Why I Gave Up My Name for Something More Important


Sometimes, there is a greater good

by Kate Levy, Marketing Manager

My wife, Karyne, and I began testing out different versions of our potential last name before we even got engaged. We tried them out on our dogs for starters. Olive Miano-Levy? Henry Levy-Miano? They sounded great, right? But dogs aside, we weren’t fully in agreement on hyphenating. I was strongly for it—I wanted our name to reflect our partnership equally, and I also wanted to keep my maiden name. Karyne, though, was not super into it. While she also wanted our name to reflect our equal relationship, Karyne had a few professional reasons for keeping her last name intact. So, what to do?

We left the topic alone for a while, still jokingly calling our dogs by various name combinations when they were in trouble. And even after we actually got engaged, it wasn’t really discussed. It wasn’t until our wedding was quickly approaching and we still hadn’t decided on anything, did the tension begin to rise. Being in a same-sex couple does afford you a little more of a dialogue about name changing than many heterosexual couples have. Without the societal norm of automatically taking the husband’s name pressing down on us, we had the freedom to actually talk about the name or names we wanted to use, and what that meant to us.

The decision I had to make about changing my last name was compounded by an additional fact: this wasn’t my first time at the name-change rodeo. When I was twenty-three I got married to a guy. My parents went through a nasty divorce before the wedding, and at the time things between me and my dad weren’t great. I shed my maiden name as a way to move forward and fall into a new family. After five years of marriage, I admitted to myself, my then husband, and our families the truth about my sexuality, and ended the marriage.

By the time I met Karyne, I was in a better place with both my parents and happily had my maiden name back. I told myself that I wouldn’t change it again. I wanted to keep it. I felt that being in a same-sex relationship would for sure make that happen. But… shit is complicated. Karyne was steadfast in her choice to keep her name, and I respected that, but couldn’t help but feeling somewhat disappointed. I had gone through so much to get to a place of security in myself and find the love and partnership I had longed for, and yet still ended up feeling torn between choosing between myself or my relationship. I’d made the mistake before of not being true to myself and what I really wanted from life. Hadn’t I learned from this and grown?

Ultimately, the decision to change my name came down to politics: since we are a same-sex couple, we didn’t know what our futures would hold post-election. For us it just felt especially important to take every possible precaution to make us formally, on paper, a family unit. We live in California, so we still feel a sense of “safety” in terms of our marriage, but we still don’t know what having children will look like for us. If it meant a few less questions, or form complications, or even one less time explaining the relationship, then it was worth it for us to share a name.

So for the second time in my life, I took someone else’s name. It was bittersweet, but the choice worked for me, and it works for my family. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, which feels good and important for me. Life isn’t perfect, and the politics of being gay in this country are still really, really far from perfect. So we didn’t come up with a solution that was a hundred percent thrilling. But that being said, I’m proud in my choice. I’m proud that I got to marry my wife and take her name legally, even if it still stings a little to let a part of myself go.

Now that I’ve dished, I want to hear from you. Did you change your name when you got married? why or not why not? what did you consider in the process, and what advice would you give other couples making the same decision?

Kate Levy

Kate is APW’s Marketing Manager. This Bay Area native built her own business as a wedding hair and makeup artist, before shifting gears to work in marketing. She’s an avid iPhone photographer, loves all forms of social media (especially Instagram, #katesskylog), and makes a really mean chocolate chip cookie. Kate is a collector of spoons, enamel pins, and reusable bags she never actually brings to the store. When not getting sucked into the ASOS app or an Instagram hashtag blackhole, Kate can be found hanging on the Peninsula with her wife, 3 cats and 2 dogs.

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  • idkmybffjill

    This is awesome. I love discussions of name change! I changed mine but it was a choice, not just the default – and I really like that that’s becoming the new normal in alot of circles.

    I also have to say I really feel for the logistics of this for you. Three name changes is not for the faint of heart or of foot. That’s alot of waiting in line at the dmv/social security office/everywhere ever.

  • HarrietVane

    My wife and I hyphenated our names for similar reasons. It feels a lot more secure and reinforces to people that we’re *really* married.

    • ruth

      I know this is unrelated, but I just love that your screenname is HarrietVane. I don’t know if this is your legal name, or a nod to Dorothy Sayers’ heroine from Gaudy Night etc… in which case I tip my hat to you!

      • HarrietVane

        Haha, my real name is a lot longer and harder to spell… I just love Dorothy L. Sayers!

  • penguin

    I’m still undecided on what I’m going to do for my last name. I’ve talked it over with my fiancé, and he doesn’t want to change his name, although he is on board with me doing what I want with mine. I didn’t really want him to change his last name to mine, but brought it up as an option anyway.

    I like the idea of us having the same last name, but ours would sound terrible hyphenated (my last name is a noun/verb). I’m hesitant to take his last name, partly because we’re having so many problems with his parents and I don’t like the idea of having their last name (if that makes sense). Right now I’m leaning towards just keeping my name. It’s my name and I love it, and it’s very me. Although if I do that, then I feel like this just pushes off the name debate until/if we have kids – they have to have something for a last name, so this will come up again.

    • LAinTexas

      My boyfriend is like your fiance – he doesn’t care what I decide to do with my last name, but he’s against dropping his or hyphenating for a “team name,” as I saw someone else call it in a different comment. But, I can understand that, as his last name has some familial and ancestral ties – when his ancestors immigrated to the U.S., a typo was made, so although his last name is somewhat popular where his ancestors are from, as far as he knows, his is the only family to have their specific spelling of it.

    • Kaitlyn

      I don’t like the idea of having their last name (if that makes sense).

      This actually strikes a chord in me that I didn’t think of before. I definitely like my fiance’s family, but when I think of Mrs. HisLastName, I think of his mom and not me (or being his wife). I also feel like it’s a little bit of abandonment of my own family cuz if I change my name, I’m now one of “them”. At the end of the day, I’m not changing my name mainly cuz I don’t want to haha but this definitely speaks to one of my deeper feelings.

      • Lisa

        One of my husband’s aunts kept her name when she got married to his uncle because Mrs. HisLast was my husband’s grandmother, and she is such an amazing, strong person that husband’s aunt felt like she couldn’t presume to take on that identity. Also, the aunt is feisty and stubborn and wasn’t interested in changing her name anyway, I think, but the line about my husband’s grandmother is the reason she usually gives.

      • penguin

        I’m glad it’s not just me! In some ways it feels a little petty, but it’s just how I feel. I also don’t want to feel coerced into changing my name, and fiancé is on board with whatever I decide.

      • Em

        I hear you on this, although from a different perspective – I like my husband’s name more than my own but personally I just can’t bring myself to part with my name (partly for professional reasons and partly principles). But I don’t want my children to have my name, I don’t think, because I feel like it’s a curse/not a good name (in large part because of some really f*** family dynamics). Irrational, I know…

    • accidental_diva

      I dated a guy who had an color as his last name and mine is a noun – the idea of every one of the items that our names would describe crossed my mind when I was dating him (not that it lasted too long)

  • Rebekah

    Kate, I did what you did – now I’m Rebekah Middle Maiden Hislast (2 middles). I have never really felt like it’s me, so I’ve been talking off and on about changing it back. It’s a huge headache in California, where we live for now, to change it back, not to mention very expensive. We’re also talking about having kids, and I want to be able to have a full conversation about their last names, which I don’t know if we can do if I still share a last name with him. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story, and I hope that you write more about it down the road.

    • Jess

      FWIW, I think you can 100% talk to your kids about something even if it’s a choice you didn’t make for yourself.

      You could talk about the importance of names, acknowledging that there are lots of options and their positives/negatives. You could express regret, you could talk about how you made a choice and changed back later (if that’s what you end up doing), you could talk what made you embrace the change in the first place (if you don’t).

      • Rebekah

        <3
        I love this community.

    • LAinTexas

      Rebekah, I have a friend who did the same – First Middle Maiden Hislast. I had no idea that was a bit of a trend until she told me she did that. She also argued (I hate to use that word, but from what she described of their “discussions” about this, I think that’s really what it was) with her husband until he agreed that all of their future children will have her maiden name as their middle name – HOWEVER, her maiden name is easily a first/middle name – like, it doesn’t sound weird in that position. My last name, for example, makes no sense as a first or middle name. Anyway, maybe that could be an option for you and your future kiddos.

      • CA

        FH’s mom is First Middle Maiden Hislast, and my mom switched her middle name entirely to be First Maiden Hislast. FH and his sister both have two middle names – a regular one and then his mom’s maiden name. So there are lots of workable middle name options that are (I think) somewhat common at least in parts of the country.

        • LAinTexas

          I wish I knew more of these people!!! Broaden my worldview!!! :)

          • Leah

            My siblings and I all have First Middle Mum’s Maiden as middle Dad’s Last and I actually wish our parents had just double-barreled their names as our last name. My sister is actually changing her name to our mum’s maiden name when she gets married.

          • LAinTexas

            Interesting! Can you explain more about why you would have preferred both surnames as your last name instead of her maiden name as one of your middle names?

          • Leah

            It’s hard to put a finger on but my mum is the last of her name (only has a sister and her sister changed her name) and talked to us a lot about how important it was when we were growing up. I guess my feeling is that if it was important enough for her to keep it and give it as a middle name, then it is important enough to just add it to our last name?
            Not having her name in my last name has definitely influenced me in decisions around changing my name and the name we will give our potential children in the future. It’s the hill I was going to die on if I needed to, but my FH and I are both changing our names to Mylast-Hislast and our children will have this too. I’m also inclined to give our kids our mothers last names (his kept hers as well) as a second middle name (girls would have my mum’s and boys would have his). He’s not keen because they’d end up First Middle Grandmother’s Last Mylast-Hislast and that’s a lot of names. I’ll end up with five names (First Middle Mother’s Mylast-Hislast) once we marry and don’t see that as an issue for our kids so we continue the debate!

      • One of my friends growing up had a surname as a middle name. It wasn’t her mother’s maiden name, it was a tradition that had come down her father’s side, and she wasn’t clear on whose name it had been originally. If it had passed for a ‘normal’ middle name it would have been dropped by now, but it hasn’t, because it’s so much more unusual. There’s something I really like about the idea that there’s a woman in that family, decades, maybe even centuries ago, who is still being carried by future generations because her name became her dynasty’s middle name

        • LAinTexas

          Ooooh, I love that! My middle name is Anne, which is somewhat of a family tradition – my grandmother’s middle name is also Anne, and my mom’s is Ann. But anyway, that’s a really cool story – thank you for sharing!

      • Amy March

        Why would a middle name need to make sense?

        • LAinTexas

          Touche!

      • Rebekah

        My roommate in college and all her siblings, male and female, had her mom’s last name as their middles. It’s definitely my plan if we decide to name any kids Baby Hislast that they be Baby Maiden Hislast. Anyway, bridges to cross when we come to them, but I do really appreciate your story :)

  • Angela’s Back

    I always thought/envisioned myself changing my name and then when the time came, I hyphenated–partly because my thinking on the subject had evolved a lot, mostly because of and thanks to this site, let’s be honest, partly because my first name and his last name almost rhyme and it just so happened that inserting my maiden name in the middle sounds awesome. In fact, I just got business cards for my new job today with both the umlaut over the e in my first name and my hyphenated last name–never had that at my old job because I got married less than a year ago and then left a couple months ago. So that was fun :) It does drive me a little bit crazy though, my husband is fond of saying, “I love you, Angela Maidenname!” because that’s what he used to say when we were dating and I’m like yeah okay I love you too, but my name is Angela Maidenname-Yourname now!! So please use it!! I didn’t spend an afternoon at the social security office to not be called my married name.

  • Sarah Jane Tinnelly-Williams

    My maiden name is already hyphenated, and my daughter has my last name, so I kept my name. I didn’t want to change my name, and have future children have mine/husband’s name, and be worried about my daughter feeling left out, or not truly part of the family. My husband completely understood, and was super supportive. Now that I’m pregnant (!!) we are working on some combination of my hyphenated name and his name. We are sticking to just one hyphen (his original suggestion was to just stick his name on the end, so it would be baby myname-myname-hisname. talk about a logistical nightmare!) and are having fun trying out different combinations.

    • Arie

      Just want to +1 for the thought process w/r/t your daughter. My mom kept her married name for 30 years after her divorce from my dad–despite some pretty awful memories and a professional advantage to changing back to her maiden name–just so I wouldn’t feel like I was on my own. It really mattered to me.

      • Sarah Jane Tinnelly-Williams

        Thank you! I really appreciate it. During the entire wedding planning process, and especially now that there’s a new baby coming, my #1 priority is to make sure my daughter feels that she’s part of our little family, fully and completely. She’s only 6, so I’m not sure how much of an impact her last name has on her right now, but it mattered to me, and I’m sure it will matter to her when she grows up.

  • savannnah

    I think a discussion of all kinds of cultural norms here are important. Because I grew up with parents who had different names, and all my friends did as well, I feel little to no emotions at all when it comes to keeping my last name- other than the fact that I’m glad I have a supportive partner. For me the idea of a family unit being demonstrated by having the same last name just does not resonate. I’m sure that’s in part because of being in a liberal city in a hetro relationship and also having very few divorces (1 cousin I can think of) in my immediate and large extended family. None of my married friends, gay or straight have changed their last names either- so it will be interesting when we all start having kids.

    • Ilora

      Totally! Cultural stuff for sure but also Family of Origin stuff plays a huge part. As I mentioned elsewhere, my parents double barrelled when they got married so both of them and my brother and I have (had) Momslast Dadslast. Since Momslast was already an unusual name we were the only people with that name (as in, we are the only results when you google it). They were also both the black sheep of their families so the name situation was simply emphasizing a truth that was already there. My husband and I furthered that trend by creating a new name that we both took.

      If he didn’t want to change his name that would have been fine. I would have been happy to keep mine as well, I wouldn’t have changed if he didn’t, but I would have been very insistent about kids having my name.

  • Sarah

    I took my husband’s, our kid has same last name, and at the time it was like “sure, why not?” I recently thought I wish I kept a double (non-hyphenated) last name with both of our names, though of course my friend said it was harder and just having husband’s last is easier! my husband is really into genealogy, and even though everyone in his freaking family has boys (seriously, girls aren’t born into this family) he really wanted his name out there still. he would not have been bummed if I did a double name but I know he and his family approved my choice. no easy solution.
    my son has my maiden name as his middle, which is something, but I get a maiden name twinge occasionally.

  • Anon

    I decided to change my last name because it was really important to my husband that our family has the same last name. And he was not going to take my maiden, in part because it’s a very ethnic name, and he’s not from that ethnicity. But the ethnic component of my maiden name is exactly why I miss it. My maiden name reflected an entire cultural identity and history that is absent from my married name. It’s been a year and a half since I got married, and my new name still makes me a bit sad. I didn’t realize that changing my name would bother me so much.

  • BSM

    Neither of us changed our last names when we got married. I thought I would up until right before we got engaged, but, like @angelasback:disqus my thinking evolved (thanks in great part to APW), and it stopped seeming like the right thing for me.

