy. Inequality is bad for everyone.’ It was something I hadn’t considered, but now it seemed obvious: the patriarchy has also made men’s lives difficult. Men and women really hang around each other a lot. Our fortunes are intertwined.” So here is the thing: once the men in our lives know that the name game is (more often than not) making us miserable, chances are, they will want things to change, too. Why? They love us. It might not be easy for them. They might have to do a lot of thinking and work past how-they-always-thought-it-was, but they will want change, too. Why? Because they are our partners. They are on our side.

So let’s talk about this, without judging each other for our choices (Seriously! Stop with the judging!). How can we make this less painful for all of us? What choices are we personally making? How can we improve things?

And as you know, my suggestion is this: hyphenation, where the boy kids keep the dad’s name after marriage, adding their partners mothers name, and the girl children keep their mom’s name, adding their partners fathers name (insert variations for gay families here). It’s got a certain symmetry to it that at least proves that more options are possible.

Consider this post my politely lighting something on fire. And feel free to join me. Maybe we can get a small bonfire going.

Photo: Katie Jane Photo

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  • Yeah this… it has been a year and I still did not change my name. Can not put myself to it. The boy is very understanding. He knows is hard and he is not pushing it. We decided to do it, but I keep postponing, it is hard. It feels like giving up a little part of me-ness (but rationally speaking why should it, it is just a name it does not define me. Or does it?). I love Lauren’s solution of both hyphenating. I am also ok with hyphenating but thing is, this country is too complicated. Since I am mexican I have 2 last names Amanda + dadslast + moms last. Because that is my official name, and they don’t let me “drop” one last name in this country if I hyphenate that would be Amanda + boyslastname +dadslastname +momslastname and that is just too long. So we decided I will just in the end be Amanda + boyslastname, but it is still hard on me. For us it is important to both share the same last name with our future kids, so know I tell myself that as soon as I am pregnant I will get around with changing my last name to his since hyphenating will not be an option for us as much as I want it. Also, in answer to Lisa, in Mexico, actually children have both lastnames, the one of the mom and the one of the dad.

    • If changing your name is such a painful process, you may want to keep the hyphenation option open. You may then, socially, use whatever combination you chose, and leave the 3 lastnames as something purely legal…just a thought…

    • I agree that the problem with meg’s solution is that it’s limited to one generation… My surname is ‘double barrelled’ B-R, both are short and snappy and relatively easy as far as hyphenation goes (although that hasn’t stopped my mail from getting lost, not being able to use credit cards in machines, check in online etc – be forewarned possible hyphenates!)

      This was because my parents, in all their lovely 70s feminism, decided to hypehenate – which I approve of though it has been inconvenient my whole life. the problem is now I have no options, I cant really just drop one of my 2 names, I can’t really be a triple barrel (B-R-S?) and I certainly won’t be doing that to my kids… I’ve kept my name and hubs has kept his. He has started saying lately that he wants our kids to be called the R from my name, rather than the S from his, partly because he’s been having some hard times with his fam lately. But then, that feels like no one’s name at all! We’ve been considering the possibility of making up a new name entirely, but I don’t know if it’s professionally viable, let alone legally.

      • Anything you want is viable legally. When you change your name with marriage or divorce, you can change the whole thing or make something up FOR FREE! But the husband has to pay to change his.

        If you choose to change your name after the free marriage name, you have to pay. It’s not cheap but not cost prohibitive.

        When you name your children, you can give them any name you want.

        • I think this depends on the state – in my experience, both the hubster and I were able to change our names for free.

          • North

            Yup! Some states have ‘name change equality’ laws. California lets either party to a marriage change to any combination of the two last names (hyphenated, not hyphenated, whatever). If you both want a new name that doesn’t derive from your old names, like some friends of mine did, the cheapest way is to have one person go through the entire legal name change procedure, including ads in the newspaper, before you get married. Then when you get married the other person can just adopt the new name for free.

          • Marina

            It does depend on the state–in Oregon, both my husband and I could change our names, but we each had only had five options: myfirst mymiddle mylast, myfirst my middle hislast, myfirst mymiddle mylast-hislast, myfirst mymiddle hislast-mylast, myfirst mylast hislast. For me, who wanted my middle and last as middle names, (or friends of mine who both decided to change their last names to something new) I would have had to go through a separate court-ordered name change process which is $$$.

        • Not necessarily. In NC you can change your middle and last with a marriage license but not first, much to my annoyance. I was going to have a double first name instead of double middle.

      • I also have a hyphenated last name! I also feel like I HAVE NO OPTIONS. In order to hyphenate, I HAVE TO CHANGE MY NAME. And people that don’t have hyphenated names just don’t get it. They just don’t. That part sucks. My name is 15 letters long; judges make fun of me when I introduce myself in court. It means hyphenating isn’t a solution at all, but rather prolonging the problem. Three last names for two people really is a lot, and hyphenation has it’s own problems. I think we need an APW post on having a hyphenated last name, since this community is the only place where I’ve found other children of feminist parents dealing with the same problem.

        • Caroline

          As a new hyphenate (16 letter, I sympathize), figuring out what to name our child, I would totally love this post.

          • LPC

            But if the WHOLE SOCIETY was hyphenating, and re-hyphenating, then all names would come and go over time, no?

          • meg

            WHAT LPC SAID.

          • V

            Wasn’t sure where to thread this, so I think I’ll reply here.

            I just want to offer a counterpoint to say that I have a hyphenated last name, and I LOVE IT. I think it’s awesome, and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world (or my future husband). As for people who give me bullshit about it? F*ck ’em. My name is awesome, and they just have to deal with it.

            As for children, Meg’s idea sounds great. I’m also fond of the Spanish/Latin American method of simply threading names together for a million generations (the more names the merrier!). As for me, if we ever have kids, we’re making up a name – an acronym of both of my last names, his last name, and his mom’s maiden name. Whatever you go with, just own it. You’re kid won’t suffer unduly from having a long last name. Yes, some people are jerks about it, but some people will be jerks regardless of your last name.

          • Hey V and everyone. I’m also planning on making up a name for future children. Don’t know what it will be but I’m partly using the inspiration of the ‘fossil’ children from the book/movie about the three orphans who become a new family. They each become ‘firstname Fossil’.

            I will keep my name, but for me it must go further than that. I want my (future) children’s names to honour the fact that they come from two people and two lineages, not one. It’s going to be interesting when I get there, but hopefully we’ll come up with something wonderful.

            Just adding my voice to encourage other people to invent new family names for children if it feels right to them.

            P.s. Meg you are awesome

        • I’m in a similar boat. My husband’s last name is already hyphenated, so re-hyphenation isn’t really an option for us. He also doesn’t feel right about dropping one of his last names, since he’s bicultural and doesn’t want to choose one side over the other. (He offered to take my last name, which would be lovely and alliteration-y, but due to cultural issues above it doesn’t really work either.) If I took his last name, it would be like we had hyphenated — except we didn’t, my name is nowhere in there and it would be super weird for us.

          Our solution is for me to keep my last name. When we have kids, they’ll have my last name and he can socially use my last name when he wants to. No more hyphens for us! It’s just too confusing.

        • meg

          While you can write it, I’m telling you, my solution IS a solution. If you were our kid, you’d drop your dad’s name, and add your husband’s dad’s name.

          • Sorry, but what are the gay variations? Because I’m a W-W hyphen and I’m marrying a non-hyphen D.

            Following this logic:
            1. What would our names be post-marriage?
            2. What would our kids names be?
            3. What would our kids names be post-marriage?

          • But then are you proscribing what your daughters and sons HAVE to do when they get married? Surely they should get to decide for themselves. Planning such a complicated drop-this-then-take-that only works if you have the consent of everyone involved in the process.

        • Jennie

          Absolutely! My parents hyphenated and gave me the hyphenate (and the proceeded to divorce). Over the years my hyphenate has resulted in lost SAT scores and college applications, multiple credit scores, bank accounts that won’t allow you to use punctuation, being searched at airports because my name on the ticket (you can’t use the hyphen) doesn’t match my id (which does have it). It requires constant explanation in business/professional situations. When my dad remarried and had kids I begged him not to give them a hyphen (they did anyway). Also food for thought, if your last name does not match your children’s exactly (in California anyway) you have to bring birth certificates should they be hospitalized to prove guardianship. One more pain in the ***.

          I am getting married next year and I am happily changing my name. I do not feel like I am “losing” a part of myself as my parents marriage was pretty much non-existent my whole childhood and my dad’s part of the last name was changed at Ellis Island anyway when they couldn’t pronounce or spell it correctly so there aren’t even true family ties. I think that I am for couples picking a last name together that they are both happy with, but until technology catches up to forward thinking couples, I just don’t recommend the hyphen.

      • meg

        Ah, my solution has the solution BUILT IN! Girls drop the dad’s name, boys drop the mom’s name. We plan to raise our kid on that idea, so they are good and used to it when it comes time (and of course they can do what they want, but that’s our plan).

        • Casey T-S

          I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for some advice on what to do if already hyphenated. I appreciate that you’ve come up with a solution that works for you, Meg, but there is no way I (we) would feel comfortable making everything so gendered.

          I’m not comfortable with changing my name as I feel strongly that my hyphenated name is a huge part of who I am. The T-S name applies only to the 4 people in my immediate family. It wasn’t created out of nowhere but combined out of family names that came before. I would love to continue this with my future children — I want their last name to apply only to our new family, to stand for where we came from as well as who we are now. I really think I want to double hyphenate (!!)

          I’d be willing to let my kids use his last name socially since it’s much shorter than mine (duh, I’ve got 2), but in terms of the logistics, I say tough luck if it’s annoying. As aggravating as it is (and I certainly understand), there really are worse things in the world than the automated voice on the telephone repeating, “I’m sorry, I did not understand you. Please spell your name… I’m sorry I did not understand you. Please spell your name.”

          • meg

            For me, it’s less that it’s gendered, then that women then have names that represent a whole matrilineal line, and men have names that represent a whole patralineal line. I think there is something deeply lovely about that. Plus, I love the balance and symmetry, and the idea that our identities change over time.

        • So if my name is B-R (b=mom, r = dad) and my husband is S, our kids are B-S? And if it’s a girl, her kids are B-? and if it’s a boy, his kids are S-?

          • meg


          • Oh my god. I know I just got back from a whole day of teaching and Back to School Night, but it’s STILL not making sense to me. And I so badly want to see how it works. Meg, can you do a mini family tree with names? My brain no workie.

        • Jessica

          I grew up with a hyphenated last name – both my parents took both last names when they got married, and my brother and I were given both at birth. When my brother got married, he used Meg’s solution – swapped out our mom’s last name for his wife’s last name, which he and his wife have both used since they got married, and which they gave to both of their kids. I just changed mine, though (this month!). I really haven’t liked having a hyphenated last name, for all the reasons you normally hear – people forget it and can’t spell it, computer systems can’t deal with it, some airline check-in machines reject it, etc. I’m pretty thrilled to go down to such an easier name, though it definitely is a weird change and I’m very much still getting used to it. That said, if everyone used this system, I’m sure I wouldn’t think twice about having a hyphenated last name.

        • PAF

          I’m not usually this dense, I swear. But, this is confusing. So: if my name is smith(mom) -jones(dad) and i marry paris (mom) – rome (dad), then I become smith-rome? and so does he? we both keep my mom and his dad since i’m the woman and he’s the man? then we have a son and daughter, both named smith-rome, and the daughter keeps smith and the son keeps rome if/when they marry? and so on and so forth?

          in spain, do two partners who marry keep their hyphenated names in the same order? how is order of names decided?

          trying to wrap my mind around this, since it really seems like one of the only viable options for my family.

          • In Spain partners who marry do not change their names. The Children take the first name from each ( the name of the father of each partner) Father’s name comes first, mother’s comes second.

          • PAF

            so my daughter’s children would have my husband’s father’s name – her partner’s father’s name? doesn’t the woman’s name still get lost in this arrangement after a generation? i think i need to see this mapped out visually to get it ;)

          • Yes, it does.It is still a patriarchal way of naming children.

          • I’m trying to answer PAF, but it won’t let me. Anyway, after a generation, even in Spain the name gets lost officially – but since we’re so used to the idea of not having a single last name, but more of them, I actually know 10 of my last names – they’re not really lost, I think.
            And anyway, you can now choose which last names go first, actually, when children are born – and some people are choosing in alphabetical order. As someone whose first last name starts with a V (and second with a B) I would’ve loved that!

        • The funny part of your solution is that is what has happened for us – my sister and I both go by my Mom’s name – but both of us are really hesitant to put our kids through the hassle that we have gone through. Also, with your solution, you still have to give up one of your names when you have kids – which still kind of hurts.

        • Kess

          I actually really don’t like this, perhaps due to one reason: my boyfriend’s side of the family has had two females born in a few generations. Chances are, if we go the biological route, I still wouldn’t have anyone carry on my name. People pretend as if a boy or a girl is always a 50-50 chance, but that isn’t always the case.

      • a (former) step-parent did just that:
        married once – hated maiden name, glad to take husb’s name
        divorced once – kept married name
        married twice – took husb2’s name
        divorced twice – less amicable divorce than husb1
        asked husb1 if she could re-take his name (he declined)
        changed name legally – in court, to something similar, but not the same
        married thrice – took third husb3’s name
        … her kid’s name is different from hers (they parted ways two names back), but her parental status has never been challenged. nor, to my knowledge has her career suffered. anecdotal, but true.

      • There’s been so many great comments and I’m late to the game. But as someone with a hyphenated name from my parents, can I just say, this is NOT a solution. My names have been a total pain in the ass. One last name for your kids, please. Especially when you have two monster last names like my parents had.

    • Kaitlyn

      Hi Amanda, I have a question for you! I’m European American and planning to keep my last name; my fiance is Peruvian and has paternalname maternalname. What I’m curious about is whether, if my kids are born in the US, there’s a way for us to keep their last name Latino-style, “hispaternallastname mylastname”, without hyphenating or putting one name as the middle name. Do you know whether this is an option for babies born in the US?

      • Hi Kaitlyn! I’m Spanish and born in the US – unfortunately they wouldn’t let my parents give me two last names like it’s the norm in Spain, so they hyphenated. But this was 20+ years ago, so maybe things have changed? I wouldn’t bet on it though…

        • Kaitlyn

          Oh no, our plans are foiled! Unless I decide to give birth in Peru, that is… name changes, or the concept of a couple having the same last name, makes no sense to my fiance since it isn’t a part of his culture. After thinking about it, I realized that it’s not really a part of my culture, either! But, I would like my name to be passed to our kids, even if it were to get lost after a generation. Thanks so much for your reply :)

          • Meg

            My fiance is Latino, was born in the US, and legally has two last names (unhyphenated). I think you can do it.

      • Very, very late to this conversation.

        Here is a well-known couple in the publishing industry with a non-hyphenated double last name:

        They explain the ins and outs of having a non-standard name.

  • I didn’t have a man to work this issue out with, but I did have a fiancee who was very, very attached to her last name, and I was very attached to mine. I wrote about it a little bit here:

    Since then, we have changed our names and we have the same last name, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. It almost feels *more* important to have the same last name since we *aren’t* having children: I want to be identifiable as a FAMILY without little ones to connect us. Yes, our last name (or at least my half of it) is difficult to pronounce; yes, sometimes I go by the much easier to pronounce second half of now-our last name (her original last name).

    The biggest thing of it all is that we were both on board with our decision. I think we both gave a little bit; in the beginning, neither of us wanted to change at all. Now, we are both glad we did.

    • My partner and I also want to have the same last name — partly because it seems like people expect us not to. It’s like, because there is no man’s name to take, everyone assumes that we will just keep our own. (Maybe this goes hand-in-hand with the view that a same-sex marriage isn’t as “real” or something? Not a “real” marriage, so no reason to change your name? I don’t know, I think it’s weird how surprised everyone is.)

      She took her ex-husband’s name when she got married before, so we’re both going to change to her original last name when we get married. So we’re both changing, and both giving something up. She won’t have the same last name as her kids anymore, and I won’t have the name I was born with anymore. But we will both get to have the same name, and a fresh start together as a new family.

      • North

        It’s funny. Being queer makes me definitively NOT want to have the same name as my partner — totally aside from being attached to my own name — because then people will think we’re sisters. Which feels a) creepy and b) like an erasure of our relationship. It’s more of an issue because we’re about the same size and have broadly similar coloring (brown hair, blue eyes) even though our faces and our body shapes look nothing alike.

        I like how people get really different places starting with the same basic concerns.

        • I used to get the “are you two sisters??” all the time with my ex (we are both women), usually in retail check out lines. It creeped me out and made me feel very closeted, which we weren’t.

          When we were on the marriage track, I had planned on changing my name to hers — the possibility of an increase in the sister assumption didn’t even occur to me.

          • Genevieve, the EXACT SAME THING happens to me and my wife in check out lines too! How funny!

            One of the reason I love my wife is that she always responds, ‘No, we’re married.’

        • Kaitlyn

          The “sibling” issue is what comes up with everyone I’ve talked to who isn’t from a name-changing culture. In so many places around the world, couples don’t share last names. Only siblings do.

    • wanting to be identifiable as a *family* was a surprisingly big deal to me (i mean, it surprised me – i doubt it surprised anyone else). especially since my parents don’t have the same last name, i assumed i would be blase about it – obviously they are married, and she is my mom no matter what.

      but i guess that is exactly the thing – it is not obvious to people that jamie and i are married – and it will likely not be obvious that we are our kids’ moms (if we acquire kids, they will be adopted, and likely obviously not biologically ours). and i want it to be as obvious to others as it is to me that we are a family.

  • Sooz

    ooh, FIRE!!! who’s got marshmallows?!

    I think what I struggle most with over this whole issue is that it’s only ever women who get asked by social acquaintances whether or not they are changing their name. So even when it’s being discussed in a social environment, the context is still about the woman changing.

    It’s hard, though, to discuss the various options with female friends getting married without making them feel like I think they shouldn’t change their name.

    Clearly I need to start asking their male partners if they’re changing their names!

    (who kept her name, and is planning kids with hyphenated names)

    • Carrie

      HELL YES. If you’re a woman marrying a man, it’s an issue for you and not him. No matter what you ultimately do, it’s a struggle for you and he doesn’t even have to consider changing his name. It’s not a level playing field.

      • Actually, it is an issue for him. Because if you choose to change both of your names, hyphenate, or have him adopt your name, then HE has to pay and go through the legal process of name-changing, which is long and annoying…whereas women get a free new name with each marriage or each divorce.

        • JT

          This isn’t true everywhere- in my state both partners have the opportunity to change their names (for free) when applying for the marriage license.

        • Rhiannon

          Here in Massachusetts, name changes during marriage and divorce are free for both genders. You just have to put it down on your application for a marriage license. Also anyone can change their name to anything on their state issued ID (Drivers license) at any time for the regular cost of a new drivers license. The only rule is that it can’t be “in an attempt to Defraud” … whatever that means.

        • meg

          This should change. Though to be fair, if you do something even slightly off the beaten track (like APW Staffer Kate did) you have to pay too. It’s crap that we’re favoring one system over another.

          • I completely agree Meg! It should be free for everyone!
            My husband broached the topic of taking my last name because he knew I was ambivalent about taking his and because he no longer has a relationship with his father and doesn’t want to continue the name. When we found out how much easier it is for a woman to change her name versus a man in our state I wanted him to change it even more.
            Ladies whose name choice comes from a cultural standpoint, like Amanda, who is Mexican, is it equally hard to change names to something that isn’t as traditionally Anglo-Saxon? Because then isn’t it also ethnical discrimination?

            We haven’t gone through the process yet because we’re poor and a little undecided. But our kids will have my last name regardless of his last name. And I’m not going to care if people socially call me Mrs. Hislastname when they are unaware of our choices. Too many other things to care about. Besides, it has nice alliteration. :)

          • It is crap that men have to go through a longer process and pay but if it’s what you want to do then DO IT. It can only help towards making this a legitimate choice.

            States will vary but in Idaho all of the forms are available for free (with instructions) on the State Supreme Court website. You go to your county courthouse, file them, pay your $175, then wait for your notice to run in the paper in four different weeks, then appear before the judge.

      • Yes! When I tell people I asked Kevin to take my name (I did, about 15 minutes after getting engaged) people LAUGH like I’m making a joke. It makes me so angry. Why is it assumed I’m changing my name and its a funny joke to talk about him changing? More work needs to be done, obviously.

        • Jennifer

          I know I’ve mentioned this before, but a male coworker who got married about a month before I did changed his last name to his wife’s last name – no hyphenation. Basically, he and I made exactly the same decision regarding our last names, for the same reasons – we wanted a shared last name for our family unit, and our partners were sympathetic to that but also far too attached to the names they already had to change them at all. And yet almost nobody reacted to our decisions in the same way — including some people who applauded his choice and denigrated mine. It’s really not unexpected, I guess, given how unusual it currently is for a man to take a wife’s last name, but still kind of bizarre to think about.

        • Did he change it? And how have those friends or family members reacted to that? I think this is one reason why we’re still undecided (also $$). After awhile only our family members and friends who knew us before will even know, and we shouldn’t be bothered by what other people think, but I’d like to know what issues you guys might have faced with him changing his name.

      • Claire

        My own experience actually felt very different. When my husband and I decided to marry, I brought up the topic of last names. His response was, “Well, I guess we could either keep our original names or else come up with a new joint family name.” He never assumed that I would be the only one to change my name! I think that may be why this decision never felt like a struggle to me. It felt like we were partners on an exactly level playing field.

        Either we both kept ‘em or both changed ‘em to a new combination name that equally represented each of us. We’ve come up with two potential combination names – Haston (my choice) and Barkell (his). I think Barkell sounds like a cartoon name, so we’re both keeping our given names for now. I rather like the simplicity of sticking with the name I’ve always had (just for laziness, not attachment to it). But we reserve the right to change our minds.

    • meg

      We have told everyone that asked that “neither of us are currently changing our names.”

      • maura

        yes! exactly!
        it gets strange little side glances, but it makes a point. and i feel like i’m contributing to a change in how we think about names.

      • Ms Fran

        We’re just getting our orders of service printed and I need to work out the wording to let people know our plan. I’m not changing my name mostly because it feels like giving up a part of me and also I don’t really like his last name or any of the hyphenated options. I started off with wording like “After the wedding Fran will be keeping her name” but I definitely prefer the idea of saying that neither of us are changing our names. Cheers Meg!

      • I love this and have told pretty much everyone I know about it, by the way. :)

      • Amelia

        That’s what we (well, definitely I, not sure how he answered it) did. I just said, “Nope, we’re both keeping our current names.”

      • Laura

        Yes! We got married a month ago (exactly a month ago today!) and used that exact wording on our website and every time we talked about it. People seemed to get the message.

  • For me the decision process was straightforward. I’ll take my husband’s last name, and I’ll be Mrs. In my particular case I guess, my last name is just a part of my history, not a part of my identity. Because I have a family that’s really into geneology, my mom’s maiden name feels like an equal part of who I am as my actual last name does, even though I don’t go by it – so as a result I don’t hold onto any fears or qualms about changing my name, because I know it will still be an important part of my history. It will still be on my birth certificate, my children will still have relatives with that last name and they’ll still learn about that side’s history and legacy.

    I guess I also don’t really see any particular feminist attachment to keeping my last name. It’s still a man’s name (my father’s) – who in turn got it from his father, who got it from his father, etc, etc. Sure I could take a stand and say “I’m ending this patriarchal lineage right here!” but it doesn’t make sense for us. My last name is difficult to spell and difficult to pronounce. It sounds terrible with my partner’s first name, so him taking my name isn’t a viable option. It doesn’t hyphenate well. My parents swiped the only 2 baby names that actually work with my last name when they named my sister and I. On the other hand, my partner’s last name, which is easy to spell, easy to pronounce, yet still unique, sounds great with my first and middle name. It feels natural.

    So yes, for me, changing my name was not a hard decision. My current last name will still always be an important part of me, it will still define where I came from, but I don’t need it written on paper to do that. It will still be an important part of my children’s past, just like my mom’s maiden name and the history associated with it have always been important to me.

    • “Because I have a family that’s really into geneology, my mom’s maiden name feels like an equal part of who I am as my actual last name does, even though I don’t go by it – so as a result I don’t hold onto any fears or qualms about changing my name, because I know it will still be an important part of my history. It will still be on my birth certificate, my children will still have relatives with that last name and they’ll still learn about that side’s history and legacy.”

      I am 100% with you on this. I feel just as much part of my mother’s (and grandmother’s) maiden names, as I know (or hope) my future children and grandchildren do.

      I always wanted to change my name…not because I don’t love my maiden name, and I do, but because I do happen to like to tradition, and I wanted to share a last name with not only Eric, but his family, too. I had no remorse or harbored any sad feelings about changing my name. On the contrary, I was excited about it. Anytime any of my students calls me “Mrs. H” I am giddy with joy. For me, it was an easy decision to make. Do I miss my maiden name? Not really, no. I guess to me, I always just felt like “Olivia!” and that’s ME. Now, if you told me I had to change my middle name, I’d be a crying mess…I’ve always sort of just been Olivia March (my middle name) and now I have a new last name to go with that.

      The beauty of feminism is being able to choose what’s right for you.

      • meg

        And that’s lovely. But the beauty of feminism is also fighting for more and better options for others. I might not want FILL IN THE BLANK (a job outside the home, the right to not have kids, etc.) but I’m going to fight my ASS off to make sure other women have those rights. So I’d argue that just because you were happy to change you name, in no way eases your responsibility to fight for more and better options for other women.

        • Rachel

          Uh oh, I hope that’s not how my comment came across! I thought we were sharing our stories of our own decisions about name-changing vs. not name-changing, and how we came to those decisions. My comment was in no way supposed to insinuate that because my decision was easy for me, that everybody else’s struggle is irrelevant and I don’t care to fight for their right to make the choice that’s right for them. Sorry if that’s how it was interpreted!

          • Nah, I think that’s one of the major points of the posts and comments on this blog, is that we are allowed to share our individual experience without implying that that is the Greater Story or something. That said, I think Meg has a point that we can have our own story but still fight for increased rights for all people. But I didn’t take your comment like that, no worries!

        • SpaceElephant

          I dunno. I feel like in this one arena we have infinite options at this point, and they are all valid: keep name, change name, hyphenate in any number of permutations, create a totally new name (I know 3 couples who have done this!). Of course it is hard to decide what is best for you, but that is a personal decision. Why is there still a fight here? I’m asking honestly.

          • Emily

            I think just because not everyone’s choices are universally accepted as valid. I’ve been very fortunate to have most people I know assume nothing, but I have a close friend who’s asked me, twice, “you’re taking his name, right?”

            On the side I don’t like to complain about, several people have been shocked and upset that I might actually do that. I appreciate that they see me as an independent woman with her own identity, and that they think it really IS important for society to accept women keeping their own names…so I’m a disappointment, maybe?

            The problem with looking at it as a fight is that it often assumes there should be a winning side, and that the culturally dominant option (changing) deserves to lose universally. I’m not sure how to fix that, since we all do have somewhat different ideas of what names mean for women’s identities and independence, and some of those ideas entail not accepting change.

          • Because not all women know that they have these options, a whole hell of a lot of men disregard most of these options, and because sometimes it’s really hard to decide which option is best when none of them feel like the perfect choice.

          • meg

            What Ms. Bunny said. The options are NOT even yet. They are NOT respected by lots of society and by lots of men. We do NOT have great accepted options for passing our names along to our children. It is NOT a just a personal choice, it’s a political one. IE, for each of us the choice is personal, but making sure women have universally respected options is political, regardless of what choice we make.

            My option is often dismissed (rather rudely), while people refer to me by a name that is not mine. And we still don’t have a good option. In Spain, hyphenation is the norm. It’s accepted. Here, it’s viewed as wrong or broken, and I’d like that to change.

            I don’t think we’re done until when people get married they are asked, “Are * either* of you changing your names?” or when people have kids they ask, “What last name will the child have?” And we’re not close to there yet.

          • Because there are a ton of women I know who say things like “I’m sad I had to change my name,” or “I didn’t want to change my name, but my husband was very unhappy about my not changing it so I did,” or “My husband said it was a deal breaker for him” (seriously if you don’t believe me check out the Knot Boards — strictly for anthropological reasons, of course.)

            I’m all for women who want to change their name to change it, but the truth is, there are a lot of women out there who DON’T want to change their names who do so because they feel pressured into it. It’s easy to forget that when you, as I do, live in a little APW-bubble. (Even in real life half of my friends changed their names and the other half either didn’t or chose a new name or hyphenated or did something similarly unconventional. But the statistics I’ve read are that 80-90 percent of women change their names, so obviously things are different outside my bubble.)

          • Oh I have to concur about the Kn#t’s message board. There are a lot of women who feel like there is no options out there for them.

        • No, no, I wasn’t saying that either. I’m a question asker, debater, and fighter. I was just saying, in a glass-is-half-full way, that it’s awesome we have the right to choose these things, like picking our names–when in other generations they didn’t necessarily. I guess I was just seeing it as, all the options above in your piece are about not changing your name, but there is also the option of changing your name, without feeling remorse about it. Of course I will fight for women’s right to choose their name, but I will also fight for a woman’s right to not change their name. It’s just another option–and having an option is one of the cooler parts of feminism. Asking questions, fighting, debating, those are all parts of it too. Just because it was a good decision for ME, doesn’t mean it was a good decision for someone else, and I will 100% fight for a woman’s right to choose…anything.

        • As I understand it, the call to action is to defend the choices of all women to help make a space for them.

          Right? I don’t want women to hurt over a name change but there ARE lots of options out there (holy cow…look at the comments!) and sometimes that leaves those of us who weren’t conflicted feel a little bit helpless to help.

          • meg

            Of course you can help! That’s like saying you can’t fight for marriage equality if you’re not gay. You can always share other peoples stories, and educate the people around you, even if you don’t feel you have your own story to share.

    • Melissa

      In choosing to change my name (taking his), some of the factors you mentioned were really important — being close to my mother’s maiden name as well, and knowing that they are all male-patriarchy names anyway. I cried a lot, and often unexpectedly, but a few months after the wedding I did it. It’s weird, but I think all of the options would feel weird, either now or down the line. I love hearing what works for all the different women out there!

    • ASH

      I guess I’m always a bit surprised to read or hear about the issues around name-changing. But I agree that it is important to talk about it so others can appreciate the struggle.

      I have to say that I agree with Rachel and LovelyOlivia. My family’s names are an important part of who I am whether they are attached to me or my new family or not. They will always be spoken and talked about. And I’m lucky that my future-hubs uses my last name constantly as a term-of-endearment :)

      The only issues that I have is being recognized professionally after I’m married. I’ve spent a heck of a long time getting my name out there and being recognized for my work and I don’t want people to be like, “who is that”? My plan is to use my first, maiden, and new last name on all-things professional for a few years and eventually condense to just my first and new last name.

      • I like this approach. While the name recognition isn’t as important for me as it is for people in some other fields, I’ve been a little concerned about confusing the heck out of anyone looking for my art after the name change. I think a really slow transition like that makes sense.

    • Liz

      Agreed! The beginning of my last name is also a bad word that was used as ammunition in school, so I’m happy to leave it to my brothers and our family history. It’s also a LONG last name, and I am desperate for a less than 20 characters-before-the-@ professional email address and a name that fits on forms.

      • Sooz

        Interestingly, when I talked to my partner about whether he wanted to change his last name (which is also a rude word in front of a normal one), he said no, because he’d paid so much for his name throughout his life that he felt like he’d be giving up the fight!

        the irony of course is that we’re planning to hyphenate for our child(ren), who will end up with my name that no-one can pronounce *and* his name that everyone sniggers at. Yeah, we’re cruel like that…


        • Emily

          I empathize with your husband – my name isn’t a rude word, but I got made fun of for it a LOT up until college, at which point it became an endearing nickname. If you’d asked me in high school if I’d change my name with marriage, I would have said YES without a second’s hesitation, but now it’s more part of me because of that.

    • meg

      Well, as I’ve argued in the past, MY last name is MY last name, not my dads last name. My parents gave me a name, first and last. Once they gave it to me, it became mine. My dad is lucky, in that I let him share it with me ;)

      • Sooz

        yeah, that’s how I feel as well. The combination of my first name and my last name is MY NAME, and if I changed my last name, it would be the same (to me) as changing my first. It impacts my self-identity the same way.

        Plus, my dad died when I was 11, and my grandad (his dad) when I was 14, and my grandad leaving me money is the only way I managed to pay my way through university, so in a way keeping my name is also part of honouring two amazing men who I didn’t get to spend enough time with.


        • Cass

          Meg, I agree with you a thousand times over. How does me being female mean I have less of a claim to my last name than my brother?

          • meg

            RIGHTTTT????? What, we don’t own our names, but our brothers do? Crap, I say! Crap!

      • Emily

        On the other hand, I feel like the name my parents gave me was a gift, and it worked wonderfully for 26 years, but now I get to CHOOSE my adult name, which will really be mine no matter what choice I make. So does my fiance, who finds the choice easier but perhaps doesn’t appreciate it as much as I do because of that.

        It is a pretty exciting thing, having that freedom to determine what words express our identities. And that’s why it should be a true choice for everyone, of course.

      • gloucester

        Meg’s point of men not owning names is a great one. I’m close to my mom and feel honored to share my last name with her (which also happens to be my dad’s name and my brother’s name, too!)

    • This is what I find so difficult– I have my mom’s name (she never changed it) and my dad’s name (but no hyphen– her name is my middle name)– and both names are equally significant to me. Not to mention the fact that all of the women on my grandmother’s side are referred to as “her maiden name women,” so that name, too, is important to me and yet it’s never been mine in any way but spirit.

      Right now, I am planning on adding his name to mine, becoming ruth momsname dadsname-fiancesname legally but using my name ruth momsname dadsname professionally while being the “fiance’s name family” and giving our kids his last name though with middle names that honor my own heritage.

      • Peaceofmind

        This is me, too (mom’s maiden as my middle, and maternal family women being “maiden name” women). My last name (from my dad) is a pretty unusual/controversial one, and has caused me some grief my entire life. So, I’m pretty open to changing it.

        However, with my ex-FH, I didn’t want to change to his. It sounded horrible with my name, I didn’t feel close with his family, and I hated the assumption that obviously I would change because I’m female. I suggested he change his as well, and that went over like a ton of bricks. :-(

        I guess I’m pre-engaged now, and I haven’t broached this subject with the BF yet. I would love for us to pick a new name together, but I think I’ll change my name either way, and probably take my grandmother’s maiden name (so then I have my mom’s maiden as my middle, and my dad’s mom’s maiden as my last). It’s similar to my current last name, but without the controversy, and it feels like it would “fit”. If BF would be interested in changing his name as well (either to my grandmother’s maiden or something entirely different), then that’s cool. While I’d like us to both have the same last name and be really visible/obvious as a family, I can’t object to changing my name to match a man’s and then expect a man to change his to match me. So we’ll see what happens.

    • lee

      Rachel, I too took my husband’s last name, and took my maiden name as my middle name. I was a little sad about legally losing my given middle name – but in my heart it is still my name – just not legally. I actually think we put too much weight on what is on our SS card and make things very complicated. My friends with complicated last names frequently have tons of headaches — can’t get plane tickets printed correctly; name is always misspelled. So I think it is important to think of the legal ramifications but believe your name to be what it is to you personally.

  • Marley

    This has been weird for me because I thought I had it all figured out. I’ve never been caught up by names because since the day I was born my parents have called me Marley, but my legal name is Mary Lorraine (after my grandmothers which I love and have no desire to change). I assumed I would take his last name no problem, but then I started doing pretty well for myself in my carrear. Now all of the sudden I’m much more attached to my last name and the way it looks/sounds with my first name than I ever thought I would be and as trivial as it may be I love the way it looks on my resume and in print on my work.
    That being said I really want to share a name with my partner. I’ve always felt that the moment I take on his name it stops being HIS and starts being OURS so that was never a problem.
    The current plan is that I’m going to take on his last name legally, but keep mine professionally (we both work in theatre, so people going by names other than what the government identifies them as is pretty common). At the end of the day I may just end up with about a dozen names between the Mary, Marley, Last Name, His Last Name, What-In-The-World-Will-I-do-About-the-Middle-Name combinations, but all that really matters is that my partner is fully supportive of whatever I choose and I am comfortable in being able to do what feels right for me.

    • K.

      I don’t think it’s trivial at all. Part of the problem I’m having with legally changing my name is that my husband’s name is more difficult to write and thus makes my signature very, very awkward (both in how it looks and in how long it takes me to actually write it). Seems kind of trivial, but it’s also made me realize how often I’m asked to sign my name!

    • This is my plan too. My last name is unique and I like the sound of it, his last name is super common and I don’t really like the sound of it with my first name. I had assumed for a long time that I would keep my name. When my mom suggested the legal professional split I decided to give it some thought (I’m in theatre too and get almost all my work through word of mouth, a name change could seriously hurt my career), my problem is that my fiance and my family have just sort of assumed that this compromise was the way I was going to go ever since. There is no acknowledgement of the frustration and pain and confusion I still feel.

      • Marley

        I’m sorry that they’re just assuming that since there is a “solution” all the stress has vanished.

        I am glad to hear that I’m not alone in wanting to remain “me” for job purposes. Until I began freelancing consistently in one city I never thought about how much work I get based on word of mouth. Plus every so often my fiance and I are fortunate enough to work at the same theatre at the same time and having different last names just seems easier.
        I also have the feeling if a company got two resumes with the same uncommon last name it could raise the “married people working together drama” red flag some places try to avoid which is unfortunate and something I’d rather not have factor in during an interview process.

    • Huh. I’m also Mary Lorraine, named for my grandmother. There was also no way I was changing that part of my name. I think if I had already established a “brand” for myself under my maiden name, I would have been more attached to it. As it was, I knew from a SEO standpoint, and from its memorable nature (Miley and Billy Ray, ahoy), my husband’s surname would serve me better in my business than plain-jane “Richardson”. I actually adopted his name for business purposes to some degree before we were married.

  • Carbon Girl

    I remember in the months leading up to our wedding, wanting to storm out of restaurants twice practically in tears as I tried yet again to explain why the name change was so fraught and frustrating to me. It was one thing I doubt he ever understood.

    In the end, I took his last name. It was for some pretty odd reasons such as when I googled my first name with his last name, there were no hits! It was way more unique than my common last name of which there are like 100 hundred of us with the same first and last combination on Facebook. He got upset that that was my deciding factor and tradition or love for him was not.

    Anyways, I made my maiden name a second middle name and now go professionally as Ms. Maiden Name His Last and socially as Ms. His Last. I must say after 1.5 years, I am finally getting used to it. Oh and having two middle names is a pain in the ass. Forms only give you one box for the middle initial.

    • Emily

      Hey, I’ve done two of those things! Getting upset when he doesn’t understand why it’s so HARD even though he’s saying “but you can do whatever you want,” and finding out via the internets that my first name with his last is less common. Even the “weird” things we share sometimes!

    • Meredith

      I also have 2 middle names, not because of marriage or anything, my parents just gave me two. I’ve basically just put E as my middle initial and nothing else. Even when I put 2 initials in the one box, they only ever use the E. Bothers Me. A lot.

      • Amy

        I also took my husband’s last name with my maiden name as my “new” middle name, and I have to say it bugs me so much when my husband fills out paperwork and doesn’t include my new correct middle initial/middle name. Its such a small thing, but I feel like I gave quite a bit on taking his longer, way harder to pronounce name, the least he can do is honor my maiden name by remembering its still in there.

        • Amy that made me cross on your behalf. (Probably my issues). He needs to remember. It’s important.

    • Liz

      Googleability is a huge plus for me too! I’m an academic, so the less google-scholar confusion the better, and I am WAY more unique with his name than with mine.

    • meg

      AND THIS is what I’m saying. Whatever our decision, we need to SPEAK OUT, and let our partners and the world at large understand how we feel and why it can be hard for women.

    • I went from one of like three Morgan MyLasts to the only Morgan NewLast in the whole world. (The name changed a few times during global immigrations, so there are very few with that last name, and they are all related to David.) I like being unique like that. (Also, his bastardized German last name is a heck of a lot easier to spell than my bastardiazed German maiden name. Double bonus!)

  • Carrie

    I never did more than idly consider how my first name sounded with mu husband’s last. I always felt, deep-down, that my default was to keep my name. I felt like I’d need a good reason to change it, rather than needing a good reason not to. My husband felt the same way. He considered taking mine, but realized he’s already built enough of a brand under his name that changing it would be a problem (he’s a photographer).

    I don’t feel any less married or any less of a family because we have different last names. Our whole ceremony was about becoming each other’s family. Our names don’t affect that for me. We are who we are, and we’re married.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how much of a non-issue it’s been. People who know my husband before meeting me sometimes assume my last name will be the same as his, but when I say “No, it’s $Last, I didn’t change my name” they all say “oh, ok” and correct their address book and move on. No one has hassled me. No one has refused to believe we’re married or assumed we’re not.

    If/when we have kids, I figure $Mylast-$Hislast will be good. Then schools and whatnot will be able to figure out we’re related (“oh, you’re the $Mylast in $Mylast-$Hislast”). Our names are short, so a hyphenated name isn’t super-long. People often ask “But what about when they get married?” to which I say, they will figure it out for themselves. It’ll be their name. They can do what they like.

  • I didn’t really have an option, because of legal issues. I have two nationalities: I am Italian and Argentinian. Italy does not allow name change, not even hyphenation. Argentina allows for the addition of the husband’s name adding “de” (implying belonging..let’s not go there…). I wanted to have both my passports with the same name (=my maiden name) but when I changed my last Argentinian passport due to change in marital status, the consul added “de Hadzimehmedi” to my name without asking me. I didn’t have time to change it back at the time, but will do it in a month when I have to renew both my national ID and passport. This is not only about me keeping the name with which I was known for 29 years, it is also about the mess it would be to have two different names in my passports! (As a lawyer, I know this is a real pain in the neck!).
    Our children have only my husband’s lastname, but there is the possibility of adding mine if we want to in the future. Since doing so will make their lastname quite long and probably even more complicated to write, I decided to give them the option. If they want to, I will be happy to do the paperwork with them when they are older. If they don’t want to, I know they are my children regardless of the lastname they carry.
    That being said, I must say that I considered leaving my husband’s lastname permanently at first. But, as time went by, I realized I feel that my own lastname (alone, just as it is) is part of my identity. My mother added my dad’s lastname to hers (legally) because at the time it was not optional, and then dropped her own completely (socially). When they divorced, changing her lastname back to her original one was a very, very painful process. It took her a year to be able to sign with confidence, because she felt she had lost a part of herself, yet again.

    • Class of 1980

      Usually women who have changed their name at marriage and who have children by that name, don’t change it back after a divorce.

      Does your mother’s country have a law that required her to change her name back?

      • It’s not a requirement, but to keep it is the exception (a woman has to make the request to keep the husband’s lastname because, for eg, she was professionally known by it, etc). She didn’t want to keep his name without being married, the issue was that she felt that she had somehow lost her old self in the marriage, and the name was a reminder of that. It was another thing to let go with the divorce. Also, some people were confused because they had never known what her maiden name was, so that led to more questions, etc. I should probably point out that my parents divorced very little after divorce was authorized in Argentina (Divorce there is legal since 1987 only), so it was all very new for society in general.

        • Class of 1980

          I see.

      • Lauren

        I know several divorced American women, including my mother, who changed their names back to their maiden names, even though they had kids. Perhaps, this is why I’m not very concerned about having a different last name than my child (who will take his father’s last name) except for the logistical headaches it will cause…

        • My mother seriously looked in to changing her last name back to her maiden name after my dad died. Becoming single, for whatever reason, can cause people to re-evaluate everything, including names.

  • Jess K

    The first time my fiance and I discussed name changes and I said I’d be keeping my name, he was surprised. He said it was very important to him to have a family name. I thought about it, and after we each attributed a number (1 out of 10) to the importance of keeping/changing names (I said 7, he said 10), I thought “If this is so important to him, maybe I can change my name.”

    But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s MY name and I don’t want to give up what has been my identity for 27 years. Also – and I know there are a lot of people who don’t think this is a good reason – I just don’t want to have to go through the admin of changing it. Men don’t have to change their passports, drivers licenses, bank accounts, social security etc etc etc, why should I?

    Back to the ‘family name’ discussion: my fiance said he would be willing to hyphenate, but that he would not change his name to just my name. Why? Because he comes from a socially conservative country, and if we were ever to move there he doesn’t think it would be accepted socially to have his wife’s name.

    This goes to show that there is still a lot of work to be done! Although my fiance isn’t opposed to the idea of taking my name, he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it because of the way he thinks society will judge him.

    For now we are keeping our own names, but I hope that by the time we have kids there will be a more feasible option for us to both give our kids a piece of our name history without being judged for whatever decision we make.

    • Carrie

      I think the admin stuff is a great reason, actually. It’s a ton of work and hassle that you shouldn’t be just expected to do. It was a contributing factor for me too!

    • Melissa

      I thought I had finished all the admin of name changing months ago and then I tried to pick up books at the library I had put on reserve. Turns out I needed a whole new library card for the new name. My work email, personal email, and Facebook account is still my old name. It’s so complicated.

    • I agree that a lot of work has to be done, but one way you could perhaps set your fiance at ease: after the initial hubbub over the name change wears off, no one knows that he took your name instead of the other way around. One of my friends took his wife’s name and initially he got a little flak from people (at work I think mostly) but now, no one knows who took who’s name. (I would guess most people just assume that she took his.)

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        My cousin’s husband took her name (our family name) and after the initial surprise, it was completely forgotten. 10 years later I couldn’t tell you what his “maiden” (there seriously isn’t a word for this, is there?) name was and it never seemed to be a big deal for either family. Much like all my girl cousins who took their husband’s names- a decision was made, everybody updated their contacts list, life moved on. As it should.

    • FawMo

      The admin side is daunting.

      I had to laugh at myself, though, at my horror at the idea of having to re-monogram all my stuff! That seems like a real challenge! :)

    • When I think that until very recently women were also losing THEIR CITIZENSHIP when marrying a foreigner makes want to scream.

  • Carrie

    Oh, and one thing I think would make it easier for all of us is to make it normal and polite to ask about names after the wedding, rather than assuming one way or another. And not “Did you change your name?” (assumption: to his), but something like “So are you guys’ names different now?”

    It’s not perfect, but just thinking of ways to lift the weight of the assumptions a little bit. Somehow get away from the assumptions about what any name choice means, or that any of them need to be defended.

    • Jess K

      I think this is a great idea and a great start!!

    • Ake

      YES YES YES I agree so much and my favourite thing about this around our wedding was when MEN asked me “So what’s your name now?” or even “Have you changed your name?” I am in a fairly traditional community and I always tried to make a point of saying “Thank you for not ASSUMING that I would change my name.” It meant a lot to me.

      • Ake

        Because the thing is, I think that choosing HisLast should be a valid and equally feminist option to choosing MyLast (and us both taking mine) – but it’s not, because it’s assumed. That’s how I see it anyway.

      • The nice thing about having a hyphenated name to start out with is that it screams, “HI I’M A GIANT FEMINIST AND I WAS BORN THAT WAY” and also begs the question, “so wtf are you doing with your name?” I had like, three people assume that I would be changing my name, and they didn’t know me very well at all. Of course, now, everybody assumes that my second last name is my husband’s name, but that’s a different battle to fight.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I fight the second battle a lot. After we got married and I didn’t change my name I changed jobs and moved. At my new job where everyone has only ever known me as a married lady, they assume my last name is my husband’s. It’s actually sort of hilarious to introduce him with his full name and watch people get slightly flustered (if only because I had to watch so many people fluster at me when I explained over and over that I wasn’t changing my name).

          The only other way people realize it is when I talk about my parents or extended family of “Kenobis”and eventually someone will be all, “Wait is Kenobi not your married name?” to which I usually respond “Kenobi *is* my married name. I’m married and it’s my name. Ta-da!”

    • Emily

      Yes. I’ve been guilty of this myself (only asking the woman), but would like to consciously stop, and would like to answer (if asked individually) not only with my decision, but with the additional information that “I let him keep his maiden name.”

      • Amy

        I always think its nice when you attend a wedding and somewhere in the program there’s a little note about the couple’s new address (if they are moving) and what name they’ll be going by once they are married.
        Isn’t this information also requested in wedding announcements? I think I’ve seen the NY Times note if the bride is keeping her maiden name.

      • “I let him keep his maiden name” Hilarious. HA!

    • Yes! There needs to be much more open discussion about all of this. It’s always so awkward when someone at work half-whispers to me “er, so are you changing your name?” or “are you going to be listed under a different name in the email system soon” like it’s something they have to be embarrassed about asking, or is so politically charged that I’ll be offended they don’t already know what I’m doing. It makes me want to hyphenate my name to MyLast-YesI’mKeepingIt

    • meg

      YES. We’ve corrected everyone who didn’t ask using this language… and we would have even if only I had changed my name.

    • Ugh. This. I did end up changing my name eventually — now MyFirst MyLast HisLast — eventually, but that wasn’t the part that bothered me all that much in the end.

      What bothered me was the assumption everyone made that I changed my name. I didn’t change my name for a while after we got married, but things would come addressed to the house with MyFirst HisLast. Even close friends who KNEW I hadn’t changed my name yet would address it to MyFirst HisLast. To me, that was incredibly rude, and it drove me up the wall.

      Himself and I did discuss it, because I would pretty much lose it every time that happened. (Except once, when a friend addressed something to me as MyFirst MyLast but then added “Or is it MyFirst HisLast now?” and I was like YES! THIS IS ALL I’M ASKING FOR!!! and waved it in front of his face, pointing.) His point was that it’s a cultural norm, so why would it be so outrageous for them to make that assumption? My point was that it’s not as common anymore, and what’s the harm in asking? If you don’t know how to spell someone’s name, you’d ask, right?? Wouldn’t you do the same thing when you don’t KNOW their name? Plus, we all know what happens when you assume. He had to agree with me on that one.

      • I did not change my name (I am in Quebec) and if I get something in the mail from someone from the US who assumes I changed it, addressed Myfirst Hislast, my husband holds up the letter and says “Who’s this?” Haha. I think he gets more worked up about it than me. (But then again, I grew up with the idea of name changing, and he grew up with the Quebec mentality of no name changing and he doesn’t get why anyone would change their name with marriage in the first place.)

  • In Spain, we all get two last names – one from each parent, because women don’t change their last names when they get married. Traditionally, the dad’s last name came first, but nowadays parents can choose which one comes first.
    Since I was born in the US though, my parents had to choose a single last name for me, so they hyphenated. Although both my last names are really short (see above) so it’s not too complicated to pronounce even as a single last name.

    • meg

      I love this. For everyone who says “two last names can’t work” I say, “Hum. Spain disagrees.” I also think it’s interesting: in the US the dad’s name is last, in Spain it’s first. Years ago David says having his last was a “deal-breaker.” It’s taken years, but I convinced him that he doesn’t get any deal-breakers on names. We play on a level playing field.

      • Jessica

        Do you get the sense that having the husband’s last name second in a hyphenated name is more common here (in the US)? In my family, my original late name was dadslast-momslast, and now my brother’s new hyphenated name is the same pattern. On the other hand, most of my aunts who hyphenated (as the only member of their nuclear families to use both) did herlast-hislast. I know that my parents chose that order just because it sounded better, and I suspect (but don’t know) that it was the same for my brother. I know that when people wanted to shorten my name by dropping one or the other (which really wasn’t all THAT common), they almost always referred to me just the first last name, but my work username (for signing into things, not for email) is based just on the second last name.

  • Ellen

    I took a hyphenated name, my husband didn’t. I wanted a verbal link to my husband and future children but I didn’t want to give up the name I’d always had. We don’t want to give future children a hyphenated name (since our friends who have had hyphenated names since birth mostly wish they didn’t).

  • The name issue also seems to be one of the major wedding issues that just won’t die with the wedding. A year on (and even though I never thought for one single second about changing my name to David’s) the thought of naming children sends me into a tailspin of doom. Hyphenating is great but my parents already did it. I’m Hannah Mothersname-Dads and so I would have to pick a name to pass on in the Hyphenating system. Not to mention David’s last name is something like Davidsdads so out children’s name would be little Jimmy Davidsdads-Dads. Not cute. If you have a weird last name but you own it and it’s yours it makes a lot more sense than making up a weird last name that you give your children while you languish in the lovely that is your own last name. So I feel tied and torn. I also feel like this is only my problem. David doesn’t worry about it. My father doesn’t worry about it (unless I opt to pass on Mothersname and not his) and my mother thinks that it would be really fascist and weird to pass on my father’s last name but not my children’s fathers last name so the only thing to do is just call them by MY last name and David can also change his name and “there you are, dear! That solves everything!” Thanks, Mum. From when I was a wee wee girl I never for an instant considered changing my name but until I was actually with David I never thought about children. Maybe we’ll just raise westies instead.

  • Ake

    I WANTED to change my last name. I really feel like something has changed in my identity since I got married. I feel like we are new people, together….I know that sounds funny, but I really do feel an identity shift…and if I think about it, that makes sense…it was a huge deal to decide to intertwine my life with someone else’s in the way we have decided to and we didn’t do it until we got married. We didn’t even move in together until we got married. So we are a family now and I am part of a different family than I was before I got married and that is a big deal. So I love that changing my name is a marker in society for the fact that I am still the same person (same first name) but also a new person (different last name). To me family and identity are very closely connected concepts.

    BUT I wanted my husband to change his name too. It’s no MORE of an identity shift for me than it is for him and I HATE (find it so painful) that there is currently no public recognition of that…I’m going through all this ridiculous paperwork and email changes and all sorts and yet NOTHING has changed for him…and he could walk away…and nothing would change…in terms of name/legally/publicly I mean. He wouldn’t, but that’s beside the point…where is the recognition that getting married was just as significant identity wise for him as it was for me? We should have a name that’s OUR name…not his old family name…not a name we share with his parents…I haven’t joined their family, we’ve created a new family! Or at least, no more than he’s joined mine. We need a new name, and we want it to be a shared name to mark our change.

    We got married two months ago and we still haven’t figured it out. We’ve tried making up names…we’ve tried hyphenating…we just haven’t found anything that sits right with us both yet.

    It’s hard. It’s definitely harder for me too. And that in itself is hard.

    Also just for the record I hate the Mrs. HisFirst HisLast tradition…what happened to the fact that I am still an individual, the fact that I am still the same even though I am changed? I find it offensive! Continuity of identity is important as well as identity shift.

    • Ake

      Sorry that was so long!

    • Melissa

      This is a lot of why I finally decided to take his name (months post-wedding) — I felt a new identity. Reading A Conscious Bride helped me think this through in its writing about how transformative getting married can be – not in the sense that you lose yourself – more like gaining and growing beyond what you were before. So I re-framed it — we are both going through major shifts in identity and forming something new, but me, the one obsessed with ceremony and symbols, gets this outward, symbolic shift in name to represent to the world that we are a new family and I am as different as I feel. I “get” that. It’s an opportunity, in a way.*
      *This is what I thought in the half of the time I wasn’t sobbing over this decision. One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

    • Exactly! As I struggle with the name change and trying to figure it out, the one thing I have been very clear on and sure to tell everyone who asks, is that I will NEVER be Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.
      I don’t think I’ll be offended if people call me Mrs. Hislast, or Jesse Hislast (even if it’s an honest mistake and I decide not to go that route) but removing my name for it entirely is totally unacceptable.

      Side note- Two friends of mine recently got married and at the wedding they were introduced as Mrs Hisfirst Hislast and Mr Herfirst Herlast. It was a joke in the moment and totally improvised but I think it was a great nod to the ridiculousness of name changes.

      • Baha, that’s funny. And an awesome way to prove a point.

      • Laura

        We actually requested that our pastor/officiant say at the end of the wedding, “I now present to you, the newly married Buddy Hislast and Laura Herlast.” It totally felt right, and no one really laughed about it. It felt funny writing in on paper when we wrote out the ceremony, but in the end, it was a really natural moment.

    • meg

      Well, I’ll say that I felt that I had a new identity and a new family… I just didn’t feel that had anything to do with our last names. It’s like Marie-Eve said: we’re a family because we’re a family. Not because we share a name.

    • N

      I felt exactly the same way. I had all these nice thoughts and reasons about changing my name–marking a new beginning, becoming a family, etc. But then one day I was like, WAIT A MINUTE. How come it’s only ME marking a new beginning, etc. when we are both getting equally married? I still felt warm fuzzy feelings about name changing, but it also felt incredibly unequal to have those things associated with me alone. We talked about him changing his name too (taking part of my name as a middle) but he didn’t want to change his name, and since he was also 100% okay with me not changing mine either, his position was tough to argue with. It’s not okay for husbands to demand their wives take their names so the reverse isn’t okay either.

      And really, the more I think about it the more I’ve realized that the entire wedding world emphasizes the bride’s transition into becoming a married woman while the man seems to show up, say vows, and walk away the same ol’ dude. It’s more than just the fact that she changes her name and he doesn’t (traditionally). She also walks down the aisle with her parent[s], he just walks in from the side and waits to receive her. There is a father-daughter dance. Toasts are traditionally made to the bride. These traditions add up to more than just the regular notion of it being her big day where she gets to be a glamour princess, it’s also recognizing this day as a transitional moment in her life, while not really recognizing the same for the groom. Same with the planning, and how everyone asks the bride how it’s going. It’s not just that people assume women love dresses and colors and men are clueless about flowers. It’s that this is a big deal for her, while the groom is supposedly checked out.

      What to do about names is a choice for the COUPLE, as is every other wedding/marriage choice, and I hope that we do start to move toward directing our questions to both parties, not just the woman.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Totally agree about the unequalness.

        Because even if you’re both on the same page and you’re both happy not changing your names, the man never has to explain his choice. My decision to not change my name has been championed as an admirable feminist statement and judged as an impractical choice for our future children. My husband’s decision to keep his name hasn’t been considered at all. At worst, he’s taken flack for not convincing me to take his name. No one will ever question his decision. That’s the sucktastic part.

  • Julia

    Hyphenation is fine and fair . . . . for one generation. What happens when Ms. Jones-Smith marries Mr. Brown-Turner? Do they hyphenate to become . . .. Mr and Ms Brown-Jones-Smith-Turner? What do they call their baby? You can’t have it all, and that’s what hyphenation is trying to do. You have to make the hard choice to keep, or take, combine, or create anew.

    On another note, a very dear friend of mine has her father’s name and her mother’s maiden name as two last, nonhyphenated names. Her brother has her father’s last name and her mother’s mother’s maiden name. I love this. It’s good to remember that “my” last name is my father’s last name, and so this name I am so ardently defending in my own marriage is really just one generation removed from the patriarchal decision my parents made in naming me to preserve the man’s name. We need to think about preserving the whole history of women’s names, and maybe giving each child a different maiden name will connect the new generation to the legacy of almost-lost names.

    • They will figure it out. My cohort includes a large number of 80s babies with hyphenated last names, and they are figuring it out for themselves the same way anyone else does.

      • Jen B

        If by “figure it out” you mean flail around wildly, then yes. As I said in my comment below, my fiancé has a hyphenated last name and it’s created some additional layers to the naming difficulties. I am sure we will “figure something out” eventually, yes. I am not sure that writing it off as “oh shrug, they’ll make do” is helping us move towards the kind of open conversation Meg’s post advocates.

        • Well, there is no socially mandated process in current American culture for dealing with hyphenated names and changing them upon marriage, so there’s no clear way to handle it. There are other cultures that do have procedures in place (Meg’s suggestion about matriarchal and patriarchal naming in her original post being one of them), but they only have those processes because people have hyphenated names with regularity. I don’t think it’s productive to just say that hyphenating your children’s last names shouldn’t be an option just because it’s not clear-cut.

          And I don’t have a hyphenated last name, but the marriage name-change-game still felt like flailing about madly, to me. :)

          • Jen B

            I didn’t mean to sound like I thought hyphenation shouldn’t be an option (yes! it should!) or that for those without hyphenated names, name changing is a non-flailing walk in the park. Apologies if that’s how I came across.

          • meg

            THIS. There can be a system. And that’s what I’m fighting for.

            Besides, we pass on lots of complicated things to our children. And if we raise them well, we give them the tools to figure it out for themselves. That’s the whole point of raising children… teaching them to navigate the complexities of the world with grace.

        • Writing off the difficulties of having a hyphen is a huge pet peeve of mine. If you ask anyone with a hyphenated last name, it creates problems for them at school, at airports, with their families, at any doctor’s office, at work, and in pretty much any environment. People have been assuming I’m married since I was 18 years old, and now they assume that my second last name is my husband. When you have to figure out your name-change issues, it’s not the same as anybody else’s. You have women who marry men with hyphenated last names who want to take their husband’s name but don’t want to take the hyphen, and who don’t get the option of hyphenating because they don’t want 3 last names. You have women who have to actually change their name to hyphenate, which makes hyphenating feel like not-an-option. You have women who, even if they hyphenate their kids names, still have to give up one of their names. I battle with this constantly, because my husband thinks that our kids will figure it out if we hyphenate, and I’m reluctant to stick them with the difficulties I know they will face.

          • Jen B

            I exactly-ed this, but that’s not enough– thanks for saying this more eloquently than I could. :)

          • I don’t think hyphenation is without it’s challenges, and my husband and I plan to discuss the options with our children early on and continue that conversation. My comment was in response to the original commenter in this thread, whose comment I read as saying no one should hyphenate.

          • I totally agree with Ellie. Hyphenation is not always easy on the kid. I was hyphenated as a kid, with two really long last names that didn’t flow. I hated it from the moment I knew it was my last name. I changed it legally before graduating college (I dropped the hyphen and my middle name, making my dad’s last name my middle).

            In an effort to keep our own identities, let’s not forget the real goal — giving our kids the best start in life they can have. Names matter.

          • LocLac

            As someone who is also Ms. Hyphenated Last Name by birth, exactly. It may seem like a small burden, but it pops up in all kind of little ways (such as answering the phone with my full name in a professional setting and sounding ridiculous). The small things add up. And it definitely complicates the after marriage decision. If I had one maiden name I would absolutely keep it, mostly because of where I am in my career. But I do not want two last names that are not the same as my children. (And having lived the hyphenated by birth life, I chose never to pass that tradition down to my children).

          • meg

            But we give our kids all sorts of complexities. The world is complex. I’d rather give them something that reflects our values and is complicated (with a suggested system of dealing with it, as noted in the post), then just copping out and going with something that’s easy that I don’t believe in. Something being hard has never stopped me from doing *anything.* I don’t expect it will stop my children either.

        • I can’t reply below, but I wanted to clarify that I was just contextualizing my first comment, which was in response to the original commenter in this thread seeming to say that hyphenation shouldn’t be an option because it’s not clear cut.

          • Julia

            Again, not what I said. The whole point of this post is that we shouldn’t tell other people what to do with names, and that we shouldn’t judge the choices they make. I subscribe wholeheartedly to this and resent your continued implication that I think people should not hyphenate. I think people should do whatever they want. I just think that hyphenation does not solve the problem of choosing a marital or family name.

          • meg

            I don’t think that’s what she’s saying…

        • Pippa

          To be honest, I figure if the worst thing my kids have to deal with is how to navigate a hyphenated name, then I’ve done pretty friggin well…

      • Julia

        Shaelyn — I never suggested that no one should hyphenate. What I said is that hyphenating does not solve the problem of marital and family last names. It delays the problem by a generation and multiplies it by two. Be careful when you interpret another poster’s comments without careful reading.

        • Apologies – I didn’t see this before I responded again, I was just trying to clarify my comment. I absolutely agree that hyphenation has its own challenges, as I’ve said. I did read carefully, I just misunderstood the last 2 sentences of your first paragraph. Thank you for the clarification.

    • MEI

      From what I understand Meg’s suggestion to be, this would not be an issue. I would be Mei MeiMotherslast-MeiFatherslast. My darling dearest (presuming a hetero-relationship) would be Hubs HubsMotherslast-HubsFatherslast. When we got married, we’d be Mei and Hubs MeiMotherslast-HubsFatherslast. That would be the name we would pass on to our children. Then when they got married, they would go through the same process. There would never be more than one hyphen. Of course, this would be logisitically and emotionally difficult to impose upon the first generation that did it, but after that, would be a more equal system.

      • meg

        CORRECT! Yayyyy!

        • Okay, sorry, I’m totally dense right now and I really want to get this. So can I use real names? Cause that’s what I need.

          SO–Janet Huber(Ma) Harry(Dad) marries Ed Smelly(Ma) Pits(Dad). They become Janet and Ed Harry Pits. Their kids are Simon Harry Pits and Rachel Harry Pits. Simon marries Laura Myers Lemons and he becomes Simon Pits Lemons. (That one was totally accidental!) ;) And Rachel marries Bob Carter Cherries and Rachel becomes Rachel Pits Cherries.

          Is that anything close to right? My brain just blew its last breaker trying to put that down on paper/screen.

          • Aine

            Close, but the mother’s name doesn’t get lost- the first couple becomes Janet & Ed Huber Pits, their kids are Simon Huber Pits and Rachel Huber Pits.
            Simon and his wife are Simon and Laura Myers Pits, and Rachel and Bob are the Huber Cherries.
            The mother’s name follows the women and the father’s name follows his sons, and you end up with siblings with completely dissimilar names.

  • Contessa

    I don’t feel ready to fight this fight. Thinking about changing my name when I marry makes me feel tired and almost defeated somehow. Do I change it to have the same last name as my new husband which will match the potential new baby but will be different from my two kids now? Which kids will I share my last name with? I can hyphenate, but you know that never really “sticks”. You always end up shortcutting it to one name or another, especially since both names are multisyllabic. So frustrating, draining and time consuming, especially knowing that there’s a good chance I’ll never be truly satisfied with any of the choices.

    • Ake

      As you already have kids, is he willing to change his last name to your current last name and then you can all have the same last name as your kids?

      • This wouldn’t be an option for me. My daughter’s last name is that of her bio-dad. I’m not ok keeping that name (We divorced after 4 years. It wasn’t a “we’ve been married longer than I was single this IS my name” kind of thing. It was also an awful, dark divorce & I never want that name tied to me ever, ever again.) and I would never ask my husband to take it, either.

        It gets tricky =/

        • Ake

          Good point, I’m so sorry that not having been through it myself I didn’t think about the ramifications of what your previous last name would have been. VERY good reasons and well articulated – sorry for the insensitivity on my part.

          • Oh, there was absolutely no offense taken – don’t worry. I was simply saying there are some scenarios where it won’t work. AND IT SUCKS MONKEY BALLS.

            (I’m especially eloquent today.)

        • Jumping in here as the kid again. While I can’t speak to your children (obviously) I can say that I never had the same last name as my parents (not my mom, not my dad, not my step-dad, not my siblings). And only recently, as an adult, did I even begin to think that was weird. My parents always presented us as a family and that was that.

          So…all I want to say is that whatever you do, just make it clear to your kids that they are all a family and I think it will help solidify whatever decision you make.

          • Contessa

            Thanks – that’s the goal I’m working towards. The family is the thing.

          • Maddie, I really appreciate your input on this. I worry so much about my daughter and don’t want her to feel like she’s not part of our family because of her name. I don’t want her to feel like she’s the oddball because the rest of her family doesn’t match her.

            We’ve already instilled a deep sense of family within her (she loves to snuggle on the couch & say, “We love each other because we’re family, right?” in her adorable 4-year-old way). I have always told her from the beginning how lucky she was to have such a big family, and so much love around her. I just worry it won’t be enough. But maybe that’s a silly thing to think.

            So. Thank you. <3

    • THIS. YES. I would never keep my former married name, and was unbelievably glad to have it dumped off of me when I remarried, but now all I want to do is change my baby’s last name to our new name. It pains me a lot inside to know that we now have different names. It may sound silly in open context, but not so much in this conversation about how important names are to people. It says who they are.

      Most frustrating of all is my husband has BEEN my daughter’s father. DNA doesn’t make you a daddy. It just means you were equipped with the proper appendages to make a child. Your involvement defines it. And my daughter’s daddy is my husband – not her bio-dad. So for her to not be able to share his name is a frequent headache of mine. And her bio-dad would never agree to let her change it. Ever. Ever in a million years.

      I guess all I have left to cling to is “To be a family, you just need to be a family.” For now. Until some other magical answer appears or until she reaches age where she can legally decided whether or not to change it. But at that point it will have been her name for her entire life – will she want to change it?

      We are trying for a baby. Soon 3 people in our household will be V****, whereas my daughter will be W*******. I hate that. So, so, so much.

      It’s frustrating. Incredibly frustrating.

      • Melissa

        Hello other Melissa on this board! Just wanted to say woah I totally sympathize with your tough name situation. I have a friend dealing with the exact same thing. It’s hard. (hugs!)

      • Contessa

        I agree with your comment about how last names CAN matter, it feels tribal to me like a “These are my people” kind of thing. I wish I could be one of those people who see the situation as, “To be a family, you just need to be a family”, if I could feel that way I’d be so much calmer. But family names have always been important to me somehow and that’s ok too. It’s just stressier.

        Being the only son, he will not be changing his name and I haven’t even asked. I’m working the, “Maybe one day this won’t aggravtae me so much and I need to be more universal in my thinking” angle instead.

        • Exactly.

          Adam is also the only boy, with two older sisters. He really feels the pressure to “carry on the family name”. BUT. He told me last week that if we ended up only having girls, and no boys to “carry on the legacy”, he’d be ok with that, too. My daughter is AWESOME & he’s having a blast with her. Baby steps?

          I had no qualms whatsoever about changing my name. It is now my daughters name that hurts my heart – for that reason. “These are my people.” My husband IS her daddy, even if DNA says otherwise. We are a wonderful, happy, loving family. And I really wish we could all have the same stupid name.

          • But girls could carry on the legacy, depending on how the kids were named and how they name their kids. I am an only child and my last name would die out with me if I had traditionally changed my name (but I kept it). My (conservative!) dad has encouraged us to consider the idea of naming at least one (hypothetical) kid with my last name. And thankfully, husband is completely open to this possibility.

      • Contessa

        I am in the minority I’m sure but I don’t think of my ex-husband’s name as “His Name”. I think of it as my name. Probably because I married young and all of my adult experiences and associates are tied to the name. It’s my name and I didn’t ever consider dropping it.

        I have been told that “It isn’t my name” a few times and it sends steam out my ears. What, pray tell, IS my name then?

        • My mom was this way. She never changed her name back after the divorce. Her stance was she’d kept that name for 20 years, longer than her maiden name, and it WAS “her name”. Why should she change it? It wasn’t my father’s name – it was hers.

          I don’t carry that same mentality though, because even though I married at 19 and transitioned into it through marriage and had a baby and did all of these things, our divorce was finalized in the same month as what would have been our 4th wedding anniversary. So it isn’t my name, you know? It tied me to 2.5 years of crying myself to sleep every night and horrific depression and poison.

          Names are deeply personal – so I can absolutely see why they vary from person to person

          • Contessa

            Oh I get it Melissa! I am lucky to have had a “good divorce” and pleasant associations with my married name. If I’d had your experience I probably would have made the same decision.

      • Shawna

        Just a thought, but do you have full custody of your daughter? If so, then I think you can change her last name regardless of what her bio-dad wants. However, as a child whose name was changed when I was 6, I would suggest that you talk it over with her. She’s not fully grown, true, but discuss, on her level, what she wants. Even if you can’t change her name, maybe talking about it with her would be great (and maybe you already have, I don’t want to presume you haven’t).

      • This is such a tricky situation. My mom remarried when I was a child and changed my last name to her second husband’s last name. (He also legally adopted me.) Now later in life, I feel very conflicted by her decision. I love my “original” last name, its uniqueness and how it fits with my first name and how it ties me to my favorite grandmother. I wish I could go back to using it without breaking my mom’s heart. Part of me wishes that she never changed it. But I get why she did, to make our new family a solid unit after she changed her own name and my younger brother was born.

        All you can do is make the very best decision you can at the time and talk it through with your daughter. Hopefully she will understand down the line and respect your decision. Either way, you’re definitely a family.

      • geebee

        Just wanted to pop in and tell you about a good friend of mine — she grew up as Ann BioDadLastName, but was raised by an amazing beautiful step-father. When she turned 18, she legally changed her name to Ann StepDadLastName, and it was a *very* big deal to her to be able to honor her step-dad that way.

        She changed her name to Ann HusbandLastName when she got married and it was emotional for her, since she had CHOSEN her maiden name consciously, which very few people do. She definitely wanted to change it, but it was especially moving for her.

        My point being…your daughter will know who loves her and raises her, and last names have nothing to do with it.

        Best wishes!

        • Rowan

          My high school boyfriend did this too (legally changed his name to his stepfather’s when he turned 18 because that was his DAD). Before that he had a unofficial hyphen. His legal name was smith but he went by smith-jones.

    • Melissa

      Great comment, I feel ya on the “tired and defeated.” Even worse, this huge, emotionally fraught decision happens during what was one of my least-sane times in my whole life: wedding planning. It was like adding a dollop of insanity on top of insanity and I would just cry every time I tried to decide. (It worked out for me to wait until a number of months post-wedding to decide.) Good luck – I “second” the commenter who hoped for a modern male who would take your name.

    • It makes me feel tired and defeated, too, and I am already married. I feel frustrated by the whole thing, probably because it’s a way I am reminded of persisting gender inequality in my daily life.

  • I have never been attached to my name and decided, in high school, that I would change it. In my early twenties, I had a friend who changed his name (took his mother’s maiden name, because his father wasn’t a part of his life and he didn’t want that name attached to him) and it made me feel like I really could do that. When I was 30, I did it!

    I just decided to get rid of the whole thing and make up an entirely new name.

    The reactions I had from friends were varied. I heard a lot of, “What does your MOM think?” I hadn’t even considered what she thought. It was my name and mine to change. But after the seventh person (yes, seventh) asked that, I asked her. She didn’t care and ended up helping me in the final choosing process.

    Some of my friends were APPALLED. I mean, seriously, jaws dropped, speechless, look of disdain as they asked, “WHY?” And then when they found it it would cost me $301, they had the audacity to tell me it was a waste of money. I didn’t understand that reaction at the time.

    Some friends were really supportive, but said, “Oh you’ll always be *insert original name* to me!” They said that cheerfully, as if deciding to change my name were as flippant as wanting a belly button piercing. Some of those people still forget my new name, though it’s been two years. I try not to hold it against them.

    There were three friends who were not only supportive, but immediately made the switch with no mocking. They knew I wanted it, saw me changing it in social networks, listened as I went through the process of changing it legally, and then started calling me by my new name right away. One even sent me a card, addressed to my new name, which felt really good.

    It’s been two years, and my mom is starting to call me by my new name at home. That feels a little weird. I still put my old name on applications that ask about maiden names or previous names. I still haven’t changed my passport. I have a friend who lives far away and sees me rarely who can’t always remember my new name. I have a hard time talking about my past, because I want to refer to myself as my old name.

    I’m glad I made the change, obviously. I love having control over my name. But I was really amazed at how many people attach their names to their identity. To me, it felt so wrong. I never fit into my old name. It felt so good to pick something new, even though dealing with that decision was difficult.

    As I talk to my friends who are marrying, I just ask it as I would anything else, “Are you taking his (or her) name or doing something else?” There is no judgment in my voice, because whatever is always ok with me. I think that can be an amazing first step for everyone…when bringing it up, keep the question open…because there ARE other options, and whatever you choose is totally fine.

    I know that my name change is not entirely the same as getting married and the social constructs that go with that, but I’m hoping that it was still good to read. Because I feel like names and identity are often very intertwined. For some people, their family name has really deep meaning. For me, it never did. For some people, they are just waiting to become Mrs. So-and-So. There is a lot of tradition in that and taking a husband’s (or wife’s) name can feel really good. Talking about names is a surprising subject, because I always just saw my name as something two people I didn’t know chose for someone they didn’t really know. But a lot of my friends saw it VERY differently.

    So, I think it’s about being open and non-judgmental, because this is identity we’re talking about…and identity can be complicated and have emotions attached to it, even we didn’t know we had. (Or in my case, a complete lack of emotions, when I was supposed to feel something more.)

    • Melissa

      This was super interesting to read!

    • I’m really interested in non-marriage related name changes. Thanks for posting this!

  • Patriarchy doesn’t only hurt men because they love women, it hurts men because it puts all kinds of expectations and social pressure on them to be masculine and powerful and do things like PASS ON THEIR NAMES, DAMNIT!

    My husband, who is one of the most progressive, feminist men I know, didn’t really understand the name change struggle, except in the context that he didn’t want to change his name, so he could relate. However, that experience doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the fraught expectations for a woman getting married and being expected to change her name (similarly, I can’t really understand what it means for him to feel he should pass on his name). It’s just complicated, and along with not judging other women for their choices when having this conversation, we also should stop explaining and explaining and explaining why we’ve changed our names to other women who have gone through this process – it’s not productive.

    I didn’t change my name. And I am ardently a Ms., just like my mother was when I was growing up. I remember, proudly, correcting my friends who called her Mrs. MyDadsLast, and I hope my children (with their adorable little hyphenated last names) will do the same for me.

    I have talked to several women since I got married who, upon learning that I didn’t change my name, have expressed their own frustrations, disappointments, and regrets about having taken their husbands’ names when they married, but when I suggested that they change it back, or use their born name professionally or socially, they have been taken aback. It seems to me that it’s a problem with a simple — if occasionally inelegant — solution. And then one of my coworkers IS changing her name back, and she is so excited about it she is basically counting down the days.

    Guys, names are IMPORTANT, and if we’re still struggling with our decisions after they’ve been made, it’s okay. I’m not saying that everyone who changes their name regrets it or should change it back. We just need to know our options (and then speak up about them!).