    When that decision was final and we started using our “team name” (a combination of our two last names), I thought maybe we would give our kids the team name and both change over to it as well. My husband was never really on board with changing his name to anything (although he’s been totally fine with our kids not getting his last name), and I had to admit that, in the end, I didn’t really want to change my name, either. My name is awesome!

    In the end, I’ll keep my last name, husband will keep his, and baby (and any future babies) will get the team name. It feels very right for us.

    Now that a lot of my peers are starting to get married, I have to say that I’ve been sort of surprised (and even a little sad) seeing 99% of the women (in hetero relationships) change their last names. Obviously, I have no idea what their conversations are like behind closed doors, and it’s not my business anyways, but I definitely would have thought it’d be a little less lopsided.

    Funny side note: I created my Disqus account when I thought I’d switch over to the team name, too, so M is actually not my last initial.

    • LAinTexas

      I’ve also noticed that almost all of my female friends who have gotten married to men have taken their husband’s last name. Only one didn’t. When I mentioned that to my boyfriend’s mom, she decided it was her place to go off on a rant about how she doesn’t agree with that at all and that the bride should ~always~ take the groom’s name… I decided to hold my tongue and not tell her that I’m still debating about what I’ll do when I marry her son someday! He doesn’t care, and I’ve built a business under my own name, so it feels important to me to retain my name somehow. Currently, I’m favoring hyphenating, but I don’t love that I’ll have an extra long and doubly challenging to pronounce last name. Ha.

      • Emily

        My lady friends and I were recently ruminating on this, but from the opposite perspective – none of us have changed our names. All three of them have been married five years or less, and I’m to be married in a month and plan on keeping my name for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, I have another group of lady friends who both have changed their names (both married in the last two years). The former group tends to be older, more career driven and less child focused, while the later is the opposite. It’s interesting, and I’m glad I have both lady groups in my life.

        • LAinTexas

          That’s so interesting! I’m surprised that it’s your older group of friends who have kept their names and not changed them. I don’t know why, but I would’ve expected the opposite, for some reason.

          • Emily

            I think it’s also because they’re all more career focused. Also, I think location matters – the older group lives the pacific northwest, while the slightly younger-changing-their-names live in the midwest. Both liberal, progressive cities, but location seems to matter in this instance.

          • LAinTexas

            Oh yes, that does explain a lot. Lucky you for having both friend groups! :)

        • dur

          I can’t find it after a quick google-attempt but there’s a part of Lean In (I think?) that addresses a study that tests how people perceive people when they are introduced as:

          “This is Mr and Mrs Smith”

          as compared to

          “This is Mr Smith and his wife Ms Jones”

          And the end result is that, with everything else held constant, Mrs Smith was perceived as motherly and nurturing and calm…… and Ms Jones was perceived as intelligent, independent, assertive, ambitious, etc. Basically the Mrs HisLast was seen to fit the traditional gender role of a SAHM, and Ms HerLast was seen to be more progressive and career-minded and SMARTER. The “smart” part I found really interesting. Wish I could find the reference to this study as Sandberg described it better.
          Definitely seems to match your friend group!

          • Emily

            That’s really interesting! And makes sense, as the female partner has been traditionally seen as an extension of the male partner and not as an independent entity in a equal partnership. It reminds me also of the end of a traditional wedding ceremony: “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Has the wife lost her independent person hood? Total side note, but that has always bugged me. This affirms my choice to keep my name even more!

    • penguin

      I have the same sad reaction when I see women around me changing their last names to their husband’s last name. On one hand, it’s very much not my business, and who knows how they came to that decision, but it does make me sad. I feel like if I don’t change my name, we won’t feel as married, or people won’t think of us as “really” married.

      • Sarah

        this is a good point…and much better than the typical APW “taking your husband’s name is only enforcing the patriarchy.” for hetero couples that is.

        • savannnah

          You can be a feminist and make an non-feminist choice. I think its more like ‘taking your husband’s name is enforcing the patriarchy AND doing xyz for me too’

      • I feel the same way. I have always been Team Don’t Change Your Name (my mom never changed hers and I have the history of women changing their names, plus I like my unique last name) but there is a part of me that values the way a name change signals a big life change, and a union. We would have combined our names but they’re both way to odd and long and prone to misspelling; no combos we could think of worked at all. So now we’re just the same names we’ve always been. I’ve thought about using his last name as my middle name and might still do that. I have no idea what we’ll do when kids come along though. That’s a whole new question.

    • CMT

      I’m with you on the little bit of surprise/sadness that more women don’t keep their names. Like I’ve commented here many times before, this is totally my hill to die on, so maybe I just notice it more. But yeah, it’s none of my business and I’d never say anything to anybody about their choice.

      • Amy March

        I keep every one of my name changing friends in my phone under their maiden names as my own silent known only to me protest.

        • CMT

          Me too!!!

        • Not Sarah

          This is a great idea! I should switch back to that. Except some of them have been married so long I’ve forgotten their maiden names at this point.

        • Lisa

          Same here! In my head, my sister is still one of “my” family instead of having taken on her husband’s name. She (and my other name changing friends) don’t know that they’re under their birth names in my phone.

          • Jan

            My partner, who met my sister YEARS after she married her husband, still has her in his phone as “Sister Maidenname”. For some reason, for him, that’s what her name is. It has nothing to do with protest of any kind, he just legitimately forgets that isn’t her name. (She and I look and sound exactly alike, so that may have something to do with it.)

        • Abs

          I do this too out of laziness, but I don’t like the idea that I’m not respecting their choice. It’s only as an unbalanced trend that I don’t like it, and throwing shade on individuals seems problematic.

          • ART

            I would be kind of sad to know people were taking this approach with my name, since I had a really tough relationship with my maiden name and was pretty glad to drop it (had long considered changing it before marriage, but could never figure out a good substitute).

          • Cleo

            I add their new last name to the last name box, so my friend Jane Doe who married Joe Bloggs and changed her name is now Jane Doe Bloggs in my phone. Respects their choice while also reminding me what her name used to be (and also allows for Siri to ask me “Do you mean…” if I forget one of her last names while asking to call her. Hah!)

          • This is what I do (because I forget new last names often and then lose track if not). (But then again, my husband is still in my phone as NAME-college initials back from when I differentiated contacts by how I knew them, so I don’t really update contact info).

        • Arie

          This really bothers me. I feel like it assumes that the only reason someone would change their name is due to pressure to fit in, and doesn’t respect a grown woman’s choices to do what the f*ck she wants. A lot of us change our name for deeply personal, important reasons that have nothing to do with being traditional or non-traditional. If I found out one of my friends kept me under my maiden name to protest my choice, I’d be really pissed off.

          • Amy March

            But you wouldn’t, because I always address them as their chosen name.

          • Arie

            Sure. But it’s the thought process that’s the problem, not whether or not all your friends are mad at you. There’s a lot of assumptions and judgment that go into that kind of action, even if you’re calling people by their chosen name.

          • Amy March

            Or, it’s primarily lazy and a completely minor and personal thing that doesn’t really matter at all.

          • Not Sarah

            So long as Amy calls her friends by their chosen name, what does it matter? Plenty of people use their married name socially but never legally change it. Everyone can forever still prove they are their maiden name with their birth certificate. It’s no different than people using nicknames or emojis for people’s names rather than their name.

          • BSM

            Not to speak for Amy, but I’m guessing it’s more of a protest against the patriarchal system of naming, not her friends’ personal choices. At least, that’s how I view it.

        • Another Meg

          Ditto!

        • Staria

          Me too @amymarch:disqus!!!

        • AP

          And if any man in my contact list changed his name after marriage, I’d probably put gold stars and confetti and heart emojis all over it. Still waiting…

      • BSM

        Yeah, I’d never say anything, it’s just *so* uneven. I have a dozen or so friends/acquaintances who have gotten married in the past year, and all but one have changed their names.

        Kids not just getting my husband’s last name was/is my hill to die on. I’ve also been a little surprised that, out of the half dozen couples we know who both kept their last names, all of them have given their kids dad’s last name.

        Maybe we’re just way more out there than I thought, lol?

        • Not Sarah

          My husband’s extended family were very excited that we got married because then there will be HisLast children again! (His dad’s sisters all changed their names when they got married, so my husband’s siblings are the only HisLast people of his generation.) I wanted to retort that we don’t plan to have children, but if we do, they would be hyphenated with our last names. I knew that wasn’t my place though at that time so I kept quiet.

          • BSM

            I think my husband and SIL are also the only HisLast people of his generation. But… so are me and my brother for MyLast.

            The family lineage thing is noooooot a compelling argument for either of us, so it was a totally moot point in our discussions. I am curious to see if it comes up once we announce the kiddo’s name (particularly from my FIL) to which I would say, “Why should he assume his daughter won’t carry on his last name and my brother definitely will carry on mine?”

            I’ve thought a lot about this, ha.

          • Not Sarah

            I have too! My sister and I are also the only OurLast people – no one else in my dad’s generation had kids with the OurLast name. My husband’s brother’s fiancee plans to change her name AND to have children, so I assume that the HisLast name will carry on that way, which leaves us free to do what we want without as much pestering.

        • Cait

          I appended his last to mine for a double barrel, and the baby has my double barrel last name. That required a gentle but firm conversation with his parents (not one I had to be part of, thankfully).

      • Sarah E

        SAME! Particularly since I have surrounded myself with quite a feminist/progressive bubble. Which means I trust that my friends are making thoughtful choices, but I had just assumed that those who took their husband’s name (in a hetero marriage) would be a dying breed, or simply part of much more conservative or religious social groups.

    • Abs

      I feel the same way seeing my friends change their names, mostly because I did not expect the particular people involved to do it. A lot of the most outspokenly feminist women I know have, and a few that I’d always pegged as more traditional haven’t.

      I’m starting to think that it’s one of those things that for the vast majority of people comes down to what feels familiar from how you were raised: if your parents had the same last name, it seems weird and difficult and bad to not have the same last name, and if they didn’t, then it doesn’t. Which is neither here nor there, except that apparently none of the guys I know are willing to change their names. Even my husband wasn’t, although I didn’t really want him two because I have no problem with a two-name-family (because I was raised that way).

      • JR

        Among my friends, I think the actual names involved played a big role. Several women who didn’t like their husband’s last names aesthetically disproportionately kept their own (or occasionally did change for the same reason). Of course, plenty of my friends did or didn’t change for reasons of values, career, family traditions, etc., but this was a definite factor that hadn’t really thought about. But to your point, none of their husbands changed their names for that reason.

      • Mrs H

        My situation is actually the opposite of this-my mother didn’t change her name, but my sister and I have my Dad’s name. I was quite a shy kid and I hated having to explain that my mum had a different name. In hindsight I think it was way less of an issue than my anxious mind made it, but I really wanted to have just one name for my new family.

      • K.K.

        Interesting. I actually feel that in my corner of the world, a good number of women I went to college with were raised by married parents with different last names (aka mom kept her maiden name), but are changing theirs to their husbands’ as they marry. It feels like their parents’ rebelled against the grandparents’ status quo, and now the kids are doing the same against the parents’.

      • Not Sarah

        This isn’t entirely true about what feels familiar. My parents both have the same last name, as do my husband’s. We’re the only couple in my husband’s family of our generation where the woman isn’t changing her name. Our parents are all far more traditional than we are and seem baffled by us. My mom still honestly believes that it is only in broken homes that people have different last names and that hyphenated children’s names were born to unmarried parents.

    • Mer

      On the whole, my acquaintances generally take their husband’s name. However, of my close friends, there’s 6 of us (all female), 4 are married + 1 engaged (me!) and 4 kept/ are keeping their name. Also interesting, of the 5 that are (almost) married, all of their mothers changed their name except 1 (mine!).

      But yes. My feminist heart dies a little inside every time I see a name change.

    • ssha

      I’m always sad when I see women changing their names too (ie when the day after their wedding they pop up on facebook). It’s not my business and it’s not like they haven’t considered it thoroughly, but I just feel sad for their old name being dropped like a hot potato so fast. I don’t know why I am surprised- I live in the midwest and can count on one hand the women I know who’ve kept their names. And I had to comb through facebook to find them? I’ve been feeling like a crazy person lately for keeping mine. I had never heard of someone giving their children the mom’s name until I started reading APW- that would be radical around here.

  • laddibugg

    I probably will take his name. We gave our son his name–My dad currently has his mom’s last name, but went by his dad’s for like the first fourth of his life (mix up with birth certificate), so he’s not as tied to it as one normally is. So there was never this “you must carry on the name” thing from my side. My finance said I could really do what I wanted with our son, but a little while ago he said he was happy I choose to give him his name.
    I’d like to make my maiden name my middle, but it’s a PITA in New Jersey. My son’s middle name is my maiden name, so even if I never get around to changing that, at least I’ll still have a piece of my maiden.

  • Eenie

    That second to last paragraph made me all teary eyed. I hate that politics was a factor in what you call yourself everyday!

    I kept my name. My children will be sharing my last name with me. I cared that they have the same name as me and my husband did not. He didn’t want to file name change paperwork. His last name will be their second middle name and my husband gets a weighted vote on the first middle name choice. I really wanted him to take my last name, but my brother has the same first name so my argument for that fell flat.

    • penguin

      Yeah if my fiancé changed his last name to my last name, his name would sound weirdly similar to my dad’s. Not a huge deal, but it would weird me out a little (also he doesn’t want to change his name).

      • My husband would have had the exact same name as my father if he changed it to match mine, so I never really pushed for that option.

    • CMT

      To me this really seems like something men (in general) have a problem with that women (in general) just put up with. I have a friend whose SIL now shares her exact same name. I don’t think the SIL or brother ever even paused to think about that; it was just not a consideration at all.

      • Eenie

        He really just didn’t want to fill out the paperwork. I always assumed my argument of “I have such a unique last name, it’s great, you don’t get confused with anyone, it’s easy to get an email address…” would sway my future partner to take my name. I just didn’t really even make that argument since he would immediately be confused with my brother.

      • S

        I have a friend whose brother married someone with the same first name as her, and she married as well around the same time, and both women changed their names. So my friend Jane Smith because Jane Jones, and her sister in law basically “took” her name and became Jane Smith. Facebook was very weird for a while. Now my friend, the original Jane Smith, is divorced, so there are two Jane Smiths now. It was a little weird but I bet it never occurred to anyone to do anything differently, whereas for a man it would be a roadblock. Just like women change their surnames when they get married all the time because “his name just sounded better”, but generations and generations and generations of men with dreadful surnames have felt just fine keeping theirs and passing them on to their poor children.

  • CA

    I always feel a little like we are taking something of a cop-out route with this decision (it is one of the few wedding-related decisions I didn’t obsessively overanalyze at all), but we are being true to us. We’re both keeping our names for various reasons:
    -I didn’t want to just take his.
    -we’re both in academic science where name changes can be professionally challenging.
    -we both have somewhat unspellable awkward last names anyway so any combination would be worse.
    -neither of us feels at all that not having the same last name takes any meaning or connection away from our relationship in any way.
    -at this point we are fairly confident that we don’t want to have kids so that’s a non-issue too.

    This is one of those questions about our relationship that other people have been way more interested in than we have. Almost none of our west coast scientist friends have changed their names, and a few were sort of hesitantly curious whether or not we would be doing the same. Meanwhile the traditional name-taking is still pretty standard among our Midwestern families, but that’s definitely been more of an active choice among our generation, and I think a lot of them (correctly) guessed that we would want to do things differently.

  • Abs

    It was an obvious decision for my husband and me to each keep our names–literally every married couple in my family under the age of 80 has different last names, so I never felt any pressure from them.

    I had also thought for a while that I was totally fine with (still very much future) kids getting husband’s last name, but that has changed a lot in the last couple of years, particularly since my father died. I thought I didn’t care, because I had never been raised with the expectation of passing down my name, but actually I really do. And so does he. Our names are way too long to hyphenate, so there’s really no way to be totally fair on this.

    A question–does giving siblings different last names (like one gets the father’s and one gets the mother’s) make for bizarre family dynamics? I have no siblings, so I have no idea how that all works.

    • Not Sarah

      I feel like it would take a long time for kids to realize their siblings have different last names. I’ve never really called mine by our last name, except when addressing mail.

      • Amy March

        Wouldn’t they figure it out as soon as they were old enough to learn their names?

    • penguin

      Someone on APW a while back commented on how they hated having a different last name from their siblings, and created logistical problems. I don’t recall all the details, so hopefully they chime in.

      My question would be, how do you determine which kid gets which name? What if you end up only having one kid?

      • CMT

        Ehh, I know siblings with different last names who are totally fine with it. I think this is one of those things you can’t possibly predict — like maybe your children will be BFFs their whole lives or maybe they’ll grow up hating each other.

        • penguin

          I personally don’t think it would be a big deal to have different last names, but that’s just me. I don’t think whether or not your kids end up being friends matters in terms of naming them – they still need names either way.

          • CMT

            Oh no, I know, I was just using that as an example of something people try to predict about their children.

          • penguin

            Ah yeah, totally with you on that. You really never can tell – my brother and I are more friends now as adults than we ever were as kids. Other people I know only talk to their siblings at the rare times they see them for holidays.

      • Abs

        In my head, it would be a coin toss. And if we didn’t have more kids, then the person who lost would lose. But I’m not sure how committed I actually am to this idea.

        • Eenie

          I personally would be so sad if I lost!

      • Lexipedia

        We talked about this, and while I’ve decided to change DadsLast to HisLast (very long story that I hope I won’t have to explain to too many people in person) and have MomsLast as a middle, we agreed that if I actually wanted to keep DadsLast then we would’ve done girls with his name and boys with mine.

      • Wazxa

        It was me that commented awhile back saying I disliked having different last names from my siblings. The issue in my family is it created some (friendly??) competition. Like “that [undesirable trait] is so Smith, I would never do that”. While usually lighthearted it was also constant enough to create separate identities within the otherwise stable family.

    • Sarah Jane Tinnelly-Williams

      I feel like it would be a logistical issue when the kids got to be school aged – you might need additional paperwork or some kind of affidavits or something like that. I’ve experienced this because my husband was filling out paperwork for my daughter (she’s going into first grade, and she has my last name) and the school basically said that due to the different last names, we would need extra paperwork beyond a marriage certificate to prove his guardianship. It was just easier for me to sign everything.

      • penguin

        That seems weird – you’d think that blended families would be common enough now to not need extra paperwork. After all, even if two people have the same last name, it doesn’t mean they are related at all.

        • Eenie

          Yes. Like honestly, how is this a thing? Or how is it not a thing for everyone? I have heard about this before.

        • Lisa

          Right? My husband’s grandmother had the same birth name as my mother, but I don’t assume that because they both shared a very common last name that we’re somehow related.

        • Sarah Jane Tinnelly-Williams

          That’s what I said to the person who called me about it – is my kid the only one in the entire school with a blended family?? They said it was possible to have my husband’s name on everything, but there was an additional packet that needed to be signed/notarized. At the end of the day, for a public school, it was just easier for him to fill in the forms and have me sign them. IDK if I just got a new receptionist or something, but whatever. He’s listed as the secondary guardian/emergency contact on everything, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

    • BSM

      We considered this. My husband was somewhat worried about the family dynamics (would the kid feel more connected to the parent they shared a last name with?), while I did not think they would be an issue. What would be an actual problem is that we’re not sure we’ll have a second kid, so that would kind of defeat the whole purpose.

      We didn’t spend too much time on this because we had another viable option that we preferred anyways, but I don’t think it would be a big deal. The “worst” thing would be people assuming it’s your second marriage that you both brought kids into and you have a blended family, which sounds perfectly lovely, imo.

  • Not Sarah

    I’ve always been very steadfast that I would never change my name when I got married. My husband and I have even agreed that if we do have children, their last names will be hyphenated. He doesn’t care what I do with my name, but I have this guilt over not changing it, a worry that his family feel I’m rejecting them. I’m the only woman in our generation of his family who I expect to not change her name – everyone else will or already has. I wasn’t expecting the guilt.

    I’ve been really surprised by the number of women on my Facebook list who have changed their names – I wasn’t expecting it to be this high. Unscientifically, a higher ratio of our American friends have changed their names than our Canadian friends, which I find interesting.

    • CA

      I kind of know what you mean about guilt. I love FH’s extended family, they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. But we are easily the least traditional couple among them (no church wedding/lived together for years pre-engagement/not changing my name/don’t want kids/etc), and I’ve worried that I’m somehow messing up their happy harmony, or that they will perceive my being more independent as being less committed to joining their family. I think those you-can’t-please-everyone concerns just come with the territory of going against deep-seated social expectations…

    • Lexipedia

      Same with the Canadian/American thing! I’m always surprised when a friend from home changes her name, but where we live now every single of of FI’s female colleagues have changed.

    • emilyg25

      I’m always a little sad when one of my Facebook friends marries and changes their name. Logically, I understand folks should make the best choice for them, but it’s soooo common.

    • MC

      Husband and I both kept our names, and I am the only woman in his family not to change her name and almost all of them assumed I would. It has been frustrating at times having to correct his family members over and over (and some I’ve just given up on), but I try to frame it as I am educating them on a choice that some people make, and it will make it easier for any other women they meet who don’t change their last name. Like, maybe in a few years when they go to a wedding they’ll think twice before assuming that a woman is taking her husband’s name.

      I’m sure some of them felt/feel like I am rejecting their family, but that argument has never held water for me because women who take their husband’s name aren’t considered to be rejecting their families of origin! Turns out family’s aren’t defined by names alone, and if that’s all that’s holding a family together it’s not a good sign. I show my in-laws that I’m part of their family by… acting like part of their family. Because I am. Not really my business if they doubt that or not.

      • Not Sarah

        Agreed on the educating! Which is why I always answer when someone asks why or looks confused.

      • ssha

        This! This wasn’t my reason for keeping my name, but now if my husband’s brother gets married someday, his wife could keep her name because she’d have me as a precedent since it’s so rare in my circles. Same with my sisters. I’m glad they would have someone to point to as an example that there is a choice (and many options- just look at these comments) and they don’t have to default to changing if they don’t want to.

      • mjh

        +1 on the providing examples thing, that’s so important.

        It’s that’s my favorite thing about my husband having taken my name. I grew up knowing I’d never change my name and expecting that my spouse and I would have separate names. Once I found out that my husband wanted to take my name with marriage, it took a little mental adjusting to get used to the idea of sharing a name. But I love the fact that the kids in our families have the example that if you want a single name for a family, it can come from a woman. I think it’s especially great because my husband is a glasses, khakis and sweater wearing, steak loving, does math for fun, geeky guy, not someone people associate with being radical in any way (making his choice of me as a partner interesting, heh). Because it’s a simple concept, and he’s just using the same logical reasoning he does for all his other decisions. Societal bullshit is the only thing that makes it a loaded decision.

    • Mari

      I live in a liberal city on the West Coast with progressive, feminist friends and I have been really surprised at how many of the women who get married change their names (I am one of the few who didn’t). Almost all of them have changed it – probably 80% or more. The idea that a feminist can make a non-feminist decision (like changing her name) has helped me process this because I thought more of my ladies would keep their names. I wonder if the ratio will change at all as we move into our thirties now…

      • Not Sarah

        I’m also in a liberal city on the West Coast, though the friends who have changes their names aren’t from here. Another commenter above described that they had spent their entire lives imagining their first name with their crush’s last name. To me, I think that’s a pretty reasonable situation in which to change your name. But the women who do it because their husbands guilted them into it? Far less reasonable. This is one of my hills though.

  • CMT

    The other thing that really gets me about the name changing conversation is when women say they’re doing it because they want their children to have the same name as both parents. This bothers me for two reasons — 1) People making this argument almost never suggest that the man should change his name to achieve this; 2) The implication is that if you don’t all have the same name you’re somehow less of a family. My mom didn’t change her name and I guess I just take this more personally than I probably should. My mom and dad and I are no less of a family just because we don’t all have the same last name.

    • Amy March

      My mom did and she’s totally against it and says she wouldn’t make the same decision now.

      • penguin

        She changed her name or kept it?

        • Amy March

          Changed it. So we all had the same last name and she thinks that it’s actually not a big deal at all.

      • Jan

        I changed mine after my first marriage when I was 20. I will not do the same this time around. And that has very little to do with the shittiness of my ex-husband; I remember deeply missing my “real” name and feeling like an imposter when people called me by my married name, even when times were good between he and I.

    • penguin

      Do you share a last name with your mom or dad? Not trying to be nosy, more curious how this works. I’m thinking about keeping my name, and wondering if I’ll feel left out if the kids have my fiancé’s last name and I’m the odd one out.

      • CMT

        I have the same name as my dad. As much as he claims to be a “radical feminist”, apparently that’s not something he would go for in the late 80s :-P Although he has told me many, many, many times that I should definitely give any hypothetical future children my last name.

        • Kalë

          Trying this one out with my “radical feminist” dude. We definitely want kids and so far, he is in favor of hyphenating future kids or giving them his last name. Nope. We’re either ALL hyphenating (including him) or potential babies are getting my last name. *this IS the hill I want to die on*

          • penguin

            Did you both keep your names when you got married?

          • Kalë

            We are unmarried as yet! But either both keeping, or both hyphenating, and haven’t decided yet. I would be willing for one kid to have his l-name, one mine, if we both kept ours, but that seems like a bit of a logistical headache to talk out – which kid gets which name? How do you decide? What if we end up only having one? Etc.

          • penguin

            And like, what if you have three kids? Which last name gets two kids? Personally I’d give all kids the same last name, but I don’t know what name it would be. I like the idea of a “team name” although I don’t have good ideas of what to pick for that for us.

          • Kalë

            Yes, exactly! I’m a bit more on the team of everyone hyphenates than neither changes, but he is hesitant about changing his to a hyphen (OH THE IRONY) and I’m stubborn enough/it matters enough to me that I’m willing to fight a big, long, ugly, fight, to make sure kids get my last name rather than defaulting to his for kiddos or hyphenating when he wasn’t willing to do so for his own name.

          • Jenny

            FYI you can also do just 2 last names, with no hyphen. That’s what we did.

          • penguin

            Is that a pain on paperwork and things, or has it been OK? Do people tend to drop one last name?

          • Kalë

            Didn’t even think about it when answering the question, but people tend to drop my “first” last name (father’s name) and consider it a middle name/ middle initial. I usually consider it that way, too, and only use both names on Official Government Forms etc. Probably could have made more of a point of it as an adult, and neither parent mentioned or emphasized it much, if ever, growing up, so I was generally always known in school and stuff as Fname 2ndLname (mom’s).

          • Ilora

            The name I grew up with was like that and it was a pain in some ways but I always found it humorous rather than irritating. My first name is unusual as well so it’s not like it was a big deal for me to spell out the last name when I was already spelling out the first. It actually made me more attached and protective of my name. But also I didn’t find it to be such a big pain as to make it a problem at all.

            It’s more common for the first name to be dropped (considered a middle name) but on some forms the second one gets cut off due to length so it either gets skipped or weirdly abbreviated. I always used both names together as do my dad and brother, my mom sometimes dropped the second name (my dads) because hers is only 3 letters and its just quicker and easier haha. I also always used both initials when signing my initials to things.

            I loved it growing up and totally encourage people considering it to go for it. But obviously there are others who didn’t like it so *shrug*

          • MC

            “It actually made me more attached and protective of my name. ”

            YES! I have a hard to spell/pronounce name and after years of spelling it out and teaching everyone in my life how to pronounce it I identify really strongly with it.

          • Kalë

            I am actually a two-last-named-human-without-hyphenation currently, but thank you! The last name I use is my mother’s, so I’m Kale Chocolate Peanut (with no middle name) officially, but generally just drop it to Kale Peanut. Many people do not realize this, so I say hyphenate but mean either we will both take Peanut-Butter or Peanut Butter; or each remain, respectively, Ms. Peanut and Mr. Butter. Wow, I hope that makes sense, haha.

          • H

            Good for you! Fight for what you care about!

          • Eenie

            YES!!! My kids are getting my last name. It’s a hill worth dying on.

          • Leah

            I died on this hill and have ZERO regrets about it!

        • Ashlah

          I have a friend who is…mostly just not super informed about feminist issues. It was assumed (by both participants) that his wife would take his name, and I am certain he would have been uncomfortable at best had she wanted to keep her own name. Now that he has two daughters, he is suddenly adamant that they should keep their last name when they get married.

          • AP

            I know a couple guys like this, that want their daughters to keep their last names because they don’t have any sons. It really pisses me off, in the same way I got pissed when my brother asked me why I wanted to keep my last name even though our dad isn’t in my life. The assumption that a woman’s name actually belongs to the man attached to it MAKES ME RAGE.

          • C_Gold

            Neither of us changed our last names. My husband has the same last name as his two kids from his first marriage, and I think it definitely confused my stepson a little when he found out I was keeping my name, but now he’s used to it.

            The plan was that if my husband and I have a baby, we’ll hyphenate the baby’s last name, but it’s looking less and less likely (vasectomy reversals don’t always work…).

            Something nice is that I play roller derby, and my name is Auntie Matter, and when my husband started reffing for us, he chose the name Dark Matter. Derby friends call us The Matters sometimes. We get to share a last name in that context, AND he took mine. (I played before he started reffing :-) )

          • Leah

            I love the roller derby shared last name!

          • Eve

            I remember as a young kid my dad tearfully telling me and my sister (several beers into his night, of course) that he was the last HisLast because Sister and i are both girls and would give up our (hislast) names when we got married. But, like, LOOK AT YOUR FREAKING WIFE WITH HER OWN LAST NAME, DAD.