    • “Patriarchy doesn’t only hurt men because they love women, it hurts men because it puts all kinds of expectations and social pressure on them to be masculine and powerful and do things like PASS ON THEIR NAMES, DAMNIT!”

      …Or to retain ownership of their wives. OWNERSHIP of another human being.

    • I wanted to come back and say that I didn’t mean for this to sound like people shouldn’t talk about the reasons for changing (or not changing) their names upon marriage. I just meant that, especially in what’s supposed to be a safe space such as this one, women (and men!) shouldn’t feel that they HAVE to defend their choices.

      I also wanted to add that I wish changing one’s name for reasons other than marriage was more socially acceptable in our culture.

    • Kashia

      I just got married, and am struggling with changing my name or not. The boy is supportive either way, but doesn’t really get why it’s such a big deal for me.

      Conversely there is my mother who never wanted to change her name. She did reluctantly only after she had me, and only because we lived in a very small socially conservative town at the time and she though it would make my life easier. She’s turning 60 this year, and changing her name back! I think this is amazing, and she’s doing it both socially and professionally consequences be d*mned. My Dad is supportive, and my Mum is beyond excited. However, she has experienced a lot of confusion and judgement from anyone that she has told, as they all assume it must because she’s getting divorced or has gone crazy.

      I have been telling as many of my friends as possible about my Mum’s name change, because I think it is amazing and brave and healing for her since she never felt at home with my dad’s last name.

      And yet, here I am still torn about my own name choices. And to be honest, every time I’ve been asked about it by anyone whether they are a friend or a random person I hardly know, almost every one of these women (it’s almost always women) has then told me what I SHOULD do based on their own happy or unhappy name narrative. It’s not healthy, we need to change how this conversation happens.

      Meg you rock for lighting this fire!

      • meg

        “every time I’ve been asked about it by anyone whether they are a friend or a random person I hardly know, almost every one of these women (it’s almost always women) has then told me what I SHOULD do based on their own happy or unhappy name narrative. It’s not healthy, we need to change how this conversation happens.”

        THIS. For me the point of this post was that I want us to step back from the conversation being “THIS IS WHAT I DID,” and not being able to hear much beyond that, and have the conversation be about, “How can we continue to make society change? How can we make men get it more? How can we put more options on the table?”

        I want this to stop being about the choice we made, and start being about more accepted choices for everyone.

        • YES. This makes ever so much more sense and is what I was alluding to in the comment where I said I felt a little helpless. Those three questions make it a lot more manageable, regardless of where you stand on your personal choice.

      • I would be interested in a post from your mom about her journey with her names and her ideas about how all this could better in the future for everyone.

    • meg


  • Jen B

    Oy, this has been the biggest source of conflict in the wedding-planning process so far. My lovely fiancé E. already has 2 last names (or, one hyphenated name, if you prefer). If I were to take his names, it would be like a double whammy (pun intended): losing my own identity on an unequal playing field; and undoing his parents’ gesture of equality (they kept their respective names and hyphenated E.’s). Having 3 last names is out– how awkward and clunky, plus the combination of my last name in front of his sounds like “blister,” I kid not. He refuses outright to take my name (naturally!). And round and round we go…

    My ideal situation would be to create a new name from letters in our original names. But while we’ve come up with some hilarious possibilities (TARDIS! Burrito!) we can’t find a name we’d like to attach to ourselves for the rest of forever. I’ve even tried using anagram generators!

    I’d be fine keeping separate names, but the question of future generations looms overhead. That’s not something we have to solve now, of course, but it is something I’m already thinking about and giving myself a headache over.

    • It’s totally sexist of me but I often think to myself that if I have girls I’ll hyphenate their last names but I won’t do it to boys. It’s totally terrible, and assuming my kids will be straight, which is also wrong, but I’m seriously worried about their wives someday having to deal with their insanely hyphenated last names.

      • Jen B

        It also assumes your female children would be ok dropping one or both of their last names. Which, you know, is kind of a scary assumption, since this whole post is about the emotions and difficulties with changing (or not) one’s name, especially when one is a woman. :)

    • Marley

      Mr. and Mrs. TARDIS sounds like a fantastic option!

      • Sooz

        TARDIS!!! that would be a super-cool name! do it, do it!

        (Fez’s are cool)

        (geek and Dr Who fan, in case that didn’t come across!)

        • Jen B

          Well, we’d be Dr. and Mr. TARDIS. I’d be DOCTOR TARDIS, Y’ALL. And yet, I just can’t be that forever…

    • meg

      Or you could do my suggested plan: keep his dad’s last, and add yours.

      • Jen B

        Ah yes, forgot to mention that E. is convinced that dropping only one of his names would insult that parent. But your point is well taken and I believe we’re due for another round of conversation on this– hopefully involving his parents, so we can actually know where they stand.

  • Alexis

    I thought for a long time about changing my name and went back and forth. My husband didn’t care either way, but just requested no hyphenation because both of our names are about 12 letters, so it was just a mouthful. We also tried to combine names, but with hilarious results and also not any real keepers (though I still think Leitenstein sounded regal) In the end, I just went with my gut feeling and changed my name to his. It certainly has not made me feel less of an independent woman, but it has made me feel more a part of our little family. I guess everyone just needs to do what feels right for them regardless of what society says you should or should not do.

  • Emily

    I agree that talking about it is important. I’m still officially undecided, but I’ve been asking almost every married woman I know why they made their choices. It’s been very lopsided, since I’m in academia and there’s a very strong default against name-changing, closely followed by hyphenating, so it’s been hard to find people who made thoughtful choices to change, or even wrestled with their choices to NOT change. (Actually I am leaning toward changing emotionally, but it feels almost like making an anti-feminist statement, and my fiance thinks it’s my “right” to keep my name since he wants to keep his.)

    I hit gold when I asked my college roommate about changing her last name – she is more socially and religiously conservative than I am, so not all of her reasoning applied to me, but in her view, women making their last names middle names is a tradition in families, not a way of losing identity. It helped that in her husband’s culture, women’s maiden names also become middle names for their children – and even though it’s not my culture, my fiance said that since giving the kids his last name is important to him (which we agreed on previously), we could give them my last name as a middle if it’s important to me. This conversation made me feel so much more at peace that I realized I’ve been looking for “excuses” to change.

    Also, if I think about sticking with my maiden name I feel a little disappointed to be stuck with a middle name I’ve never liked, and I feel like replacing it with a last name would sound very grown-up and inclusive of my life history. Now I’m leaning toward Emily Myname Hisname first, or Emily Hisname Myname if i can’t quite do it. Either way I’d like to keep publishing with my maiden name (and maybe his too) but be Mrs. Hisname socially.

    • katieprue

      I’ve been leaning strongly towards making my current last name my middle name, and taking my fiance’s name. I think I’d be disappointed, as well, to stick with a middle name that makes me go… “meh.” It’s not awful, but it’s boring and I’ve never liked the way my three names sound together. Plus, I don’t think my mom put very much thought into it (the parents had a boy’s name picked out for me. Surprise!)

      My only qualm with this solution, however, is that I don’t want to completely lose my maiden name. I love it. Though really, people are going to call you whatever the heck they want to call you, and I know I’d get a whopping sense of satisfaction writing out my spiffy new name. Katie MyLast HisLast sounds like someone I don’t really know, but I’d like to. I love that name. But the PAPERWORK. Sheesh.

    • Amanda

      I’m a grad student and I’ve experienced near hostility when I’ve informed some people that I changed my name. Some ask why I would do that in an accusatory manner! It is possible to be a name-changing feminist. I’m just the kind of feminist who doesn’t care too much about my last name, but more about how I am treated – as a person who can make up her own damn mind about her last name!

      • Amanda, I agree 100%. Yes.

      • As another academic who changed her name, YES, thank you, it is possible to be a name-changing feminist. Luckily no one has actually been visibly appalled by my decision yet. If they were, I’m not sure what I would say. There isn’t an easy position to state that doesn’t sound like I’m just defending tradition, even though it’s not really about that for me.

      • Name-changing feminist here too. Using Ms helps convince any doubters (not that we should have to…)

  • Shira

    In my mind, the most important thing is that name changing is not automatic. I see no reason for the woman to automatically take the guy’s name; I think this is a big decision with many options to be considered.
    We briefly considered hyphenating, but my parents hyphenated, so that wasn’t really an option for us (I already have two names, a third would just be too much!). Plus, I was adamant about not taking his name – I just don’t like it!
    We thought of not changing our names, but then we thought – what would happen when we have kids? And it seemed all wrong for our kids to have different surnames, or for them to only have his!
    So after quite a lot of discussion, we decided to both change our names, and took his mother’s maiden name. I thought it was a nice name and liked the link to that side of the family. It felt like we were both compromising, and it felt pretty fair, since it wasn’t either of our names. And, it wasn’t making up something totally new, it was a name already in the family with its own tradition, and that was important to us too. So my message is: YOU CAN BOTH CHANGE YOUR NAME!

    • Melissa

      Love this!

      • Ditto, I LOVE this.

    • k

      My cousins did this when they got married 30+ years ago, they just chose an entirely new name. I remember someone asking them what they would tell their son when he asked why he’d never met his Grandma and Grandpa NewName, and they shrugged and said, “We’ll just tell him they were gypsies.”

    • jasmine N-S

      I am in nearly exactly the same situation. I have a combined last name from birth, wanted a family name, and I don’t feel comfortable taking his and dropping mine. We both really like the idea of changing to something new together, but picking is SO HARD! We have considered my great-grandmother’s maiden name but taking his mother’s maiden name (which I would have gladly taken) was being taken as a rejection of his father (too close to home, somehow). Did you experience that at all? In all this taking a bit from here and a bit from there, there hasn’t been much discussion about how parents and grandparents react. Anybody have useful advice in this regard?

      My main problem is now that FH is sold on the idea of a name I saw on offbeat bride that was being presented as possibly a joke – Starblade. He LOVES it. I don’t like space and science fiction…can’t quite get on board with that. And I’m worried no one will want to co-author papers with Dr. Starblade. Problem number two is that we live in CA (and are getting married in OR), neither of which allow you to choose a name that is not one of your existing names. We don’t have time to change one of our names before the wedding so we’ll have to pay two court fees to change them in the future ($400/person YIKES!). Thinking of making it a 1st anniversary present to ourselves :)

      • Shira

        Dear Jasmine,
        Yes, I guess picking a new name can be hard! For us I guess it was less difficult: by husband has two older male brothers who kept their names, so we felt his family wouldn’t mind too much; in practice they minded slightly more than we expected, specifically his father, but I don’t think it bothers him TOO much (and if it does, he’s chosen to keep quiet about it). One of my husband’s brothers also teased him about it, thinking it was too big a compromise/”unmanly” of him, but he knows how to take that in stride :) We have gotten many raised eyebrows from other ppl who were surprised to hear about our decision – I guess that’s what you get when you bend society’s rules – but we’re both pleased with our choice, and that’s what matters in the end. So good luck finding a name you both like and feel comfortable with!

  • Elly

    In the spirit of offering solutions:
    We both took my Mom’s name, which suited us for the following reasons:
    -we wanted a family name, both of us grew up with parents with different names, and we liked the cohesion of having a name to share with our children
    -I wasn’t keen on taking his father’s name, and he wasn’t keen on taking my father’s name (for different reasons)
    -I didn’t want to make up a name, family history is important
    -my Mom has a very nice name.

    I liked that we both went through the name changing process (since I had my Dad’s name), but nobody needs to know our business- e..g people will probably assume that the family name is my father’s Dad’s name. We live in Massachusetts, so this could all be done on the marriage certificate.

  • Lisa B.

    I always knew that not changing my name was an option, just not one that I necessarily wanted to exercise. I like the idea of joining my fiance’s family, although I had never thought of how he was joining my family just as much. The thing that troubles me, though, is how my new name would make me sound. It sounds like a frumpy woman in an ankle length floral print dress with weird permed bangs.
    Also, all of my friends call me regularly by my first and last name all in one breath, that is my nickname. My last name is Bane, and it has produced all sorts of wacky nicknames; The Banester, LeBane, Baney, etc. So I don’t really know how I’d deal with all of that. I guess I’ll be changing my name, but disliking some of the things about it, which is a part of making big adult decisions…

    • Emily

      My last name has also given me lots of nicknames, so this is something I worry a bit about losing because those mark parts of my life for me. But I think (hope) the people who gave me those nicknames are not necessarily going to retire them if my last name goes behind his, and when I shared this concern with a friend, her husband started making up a bunch of combination nicknames from both of our last names. People who like funny nicknames aren’t going to stop just because the material changes! It’ll just be new names for new life chapters, I hope.

      (I’m not trying to convince you to change because I haven’t convinced myself one way or the other, of course. Just sharing a funny and comforting moment.)

  • Great post, Meg! My husband and I decided that our new marriage deserved a new, unique last name that set our baby family apart. So, we both change our last name to MyLastName HisLastName (with no hyphen in between). I love that we did this, and one thing I do is discuss it with any new acquaintances we meet. I want our story to be out there so others realize this is a choice that they have.

  • Amelia

    I just wanted to say hell yes to Alyssa, and mourning the loss of her last name. I made the decision to change my name because I didn’t think I was all that attached to my last name, with my first and middle feeling much more like “me”, and was tired of all the jokes and comments my former last name caused. When it came time to finally change it, I squirmed a bit and decided to throw a going away party for my former last name. I bought some champagne, yummy cheese and cried while toasting the loss of my former name with my husband. It was so much more complicated emotionally than I anticipated, but I’m giving myself time to ease into my new name and using whichever name socially I feel at the time. It’s a little bit fun deciding I feel like using X or Y last name in this situation, and relieving for me to process the change over time.

    • Amanda

      You’re so charming! I love the idea of throwing your last name a farewell party.

      • Amelia

        thanks! it felt appropriate and any chance to enjoy champagne is alright by me! :)

    • HH

      I LOVE this idea! Genius!

    • Love the party idea! I’m also planning on changing, and I feel pretty sure that I won’t be too sad about resigning my current last name. (It’s fine and it’s gotten me this far, but it always felt slightly awkward coming off the tongue, and his name just feels… good. Like taking off a tight jacket and slipping into a comfy t-shirt.) But I’ve heard enough stories to not assume I won’t do a little mourning when the time comes.

      Not to mention my life always needs more excuses to eat yummy cheese.

  • charmcityvixen

    I’ve honestly never had any qualms about name changing. My mom never changed her name, and her only regret is that she did not have my middle name reflect her last name (She did this with my younger sister, so that my sister’s name is “Rachel momlast dadlast” — thank god she didn’t with me, though. I LOVE MY NAME!).

    So, I guess in a weird way, because I’ve never seen my mom struggle with not changing her name, I’ve always assumed that I would not struggle with my own decision not to change my last name. And really, my name for me is a part of my identity — the whole thing is very unique, and I love it :)

    My conversation with my FH was pretty simple — I didn’t want to change my last name, he doesn’t want to change his, and we mutually decided that when we have kids, they could have my last name. He has two kids from a previous marriage and they have his last name — and I’m not concerned about their half-siblings having a different last name from them. Because a family, to me, is more than just names.

    (As an aside — it does weirdly bug me that his horrid ex-wife kept his last name, even after their divorce.)

    • Class of 1980

      “(As an aside — it does weirdly bug me that his horrid ex-wife kept his last name, even after their divorce.)”

      Well, traditionally it has always been standard for a divorced woman with children to keep her married last name. She may very well be horrid, but she hasn’t done anything unusual by keeping her married name.

      Most divorced women who change their name back after a divorce don’t have children from the marriage. But they don’t have to either.

      I didn’t have children and I still didn’t change my name back. I just didn’t want the bother at the time and I wasn’t ever emotionally tied to my maiden name because I had issues with my father. It wasn’t a happy name for me.

      • charmcityvixen

        Which is why it “weirdly bugs me” — I know it’s irrational, but it doesn’t change how I feel, which may possibly affect how I also feel about taking on my FH’s last name.

  • CWB

    I’m anticipating getting a lot of name-change questions over the next few weeks as we’re just a couple weeks out from our ceremony…I first broached the subject with my fiance about 6 months ago and after some initial consternation, he’s ok with me keeping my name.

    We survived a 3,000 mile, coast-to-coast separation for 5.5 years while I completed my PhD. I’ve published under my maiden name, so it doesn’t make sense for me to change my name to his. I also moved across the country for my fiance after grad school and am marrying into a very large, very close family. While I love them all (most of the time), I’m not quite ready to assimilate into the Borg just yet!

    Wedding planning has made me even more aware of my individual identity within the context of both of our families. I’m even more sure that I won’t be changing my name than I was when we got engaged. It surprised me how annoyed it make me to get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. His first name, His last name. We both sacrificed for me to finish graduate school and I’m determined to use Dr. My Last Name as much as possible. I feel like that title honors both of us because my accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible without him.

    The acknowledgement that this issue is about individual identity as well as collective identity is a huge first step when discussing name changes. It surprised me how upset my future father-in-law was about me not changing my name, it turned out that he really wanted a Dr. His Last Name in the family!

    • KK

      I’m glad to hear someone else going through this. The majority of women I work with that are in or have finished graduate school have opted to not change their names. That totally makes sense to me. I don’t really know anyone that hasn’t (or at least they aren’t coming to mind).

      I’m in a similar boat. I’m working on my PhD and have the same choice ahead of me. While my boyfriend and I haven’t gotten engaged, it’s something we’ve been discussing seriously. I really surprised him when I said I didn’t want to change my name. Honestly, if I wasn’t in this line of work, I probably would. It would be hard in a lot of ways but I think that’s the decision I’d make. I don’t think he ever thought about that as a possibility.

      I’ve been published several times already with my name and have every intention of a few more publications before I graduate or get married (whichever comes first). So my career thus far is based on MY last name and first initial. He’s very adamant about wanting me to change my name. I’m not even sure he knows why he’s so adamant, I’ll have to ask him next time we talk about this. On the other hand, I’m not sure how I’d handle it professionally if I did change my last name. My CV would look a mess and anyone that wanted to track me down from past work wouldn’t be able to connect my two names. I’m probably over thinking this but it seems difficult.

      This is what I was thinking: that my “official” last name would be our names hyphenated so that I can use my name professionally, his name for anything else, and the hyphenated name for any official paperwork like taxes and whatnot. But would this just cause massive confusion and problems that I’m not seeing?

      • Pearlabeth

        My fiance and I are also doing the (nearly) coast to coast PhD separation. We had some great (and some ugly) talks about changing our last names and the implications for family and our careers. I know several tenured professors at the institute who decided to keep their last names and many others who did not which leads me to believe it’s very possible to do either.

        In the end, my beau and I decided to take both our last names together and hyphenate, but for my professional life, I’ll only use my last name. This keeps the publication record easy to track and avoids the indexing problems my Spanish compatriots of both genders often experience. It’ll also be fun to be the new Dr. D in the family as my dad has retired and stopped using the title!

      • Chris Bergstrom

        I’m also in a PhD program (my husband has finished his PhD), and we’ve both published, so we’re both keeping our last names legally and professionally. Since his family is wonderful, welcoming, and traditional, and wants so much for me to be Mrs. Hislast, I’m going to be happy to go by that name socially and informally, for anyone who wants to call me that. I know it is an expression of love and welcome for them to call me by their name. “Oh, we’re having Mr. and Mrs. Hislast over tonight!” and the like. We just got married, so we haven’t tried this out much yet, but I have a friend who did this, and it seemed to work out quite nicely for her.

        Secretly, though, I’m not keeping my last name legally for professional reasons. I’m keeping it for personal reasons. It’s been my last name for almost 30 years, I’m very attached to it, and I chafe at the idea the name-changing tradition symbolizes: that my identity is defined by marriage, while his is not. My husband doesn’t quite get how strongly I feel about this, I think, but he wants me to be happy, and plus the “I’ve already published” argument was compelling to him.

        If/when we have kids, I’m planning on smooshing together the beginning of my last name and the end of his last name for the babies, an idea I’m borrowing from another friend. It’s a name that sounds nice, is not too long, and has some of each of our names. However, neither I nor my friend have actually gotten our husbands to agree to this plan. Discussions are ongoing.

        As a side note, I actually go by a gender-ambiguous first name on purpose, because I think it is fun to see people do a double take when they meet me for the first time, having only known my name. Subverting expectations is fun. : )

      • Emily

        I’ve been thinking a lot about a compromise like that to keep a professional identity connected to my maiden name, and I can’t really see any crazy confusion or problems ahead. I’m not even going to hyphenate, I think it honestly might be as simple as continuing to publish and present under my maiden name, regardless of whether I make it my legal middle name or keep it as a last name. If I were to use both names in official professional capacities, it shouldn’t be too hard to connect “E. Myname Hisname” on a CV with “E. Myname” on publications. And then I get to decide whether I want students to call me “Professor Myname,” which is frankly pretty silly sounding, or “Professor Hisname,” which sounds much better, when I actually GET the PhD!

        I say this partially based on the example of a scholar in my field who went through both sex and name changes – everyone who needs to know who he is, knows to look under both names, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his career.

      • Meg

        As a fellow PhDer I had the same concerns. A lot of great work has been published pre my name change.

        I have a colleague who changed her name to her husband’s when she got married and when she publishes she uses this: Dr Fabulous (nee Maidenname) Husbandsname. So on pubmed when they search for Dr Fabulous Maidename or Dr Fabulous Husbandname they pull her papers.

        It works for her and she’s not found any problems with it.


    • Abbie

      Shout out to my fellow APW PhDers!!

      A big topic of research in the field of bibiometrics is the disambiguation of citations, I think this will diminish concerns relating to name changes in academia as it relates to CVs. You can easily be linked to your old work by co-authors and by the field of research as well as the papers you cite. Just food for thought.

      • KK

        You definitely make a good point. Especially with all the digital media available, it’s easier than ever to deal with things like name changes and finding/identifying people. And yet, I still find it hard building my career on my name and then changing it.

  • Leila

    I’ve always wanted to keep my last name, and my FI totally supports it. He grew up in Iceland and Sweden so for him that is normal. There is a complication though, he is set on using the Icelandic patronymic naming system for our children. So if his name was Jón Stefánsson our hypothetical son could be Edward Jónsson and our daughter would be Erika Jonsdottir. So, -sson is th ending for a male child, and -sdottir is the ending for a female child. Strangely enough, I don’t feel that strongly against it. I figure that I plan on embedding in my last name as either the middle name or second middle name anyways, and they would probably be taking there dads name regardless. I’m all for hyphenated, taking the moms name instead, etc., but I don’t really feel strongly enough want to go with that.

    The only times I get a little nervous about the patronymic naming system is when I think about how complicated this scenario could get with things like school and international travel. Also, no other child is going to have this naming system, so will they lose a sense of family because we aren’t all the “Smiths”? I generally snap out of this and realize that love will probably win out over any hatred towards their last name. I mean I grew up with a completely unpronouncable first and last name combination, and I not only did I survive but I would trade my name for anything in the world. Plus, since the definition of family has changed so much, does it really matter? I know this is a little off topic, but I thought it might help fuel some flames.

    • Class of 1980

      That is so interesting about Icelandic naming!

      The only thing is that here in the U.S. some single women like to get mail in their initials and last name so that no one knows if it’s a man or woman living in the house. Same with entries in phone directories.

      The Icelandic name ending would do away with the mystery! Ha!

      • I hadn’t even thought about the initial thing for the mail — although I have done it on some online profiles just because.

  • Mihaela

    This decision was hard for me. I was born with a white bread last name because when my father immigrated to the US, he and his family picked a new last name out of the phone book so Americans wouldn’t have a hard time with the original. When my sister and I got old enough, we demanded a legal name change back to the original last name because we wanted to honor our heritage.

    Making the decision to change my last name a third time was tricky, because the name will “die out” of this branch of the family if my sister and I don’t keep it. Our last name has a unique variation because my great-grandfather changed it when he was hiding from a communist government that wanted to ruin him (!). So with all that crazy, wonderful history, shouldn’t I just keep it?

    I eventually decided to take my husband’s last name. Sharing a last name gives me the warm fuzzies, and although he offered to adopt my maiden name instead, I like the relative anonymity his very common last name offers. But overall, it was a pretty tough call.

    • My mother and I are both name deadenders. And yet, in the end, those names are still alive for as long as we tell stories about my father’s family and my grandfather’s family. I think in a world with smaller families, the dead end of names will become increasingly common. (If you have 10 kids, at least some of them will probably be boys who may pass on the name. Have only one kid? Odds go way down.)

  • This post is by far and away my favorite on APW (which is hard to say!). I have been struggling with this issue in depth over the past few months and have recently realized that I should treating this decision like I do with all of the others nin my life: by what feels right for me. And what’s right for ME is to hyphenate my name with my fiances. This has caused grumblings and stirrings in both of our families, particularly from the women. I get frustrated beacuse we’re all women, shoudln’t we be supporting one another? I think I will conveniently leave this post open on their computers next time I visit…

    Thank you again, APW, for challenging the status quo and calling us together to start a much-needed movement.

  • Katie

    I am engaged and we have a daughter who has Dad’s last name. I have been planning to change my last name (considering tattooing it on my wrist, but that is another conversation) and taking his name. On the phone with the doctor’s office this morning, the receptionist called me Ms. Hector. It was a bizarre who-the-heck-is-that moment.

    I don’t think I am changing my mind, I will probably be in the cry in the car camp. Just an odd moment to have only a few minutes after reading this very good post.

    Thank you!

  • CJ

    One thing I think is important to keep in mind is that this problem takes really different forms in other places–yes it’s icky to have everyone assume women are going to change their names, and not even ask men about it, but there is hope, not everywhere is like that!

    In some places in Africa (where I grew up), everyone just has their father’s first name as their last name, and no one changes their name with marriage–so every family member could have a different last name. And I’ve read that in Scandinavia lots of couples just make up a new name when they get married…either a combo of both their maiden names, or an entirely different name that they just think is cool. And I have a Peruvian friend whose married last name is “Herlastname DE Hislastname”.

    Not that those societies are free of patriarchy by any means, but I personally just find it helpful to step back and realize that this is not the only way it has to be. Yay perspective!

    Personally I think I’m going to do two last names, my last name and his, no hyphen. I think it would be cool if he could do that too, and he’s open to it, but it would sound terrible with his first name, so we’re probably not going to do that. Sigh. Haven’t decided what to do for kids yet–I would love to give them both names, but feel hesitant to saddle our poor future children with long names to learn how to write and spell.

    • Kathryn in VT

      I think you’re right — and not only does the practice obviously vary internationally, but I think there are some strong regional and cultural pulls within the U.S. My husband and I live in Vermont, and I have a number of very inspiring women friends in their 50s — almost none of whom took their husbands’ names when they married in the 70s and 80s. My mom, on the other hand, married into the military when she was my age, and when I asked her about why she took my father’s name she told me that it felt too radically different from the military culture at that time to keep her own name.

      I wish this didn’t have to be the case, but I found it so useful and inspiring to see women around me — who’d been married for decades, who’d raised children with any number of last name options, and who’d turned out JUST FINE — who kept their own names. Coming from a family where I’m the first to keep my name, I took a great deal of comfort in this. While I’d guess I’m in the minority in my community in making this choice, it’s not wildly unusual, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the women who’ve paved the way for me in this regard.

  • streamnerd

    My feelings about the potential name change have caught me by surprise because I’ve always thought I had it all figured out and there was no way I was going to change my name. However, now that I am engaged there is a part of me that is reconsidering and this doubt is unexpected.

    In a way I am lucky that I have a PhD and therefore go by Dr. so I do not have to choose between Ms. or Mrs. However, this also means that I have been publishing under my maiden name and professionally I feel that it is frowned upon to change your name. So I want (or feel that I have to) keep my maiden name professionally.

    When I mentioned to my fiance that I was thinking about it he was surprised I was even considering it and said he had always assumed I wouldn’t change my name and that was fine with him. His mother never changed her name (he has his dad’s last name) and my mother hyphenated hers and kept it that way after my parents divorced. There is a part of me who wants to socially use his last name. Already now, when I make restaurant reservations I use his last name because it is common and easy to understand unlike mine.

    I thought this would be easy and that I had it all figured out (Why would I ever change my name, I’m Dr. M.?) but it turns out my feelings are not as clear what my brain thinks. I am still leaning towards doing exactly what his parents did, keep my name but give any potential eventual children his. I don’t think it would make me feel like we are any less of a family but I also didn’t think that I would ever think of changing my name either and now I’m having doubts.

    • Laurel

      This is a really important perspective, because it has gotten to the point that women with PhDs are “not supposed to change their names,” or at least it’s unexpected. That undermines choice all across the spectrum. Choosing what you will do is a deeply personal decision (often without an easy or obvious answer) and I think it’s important that we don’t pass judgment on each other no matter the choice.

  • This: And Marie-Ève said, “That’s crazy. To be a family, you just need to be a family.”

    And this: Every second you spend judging a woman for making a different choice than you, is a second you wasted.

    These two statements are basically the epitome of why I love APW with the fire that I do. These essential mission statements are bred into every single post and it’s amazing.

    (This is all I have to add. I was very happy to change my name :) )

    • meg


  • Erika

    I am incredibly lucky. So I want to add my little twig to the fire. I am married (three years) and did not change my name. My husband did not change his. If we have kids (only a remote possibility I think) they will have my last name. This is mostly because I feel more of a history-connection to my father’s family and its name than my husband does to his. (And also because my husband is awesome, obvs.)

    We know another married couple with a toddler who has only his mother’s last name. It is possible. This is happening.

    My husband and I also have a secret only-for-us made-up last name. It’s our private and silly way of having a family name, and it’s enough for us. For a while we talked about officially changing to make this only-for-us name our legal middle name. I guess that could still happen, if we wanted, but it kind of doesn’t feel necessary anymore.

    Good luck to all of you. Like I said, I feel incredibly lucky, because this was easy for me. Totally agree with Meg that if we keep these conversations going, among women and with our partners, we can open up and normalize everyone’s options.

    • Jessie

      I just posted my comment below, but we’re planning to do this too! (Kids taking mother’s last name only.) So glad to see there are others out there — I have yet to meet any!

      • Erika

        Yay! Good for you.

    • Erika

      Commenting on my own comment. I feel like I just caught myself engaging in some useless cultural chatter. Why should I say my husband is awesome because he agreed to give our hypothetical children my last name? Is he some sort of husbandly hero for making the supposed sacrifice of not giving his offspring his name? GAH! Really, this option should be one we’re all allowed to discuss and to make if it feels right, and I hope our society gets to a point where it is not considered unusual, or that the man is making some crazy sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice women have been making FOREVER.

      • Jessie

        This. Absolutely.

      • Anna

        Erika you are great! Love your hubby too!

    • meg


  • I took the very traditional route and just swapped my surname for his. I’m far too attached to my middle name to replace it with my maiden name. My maiden name has always been rather clunky and boring, and not at all the family tree line I felt most drawn to, so I was perfectly willing to wave it adieu. I think that was one of the only aspects of marriage I gave much thought to as a child. I would have kept my maiden name if my beau had a name I disliked though. And then we would have the same child-naming dilemma!

    So yes. I took a name that earns me far too many Miley Cyrus jokes, but that’s okay. I got to drop 5 letters and it rolls off the tongue much nicer. I hope to incorporate family names from my side if we have children, so that’s part of my legacy. My first and middle name were my maternal grandmother’s, so I already represent the women of my family with the rest of my name. My sister was named for our paternal great-randparents, and my brother for both of our grandfathers. It’s a tradition that I can get behind. It’s common up all of our family lines.

    I only wish my fella had a Mac or O’ name instead of good ol’ West Virginia Cyrus. C’est la vie. I like Cyrus too. Mainly because his line has significantly less inbreeding than the Tennessee line…

    • Shawna

      I really like this idea of the first names carrying on family traditions, but the last name staying simple and representing the newly created family. Thanks for the idea!!

    • Class of 1980

      I hear you.

      I am also far too attached to my middle name to ever give it up. In fact, my middle name was supposed to be my first name, except my parents couldn’t figure out a middle name that sounded good with it. My nickname is taken from my middle name and it’s what I’ve been called all my life. My legal first name only appears on legal documents, bills, and credit cards.

      My brother is also called the nickname of his middle name.

      In my family, our middle names were not afterthoughts that could be easily given up. I know a lot of women in the south give up their middle names and put their maiden names in the middle and take their husband’s name as their last when they get married. No one in my family ever followed this and everyone has a meaningful middle name.

      There is so much variation out there.

      • Is it a southern thing?? All of the women in my family have done it (and I have done it party for that reason), but I never associated the practice as being southern . . . very interesting.

        • Class of 1980

          From what I’ve seen, it seems to be common among middle and upper-class families in the south.

      • meg

        Ha! Another nickname for a used-but-not-even-official middle name here (and no, that’s not always southern, it can also be WASP. Everyone goes by something elese, because everyone was given a family name so crazy it’s unusable. I’m a sixth. Yes. There is that.)

        • Class of 1980

          My middle name isn’t crazy, but my parents loved it and planned to call me by it’s nickname. Making it my middle name didn’t stop them from calling me the nickname.

          No one in my family calls me anything but that nickname.

          It was a problem in school though. They established that I was to be called by my nickname when I started school, but when I switched schools in sixth grade, the new school evidently didn’t get the memo and I didn’t bother correcting them.

          That led to different groups of friends in junior high and high school calling me by different names depending on how long they’d known me.

          I gave my mother a piece of my mind about it too!

          Come to think of it, my uncle (mom’s brother) is also called by his middle name and it’s a wonderful one. Good grief.

          • Aine

            My father’s family have all done that- almost all of them are known by middle names instead of first, or some nickname version. And we found looking up genealogy that my mother’s family was almost as bad- there was a tradition (still there, a bit) that the first son is named for the father’s father, the second for the mother’s father, and daughters were named after grandmothers. In practice, you get a lot of cousins with the same name and people go through life being called odd nicknames (like, there were two Mary’s, so one got called “Marye” which sounds like Mariah with a syllable gone). People named the younger ones whatever they liked, luckily.

            It used to be common in Italian-American families as well, but mostly because EVERYONE was either Maria or Joseph as a first name- my great grandma and her sister were both called Maria- one’s Maria Giovanna (Jean) and the other (my Great Grandma) Maria Antonia (which got shortened to “Antonette” and then “Donuts” (because brothers are wonderful things) and then “Dot” and she became “Aunt Dorothy” to her sisters entire family.)

      • Claire

        I can’t generalize as to whether its a “southern thing”, but I do know that ALL of my girlfriends in New Orleans, Louisiana have taken their husband’s last name and replaced their middle name with their maiden name. It’s definitely standard practice, at least among my own circle of friends in that one little corner of the south.

      • In my Jewish family (and many other Jewish families I know), it’s common for the middle name to be after a deceased relative. This makes the middle name culturally significant, and dropping it isn’t really an option at all. It was easier for me to lose my last than to give up my middle, actually.

        • Aine

          I’ve always loved my middle name, and wouldn’t want to give it up. In my heart of hearts, I want us both to hyphenate- but he refuses (we live in the UK, where double barrelled names are a sign that you come from Old Money, but if they’re both Irish names it would apparently sound weird) and even if he didn’t, they sound awful together. I’m keeping my name because it is a part of my identity- I thought about changing and realized that I would spend three quarters of my life with someone else’s name and that freaked me out.

          I must say though, its much easier to do this when his mother insists on everyone using her first name because “Mrs. Hisname is my mother-in-law”. She is awesome.

          • This is a good point, about what hyphenated names suggest, at least here in the UK. I would hope that it would be changing as more children are born outside marriage (around 50% now) but my experience is that children are almost always given the father’s name only, whether the parents are married or not and whether they have the same name or not. I think it’s a shame more women don’t push to have their own name included. (Didn’t do it in my case because our names sounded awful together, but if it were more common, I probably wouldn’t have thought that…)

      • Yes! I am Meredith Linsey but have been called Linsey my whole life. Which is great, but Meredith is my first name and appears on all my professional documents. And it’s so damn pretty! Alas, it has caused me much distress and many an undue notary service because I was foolish enough to only put my middle name (as I was/am called) on my driver’s license (silly 16 year old!)

    • We’re talking baby names right now, and we went through all of our family tree to find a family name we can maybe use. It’s such a shame that it’s full of Elmers and Helmuts and Agnes. Lovely people, all, but just not great names for our baby.

      • Oh yes. I understand that. My grandmother was actually miffed that her grandchildren kept getting named for everyone’s parents except hers. Her parents were Gertrude and George. So, my parents named me after her (my grandmother Mary Lorraine who went by May) instead.

        I even have the odd Cletus, Archibald and Lemuel up my family tree too. My husband’s pre-Revolution (West) Virginia brood is where the really comical names pop up, to be honest.

  • Rachael

    Oh my goodness yes.

    I am a Yankee living in the South, and it shocks me how something that was so normal growing up (women keeping their names or hyphenating) is so completely foreign to people down here. I chose to add Husband’s name WITHOUT hyphenating. I still have my first, middle, and last names with his last added on to it. NO HYPHEN. For some reason this no hyphen was really important to me, because I felt like I had an out to drop either last name if it turned out I didn’t like this solution. Nevermind that the DMV said I either had to hyphenate or I couldn’t have both names. Oh, that still ticks me off.

    But back to Southern culture- several things have happened. Some people (like my in-laws) simply refuse to acknowledge that I have two last names and call me by his last name. And I correct them. Every. Single. Time. Other people can remember I have two last names and Husband has one, but insist on referring to us as a unit, and attach my last name to him. (As in, “there go the Smith Joneses!) I am also a student living in campus housing, and the campus mail room refuses to put Husband’s mail in the box, because his last name isn’t *exactly* like mine. Craziness.

    It has been almost two years of living this way and I have had several moments when I think I should just drop his name because saying all of them just wears me out, and it doesn’t feel like me anyway. I really wish sometimes that I was one of those people who didn’t have what feels like an existential crisis about names. It would be so much easier. But I’m not.

    • Class of 1980

      We know of a mail order pharmacy that refuses to ship husband and wife meds out together unless they have the same last name. Not sure if this is common practice everywhere or not.

      That means that if their names are different, they have to pay two shipping charges.

      • Bastards. Seriously.

      • My husband was just recently harassed by our insurance company because we have different last names. He took his car in to be serviced and needed a current insurance card for the loaner car. When he couldn’t find his in the glove box he called the insurance company. They were skeptical of faxing him a card to the dealership and his name is on the insurance policy. They said that there was no way to prove that we were married because we had different last names. Of course, I called and made sure that they noted specifically on our policy that we were married and wasn’t especially polite. We were so surprised because this is the first time we’ve encountered this situation, then we remembered that we live in TX and that socially we’re still an anomaly.

  • As an artist who has used her last name to promote herself for years (and because, well, it’s MY name), I chose to keep my last name. This was also very important to my husband, who thinks the whole custom of changing to the husband’s last name, strange. However, I have never liked my middle name, and I DO like his last name, so I changed my middle name to his last name. So, I’m Laura HISLastName HERLastName. I’m a fan of this option– it marked the transition of marriage for me, without changing the last name that I really like.

    The down side: people get confused. I get a lot of mail that’s addressed to Laura HERlast name-HISlast name, or mail from my extended family where they just ignore my request. I was getting mail for Laura HisLastName before we even got married.

    Point being what Meg said: don’t judge others’ decision- it’s a hard one. Find something that feels right for you. And, take the time to make sure that you’re calling people by the CORRECT last name– the one that they’ve chosen.

    • KK

      I agree, taking time to get the names right is a big thing. I have to remind myself to change my friend’s names on cards, boxes, and even email. It can be hard though. I’ve been friends with this girl since 2nd grade. I’ve known her husband since junior high. They dated for 8 years and even knowing they were going to get married and knowing them both so well, I have to remind myself to change her last name.

      On a side note, your comment made me think of the things I’d miss about my name.

      1) It would mess with my nickname. Both my first and last names can be difficult. Sometime in college I started going by KK to make it easier. KK would be forever confusing since those are actually my first and last initials. My middle name is Cathleen, so changing that to Kathleen might actually help people out since they assume that’s how it’s spelled anyway. But I’ve spent my lifetime running around reminding everyone that it’s a C and not a K. Three K initials is not the kind of association I want.

      2) I was looking forward to being the first Dr. MY last name in my family.

      3) Because my last name is so difficult, it takes me 2 seconds to identify telemarketers and often even junk mail (they misspell it sooooo often). It’s kind of a perk of an unusual last name. :)

      4) There are very few people with my last name out there. There are only about 10 people on facebook that have my last name that aren’t my extended family (and honestly, they probably are, I just don’t know it).

  • Hey, I just wrote about this very subject!

    I felt that I needed to elaborate about my decision to change my name because there are other, valid reasons for doing it than “it’s traditional” or “it’s easy” or “he wants me to.” Coming from a non-traditional background is remarkably freeing, but at the same time when I told my mother I was changing my name her response was to compare my six-year relationship to her first marriage, which occurred when she was 18, lasted less than a year, and is essentially a joke. I’m afraid my decision is being taken as evidence that I’m too young and/or naive to be getting married instead of a conscious, well-thought-out choice.

    That said, I’m also changing my name because I want to divorce myself from the history of abusive, neglectful, and generally ugly parental behavior that has been associated with it for at least the past two generations. My mother doesn’t need to know that part, though.

    • Class of 1980

      Annie, I partly had the same reason. I didn’t want to keep my father’s last name. It comes from a family with at least two generations of dysfunction. The associations are all negative.

      • meg

        This also happened in my family, so boy do I get that.

        • Class of 1980

          Yeah. So naturally I’d still change my name if I ever got married again since I’m never going back to THAT name … no way, no how.

          If I had control of destiny, the future hubs would have the same name as my maternal grandparents. That would be like having my cake and eating it too. ;)

          • Aine

            hmmm…you can marry cousins in a lot of states… :-P

            Sorry, couldn’t resist the stupid joke.

      • My mother’s last name is very pretty and short and easy to spell and I would absolutely love to take it if I didn’t associate it with dysfunction and alcoholism and abuse. Shame, though, really a lovely word! These things are so complex.

  • Anna

    I’ve been over this and over this with my man and the fact is I am not comfortable changing my name. And he is ok with that because he is not comfortable changing his. The thing is deciding which name(s) our children will have… and after many late night discussions he finally said, “you know what? Our children can have your name and one day when they are older and ask me why? I’m going to say cause your dad didn’t want to fight with your mum anymore!’

    He was just kidding. The conversations are tough. But it helps that we are equals in our relationship and I’m sure we’ll find a solution we are both happy with.

  • I just wrote (and submitted!) a Reclaiming Wife post about this very topic, and how it went for me…

    But here’s the gist: In thinking back to all of the women that have come before me in my family, I made my choice. I took my husband’s last name, but I remained a Ms. It was a compromise that I was willing, no, that I was overjoyed, to make. My choice was an acknowledgment of my identity as Sara, and my new identity as the partner of Jordan. And for me, I also made another compromise, a symbolic one, to honor myself as I’ve always been, and the new self that I was about to become, as a partner, a wife: I hyphenated my name professionally. To me, my career was (and still is) my own, and by symbolically hyphenating my name professionally, I was able to ensure that I entered into marriage with my feminist womanhood in tact.

    Kudos to Meg for encouraging all of us to light a fire, to talk about it, to think about it OUT LOUD, because if social change is to happen, it’s by speaking out loud and dreaming out loud about our needs, not by brushing them under the rug.

  • Jessie

    This issue was by far the most difficult one we faced during the wedding planning process. I read through all of the hundreds of comments on the first name-changing posts on APW and made my then-fiance do the same. We argued over the issue for a long time. I was never going to take his name, but I was open to the possibility of our both changing our names to something different. We considered taking my mother’s maiden name. At the same time, however, I strongly wanted to pass my own name on to hypothetical future offspring; it will die out in my family otherwise, and I’m pretty attached to it. I also really wanted us to share a name. Eventually, we realized that all of those conditions couldn’t be met simultaneously and that we would have to choose.

    I really wanted him to take my name. He seriously considered doing it but in the end didn’t feel comfortable. He was going to hyphenate MyLast-HisLast, but he ran into a gigantic guilt trip from his parents. His father in particular absolutely freaked out. We had a ton of drama, and it took many months of indecision before he finally decided not to hyphenate but to take my name as a middle name. We agreed that any future offspring will have my last name. So, in this way, I do get to pass my name on, and we do share my last name in some way, even though for me it’s a last and for him it’s a middle. It’s not the perfect solution, and it was one of the worst decision processes I’ve ever been involved in, but I’m happy about the way it turned out.

    Actually, what made me completely livid was that every single member of his family, all of whom gave us checks, addressed the checks to some version of Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. It made me mad for 2 reasons: 1) We had told his parents, though, to be fair, not the rest of his family, what we were doing. Clearly they were too upset/embarrassed to share with the other members of his family. 2.) I absolutely hate the underlying assumptions present here. Even if they didn’t know, aren’t we at a stage where you shouldn’t just assume? Even the younger family members, in families where the women had hyphenated, wrote that… (For reference, not all of my family members knew either, but no one did that.) We ordered cheap address labels online and put them on all of our thank you notes to spread the message, but we haven’t heard any comments. I kind of wonder if they even noticed. I have this awful feeling that in a few years, the next time there’s some event that requires written invitations in his family, we’ll get one addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.

    Apologies for the length of this comment, but I’m wondering if any other people ran into incorrect assumptions about name changing and what they did to correct those assumptions…

    • I TOTALLY ran into those assumptions, with checks and mail written to Mrs. Laura Hislastname, despite being very vocal about my decision. With some people, it was an innocent mistake. They ASSUMED, and didn’t take the time to ask. So, I ranted and then stopped giving energy to it until I had the opportunity to politely correct people.

      I was in Ohio a month ago, talking to my Aunts (who weren’t at our wedding). They wanted to write down the spelling of my new last name, and I told them that it was the same. They looked shocked, and repeated what I’d just said. Most of my artist friends kept their last names, so I didn’t expect people to be so surprised.

      And YES, there should be fewer assumptions. I’m also taking the “write my last name on correspondance” approach.

      • Cass

        We have been inviting to three weddings since our own. Two of them were for my husband’s cousins. Both of those invitations came addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Husband Name”. Despite correcting the bride and groom in both cases that I was not Mrs. Husband Name when we received save-the-dates. A good friend got married this summer and it was the first time I received a wedding invitation actually adressed to ME. I was so happy I kept my place card.

  • SaraB

    What a timely post! Just the other day, the Man asked if I was going to be taking his name. I said “maybe” and he was all confused. I explained that it is tough for me to give up my name and I’m still mulling it over. I then asked if he would take my name or make up a new one, and his answer was “No. I want my name”. And *then* I think he got why I’m still deciding whether to switch.

    I like the idea of using my maiden name as a middle name for me and the kids. I’ll probably end up taking his name and working in mylast as my new middle name, but I will probably also be in the “cry in the car” group regardless. I’m also NOT looking forward to the paperwork changes. Just changing your address on everything when you move is a huge headache, let alone changing your name.

  • I had a similar issue to QueerBird in that my lady and I had all kinds of discussions about names. She wanted us both to legally change our names to add an air of legitimacy to our marriage and then later for the kids (Thank you, Dan Savage, for pointing that out!). For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say my last name is McPantsPants and hers is Mollywog. My half serious suggestion was changing our names to Mollypants, but that got vetoed. So, instead we’re doing McPantsPants-Mollywog, with the kidlets to be named Mollywog (since she’s an only child and I’ve got two brothers to make moer McPantsPants) – that way we share a name and the kids’ last names have one of those in common with us.

    The problem is that Christina McPantsPants-Mollywog is a mouthful and a half. I decided to keep just my last name professionally (if for no other reason than I didn’t want for an email address) and legally for the time being (because after the wedding I never wanted to deal with gov’t paperwork again). But it’s a fraught issue.

    • Totally superficial, but … I feel you on the not-wanting-a-work-email. The husband and I both have first initals that, combined with our last name, created actual words. (And his is offensive, at that.) Stuff like this actually MATTERS when thinking about names. =)

    • Anon and on and on

      I’ve thought doing the Mollypants (combined last name) thing too — but in our situation, the new name sounds just like a cheap winery name — or a new development of giant McMansions… vetoed too.

      On a side note: Mollypants is what I call my friend’s daughter. I renamed her that as soon as I met her. Though she does not yet wear pants, I intend to buy her cool ones when she does, as an honorary aunt should.

  • Kept my name. Husband kept his. Baby girl will be mylast hislast. Done.

    • meg


    • And that baby girl is on her way soon, yes? Like any day??

  • Sarah P

    I remember when my best lady got married in 08, she broke down a few weeks before the wedding about how sad she was to be changing her name (but like Alyssa, never considered not changing it). At the time I didn’t really get it, I had never thought about NOT changing my name.

    Then when I got engaged I suddenly understood how strange it was to one day be Sarah Mylast and the next day it’s like you are someone else. I also struggled with the fact that Hislast was actually his step father’s name, a name he took when he was 18 years old. A stepfather that he doesn’t really get along with now.

    BUT! In the end I decided it didn’t matter where he got the name, it was his name and I wanted to be a part of that. My family name will carry on because I have two brothers and it will still be a part of me always. And we’ll probably use it as a middle name for one of our future children.

    I think it’s up to us to TALK ABOUT IT, not just here in a place where obviously everyone wants to talk about it, but with our families and the men in our lives and with our friends who are engaged and maybe panicking about name changes. The more we talk about it, the more people realize it’s OK to do whatever is right for them.

    • meg

      YES. Talk about it everywhere. Talk about it with people that don’t agree. Tell them why it’s hard.

      It’s like with LGBTQ issues. You’re far more likely to be pro-gay rights if you know an out gay person. Well, you’re far more likely to be pro-multiple name choices if you know someone who’s told you how heartbroken they were over the process. (NOT that this is as important as gay rights, but it’s an easy if wildly imperfect parallel.)

  • kara

    I will not be changing my name & neither will my fiance. I love my last name & he is completely against me changing it. His mom never changed her name & he thinks it’s strange that I would be the only Mrs. HisLastName in his family, plus how possessive. I love that my fiance & his family are so supportive of this. However, my family is not. I told my parents of our decision & they refuse to accept it, surely we’ll change our mind.

    I’m not sure how to handle announcements at the wedding. Usually it’s “presenting Mr. & Mrs. HisFirst HisLast” – now is it HisFirst HisLast & HerFirst HerLast? I don’t want to ever be Mrs HisLastName, but how have others handled that?

    I know we’ll get cards/checks addressed to Mr & Mrs HisFirst HisLast, but I’d like to make it clear at the wedding (as if we haven’t already) that I will remain MyFirst MyLast.

    • At the end of the ceremony, our officiant just said, “And now I present to you, for the first time as husband and wife, Hisfirst Hislast, Herfirst Herlast!” We included the new titles of husband/wife to emphasize that, yes, we were married, but also felt it important to include our full names to indicate that they were the same as before the ceremony.

      We also included an at-home announcement on the back of our programs that had both of our full names, and our full names are on the back of our thank you cards. We will probably also get stationery made soon with both of our names so that we can continue to reinforce it.

      Of course, the DJ, who wasn’t supposed to announce us at all as we arrived, did say something about us being Mr. and Mrs. Hislast, but hopefully it didn’t undermine the messaging we’d been working on all evening. So far, we haven’t gotten anything from family or friends (aside from a few checks from extended family) with the names assumed. I feel like we were prepared to be flexible and patient because we weren’t doing what everyone else was doing.

    • I had a similar experience – husband’s family couldn’t care less (his mom didn’t change her name, either), but MY family did. I didn’t expect that at all! My dad and brothers felt really uncomfortable with me not changing it and joked about it a lot. I didn’t see that coming.

    • You can also just skip the last names in the DJ’s announcement altogether (unless you specifically work with her/him to promote your choice). In most weddings I’ve been to recently, the announcement’s been a simple, “And now presenting, for the first time as husband and wife (or other iterations), E and J!” Easy :)

    • Irene

      At a wedding I recently attended, the officiant ended the ceremony by saying “Now join me in congratulating Meg & Kris on their new commitment” or something like that, and everyone clapped, and nothing seemed strange. It doesn’t seem necessary to have an introduction of the names of the new couple if their names are staying the same. I think that at the end of the wedding, people are looking more for a definitive ending/sendoff to signal that the wedding is over, rather than any particular phrase.

    • Meredith

      My brother recently got married and his wife did not change her name. At the end of the ceremony (her father actually married them, he’s a minister) he just said “And now I present for the first time as a married couple, BrothersFirst Brothers Last and WifesFirst WifesLast.

      During the rehearsal though, it took her dad like 4 tries to get it right.

      • Emily

        Yes, I went to a friend’s wedding where the announcement was “I present Mr. And Mrs.,” followed by each of their original names. It was very useful actually, as it let those who didn’t know what the married name situation was going to be in on the loop in a graceful way.

      • Claire

        That’s exactly what we had our officiant do. “Please join me in celebrating the marriage of Claire MyLast and Him HisLast.”

    • meg

      We just didn’t have an announcement. But if you want to make it clear, you can say, ” I present the newly married couple Her Herlast and His Hislast!”

      • Our announcement used first names only as I was still feeling too emotionally conflicted over the whole thing. Wasn’t a big deal.

      • This is what we did. I had a lot of people come up to me at the reception and ask “Did your officiant make a mistake?” or say “I’m so sorry he forgot to use your new name!” And I found that absolutely hilarious at the time. The champagne helped with that.

        • Huh, maybe no one asked us this because we also had a Power Point projected of it too (for translation reasons, we used Power Point in the bilingual ceremony) so it must have been super clear to anyone confused and wondering if there was a mistake, haha!

    • kara

      Thanks so much! I love all the ideas :)

    • I did not change my name upon marriage and did not want to be introduced as Mrs. Hislastname at the wedding. I told our minister that wouldn’t feel honest to me and he agreed. At our wedding, our minister introduced us by our first names saying “I present, for the first time as husband and wife, Jared and Suzanne!” I made sure to remind our minister of this right before our ceremony. At our reception, upon my instructions, the DJ introduced us as “Here are the newlyweds, Jared and Suzanne!” I also made sure to put our full names on our favor gift tags, thank you notes, and address labels. That was my way of quietly and stylishly emphasizing that I did not change my name. I’ve still had to speak up and correct people when they refer to me as Suzanne Hislastname. I’ve tried to be kind and direct about it saying: “I have not changed my last name and I am not going to do so. So, if you could please not refer to me as Suzanne Hislastname I’d greatly appreciate it.” I like to keep it simple and to the point. For our future kids, we plan to give them my last name as a middle name and his last name as a last name. The compromise is that we will raise our children as Florida Gator fans (my team) rather than Tennessee Vol fans (his team). That might seem silly, but football is hugely important to me and my family identity. I feel satisfied with this compromise. I also like the idea that our future children potentially could use both our last names names if they wanted, but they are not forced to deal with the complications of hyphenated names. At the same time, I can see great benefits in hyphenating your children’s names. I love the idea of continuing to talk about this issue that we face as women. We must continually “politely set things on fire” about this topic!

      • I totally should have done this – let people know what my name was, or that it was staying the same for that matter. To me, it wasn’t a big deal everyone (or so I thought) knew my name wasn’t changing and it wasn’t a big deal. Now, I’ve slowly realized that I should have said something because I have family members who are confused and frankly unsure what my name situation is. I also think that by not announcing anything his family just assumed that I changed my name. (Although I am almost certain that his dad doesn’t know my first name or is just generally confused by it). Now, 2 1/2 years in, I’m not sure how to let everyone know that nothing changed.

  • Shiri

    I was so appreciative when I told my soon to be fiance that I wouldn’t take his name (out of the blue) and he said “of course not!” We’ve joked about combining our names, because who wouldn’t want to be a SandBar? I’m perfectly happy having my name and him having his, but I want our kids to have some visible connection to me, and have my Jewish heritage, which they’ll be raised in, as a part of their names. For this reason, I think we’re going to talk about both of us hyphenating.

    I think the name thing, overall, is so strange. My mother is no longer married to my father, but she still has his name. I like that it clearly ties us together to the outside world (whose thoughts, for some reason, I care deeply about) but think it isn’t fair to her that it ties her to him after she has severed any legal ties.

  • My husband didn’t want to change his name. He didn’t think I should change my name. I didn’t end up changing my name. Kevin (because he has nephews galore to carry on his name and I am the last of my line) has offered to give our kid (if we have one) my name.

    Awesome right? It will shake up everyone’s assumptions. We’ll be a cutting edge family! But here is the thing – he has a better name! Not so much better that is was an incentive for me to get off my lazy butt and change it (because in all honesty the paperwork involved was a pretty big factor in keeping my name as is), but enough so that I would feel guilty not giving my kid the better name. The easier to pronounce, the ethnically identifiable (Irish), sweet name that goes so well with so many first names.

    I realize there may be a bigger fight involved – gender equality and traditional assumptions. However, there will also be a child involved. My child. Who I won’t be having to create an extension of myself. Who I’ll be having because I have an overabundance of love in my heart and want him/her to have the best start in life possible. Shouldn’t I be giving him/her the easier/better name?

    • Emily

      Haha, that reminds me of my mom’s reaction to my current plan to pass on my name as a middle name to the kids: “You would CURSE them with that?!” (She even changed her name to that!)

  • I’ve been married three years, I’ve kept my maiden name and also took my husband’s name, no hyphen. People can call me what ever they want, so long as its not Mrs. HisFirst HisLast (shakes fist).

    What I still run into is people making comments about it. Unsolicited comments, as if they are trying to make explanations for the “weird” behavior that I’ve displayed. One man said, “Time to move on.” This was early on in my new marriage, and I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t know what to say, other than mumble something about my choice, blah blah. Another time, a friend forget I was married and called me by my maiden name, then my husband’s name, and my other friend said, “Oh, she just couldn’t decide!” I just smiled really sweetly and said, “No, I wanted to be both.”

    Which, last I checked, is not that demanding, offensive or terrible of a choice.

    • meg

      Exactly. And this is why we’ve still got a fight ahead of us.

      And man would I have said something rude to the “move on” guy.

    • Lauren

      I got a “Shame. shame. shame.” from an aunt who went onto explain that her sister-in-law kept her name because of her career, and as a result their children were so confused about why their mom had a different name. To which I asked, “how old were they when they were confused? Toddlers?”
      “Oh no, all the way through high school,” she replied.

      To which I replied, “Well, we don’t anticipate having kids who will find the concept that confusing. If they do, we’ll. explain. it. to. them.”


    You know what sentence I don’t like (and absolutely no offence meant to those using it throughout this thread)?
    “He’s alright with me keeping my name”.
    If only I had the power to say “I’m alright with him keeping his name” and have that sound really conciliatory.

    • Contessa

      Exactly! My Ex-Boyfriend (For obvious reasons to follow) told me that he would “allow” me to hyphenate my name instead of having me keep my name (which is my married name from my first marriage). Hyphenating our names would have produced a silly sounding and almost stutter-worty combo sure to perpetually embarrass me which is beside the point of being told I would be allowed to hyphenate. I deeply regret that I allowed him to walk upright out of that room…

    • Sooz

      My answer to that sort of statement was always ‘if he was the kind of guy who thought he actually had a say in the matter, he wouldn’t be the guy I was marrying’

      Thankfully, most people knew me well enough to not say anything that stupid. it was mostly workmates I got it from.

      (weirdly, I find England much more traditional that way than my homeland New Zealand is…)


    • Jennifer

      That reminds me of a coworker whose response to my change of last name was “I would never have let my wife change her name.” It was so weird, on the one hand I guess he was trying to show how egalitarian he was, but on the other he was in effect stating that his wife’s name was his decision, not hers. (“I wouldn’t be interested in marrying a woman who wanted to give up her last name” would have been fine; “I won’t let her change her name,” on the other hand….)

      • Hearing that would have steam shooting out of my ears – he wouldn’t LET his wife change her name? That sounds ridiculously controlling, ironic really. The whole point of this is choice and for some people, having a common family name trumps keeping their own. And they can still be independent feminists or whatever else that man is looking for in a wife.

    • meg

      F*CK YES. This.

      Maybe we should all just start saying this.

    • clairelizabeth

      My mum, who didn’t change her name when my parents married in 1978 would tell people that she decided to let my father keep his last name. He thought it was hilarious, as did (most) other people!

      • ANDREA

        Yes! Let’s say it, then. Until we stop getting the “that’s so hilarious” response*.

        *although I will accept the “that’s so hilarious because it hearkens back to ye olden days when avoiding traditional naming conventions was laughed at” response.

  • Shawna

    I am with Alyssa. For me, changing my last name to my husband’s was the right decision. My mom married when I was 6 and changed my last name for me from my original last name to my new father’s last name (no, there was no discussion about this, I’m sad to say). Well, turns out that father was abusive and I have no desire to keep his last name. I had considered changing back to my original last name, but then got engaged and it seemed simple to just take my husband’s last name. Plus, I like his last name. BUT, I still cried about it. I still mourned my old last name. I guess I felt like, “well, sure my father was abusive, but I took that name and put myself through undergrad and grad school and made a life for myself using that name!”. Also, when we lived together before marriage, I liked being the “mylastname-hislastname house”. And then we married, and now it was just “hislastname house” and I felt like my half had been lost. At the same time, I really didn’t want my old name back. It’s been one year now, and I’ve finally felt comfortable with his last name, and don’t feel like I’m mourning my last name, for only a few weeks now. I’m glad I made this decision. But still, it can take time. It’s not easy, even when the choice seems sorta obvious.

    Also, just to add options to the pot, he comes from a family where mom didn’t change her last name, neither did dad. They had 3 children. The two boys have dad’s last name and the one girl has mom’s last name. His cousins are all that way as well. Nobody has hyphenated names (because yes, that gets complicated on forms, and really one works for one generation). But, no one changes names and both names get carried on.

    • I have nearly the same situation as you, minus the abuse. It made perfect sense for me to take my husbands name because I was already on my second last name anyway, but like you I still mourned over it. Still do a little. It was my name that I (mostly) grew up with, my degrees are in, and my life was lived in.

      I still know I made the right choice and I love that APW acknowledges that it’s ok to mourn the choice not taken.

  • Rhiannon

    In the interest of adding yet another option to this already complicated process, here is what we did (after a lot of back and forth)…

    We are lucky to have 3 easy monosyllabic names between the two of us. My hubs has a hyphenated name that is biodad-stepdad (both deceased). I wanted to have the same name for all the reasons previous commenters have mentioned. I also know that hyphenated names are not for me. So, we dropped the hyphen and made a new last name… biodadstepdad. We both changed to the new hybrid version of his last name, I kept my last name as a second middle name. Everyone was happy, even me (although there was a grieving process).

    We do get a lot of questions about where the name originates from. I usually just say it’s American or a hybrid. What I love most about our new name is that we left EVERY option on the table and figure out what worked for both of us.

    • This is interesting. It seems to me a lot of people who change names to a combination of both (or all three in your case) feel like they lost their name instead of gaining another. But you still have it, albeit in a different place.

      I think it boils down to people being afraid all that will be left of them one day is one name on a tombstone. Boy, that’s a little heavy. But I like to think the real feminist victory would be having more actions by women that live on rather than names. Anyway, I like your solution :)

  • Cass

    Growing up, I always thought I’d change my name. I didn’t even think I would wait until I got married, I wanted to change it immediately upon college. My last name is not completely unheard of – it’s common word in a foriegn language, but it’s also a widely-used slur. I dealt with a lot of teasing growing up because of my last name and I couldn’t wait to shed it.

    However, when I graduated from college as a theater major and it was time to print my headshots, I just couldn’t bring myself to change it. So I figured I’d just wait and change it later if I got married.

    But when I got engaged and the time came to make a decision, there wasn’t one to be made. I’d more than made my peace with my last name, I had fully embraced it. I even suggested my husband take it (he politely declined, citing the same reasons I didn’t want to change my name). My in-laws and acquaintances were very surprised (seriously my last name is considered to be that bad), but my close friends and family weren’t surprised in the least. In the end I decided that other peoples perception of my last name was not a good enough reason for me to change it. Almost three years later, both my husband and I still are really happy with our choices.

    However, I have to admit, I struggle with the kids thing. At first I thought we’d just give them my husband’s name because mine is really, really, really not fun growing up. It was the right choice for me to keep my name, but I don’t know if I want to subject my kid to the same bullying I went through so I can satisify my feminist ideals. But that attitude bothers me because it seems like a total cop-out. I’ve pretty much ruled out hypenating as an option because the hypenated version of my husband and I’s name is begging to be mispronunciated as another, even worse slur (that doesn’t have an alternate meaning like my name does).

    We’re still at least a year away from considering trying for kids and they may not be in the cards for us due to my health issues, but it’s something I can’t help but think about. I don’t think there’s an easy resolution here.

  • two of my friends got married last month and combined their names into a new last name that sounds totally legit, and they did it as part of their marriage license application (so it’s easy, at least in california). conveniently, though, they both had three-syllable irish names. still, i really liked their solution. unfortunately, my intended and i both have germanic/scandinavian kinda names, and when we try to brainstorm ways to do the same thing, we keep coming up with terrible things like “snyborg.” ummm, no. we will probably keep our names, and figure out something for our kids when we cross that bridge. i’m gunning for unwieldy hyphenation, personally.

    • Anne

      Yes, this! Our names don’t combine at all — our favorite combination is “Hinger,” which neither one of us can even say with a straight face.

  • Obviously there’s still a lot of struggle and emotion with the name-change issue, but I do think we’re moving toward a healthier approach as a society. About half my friends who got married recently changed their names, another half kept their names, and another couple created a totally new name based on their original last names. I hope the norm gets closer and closer to “whatever you feel comfortable with as a couple,” whether that’s having the same last name, hyphenating, or going by “Mr. and Ms. Awesomesaucebananapants.”

    I was always pretty sure I’d change my name. My mom did that, my grandmothers did, etc. We’re still a month away from the big day and I’m pretty comfortable with becoming a Mrs. FianceLastName. But one thing that’s actually come up recently is my name professionally. There have been pretty big changes in my career path recently, and all my work is associated with my current last name. My fiance has mentioned this before and said he would not be offended at all if I wanted to keep my last name for professional stuff. I think that’s going to be the way I go–my maiden name for my writing stuff, my fiance’s name for family life. Maybe that’ll get confusing and I’ll change everything, but it makes sense right now.

  • Beth

    I am getting married in 3 weeks to a German national and moving to Germany.

    I have a very traditional, short, easy to pronounce Anglo-American last name (like Smith or Jones, but not either of those). My fiance has a non-traditional German last name (as far from Meyer or Bauer as you can get). I always thought I would take my husband’s last name, because there are so many other people in the world with my full name and I am regularly mistaken for them at the doctor’s office and other places.

    But my fiance’s name is completely unpronounceable to all but 2 or 3 of my friends and family. In fact, even though we have been together for nearly 3 years, I am not even sure I say it correctly. My parents definitely can’t pronounce it. He cannot change his name because he works in academia and has already published under his current last name.

    Added to this are the mystifying visa / passport rules for moving to the EU immediately after the wedding. So I will be keeping my name legally and changing it socially. If people call me Frau unusual German last name or Frau Anglo name, that will be okay with me. If people call me Mrs. or Ms. (mangled pronunciation of) unusual German last name, I will tell them I didn’t change my name and please feel welcome to call me by the old one.

    No matter what they call me, I’ll still be me and we’ll still be married and finally living in the same country. What matters is that they care about you, not what they call you.

    • I was engaged to a guy from a Polish family, and his middle name had a silent J. Well, silent in English, and thus impossible to spell. In Polish, the entire name sounded a little like, uh, someone coughing up phlegm. I spent a lot of time trying to come to terms with that. (In the end, I left him before I had to make a decision about names.) I hear you on the difficult to pronounce last names!

  • I’m changing the whole thing. I’ve been a “Beth” ever since I could remember (my dad just wanted my name to be Beth but mom insisted I have the “formal” option of “Elizabeth.”) So I’m going to be a Beth, legally now too.

    I love my aunt Nanci but I’m dropping my middle name for my maiden name. It’s beautiful and I want to hold on to a more general sense of family than honoring one person.

    And I’m taking his last. It’s REALLY important to him. And it’s also important to me to be a single unit, matching name and all.

    On the action front, I have to do a more legalistic name change because I’m changing my first name as well, and it’s not that bad. (At least in Idaho.) Don’t let this be an excuse for him not changing his name if that’s the mutual decision (if it’s done often enough the process may change).

    Your decision? It’s fine with me. I might ask you what it is you’re doing with your name because I don’t want to call you Mrs. when you’re a Ms. or a HisLast when you’re a hyphenated.

    But sorry, even if you want me to, I’ll probably never call you Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.

  • PAF

    Meg, As someone who made the same choice you made when I got married – without even a thought – it was always a given to me that i’d keep my name, I’m wondering what your suggestion for you kids’ last names would mean for your grandchildren? this is my struggle. when ms./mr. smith-jones from family A marries ms./mr. garcia-vasquez from family B, do you envision their child being named John Garcia-Vasquez-Smith-Jones? THAT, is my struggle. Luckily, I live in a place where I didn’t have to face judgements about my own name and my partner’s name. But we always wonder what the heck our children, and in a way, more importantly, THEIR children, would be named if they chose to maintain whatever tradition we lay out for them. As a side note, anyone I know in my own generation who grew up with a hyphenated name has told me they hated the experience (although many of my married friends have chosen to take on hyphenated names now and love it). I think this has to do with the fact that society has not yet accepted these sorts of names into its systems (I;ve heard various stories about DMV and other bureaucratic offices being a giant pain in the bum with hyphens).

    • PAF

      Just to add – what I envision right now for our kids is to make one of our names our kids’ middle name and the other his/her last. But there is still unfairness around which name gets “lost” in the middle (even though I do love middle names), and confusion around siblings possibly having different last names… we wonder if that’s something they would resent us for.

    • I think Meg’s suggestion was that the kids each keep one parent’s name and drop the other for one of their spouse’s parent’s names. So, Smith-Jones marrying Garcia-Vasquez would become Smith-Vasquez or Smith-Garcia or Jones-Garcia or Jones-Vasquez, depending on the specific circumstances. So one original name does get dropped, but one remains.

      • meg

        Correct. Girls keep the mom’s name (reflecting the matrilineal line), boys keep the dads name (reflecting the patralineal line).

        • I have a friend whose parents did something similar but yet opposite. Their son was given the mother’s last name and their daughter was given the father’s last name. Their was no hyphenation and mom and dad both have kept their original names. As a teacher, I’ve also started seeing this on student paperwork.

          Last names are so varied by family, especially in the school where I work that it is commonplace to look at student paperwork to find a parent whose name is different totally from the student. It will hopefully be more commonplace by the time I have a child enrolled in school that no one is surprised if our surnames are the same or not.

  • When I was really young, I used to tell everyone my “Real” name was Kayleigh MyMiddle MyMom’sMaiden MyDad’sLast Gookook (Gookook because I figured part of my name should be made up by me, and when you’re 4 years old Gookook sounds like a good name). It always made me sad that my cousins legally had the same last name as my maternal Grandparents, who I felt really close to, while I didn’t get to share a name with them. It made me feel like my cousins, who happened to be boys so they’d get the family name forever, were more a part of the family than I was, and that some day when I got married I would lose my family of origin even more. I pretty much always knew that when I got married I would keep my name.

    I’ve done some other weird things with my name over the years like add an “e” here or there, or refuse to be called by a nickname and then several years later insist on being called by it, so you would think that my family wouldn’t assume I’d just go along with the accepted practice of changing my last name when I got married, but a lot of them did. We got a lot of cards to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast or the dreaded Mr and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. (One of the people who insists on calling me Mrs. HisLast is my maternal Grandma, whose last name I’d tried to incorporate into mine all those years ago.) I hate when someone is so excited to call me what they assume is my new last name and I have to do the whole “no, guess what, I’m a feminist so here I am raining on your parade by keeping my last name” thing. I wish there was a way to send out a pre-emptive notice to everyone. A lot of the time if I get a card addressed wrong I won’t bother to correct them.

    • Class of 1980

      KAYLEIGH WROTE: “It always made me sad that my cousins legally had the same last name as my maternal Grandparents, who I felt really close to, while I didn’t get to share a name with them. It made me feel like my cousins, who happened to be boys so they’d get the family name forever, were more a part of the family than I was, and that some day when I got married I would lose my family of origin even more. I pretty much always knew that when I got married I would keep my name.”

      ME TOO!

      I changed my name when I got married because my father’s name represents two generations of dysfunction and he’s no exception.

      But, I was ultra-close to my maternal grandparents and was jealous that my cousins got to have their last name. I loved their last name for both aesthetic and emotional reasons. There are only good vibes associated with that name. If that had been my maiden name, I’d have felt more negative about changing my name upon marriage.

      There is no denying that personal history and emotion has some impact on our ultimate decision of whether to change names or not.

    • “It always made me sad that my cousins legally had the same last name as my maternal Grandparents, who I felt really close to, while I didn’t get to share a name with them. It made me feel like my cousins, who happened to be boys so they’d get the family name forever, were more a part of the family than I was, and that some day when I got married I would lose my family of origin even more.”


      I am very close to my mom’s side of the family. I have 21 first cousins on my mom’s side of the family and just 3 on my dad’s who are all much older and whom I have only met a handful of times. I am changing my name and have no qualms about it. I’ve barely given it any thought at all, actually. But if I had my mom’s last name, I would be MUCH more troubled because I so deeply identify with her last name. I have pretty much no attachment to my (my father’s) last name.

      • Also this!

        My dad only has sisters, so despite one of them keeping her maiden name, my 6 cousins on that side have various other surnames. Thus, the only people I now share my boring 10-letter maiden name with are my parents, one aunt, my brother and his wife and progeny, and my grandparents. Those are very important connections to me of course, but I don’t feel like our very common name has much to do with that.

        My mom’s maiden name on the other hand is a very unique 5-letter Irish surname. I’m obsessed with genealogy, and that line has always interested me the most. Both of my Uncles on that side only had 1 daughter each. The first of the two to get married (assuming the other does someday) has kept her maiden name. I think I would too! If neither of them pass on the name in some way, our line of that tree “dies”, so to speak. I would also readily keep my maternal grandmother’s 4-letter Irish surname too. Given that she married in the early 1930’s in rural Irish-Catholic Missouri, she certainly didn’t keep it though.

        And I, in Suburbia, Texas didn’t keep mine either. [shrug] We all have our reasons. I’m just glad I get to make my own choice, instead of having it dictated.

    • You know what this made me realise? I would have loved to have both my mother’s maiden name and my father’s name, hyphenated if necessary. It would have reflected how I felt, as much a part of my mother’s extended family as my father’s.

      This makes me wish we’d hyphenated my daughter’s name, because she is as much a part of my family of origin as my husband’s. It seems weird that my brother’s son has the same name as my siblings, but my daughter has the same name as my husband’s siblings. Food for thought, and a definite arguments for Meg’s solution to my mind.

  • Has anyone (or anyone’s acquaintance) just made up a new name? That’s what I wanted to do. Not a combination of our original ones, but a whole new word. It made my partner uncomfortable because he feels attachment to having actual history behind a name; I, however, would have loved that option.

    • Sooz

      the weird thing is, though, often there isn’t the history that you think there is with an established name. I’ve fought my whole life over the pronunciation and spelling of my last name. My aunt who is very into genealogy found out that our name changed from one census to another because someone wrote it down wrong!

      And my partner has this fantastic scandal in his family, where his paternal grandmother had a child out of wedlock and would never tell who the father was (took it to her grave). She gave her child a last name that wasn’t hers or the father’s, which is now my partner’s last name, and while it does have a family connection, it’s not a direct one.


      • Class of 1980

        SOOZ WROTE: “And my partner has this fantastic scandal in his family, where his paternal grandmother had a child out of wedlock and would never tell who the father was (took it to her grave). She gave her child a last name that wasn’t hers or the father’s, which is now my partner’s last name, and while it does have a family connection, it’s not a direct one.”

        I have a second cousin who is working on a family genealogy for my mother’s side of the family. It turns out that my great grandfather and his younger brother were actually born LONG AFTER their father died. Too long after for him to have been their father! Yet they have the same last name as all the older brothers and sisters of that large family.

        Their mother (my great great grandmother) was widowed and left to run a large plantation, and all that is known is that she mysteriously sent the two youngest boys to live with a doctor for a while AND that she was summoned into court for some unknown reason.

        It means my grandmother’s maiden name didn’t really belong to her blood relatives! This we found out after her death a few years ago.

        Was the doctor my real great great grandfather? We don’t know!

        • Oh my god–please turn this into a novel. Awesome family scandal–I LOVE IT!!

    • I know two couples who did this – one combined parts of both of their names to form a new one and the other just picked an entirely new name that they both agreed on.

    • I do know a couple who changed their names entirely. Their new chosen name means “new beginnings.”

    • YES! My friends really like cycling, so when they got married, they changed their last name to “Velo”- French for bicycle.

    • I kind of jokingly suggested that we both change our last names to “Pants,” which was part of our Brangelina name when we were dating. heh. I have heard of people making up a new one, I think it works especially well when the two names combine into a new one naturally, or at least the new name has some significance for both of you.

      unfortunately for us, considering my husband is going to be an elementary school teacher, “Mr. Pants” just wasn’t going to work.. not to mention the embarrassment if we were to visit the UK..

      • Zan

        Mr. Pants would definitely be the most popular teacher EVAR.

        (just sayin’)

      • Donnie wanted to change our last name to Kangaroo. I said I just couldn’t do that because I would never be taken seriously as a teacher, as Dr. Kangaroo.

        I think we’re going to combine all four family names (his dad’s birthname, his mom’s birthname, my dad’s birthname, my mom’s birthname) into one name… Taking 2-3 letters from each. But we’ll see.

    • Friend of a friend did, but their new name was something like Shadowsong or Firefeather.