        • Jan

          My “radical feminist” future husband (truly, he does do a decent job) wanted to create a new last name when we got engaged. I didn’t want to change my name, and he didn’t want to take my name because “it’s just another man’s name” (meaning my dad’s). But, like, DUDE! I get what you’re saying, but it’s also MY NAME, and I’m not changing it, ever. The end. Full stop. He can change his or not change his, but I’m not budging. I just thought his feminist angle was pretty funny.

          • CMT

            That argument also makes me so mad! Like, a name can never be a woman’s, only a man’s? Hell no. My name is *MY* name.

          • Jan

            Right? I went into a very long rant about how messed up it was that, because men decided that their names should be the ones to last, this meant I, a woman, had to give up the only name that’s ever felt like my own in order to stick it to the patriarchy. Check ya instincts, son! By the power of the Indigo Girls (and, like, three beers), I strucketh him down.

      • Another Meg

        My kid has my husband’s last name, and mine as his middle name. He’s still a baby, but so far it really hasn’t been a big deal.

        We chose his last name because my husband had read about how men are less likely to be assumed to be a parent (because why would a dad be an involved parent, ugh), and he got nervous.

        So far, I’m ok, but I get a little thrill when people send my son mail with our last names hyphenated instead of just his last name.

      • Zoya

        My parents gave their kids my dad’s last name, with my mom’s last name as a second middle name. It’s not a perfect solution, but it worked for our family. I like having both of their names in mine, though it does bother me a bit that my mom’s name is the “invisible” one.

        On the other hand, my mother-in-law kept her name, but the kids just got Dad’s last name, full stop. And as far as I know there was no “odd man out” dynamic in their family. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

        • savannnah

          My parents did a version of this- all 3 kids have my moms last name as middle name and dad’s as last name. Its never been an issue with our family – not once at school or travelling- and in fact because my mom and I are in the same professional field- we’d rather not have the same last names!

      • CP2011

        My mom didn’t change her last name and I share a last name with my dad. Even as a kid I don’t remember it ever being an issue or feeling weird about it.
        I did know kids at school where one child had the dad’s name and the other had the mom’s name and while I like that idea in theory, I do remember thinking that was totally bizarre as a kid. I’m sure people must have always assumed they were step brothers.

        • CMT

          I think growing up there were probably people who assumed my mom was really my stepmom, which made no difference in our lives, of course. What strangers may or may not assume about your family seems like such a strange reason to make these choices!

          • CP2011

            That’s probably true. In my case, my mom’s last name is extremely unusual and is usually assumed to Japanese (though her heritage has literally zero Asian connection) so I’m sure that confused people even more.

      • CP2011

        Also, adding that my spouse (prior to legally changing his name to a family name for personal reasons) grew up in a family where mom, Dad (not bio) and 4 kids all had different legal last names (all had different dads) and I don’t think he ever felt like less of a family because of it.

      • emilyg25

        We both kept our last names and our son has both of them, hyphenated.

      • Mer

        My mom also kept her name. I have 2 siblings and we all have my dad’s last name. I don’t recall it ever being a problem. My mom would occasionally write in parenthesis (mother) when she signed something like a permission slip but on the whole, no issues. My mom also wasn’t a stickler about it. My friend’s would address her as Mrs. MyLast and we are often referred to as ‘The MyLast’ family but she doesn’t seem to mind.

      • Allison

        I have my mom’s last name and my dad’s as a middle name and my sister has the opposite (so I’m Allison Middle Dad’s Mom’s and she’s Sister Middle Mom’s Dad’s. We have never had any problems with it except for the one time the boarder crossing into Canada when they didn’t read my dad’s passport and thought we had kidnapped my sister. That took 30 seconds to figure out though.

        • Jan

          This is how my partner’s family did things, except they gendered it. The boys have Mom’s as Middle, Dad’s as Last, and the girls have Dad’s as Middle, Mom’s as Last. I kind of hate that it’s gendered but I like the concept.

      • Jan

        This is the only thing that gives me pause, but I’m also 100% going to lobby for our kids to have my last name. Our names do NOT go well together (it all gets quite tongue-tied), so hyphenating really isn’t a viable, or kind, solution. We may end up adding the odd-one-out’s name as a second middle, but we’ll just have to see how the mood strikes when the time comes.

      • Ellie Fredricksen

        I kept my name for personal, professional and feminist reasons. My spouse and I both have unusual and difficult to spell/pronounce last names, and yet they are both an integral part of our identities. Neither of us felt excited about giving up our names when we married.

        We now have two middle-grade children, both of whom simply have my last name, at their dad’s suggestion. My MIL wasn’t totally thrilled about that choice, but he made it clear to her that it wasn’t up for debate. For those of you who might be worried about that choice, we’ve never had a problem with that decision (from schools, sports teams or just their friends’ parents). No one has seemed confused or asked for verification that he’s their dad, despite the different last name. My kids were mildly confused when they first went to school and discovered that other kids DIDN’T have their mom’s name (ha). We have a really strong and happy family unit, and no one who knows us doubts that, no matter the last names. Occasionally some of my students will call my husband “Mr. Hername” when they meet him, which he finds funny, but we hope that our keeping our names and of giving our kids my last name, while modeling a happy and deeply connected family, will normalize that as an option for our community. (It is a minor but frustrating annoyance to constantly run up against things like Christmas card templates designed around a single monogram or family name. Come on — as the discussion here shows, there are so many ways to do names and families! Stop making 90% as if we all have one single name!) Among our friends, we are colloquially known as the “Hername-Hisname Family” and that works beautifully.

    • Abs

      Amen.

    • Abs

      Also, literally none of the five people in my immediate family have the same last name as me or each other (step-families…), and apart from not being able to sign things “The Mylastnames” or have cute little signs made up, it makes very little difference.

      • ellabynight

        Speaking of having cute little things made up with a family last name, I’ve always thought anyone who could come up with attractive designs for hyphenate or double barreled family names could make a killing. I would give all my money to someone who could make a great return address stamp for the “The My Last-Husband’s Last Family.”

        • Ashlah

          I don’t see why anyone making custom return address stamps couldn’t do that? I mean, when you stop and think about it, a hyphenated name is just one name in which a single character is a hyphen instead of a letter! Throw a pretty script on it, and you’ve got yourself a stamp! I suppose the length can make things more restrictive, but other than that, I bet any Etsy seller would be willing to work with you :)

        • Angela’s Back

          Whenever I send invitations to parties, I list them as being hosted at Casa Mylast-Hislast-Cat’s name and I would so happily buy a custom stamp of that. Just for fun :D

        • e.e.hershey

          I did a stamp! I set it up with a line between our names like this:

          MYLAST | HISLAST
          Address Address Address

          It feels simple and doesn’t visually confuse me with a scripty gaggle of long name craziness :)

          • Lisa

            I like this! Our current address stamp has just our first names, but I might steal this idea for next time to really drive the point home to all of my extended family that insists on addressing Christmas cards to “Mr. and Mrs. HisLast.”

    • CP2011

      YES

    • Jenny

      Yes! This was ultimately the reason we decided to take each others names. It was really important to my husband that we all have a family name. So I was like fine, you take my name. He thought about it for a while and said that didn’t feel right. I was like yeah, me taking yours doesn’t feel right to me. So we talked about it more and the compromise was hislast herlast. In retrospect, I’m actually really glad we decided what we were doing for a kids last name before we were pregnant. My pregnancy was super rough, and I just didn’t have the emotional stamina to have those name discussions when I was pregnant.

      • CA

        Just wanted to add that in some countries the 2 last name thing is completely standard and traditional. E.g. in Mexico and some other parts of Latin America, everybody has both a paternal and a maternal last name. When you get married, you both (and your future kids) become First HisPaternal HerPaternal.

        • Jenny

          Yep! We used that as a template. We plan to raise our kids with the idea that when they get married the boys will keep his last and take herlast as the new last name part, and the girls will keep the mylast part and take the hisname part. Obviously they can make their own choices, but that’s way no one has to feel bad about dropping one of our last names.

        • Katharine Parker

          Although it is true that everyone has two surnames, in my experience living in South America and in Spain, in practice everyone only uses one surname. The second surname functioned sort of like a middle name does in the US–present in legal or formal settings, or to distinguish someone with a common name, but not used in day to day settings. People will even abbreviate their second surname, like using a middle initial (so instead of Katharine Parker Montgomery, I’d sign my name as Katharine Parker M.). This may be different in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, but I want to push back a little bit on the idea that Spanish speakers use two surnames in a functional way like when English speakers hyphenate names. (Also, when a woman gets married, she would add her husband’s first surname after hers with “of”, as in Katharine Parker Montgomery de Trainer, rather than dropping/adding his. But also, most women don’t bother with it in my experience (and find it misogynistic as a practice and dislike it, based on my friends). Again, maybe not universal, but worth a thought.)

          This is not to say that people can’t use the two surnames method in any way that they wish, of course.

          • CA

            Interesting. I guess it’s not surprising that there are country-specific differences – and probably plenty of variation regionally, by education level, etc. When I lived in Mexico I was constantly being asked for my second last name (which I alas do not have). Everyone I worked with, most of the friends I knew, and most of the subjects in the research study I was working on used both last names pretty consistently. When my coworkers needed to “Americanize” their names (to submit a publication to a US journal or apply to an international conference), they hyphenated the two. I don’t think I ever heard of the “de” thing, but admittedly I don’t know any numbers or how much this is biased by the particular set of people with whom I interacted.

        • Robin

          I would love to give 2 names to my future children, but it is illegal in my country, you have to choose either one. You can also legally never change your surname when you marry, but you can use it in social settings. I’m from the Netherlands by the way.

          I’m doing that when I get married. I’m much more attached to my husband’s family than my own, and changing my name doesn’t make me my husband’s property anymore than I am currently my father’s..

    • My mom didn’t change her last name and it did bother me having a seperate last name than a parent. Not that she didn’t change her name, just that it was different. (No one ever caused any extra fuss about it that I can remember, but as a child I would get really upset when people asked me if my parents were divorced.) I didn’t feel like we were less of a family, but I did feel like it made life less convenient, so that is why I changed (slash added onto my existing name) my husband’s name.

      (I personally also wouldn’t have wanted my husband to change his name to mine because then he and my father would have the exact same name and that would have been creepy. So we went with the double name instead.)

      • nutbrownrose

        Husband couldn’t take mylast because then he and my brother would have the same name. Which, hard enough already. And it was important to both of us that we have the same name, and he’s attached to keeping his (last of his name crap). I was going to keep my maiden legally, and use his socially, but then you just run into confusion.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          I didn’t take my husband’s name because we have the same first name and middle initial and that was a hard “Nope.” Like when we first started dating it was kind of cute to think about having the same name, but when things got serious and it was actually a reality, I realized how much it would bother me. There are other reasons I kept mine too (convenience, the fact that it would never occur to him to change his so why should I?, etc.), but that’s usually the reason I give when asked and the reaction is usually “Yea, I get it, that’s be weird.”

          • NolaJael

            That’s the best reason I’ve ever heard. “We would literally have the same name.” LOL.

          • penguin

            That would add another layer to the whole “he’s my other half” thing.

    • BSM

      Also that people will assume your parents are divorced or you have a step parent or something, like that’s the WORST thing ever.

      • Eve

        Ugh, once when my sister was in high school she was talking with a teacher one day about my mom’s last name (Mom knows this teacher because Mom’s a substitute and subs for this teacher all the time). Teacher couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that my parents were married and didn’t have the same last name! “Are they divorced?” “Are they actually married?” “Are they both your real parents?” “IS YOUR DAD DEAD?!”

    • Leah

      Yeah I’m totally there with you on number 1! My FH wanted us to have the same last name and family name but I was against “losing” my name (that’s what it felt like to me) so we’re both changing our names to Mylast Hislast.
      My mum didn’t change her name (we all got it as a middle name) and I actually wish we’d been officially double barrelled so that’s what we’re doing with our future kids.

    • Jan

      My partner never had the same last name as his mom (she kept her name, he was given his dad’s) and it doesn’t seem to have ever been an issue. My mom remarried when I was young and also never shared my name. It was also never an issue for me. This, I think, just isn’t a thing like some people expect it could/should be.

  • Jess

    I changed my name after much thought. I had never loved my last name. In itself it is a patriarchal construct that I have my father’s name. We considered adopting a “new” name that we both liked. His last name is very ordinary. We did decide that since we would be moving forward to create a new family unit that it made sense that we would have the same last name. I did take his name… but now it is my name. I have been Me (new last name) for longer than I was “maiden name”. I have 3 kids. We share the family name. I realize they may or may not decide to keep the name. It suites who I am now. I reserve the right to down the road become another name. Maybe it won’t make sense when I am old and my family unit has changed.

  • ruth

    I still have unresolved feelings about my name decision, even 5 years out. It just seemed like there were no good options; every choice was a compromise that I didn’t feel 100% good about. What I originally wanted was for hubby and I to both have the same hyphenated name. But witnessing how much grief his family/friends/colleagues gave him for even considering this idea was really depressing and infuriating. In the end he asked me if I was ok with letting this particular battle go, and just hyphenating my own name – which is what I ended up doing – because as much patriarchal b.s. as I’ve gotten for hyphenating, I know he’d face even more, since we live in a culture where it’s so rare for a straight man to change his name. My hyphenated name is not great sounding – it’s long and a hard to spell – but it was the only way I could come up with that felt like I was being true to myself as well as my marriage. The tough thing is that the world is just not set up for hyphenated names – doctor’s offices take forever to find my paperwork, credit cards can’t fit my name on them, and don’t even get me started on government IDs. In the end, I think we’ll end up giving our children his name, so they don’t have to deal with the same headaches. These days, I find myself using my hyphenated name less and less – essentially I’m maiden name professionally and married name socially (which is a kind of nice way of keeping my work life / personal life separate actually.) Given this, sometimes I regret not just keeping my maiden name, and ask myself why I changed it at all? I just sort of feel like I copped out on feminism on this decision, like I caved, because I just reached a point where I couldn’t face any more yelling and snide comments from in-laws, parents, ministers, colleagues etc…. I didn’t have the energy to fight anymore. And the thought of having to deal with this with our future children, to have to fight for them to be seen as “mine” if our last names didn’t match at every doctor’s office, airport TSA screening etc… just seemed so exhausting. I wish I could say otherwise

    • AP

      I feel you on a lot of this, as I deal with what to name our future child now that I’m pregnant.

      I have so many thoughts on this, especially:
      “But witnessing how much grief his family/friends/colleagues gave him for even considering this idea was really depressing and infuriating. In the end he asked me if I was ok with letting this particular battle go”

      We come up against the patriarchy every effing day as women, and it hurts and saddens me that when our husbands get even the tiniest taste of that, they can’t deal. I’m not throwing shade- my husband was/is the same way. And that urge to protect them from the consequences of challenging patriarchal norms- I get that too. That’s what patriarchy does. It makes us all complicit, even when we’re harmed by it. I remember when I told my husband I would not be taking his name when we married, and it became a huge fight primarily because “I phrased it like my mind was already made up and he didn’t have a say in the matter.” No, actually, you don’t get a say in what I’m called, and I’m sorry I didn’t break that to you more gently to protect your fragile man-feelings. I’m still disappointed in how he acted through that phase of our engagement, but damned if I was going to let that influence my decision.