    • My brother and his wife did this – combined their two last names and all took the new one (and gave it to their girls as well, when they were born).

      Interestingly, they ended up changing it again and going back to his last name! They said they felt like they were missing out on the history from both their names. To them, tt was worth the hassle of changing all four of their names (them + two kids) to get back to the family name.

      I think how you would feel about this is completely variable. For some couples, it is probably a great option.

  • Cassandra

    I also live in Montreal (and if I live here, whether I get married elsewhere, I can’t use my married name), so the ‘do I change my name’ thing isn’t an issue. It’s the kids’ names that get me! I have a daughter from a previous relationship who has my last name. If my partner legally adopts my daughter, I don’t know that we would change her name, but we’re planning on having more children and I’d like my kids to have the same last name. Given that my partner already has an alliterative hyphenated name (it’s extremely common for children born after Quebec made the law on married women’s names to have both their parents last names), and my last name also starts with the same letter, we’re not interested in given our kids a triple hyphenated name where all names begin with the same letter… It’s a huge headache. If we were planning to live long-term in Quebec, I would say to hell with it and just leave it alone, but given the Boy’s chosen career and my research work, we will likely be living all over the place, and a lot of different names in one family brings with it the likelihood of more stress. Sigh.

  • In January, we will celebrate our first anniversary & I have made no move on the name change front. I’m stuck! I had NO clue it would be this difficult for me. Luckily, my husband, family & friends are willing to listen to me vent about it & offer solutions but NOTHING seems right. My husband & I are a team & family & I would like us to share a last name. In theory. It’s just not that easy. I’m attached to my middle name because I share it with my Mom & I’m attached to my last name because I share it with my Dad who is no longer alive. I don’t want to drop either one, I don’t want to hyphenate & I don’t want to keep both while adding my husband’s last name.

    My husband & his brother’s middle names are their Mom’s maiden name. This is very sweet. For now, it’s the best option: drop my last name & make it the middle name of our kid(s). But I still haven’t been able to act on it which makes me wonder if it’s not right for me either.

    For those of you who have made a decision, whatever it may be, I’m in complete awe! You’re wiser & braver than me.

  • Ultimately, I kept my last name because I felt it was the least crappy option. We are hyphenating our kids’ last names because we feel like it’s the least crappy option. What I want are MORE OPTIONS, including options that feel 100% right to me!

    This whole issue just makes me want to ditch last names altogether sometimes.

    • Granola

      Move to Iceland! I found out that everyone there is listed in the phone book and referred to by first names, because the patronymic naming system isn’t very helpful: i.e. John’s son would be Eric Johnsson and his daughter would be Erica Johnsdottir, so basically the surnames change every generation and don’t tell much more than who your parent is. (Not that you can actually move to Iceland, and granted they’re helped by a population of only 300,000 people, but still a comforting thought for me.)

      • I really like the Icelandic naming system, and this sounds fab. It’s also comforting that another country has been dealing with incontinuity of names between generations for, oh, CENTURIES without self-destructing. Oh, Scandinavia.

        • I have a friend of a friend who is Icelandic. Her name before marriage was, say, Erica Johnsdottir, but she legally changed her name to Erica Mariesdottir because she wanted to have her mother’s name. I thought that was a lovely way of doing things. I believe her kids are, say, Sarah Ericasdottir and Sam Davidsson, with a man named David Smith. A new egaliatiran spin on an old tradition – I liked it.

          • Yeah, for some reason I had it mixed up in my head and thought women were Momsdottir and men were Dadsson, which I liked even MORE, but I’m still pretty into it.

            And not just because I like Vikings.

  • Annie

    When I share that I haven’t changed my name and have no plans to do it, people automatically assume it has something to do with politics or feminism. Oh how I wish I could respond that my personal choice had to do with some strong held conviction, that in keeping my name I was making a symbolic gesture, but that would be a lie.

    I kept my name because I like it. It’s mine.

    So we won’t share a monogram or a last name, but we’ll still share a life together.

    • But how could you have a perfect wedding without an adorable monogram logo?!

      Just kidding, ick.

      • meg


      • Our invites and programs did have a monogram logo: my first initial, and his first initial. Perfect.

    • Carrie

      If you ever do want a monogram, you could create one that combines the first letters of your last names. I’ve been thinking about that for us — to put on cards we’ll send out jointly, that kind of thing.

      • Annie

        Carrie, I think a dual monogram is a nice comprimise. As someone who is single-handedly trying to keep the post office in business, I send lots of real mail so it’s good to have options.

        Currently our address labels etc. have our whole names as a gentle reminder to those who don’t remember/know that I have not changed my name.

        • MEI

          We were both name-keepers and one of the hands down best presents we got was a personally designed hand cross-stitch piece of my first initial and his first initial intertwined. Loves.

          We also got some gorgeous bowls (I’m talking seriously beautiful) with both a monogram of both our first initials and a W (his last initial). My last initial is M so we say we’ll just turn them upside down every once in awhile. :) Because letting those go to waste would just be tragic.

  • clairelizabeth

    Wow. These perspectives are fascinating, and this is a conversation that so obviously NEEDS TO HAPPEN!

    My own experience is pretty straight forward: when I was born in Canada in 1982 giving a child their father’s surname was mandatory except in cases where the father was unknown. My parents were newly married, but my mother had chosen to keep her surname – with apparently zero drama from my dad or his family. So I was given my mother’s surname as a middle name and my father’s surname as my surname. My younger brother got the same treatment.

    Perhaps because I grew up with a differing surname than my mum – and was not scarred, alienated from her family, or constantly getting mixed up- I never considered changing my name when A and I got married earlier this year.

    Interestingly, my biggest supporter of retaining all my names was A’s mum. She has had three surnames: family name, first husband’s name, second husband’s name; and she said she never really “felt” like any person other than her family name, and the paper work was irritating each time she changed.

    If we have children, A and I will likely do some varient of my parents’ plan: one child will have my (father’s) family name as a surname and A’s as a middle name, and vice versa for the second. When these hypothetical children grow up and get married, they can do whatever they want.

    • Really? What province? Because when I and many of my friends were born in 1986, this was not the case. I have my mother’s last name even though we know my father’s.

  • jessie

    I think our current plan is going to be that we each take each other’s last name as a second middle name, so first and last names remain unchanged. I’m not worried about people seeing us as a family or not (after 8 years together, unmarried, I really don’t see how a last name is going to make the difference), and I’m proud of the fact that my last name, while not stellar, is very unique (yay Google Search!). Plus, I’m close to my family, while he has little contact with his dad and his mom now uses her own maiden name… I identify strongly with my name. He very much does not want me to change my name, as he is very uncomfortable with the tradition of name changing, so we are both a-okay with this. Honestly, my only motivation for the middle name thing is my hope is that, by having both last names on passports and drivers licenses, we’ll avoid some confusion with our children when travelling, etc. However, here’s something I’m struggling with:

    Do our kids need to have the same last names?

    What I mean is, can I name my daughter (for example) Anna Middlenamehislast Lastnamemylast, and my son Robert Middlenamemylast Lastnamehislast? I know I CAN, but should I? Or should we let it be determined by whatever kid is born first (so, if we have a girl first, the legal last name will be mine with his name as the middle name, with all subsequent children having that same name pattern, male or not)? I worry that, by doing this, I’m “assigning” my child a parent, and possibly a gendered identity. Added to this, what about having a trans child? I know it’s possible that my trans child might want a full name change regardless, but in thinking about this as a possible solution, would I be gendering too much? Will my kid say “Thanks for deciding that I’d identify as FEMALE, mom”? I feel like this is no more likely to be the case than if I give my daughter a traditionally female name and call her “my daughter”, but it’s still something I think about.

    • “I know I CAN, but should I?”

      I think that that question is underlying for a lot of us when it comes to decisions like this – decisions that are simultaneously public and private, personal and interpersonal.

      Maybe the point of this whole conversation is to say that you CAN do whatever you want, and you SHOULD do whatever it is that you want. Or as Rachelle said on Twitter, “The most feminist choice is the one that is sincere and genuine. The end.”

      I’m not really trying to address your questions specifically, but that one line jumped out at me as something that I’ve felt myself wondering and it seems too common. We need more CAN and less SHOULD.

    • Roadrunner

      If it helps, I grew up with a sister with a different last name. Technically, she’s my half-sister (different dads, so different last names) but we grew up in the same house, with our mom (maiden name! yep, three people, three names).

      It was fine. Sometimes, we liked having different names–we don’t look anything alike, and so she could go through school behind me without being pre-branded as “Roadrunner’s sister”. We were in high school together for a year (she’s three years younger) and many, many people didn’t realize we were sisters. When you’re 14 and 17, that seems like a god-send.

      But did she ever feel like Not My Sister? No, of course not. Especially because our mom has a different last name from either of us, last names just weren’t an important indication of who was family and who wasn’t.

      And for all the people worried that their kids’ schools will be confused if their kids have a different name than them: seriously, don’t worry about it. Did I occasionally have to correct other kids or teachers that referred to my mom as Mrs. Mylastname? Of course. Was it a big deal to me? Not at all. And so far as I know, no one in an authority position ever doubted that my mom was my mom just because we didn’t share a name. From the kids perspective: not a big deal at all.

  • Liz

    Most of the women in my family changed their names upon marrying, so I grew up assuming that I would do the same, and I WAS really at peace with that decision for a number of reasons:
    1) I don’t like my name very much, while it’s ME, it’s a part of me I’m happy to change
    2) my name is LONG
    3) my FH’s name is shorter and better than mine and sounds better with my first name
    4) he’d take my name if I wanted him to, but I don’t.
    5) E. HisLast is unique on google scholar, E. Mylast is not


    I’m an academic, and by the time we get married, I’ll have around three papers published under my current last name. I like my future name, and want that to be me always, so I will just start publishing as and showing up at conferences with a different name. I would think that a community of PhDs in a relatively small field could figure it out…. but this seems to be a very uncommon thing to do?

    • I don’t know what field you’re in, but I am not explicitly in academia, and yet in my job, I am constantly reading scholarly articles.

      And especially if you do any interdisciplinary work, you might want to consider that while your small field may get it, the larger community who read scholarly journals will not and they won’t necessarily make the connection.

      And maybe that’s okay with you, but I wouldn’t just assume people will figure it out.

      • Liz

        I think you’re right, there may be some people who are confused, but I’m weighing three early papers against multiple names I don’t want for the rest of my career. There are “cons” whatever way you slice it, but I’d rather cheerfully correct people now than deal with segregating two names until I retire.

        The part that bothers me most and makes me a bit angry is that I have this fear people looking at my CV and seeing a name change will assume I am not serious about my career.

        The easiest thing would be to keep my name for everything, but I don’t want to, and as in any other circumstance I think that what I want to call myself matters.

        • Umpteenth Sarah

          I’m in academia too, and although sometimes I use the “I’ve already published” excuse when people ask me why I didn’t change my name, it’s not the real reason (didn’t want to, didn’t have to, none of your business, leave me alone, why are you assuming I should do the changing, etc).

          My two cents are that the only people who will really ever need, need, need to connect your future work with your past work are people who are hiring you or potentially needing to look at your cv, on which you will have those three papers listed anyway. Or, if someone is looking at one of those three papers and wants to contact you, they’ll go to google and maybe have a harder time getting ahold of you.

          Again, my opinion (caveated with the fact that I don’t know you and it’s entirely your choice) is that you shouldn’t base your name around three papers you wrote early in your career. If it were me, I’d be so utterly flattered that people who don’t know me are reading those papers that the name confusion wouldn’t be much of an issue at all. Plus, academics (and most people) are smart (hopfully). Same first name, same topic, same field? Same person! As we know, women do occasionally change their last names in the United States… I doubt anyone would be so flummoxed they’d end up frustrated.

        • Cassandra

          I think this tends to be a concern of a lot of academics (yay, academia!) and other professionals, because it *is* fairly uncommon to choose a name and the possibility of ‘losing’ the attachment to some of the work you’ve done in your career before marriage.

          I actually *do* think a lot of people figure it out. I research and work in population studies and demography, and while we’re not a tiny field, we’re not enormous. It oftens happens that we find out someone’s new marital status (married or divorced) through a name change in their new published works. There might be a momentary pause of ‘is Liz XYZ the same as Liz XY? Yeah of course, it’s the same kind of work” It’s uncommon, but it does happen.

          Also, I’d love to think we’re at the point where one’s seriousness about one’s career is judged less by their marital status than by their published work and their research accomplishments… It’s hard to say, but I think in weighing the pros and cons, if your fiance’s name comes out on top, I’d go with it rather than facing a professional life of using a name you aren’t happy using.

        • No, I think you should totally call yourself what you want to call yourself and there are definitely cons any way you slice it. And three papers is not, in the grand schemes of a career, a ton.

          I was just saying that I wouldn’t assume people will figure it out, but it also sounds like even if people don’t figure it out, it’s not something you need to worry overly about.

    • When I was in grad school I noticed that my college chem professors maiden name was actually pretty well linked to her married name. This is a digital age. And opening up the name change option for those concerned about publishing by better linking seems like a totally feasible and awesome option. (At least then choices can be made for personal rather than professional reasons.)

    • streamnerd

      I’m an academic and I posted a bit earlier about my thoughts on my name.

      However, as an academic in the sciences I do think that I would be judged unfavorably by colleagues (men and women) if I did change my name.

      I agree that it should not be that complicated to link to a previous name in pubs. I read a paper recently and it stated in the address line for author XYZ “fomerly XYW”.

      I would like to think that we have progressed but in a lot of disciplines it is still a good ‘ol boys club.

      I have also seen research like this:

      • Anne

        Yes, EXACTLY. If I do decide to change my name, I know I would be judged as being less serious about my career (ridiculous, but there it is) — and frankly, as a woman in academia (who might even want to have children! Heaven forbid!), that makes it an even more difficult choice.

  • Irene

    I would love love love to hear more from ladies who did not change their name, whose husbands were just A-Okay with that, and how they chose to go about enforcing that choice once it was made. I am not sure how to navigate the social politics of it all. On the one hand, I don’t want to be a jerk, and make it seem to others that the fact that I don’t want to change my name is a judgment on their choice, or a rejection of my husband’s family. And I don’t think I would be offended to receive holiday cards addressed to “The Hislast Family” or something innocent like that. But on the other hand, it seems equally rude if you make an effort to make it clear that you are not changing your name, but people insist on attaching his last name to you. In which instances did you ladies choose to draw lines in the sand, and how did you do so politely, and in what cases did you decide it just wasn’t worth the effort?

    • clairelizabeth

      I did not change my name and A was totally fine with it. As a child of divorced parents, his mum had changed her surname to that of her current husband, and A’s dad – who has an extremely unique surname – was involved in a reasonably large scandal, such that A has to deal with awkward inquiries pretty often.

      As a 2nd generation non-name-changer (my mum didn’t either) I don’t think anyone in our families expected me to change.

      So far – 2 months of marriage in – I’ve yet to find myself in a situation where people attach A’s surname to me. Maybe that’s due to the city and country we live in – where not changing names is quite common. Or maybe its because it just hasn’t happened yet.

      In the event that anyone calls me Mrs A’s last name, I’ll copy what my mother does: politely point out that that is my motherinlaw’s last name, and mine is different. Apparently works really well with telemarketers!

      • Cassandra

        My mother has used that line on literally EVERY phone call she’s ever received where she’s address as Mrs my dad’s last name. She refuses to give in, haha.

    • Kathryn in VT

      My husband was one hundred percent on board with me keeping his name. In fact, when I brought up the question after we decided to get married, his response was something along the lines of, “Why would you ever change your name?” Every now and then I’ve felt a twinge at not being the “HisLastName(s),” but guess what: Keeping my name hasn’t made me feel any less married.

      I think word just got out to our families that I wasn’t making any changes. My dad did call me, in the middle of my engagement, with a “What about your future unborn CHILDREN?!” exclamation, but that was the end of that. I have an excuse that I can fall back on (though I hate to use it); I’m a writer by profession, and I didn’t want to give up all my bylines. Every now and then an acquaintance will see us — and this was mainly after the wedding, when they were eager to share their excitement about our marriage — and enthusiastically address us as “Mr. and Mrs. HisLast!” or “Mrs. HisLast!” It’s been very, very easy to just say in a very friendly manner that I’m keeping my name. I’ll often joke that I’ll answer to just about anything.

      The approach I’ve found useful is to be gracious and polite about it. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which someone would “insist” on calling you by his last name once they know what’s up. I try to make it clear that I appreciate their enthusiasm at acknowledging our marriage — I think this is what the “Mrs. HisLast!” boils down to — but actually have kept my maiden name.

      • I want to second what Kathryn in VT says.

        My husband wasn’t surprised I didn’t change my name. As a thirty-year-old professional he assumed I wouldn’t be and was more surprised that I actually did seriously consider taking his name.

        As for how to let people know, I think some people will take cues from you. If you don’t change your facebook page immediately, or your email, and you sign your thank you cards with your original name, they will figure it out. For those people who have no clue that keeping your name is even done (which thankfully is rarer and rarer) you (or your husband if the person is on his side) could casually mention it.

        Then you need to decide how strict you want to be about it and how much it matters to you. If every Christmas card that is addressed Mr. & Mrs. Jones is going to make you see red, start telling those people more directly. If you don’t really care what the Christmas card says, let it go. The latter is the approach I am going to take. It will probably bother me slightly (especially the mr. and mrs. hisfirstname hislastname ones) but I am going to assume that everyone is trying to do their best and no one means offense. I may have offended people in my invitations by not addressing them the way they would have preferred, but I honestly did my best. Sometimes that is all you can do.

    • Annie

      The paternal side of my husband’s family is very conservative and traditional and were shocked that I wasn’t changing my name. When questioned I was polite, but firm in my choice. I smiled and assured them, that while I think hislastname and family is delightful, that I’m choosing to keep my own because I like it. For those that press and ask “well what does your husband think about it!” I always laugh and say that his feathers have been the least ruffled of anyone.

      We did get some wedding gifts addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname, but for the most part I chalked that up to people not knowing. When we sent our thank you note I made sure our return address block clearly shows both our full names and that we signed everything showing that I had not made the change. For the most part I think reinforcement is really helpful.

    • meg

      I’ve decided (now 2.5 years in) that people who don’t respect my decisions are the ones being jerks, and I’m willing to go head to head. For a year, I was really nice about it (maybe people didn’t know). Now I CORRECT PEOPLE. Loudly. Clearly. Publicly. On FACEBOOK WALLS if I have to. And I always say the same thing, “Neither of us chose to change our name. We’ll let you know if that changes at any point.”

      It is *always* worth the effort. Me being clear is in no way a judgment on other people’s choices, but our choices deserve to be respected. Full stop.

    • I didn’t change my name and it was a non-issue. I did eventually remember to ask D whether he even had an opinion about the name change thing, and he looked surprised and said that he’d always thought of me by my name and it would seem weird to change it. My sister didn’t change hers either, and I like that we’ll always share our name, even once our parents are gone.

      I had a few people ask about it, and none of them seemed surprised when I told them. I do think people are getting more aware of the issue, because we didn’t receive any (incorrectly) monogrammed items and most of the joint checks we received had both our last names on them. I’m pretty sure that some people checked with our parents first, because otherwise I’m not sure how they knew.

      We made sure that our thank you cards had both our last names on them for the return address. Not sure if that will help or not. I’m super curious to see how we get addressed on holiday cards this year.

    • I didn’t change my name, and my husband didn’t expect me to. We’ve only been married for three weeks but it hasn’t been an issue so far. In fact, the people who seem to be asking “did you/will you change your name?” are women of my mom’s generation, who married in the 70s and kept their name. When I reply that I’m keeping my name as is, they have all given me a twinkling “atta girl” smile. It’s so nice to let these women know that their choices and actions have made it EASIER for me (and my generation) to define ourselves and our families however we choose.

      Not that we’re there yet, but it’s been a nice reminder that our collective time spent struggling to find solutions for the arm-flailing hard stuff does pay off a little more with each future generation.

  • Not to play devil’s advocate, but I actually think that some of what made this such a *hard* decision, at least for me, was the sheer amount of conversation and judgment around it. Every decision I considered making seemed to imply something to someone else (I was a feminist, I was oppressed, etc. etc.) and I constantly had to explain and defend my decision. And frankly, I generally encountered the adverse opinions from women – I had a few men assume that *of course* I would be taking the hubster’s name (which was annoying) but didn’t feel the judgment from them when I explained what we were actually doing.

    Conversely, while the conversation was hard with the hubster (because neither one of us could hit on a good solution – and we *did* consider them all), I did feel that he understood how tough it was for me (partly because, as part of the conversation, he was also considering changing his name) and I frankly would have had reservations about marrying him if he hadn’t been able to empathize with my feelings and understand a feminist perspective.

    I guess what I’m saying is – I think it’s important to understand how personal this decision is and respect the choice of each person without necessarily reading it as meaning something more and/or political. I would have been a lot happier if I could have approached the decision from a creative yay-how-are-we-starting-this-new-stage-of-life-together perspective instead of immediately feeling like I needed to assume a defensive posture.

    • Kelly

      Thanks for saying this better than I could have.

      I decided pretty early on that I would take my fiance’s last name, plain and simple. There’s a chance I could have something published by our wedding, but I know that it’s possible to change the record if anyone were to look at my paper in the future. But reading the whole conversation around the name change issue (both this one and the discussions in the past on APW) has made me start doubting my decision and made me feel like I wasn’t being a good/strong female for spending hours going through all of the different options and trying to convince my fiance to do something else that honors me more.

    • I had a long conversation with my friend the other day about judgment and I think I realized why I (and other women) often do end up judging other people even when we are trying hard not to.

      I won’t lie … I feel a vested interest in other women not changing their names, because the more women who don’t, the more it feels like not changing your name becomes considered an option within the societal norm. As much as we can talk about how choices matter, and they do, if everyone makes the choice to change their name, then the few that don’t will be looked at as going against the grain of society. If 90% of women change their names (which I think might be the actual statistic) then a lot of women who don’t want to change their names will feel societal pressure to change their names and then will change it. As much as most of us on this board feel like we had the choice and it was a decision we were entitled to make, many American women don’t feel like they have a real choice. They change their names because everyone changes their names.

      This is not to say that people shouldn’t make the decision that is right for them as an individual. I remember that in college, my dad pushed me to the sciences because there weren’t enough women in science and engineering fields and I HATED it. I realized quickly that I couldn’t do something I hated just to carry a torch for women’s equality. The same goes for any other fraught issue: name changes, staying at home versus working with kids, etc etc.

      And this is also not to say that we shouldn’t fight against judgment. But I just say this as an effort to explain why I think judgment exists … just as we shouldn’t judge, maybe we should have compassion for those that judge. As I think is evidence by the number of comments, we’re all fighting our own battles.

      I will say one more thing though: I hope that all of us, regardless of what we decide, teach both our little girls and our little boys that they have choices. I hope we teach our daughters that they can change their names or not, and I hope we teach our boys that boys can change their names too. Because it seems like, even among relatively feminist men, most of them (including my fiance) had never before in their lives considered taking their wife’s name upon marriage. If I have boys, I plan to teach them early on that that’s a perfectly viable option.

    • Emily

      That’s a good point. One of the things that’s torn me up a lot is that no matter what I do, I’ll be making some kind of public statement about our family, my identity, my career, and feminism…and I want to make ALL the statements! My mom helped me out a little by saying, “People make too much of a big deal about it, it wasn’t symbolic for me, whatever you do will be fine.” It’s still hard but I think she’s right, people may read things into it but you don’t have to view it as a political choice if you dont’ want to.

      • ALICEB

        I just eloped and changed my name. What bothers me the most is the judgements made by other women- particularly of the “I’m too much of a feminist to do what you did” variety.

        That carries so many assumptions about my views and my life that really have no basis in reality. The fact is that I thought this through a great deal, made certain it was completely clear to all involved that it was my decision, mourned the semi-loss of my maiden name, and accepted the positive and negative consequences of the name change because it was my own choice. I am absolutely a feminist, and this means I support the right of every woman and man to make their own decision about their own name.

        It did matter to my husband, but if I had decided not to change it there would not have been any discussion of whether this was “allowed”, because he can never tell me what I’m allowed to do- we can just talk about how it affects us and how we feel, and take it from there.

      • Cassandra

        My firm opinion on all of this is that the choices I make concerning my last name do not define my feminism. If all that makes me a feminist is my name, I’m not doing enough.

  • Granola

    I didn’t get through all the comments before I had the urge to jump in, but I wanted to add my few bits of experience. I’m pre-engaged, and the topic of name-changing is one I’ve thought about a lot and talked over with my guy. My mom changed her last name, and kept her maiden name as her middle name. She’s pretty laid back and she wanted the same last name as her kids. What I’m struggling with is actually almost a lack of drama. I like my last name, but I’m not strongly attached to it. And my boyfriend and I share a common ethnic heritage that is important to both of us. In my family, it’s through my mother’s side, so I’ve had this rich cultural heritage that isn’t readily apparent. For him, it’s through his father’s family, so he has an ethnic last name, but slightly less cultural connection than I do (food is a big part of it and traditionally women have passed that down). So for me, taking his last name is a way to get this recognition of a very important part of me that I currently don’t have.

    However, as others have mentioned, it’s hard not to feel like I’m being a “bad feminist” if I change my name with no real hassle. It seems like I’ve cheated and lucked out and since I know it’s not that easy for everyone, I want to inject a little fight into the process. However, I don’t really have the energy for it and would rather take a stand on something else down the line when I really need it.

    That being said, I do think there will be a bit of a mourning process when I actually change it.

    • I’m very much in the same boat. Our last names are both bastardized versions of German names, so any cultural linkages we have are similar. (Although, to be fair, we both self identify first and last as straight up Canadians.) Our mothers are both from straight up Canadian families, so we have similar history there as well. My last name was fine, although impossible for others to spell. I have never been that attached to my middle or last name, and while I debated losing my middle name for my maiden last name name, I couldn’t be bothered to spend $500 and go before a judge to do so. So I simply took his. Without a ton of worry, because, to me, at the end of the day, it’s just a name. I know who I am, and who I have descended from, and who he is and his ancestors. I didn’t mourn the loss of my old name – I don’t know why I’m so unconflicted. Maybe because my identity is very much caught up in my first name? (Which was really uncommon when I was born, although common now.) I don’t really feel like a bad feminist – I considered my options, we discussed our feelings, agreed really easily and were done with it. I fully support everyone to make the choice that’s good for them – how could I not? I made the choice that was right for me.

  • Just to throw my two cents in-I am currently in the process of changing my last name (we got married 2 months ago). My parents (mom & step dad) both have their own distict last name, my married older sister changed her name. I only shared my maiden name with my sister and my dad, who is completely out of my life. Right before we got engaged I toyed around with hypenating MOMLast-STEPDADlast and not changing my name when we got married. I didn’t feel right but I do now have MYFirst MomLast HisFamilyName. It is a process to get your name changed-but it isn’t the most complicated thing legally so you can do what works for you.

  • David

    David here (yes, THAT David),

    I recently got a surprise which has put Meg and my decision in some interesting perspective. I was having a long discussion with my parents about problems they were having getting a bank to issue them a safety deposit box. All of this having to do with my mom’s name.

    So it turns out my mother never legally changed her name. Of course, I’ve known for years that my mom uses one name professionally and, I assumed, had our family name socially (and legally). But it turns out that not only did she not change her name, but she never would have gone by my father’s name if it wasn’t for social convention.

    Which is to say that while my mother has been perfectly fine sharing my father’s name, it wasn’t her choice. By the time my parents got married, both of them had been working professionally for many years. My mom had been published. It didn’t make sense to her (both professionally and personally) to change her name and loose all the clout that she had collected over those years before my dad.

    This led me to a completely unoriginal yet surprising realization: in our modern internet culture, can many people afford to change their name? In other words, when your public persona is not simply how you introduce yourself, but rather what people see when they google you, is changing your name in a sense starting from scratch? (Of course, if you need/want to start from scratch, it can be a blessing.)

    For my mom, it wasn’t that dramatic. However, increasingly there is some interesting fallout. My mom has two legal names. Seriously. She has a name on her social security card, which matches her driver’s license and (at least before she was retired) matched her professional credentials/credit cards/etc. She also has a different name on her PASSPORT (which I can’t imagine you could swing now). This is not, exactly, her legal legal name. Her passport name is my father’s. It’s also her name on their joint bank accounts. It’s the name on the deed to their house.

    Bringing it back, then, the forced choices my mom had to make for social convention is now starting to have real practical problems. The bank my parents were getting a safety deposit box at simply did not believe my mom had two names. In the end, it relented, but who knows how much trouble all of it is going to make in the future.

    • Clearly, Donald Draper was born in the wrong decade. Image what that guy could (or couldn’t) get away with circa 2011.

      (and hey, it’s nice to hear from THIS David today!)

    • YES!!!!

      David, this totally reminded me of an article someone posted on facebook, about your name as a brand. I think it fits with your point quite well.

    • vanesa

      It’s true, the internet changes everything. I hadn’t built up my terribly un-google-able maiden name by the time I married my husband. I changed my name, and intensified my focus towards building an art career. My new name is better – I’m probably the only Vanesa Gingold in the world, whereas a search for Vanesa Williamson brought up “Vanessa Williams”.

      I was lucky to have the name change coincide with other personal and professional transformations – making my choice easy. Had I already built up an impressive search result by the time of our marriage, I probably wouldn’t have changed my name.

      Aside from all the social, historical, and personal implications – changing ones name can have real professional and economic consequences – and you can’t know what they might be for each individual. Your story illustrates this beautifully.

    • Michelle

      I’m in a similar boat as your mom with the double names – I changed my name two years after I got married.

      It’s changed on my SS card, driver’s license, and bank accounts. It is not changed on my bank account checks or my PASSPORT. Whenever we go somewhere with my passport, I book the trip in my maiden name.

      Why you ask? Because I’m cheap and I wasn’t going to pay $150 to get a new passport just because I changed my name. That’s crap.

      • That worked for me until my husband booked a trip and unthinkingly used my legal married name instead of mu maiden (passport) name. I was so annoyed that I had to spend to $85 for a new passport. (I’m Canadian.) Plus, my old one had the BEST stamps, and while I got to keep it, it’s not the same fun to flip through when you’re killing time at the airport. (Pages of Middle Eastern stamps > American stamps.)

      • Almost exactly the same here. I changed it for SS, driver’s license, bank accounts, and most other business arrangements. I haven’t changed it on my car registration, my school, or my passport. I just book international travel under my maiden name. I might update it sometime just to get rid of the terribly acne-ridden age 16 photo, though…

    • Class of 1980

      THAT DAVID WROTE: “In other words, when your public persona is not simply how you introduce yourself, but rather what people see when they Google you, is changing your name in a sense starting from scratch? (Of course, if you need/want to start from scratch, it can be a blessing.”

      Well, I am running from the law. Hahahahahaahahah.

      Nice to see you, That David.

    • Rebecca

      This is pretty much my plan – I have no intention of legally changing anything, but I use Dean’sLast for some social stuff (by choice) and I’ve kept BecksLast for work, publication, and most “official” stuff like my passport and personal (but not joint) bank accounts. So far this has caused some confusion and questions amongst friends and colleagues (almost all of the well-meaning variety), and I’ve typically just explained that I use both and that aliases have their uses ;)

      I hadn’t considered longer-term legal ramifications though. It sounds like New Zealand has a more relaxed approach than the US, but I’ll definitely look into it to clarify. Thanks for pointing this out, That David :)

    • Good point, THAT David. :)

  • Bino

    I think the idea here isn’t to come up with an all-over “solution,” but rather to speak out about the struggle and be more accepting of others’ decisions. Enlighten people with your own thought process (whether you changed yours, kept yours, hyphenated, haven’t decided yet, what-have-you) so that everyone knows that there are options out there – men and women alike. Coming up with a solution like Meg suggests would just be forcing people to fit into some other system that they may or may not be comfortable with, and in the end it’s the same thing (no offense, Meg). I think the idea is to not fit people into some cookie-cutter mold and rather let all of these cookies take their own shape and flavor.

    My husband and I both changed our last names to his grandmother’s maiden name. And I love telling that story – not because I want to convince people to do what we did, but just because I like letting them know that there are other options out there. (By the way, though, that process was not free and we were not allowed to do it on our marriage certificate. I’m sure those laws vary by state.) (Other BTW – my husband never gets disparaging comments about changing his name.)

    • meg

      The point isn’t to make everyone fit into one solution. The point is to put more solutions on the table (and there currently isn’t a hyphenating solution that makes sense, so we need that.)

      • Bino

        So are you willing right now to hyphenate David’s father’s with your last name and is David willing to hyphenate your mother’s last name with his?

        • meg

          No, I’m hyphenating MY last name with DAVID’s last name for our kids (and possibly for us). I own my own name, thanks, it doesn’t belong to my mom or my dad. And yes, you’re being judgmental. I have of course thought of it from all angles.

      • Bino

        Sorry, don’t mean to come across as judgmental – just curious if you’ve thought about it from that angle.

        I agree to put more solutions on the table and applaud you for suggesting this idea!

        • Jen

          Whoa… geeeez. Why are people being called judgmental (which, itself, is a judgment) and having to defend themselves and having to apologize left and right? This doesn’t feel right to me. It feels so aggressive. I feel that Meg you are trying to rally around being open-minded and opening up dialogue widely, but you actually have some very strong opinions yourself, and are jumping down people’s throats who present differing opinions. I myself don’t even feel commenting here because I feel that I’ll be called judgmental and have to defend myself.

  • As I’m approaching my first anniversary, it’s still interesting and even though I made my choice, still a bit of a struggle for me!

    My husband is very proud of his last name. He was supportive of whatever decision I made about changing or not, which was more crucial to me than the action choice. He did have a strong opinion about wanting children to have his name. The other interesting thing is that the history of the name really appealed to me – there was a town named after his lineage, and it was the first town in our state to openly accept interracial marriages (as the founders were a mixed race couple). As we are also an interracial couple, I really appreciated this strong connection to history at a time when such a thing was not as accepted socially.

    As for my name, Katie M_ T_, I did not want to lose any part of it. My parents were divorced when I was a baby. My middle name is the same as my mother and grandmother’s first name. My last name is the last on my dad’s side of the family – there may be distant relatives carrying on the name (and it’s unusual spelling, ours omitted a letter that the more common spelling used) but really it was a name about to die out. I didn’t mind adding my husbands name, but I didn’t want to choose which to keep, as it felt like choosing sides between the divorced sides of the family. Also important to me, was that my nickname KT really was what lead to calling me Katie, and I used KT extensively as a nickname/identity. (and commonly use k8et online.)

    It may be totally shallow, but another factor was that I hadn’t published/been known for anything much before the wedding, and I want to open a photography business. And well, Katie G_ sounds much better, less likely to be misspelled (hopefully), and more unique in googling. It wasn’t the biggest reason by far, but it helped me make my choice.

    So after the wedding, I changed my last name to his, and made my maiden name a second middle name. So it’s Katie M_ T_ G_. It felt the most right at the time, to not give up any part of “me”. However, no one ever ever ever sees the second middle name. Some of my legal documents don’t include it because they just don’t show it or it’s not working in their system. Most disappointing was when my cousin said she had to stop calling me KT. I told her I will ALWAYS be/go by KT and k8et, regardless of what my full name says.

    So part of me really still mourns the loss of the apparent T, and wishes I just did Katie T_ G_. I could change it now, but so far it’s not bothering me enough to go through the cost and time of doing all that paperwork again so soon. And it would mean giving up the maternal family connection. :/

    I go by Mrs., probably only because his mom is not a Mrs so there’s no mixing us up :P But I do NOT like Mrs. Hisname G_, and if anyone who isn’t more than 10 years older or a conservative relative uses that, they will get an earful from me! (I don’t think I can change older generations in their usage of it, and will accept it as what they know as “proper”)

    And yes, I felt like less of a feminist for changing my name. It hurts me. But I’ll choose to focus on the rich family heritage of the name, and how the original G_ were way ahead of their time….

    (sorry for the novel. Hope that reading my story helps others make their own choice :D)

    • Oh my god you and I are almost identical (except that my new last name sounds really odd with Kate, and I’m using Ms). I also kept my middle, moved my last to a 2nd middle, and put the new one on the end (so I am Kate A C F). I also hate that the 2nd middle/old last is now mostly invisible, especially since I have always felt “meh” about my original middle name.

      I have no idea how to use it, either. Do I introduce myself as Kate C F (no original middle name, yes the two last names)? How should I tell people to address envelopes if I am using Ms, is it:
      – Mr. Carlos F and Ms. Kate C F
      – Mr and Ms Carlos F and Kate C F
      – Ms and Mr Kate C and Carlos F

      So far I have just not been putting our names in the return address when I send letters, which isn’t helping anyone.

  • In Taiwan, where I was born, women don’t change their last name. But, that doesn’t have anything to do why I didn’t take my husband’s last name. I married a white man, and I am 100% ethnically Chinese. Changing my name would be a dead giveaway that I am married to a white man. Something about that feels wrong to me.

    I am not super attached to my name. Perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that I am not super attached to the English translation of my Chinese name. I would never change my Chinese name, even if I had married a man with a Chinese last name. My parents thought long and hard about my name. About the sounds, about the meaning, even about the strokes that make up the characters of my name. Yeah, not messing with a good thing.

    When it comes down to it, I don’t expect my husband to change his name, and he extends the same courtesy to me. When we have kids, we will revisit this issue.

    • I am glad you brought this up. I hadn’t thought of the name change decision for people who have their given name in their alphabet of origin and then also their name as translated into another alphabet. And I love how you describe the intention with which your parents chose your Chinese name and the strokes.

  • From this conversation, and from my experiences with my friends, it’s clear that we are all doing lots of different things with our names, which is awesome. Ultimately each couple has to figure out what works for them and there are clearly so many factors that go into that decision beyond tradition (not that tradition isn’t important).

    That said the fact that we are all managing to do these different things, doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It’s emotionally fraught for many of us, and there are legal complications and social expectations that make things harder. In terms of practical ways to make this process better, I can think of two things..

    On the legal side, make it easy for either member (or both) of a married couple to change their name – whether to hyphenated, the spouse’s last, or a jointly agreed upon name. It’s ridiculous that in most states, men have to go through the legal name change process to hyphenate or change their name, while women just have to go down to the Social Security office (not that there won’t always be some hassle in changing names, but the barrier shouldn’t be higher for men than women).

    On the social side, don’t ever make assumptions about what folks are doing with their names. I think a good neutral “are you guys changing your names?” or “what are you doing about names?” is fine socially. In terms of professionally, I find that if folks are changing their names, they will tell you (directly if needed, like in the case of the HR or IT folks – because of name changes on insurance or email addresses) or indirectly through new email signatures/voicemail messages.

    It will only help us to keep having conversations like this (here and with folks who ask us – friends, relatives, etc) about what we did with our names and why, because that really makes it clear that there are SO many ways of doing this and that they are all valid.

  • Anyone out there with a hyphenated name (married or not) have issues with it?