      I say all this not as a critique of your choice, more as a general frustration over the position we’re put in as women. It just sucks all around.

  • LAinTexas

    I’m pre-engagement, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I feel like there’s no easy answer. I’m currently leaning toward hyphenating, although that will give me a long last name that’s hard to pronounce and spell (people mispronounce and misspell both mine and his all. the. time.).

    I’m the youngest in my immediate family, with my last name, to carry it on, if you will. I do have a male cousin who’s only a couple of months older than me and who shares my last name, but I don’t know that he’ll have kids (he doesn’t strike me as the type, and we’re not that close, so it’s not like I want to ask, ha). I’ve also spent the last two years growing a business under my current name, so completely dropping my last name after marriage doesn’t feel right or make sense for me, as far as that goes.

    My boyfriend is very attached to his last name. He doesn’t care what I do with mine, but he refuses to alter his. When his ancestors immigrated to the U.S., there was some kind of typo error, and his family is now (as far as they know) the only family in the world with their specific spelling of their last name, even though it’s relatively common surname where his ancestors are from. He likes that and is proud of it, and I don’t hold that against him.

    There’s also the fact that his mom was quite vocal once that she believes that the wife should always take the husband’s name, no matter what, basically. Obviously, I don’t agree with that, but she’s preeeeeetty old-school/old-fashioned and traditional. Both of our sets of parents are divorced, and both of our moms kept our dads’ last names after the divorce. I don’t know why, even for my mom, but I guess for his mom, that rings back to her belief stated above.

    And then, the other thing that gets me – when you hyphenate, are you Mrs. or Ms.?! Is it your choice?!

    I think the best we all can do is make the choice that feels the most right to us and our partners. It seems as though there’s almost never a solution that pleases everyone, which sucks, but…cultural and societal norms, I guess, as well as strong belief systems.

    • Amy March

      Easy- keep your name, ignore his mom. :)

      • LAinTexas

        Haha – really, it wouldn’t make much difference in her opinion/treatment of me. :P I already know she’s not my biggest fan, so if I didn’t change my name, she could just continue to dislike me in peace.

        • penguin

          So really you not changing your last name would be a gift to her :)

          • LAinTexas

            A gift nicely wrapped and sent with love. :)

        • AP

          Lol, this is me and my MIL. The night before our wedding she said, “you’re gonna have to get used to spelling out your new last name for people, no one ever gets it right” and my husband had literally told her earlier that week that I was keeping my name. I don’t know what his family thinks of me/my decision to keep my name and I honestly don’t care. I actually do think she’d treat me better if I’d taken the family name, but that’s not a very valuable trade-off for me;)

          • LAinTexas

            So true. She’s just very different from us. She’s quite religious, conservative, traditional, and old-fashioned. We’re not religious, progressive, and modern. However, BF has had 32 years dealing with her as his mother, whereas I’m only 5 1/2 years, so she just seems to either ignore or be oblivious to these truths about him. With me, however, my differences to her seem to be quite stark and obvious, and she treats me as such (and, honestly, I probably treat her as such, but I at least attempt to be civil and suck up sometimes). However…he does say that he doesn’t remember her being as crazy as she is now prior to his parents’ divorce, which happened when he was 19. Haha.

      • Not Sarah

        Exactly! My mother-in-law finds me strange and baffling as it is – me changing my not name is just a very public example of it.

    • Angela’s Back

      I put Ms. on forms when they ask for it :)

      • LAinTexas

        Good to know! I’m just really not sure if that’s an etiquette thing or a personal preference thing. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anyone with a hyphenated last name who’s married use the title, so it’s helpful to know what you do!

        • Lisa

          Not sure on the etiquette, but I would definitely assume that someone using Mrs. shared the exact same name as her spouse. Ms. is more ambiguous. (I also prefer it because it doesn’t connote marital status in the same way that Mr. does for men.)

          • LAinTexas

            That makes sense, as well. Thanks for your input!

        • Ashlah

          I don’t know (or care about) the rules, but I’ve always personally felt that it’s a choice. If you’re married, you get to choose if you want to use Mrs, regardless of what you did with your last name. But I know some people feel very strongly that only women who took their husband’s name “get” to use it.

          My husband and I both hyphenated, so I have no idea what the rules would say about that. I’ve used both, but tend to lean Ms. for the ambiguity.

          • Amy March

            I default to Mrs. if you took your husbands name and Ms. if you didn’t but would absolutely use whichever people prefer.

          • Ashlah

            This is exactly how I handle client names in our CRM software!

          • LAinTexas

            I feel like that’s a good perspective to have – not worrying about what the “rules” say. I’m a really indecisive person on a lot of things, so I guess in some cases I tend to lean toward “rules” or etiquette…but really, I should be thinking about what ~I~ want.

        • Angela’s Back

          I treat it as personal preference, and honestly, it doesn’t seem right to be Mrs. Me-him because it’s a name that’s unique to me. To me, the Mrs. functions to distinguish me as the female half of a heterosexual married unit that shares a name–so Mr. Him and Mrs. Him being like Him A and Him B. But being hyphenated, I have a name identity that’s more or less independent of my husband, so I choose to use Ms.

          • LAinTexas

            Interesting. I totally see your point, but I disagree slightly about the “more or less independent of my husband” bit – if I’m being honest, I’d like to be addressed as Mrs. Mylast-Hislast, and I think that’s at least a little bit justified since his last name is part of that. But your thinking about it definitely lines up with other people’s, from what I’m reading!

    • emilyg25

      Ms.! Mrs. means “wife of,” according to ye olde school.

      • LAinTexas

        Haha – “ye olde school,” I like it. :) I knew there was an etiquette rule in there somewhere, though! Thanks!

    • Not Sarah

      I didn’t change my name and I go by Ms. I was baffled that people thought I was Mrs. simply by getting married without even changing my name. I guess you can use Mrs. if you would like, so it’s up to you!

      • LAinTexas

        I feel like that’s a societal norm being imposed upon you – which is unfortunate, since you don’t want it to be! I feel like people just assume that when you get married, you’re automatically a Mrs., and a lot of people are still trying to come to grips with naming conventions after marriage. Which is silly.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      For the record, people mispronounce EVERY name. I’ve always been hyphenated, and it’s really phonetic, but people get tripped up by it. I enjoy the chance to really take up the temporal space when saying my name. But I’ve seen people get tripped up by, like, Smith, if they are that kind of person.

      • LAinTexas

        Hahah – “if they are that kind of person.” Yeah, you’re right. I mean, it’s really not a deal-breaker…just an annoyance!

    • Ilora

      FWIW I changed my name (as did husband, we created a new one together) but I choose to be Ms. because it’s marital status neutral. If you want to hyphenate and be Mrs. though that’s totally your call!

    • You can use Mrs or Ms, whatever you like. The whole point of Ms is any woman can use it whenever. There’s still a bit of a cultural assumption that it’s for widows and divorcees (my friend had a legal document returned to her once asking for her maiden name because she’d used Ms, and then had a conversation with a very confused supervisor who had no idea her staff didn’t know what Ms meant) but it’s open to all.

      I’ve been a Ms since I was sixteen. My mother used it because she was a widow, but I always liked the air of sophisticated mystery it bestowed. “My marital status isn’t important to you” (“nor are these jewels I’m heisting”). I’m not clear on a surname yet, but I think I’ll stay a Ms. J is going to be a Dr shortly after we marry, so we can be Mr and Mrs for a month, but after that it’s Dr and Ms. Dashing Dr and Mysterious Ms.

      (in this version of our marriage, J discovers ancient treasure maps in university archives and we have exciting adventures fighting bad guys, drinking gin and wearing glamorous evening wear. Real marriage may vary.)

      • LAinTexas

        I love that disclaimer at the end, haha! I like your affirmation of using what feels best to me – thank you!

  • Another Meg

    My sister and her husband made up a new name. He wasn’t super into his own last name, and I’m guessing my sister didn’t care to keep our last name, so they took an inside joke and made it a last name.

    It suits them both perfectly, but I know it annoys her that people (including our extended family) tend to assume she took his name.

    • CMT

      I know at least two couples who did this and I love it! Although I really love my own name, so I don’t know if I’d practice what I preach and do this myself.

    • penguin

      This idea (both people taking a new last name) always seemed awesome to me, but I honestly just have no idea how I’d even choose something for that. More power to people who come up with something though, this feels like a very egalitarian choice.

      • BSM

        I was kind of pushing for “Garten” as our new last name (if comboname didn’t work out for us). We love gardens/the outdoors/nature, my husband speaks German and we hope to live in Berlin someday, and Ina is my shero 😍

      • Em

        My husband was super keen to do this. But we can’t work out a name we like, and for professional reasons (I’m a lawyer) I am apprehensive about the amount of extra paperwork involved in a name change from an accreditation perspective…(as an aside, his favourite new name was ‘Justice’ – because he thought it would be hilarious for a lawyer to have the name Justice. Needless to say *I* was not super impressed by this suggestion!)

        • penguin

          I actually knew someone with the last name Justice! I’m assuming it was a family name, and she didn’t end up going into law. I can’t blame you on not being super impressed with it haha, just wanted to chime in.

          • Lisa

            One of my friends in music undergrad has the last name Musick and went into music ed. I was so happy to see that she didn’t change her name when she got married!

    • Ashlah

      Regarding your second part, that’s the thing that I always wondered about when daydreaming of my husband taking my last name (we both hyphenated). Most people who met us or saw our names would just assume that I took my husband’s name, so it felt like less of a statement than our shared hyphenated name is. (Not that making a statement needs to be part of the decision process, but it is something that would have annoyed me if we’d gone that direction. Still wish it would have happened, though!)

      • Mer

        My fiance does not want to take my name for a variety of reasons, but one is that he’ll be ‘that guy’ that took his wife’s name. And I was like anyone new we meet will assume I took YOUR name. Because patriarchy.

        But what I secretly want to do? You know how DJs often screw up announcing a couple when they get married if they are both keeping their name? I want the DJ to announce us as Ms. and Mr. MyLast. AHHH!!! I’D DIE!! It’d be AMAZING!! I want it to happen so bad.

        • Ashlah

          I would have loved to do a whole gender-swapped ceremony. (I now pronounce you Woman and Husband, You may now kiss your groom, etc), but we went for gender neutral instead.

          • Eenie

            My husband almost missed this wording in the first draft of the ceremony. He wanted the gender neutral wording as well.

          • CMT

            When I married my best friends I said “you may kiss the groom”. The woman in that couple changed her name, so I make it a point to send mail to them as Mrs. & Mr. HerFirst TheirLast.

          • penguin

            We’re going gender neutral too (mostly), our ketubah signature lines are both labeled “Beloved”

        • BSM

          Best wedding gift I received was from my BFF who addressed it to “Ms. Firstname Lastname and Husband.”

          • dur

            yassssssssssssss!!!!!!!!

        • CMT

          If I were a guest at your wedding, I’d slip the DJ some cash to make this happen ;)

        • Eenie

          My husband uses my hotel rewards number for work travel, and he comes home and tells me anytime the staff calls him Mr. MyLast because it makes me feel so satisfied.

      • mjh

        Husband took mine, and we have encountered the invisibility/assumption, but it has made me wonder if men changing their names at marriage (while still uncommon) may be more common than we realize. Without having a reason for it to come up, why would we know?

        When my husband changed his name at work, a male coworker told him that he and his ex wife both changed their names to her grandmother’s maiden name when they got married. Both of them kept the name after they (amicably) divorced. Since their marriage occurred before this coworker started at this company, everyone just figured it was his birth name.

  • JenC

    We had so much discussion about this. He wanted a shared family name but wasn’t willing to change. I felt a lot of identity attached to my name. My friend made the comment rather disparingly that her identity wasn’t attached to her name. I earned my masters part time, while working full time. I earned it. Not Mrs HisName, she didn’t just get to take MY accomplishments. She did feel different to me. Nobody really got what I was feeling about that. I read the articles on both sides – why you were a bad feminist for keeping your name and a bad feminist for changing. My husband didn’t read the articles just knew he would prefer his wife to take his name.

    His brother got married for all the wrong reasons and the marriage quickly fell apart during our engagement. His wife didn’t change her name. Obviously my father in law cited one reason he knew they’d fail was because she couldn’t commit to the family surname and be a proud member of that family. Nobody I know has not changed their name. Only one friend is married and she changed her name, all my family changed their names. Even acquaintances on Facebook from uni changed their name. I’m never one to try and beak out the cast, never one to purposefully stand out. But still it just felt off…

    I gave myself an arbitrary deadline of three months before the wedding and it came and I couldn’t decide. It got to the week of the wedding and my husband asked what I was doing, so I said “fuck it, I’ll take your name”. But it didn’t make me happy. They asked how we wanted to be introduced at the reception and I agreed that Mr and Mrs HisName was fine. They announced us and I didn’t feel all-a-flutter. We read the cards addressed to Mr and Mrs HisName and I felt sad. I read the cards addressed to Mr and Mrs HisFirst HisLast and I felt like crying (and then ripping up the card). We had cheques addressed to Mr and Mrs HisName and I was pissed off, more so when I couldn’t deposit them but he had absolutely no problems. People called me Mrs HisLast and I would slightly cringe but at this point I thought I was still taking his name. I get the form to change my name and I’m literally about to do my new signature and send it off and I just can’t bring myself to sign it. It sits there on the table for two weeks before we drop curry on it and my husband asks if I’m ever going to actually sign it. I told him I didn’t want that I wished I was the type of woman who would be happy to change her name to her husband’s but I wasn’t, “I can’t be that wife for you”. He said he would still prefer I take his name but he gets it, he’s wasn’t going to change his so he gets it and I should do what makes me happy.

    I love separate names. Mine is easier to pronounce and spell. Both our names begin with the same letter so we just call each other Mr C and Mrs C.That makes me happy. At the minute when we have kids they’ll take his surname and I think I’m ok having a different name. If I’m not, then I’ll reconsider changing mine.

    • Sarah Jane Tinnelly-Williams

      I totally get you – I earned my master’s while working full time, I raised my daughter as a single parent while starting a new career. Mrs. HisLastName felt like a whole new person, like my accomplishments would be sort of obsolete. My maiden name is on the diplomas hanging in my office, not his last name. We both kept our own last names, and I think we are happier for it.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      “He wanted a shared family name but wasn’t willing to change…My husband didn’t read the articles just knew he would prefer his wife to take his name.”

      Maybe he could share in some of this work? Wanting something, but not being willing to do anything about it isn’t exactly a tenable position.