    I never thought I’d change my last name when I got married. I was shocked by how upset my husband was over this. Our compromise was hyphenation. I made the legal change.

    I am SHOCKED by the number of times I’ve been told my last name is “invalid,” mostly with online forms and such. Every time I get fired up and send a nasty email to the company informing them how evil they are to tell me my last name is INVALID. Oh, the indignity. It drives me nuts.

  • Whenever I make hotel or restaurant reservations I put them under Craig’s first name and my last, and then make him check in. Preferably when we’re with a group. It’s great fun! All jokes aside though, it’s just my own little way to keep him (and any guys we’re with) aware of the power of assumption, and how it can make you feel dumb sometimes.

    • meg

      Hahahaha. RAD.

    • I live with my boyfriend and when he called up to do something with our internet bill (which is in my name), he said “my wife” just to make it easier. So, for the rest of the call, they referred to him as Mr. HerLast. He thought it was funny, and I LOVED it!!

  • I have been married just over a year now. It took me almost two months post-wedding to change my name. To my husband, those seven weeks seemed like an eternity. In the first month after the wedding, we honeymooned for almost two weeks, had another wedding to attend, and moved into the house we bought five days prior to the wedding. Those logistics were a factor in my timetable. But partially, I stalled because I didn’t feel good about changing my name. My immediate family is very close knit mainly because we don’t have a lot of extended family. Thus, giving up my last name felt like abandoning them. That broke my heart.

    Secondly, for some reason, I felt that any success I found after changing my last name didn’t really belong to me the way it would have if I’d accomplished it before getting married. That was the bigger obstacle for me. And I knew it was really about being single and successful vs. being married and successful, not about what name was used to describe that success. Once I understood my irrational fear, it actually motivated me to go through with the name change. Facing my fear, freed me from it. Now, under this new last name, I have a better sense of self than I have ever had before.

    And that was the choice that was right for me. I’m still working through it, still navigating some waters. But I don’t regret it. I am proud of myself for overcoming my fear.

  • Marina

    You know, I think one of the reasons I was okay changing my previous last name to match his is that both names have very similar ethnic and immigrant histories. My patriarchal great-grandfather was a German Jew who emigrated to the US in the 1930s; his patriarchal great-grandfather was a Russian Jew who emigrated to the US in the 1910s. My last name is different than it was three years ago, but my sense that my name ties me to my forebears is the same. When someone asks me where my last name comes from, my answer is almost the same as it would have been before. If his last name had been Smith, or O’Riley, I think I would have been far more likely to keep my old last name.

    • meg

      This is probably part of it with us. We couldn’t have more different family histories, and I don’t think we want either of those wiped out (for us or our kids).

    • Yes! We were both given bastardized German last names, and have very Canadian maternal families. I do think that might have made it easier. Also, knowing that our last names were at most 3 generations old helped too. I’m linked by blood (er, mostly – family skeleton) to the generations that came before me on both sides, not necessarily by name, and I am okay with that.

    • Marina

      After more thought, I think it also has a lot to do with my family upbringing. As a child, my grandma would always tell me I was one of the G*** girls–G*** wasn’t her name, or her maiden name, but her MOTHER’S maiden name. Her mother and her sisters were the G*** girls growing up, and there were certain traits they all shared, and my grandma also shared those traits, and so did I. Being a G*** girl was part of my identity, even though it wasn’t any part of my name.

      Also, my extended family is pretty close, and around the Thanksgiving dinner table we’d always have at least four or five different last names. So I guess I never had much reason to feel like my concept of family was tied to the idea of a last name, or at least that my belonging in my family would be changed by changing my name.

      • “So I guess I never had much reason to feel like my concept of family was tied to the idea of a last name, or at least that my belonging in my family would be changed by changing my name.”

        Yes yes yes!

        I’ve been adopted by my mother in law’s clan – a huge happy family. I may not be related to them by blood, or my husband to them by name, but we are very much family.

  • Plus, if everybody hyphenates, it would be easy to spread the genes around! Evolutionary advantage, FTW! I’m kind of kidding, but I do think that’s a perk. I’ve had such a weird relationship with my whole name — first and last! — and my in-laws have a running joke of referring to me and my husband as an ever-changing series of names.

    But what I love about this is people are really talking and thinking about it, and also people seem to have gotten over the idea you have to figure it out the day you sign the marriage license.

    • Yes! When we applied for our marriage license, we had the option of paying for a certified copy of our marriage certificate with the application. The woman processing our paperwork said, incredulously, “You’re not changing your name?” when she saw we weren’t requesting a copy. I told her that if I decided to down the road, I’d know where the office would be to request it.

  • i just want to express my love for the phrase and concept of “politely lighting something on fire.”

    that, and say that, while we had decided to change our names as of the wedding, we haven’t actually done it yet – primarily because i am terrified of paperwork. oh, and it’s expensive. so we have decided to give each other our new names for christmas.

    • meg

      It’s my life motto. Clearly.

      (You get farther with politeness. And with fire. So I use a combination.)

      • I lit up a candle while reading through comments. It felt a little TOO polite, though.

  • Lisbeth

    Note: although I live in Massachusetts, I am Swedish. What in Sweden would be unremarkable, Americans (see also “my in-laws”) often consider radical.* I evidently have much to say on this, so apologies in advance for length.

    *My would-be father-in-law is adamant that we need a family name, which presumably would not be mine. My would-be mother-in-law has called me a militant feminist.

    My father’s former last name, and by extension mine as well, was one my grandfather invented because he found his own too common (a Swedish -son name). He later proceeded to leave my grandmother and their two children under the age of five. As an adult, my father consequently changed his last name, and ours, to his mother’s maiden name (which actually did not much please my grandmother, as she had a terrible relationship with her own father and kept her second husband’s name after they divorced). My father’s brother kept his father’s last name, but his children have their mother’s.

    My mother uses First Herlast personally and professionally despite being First Herlast Hislast on paper. She and my father work in the same field and it has been important to her to maintain a separate identity.

    For me, this meant growing up with certain assumptions. One, men and women change their names often, for many reasons, sometimes ones as banal as “I liked another name more.” Two, women sometimes change their names upon marriage but often they don’t. Three, children usually have their father’s name but sometimes they have just their mother’s, or both.

    If I still had my grandfather’s vanity name, I would consider changing it: because no one can spell it, it means nothing, and I hate what it stands for. But my dad took care of that already, and I do not plan to change my name again.

    Arguments in favor of my current name:
    – It is an unmistakably Swedish name, -son suffix and all, and living overseas that marker of my heritage has become more important to me.
    – I do not have a middle name, and my initials are EE. I like that. I do not like the initials EF, EEF, or EFE.
    – It and my first name are a pleasant combination, melodic and alliterative.
    – In any language besides English, the double-e in his name is a nightmare. If I speak Swedish or French, I do not want to pronounce my own name with an American accent.
    – I like his family well enough, but I would not give up my own to be a part of it. I attribute many of my deepest values (feminism among them) to my family of origin, and those views are not always welcome in his.

    Conversely, though, his first with my last conjures a broad-shouldered Minnesota farmer while he is a slim, bespectacled East Coast Jew, so I would not want him to take my last name either. What to do about children’s last names is an open question that I am not really looking forward to addressing.

    • Lisbeth

      …And if anybody asks after the wedding if I changed it, my intended reply is “No, we both kept our names.”

      • Annie

        I tell people that too. I always smile and say, I love my name and so I kept it and my husband kept his too!

    • meg

      I think you should get a t-shirt that says “militant feminist” which you casually wear to family gatherings. I also *hope* you’re reading “How To Be A Woman.” Perfection.

    • Lisbeth

      Another note: as per Google results, the only notable Myfirst Hislast was a 1920s suffragette and civil rights activist. I’m still not taking his name, but I do love that historical footnote.

      • Awesome! The most notable Myfirst Mymaiden was a suffragette in the 1910’s! She slashed a painting (the Rockeby Venus) in the National Gallery in London as a form of protest, I believe for the incarceration of another suffragette. Pretty BAMF, I say. Myfirst Mymaiden was also a Fascist, but whatchagonnado?

    • “If I speak Swedish or French, I do not want to pronounce my own name with an American accent.”

      Yeah…this is my situation now. I am an American living in Quebec, so I am all the time introducing myself in French to francophones, and often encounter a puzzled expression and a question to repeat my clearly-not-French-sounding name again. Sometimes, when the listener needs to spell it, I repeat my last name with its normal accent and then again with a French accent which seems to help. But it’s weird though and I don’t know what the best solution is. But I guess my husband gets this when he communicates in English with my English-speaking friends who struggle with the pronunciation of his name. (Which is considerably more uncommon and difficult than mine to say.)

  • Okay there are a ton of comments here…but I’d like to add my voice and ask, can we have a post about the everyday practicalities of different name changes? There’s been mention of difficulties in filling out forms for hyphenated last names, for two middle names…I’m thinking of having two last names and going by Erin Mylast Hislast, no hyphen (Erin Hislast in everyday life…Erin Mylast professionally? Gah I want both names and I want them both at the forefront because I am proud of my family name, but I want us to have a family name as well, and he doesn’t want to change his because he has gone by a nickname based on his last name for most of his life (and frankly it’s a great name anyway, which is kind of why I want it, oh god this all gets so confusing), and hyphenating just doesn’t appeal to me, and gaaahhhh).

    Hand-flailing aside, how do these decisions affect the practicalities of legal stuff and filling out forms and etc etc etc? I’ve tried googling this kind of info to no avail. Help us, Team Practical!

    • meg

      If someone has the knowledge to write it (I don’t!) I’m all for it. But the issue is that it’s different state by state and country by country, so I think it’s a useless post. I could make David write it for California, but then where would everyone else be?

      • The word “spreadsheet” immediately springs to mind. I can do Scotland…?

        • meg

          Huh. Interesting idea.

    • This may be a complete untruth, so if any attorney would like to chime in . . . is there something somewhere about not being able to sign anything but your legal last name to any kind of binding document or whatever? As in, I can go by Kim Bo Bim socially (friends, family) and Kim Fo Fim professionally (bylines, papers, business cards), but if my name on my SS card/passport/etc. is Kim Mo Mim, then I have to sign Kim Mo Mim on any contract, etc.

      Am I completely making this up?

      • Marina

        Many people’s signatures are completely unrecognizable as their name anyway, so I kind of wonder whether it’d really matter in practice.

        • Right. But signing aside, even just the name on legal agreements, I wonder.

          • When I got married I changed my name to Myfirst Hislast but I just stuck his last name on the end of my signature so it actually says C Mylast Hislast, although it’s pretty illegible, could easily say Catherine Hislast. I like holding onto this part of my own personal heritage, the signature I developed for myself. The only time I’ve ever been asked what my signature said was when registering my daughter’s birth. (I’m in UK.) I said it said Catherine Histlast, for simplicity’s sake.

  • Lia

    This has been a struggle for me. I don’t want to lose my sense of identity, but at the same time it is important to both of us to have the same last name, and I want to have the same last name as our potential children. I don’t want to hyphenate, so I am replacing my {ugly, I think} middle name with my last name, and taking my fiance’s last name. I don’t feel like I am losing a sense of self – just gaining something new. Because it was so important to my fiance that we share his last name, we worked out a deal: HE will be filling out all the paperwork required to change my name!

  • This is such a timely topic. Changing my name was a little more emotional than I thought it would be. I’ve had a love hate relationship with my last name and as I’ve gotten older definitely embraced the love side of it more than the hate. My parents had different last names and it was difficult as a kid especially since my mom always corrected people when she was called Mrs. My last name. She would say “That person doesn’t exist.” I changed my last name to my middle name and took on my husband’s last name. I haven’t changed it at work or on my email and don’t plan on it. I was flattered when a bouncer said what a different middle name, and I remarked oh that’s my last name, totally surprised since I assumed it would be obvious that it was a former last name now as a middle. As for the kiddos, I plan on giving my last name as their middle so they will be connected to both families. I love this conversation, because it is a hard one and we’re lucky to have APW as a place to do it.

    • That is the Scottish tradition – the mother’s maiden name is the eldest child’s middle name. So my middle name is Sinclair, after my mother’s former last name. As a child I HATED it because all my friends’ middle names were Elizabeth or Rose and I thought mine was ugly and stupid (sigh), but now I love it. My paternal grandfather was English, though, so my maiden name would make a completely weird middle name (it is also the name of a country, so people might think we were doing a Brooklyn Beckham or something – awkward). But as a tradition generally, I love it, and wish more people did it. Even Scottish people of my generation are often completely unaware of this tradition and it makes me sad.

      It’s also very common for Scottish women with maiden names like Cameron to give their sons that name as their forename, which I think is kind of cool.

      • Class of 1980

        There are so many Scots-Irish in the south, and a lot of women here use their maiden names as their middle names. I wonder if this regional tradition started because there are so many Scots-Irish here?

        That might explain why my maternal grandparents didn’t do this. They were from Virginia, but they were English, Welsh, and a little French.

    • LocLac

      She would say “That person doesn’t exist.”

      That is what my mother (who kept her name) would tell telemarketers and the like when they would as for Mrs. Dad’s Last.

  • a strange day in july

    There may already be comments to this end so please forgive me if I’m repeating (so so many comments! hooray! to many to read!) but here’s the issue we face in our new little family – my husband and I are each the last of our own last name in our direct family lineage. Both of our fathers were the only boys in their families and their sisters are either unmarried, married with no kids, or married with kids who have their fathers last names. We have no cousins with our last names, we have no siblings who have kids who have our last names.. we are the LAST in our lines for our last names. Both of us. I always felt like the trump card on last name would go to whoever was at risk of killing off a family name for good and now I’ve married someone with the same status as me!
    It was never a question or an issue for me to keep my name, we never had a big talk, he just knew that was a part of who I am. But now that we are trying to add to our little family, sh*ts getting real and it’s getting real really fast. I don’t want to watch my family name die out with me, but I also don’t want to watch his die out. So I think it’s settled. It’s two unhyphenated last names for our little ones, all up in the Spanish/Mexican/number of other countries cooler than us style.
    Has anyone else dealt with the “death of a family name” issue?

    • jessie

      It’s unlikely that my brother will have kids, and there are, oddly enough, no other males on my dad’s side (I say oddly because it is so big). So, unless one of the two yet-to-have-babies women (me and my younger sister) decide to give our names to our kid, there will be no more of my very uncommon last name. My older sisters have given their husband’s names to their children. My partner, on the other hand, has a male sibling, and several male cousins who have passed their name down, so it’s a bit different.

      I love your plan of unhypenated last names, as long as you’re cool with the fact that your kids may, one day, choose one over the other… or choose to change their own name if they marry, effectively having the name “die” anyway. But, as others have said, we can’t control our children and shouldn’t try to. We just have to do what makes sense to us, and then let them do the same.

  • Amberpdidit

    the name change was my single biggest blocking issue to marriage. The blatant and assumed inequality drives me nuts. I always thought it would keep me from getting married. I have always been very vocal about this and gotten responses varying from eye rolls to go girls.

    I did get married. My husband has attachments to his name and I can respect that. We are still working out what our strategy will be for kids.

    The one thing I did to help clear up some of the post wedding Mrs. Comments was make a business card that went in our thank you cards. It had our names (clearly written as Him Hislast and Me Mylast) and other contact info. I think this cleared everyone up for a while.

    • Lisbeth

      Love the business card idea. Might borrow it!

    • That’s a really cute idea. I like it!

  • “And if there is anything I’ve learned from the ongoing APW discussion about name changing, it’s this: the men in our lives, by and large, don’t know how hard it is for us.”

    Could not be more true and this is where I get fired up a lot of the time. I’m a feminist and although my husband doesn’t refer to himself as a feminist, he’s definitely respectful of my beliefs and often shares them. But when it came to changing names, we had a hard time aligning our paths. He wanted me to do what I wanted, but every time I asked him for his opinion on the matter, he would say that he would like me to change my name. Suddenly, I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing what he would prefer. And then I got angry about feeling guilty.

    It wasn’t until we discussed the possibility of both of us changing our names to a brand new name (no hyphenation, no name related to our families whatsoever) that he finally understood how I felt. He expressed the idea that abandoning his family name altogether felt too weird. He didn’t feel like he should have to abandon the name he grew up with and used for 23 years. And I agree. He shouldn’t be expected to if it made him feel weird. And neither should I.

    I think a lot of men have a hard time understanding how women feel about the name change because it’s not often something they have to consider. My brother didn’t even know it was possible for men to change their names or for women to keep their name after marriage (insert eye roll here). But ideally, I would like to have the same name as my husband. It used to be because I wanted to feel more like a family. After getting married, I realized how crazy that is. We’re already a family. But now my main concern is our future children. Hyphenation is messy for us and I’m not sure I want our kids to be stuck with a 14 character last name. It’s been a year and we’re still no closer to a decision, but thankfully we’ve got a while to figure it out.

    • Roadrunner

      I’m three and a half weeks from being married, and I’m not planning on changing my name. But I can’t seem to make peace with that decision because I’m worried I won’t feel “really married” or that we’re “really family” now. We’ve been together 8 years, lived together for 5, so I think part of it is that not all that much will change after the wedding. So hearing you say that you do feel like a family even without the same name is good to hear. I just can’t even begin to contemplate taking his name, but I also just can’t seem to let this go.

      • I had wondered if I would feel “less married” if I didn’t take my husband’s name, but I was relieved after the wedding when I did indeed feel very married. For me the (lack of) name change was unconnected to the feeling of being married. I found that realization to be liberating (which is probably because I grew up in the South and most everyone I know has taken their husband’s name with marriage.) I hope you find a path that feels right to you, whatever that ends up being! (And you can always change your mind later, if you decide to.)

  • RebeccaS

    Yes! My husband changed his last name to mine and it’s awesome! I knew I was not ever going to change my last name but we had a pretty straightforward discussion about what we wanted for our kids last name. Acceptable to me: My last name, Hyphenated last name, Coin flip to choose. He wanted: to have the same name as our children and thought that the hyphenated option was unsustainable long term (there are ways obviously that Meg pointed out – but it is less straightforward) . Confounding expectations from his conservative family was another plus. I try to ask men if they are changing their name when they get married and if people act like it’s a joke I can say – why? my husand did. I love the fact that I am showing people that it is an option. I don’t feel any conflicted emotions about our choices either – it makes both of us really happy.

  • April

    Well, I’ve joined the discussion late – 254 comments in, at last check…and I dutifully read the first five comments, then skipped to the middle… then thought: who am I kidding?!!?

    To be honest, I don’t really understand a lot of the angst that some people go through, deciding whether or not to change their name. That is not to say I am unsympathetic… I just don’t get it. There are so many variables and personal feelings wrapped up with it, and my feelings and choice are not going to make anyone else’s easier. Unless they agree with me.

    I changed my name because the family name I’d grown up with, I didn’t identify with and no longer wanted. My husband wanted to change his name to mine, only to have less letters to write out. We casually discussed a new name for both of us… but at the end of the day, discovered we were just lazy and indecisive about new name. So I opted to take his name, which I love. And when I receive correspondence with my new name, or sign it as I write the checks it makes me smile inside.

  • Carrie

    Also, on the issue of feeling like you need to have a common name to be united, to be “the Names” or “the Name family”:

    For us, it feels very natural to be Carrie Herlast and Keith Hislast, but refer to ourselves jointly as “the Herlast-Hislasts” or “the Herlast-Hislast family”. Like, that’s the name of our partnership. For example, when we send out Christmas cards, we sign them “Carrie & Keith” and put the return address as “Herlast-Hislast, 123 Main Street, Anytown, US.”

    It’s possible this could cause confusion about whether we’ve hyphenated or not. But it hasn’t, so far. We only tend to use it when talking/writing to people who already know us and know what our names are. (With cards, if we think there could be confusion, we sign our full names on the inside of the card.)

    I guess this is why the idea of hyphenating our future kids’ names feels right to me.

    • I agree with this, a lot! I think of us as the Herlast-Hislasts as well, and assume I will continue to do so if/when we have children. In this sense, I do occasionally call myself Ms. Hislast and call him Mr. Herlast, as a sort of pet name. So, in a way, I guess I think our names are fluid, and I think we HAVE a family name, even if we don’t have the same name individually.

      • Carrie

        I think we HAVE a family name, even if we don’t have the same name individually.

        YES. Exactly.

    • Lisbeth

      Not married yet, but our joint email account (for banking and such) is mylast.hislast at gmail; our wireless network is MylastHislast. I do think of us as the Mylast-Hislast family–in that order because it’s easier to say, not out of vanity on my part!

      His father, though, is very distraught by the idea of not having a family name, like when some announcement from the synagogue reads “Husband, Son, and Daughter Hislast and Wife Herlast” instead of “Everyone Hislast” or “The Hislasts.” So, then, why not “The Hislast-Herlasts” or vice versa? I don’t get it.

      If we have to be “the Lastnames,” I for one am more concerned about his last name ending in -man. Part of me wants to make it “the Freemen,” which isn’t right, but “the Freemans” doesn’t sound good to me either. We have such problems!

      • Carrie

        Hahaha. It’s like that bit at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring. “ProudFEET!”

        And yeah — we registered for our wedding website (I want to remake it into a sort of family update website), and we have Herlast.Hislast at Gmail for any joint stuff we might need (not that we really use it — joint bank accounts and stuff just go to both of our individual email accounts).

  • My mother never took my father’s last name. My middle name is her last name and my last name his. It was always sort of a point of contention as it seemed like no one made up their minds on the subject. My mom would occasionally give my name as hers only and every once in awhile it was hyphenated. She even told my father at one point that I was going to drop his last name (which wasn’t true). Oh parents, don’t do this to your kids. Make up your mind in the first place.

    When I got married I took my husband’s last name (kept my middle name, which is my mom’s maiden name). I was happy to do it. Let’s just say my last name was fairly embarrassing, and the butt of numerous jokes. Though I was happy to do it, excited even, there is definitely this sense of loss of some part of myself. It’s weird to have such an attachment to something that I didn’t even like.

  • Carrie

    P.S. His mom told me “Whatever you do, don’t drop Herlast and replace it with Hislast. The numerology is terrible.” She was relieved to hear I was keeping my name as-is. Apparently that numerology is okay.

    This made me giggle. It just struck me funny, in the midst of all the hand-wringing about tradition and feminism and whatnot, that my mother-in-law’s sole and only concern was the numerology.

    (His parents’ only request about our wedding was that we pick a date and time that wasn’t during a retrograde Mercury or a void moon. Other than that, they did not care — church, courthouse, backyard, beach, summer, winter, jeans, black-tie, they were cool with it. Just as long as the astrology was auspicious. My husband and I don’t believe in astrology, but we figured hey, if this is the only compromise we have to make with our parents about their beliefs, we can do that. And luckily the entire spring and summer that year was non-retrograde-Mercury.)

  • I am taking my fiance’s name and not keeping mine in any way. If anyone is interested, I made a post about it not long ago on my blog:

    I wrote it because I’ve often felt that within the “offbeat” wedding world, there aren’t a lot of women making my decision or having as easy a time with it as I am. This would be fine, but I’ve faced a lot of judgment for my choice.

  • Also, wow, now I feel kind of embarrassed, because this blog is so in-depth and cool and mine is brand-new and aside from the one post I linked, total fluff.

    • Don’t be. You’re in-depth and cool for thinking and “chatting” about this stuff.

  • I’m not married (though I already have this decision made), but from a child’s perspective…

    My parents divorced when I was so small that for my whole life memorable I’ve had a different name from my mother. Expand to aunts & uncles and there are about 6 different surnames floating around. Did it matter? Not really.* I always knew who my relatives were. I often hear people say they have to do whatever “for the children.” I didn’t need to share a name with my mom to know that she’s my mom.

    *The teachers were the ones who typically had problems working this out.

    (Meanwhile there were kids at school with my same surname who people often mistook for relatives.)

    Like Marie-Ève said, if you act like a family, you’re a family.

  • Because I just rewatched Scrubs, I’d like to point out that Carla also struggled with changing her last name. She ultimately decided not to. Yay Scrubs!

    When I was younger I always thought I would change my name, but now I’m not so sure. I rather like my name. My boyfriend has talked about taking my name to make us more of a family, so we’ll see!

    • Lilly on How I Met Your Mother also didn’t change her name and they referenced it in a really cool way. By the way, Lilly and Marshall are one of the very few married couples on TV I like. They are well-matched attractiveness-wise (not a hot wife and chubby husband), she didn’t turn into a crazy lunatic after they got married (um, Monica on Friends anyone?), and they both are portrayed as being blissfully happy with being married (in spite of the comedic fights). I know as a rule happily married people are boring to watch, but it is a refreshing change!

      • Roadrunner

        Totally agree :) My fiance and I are secretly in love with Lily and Marshall…

        (And I did really like the episode about her not changing her name. I actually had a nightmare recently that I had an apron with Hislast on it…)

        • Jen W

          My fh and I are not-so-secretly in love with Lilly and Marshall as married fictional role models. We may even occasionally practice that sitting side-by-side high five they do so awesomely :)

          • Kathryn in VT

            Married fictional role models! Mine have always been Coach Taylor and Tami from Friday Night Lights. Tough and funny and loving parents and supportive partners? There are no words for how much I love them.

          • Roadrunner

            Oh, yes, Eric and Tami are good role models as well. I’m always impressed by their fights–they’re obviously angry, but they argue with a lot of love and an assumption that in the end, they’ll still love each other and still be married.

  • Kellie

    I would love to read some entries from — or maybe a round-table discussion among — the husbands who have lived through this decision. Even the most fair-minded and pro-women among them might have felt a twinge of nostalgia or disappointment that their wives considered choosing or chose to keep their maiden names. I’m curious about whether they’ve felt any impact from the choices of wives to keep their original names, etc. Not just the practical repercussions but the emotional or societal.

    I appreciate that Meg’s husband David voiced that it was [their] decision together. I would also love to read his mother’s perspective on all of this.

    • I don’t know, if those “fair minded, pro women” men weren’t willing to change their names, as far as I’m concerned they can shove their nostalgia or disappointment. As a general rule – you can’t say “this is important to me” but then refuse to compromise or do the work yourself. That rule applies to so much more than name-changing, but it fits perfectly here.

      • meg

        And that, my friend, is how I feel about it.

      • Kathryn in VT

        Yes! I also think it’s worth exploring why “this is important to me” is a reaction we have at all. Is it tradition? Community expectations? Personal preference? Family history? There are so, so many reasons. Plenty of friends who I respect very, very deeply have taken their partners’ names, or have asked that their partner take theirs, with that rationale: “This is important to me.” I don’t think that minimizes their choices in any way, but I do think it’s worth thinking and talking about more… If you’re breaking with tradition, or sticking with it, or changing it entirely, it’s worth being able to articulate why.

      • Kellie

        Why are you responding this way? Who said the men weren’t willing to change?

        What’s wrong with hearing from those husbands of the women who have written here about their decisions — all of the various name choices, those who mutually changed and those who didn’t.

        Wouldn’t giving their views a voice help further the whole point of “don’t be quiet about it”? I would think hearing the thoughts and feelings of the other halves who were part of the decision might help others starting to contemplate their options.

        • meg

          I agree that having a male roundtable about it would be excellent. I’m just tired of feeding into the idea that “poor men, it’s hard for them,” at least, exclusively. Because it’s also hard for us. But yes, I am into hearing a range of responses.

          And, you know, I’m not opening up my personal life to be on the operating table here, so I’m not offering up, say, my mother in law. If other people have husbands who would like to talk, I might add my husband’s voice to the mix as well… but generally, I’ve personally shared about all that I’m going to.

          • Kellie

            I’ve read through 415 responses — I’m currently really thinking about this issue — and I don’t really feel anyone is being too soft on the men here. But you may be getting that feedback from other venues.
            I just hear the natural concern many might have about their partners’ feelings — even those one won’t admit to having when this issue is raised between a couple.

            It’s been my impression that some very like-minded women are attracted to this site — women who recognize the validity of multiple choices.

            Thanks for the conversation.

          • I initially read it as “hearing from the poor men who have had to live through their wives not changing their names” A pet peeve of mine is my friends’ husbands making such a big effing deal about them changing their names. Yet none of the husbands are willing to change their names either. But it is “important to them” for the family to have the same name. Seriously, I have multiple friends who have changed their name solely because of the pressure they got from their husbands. It makes me mad.

        • I think hearing their views would be really helpful in constructively moving forward.

          This is a conversation we’ve been having in our house. “Um, I’ve already decided to take your name for my own reasons but WHY the vehement reaction that I SHOULD take your name?” Still trying to get to the bottom of it…although I suspect this will end up like the aversion to getting married for tax/legal reasons prior to a wedding with an “Oh, yeah, I never thought about it that way,” just might take a little while.

      • RebeccaS

        Exactly why my husband changed his last name to mine. It was important to *him* for us to all have the same last name so he did the work to change his name. It was important to me not to change my name and also not to have the children have his last name as a default. I mean what is that? – I am doing the work of being pregnant and pushing the babies out of my vagina – it doesn’t seem very fair to me for them to automatically get his last name. And while his family didn’t get it and took offense – almost everyone else has been admiring or positive about it.

        • Rebecca, I am dreading the baby name conversation for just this reason: “I am doing the work of being pregnant and pushing the babies out of my vagina – it doesn’t seem very fair to me for them to automatically get his last name.”

          That’s the line I would have said to a T. And I know my adorable husband thinks they will automatically get his last name. Over MY BLOODY VAGINA. (sorry, perhaps way too graphic.)

          There at least needs to be a discussion about this, yes? Like, Hey, Sugar, let’s not make assumptions here before we’ve examined this from all sides, and you’ve heard my desperate, hormonal-induced plea.

          And then I can hold the child hostage in my belly until he submits to my will. ;)

        • I think it’s great that you made this decision based on the “who is ire more important to?” question. That’s how we are about names. Neither my boyfriend nor I want to change our names, and neither of us really cares about having the same name.
          However, when we talk about having children in the future, it is really important to him that they have his name. It’s not at all important to me. This may change of course, but for now, the kids will have his name.
          The hard thing for me is not fighting it just on principle. Because on principle, why should they have his name and not mine? But on a personal level, it’s just not important to me. So. that’s where I’ve landed. For now.

        • Ehhh, it’s not exactly tit for tat, imho. I’d hope that by the time anything gets pushed out of anywhere, we’d have come to a conclusion that we’ve mutually agreed upon are makes us both content as opposed to a kind of “I did this, now I get that” kind of decision.

          • RebeccaS

            I do see it that way. We did come to an agreement pretty easily before our first child but to me I absolutely *get* to demand that my last name gets equal or greater weight because I am bearing the greater physical risk and negative economic consequences. But I don’t plan on having children with anyone who that would be problematic for. I wonder *why* women don’t feel like it is as important to them and fight for it more?

  • Kristin

    I’m Spaniard-American, first generation raised in the states. I am about to get married and I’m surprised how difficult this whole name-changing question lingers to be with me.

    I want to take his name. I want to keep my name.

    After reading what you wrote about wanting children to keep a bit of the mother’s name too, I realized that my Spanish heritage might have been on to something.

    Women don’t change their names. Neither do the men. But the children, keep both. For example: Maribel Ana Sanchez Romera marries Juan Pablo Molina Alvarez. Their daughter is: Nuria Delruse Molina Sanchez.

    Does that make sense? The first last name is that of the father and the second last name is that of the mother.

    As I said, it might be on to something.

    But as for me, I’m still undecided. And to be honest, I’m okay with that.

  • Ana

    When I was 8 my parents got divorced and my mother changed her last name back to her maiden name and then took her new husband’s name when she remarried years later. Now an adult, of course I undestand why she didn’t want to keep her ex-husband’s last name — but as a kid, I hated it. I felt rejected and less hers. That experience, along with not having a birth given middle name, always pointed me toward taking my husband’s last name and bumping my cherished maiden name to middle to have 3 initials.

    When I actually met my husband and got married last year, it still seemed like the right thing to do for new reasons too. I love being the “C” family like we’re the “C” team. I love his family and being connected with them by name. To me, it doesn’t feel like I am less of any other part of my family or myself. He is more attached to how his name has always been, which I totally understand, but he makes the effort to be integrated in my family too so it’s just not the name that does it for us.

    As far as kids, our last name is obviously his culture so deal is we will pick a first name from my family or culture. I like that we will all have the same last name and that their full names will reflect where they came from. It still took a few months to get around to changing everything and to get used to my new name, but in the end I’m happy with my decision.

    • Ana

      After reading more coments just want to add that:

      1 – I’d also hate to considered less of a feminist becuase of my choice or opinions;

      2 – I don’t judge anyone else or other families for making different decisions or view them as less of a unit; and

      3 – TOTALLY agree that there must be better options for women and men struggling with this. For example, since I was adding a middle name I had to go to court in my state. Court = confusing and $$$…. There should be a simple, free, uniform procedure across all states so that everyone can have the name they want.

  • Sara

    My story is that my fiance’s last name IS my mother’s (pretty common) maiden name! Has this happened to anybody else? I sort of get a little feminist thrill when I think about it, because even if I decide to take his name–which I haven’t decided to do at this point–it would link me further to my mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, and grandfather’s ancestors. Now, nobody will really know about that except me, and on the surface it will just look like I took his name end.of.story. I agree with Meg, these stories are complex and they deserve to be known.

    Fiance has been wonderful. I’ve told him of all my thoughts and concerns, I’ve gone on feminist tirades about how it JUST ISN’T FAIR, and he’s listened. He let me know that he would not be changing his own name (small town in the South where his family has lived for generations), but that it was 100% OK for me not to change mine. I do worry that if I kept my name his family would take it as a personal insult, even though it has nothing to do with them ::sigh:: On the other hand, my last is weird, always misspelled, always mispronounced. And my brother already has 2 sons, so I think we’re pretty set as far as the continuation of the line and all that.

    Anyhow, it’s a lot to think about, so I’ll hush and read what others have contributed now.

  • zow. I wish I could go through and read all the comments but I think I need to get some actual work done at work today, so I will just take a second to say two things:

    1) I have some acquaintances who could not decide whose surname to keep or whether to hyphenate or what-have-you and ended up instead just creating a totally new surname by mixing theirs together. It’s adorable and quirky and fits them as a couple, and I think it was absolutely the right choice.

    2) That said, I cannot WAIT to get married and change my last name. Not for any traditional purpose, although I like the unifying aspect of joining us together under one name, but because I truly loathe my last name. It’s often mispronounced, it’s hard for people to spell, and I’m not particularly attached to it for familial reasons either (that side of the family is practically nonexistant). So, I look forward to taking my fella’s last name whenever we get married because it will make my life easier. HOWEVER, I think if I actually was attached to my last name, then I would ask that we both hyphenate because I feel like both our family names would still be represented equally. I am glad I don’t have to struggle with the decision, though, as I have been itching to ditch my complicated last name for ages. I hope that doesn’t say something bad about me as a woman.

  • I’m not sure I have anything fresh to add to this conversation, but I thought I might give a little follow-up (I’m the Brenna that changed my name and changed it back) and add something I hadn’t thought about.

    After going back to my name professionally, it felt so right that I just went whole-hog and changed it back legally. I also decided to take Hisname as a second middle name, partly because if we gave the kids Hisname later on, I’d still share a piece of it, and partly because I didn’t want to pay the state of Iowa $180 to return to the name on my birth certificate!

    Something I hadn’t anticipated was hurting my mom’s feelings when I changed my name back. My parents are divorced, and I haven’t shared a last name with her since she married my step-dad when I was 11. I think it was hard for her when I shared a name with my step-mom (and dad, but more step-mom) and not her, and she was waiting for marriage to take care of it. My thinking was that I couldn’t help it that it was my dad’s name first. It was always my name. I think divorce complicates name things a lot.

    I’m also pregnant with our first child, so the idea of names keeps resurfacing in my mind. I think we’ll go with Mylast as the middle and Hislast as the surname. I’m about 95% comfortable with it. It’s still on my mind, and I appreciated seeing all these idease.

    • I’m also pregnant and I think that the whole naming the kid is such a fraught process. (Also funny if you spent a few hours of a long drive reading out the worse names you can find in a baby name book, because really, I’m not going to name a boy Fiifi. Just … no.) But it brings up so much baggage – last name issues, family names, family traditions, veto names (ie, he loves this name, and I had an serious ex with it – vetoed!) and so on…

  • My husband and I both changed our names to his mother’s maiden name. His dad was absentee, and we saw no reason to name our new family after him. His mother was his rock, and so we honored her that way.

    And then his dad disowned him because of this decision, but came around after a few months. All in all, we’re happy with our choice.

  • Jennifer

    I struggled a lot trying to decide whether to change my name. My last name showcases my French heritage, and I love it! And I’m 32- my social and professional identity is long established under my maiden name. My husband’s last name isn’t awful, it’s just not me. At first, I thought I would just unofficially change my name- if people addressed us as “Mr. & Mrs.,” that would be fine, but I wasn’t going to legally change my name. But, it was a big deal to my husband. He felt like I wasn’t taking our commitment seriously if I didn’t want to take his name officially. In the end, we came up with a compromise: if I changed my name, he would let me choose the names of our future children (there is a particular family name that I love that he wasn’t crazy about initially, though he’s grown to like it). It works for us. And I still introduce myself by my maiden name sometimes out of habit. It will probably be a while before I remember to always use my married name.

    • Marina

      The idea that a woman has to take her husband’s last name to take marriage seriously kind of makes me giggle. I mean, was he taking your commitment seriously even though he wasn’t offering to change his last name? Of course he was…

  • Thank you Meg for keeping this and the need to work for equality in the conversation! I took my husband’s last name partially because I didn’t feel there was much option about that part – as a multi-national couple that will routinely be scrutinised for the legitimacy of our marriage, it seemed like making a feminist stand on this would cause grief and I wasn’t bothered at the thought of adding his name. I’d decided ages ago that I would not give up any of my name anyway, so while my husband and I now share the last name he’s had since birth, I still have all of the names I’ve had since birth. I was going to make my first and middle names a double first name, but unfortunately the dear Social Security Administration office I went to in NC said I couldn’t do that with only a marriage license – so I have a double middle name instead. At this point, I’m okay with that, though I may go through the court order process of changing it to a double first name eventually. It wouldn’t look any different on my driver’s license, passport, or UK residence permit, since they all lump first and middle names together (or all four together in the case of the driver’s license) but I know.

    I was really okay, getting things changed with various agencies, right up until it got to be time for ordering my diploma for the masters degree I all but finished before I was married. I’m still not sure what name I’m going to have on it, and I have two days left to decide. One thing I’m not okay with: leaving out the middle names. The rules say I can’t have initials, so if I can’t have all the middle names, I’m getting the diploma in my birth name, to hell with any complications that come later. (Okay, apparently I am sure. I didn’t realise I was until I typed that.)

    What was strangest about the process was the HASSLE about having both my middle initials on my credit/debit cards. It was INSANE. Three cards from one bank came in with three variations and all had to be redone. I think that’s the bit that this is really about – no one can know whats right for a given couple except that couple. Plus, what that couple wants or thinks they want may change over time. We need change as a culture so that choice is the norm and that every couple is allowed to decide what’s right for them regarding this name business.