    • AP

      Whenever someone insinuates to me that identity isn’t tied to a name, the first thing I always think is maybe not for you, but a person’s humanity is definitely reflected in their ability to choose/consent to their name. What’s the first thing humans do when we try to strip someone of their humanity? Strip them of their name, assign them a number, call them ‘boy’ or a slur or a degrading nickname, or deadname them. Honoring and respecting someone’s name is honoring their humanity and their identity. I’m not trying to conflate the name changing tradition with prison or slavery, but I think that throwaway line of “your name isn’t who you are” deserves a lot of pushback.

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      I didn’t change my name and while his family weren’t exactly upset, they definitely would have preferred if I had. They had found out about a week before that I wasn’t taking theirs (“Why didn’t you tell us?” Um, it’s not really anyone else’s business but ours and I don’t need permission or approval?), and it was still a little too fresh. What I ended up doing was making damn sure the DJ knew to announce us as just “FirstName and FirstName,” which is the same, btw. I stick with my decision, and he doesn’t really care one way or another, but I didn’t want to rub it in everyone’s face if they were still uncomfortable. The ceremony was tricky, because our officiant wanted to introduce us formally but his mom doesn’t believe in nick names (that we both go by all the time and that’s what the officiant knows us as), and his middle name is a mouthful, and I wasn’t changing my last, so she stumbled a bit. At least she respected our wishes and tried to introduce us exactly how we’d prefer. So many ppl who knew I was keeping my name still addressed cards and gifts to “Mrs. HisLast,” which is annoying as hell when you have to cash the checks.

  • Jenny

    We each kept our names and socially go by hislast herlast (our son’s last name). We had planned to change our names, but we already had plane tickets booked, then life got busy and we didn’t feely like adding the paperwork involved with name changes. Maybe some day we will both legally change our last names.

  • honeycomehome

    “For us it just felt especially important to take every possible precaution to make us formally, on paper, a family unit.”

    I totally understand your perspective, Kate. But this part makes me so sad. It’s really frustrating that having a single last name makes one family seem more legitimate than another. It’s unfair not just to women or same-sex couples, but blended families and single parents and… ugh. It makes me angry that same-sex families are threatened, too, and feel like this will offer protection against losing their rights.

    I think you made a good choice for your family! I’m just feeling sad about the reasons.

  • CP2011

    Has anyone read Jill filipovic’s “the feminist pursuit of happiness”? I’m reading the chapter right now on name changing and mothers as martyrs and really loving the case she makes.

    • ruth

      ooh what case does she make? I’ve always loved Jill Filpovic’s essays in the NYTimes and NYer – definitely going to go check out her book now!

      • CP2011

        Nothing particularly groundbreaking but she’s a strong writer — she makes arguments very eloquently.

    • Ilora

      Thanks for the rec, it’s conveniently available as an e-book from the library so I’m checking it out now!

  • ItsComplicated

    During most of the engagement period, I really wanted to either keep my name or take a new name with my husband. My parents gave me grief about how I was being disrespectful for not taking his name. They were very vocal even though one of the reasons I wanted to keep my name was still keep that attachment to my family. It was very confusing since they had a lot of issues with me moving out and having a husband despite the fact that by the time they were my age they had a house and baby; plus my mother really wants grandchildren. By the end of the engagement I became so fed up with my parents (for many reasons) that I don’t even know if I want to share a name with them anymore. My husband didn’t want to take a new name though since everyone at school knows him by his current name and he didn’t feel like needing to reinform everyone. I ended up adding his name to mine. I still don’t particularly like my parents but my name is part of my identity and heritage.

    Taking his name has a lot of weird emotional/societal implications. People have already looked at me dubiously for having an English first name. It’s the name I was given at birth; it would be disingenuous for me to use any other name yet they expect me to have a more ethnic name. They’re even more skeptical when informed everyone in my family has English names on their birth certificates and yes we’re related by blood. There’s stereotypes about people wanting to be white and how white men are the ideal spouse. I just happened to fall in love with a white man.

    • Jess

      I would love to hear more about the politics of “ethnic” names and changing a last name – that’s a story that I don’t often hear and when I do it seems to come packaged with idealizing whiteness.

      I’m sorry that your parents were so weird about your desire to keep your name as it was.

    • Ilora

      A friend of mine had similar problems with her parents and getting married. They didn’t like that she had a boyfriend, they didn’t like that (they assumed) she was sexually active, they didn’t like when they moved in together, and when she got engaged they actually said to her “well, it would be better if it was a wedding ring but okay.” And then they were late to the wedding….

      • Fushigidane

        Asians are notorious for being late to everything. One time we had to wait over 2 hours at a wedding. I think it was the grandfather that was late.

  • PCS2017

    The name changing convo is always challenging. People can do whatever makes them happy, but it saddens me (on a feminist level I guess) to hear women in hetero relationships presenting their name change as their own personal choice without acknowledging the societal expectations and patriarchy that influenced that choice. I don’t judge their decision, but it seems somehow inauthentic to not even mention them. I’ve had conversations with many friends who honestly didn’t want to take their husband’s name but did it anyway because they felt pressured to do so. Until that pressure isn’t an issue anymore I personally can’t see it as being a completely free choice.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      I agree. And it never “just works out” the other way. A lot of people are like, we could have both taken the woman’s name, but it “just so happens” his career doesn’t make that easy or something. What?? The system is set up the one way?? I did NOT KNOW!

      • BSM

        Or his name just sounds better, is more unique, is easier to spell, etc., etc.

        • PCS2017

          Or I’m not that close to my family anyway, really it’s my father’s name so what’s the difference.
          Yea, so many justifications when really most of the time it boils down to my husband and family members/society have this idea of how things should be and I’m going along with it.

          • Lexipedia

            I’d be careful with this last one. I’d be really hurt if I shared personal details about a complicated family relationship and it was just assumed that I was “going along with” the patriarchy.
            Yes it’s the anti-feminist choice, and yes it defaults to a cultural norm that sucks. But as someone with a pretty abusive father/daughter experience the changing my name because I’m “not close with my dad” really means something.

          • PCS2017

            I totally get that and I don’t mean to say that going along with the patriarchy is the only reason someone would change their name, but it’s kinda like the reason behind all the reasons. If women weren’t expected to change their name when they get married, more might change it to their mom’s maiden name if they have a truly bad relationship with their dad. Or they just wouldn’t change it at all – there are plenty of men who have bad/abusive relationships with their dads who never even consider changing their name. But the norm in our society is women taking their husbands’ names so that’s what’s usually done in that type of situation. All I was saying is that societal expectations are always the main driving force behind women taking their husbands’ names but it’s rarely acknowledged.

          • It’s also worth noting that when men do change their names, the first assumption is that it’s due to a bad relationship with their parents, not because they like their wife’s name better, or it’s more practical for her not to change, and so on. My OH is factoring into his decision the fact that people will make assumptions about his parents in a way they won’t about mine if I change.

            (the patriarchy – it’s bad for men too!)

            As an aside, I always like my SIL’s solution to dropping her arsehole father’s name, which is to use her middle name as a surname. Cuts the patriarchy right out of the equation!

          • Em

            Yes, definitely. And until we hit a point at which as many men change their names on marriage as women (or are even ASKED if they are considering changing their names on marriage, or even have to think about whether they will do so!), it’s pretty hard to escape this undercurrent of patriarchy.

          • Lizzie

            I’m very late to the party here but just adding for posterity: bad relationship with my dad so when I got married I changed my last name from my dad’s to my mom’s. It’s dope and I love it and I’ve never met anyone else who did that so I am leaving this here in case a fellow MomsLast-er scrolls by :)

          • Kelly

            I get that, but also my fiance’s dad was REALLY terrible and it’s still never assumed that he’d change his name. It’s still one of those reasons that you generally only hear women give.

        • penguin

          So I get this, but sometimes things do work out that way. I don’t think people need to publicly post somewhere about all the background discussions they had to come to a decision if they don’t want to. My fiancé’s last name is Jewish, and he wants to keep that tie to his Jewish heritage. My last name doesn’t have anything like that associated with it, and even though I identify strongly with it for me, I’m not really worried about passing it on for future hypothetical kids. I feel like we’d be erasing some of my fiancé’s Jewish heritage if kids got just my last name, and since ours hyphenate really poorly we’ll probably just give them his.

          As a result of all that, I’m undecided for my name. I’ll probably end up keeping it, but I’m worried about feeling left out if I’m the only one in the house with my last name. If I end up changing my name, I wouldn’t explain all this background every time, but it’s still there.

          • Yes!! It really grinds my gears that LGBT women get a free pass on changing their name but everybody assumes that hetero women who changed their name didn’t have a gender-equal conversation beforehand. My partner is a feminist and we didnt start the conversation with the assumption that I would automatically take his name but he wanted us all to have the same name and he is attached to his name and I am not attached to mine. Hyphenation isn’t an option with our names either so we decided that our children will get his name and I’ll change mine eventually (haven’t done it yet). Keeping his name is literally the only thing that he’s wanted that could be observed as non-feminist and I really didn’t care enough to insist otherwise. I don’t need to have futile fights and make my husband take my name to prove to random people that we have a gender-equal marriage. Plus nobody in our social life cares what our legal names are.

            Our friends and family tend to jokingly call us the ‘ournameshyphenated family’ anyway because it really sounds ridiculous).

          • H

            Given that we don’t get a pass on literally anything else and only recently have been able to get married at all, cut us some slack, will you?
            The context is also completely different when it’s two women.

    • CMT

      Yup, exactly this!

    • Zoya

      Ahhhhh this. Both my mom and my mother-in-law kept their names, and so I experienced *no* pushback on keeping mine. Which, having talked to my married female friends, seems like the exception rather than the rule. And it is such. a. relief not to feel that pressure.

      • Leah

        Same position here. I feel like it helps you weigh the options more objectively, or at least with only your own stuff to deal with.

    • Capybara

      I’m trans masculine and taking my future wife’s last name. For me it’s an easy choice because my last name is awful and sounds like a combination of words you’d get in trouble for saying at school. It’s not a name I would ever inflict on a child. Her last name, meanwhile, is simple and pretty. But I can’t deny being socialized feminine is part of what made the choice easy — I was not raised with the expectation I’d keep my last name. My cis male paternal cousin has two kids with his life and they’re all Hislast, and I’m flabbergasted that it didn’t even occur to them to all be Herlast, which is a nice, normal, non-traumatizing name.

    • Jana

      I think I am in the minority here but… name changing just wasn’t a big deal to me. I got my maiden name because my mother and grandmother changed their last names so it seems weird to be like “I’d lose a piece of my identity” when I got that exact identity from generations of women before me who “lost their identity” as it were. I liked that name. I like my married name too. I ended up making the decision that I did because my identity feels so much larger than six or eight letters. But truly at the end of the day, I have zero opinions on the matter; I have friends and loved ones who have done every variety of post-marriage naming (changing, not changing, hyphenating, maiden as middle, etc) and we’re all still happily married regardless of who did what.

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      It doesn’t make me sad, but I’m always a little confused when I have friends that are constantly “OMG, can’t wait to be Mrs. So-and-So!!” I’ve known people who have changed their Facebook name to “FirstName FutureMrs HisLast” before they were even married, or who literally signed into Facebook between the ceremony and reception to change their name. I get it, you’re excited to get married and I guess I can understand how you could feel that changing your name is part of feeling truly married, but I’ve always felt like my name was part of my identity and never really understood the rush to lose that.

  • One other factor in the name change conversation that I want to bring up for hetero couples is the disconnect for people outside the relationship asking questions about name changes: I got asked so many times leading up to our wedding “Are you changing your name?” and I don’t think my husband got asked that once. It’s along the lines of what I hear from women who are pregnant and in relationships with men. People are always asking the woman “Are you going to keep working? Are you taking time off? etc” and rarely ever ask the man this. It irks me.

    • penguin

      I use something I heard on APW for this – “Neither of us will be changing our names”. I’d apply something similar to those other questions. If people are going to ask them, they should ask about both people.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        I just say “We discussed it, and we both decided to keep our names.” When people ask what it feels like to be Mrs. HisLast, I just tell them they’d have to ask his mom.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      It’s kind of annoying that men aren’t ever asked these questions. I’ve always had a hyphenated name, and I have also always been asked, “So what will you do when you get married? Will you have three names?” My answer before firmly deciding to keep my name no matter what was something like, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” I never considered getting married to be a guarantee for me; so why answer that question at all?

    • BSM

      YES. I’m 6 months pregnant, and this drives me crazy. I make 40% of our household income; even if I wanted to stop working and be a SAHM, I couldn’t.

      • idkmybffjill

        I’ve become really vigilant about quoting the evidence in this article at people when they ask. I actually support whatever choice a family makes for their kid, but it makes me really really upset when people like my husband’s family default to the idea that the mother being at home is better for the children.

        (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/upshot/mounting-evidence-of-some-advantages-for-children-of-working-mothers.html)

        • Lisa

          The day my husband corrected my FIL and said that, if anyone would be quitting their job, it would probably be him was one of the best days of our relationship. My feminist heart grew three sizes.

          • idkmybffjill

            My husband said something really similar two his mom a couple weeks ago and it made me MELT. She CACKLED as if he’d told the funniest joke ever but I didn’t even care.

          • Ilora

            Multiples run in my husbands family so even though it was highly unlikely for us to have multiples (they don’t run in mine) we talked about the possibility a lot. Our plan that we’re actually seeing through is splitting our (Canadian) parental leave in half, I took the first 6 months and he’s taking the second. If we’d had multiples I would have taken the entire year and then he’d quit his job and stay home.

        • Ilora

          A friend of mine, who is otherwise pretty great about this stuff, actually said to me that “it’s important that the mom stays home for the full year (Canadian Mat Leave) because it’s more important for her to bond with baby than the dad.” (Which came up because my husband and I are splitting the leave in half).

          I have a feeling that it was a defensive statement made because her partner isn’t a particularly involved parent, but it made me both sad and angry.

      • Eh

        My husband makes less than a third of our household income and when we told my inlaws that my husband was taking 6 months parental leave (half of our leave entitlement), my MIL was against it and said “there’s no reason to hurt both of your careers”.

        • Jess

          Uuuuugggggghhhhhhhhhh. (<- a complete and accurate summary of my feelings about your MIL's response)

          • Eh

            She has also told me that I should take the full year because women before me couldn’t and would have love to have had the opportunity to take a year off.

  • Jessica

    I’m very happy to not have changed my last name. I didn’t do it because I expected the marriage to end, but I’m just glad that is one more thing I don’t have to shed in this process. My grandmother changed her name three times. My grandfather was married to three women who changed their names. It didn’t make them a stronger family, it just added additional levels of details to our family archives.

    This is not to dump on anyone who chooses to change their name–it’s just my perspective right now.

    • Lisa

      I had a co-worker at my last job give me some shit about not changing my name, but she was on her third marriage and had changed hers each time. Not changing my name has nothing to do with my level of commitment to my marriage!