    One thing is for sure: I’ll be having these conversations other couples and I won’t be pushing my choice as any better for them than any of the other myriad options. And I’m reserving the right to make a different choice as time goes on.

    Oh yeah, and I’ll keep insisting on Ms or just the use of my name without a courtesy title because the people who need to know my marital status already do.

    • Cassandra

      Just as an FYI – plenty of people have their university diplomas in their maiden name and it doesn’t make much of any difference. And if you do at some point later change your mind/experience some kind of hassle, I think a lot of schools will issue you a new diploma in the name you go by (mine does, anyway).

  • Jen W

    So my fh and I are currently keeping our own names, but are in contention over what to do with the kids. He wants the kids to have his last, I’d love for them to have my last, and it seems to me like the logical thing would be to hyphenate the names for the kids. BUT he doesn’t like that option, either. While this won’t be an issue for several more years, it still bugs me that he has yet to give in to this compromise.

    Any advice for getting him to see the light? Complaints are: tacking together his 10-letter name and my 7-letter name will be too much for the kids (I think they’ll be smart so they can handle it :), and what they’ll do when they get hitched (um, figure it out?). Maybe I’ll just show him this post.

    Anyways, thanks for keeping the conversation about this going, Meg and Team Practical. I wouldn’t be able to articulate my feelings on the subject so well if I didn’t get to read all the insight from the amazing people here.

  • Eat Broccoli

    When I was growing up, I asked my mother alot of questions about name changing and marriage. She explained that in some cultures when a woman changes her name after marriage her previous surname then becomes the name of the couple`s first born. But that only works if your gonna have kids…….

  • When it came to my name, it was easy. Keep it. Continue using Ms, as I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. It’s my name. It’s who I am, and I’m not changing any of that just because I got married (YMMV*).

    But I’m sooooo not looking forward to figuring out what the H*ll to do when we have kids. Kids have no names until we give them some. He already has a hyphenated name, and my last name is long (8 letters, 3 syllables) so I’m not sure just how well it would hyphenate with one of his. We both like all of our names, but Oh My God I don’t want to give my child the baggage of 15 letters not including the hyphen, and especially not some 20-letter one-space one-hyphen monstrosity. The poor thing, think of the SAT forms!

    He thinks we should just name the daughter with my last name and the son with his. I think it’s weird to give two kids two different last names, especially if one is probably obviously adopted. But maybe it’s good? Maybe the younger sibling would benefit from not always being compared to their older sibling by every teacher ever?

    Basically, the kids’ names will be so much harder for us to figure out than our own. But YMMV.

    * (Your Mileage May Vary… am I weird for using that? Is this a common acronym? I kind of love it)

    • N

      Off-topic but just wanted to say that I love “YMMV”! I hardly ever use it because I think I first came across it on TV fan forums (not a representative sample of the population) and assume no one else knows what it is. But it’s awesome, and now that I think about it, very APW.

    • Cassandra

      Ugh, yes – this is my problem. Boyfriend has long hyphenated name (C-C) and mine is not too long (but also C). The real question is, which of HIS names does he drop if you hyphenate for your kids? Plus his are French and mine is English. Just not a good mix, ha.

    • jessie

      My partner thinks the same thing (girls get my last name with his as a middle, boys get his last with mine as a middle). I posted WAY earlier that I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable with it I am. After all, reading through these comments highlights that there are many people growing up with different names and they still all understand that they are a family. Also. who knows – maybe you’ll end up with only girls or only boys and then it won’t ever come up.

      • I have been liking this idea too, but for people who might only have one child (or like you said all boys or all girls), I guess it doesn’t get fully realized.

    • Marina

      Some friends of mine growing up did that, except they had three boys so they just alternated–the first and third boy had the dad’s last name, and the middle boy had the mom’s last name. The rest of us just referred to the whole family as if they’d hyphenated. It never seemed weird to me as a kid–unusual, yes, but no more unusual than some of the first names my friends had. ;)

  • Lindsey

    Why not squash the two last names together to make a new last name? For example, a Smith and a Roberts could be Smiberts or Robith…or something. Don’t think it would sounds weird to people who hadn’t heard your last name before.

    • It can be a good option for some people, but if you are trying to link your name to your family, it’s less good.

  • YAAAAAAAAAY, I made it to the end of the comments!!!!!! (No, I’m not hitting refresh — yet.)


    I need a drink.

  • I recently read a book by a film critic who I admire (and on whom I have a weird, purely intellectual, he’s-middle-aged-but-I-still-would crush) and I was interested to read that not only did his wife keep her own name, but his children have taken her name too. No hyphens, no nothing. Her name, end of. I was stuck by the fact that – despite this just being exactly what happens 9 times out of 10, except the other way around – when I read this, I felt mildly surprised (and even found myself briefly wondering if they were his kids – wtf?? Just shows how deeply ingrained are those cultural expectations). Interestingly, his parents split up when he was young and he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name as a teenager I think. He describes himself as a feminist. I wonder if that’s why I fancy him.

    Oddly enough, I changed my name and while I found it odd at first, I have completely come to love being Team Hislast. What I have really struggled with is the “Mrs” part. I would go as far as to say I hate it, and avoid using it at all cost. I changed my driving license, my passport, my bank account – 16 distinct administrative name changes were required – to Mrs shortly after the wedding, and now I find myself wondering if it’s too late to change it back to Ms. Will people think we’ve got divorced? Will people still call me Mrs anyway (if Cate’s experience is anything to go by, I suspect the answer is yes).

    Lots to think about. Thanks Meg for your polite act of arson. I promise not to call the cops on you.

    • I took HisLast and it isn’t sitting totally comfortably, but I suspect that it will settle in with time like you experienced. I also share the “Mrs.” hatred! How do you respectfully correct people who use it in conversation, or on envelopes, or etc? I haven’t found a way, but this discomfort doesn’t feel like the type that’s going to fade.

    • Class of 1980

      KIRSTY WROTE: “Oddly enough, I changed my name and while I found it odd at first, I have completely come to love being Team Hislast. What I have really struggled with is the “Mrs” part. I would go as far as to say I hate it, and avoid using it at all cost. I changed my driving license, my passport, my bank account – 16 distinct administrative name changes were required – to Mrs shortly after the wedding, and now I find myself wondering if it’s too late to change it back to Ms.”

      I’m confused. “Ms.” and “Mrs” are not names, so I’m not sure how they would be on your drivers license, passport, bank account, etc …

      You can change your last name to his and still be addressed as a “Ms.”

      • Oh yeah sorry you’re right, it’s not on my passport, but my title is on my driving licence and and bank account (so, for example, all bank mail is addressed to “Mrs Kirsty Hislast” and that’s how it’s written on my debit cards) – don’t know if it’s different in the US compared to here in the UK. I know I *can* be addressed as Ms, it’s just the decision of whether to do it or not. Which is kind of a whole other post, but since Meg mentioned Cate being a Ms up at the top, it came to mind.

        • Class of 1980

          Wow, that is different than in the U.S. We don’t put those titles on our bank accounts or drivers license!

          Who knew?!!! ;)

          • In Canada, at least my part, it is on your visa, but not on your driver’s licence. I remember sitting in the bank when she asked me if I wanted it changed to Mrs. I was like, “uh, I guess?” I wasn’t expecting the question and hadn’t really thought of it. In the future, I’ll say no and stick with Ms. I felt surprisingly caught off guard by the question.

        • Aine

          that drives me nuts- when I got my bank account here, they misheard me and now I’m “Miss Aine Lastname”. I feel stupid for being SO aggravated about it. Now I have an excuse- its definitely the wrong title for a married lady.

        • What I would say, Kirsty, is that it doesn’t matter if people think you got divorced. Hopefully within a few years they’ll realise that you were just ahead of the times. ;)

          If I were you I would start using Ms on anything new, and change the Mrs things when you get the chance if they’re still bothering you. You don’t need to worry about having a mix of Ms and Mrs as, like you realised, it’s not on your passport, not part of your name, just your choice as to how you wish to be addressed, so doesn’t really matter.

          Feels like the right place to say: it’s interesting to read about the differences between US & UK on this subject. Here in UK your marriage certificate is all the evidence you need to call yourself by Hislastname, if you so wish, although I’m not sure if you need to do anything else to call yourself Yourlastname-Hislastname. It’s also totally fine here to use both or any combination, so you can have bank accounts in both names, for example, as long as you’re not doing it for nefarious reasons. The passport is surely the exception, as you can only hold one (British) so would have to pick a name for it. Same probably applies for your driving licence.

    • Jessica

      I don’t have much time experiencing this (we just got married on the 17th,) but so far the Mrs part has been the worst. It’s so strange to hear.

  • Hilary

    I always assumed I’d change my name, and it would not be a big deal. However, it ended up being a HUGE deal to me. I ended up taking my husband’s last name (6 months after getting married), but it’s still hard to introduce myself that way. After the fact when my husband reaslize how big of a deal it was for me to have done that, he suggested we name our first daughter (if and when we have kids) my maiden name. Fortunately, my maiden name works for a girl’s name so I thought that was a great solution.

  • I just can’t wrap my head around changing my name. I’m not changing me, so why should I change my name? We have been married nearly 8 years, my first born has my last name as her middle name. But my second baby doesn’t. It is getting confusing at school, everyone assumes we are divorced. Hhmmm debating about whether it might be time to change, but not sure I ever want to!

  • Am I the only one that has had no struggle with the decision about whether to change my name? I’m very nonchalant about the whole thing. I am more frustrated that I have to change my email address than that I have to change my name. (Well, I mean, I don’t HAVE to, but that’s the choice I’m choosing, so I have to actually do it.) I have no real attachment to my last name because I’ve always identified more with and been closer to my mom’s side of the family than my dad’s side. Did anyone else just decide to change their name without lots of hemming and hawing? I feel like I’m missing out on some major feminist moment or something. This whole wedding-planning process has been super easy so far. Where’s the stress I’m supposed to feel?

    • Class of 1980

      Yes. Me. No angst. It’s not a feminist requirement. ;)

    • Julia

      I had no struggle in my decision, either. I wouldn’t dream of changing my name.

      • Julia

        I am an entirely separate Julia who feels the exact same way. Never thought about it, never got angsty about it, husband never cared either way. I didn’t want to change, he didn’t want to change. Boom. Done. Two years later, we’re both perfectly content with our (non?)decisions.

        Kids’ll be First/Middle/my Last HisLast (because my name has two words, the first of which is lower case– think “da Vinci”– so a hyphen would be extra weird). When/if they get married… not to be flip, but they’ll figure it out. And we’ll work hard at not being emotionally invested in interpreting their decisions as some sort of judgment on us.

        We got literally one brief grumble out of my old-school father, who promptly got over the whole thing. One of his aunts persists in writing cards to Julia & A HisLast, but I think that’s because she’s just clueless. Otherwise, we’ve gotten positively zero push-back. I don’t know if this is peculiar to our families, our area (metro-Boston), or what. But it’s been smooth sailing all along.

    • Jen W

      So far no angst over not changing MY name. The decision on potential last names for the kids is a different story, but my name? Easy-peasy.
      It was also easy for the fh to decide to keep his last name ;)

    • Beb

      I feel the same way, so far. I am getting married next year and plan on changing my last name to his last name, and probably keeping my current last name as my middle name. The name-changing thing is much more important to my fiance than to me – it really means a lot to him that I change my name, and while he would of course graciously accept any decision I made, I know it would hurt his feelings if I didn’t take his name. It’s one of those things that he is surprisingly traditional on, and while I don’t totally get where that comes from, I’m okay with it. And since I don’t have strong feelings either way, it seems like an easy choice. I guess for me, it comes down to the fact that he is always willing to compromise on things that are important to me, so I feel like I need to compromise on things that are important to him, and this is one of those things. In other words, the name change issue is not the hill I want to die on in terms of opposing something that is very important and meaningful to my fiance. There will be plenty of other, more personally significant hills for me to die on, I’m sure!

    • I changed my name without any issue. We talked about it, were both on the same page, and done. It was actually kind of cool to join a family that can trace their roots back generations on three continents – unlike my own family name with was a) bastardized from the orignal fairly recently and b) full of so many family secrets and lies and dark closets. But even if that hadn’t been the case, I like us having a team name – which is really what it came down to for me. I debated changing my middle name, which I don’t like, for my maiden name, but it was going to cost $500 and a trip to the judge and I didn’t care that much, so I didn’t. Fin. I respect those who choose differently, but this works for me, and that’s that.

      The biggest difficulty I has was creating a new signature. It looks kind of terrible – but that’s mainly due to my horrible penmenship. I traded a K with a squiggle line for a T with a squiggle line.

    • jessie

      I’m the same, in that it never occurred to either my partner or I that we would change our names. We’ve been together many, many years, so a name change at this point would feel like “Ahhh, THIS is the beginning of our family. All those years together before? Those were ‘tester’ years”. While I’d be fine if he wanted to change his name to mine, he’s very, VERY opposed to name changing as a tradition, so it was never an issue.

      Like other posters have said, a big part of the stress some people feel is figuring out what you’ll call your kids, and that is the only reason I’m debating the whole “put his last as my middle and my last as his middle” so there’s never any kid confusion. But as for the change/no change, I’m lucky that I always felt one way and have a partner who wholeheartedly agrees.

    • Marina

      I didn’t have any stress or angst over name changing, although it was something we put some thought into. What pissed me off was when I realized the option we’d decided on wasn’t one of the options automatically available when getting the marriage licenses, so we would have had to go through a whole expensive court-ordered process to get it done. Ended up not doing it and I feel fine with the name I ended up with, but I was furious that I’d made a thoughtful choice and then felt like it’d been taken away from me.

  • Jo

    Ok. This having two last names might sound like something very hard to accomplish but I assure you is simpler than you think. Not saying you have to or not change your name or keep it just because what I think. This is just to let you know that it can be done. In fact a whole continent (or more like 3/4) does it. I am from Latin America, and in my country (Dominican Republic) as well as in the majority of the other countries most people have two last names. This is usually how it goes: Ana Gonzalez Perez. I get marry to Luis Martinez so then my name is Ana Gonzalez de Martinez (but is not uncommon to just keep ur original name. I would dare to say both options are equally selected). My child name would be Alejandro Martinez (his) Gonzalez (mine) . It might sound complicated at first but is probably because is not the norm in this country. TWO last names because the child has TWO parents!

  • Lindsay H

    What a great discussion! I recently changed my business name to my first & middle name on the off chance I get married & decide in the end to change my name, I won’t have to go through the hassle. I however am the last of the Hess’s in my family since my sister (who swore she wouldn’t change her name) ended up changing hers.

    on a side note, I work with a woman whose first name is Judy & she married a man whose last name is Judy & she goes by Judy Judy instead of Judy Fore (her maiden name)

    • Marina

      I don’t know that I’d have the guts to do that and put up with the inevitable questions, but that’s an awesome name. :)

  • Krystin

    I also live in Montréal and was married on the 17th of September, this year, over a week ago…

    New Husband and I are still working this out. I have always wanted to change my name, I’ve never considered not doing it and now it’s a legal mess. My last name is a disease, it’s bad. My mom took it on but honestly, her maiden name was worse and rhymes with woodchuck and upchuck.

    I’m not a born Québecer, I moved from British Columbia (Vancouver-ish) on a lucky whim, he’s a local.

    First thought was – We’ll get married near my family – then my name will change? Nice solution, right? Doesn’t work that way.

    I could take his name informally but banking, healthcare and other legal things would all be in my maiden name. Signing my name two ways, yay. I believe changing your name legally is less expensive if you do that for 7 years but then it would be more awkward.

    We’re currently thinking of a hybrid name – half mine half his. It’s a ridiculous solution for a silly problem and started as a joke but I’m not opposed.

    We’re traditional and I like being a Mrs. but I’m not Mrs. MyLastName and I could be Mrs. HisLastName but it isn’t legal. So why not do our own thing, it’s our money and trouble. I want our kids to have our name. We’re family and it should match.

    It will be changed and 6 year old me will be proud. We just don’t know to what or how yet.

    • Krystin

      I wish I’d had a choice in the matter. You should both be offered a free name change when you get married, if you want it. Not bullied into keeping it or changing it.

      I’m not looking forward to the court date, posting the notices, informing everyone etc. Also in this province it is money in the thousands that you have to spend, not just $150.

      • It will not suprise you that the last name change is free in Alberta, right? :) Middle name is hundreds, but the last name? Free, as long as you have a copy of your marriage certificate ($30).

    • Just wanted to say hello from Quebec! :)

  • Ash

    I got married a month ago and I am PROUDLY taking my husbands families last name. I also consider myself feminist, but I know I’m judged for taking my husbands name. I feel liberated by taking his name, like I can rise above all of the negative past that my family has inflicted on itself. I can finally breath with my new last name…it’s like a much needed fresh start.

    After dating my husband for 8 years, I feel more a part of his family than I do my own. I have divorced parents and don’t completely identify with mylastname. I identify with the unique middle name my parents chose for me and feel very proud to pass that on to my child someday, but my last name has always carried with it a negative past.

    For me, it’s not an issue of hislastname vs. herlastname…it’s an issue of family ties. By taking hislastname, I’m relating to his mother who also at some point took hislastname as her own. His father takes pride in the fact that we both have the same name now. And I’m officially relating myself to his brothers and sisters who have already embraced me into their family. I feel like I’m now able to say to the world that I’m an official part of my new family. When people in town say “The Smith’s” (not really the name) they are now referring to me as well.

    My family and it’s name doesn’t offer the same sort of camaraderie and while my husband is fully embraced by them, it’s different, they’re different. It doesn’t make sense for him to even think about joining names such a dysfunctional family.

    So while I understand the issues, and I WILL fight for everyone to have options. I also do not want to be judged for my decisions. I’m a strong woman and I hate that some people think it’s weak of me to change my name. Especially when I think it’s one of the best gifts my husband has ever given me.

    • Jo

      I love this, because this is (was) basically my rationale too. However, we have to also fight to allow husbands the option to do the same – to make a new tie to his wife (or partner-partner, if you will)’s family if that means something positive to him. I am sad to think that men are not given the chance to consider this. I realize that is sort of a generous way to look at their perspective, but it’s real.

      • Ash

        Yes! If my family was the embracing one, I would encourage him to take our last name…I think a lot of the battle is making it acceptable for the guy to change his too…Even if your own husband is open to it, that doesn’t mean his friends/family won’t give him grief for it…In the end, it should be a choice for your family and every person in it needs to be on board.

    • Class of 1980

      I could have written this almost word-for-word. See my previous posts.

      I find it warm and cozy to share the same last name in marriage.

      HOWEVER, I can’t tell how much of this feeling comes from wanting to escape the surname that came to me from my father’s dysfunctional family. That name is forever associated with his inherited dysfunction that altered our family life for the worst.

      I have never known what it feels like to experience sorrow at the thought of losing a beloved family surname that feels sheltering and warm.

  • Joanneziapn

    Well Meg, you inspired me to tackle the husband about the kids issue…maybe a smidge to late but meh you can’t have everything can you. I didn’t change my name when we got married because frankly it makes me feel odd (I feel sad when my friends do it), then 3 months ago we had our first child, who became hislast because it was important to him. We had a talk about it tonight and I said that I didn’t want to change my name, and that I didn’t want to be the only person in our family who isn’t hislast. So our next child will be mylast and the third one will be his last and the forth mylast and so on. This feels more comfortable to us than the boy/girl split.

  • Hannah

    I am getting maried early next year and am going through daily dilemmas about the name change. I had always thought that I would change my name – it’s a personal decision as mymother did not and for some reason, as a child, I always found it difficult having a mother with a different name. However, I will never be a “Mrs” – personally, I resent people knowing my marital status simply from a title. I am a “Ms” now, and will be one after I marry. What has amazed me is how many people have told me that this isn’t “allowed” – from both friends who have changed their name and those who haven’t. It is most definitely not illegal in my country and to my mind, feminism is all about choice: I choose to not be categorised by my marital status. As time draws nearer, I am feeling antsy about changing my name as well… My preference is to have a totally new name made up of both of ours. However, we come from a small, relatively conservative country and given the amount of questioning/explaining we will face, I have to wonder whether it is really worth it to me to do this….

  • Alice

    I had a definite experience concerning changing my name. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to take my husband’s name so we and our future children would have the same last name, and I knew that keeping my maiden name as my middle name spelled an acronym I would rather not have (A-S-S), especially since I initial documents with all three initials. :) Trivial, maybe. My family name would carry on with my male cousins and while it was very weird to give up something that was inherently a part of me, I realized that what I call myself is a name, but it is not who I am. I have friends who have been married and divorced multiple times and they are still the same person, regardless of their last name. Nonetheless, it was a kind of sad experience to say goodbye to the “old me” and my maiden name but I also warmly embraced my new name. It helped too that they both begin with the same initial and are two syllables.

    I liked the idea that I would be able to have the same last name as my husband and that we would have our “own” baby family name. His father died when he was young, his mother remarried, and he is not in touch with his paternal side of the family. At all. So only he and his brother carry his father’s last name. And I feel like we are able to rekindle the last name it in into another family tree.

    I changed my name right away after we got married and now, a year later, I have changed over everything to my new name (except for my passport). I am used to it and it doesn’t really feel strange anymore, though sometimes I feel like I have a pseudonym or alias and I kind of like that mystique ;)

  • Marisa

    Meg- I have one question regarding your hyphenation proposal. This seems like a fair plan and all, but if you are starting by implementing it with yourselves, the way that you have it all layed out, wouldn’t both you and David be hyphenating your last names for yourselves? I know that you both weren’t born with hyphenated names as the future generations will be, but wouldn’t it make sense for you use what you have? … or am I missing something?

    Either way, I was just curious. Does seem like a great plan though, thanks for starting the conversation!

    On another note, I found something very interesting when I was started getting back response cards. On our guest list was an aunt who married and kept her own name, and a friend who just recently married and (reluctantly) hyphenated hername-hisname. I made sure to address these properly as to not offend, but when I got them back, they responded with Mr. and Mrs. Hisname. Oops! Sometimes it’s tough to keep track. But now I’m wondering if I DID offend either one of them.

  • Katie

    My Mr. and I had a pretty easy time of this. I told him that I’m fine with changing my last name to his, but I’m also changing my middle name to my current last name. He was cool with that. I asked him if he was into the idea of changing his middle to my last, and he said he’d think about it.
    A few days later, he told me that he’d absolutely love to do it. So we’re going to be Me MyName HisName and Him MyName HisName. Neither of us like our middle names at all, so this really worked out for us.
    I’m more than happy with it. I’m sure that the kids will have his name, but I don’t know if they’ll have mine as well. Both our last names are nouns, so it would sound dumb to hyphenate them for the kidlets. We may just add mine as a second middle, but I’m not sufficiently married to the idea yet. Luckily we don’t have to do anything about it just yet. I figure we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. :-P

  • Jessica

    Full disclosure- I haven’t read all the comments yet, there’s so many.

    Going into this marriage my husband first told me he’d take my last name. I was so excited. 10 months ago, he said he couldn’t deal with the social stigma, he couldn’t give up his identity, he couldn’t do it. He said if I wanted to keep my name, he’d be fine with that, he just wanted to keep his as well. He didn’t care about the name. I really wanted the tradition of having the same last name. We talked it over extensively, and even, one memorable night, tried to come up with a way to incorporate both names into a last name that was not hyphenation (in NY, where we live, both parties can change their name when they apply for a marriage license, it just has to be one of the last names of the applying parties, a combination of the two, or a former last name [say you were adopted and changed your last name, but you and your spouse wanted to change back to your first last name when you got married]).

    Over the months, I began to come to terms with my decision to take his last name- I talked with friends, I talked with my sister, I even talked to my parents about it. When we went to apply for the marriage license, I tried to hyphenate, then just could not deal with the idea of writing both last names forever and ever for the rest of my life. Didn’t help that the women at the counter were basically trying to scare me off from doing that. I ended up taking the easy way out, and cried when I got home because I will no longer have my last name.

    Now, we’re nearly two weeks married and I’m still not used to my new last name. I went back to work yesterday and one of the first things I did was have IT change my email and various labels. It’s still strange to see his last name attached to my first name- and no one can pronounce it right! I have yet to actually use my new signature- nothing has been changed yet paperwork-wise, so I have been signing my maiden name for the past two weeks still. I’m thinking when I go to change it with social security I may push my maiden name into my middle name and have a double middle name.

    While I don’t regret my choice, I really wish there were other options, or that there wasn’t a stigma if the husband wanted to change his name. The hardest part about giving up my maiden name was the thought that it was dying with my dad. He has only sisters, and only daughters. Now two of the daughters are married and changed their name, and I doubt my little sister will be any different. When I talked with him about it, he said “I made my peace with that long ago.” but it’s still hard. I wish it weren’t.

    If only life were like Facebook- when we listed ourselves as married, I went in and changed my facebook name to “Jessica mylast hislast.” So easy and simple, and I still get to be the person I’ve always been but still be known as his wife.

  • Ashley B

    Reading this and everyone’s comments has really helped me clarify my thoughts and feeling on the whole name changing dilemma. I’ve really been struggling with it, feeling like I should change my name so we have a family name (being frustrated that since the boy is published so he can’t change his name) and feeling a sense of dread at no longer being Ashley Mylastname. It’s further complicated by challenging in-laws (whose name I don’t want to share since they don’t feel like family) and a family who assume I’m going to change my name, because that’s what women do. Hearing that other people have struggled with it and give they’re own insight has helped me realize that I probably don’t want to change my name and that’s ok. So thanks.

  • This is like a wedding soap opera!! I love it!

  • LBD

    We had no angst in our relationship over the fact that I was not going to change my name. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to keep it. In fact, as a little girl growing up in conservative-Christian-land, I spent more time than most similarly-raised girls probably do being sad that I’d someday have to give up my name if I got married, because I didn’t know there were any other options. I don’t think I knew anyone with a hyphenated name or a name different from their father’s until I went to my ultra-liberal college. It was a relief to find out there were options!

    My last name is a big part of my identity. Like someone else in this long line of comments, most of my friends call me FirstLast all in one breath. My husband calls me that. I call myself that in my internal dialogue. It’s a noun. It makes for amusing jokes that aren’t mean.

    His sister also has the same name as me, but uses a different nickname (the best part of being an Eliz/sabeth if you ask me, is all the wonderful nickname options you get).

    We had the conversation exactly once, as some kind of perfunctory thing, as both of us were pretty certain we knew each other’s minds on the matter without having to ask. In fact, I think it only happened because someone asked us when we were together. Me: I loved my name and wanted to keep it. Him: calling me by a new name was weird and me having the same name as his sister was weird. That aside, he had no expectations whatsoever that I’d take his name.

    Kids are a whole other matter, and as we’re still not 100% sold on the idea of having any, we’ve decided we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but agreed that we would likely hyphenate. I’m not entirely satisfied with this idea, as my name is three letters and one syllable, while his is 10 letters and four syllables.

    I think I kind of rankle at the idea of a standardized system. Me, I’d hate to have to keep my mother’s maiden name attached to me in any way, as I have bad history with both my mother and her family. Such a system as Meg’s, if it were standardized, would create a whole other kind of discomfort and “unusualness” that would still be hard for people who wanted to do it differently. I never knew family warmth and acceptance until I moved across the country closer to my dad’s side of the family, and am wonderfully pleased to carry the name of these people. I think I envision a world of families feeling free to make up their own names however they please. I think history should and can play a large part in that decision, but what part of their family history each baby family feels like they want to honor should be up to them. Someone in this thread talked about how in their family people just changed names a lot and that just felt normal. I like that vision of things much better. No system, just creating a world in which changing names for both genders is not unusual, and recognized as an immensely personal decision. And I think the only way we can do that is by having such variety in the way we do it. When there’s nothing “expected” then nothing can seem unexpected. Keep your name, take your husband’s, hyphenate, come up with a new one. In a way, I kind of like that what to do about your last name is a hard thing. It means that what we decide is so much more intentional and meaningful. Whatever you do, these days it’s something we actively think about, instead of just going for a default.

    I just don’t know how to get the men in on this as much as us women are forced to grapple with it. I think some dudes can and will get it, but I’ve been surprised reading the comments in this thread and past ones how intensely attached many women have said their husbands/fiances are to the idea of them taking their husband’s name. I certainly don’t think that that means we shouldn’t try, just that it surprises me how hard it is for some dudes.

  • Jenn’s Mom

    I kept my name unchanged when I got married because it was part of my identity and I didn’t want to give it up. My husband was fully supportive.When we had our first child, the law in Ontario didn’t allow us to give her any other last name than the husband’s /father so that’s what we did.(I won’t go into how ridiculously male centric that law was). Second daughter got the same name (even though the law had changed by then) It has never really bothered me that my children don’t share the same last name as me, I know whose children they are. In the end, what has been important to us as a family is not that we all have the same name as each other, but that we keep our identities intact.

  • Brianne

    See, now this is why I just love A Practical Wedding. So many opinions. So many ladies. I’ve always pretty much known that I was going to keep my name- when I got engaged, my mom turned to me and said, “You are keeping your name, right?” She didn’t ask because she wanted to, but just because it’s pretty much always how I felt. My husband wasn’t a part of the decision, which I know sometimes makes him sad. It just always seemed right to me, and he is fine with it. I am looking forward to sharing the decision of our children’s name, though, should we choose to have them.

  • A A

    Great discussion! Not that it has done anything except muddy the waters for me!!!

    I always imagined myself switching last names, but honestly I love my whole name and I have built up quite a “google resume,” if you will, with my name.

    Does anyone else know the song by the Avett Brothers “Murder in the City”? The line “Always remember, there is nothing worth sharing Like the love that let us share our name” always strikes me. This lyric was my way of supporting my decision to change my name (though there are other possible interpretations).

    But, after all this discussion on APW, I’m thinking that if I change my last name, I will ask him to take my last name as a middle name so we can share the bureaucratic hassle and both names.

    • My partner and I love that song and The Avett Brothers in general. Nice taste! (and I love that line in the song too)


    My last name translates to “The Big” so that pretty much squashes any hyphenation options for me. I don’t really want to be Lindsay The Big-His Name…though there have been plenty of suggestions over the years of funny names I could hyphenate with.

  • Pippa

    Not sure if this has been mentioned yet but I have to say one of the biggest issues I have with changing my name to my partner’s is that he has brothers. One is still too young to marry, but when he does, he may well be adding another Mrs HisLastName to the family, which would make three Mrs HisLastNames sitting in a row (not including me). And I’m sorry, but that’s not something I want to be a part of. I love my partner and I love his family and feel honoured that I will one day get to have that family as an extension of my own, but there is no way I want to be lumped into the ‘Brides of HisLastName’ category that all my sisters-in-law will be in. It’d be like, um, which brother are you married to again? And which brother I’m married to, call me silly, but that’s a big deal to me!

    …You can probably tell but for me personally, names and identity are very closely linked.

  • Lys

    My guy and I are legally taking each other’s names – without a hyphen, so my last name will become our middle name. We experienced some (mild) push-back from his parents, which was actually kind of fascinating. His mom cautioned that he might not realize how emotionally difficult it would be to change his name; of course, no one tried to discourage me. It was only through the process of justifying this decision that my fiance said he realized it wouldn’t have felt right for only me to change my name. I was willing to keep my name, like my mom did, but I’m glad that we’ll both be changing our identities and absorbing something of one another.

    Not sure yet what to do about the kids, but one solution would be to use my family members’ given names for their (first) middle names – something they’d keep even if they eventually gave up my last name for their spouses’.

    • Sarah S

      I was just thinking about the same option as I was reading through the other comments (I had never thought of it before, so kudos to this conversation for opening up options we didn’t realize we had). It seems that taking herlastname as a middle name for both partners and hislastname as a surname for both partners addresses several common concerns, e.g. both female and male change their names to mark the beginning of a new shared life, keeps a common surname for the family, circumvents the potential hassles of hyphenation because there’s only one legal last name.

      I’ll have to discuss this option with my fiance. Has anyone else done this or heard of it done, or have any reflections on it?

      • Jessica

        We’re really struggling with this also, and so far this is my front runner. My middle name is my mom’s maiden name, so I don’t want to drop it, I’d just be Me (mom’s maiden) (mylast) (hislast), and he’d be Him (mylast) (hislast), and our children would be Baby (mylast) (hislast). But I’m still struggling, because as much as I’ve always loved that my middle name was a connection to my mom’s family, it doesn’t get used nearly as often as my last name. I have a friend whose parents did exactly this, and I didn’t even realize that she HAD a second middle name (mother’s maiden/new middle name) until I’d known her for years. So I still feel like my last name will get lost in there, especially for my children.

        But…so far it’s the closest I’ve come to something I could live with, since I want us to have a family name, and I don’t want to give up my name, and my fiance doesn’t want to hyphenate. This is so hard.

        • Lys

          This is why I want to use my parents’ or grandparents’ first names as my kids’ middle names. My full name right now is FirstName Mom’sLastName Dad’sLastName, and I’ve always wanted a “real” middle name. I’m thinking about using my maternal great-grandmother’s name as a first middle name, in order to keep a connection to her family after I drop her last name.

          One of my oldest friends has this awesome long name (11 syllables) that includes her first name, maternal grandma’s first name, mom’s last name, and dad’s last name. I definitely always knew her whole name, without her mom’s contributions getting subsumed.

  • elizabeth

    I never thought it would be so important to me. I always thought I would just change my name to his even after we got engaged. About two months before we got married I tattooed my last name on me so it would always be part of me. But after that, I realized that I didn’t want to give it up! I am the ONLY person with my name in the world. It feels special and changing mine to just his would mean I have the same name as his grandmother and aunt (and a million other people in the world- not so special). I literally know everyone who has the same last name as me personally and I’m very proud of it even though it is always misspelled and mispronounced. I already have two middle names so adding his seemed like too much. My name never fits on anything already! But my middle names (even though I hate one of em) seemed even harder to part with than my last. So I eventually decided to keep ALL of them and just have a really long name which works for me since I’m Mexican and have always had a long name anyway. That being said, I am already married and still haven’t went to change it but more because I’m dreading the nursing license/work problems I have seen from everyone else at my company who has changed their name. I made it very clear how important it is for me to give my children my last name as part of their name and my husband was very supportive. We will give them my last name as their middle and his as their last. He was also supportive of me keeping my name if that’s what I want but he definitely did not want to change his! His family is just as attached and proud of theirs as we are so that was out of the question to him. But I see that maybe opening his eyes to the options and feelings and the inequality of the name change could be my first step in making a difference because I’m sad to admit I never thought of it as being such an issue.

  • AC

    So… I can’t read alllll 510 prior comments (woo!) to see if this has been mentioned previously, but I wonder if others have talked about how age affects this decision. Should I have gotten married when I was way younger, I bet I would have changed my name. Now, in a pre-engaged state, and over 30, I don’t think so! I have an adult identity with my last name, a career established with my last name, all sorts of things. My last name is a part of my heritage and a part of who I am now. I love that! It’s too much of an identity change to me now.

    And here’s another choice to ponder – my mother, who did change her name, recently decided to “get with the times” and assert herself with her original last name. While she didn’t change beck (she had been referred to by her husband’s last name for 30+ years) she decided to start using first name + middle name + maiden name + husband’s last name in her initials, e-mail addresses, checks, signatures, etc. She frequently uses initials for the two in the middle. i.e. Sue H. R. Brown.

    • Marina

      I think age definitely affected the decision for me! I was 24 when we got married and had basically no professional history linked to my name except my college degree. It made it a lot easier to change knowing I didn’t have to worry about that.

  • occhiblu

    I did not change my name. I did not discuss this ahead of time with my now-husband because changing my name was not an option, and because his opinion really did not count since it was my name. He did bounce around the idea of both us hyphenating our names, which I probably would have been ok with, but then he decided he didn’t want to change his name, so neither of us did.

    I suspect he wasn’t 100% ok with any of this, but, like I said, it’s my name, so I’m the only one who gets a vote. (And I didn’t change my name for the simple reason that it’s *my* name. I’ve had it all my life. I don’t particularly like it, and husband actually has a much cooler last name, but that’s not my name.)

    What did help is that during our engagement we stayed in a resort for which I made the reservations. Which meant that every time he called room service or the concierge, they answered the phone with “Good afternoon, Mr. Occhiblu.” He got more and more annoyed all weekend, realizing how weird it felt for him to subsume his identity in mine.

    Naming the kids is going to be a fight, I know. My strategy right now has simply been to remind him that using his last name would for them would be a *choice*, not a given (e.g., I’ve said that I get to pick the first names on my own if he’s going to pick the last name).

  • Right after I got married, I wrote my mom a long letter explaining that she and my grandmother (Dad’s mom) were part of the reason I refuse to change my name. All the strong, surly, intelligent women I’ve ever been related to have been Mylastname. For me, I need that link. I’m strong and surly cause I’m a Mylastname, damnit. And I like to be reminded of that.

    Though, since I’m now married and a teacher, I’m still going by Ms. Mylastname. Cause being Mrs. Mylastname sounds too much like my mother and gradmother (also teachers).

    So interesting how our connection to those in our family seems to determine much of the name game.

  • Erin

    First of all, what I find most amazing about this post, and the ensuing comments, is that I read it on my way out to work this morning at about 7:30am West Coast time. By the time I am now home, ready to respond, and after having thought about this all day, there are over 500 comments! Craziness! As if we had any doubt that this is, indeed, a hot button issue.

    Once again, APW read my mind this morning. As we officially reached our 8 month out point yesterday (and are mere days away from flying home for my future sister-in-law’s wedding followed by my brother’s wedding thee weeks later where inquiring minds and unsolicited suggestions surely await us) the great name debate has certainly started heating up. And I have to say, I have had no idea what to say.

    I guess I had never really thought about the emotional, social, and historical implications of taking a guy’s name. And then suddenly here I was engaged and realizing “wait a second, I’m going to become Mrs. XXX?!?” To be honest? I still don’t have an answer. I’ve tried saying and writing my new potential name. Sometimes it feels right, sometimes it feels so alien that I am left wondering how generations of women before us felt about the whole deal. And then of course there is the kid issue. My name is already connected to my work so I could justify keeping it professionally, but now I have had all sorts of women giving me their thoughts on how it will affect our future kids (as we have also seen spelled out in today’s comments).

    At the end of the day, whatever our decision is (because I am lucky enough to have a guy who is supportive of any one of the potential decisions/options that there are), what I believe, and know Meg is pointing out, is that it’s my choice. I am the one who has to live with it so I should get to be the one who gets the bulk of input on what I want. Of course there will be a dialogue between my fiance and I regarding it. And afterwards? Well, I can decide to take his name, or not; hyphenate, or not; create a hybrid together, or not. Regardless of my decision, it will be unique and ours. It will be a decision as a result of careful consideration, love, and a gut feeling of what works for us. And what works for us will not, and should not, be what works for you. Even if it’s the same exact literal decision, the motivations for and journey to that decision are going to be different for every couple.

    And that’s the point.