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        I work for an international organization in DC, and while I knew before that a lot of countries don’t have the name changing practice, I never realized just how many didn’t. So many countries not only don’t have it as a common thing, but even refuse to legally recognize a married name. I had a few people at work ask out of curiosity whether I was going to, but no one seemed surprised or confused when I said no, which helped balance some of the passive aggressive backlash from family members.

    • Jess

      My friend who went through a very sticky divorce a few years back really regretting having changed her name because every time she signed for anything or introduced herself, she had to be reminded of her then-soon-to-be-ex. We celebrated when she was legally [Maiden Name] again.

      It’s one less thing to check off the “divorce to-do list!”

      • Lisa

        One of my friends is a lawyer, and you have to practice law under your legal name. She couldn’t even switch her name back at work after her separation/divorce, and it took a significant amount of time for her to get her name changed back during which she had to deal with the heartache of being called by her husband’s last name. It sounds like a nightmare!

        • Amy March

          So many friends have legally changed their names expecting to practice under their maiden names, not realizing if that’s the plan you need to legally keep your maiden name and socially just tell people your married name.

          • Em

            This is very high on my list of reasons not to change my name. I’ve just been through the process for getting admitted to practice in a jurisdiction that is not my original jurisdiction, and the number of extra documents I would have needed to provide in relation to any name change was just crazy.

    • AP

      I kept my name in my first marriage, too, and it was SO nice not to have to deal with changing it back after the divorce. Although I did get the occasional snarky comment from my ex toward the end about how I was “never really committed” since I didn’t change my name. And when I married my now husband, a few well-meaning folks asked if I was going to change my name “this time.”

      People suck.

      Also, while I was typing I realized that because men don’t traditionally change their names, they don’t have to change them back in a divorce. Which means they don’t get automatically called out as divorced in professional or social settings. When my mom and dad divorced when I was a kid, my mom got all kinds of shade from coworkers leaving religious tracts on her desk, calling her a “divorcee,” etc. My dad did not. That “divorced woman” stigma was/is real, and it’s bullshit. The name changing stuff just magnifies it.

      • Jessica

        UGH. I’m so angry that your mom had to go through that. My dad was raised by a single mother in the 1960s (widowed) and saw how shitty she was treated, I cannot even imagine putting a divorce stigma on that. My maternal grandmother dealt with it by finding a new husband pretty quickly.

      • Jessica

        Also, I’ve been making jokes about being a divorcee, but maybe I’ll stop now.

        • AP

          Lol, you can call yourself whatever you want, whatever makes it easier!

          Speaking to your other response, my mom married again very quickly after she and my dad divorced, mainly because of “single mom” shame and stigma. Like any husband was better than no husband. Her parents totally pushed her into it, too. I’m so glad divorce is a much more normalized thing these days!

    • MC

      As a child of divorce who saw the process of my mom changing her name back to her maiden name after, I think that definitely influenced my decision not to change my name. I don’t expect my marriage to end, but worse case scenario it’s one less logistical situation to deal with.

  • Ilora

    We both changed our names, but if my husband hadn’t been willing to then I wouldn’t either and would have kept our original ones. My parents double barrelled when they got married so I grew up with that name and really loved the symbolism of having the name represent both sides but didn’t want a triple name.

    So we created a new name. We took apart both of my names as well as my husbands last name and his dads (he had his moms name) so that we had all four of our parents names. We only used letters that appeared in at least one of the names, and made sure to include at least one letter from each.

    It was super tough to come up with something that we a) liked, b) sounded like a name but not a word, and c) was original (we could have gone with Solo, which would have made my moms day…) All of the ones on the maybe list got googled to make sure they weren’t swear words in other languages. Once we found The One it was pretty obvious and the discussion was abruptly over.

    As for the logistics of it, I was much more attached to my pre-marital name* than he was and a legal name change means your original birth certificate is destroyed and your new one has the new name on it, so he changed his legally and I ‘assumed’ it by marriage. Where we live that means that technically my legal name is still my pre-marital name, but in practice all of my id etc is in my new name.

    He has mentioned that he would have been willing to just take my name if I’d wanted him to badly enough, and there’s a part of me that wishes we went that route just because we could (and his name sounds great with that name) but at the end of the day I adore the name we created together and can’t imagine not having it.

    *Which is the term I choose to use instead of maiden/birth as I don’t like the former and the latter, while true for us, wouldn’t be true for all people.

  • We both changed our last names to Hislast Mylast (no hyphen which was kinda a mistake). It was a good option for us because we wanted to be matchy but dropping our own name to take the other person’s was never on the table for either of us. That said, not having the hyphen confused the eff out of people. Luckily for me in a way that comes down in favor of my name, but.

    • Ilora

      That’s what my parents did and 28 years later some of their family members still hyphenate the name. On the plus side though, they have no regrets and I loved growing up with that name!

  • Aimee

    Love all the name discussions on here :) I’ve been trying to decide what to do about mine lately. I’m not attached to it at all as it’s very generic (e.g. Smith), my fiancé is happy to change his, although he doesn’t like mine, as long as he can use his old one professionally (is that possible?). I love the idea of combo-names but I feel like ours just don’t combine well so I feel like our options are

    a) take his mom’s last name which is a cool name but long and of an ethnicity that I don’t share
    b) I switch to his last name, which is a great name and easiest for everyone involved but, feminism.
    c) pick a totally new name (but how??)

    any advice? how hard are the logistics of name changing when it’s not just one partner taking the other partners’ name?

    • Ashlah

      To speak to your last question, it greatly depends on where you live. In my county (state? Not sure at which level these rules are set), both partners can change their names upon marriage. In others only the wife can (or perhaps only one partner can in same-sex couples?), which would mean the husband/second partner would have to go through a time-consuming and not-free court process, as though the name change were unrelated to marriage. Beyond the marriage certificate, you’re doubling (i.e. making equal between you ;) ) the work to change social security cards, licenses, various accounts, etc.

      • Ashlah

        Oh, and there are often also location-specific rules about exactly what kind of name change you’re allowed to make with marriage. Where I live, we could take each other’s name or hyphenate/double barrel, and we could make our surname a middle name, but we could not make up a new name or use a different family name. That would have required one of us going through the court process before the wedding and the other taking that name upon marriage.

    • Ilora

      We went with option c!!

      I made a comment that gives the basics of it but I’ll add some of the specific options we tried out.

      https://apracticalwedding.com/gave-name-something-important/#comment-3435291602

      I used dollar store alphabet stickers and walmart magnet paper to make the existing names into fridge magnets (each individual letter was it’s own magnet, even the multiples) so that they could be rearranged, we let guests know that they could play around with them too. We got some funny options but nothing we really liked, but I do enjoy still having them there now, two years later, as we have the actual name spelled out.

      We had 13 letters available, dropped the one we knew we were unlikely to use, and assigned each letter to a number 1-12 and then rolled a 12 sided die. The first roll determined how many more times we would roll. Then we would write down the corresponding letter to each roll after that. Predictably they were mostly terrible but it was hilarious and fun to do.

      In the end husband ended up just sitting down with the paper we’d used for the previous activity (that had all of the letters written out on the top) and writing out a list of 8 ish names that he pulled out of no where. The one we picked was the 3rd on the list and just instantly felt right. We had 100% decided to use it within 5 minutes of him writing it down (just long enough for me to google that it didn’t have any unfortunate meanings in other languages).

      That process was perfect for us but also a bit complicated and you could totally go a simpler route. Pick something that just sounds cool! Pick a specific word relating to a shared interest (ie both like gardening? pick a plant name, both into literature? pick a literary name!)

      It’s a challenging option for sure, but I absolutely love that we did it. We chose to have husband change legally and I assumed with marriage, that way we only paid the legal fees once. It wound up costing around $300 ish where we live (if I remember correctly) but no court appearance required. That side of things will obviously vary based on location, but while it was a hassle it wasn’t actually hard. We had to have a criminal record check (including finger printing) done, get a notarized “declaration of intent” (the form came with the application package, we just had to pay a notary to watch him sign it), and send in his original birth certificate with the application and fee (the actual fee was $187, but crim check, finger printing, and notarizing were all additional costs). Additionally, they didn’t automatically send a new birth certificate so we had to apply for and pay for that too. After that we obviously also had to pay for his id to get changed over as well as mine. It was definitely nice to have company for all of the standing in line we did during that process!

      I feel like I’ve already talked your ear off so I’ll stop now but if you have any other questions about it feel free to ask!!

      • Aimee

        wow that is so cool! thanks for all the tips

      • BSM

        This is awesome. And all I could come up with was Garten after my girl Ina (mostly)…

      • You sound like you’re in B.C.! Those were the administrative steps we had to take too (except I legally changed and he took mine in marriage!) Totally worth it!

        • Ilora

          Yes! So great that he took yours that way! With my feelings about my name being stronger it made sense for us to do it the way we did but I do hate that on paper it looks like I just took his.

          • Yeah, getting a new birth certificate is intense. We went our way for similar reasons as you, but I’m just now realising if we had tried legally changing his it would have been a total nightmare as he was born out of country! Dodged a bullet!

    • When we were considering wholly new names we mulled over ones related to our maiden names, for example mine meant “grey” and his came from the god Mars. I couldn’t be Victoria Mars (too close to Veronica ;) ) but maybe one of Mars’ moons? I was seriously considering being Vicky Phobos for a bit there! I would pick a starting point that feels meaningful to you, be it your names of origin, other ancestral names and riff off of that. Maybe take one of your names and find an equivalent in the other’s culture of origin? Behindthename.com is a site i have spent way too much time on over the years, names have always fascinated me!

  • Alice

    I am a hyphenate from birth and the name question is probably the one I get asked the most, both by strangers and loved ones. I don’t want to drop my last name, and I don’t want to triple hyphenate. I also dislike the idea of choosing one name — effectively choosing one side of my family over the other. Partner wants to retain his last name, too.

    My partner and I are pre-engaged, and so I’ve been thinking about it a bit. I stumbled upon the idea of HIM taking my first last name (my mother’s name), so I’d be NameA-NameB and he’d be NameA-NameC. The clincher here is that names B and C rhyme, so the full cadence of the names are exactly the same. Is that SO, SO crazy? I sort of like it because:
    a) smashing the patriarchy is my jam
    b) I’d love to pass on my mom’s last name, to honor her decision to keep it and pass it on to me.
    c) kids could have his new last name, since them ending up with half of my name (my mom’s) would appease me, and
    d) for the lols

    How much will we upset/utterly confuse people if we do this?

    • CMT

      Who cares if people are confused? They’ll learn and get over it!

    • emilyg25

      I think mutual acquaintances might mix up who’s A-B and who’s A-C, but as long as you have a sense of humor, it’ll be fine.

    • Amy March

      I think you’ll confuse everyone! Only you can decide if you’ll be infuriated by their confusion or not.

    • mjh

      I think it’s a great solution. I wouldn’t let worry about people’s confusion stop you if it’s what you guys want to do. I feel like it’s always a coin toss about other people’s confusion, sometimes people handle complex names with no issue and sometimes people get confused about the most basic things.

      I think your particular solution sounds much more complicated when written out into a brief paragraph here than it would really be in practice. It’s really not that hard. I’ve seen the same situation but with the gender flipped a couple times- man with two last names marries woman who had one, and upon marriage the woman adds one of his names to hers. No atypically grand confusion followed.

      How’s your partner feel about it?

  • emilyg25

    For those hyphenatephobics, I just want to note something that I discovered while lost in Wikipedia a few weeks ago: John Bowes-Lyon married Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis in 1914. Four names, people! Four!!

    • Amy March

      Yes, but did she take his last name at marriage?

    • Eh

      My daughter has a hyphenated last name and someone asked me the other day what happens when she gets married to someone else that has a hyphenated last name. I said “What ever they decide to do. They can keep their names or take one of the names or combine the names how ever they see fit.”

  • kids names anon

    Looking for people with related experience/advice…… Husband and I got married and kept our names after I explained to him that my name was part of my identity both personally and culturally (my family has a refugee history and the name is from our country of origin). He took 4 months to come around to it (he had not thought too hard about it before but had a knee-jerk reaction that he wanted his family to share his name, so he took time to mull it over and discussed it with me here and there and eventually brought it up to me on his own that he was okay that we don’t change his names) and part of how he came around to it was realizing he feels the same about his own name and isn’t open to changing his either.

    So that’s all well and good and now we have different names as a married couple, and we colloquially (was originally a joke but stuck more than expected) refer to ourselves by a mock hyphenated name composed in this style: combining “Baker” and “Bernard” it would be the “Bake-Berns”. This is a close proxy as one of the half-name words is a verb and the other is a noun so it sounds ridiculous as it’s almost a coherent phrase. But then…. a friend suggested a different way of combined Baker and Bernard **AND** the way of combining it is equal in letter useage to both names **AND** it’s even a noun in my family’s country of origin so I am totally “for” it as a name for any kids we have. I want to suggest using this new combined Baker/Bernard for any of our kids we have as we will be TTC in 6-18 months from now.
    He knows I like the newly created “Frankenstein” name but he’s been pretty mute on his thoughts of it “seriously”. How would you have this conversation with someone who is moderately adamant about giving his kids his name? What phrases or wording would work best? What didn’t work for you? I know he’ll need at least the 4months he took for our engagement name decision for this so I want to start planting the seed…. but I know this will be a hard sell. His sibling’s child took the husband’s last name and the wife’s maiden name as a middle name and he thinks that’s equal, but the women’s name becomes invisible so I disagree.

    • BSM

      My husband wasn’t as adamant as yours sounds, but I’m sure he just assumed future kids would get his name before I brought it up.

      I was frank with him about it. It’s not fair that our kids get your last name and not mine when we’re both equally their parents. Middle name is not the same.

      He’s a super logical guy (maybe yours is too?), so it didn’t take a very thorough explanation for him to agree/accept that. I didn’t say that we *had* to go with our “Frankenstein” name (although that’s what we’re doing in the end), but I offered a few suggestions (comboname, hyphenated, come up with something else altogether, one kid gets my name and another gets yours, etc.) and said we could discuss those. But kids just getting his last name was not an option for me. And I meant it.

      We also talked about it very little before I was actually pregnant. For us, it didn’t seem helpful to discuss something like that in the abstract.

      Not sure if that’s very helpful advice, though 😕

      • kids names anon

        I think he just assumes that they’ll have his name. He’s way more feminist than most men I’ve met, but he also doesn’t see his own patriarchal lens very well (i.e. he has a harder time dealing with when feminism means that he personally “suffers” but is wonderfully supportive when he hears about shit I’ve endured or other women have endured and is a great advocate in that way, both to other men and with me)…… so I need him to see that his lifelong 30+ year assumption that his kids will have his names will need to change. At minimum, it needs to be a conscious choice and not an assumption. I just don’t know how to edge him along that path and lead him to agree with me (god I sound manipulative hahaha!) because if I tell him outright that it is NOT an assumption then he will get super defensive and it’ll suck more emotional energy out of us than it needs to….. but if I am able to gently suggest it and guide his thinking to be more open minded in this respect…..