    No couple is the same. No love is exactly the same. They may seem similar, or share similarities, but every relationship is unique, beautiful, intimate, evolving, and certainly not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal. Pardon the Hallmark moment, but it’s true. So why are we still holding onto these antiquated ideas and expecting that they will work for every couple? Why are we judging those brave enough to pioneer new and exciting solutions that both honor their identities and challenge the status quo?

    I teach Theatre to kids as young as 4 years old and I am continually reminding my young students about why it is both important, and necessary, for us to respect other people’s ideas. Somehow we start off learning that it is not okay to tell another kid that their favorite shirt is stupid but then we grow up and think we can tell other people how and why they should make personal and intimate decisions which impact both them and future generations.

    Here is to the future. A future where couples can make whatever decision works for and reflects them as a couple, free of social or political limitations, or criticism.

    And I’ll end with some words from Shakespeare (because I am a true Theatre geek at heart). And though you may interpret these words as being pro-name changing, I see it as a more poetic realization that it’s not about the name at all (whatever one you choose). It’s about the people involved, the love they have, and the new family they are creating. And this from a white guy who was writing this somewhere between 1591-1595:

    ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself.

    ~Romeo and Juliet

  • Spines

    This has been a rather fraught issue between the boy and I. To him, me changing my name symbolised marriage-that is what marriage is to him, having the same (ie his) surname.

    Until I had to actually contemplate changing my name in reality, I had sort of assumed I’d change my name to his. Until it wasn’t just a far off hypothetical situation, but something that would happen in the near future. So I told him that I wasn’t sure about changing my name after all, and he was really hurt by that (more than he let on, initially).

    I got pretty pissed off really, because here he was wanting me to change my name, without even considering for one freaking second changing his!

    After much discussion, I had almost gotten him to the point of hypenation for us both, because we had worked out a lot of the “importance factor” for him was having a common family name, when one of his stupid work colleagues got in his ear about it, and said that his own marriage “got off on the wrong foot” when his wife didn’t change her name, so therefore I HAD TO change my name…boy did I see red then! Honestly, there are so many things wrong with his colleague’s comment, don’t get me started!

    In the end, after reading (on Offbeat bride I think) what various people were doing, I have decided to have two last names, mine, followed by his, with no hyphen. And that made all the difference, suddenly I feel like instead of losing my identity, I’m gaining something new with getting married. I’ve said to the boy that I’ll use his name mostly in everyday life, which satisfies his need for us to have a team name, and he has now offered to add my last name to his name when we have children, so that they can have both names and we’ll all be the same.

    But it took us a while to get here!

    Oh, and I’m remaining a Ms. for me personally Mrs sounds too old, haha!

  • Pingback: On the whole name-changing thing | Rogue Bride()

  • Jess

    I never considered taking my husband’s last name. We also don’t plan on having children, so the children’s names have not been an issue either.

    That said, although the choice I was going to make with my name was easy, it doesn’t mean that the circumstances surrounding it were 100% easy. For example, I would have considered combining our names in some way and creating a new family name for ourselves, and it did leave a bad taste in my mouth that this option is something my husband would not consider (but yet by some people on the outside he was considered to be progressive for “not caring” that I had no interest in taking his name).

    It still made me mad that right after I got married people asked me why I kept my name, when no one ever asked my husband why he kept his name. And it still makes me mad that his family can’t seem to learn how to pronounce and spell my last name, and that I still get some mail addressed to “Mrs. Hislastname” from people who clearly know that I did not take his name but also think that I shouldn’t mind being called that because it is technically my name (it is not technically my name and I do mind).

    One thing that I did find liberating was to eventually start answering “Why did you keep your name?” with “If he wasn’t changing his name, why should I?” I used to say something like “Well, his last name is just as long as mine, ha ha”—but it does feel good to say the real reason to those who are nosy enough to ask.

    • jessie

      “And it still makes me mad… that I still get some mail addressed to “Mrs. Hislastname” from people who clearly know that I did not take his name but also think that I shouldn’t mind being called that because it is technically my name (it is not technically my name and I do mind).”

      EXACTLY to this. Last night (pretty hilarious, actually, because this post was in my mind) I got my first, “Well, she won’t be Ms. Mylast for long! In 6 months you’ll have to start calling her Mrs. Hislast!”. This, from an uncle who’s wife (my aunt) did not change her own name when they got married. Like others have said, what I mind is the ASSUMPTION, even though it obviously came from a place of wanting to show enthusiam for this change in my life. I actually have a cousin who still believes that it is the LAW that married women change their names, and I had to correct my mom that it is not the law that children take their father’s last name when one appears on the birth certificate. Hislast is not “secretly” my name… although if I ever become a super-spy, I promise to consider it as an alias.

  • Rachel

    I hate my last name. I love my fiance’s last name. I won’t change my name because it just feels like part of a patriarchal tradition that I can’t get with. (Not judging! My sister in law took our crappy last name because she wanted to have the same name as my brother, and she’s one of the strongest, most independent minded women I have the privilege to know. I just. Can’t. Do. It.)

    The bigger issue for us is kids last names. We approached it as part of a larger discussion about passing our identities on to our kids. His last name represents an important family history for him, and mine just doesn’t for me. On the other hand, it is vital to me that my children be raised with a Jewish identity, while he is non-Jewish with strong atheist leanings. Our solution was that the kids get his last name and my Jewish identity. And that means I have to be comfortable being known as part of the HisLast family, and he has to be a full participant in our Jewish family.

    Not a perfect solution but the fact that we’re both adapting our identities to form a family satisfies my need to develop new, more egalitarian norms for this stuff.

  • Alicia

    I’ve never been attached to my last name. It’s unique, but mispronounced a lot. I’m also not very close to my father or many people on my father’s side. I don’t mind changing my last name to my future husbands last name, except for the confusion it may cause at work.

    I’ve been working my butt off to build a great reputation at work and it seems to take people at my work a long time to get used to name changes. I overheard a very confused conversation last week between people trying to make sure they were talking about the same woman since one person thought of her by her maiden name and another by her married name.

    Most of my friends haven’t changed their names, so no one in my immediate circle would care whether I change my name or not.

    However, my fiance would like me to change my name. It’s so confusing.

  • So, this all has been fascinating to read. I did have one thought, about genealogists. My father in law and my old boss are both very interested in their family trees, and name changes, especially when you invent a new name, have got to make tracking information so much more challenging. Not that this should stop anyone, OF COURSE, but it will change how the research needs to be done, and how lineage is traced. Kind of cool!

  • Jessmonster

    I have a nine letter first name and a ten letter last name – both are impossible for people to spell and the last is tricky to pronounce. I’m attached to my name as part of my identity, but I also don’t feel like changing my name (in a few weeks!) will somehow detract from my identity – I’m just adding on another layer by getting married and getting a new name. There aren’t many of us with my last name, but growing up and seeing my cousins get married and bring new P-‘s into the family, I loved how those women all embraced the family and the name. I love having a choice, but I also love the idea of having a family name for our baby-family.

    I did always worry that I’d marry someone with a worse name than mine, but fortunately his is 4 letters and easy to pronounce and spell, so that made the decision easier. What I also like about it is the story: his parents weren’t married, and his dad pretty much out of the picture by the time he was born, so his mom named him after a male friend of hers – first and last names. So he doesn’t share a name with either parent, or anyone else in his dysfunctional family. So if I get called Mrs. G-, I’ll be the only one – it won’t make me think of his mom or his grandma or anyone else.

    The hardest part (totally petty) is that I tried googling my new name (I’m used to being the ONLY one with my name). I kind of flipped out when I discovered that there’s someone else with that name (slightly different spelling of the first name). I’m coming to terms with it!

  • Marina

    I just wanted to say that I think it’s SO COOL how much variety there is in the comments here, both in choices and especially in reasons for those choices! It really emphasizes for me how there’s just plain no one-size-fits-all option for last names, and that that’s a really, really good thing. Difficult sometimes, but good. :)

  • Rowany

    For what it’s worth (and the rare person who will read the 557th comment), I grew up in which everyone in my nuclear family had a different last name-my brother had his father’s last name, I had mine, and my mom had her maiden name. It never affected our interactions with anyone.

    Like a previous poster, I am also Chinese and agree that the idea of an unexpected identity-that of an asian women marrying a white man doesn’t sit right with me. Not only that, but his last name can EAT my name-it has the same # of letters as my first, middle and last combined. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

    About changing the discussion though, I think to make it an EVEN playing field, we shouldn’t just be saying, oh the man isn’t changing his last name TOO. We should give even MORE of a scrutinizing examination of the men’s choices as we women have given to ours, since society in general will generally focus on the women anyway. I think saying, oh it’s important to him, is a good start, but shouldn’t be be allowed to end the conversation. WHY is it important not to change his name, or to have his children have HIS last name? What traditions, social dogmas/stigmas, professional implications does this have for him, AND do they represent values that he also holds? If in fact, his values and traditions are diametrically opposed, shouldn’t he give some more thought about its importance?

    Likewise, to the women who don’t place as much importance to changing their name or having her kids share her name as her husband, ask, why not? I love that this community has so many thoughtful feminists, no matter what they choose, but I feel like the status quo, the expectation of having the children be named after the father can be so pervasive that it may not be as important to the women to consider the alternative. Because of this, I think no matter which option you choose, we should consider both why we made that decision, and why we didn’t choose the alternatives. Because it could still be just a name to you, or you can be just as awesome of a feminist–but the conversation, the consideration–that is the change in the world I want to see.

  • I am planning to keep my name and also have no ‘heartache’ about it — at least now … but time will tell.

    The Icelandic systems is interesting — mostly, kids’ surnames are the name of the immediate father, e.g.”Jónsson” (Jón’s son) or Jónsdóttir (Jón’s daughter), although it’s perfectly acceptable for the immediate mother’s same to be used instead, e.g. Sigurðardóttir (Sigurðar’s daughter). This can mean, too, that siblings have different last names! And they formally address each other by first name.

    I learned about this when I visited and was talking to an Icelandic family … they said the phone book can be tricky when you’re looking someone up if you’re unsure about the last name …! I think it’s pretty neat.

  • Brit

    I’m (probably) the last of my line with my pretty unique German last name. (Dad was the only boy of five, etc.)

    N is perfectly happy with my decision to keep my name as is. Both of our names sound silly with the other’s surname. And they don’t combine well for hyphens or new nameness.

    The funny thing to me is that N is N_\ L_ Momslast \DadsLast with his mom’s maiden name as his second middle, and his mom kept her last name when she married so N is already used to the “that person does not live here” line with telemarketers. :D

    Though I would really like to pass my name on to our future kids.. I’d hate for a unique name to die, but that’s still to be discussed and a long way off.

  • Julie

    When I got engaged, I tossed around the idea of changing my name. I wrote it out a bunch of times like I was in middle school again, I tried signing various combinations of my names (my legal name is Julie Momslast Dadslast, so I have a last name as a middle name already), saying them, etc. I didn’t want to drop my mom’s name and bump my dad’s to a middle name, because my mom is very special to me, but if I kept both and took my husband’s I thought I sounded like a phonebook. I never considered hyphenating because my dad’s name and husband’s name are both German and sound like some sort of mustard when mashed together. My mother kept her full name when my parents got married, actually at my father’s suggestion. She worried a lot when I was a child that people would assume she wasn’t my mother, but I never felt that was a problem. The more I thought of it, the more I realized that I didn’t want to change my name, not because I’m particularly attached to the name itself but because it is mine. My husband was perfectly accepting of this, and even said that he knows me by the name I have and it would be a bit odd to call me differently. Also, he is rather fond of his signature and assumes that I would not want to change mine, either. What was most puzzling to me was the number of people who asked me if he minded that I wasn’t changing my name to his. It seems many women and men believe that it is a slight of some sort to not accept the new name automatically, which saddens me. I have nothing against women who change their names, but it’s a practice that is not for me. Besides, I never said to any of my married friends who took their husband’s name (all of them so far) that they were betraying their families/giving up their identity/etc. I think it’s important for everyone to remember that a name is a very significant aspect of someone’s identity and the choice, whatever it is, should always be respected. Except for Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116.

  • RebeccaS

    The option of man changes his name and children have the woman’s name or neither party changes their name and the children have the woman’s name flat out isn’t mentioned in the post. Why is that? Until this is an equal accepted option that’s listed and given equal consideration we are still holding a thumb on the scales. In some states (my state WA) there is no difference legally / cost wise – but we should fight so that in all states/countries there should be no legal difference – that is gender discrimination! As someone who did this – at least in our part of the country/culture the expectation of negative social pressure is much bigger than the actuality – my husband gets a lot of positive recognition for doing it. I realize that this makes me the flaming feminist to some people – but I like that – that is me.

    I do get weary of hearing only women talking about how awful their names are and how much more they like their partners names and no men *ever* saying anything like that (ok I do know of maybe 1 case where that happened – compared to many many women). I do think men in general are taking advantage of their privilege in pressuring women or even preferring that women change their names or insisting that their children have their names only or most prominently – why shouldn’t his last name be the extra middle name?

    • Julia

      This! Yes!!
      I get that “my name has a bad legacy for me because of X” or “it’s awkward/hard to spell/a dirty word” are valid reasons for a woman to change her name.
      What about all those men who have bad associations with their names? Surely it’s not just women who are saddled with such names. Why aren’t these men embracing marriage as a reason to shed their own name?
      Maybe I’m a big flaming feminist too (actually, I proudly am), but this sits profoundly uneasily with me.

      • Lizzie

        Amen to this…my husband hates his last name because it’s not phonetic and looks like “touch;” he’s tired of being called “Mr….Touch?” by people who can’t pronounce it (especially since he works with kids- talk about a creepy name). So when we were engaged and talking about name changes, he initially planned to take my last name (which is easier to spell and pronounce). He was so afraid of telling his traditional-minded parents, however, that we both ended up keeping our own names. So even if a dude’s surname is unfortunate, there are reasons to keep it…such as fear of family ire.

  • also, am i the only one who *forgets* that she changed her name? it’s kind of embarrassing (“oops, i mean _____. i totally got married – forgot about that little thing!”)

  • Rhodolite

    There is a related issue of marriage and identity, albeit with titles rather than names. On NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday, there was an interesting story that reminded me of this APW conversation about name-changing, marriage, and identity (which is an important ongoing issue, especially given the 500+ comments!). French women have been demonstrating for the right to be identified by a title that does not indicate their marital status. Currently on all of France’s legal forms, and socially, they can only be identified by the married title of “madame” or the unmarried title of “mademoiselle,” whereas men are only identified by one title–“monsieur”–regardless of their marital status. Here’s a link to the article:

    • I love this article. So good to hear that the Scandinavians, German and Spanish have already done away with the archaic tradition of titles that identify women by marital status. France next, then the world. :)

  • This is what we did: a blend of his last-my last. My last name was two morphemes, so we split it on that boundary, and his split easily enough (Rhodes + Lemieux = Rhomieux). We both took the name, and will give kids that name. Here’s what we considered along the way: no one changing anything, him taking my name, us both hyphenating, us both taking the other’s last name as our middle name. We talked, discussed, fought, and worked hard on this up until the moment we signed the marriage license (we’re in CA, so any of these options are free and legal as long as we do them when we get the license).

    Now, three months later, it’s still hard, and still worth it. Almost everyone who has asked me about it has been supportive, but there was the one coworker who asked if I was going to change my login name every time I got married (hello?! I didn’t even change my login, also, WTF, HOW RUDE). I still forget to call myself by the new name sometimes, and it doesn’t help that, let’s be honest, it’s a made up name (whereas my original last name was two french words stuck together). I love seeing my husband’s name with the new last name though, and knowing that he wanted for us to share that change together. And I love knowing that we will both get to pass on our names to our kids.

    As for genealogy as the straw man, maybe it’s because my family has always been really into it, but it never struck me as a reason to not change to something created. I mean, hello, women’s names have been changing for CENTURIES, and as long as you write the name down somewhere, you can trace history. I mean, really, in a world as technologically advanced as ours, we don’t need to worry about losing that history. If I know the name of my 16 times great-grandmother, which I do, who lived when pen and ink and velum where how you kept records, my 16 time great-granddaughter will be able to find out what name I was born with.

    Unless, you know, the apocalypse. And then I doubt names will matter a whit.

  • Viv

    Hi, i’ve not commented on a post before, but this subject is taking up alot of my thinking time at the moment!

    When we got engaged (jan) we got cards adressed to ‘him’ and ‘me (not for long!)’ which made me so annoyed, just because of the expectation of others that I would of course be changing my name to his. NO ONE ASKED ME! He didnt either, I guess because he didnt want me to think he was asking me to change my name. In my mind, deciding to get married didnt mean i’d decided to change my name.

    But are the expectations of others a good enough reason to do /not do something?

    So when we talked about it, he was of course very open and un-pressuring ‘I dont expect you to change your name’ ‘It’s up to you’ etc. It really suprised me that I became so upset about the whole thing because I’ve never been overly attached to my name or my family history. And also its only my family name because my mum changed her name when she got married.

    Then I realised that I was so upset about it because of that ‘its up to you’. Why does it all have to sit on my shoulders?! So I asked him to really think about what it would mean for him to change his name, so that the decision felt more equal. Talking about it alot has really helped me, I’ve got opinoins of all my friends and family, and at the moment we thinking about not changing any names when we get married (so I can have my moment of doing the unexpected?!) but I may change my name to his when we have children.

    So yes I agree, we need to ask each other (boys and girls) what happening with names, and assume nothing! and celebrate each others decisions!

  • Somebody Stone

    Another potential solution that will probably not help anybody to make a decision about what is right for them right now, but could help future daughters/sons to decide what they will do about their names, is this:
    My last name is Stone, and my parents decided (for various reasons) to make my middle name Petra. Peter is Greek (I think?) for rock or stone, and Petra is the feminised version. So my name is Firstname Petra Stone. I really really like my last name, but at the same time have never questioned that one day I would take my husbands last name, because Stone will always be there, in the (already established, sneakily and cleverly hidden, and “feeling totally like my name”) form of Petra. I love the fact that I have my last name twice, and if(/when?) I choose to totally drop my last name rather than hyphenate or anything with my husband, I will still have my last name as an intrinsic part of my name. Obviously this doesn’t work with some last names, and obviously if this is not already a part of your name it doesn’t help you decide what name to go by after marriage, but it could be something cool to think about when naming children.

  • Kate

    Hey guys,

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I thought I’d chip in because I read this interesting (right/wrong/who knows) article:

    This is the part that got me:

    “Despite the fact that other than their name choice the women were identical, the participants overwhelmingly described the woman who had taken her husband’s name as being more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional and (somewhat) less competent.”

    I’m not sure what to think about it. Thoughts?

  • Leigh Ann

    I’m sorry if this has been brought up already, but I’m not going to read through 600 comments (yeesh). I fussed and fretted about the decision to change my name, made the decision to change it, and have still fretted about whether I really want to (I’m getting married in 6 weeks). But I wonder what it is I’m really holding on to. Isn’t “my” name just my father’s name, and how important is it really for me to maintain identity with my father’s family? For some people, I’m sure it’s very important. But after I started thinking about it that way, my whole feminist “I’m not giving up my name to take a man’s name” outlook sort of shifted. I still think the social norms are inherently unfair, but as a personal decision, what am I clinging to? Meh. I’ll probably keep my last name as a middle name.

  • Jelai

    If you want to stop “judging” name choices, you can start by not referring to a man who offered to take his wife’s last name, as a “dream husband.” That of course is judging someone’s value or appeal on the basis of hiw willingness to take his spouses name. I’m pretty sure you don’t women by the same standard. Does all it take to be a dream spouse is to take your partner’s name? Would your husband have been better off if he had sought a “dream wife” who he could have identified as “dreamy” simply by her willingness to take his last name?

    No more judging? Yeah, right.

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  • Ms. Neptune

    I’m a couple days late on this, but wanted to chime in because this has been one of the hardest issues for my fiance and I. We’ve been deliberating over this issue for longer than we’ve been technically engaged. It’s not that we’re arguing with each other; we actually agree 100% on the issues, we just can’t decide how to resolve them.

    We both want to have the same last name as each other, and we want to have the same last name as our future children. We both have nice names that would be perfectly suitable for the other person, and for our children, but neither of us want the other person take our own last name. He really really doesn’t want me to take his last name because it turns out he’s even more of a feminist than I am. And neither of us want him to take my last name because it sort of feels like two wrongs trying to make a right. Hyphenating is not a great option for us, because my name is awesome by itself but ridiculous and begging for ridicule when part of a hyphenated name, especially when the other name is multiple syllables, which his is. We both really like the concept of taking parts of our names and combining them to create a new name, but that left us with some pretty ridiculous options as well. (The best option was Nepliss…. totally unacceptable).

    So we brainstormed some more and tried to come up with an entirely new option, and we did come up with a name using the letters of all of our grandparents’ last names (well, one letter from each name) that is a beautiful word that we both like a lot. So we settled on that earlier this year and thought we had solved our problem. But then we got engaged and moved to a new town and months went by during which we thought it over some more, and we’ve both found ourselves questioning the decision again.

    Personally, I’m having a really hard time giving up my last name, which is very unique and earns me a lot of compliments, which I guilt-fully love. I feel like I automatically make a great first impression on people with it, and that’s hard to give up. I finally worked up the courage to tell my FH that I was questioning the agreement we had settled on many months ago and he admitted that he was having second thoughts too. He doesn’t mind changing his name in concept, but the idea of having a different last name from his brother, who he is incredibly close to, breaks his heart a little. I can relate to that, because I love the sense of community that common last names create, and while it’s important to us to build a new community with the family that we are just starting, it’s hard for us to accept the idea of breaking that tie with the familial communities we both grew up with.

    So we’re back to wondering what to do now. We feel like our only options are this new, made-up name from our grandparents’ names, or having us both keep our original last names, and then figuring out what to do with the kids when we cross that bridge. In short, we’ve tried to come up with every possible option, and we just don’t like any of them. I can totally relate to everyone else on here who is expressing frustration with this, and I’m glad we all have this outlet to discuss it with each other! (Thanks APW!!)

  • Sarah

    I actually couldn’t wait to change my last name to my wife’s when we got married. Her name is awesome, and mine is common. My biggest fear, however, was that other people would judge me for changing it. Being queer and liberal, and being surrounded by a lot of feminists, I did get a lot of questions about why I was changing my name and she wasn’t. But the answer is because I wanted to and it made sense for us.

    This is the last name we want our children to have, and for two women, any extra thing that reinforces the shared parenthood of both partners is kind of necessary (at least I think so). We know it will be hard enough to be considered a family at times.

    But it is amazing how even the decision to change my name, willingly, was still kind of fraught with some distress because so many couples I know had both spouses change their names (straight couples too).

  • Lara

    I’m totally late on this (sorry – in law school), and I’ve never posted on APW before (although APW is my lodestar in the wedding-planning briar patch), but reading all the comments and thinking about this issue really affected me. I’m getting married in a year. I don’t plan to change my name, but many friends have and I think whatever works for a particular couple is what matters. That said, it’s worth thinking critically about in the abstract without criticizing specific individually-or-dyad-made choices. Like, how much does what works for a couple get dictated by what’s easiest, like what’s expected by friends, family, the DMV, vendors (my makeup artist’s contract had an entry for my new name). My fiancé’s best friend kept referring to me as Mrs. _ when he was congratulating us. He’s very progressive; I thought he must have been joking and just laughed. It’s not offensive to me. But I realized he really did expect that I would change my name as a matter of course.

    My father’s name is Hungarian, but his family came from what is now Slovakia (and what was the Austro-Hungarian empire). There aren’t very many people with my name. There are fewer than 50 of us in the United States. My name is not hard to pronounce and doesn’t have a surfeit of consonants and too few vowels, but safe to say it’s rare. This makes me proud. But you know what else makes me proud? Being the descendant of Slavs who came to America to work in coal mines for a better life. Being from an area of Eastern Europe carved into slivers by war. I don’t mean that my link is with Slovakia or Hungary; I’m American. This link is with my family and who we are. My heritage isn’t any more noteworthy or important than anyone else’s, but it is mine. You can see Eastern Europe in my father’s face. You can see less of it in mine. I will not let my name go. It is my birthright.

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  • Niomie Driedger

    While I fully understand the confliction here, I don’t feel like a part of it. There is an overwhelming feeling in the article that it is the ‘proper modern’ thing to simply go agaisnt tradition. While that isnt the message, that – to me – appears as the tone. I’m not married yet and not techniquely engaged yet(he proposed and i said yes, but in the long run we’re both not ready yet, so we dis-engaged ourselves). However I look forward to taking his last name. I love my last name, even if no one can pronounce it, or spell it, or remember it. Its been a part of my identity for many years. But every time I have to sign my name on a piece of paper, I pause, because I want so badly to be signing Niomie Fischer. I’m proud of my future husband and I will gladly wear his name, any day

    But if it’s stressing you out to change your name. Don’t.

    If you wanna keep both. Do

    Maybe you can combine the two. After all you’re creating a new family so why not create a new name in memory.

    Just don’t let that be the factor that ruins your day

  • Ashley

    While reading an article about what last name to give your child a stumbled upon something beautiful. There was a couple who simply threw out all the standards and made up their own last name for the baby that was a combination of their own respective last names. ie. Emma ftzgerald and John Thomas had little Betty Fizthomas. Which I thought was perfect and if you could do it for your baby you must be able to do it for your selves. I would go that route if I thought my name was condusive to it but unfortunately my name evokes thoughts of carnival rides and automobile decoration. As such I will be a Ms Hislastname but think this is a wonderful option others may want to consider.

  • Rebecca

    My situation is a bit unique – my maiden name already is hyphenated!

    I have my mother’s maiden name hyphenated with my father’s last name. My parents wanted me to have both, and this was 30 years ago. My mom has the same last name as me, but my dad has just his surname. This wasn’t common when I was growing up; people would often comment that I looked so much like my stepfather….because why esle would I have a hyphenated name, right? Ugh, I still remember their confused faces when I told them I didnt have a stepfather, that he was my biological father – ha!

    And now that I am engaged, some have asked about my plan for my last name. And no, I don’t want to hyphenate twice (can you even do that?). I love my last name and the story behind it. Plus it flows together so well that it is often mistaken for one name. And like many previous posters, I feel my maiden name is…well, me.

  • LindaM

    I’m brand new here, referred here by a friend who’s trying to help me through post-wedding withdrawal.

    I changed my name without a moment’s hesitation, but my story may be somewhat different from others (I too haven’t read all the preceding comments). I was married once before, about 22 years ago. The marriage was extremely short, so after going through all the trouble to change my name after we got married (this was before the Internet), I couldn’t face going through it again to change my name back. Besides, I had never thought of myself as “Mrs. M,” but just “Linda M.”

    But when my current husband and I got engaged and my first marriage was annulled by the Church, I couldn’t wait to get rid of that name. I didn’t want that person (my first husband) to be a part of my life in any way. I hadn’t been Linda S (my maiden name) in a long, long time, so I didn’t particularly want to go back to that name. So I was MORE than happy to change my name, and so far it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought…though it does sound kind of odd when I speak it!

    I’m a psychologist, and folks at work are just getting used to the new name (it’s only been a month), which does feel kind of weird, but I know I’ll get used to it.

  • Amanda

    There is never any question that I will take my fiances name. Even though my nickname amongst friends is an abbreviation of my current (maiden) last name, I still haven’t hesitated on this choice. For me, I feel I have grown as a person with him, and I feel like our wedding is a chance for me to put the ‘old’ me (with all her insecurities, self doubt and self destructive behaviors) behind us and officially become the new woman that I feel my man has helped me become; and taking his last name is a beautiful symbolic way for me to do that for myself and for him. Any tears will be of joy; I can’t WAIT to finally have my new last name :)

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  • I am in my 9th year of marriage. When Ben & I got engaged, there was no question in my mind that I would be keeping my name. It was an instinctual decision–not necessarily based on any one particular reason–just the simple fact that I’d had my name my whole life, and felt the urge to keep it. The reaction of course was that I was being a “feminist.” This always cracks me up– since every last name known to humankind has been passed and passed and passed down by men. My last name came from my father, which came from his father and on and on down the family tree. “Maiden name” feels a bit like a joke to me. So i kept my name and life continued with only the occasional piece of mail from a grandparent-in-law addressed incorrectly. Then we had our daughter. What to do?! I’m not into hyphenation. For me it feels stuffy, though i see the appeal. We decided to give her my maiden name as her middle name, and she’d have her father’s last name. But something started to change as she grew. I went through a phase of feeling like we weren’t a real family since we didn’t have the same name. how fucking ridiculous is that? My husband never cared about my not taking his name, but it was like this force field emanating from the universe or something. Our five year anniversary was approaching, and this light bulb went on–I’ll change my name! I’ll surprise them both with this awesome gift!!! Yet the date came and went and i hadn’t managed to get my ass in gear to do it…. I revealed my plan, and the 2 stared at me with a pretty anti-climactic expression. I thought they’d be pumped. And in that moment of non-pumpedness, I realized it truly didn’t matter, the name had no weight on who we are.

    • msmarie

      Lovely story – thanks for sharing :)

  • Sarah

    I’m just starting to wade through the complication of what family name our future children will have after I marry my fiancee this year, but one thing is certain neither of us will be changing our family name or our title, I will remain Ms X and he Mr Y.

    I don’t judge women who choose to change their name, I have been surprised how many of my friends in recent years have taken their husbands family name. Actually, I probably do judge a little from a feminist perspective, but that same sense of equality and democracy means I’ll defend their right to change it to the death providing they’ve changes it because they want to. I’m sure I will many times think it would have been easier than the endless explaining I’m bound to have to do, I accept but don’t understand their choice. In this day and age the patriarcal laws that gave rise to women being totally dependent on their husbands, and hence the tradition of taking his familial identity, are just completely redundant. Two female friend who took their husbands family name within the last 3 years are the breadwinners in those relationships with stay at home, child-rearing husbands – the roles have reversed but not the naming traditions, and nor should they.

    In our modern, equality based society we shouldn’t really be expecting either party to change their name should we? So what is the answer for naming the next generation? Probably an unwieldy hyphenation, and our kids will probably curse us for that when (if) they decide to marry as they won’t have the same option we had with teir own children, but for the sake of equality I feel obliged to start somewhere. Fortunately I have a man who agrees and wouldn’t have it any other way because he believes, as I do, that we’re a partnership of equals. And that makes it all so much easier. :-)

  • Laura

    Darlings, I’m ready to crown myself with laurels for my solution to this problem. I think that women should keep their names at marriage and men keep their names at marriage. Then all girl children from the union take their mother’s name and all boy children take their father’s name. As it stands today, a father of girls doesn’t expect his name to “carry on” anyway so most dads won’t mind having their daughters named after their mother. This also avoids the what-happens-with-the-next-generation problems (not to mention inconveniences) of hyphenation or the Latin American double last name. My solution would work across the generations.

    If you ever look at your own family tree or work on genealogy projects it’s amazing how the women just seem to come out of nowhere and get absorbed into their husband’s family line – it’s patrilineal in the literal sense of the word. It’s easy enough to know where your mom and Grandma and Great-grandma come from – not so when you’re wondering about the origins of the woman that married your Great-great-great-great grandfather in the late 1700s. You see her on the family tree – you’re lucky if you even have her maiden name – and then you see her children, all named for her husband. How can you trace her lineage? Who is her father and mother? The story is incomplete. It is true that in marriage we become one family, but never forget that in changing your name and in naming your children only for your husband you are adding yourself as a dotted line in someone else’s family tree. And while I think (I hope) we’re all proud to be joining our husband’s family it’s important to recognize that we are also falling off our own from the point of view of posterity.

  • Anonymous

    I am so happy to read these discussions. We have more than a year before our wedding but I have already told C that I will be changing my last name to his. It took a lot of thought to come to that decision for all the reasons above. I will definitely keep my current name professionally – both in my “day job” and in (what I think of as) my real job as an opera singer. I’m lucky that my current name is unique and google-able, but I want us to have a family name.

    I was conflicted about changing the name though, as I know that my last name will not be passed down to any further generations. I suppose I may have distant cousins since it is a common name, but my first cousin changed his last name to his father’s last name when his mom & dad got married and my sibling that I grew up with as my brother has long since transitioned to be my (much much happier!!) sister. I feel like I am somehow letting my parents down by changing my name even though I know that I cannot be held personally responsible for carrying on the family name. What if we can’t have kids & don’t have the resources to go through the adoption process (which I don’t think we do)? It wouldn’t matter what name I had then!

    Add to all of this that I am the registrar for a non-profit children’s choir and manage the names/addresses/donor acknowledgments/etc. for thousands of people who interact with us – most of whom are children and their parents. I support everyone’s choices in keeping their names/hyphenating/changing names, but I have to say that keeping track of families in which everyone has the same last name is much much easier than keeping track of those in which the last names vary. Before I took this job (which was also before I met C) I did not think I was ever going to change my last name. I still do think about whether I have made the right decision and I am comforted by the post about Brenna changing her name back after having changed it. It is nice to have a reminder that our options are ALWAYS open.

    Thank you all for speaking so openly about this!

    (P.S. – I am only posting anonymously so as not to out my sister, I want to be sure to respect her privacy)

  • Jenny

    So I am coming late to this discussion, and only read part-way through the comments, but am curious to hear input from “blended” families. My previous (ex) husband took my last name, since he felt no connection to his step father’s name, and I was attached to my family name. We had a son, with my (our) last name ‘M’, then divorced. Now I am engaged, and unsure what I want to do about names. I don’t especially care for my fiances’ name, and feel pretty attached to my name. My son is also the only one to carry on the ‘M’ name. I don’t care for hyphenation that much personally, would maybe be up for creating a new name together. But also am not sure the logistics legally of changing my son’s name if we decided to change it (he seems fine to change it). Thoughts? Experiences?

  • What’s up, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

  • I was quite happy to change my last name to my husband’s name. My maiden name was Gillette and I was more than ok with changing to Davies. For one, it is easier to spell and two, people don’t mispronounce or misspell it like my maiden name.

    I’d spent all my life being a Gillette and being a Davies was a new thing that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. I’d waited all my life to be a bride and a wife, to be Mrs. New Last name and keeping my maiden name or hyphenating it just didn’t feel -or look, or sound- right.

    Mrs. Kara M. Gillette? Keeping entire maiden name but adding Mrs. to the front? No go.
    Mrs. Kara M. Gillette Davies? Not so much.
    Mrs. Kara Gillette Davies? Using my maiden name as my middle name? Not really as I like my middle name!
    Mrs. Kara M. Gillette-Davies? Hyphenated maiden and married names makes me look like a bit like remarried divorcee. Not the look I was going for.
    Mrs. Kara M. Davies? The winner. Keeping my first and middle name, the names my parents gave me at birth but adding my husband’s last name? I like.

    With my husband being G. Davies, if he’d chosen my last name of Gillette, that’d greatly confuse people. There’s already a G. Gillette in the family.

    Plus, with our kids names we chose, Gillette just never fit well. They are Davies children, from their father and I as we are Davies. Davies over Gillette it is.

  • In Mongolian culture, women don’t change their last names, which is much easier ( especially today, with high divorce rate) with legal papers and adjusting to new names. Children gets their fathers’ first names, so it seems patriarchal, though. Only the Birth certificate shows mother’s full name in case of a proof of maternal linkage, which is …doh!

  • Ashley

    When I was in my early 20s, an older friend getting married decided to change her last name to her husband’s. Her point was “my last name isn’t really MY last name. It’s my father’s last name. So I’m really choosing between the name of the man who bore me or the one I’m choosing to spend the rest of my life with. I’m choosing the latter.” I’m not saying her point is right or wrong, but I think it’s a valid consideration. Anyway, 20 years later, (and after getting married myself and taking my husband’s last name), I still remember her saying that.

  • mnperson

    I’m considering changing my name “Firstname MiddlenameMaidenname Hislastname.” I would plan to continue to use my maiden name with friends, social media, etc. But on my legal documents, my name would be my husband’s name. I am wondering if anyone who has done this could tell me their experience of it. Do you regret doing things that way? Is it too confusing? I’m leaning toward just keeping my maiden name period (legally and socially) because honestly I like my family more than I like his. I would just take his name legally to avoid hassle (picturing worst case scenario: can’t see my husband or child on their deathbed because I didn’t bring proof of our relationship).

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  • gitongo??????

    hi i know this is a late post but here is my situation…I am african with a very african last name and my future husband is australian.I am considering keeping my name for the simple reason i want people to know im BLACK. now dont get me wrong this isnt about racism or excessive pride,i dont care what people think about me because of my colour i just want them to see me coming.My fiances boss completely ignored me at the hospital the first time we met because my FI talked about me at work by my english middle name.I want to be able to know that when i get called in for an interview they know what to expect…im tired of the wide eyes and dropped jaws…and it would only get worse if i went from Oluwa Susan Gitongo to Oluwa Susan James or since some people say my first name is too difficult just Susan James…(not my actual names)
    To me changing my name would be changing my identity and changing how the world reacts and relates to me! as for the children they can have his name because they will grow up more a part of his family than mine given we live in australia now…But they will be having african first names

  • CoCoCA

    Thank you so much for writing about this topic. I have thought long and hard about taking Chris’ surname. I know what it would mean to him, and I love adding happiness to his life…but I also had to sort out what it would mean to me. There was a time in this thought process that I completely embraced the idea. I absolutely adore his family and it filled me with joy to think of myself as one of them not just in spirit but in name. Over time, however, I started to feel loss and anger about giving up my own name. I went through the options in my head, and then turned to the internet for more ideas.

    After looking over every possibility, my dream is that we both hyphenate. To me this is a great way of
    honoring our families, while still symbolically representing how we have come together to form a family of our own. He, however, is unhappy with anything but me taking his name and dropping mine, and he won’t even consider changing his own. I’ve become so angry over this topic. Why am I supposed to be honored that he is offering me his name as a replacement for mine, but not offended that he refuses to even consider for one second adding on mine in any way shape or form?

    Don’t get me wrong. I love him to pieces. I know that tradition is important to him. I know that, although I’ve joked our whole relationship that if we ever marry we’ll have to flip a coin to decide which name we take, he secretly hoped that I would come around when reality hit. I get that there are some difficult social pressures here, and that he needs some time and space to think it all through (just as I did). I trust that he loves me, and that eventually he’ll understand that I’m really not just, “making mountains out of mole hills,” that giving up your name can be difficult, and that there are some good solutions/compromises out there.

    For now, I am going to remind him of that initial feeling I had when I mentally embraced the Guidotti name, and that I am choosing to hyphenate not because of him or because of tradition, but because it makes me happy. I’m also going to know how much it would mean to me if he did the same, but that ultimately it’s his decision and regardless of what we’re called I’m looking forward to a long, wonderful life with him.

  • msmarie

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have been feeling frustrated by a lack of understanding about why I chose not to change my name. I have always felt very strongly that names have no impact WHATSOEVER on the love between me and my husband or our value as a family. I also feel like I have had to defend my actions (or lack of action), which is surprising and alienating. I wish this topic was discussed more often with the degree of thoughtfulness you show in this column.

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