        His sister changed his name and made her maiden name her daughter’s middle name, like I mentioned above, and he mentioned that as being progressive and a nice touch…. I don’t think it’s occurred to him that it’s not equal/going to be enough for me. I just really don’t want this to become more stress than it needs to be. He can take a year+ to form his thoughts on this, that is fine with me, I just don’t know how to start this train.

        It makes sense to not talk about it until pregnant but I don’t want to add that on top of pregnancy because it may taken him longer than my length of gestation to really feel like he understands and has thought it through adequately, and also he has a health condition that could make bearing his children extra complicated medically so I don’t want to “choose” to do things during pregnancy when I can do them beforehand – as there could already be a higher-than-normal amount of stuff going on during the biological process.

        • BSM

          I more just meant I don’t think you need to decide on anything before there’s an actual baby in question. We definitely talked about it before we were expecting.

          I think there are ways to bring it up naturally and in a non-confrontational way, especially if you’re just trying to get the conversation started:

          “On that website I read, one of the women just had a baby and gave her son her last name instead of her husband’s. I thought it was awesome.” And then you can let him respond, let it simmer, or ask him what he thinks.

          • Ilora

            I can’t even count the number of conversations we have that begin with “so on APW…” haha

          • BSM

            For awhile I would always preface it with, “so there’s this website about weddings and marriage I read…” until finally my husband started interrupting me with, “APW, go on…”

          • Ilora

            Saaaame!

        • Eve

          Just to throw it in there from someone who has my mother’s name (she didn’t change) as my middle name, it’s totally not equal. Especially if you do what my parents did and give the kids two middle names, the second one consistently gets forgotten or doesn’t fit on official forms.

          It’s complicated with me and my sister by the fact that my dad shot down every other middle name option that didn’t come from his family (so both my sister and I are variations of Firstname Dadsfamilyname Momsname Dadsname), so not doing what he did may be a way to balance the scales somewhat. But it still doesn’t make it equal.

          • Zoya

            Yuuuuup this. Same boat with the two middle names, and the second one (mom’s name) is always the one that gets dropped.

      • kids names anon

        also thanks it’s just helpful to hear more anecdotes honestly. Our names do NOT hyphenate well (my country-of-origin name is not cooperative in any Anglophone-based situation) so other than then franken-name or alternating names (meh? also what if odd number of kids?) I don’t see a good solution.

        • BSM

          I understand where you’re coming from, but I really think you should give those other last name options a chance, at least in the sense that you put them on the table for your partner to think about.

          As you said, he’s someone who needs time to mull things over, particularly stuff where he has to question his own patriarchal assumptions, and you’ve got X number of months head start on him to consider the kids’ last name question. Right now, he doesn’t even know it’s a question.

          Obviously, you know your relationship and I don’t, but, with stuff like this in my marriage, it really helps to give my husband the space to problem solve on his own or with me. Not only does it make him more invested in a joint solution, it also helps us come up with better answers than I had on my own.

          • kids names anon

            oh of course re: giving him the space to problem solve on his own – that’s why I want to give him like a year to mull it the same way he mulled me not changing my name.

            I’ll put it on the table, but I think that if I insist my name has a 50% chance of being the first name on the last-name-alternation-with-each-kid rotation he may suddenly realize he doesn’t actually see that as a solution…..haha

    • Ali

      This is something that we’ve been discussing recently as we’re having a baby later this year. For us it was something that just came up naturally – a question of what surname our child should have – but working out the answer has been a bit trickier! I would probably suggest talking about friends who have maybe taken a less traditional approach to their / their child’s surname as a starting point?

      I didn’t change my name when we got married, and neither did he. We have had lots of discussions about surnames and he has been open to changing his last name to mine, but really I think that would cause lots of issues in his family simply because doing that is so uncommon, and his family are quite traditional, and would see it as him disowning them, which is certainly not what the intention would be.

      We tried for quite a few months to come up with a combined name for our child/children, but we both have germanic surnames that do not combine well which makes it difficult. Hyphenating would lead to a massively long surname that’d be super annoying to have to spell out (no-one can spell our names), and we haven’t liked any of the combinations, if our names worked better together we’d definitely do a mash-up surname, as quite a few of our friends have done, and would work really well for you too!

      • kids names anon

        None of my friends have had kids yet (I am late 20s)…. only our<6 month old niece on his side and I have a cousin out of town my age who is 6 months pregnant and very much "of course both I and the baby take his name" in thoughts….. that's why I'm turning to people here :)

    • I’m super late to the party, but my husband and I combined our names into a new name. I was always pretty clear that either we both change our name when we married or neither of us do – its only fair, after all! But since we plan on eventually having kids we knew if we decided to both keep our names we were simply delaying the decision. The name we ended up choosing started our as kind of a joke, but the more we said it, the more like a real name of sounded. Over time, it became the obvious choice (despite objections from his side of the family). It helped that he didn’t want a hyphenated name, and that the province we live in requires just as many hoops to jump through to hyphenate as to make up a whole new name. YMMV, but I find joking my way to seriousness really eases the conversation. If you can just casually refer to future progeny by this perfect combo name, your partner may get used to hearing it, and give it more weight when you say that the kid just having his last name isn’t going to fly.

    • Liz

      My daughter has a portmanteau name. My husband wanted her to have his last name, I wanted her to have mine, and after MUCH discussion, this is where we landed. I’d make two points to him: a) fairness, and b) it is unreasonable to expect you to be the only person in your family with a different name.

      • kids names anon

        B) hadn’t occurred to me yet!!!! That is SO important. I don’t want to be lopsided/the outlier…. kind of like when only the wife and her kids hyphenate (I have a really hard time relating to that – why is the dad not joining the two-name party?) His delicate masculinity?). Also, 10/10 on re-introducing me to the word “portmanteau” as that is a way better word than “Frankenstein Name” -_-‘ heheh

        • Liz

          I think Frankenstein Name sounds pretty great. :) But you actually bring up another point, which is the difference in intention and real life. It’s so very common for both people to plan to hyphenate, but only the woman actually does. There’s a definite lopsidedness.

  • K.K.

    Just wanted to say I think in your shoes I would do exactly what you did. But in my shoes I am struggling so, so, so hard with this.

  • Mrs H

    It’s funny, my mum didn’t change her name because my parents aren’t married, although they’ve been together for 30+ years and that’s part of the reason I changed mine. MY husband didn’t care either way, but as a kid I felt a lot of social anxiety around my parents having different names. I’m sure most of the judgement I felt was in my head, but I just wanted my new family to all be the same.

    Also, weirdly I think the fact that my mum and I had different names made it easier to change-my name being different didn’t take away my connection to my family of origin because we’d always had two different names-now we have three.

  • Spot

    Late to the party, but I’m facing a different variation of the name thing. My husband (!!! I can say that now) took my name and my in-laws, despite being told about it multiple times beforehand, are absolutely livid. They left the wedding reception without saying goodbye to us. Husband found out he got into his dream school during our honeymoon and they barely mustered a chilly ‘congratulations’ voicemail when he passed on the news. They are otherwise refusing to speak to us. The little bird who gave us a heads up about the situation used the word ‘firestorm.’

    There’s a long and ugly history of tantrums, bad faith and outright abuse with these people. I think in some ways that makes it easier to not care very much about yet another unreasonable reaction from them. People are allowed to feel Some Type of Way about your decision–my own mother didn’t even approve–but those feelings cannot be your responsibility. It sucks when someone takes a decision that has zero to do with them as a personal offense. But you know what? My husband is so happy with his name, and told me his parents’ behavior is just another reason he knows he made the right choice.

    • Ilora

      Not that you need it but this internet stranger thinks you are both awesome for going that route!! Much as it sucks to not have the support of your families I also have very little energy to devote to appeasing adults who throw tantrums like that.

    • penguin

      This internet stranger also thinks you are awesome! Way for his parents to reinforce that he made the right choice, wow… And honestly it’s none of their business and shouldn’t be a big deal. Women change their last names all the time, it shouldn’t be weird when a man does it. And congrats to your husband on getting into his dream school!!

  • Alexandra

    Ah, the name change discussion. I’ve been thinking about this, and for me, taking my husband’s name was the right choice. I was adopted and have always felt weird about my name. It’s always felt kind of wrong to me. This is mostly because I have a complicated relationship with my adopted family (who named me). I was never really allowed a lot of choices growing up. So for me, throwing off my maiden name and taking my husband’s name–my husband being a family that I most definitely chose for myself and really wanted to be a part of–has been really special.

    One of my best girlfriends is also adopted, and she felt the same way when she took her husband’s last name. The whole thing is very symbolic and I think I’d be pretty into keeping my maiden name under different circumstances.

    All hail my best friend from high school, who changed her married name back to her maiden name after her divorce, remarried, and then her new husband took HER last name. Husband #1 was a horrible douche. Pretty cool, huh?

  • elliejay23

    When we got married almost a year ago I was pretty adamant about keeping my last name because my now husband has yet to earn a degree that he has been pursuing on and off for the past six…now seven…years. Because he’s very traditional and wanted me to chsnge my last name to his, I told him “I’ll change my name to whatever is on yoir diploma” to help light a fire under his ass. Also, I’m super close with my dad ans having his last name means a lot to me, so I wanted to keep it.
    After our wedding, most of the people we knew from our small, country VA hometown assumed I’d taken his name….even though we didn’t have any same name/monogram stuff at our wedding, the pastor didn’t announce us as “Mr and Mrs” anything, and my name remained the same on Facebook. At the weddings of people from our hometown soon after ours, I was somehow “Mrs. Hislast” on invites, place cards, thank yous, etc. And as annoying as that is, that’s just the cultural norm where we’re from so I just smiled politely and raged at them on the inside.
    Now, my close friends (some of whom also struggled with the name change question) were much more aware of my decision and addressed us correctly. Buuuut my dad STILL addresses mail to us with Hislast, despite multiple conversations about how my name has not changed. SIGH.
    In the months since we got married, I’ve softened a little on my stance. My husband is super supportive and takes good care of me and our little family, and I love him and his boring last name. So I will probably end up hyphenating my name to Mylast-Hislast, despite the raised eyebrows from the haters and the country bumpkins! (Or at least I will once I finally get the right paperwork together…since we got married in a different state and I have to go back there to get a certified copy of the marriage license -___-…which I found our after sitting in the Social Security office with what were apparently the wrong documents for 35+ minutes. Oh well!)

    TLDR: Time might change how you feel about remaining “independent” or whatever you want to call it, and it might not. There’s no real right answer and no matter what, somebody’s probably going to get it wrong anyway so don’t lose too much sleep over it!

  • Mari

    Ideally, I wanted us to both change our names to the same thing. I have a simple, short last name and I married a guy with a hyphenated last name that is quite unwieldy. It’s six syllables, and in addition to the hyphen it has both an extra capital letter and an apostrophe (due to one of the his last names being of Irish origin). When we were engaged, we talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our names – maybe he replaced one of his last names with mine, and I added one of his last names? For our entire relationship I had this faint hope that we would combine our names into a new last name, but he was never really up for that. Ultimately, he realized that his long, unwieldy last name is part of his identity and he didn’t want to change it. He was fine with me not taking his name – I didn’t want to take on his entire hyphenated last name on principal and because it’s just so long and unwieldy – but this meant we were at an impasse. Ultimately, we both kept our names. For our future kids, I don’t love any option, but I think we will give our hypothetical future kid the last name of [My Last Name] [One of His Last Names], with NO damn hyphen. That way, the kid can choose to use the whole thing as a last name, or use one of my husband’s last name as a last name and My Last Name as a middle name. Either way, though, all 3 of us would have different last names, which I don’t love either. Life, eh?

  • Kelsey Stout

    I’m sure I’m going to really disappoint most of the people here, but for me changing your name is part of the whole marriage/wedding daydream. I remember as far back as elementary school I would say my current crush’s last name together with my first to see if they sounded good together(I almost always convinced myself they did). Of course I know that I didn’t spontaneously come up with the idea of changing my name and that it’s a patriarchal tradition, but I’ve just never envisioned myself keeping my name, even when I got old enough to realize that that is something people do. And there are plenty of other wedding traditions I want to buck, like being “given away” and doing a garter toss.

    It’s funny though, because I recently went to a cousin’s wedding where the couple was introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” and that really surprised and kind of disappointed me; I’ll bet it’s a pretty similar feeling for those of you who feel strongly about keeping your last names.

    • Jan

      Live your best life, girl! You do what feels right to you, not for any other reason.

    • S

      I mean, I used to daydream about it too, because I just thought that name changing is what people (women) did. I doodled my name with crushes’ last names on my notebooks as well! Then when I became a feminist and really understood that you don’t actually just do it by default and there’s a choice there, something changed – and it all became cemented for me when I began to think about how men don’t have to think about any of it at all. I think back on the fact that I just assumed it and feel sad that I had zero examples of literally anything else around me until high school when a few people had hyphenated last names. That’s why I’m so happy my (male) partner is down to take my name and give it to our kids. You can’t be what you can’t see. (For the record, I’m queer, and would actually still really enjoy the symbolism of partially changing my surname if I were marrying a woman. But it just feels so different and gross to me when it’s a man’s name I’d be taking.)

      • wannabee

        When I was a kid I wrote my name in all my books and got super sad because I thought I’d have to change it when I got married, and then my books wouldn’t match me. I was very excited when I got older and realized I didn’t have to change it OR the name in my books!

  • MCS

    My wife and I wanted to have the same last name, but neither of us felt right taking the other’s name. Additionally, our last names sounded comical in any sort of hyphen, so that was never an option. In the end, we decided to take a new name, one that fortunately has meaning to both our families. I loved the feeling of proactively choosing our family name together – it was one of my favorite parts of planning our wedding.

  • Observer

    I’m very pleased that me (cis female) and my fiancé (male) are taking my last name! My feminist fiancé suggested this and I was really happy to be able to keep my name.
    No one I know personally has done this (to my knowledge) but no one in families has complained. Many of our friends have applauded the choice. Also, two of my friends are getting married soon and one of them have chosen the same kind of name change as we while the other one and her fiancé will keep their names. For reference, I’m living in Finland.

  • Liz

    I did not change my name. My husband did not change his. Our daughter (and hypothetical future children) has a portmeanteau name which is very deliberately easier to spell than either of ours.

    My two most giant feminist rage points are related to name changes, to whit:

    1) “It’s all patriarchal, your name is your father’s anyway, what does it matter if you change it to your husband’s?” Even if this were true, which it’s not – my mother kept her name and gave me hers – IT IS MY EFFING NAME. I have lived with it all my life, it’s how I’m known, it’s on all my documents. No matter how it came to me, it is mine now. Not some nonexistent male ancestor’s: mine.

    2) The frequency with which women who do not change their names are expected to automatically give their kids their husband’s last name, without discussion or exploration. With two exceptions, even my most adamant keep-the-name friends are now the single one out in their own families, because the pressure was so intense. This just makes smoke come out of my ears.

    • spinning2heads

      Arg, the kids thing! I am so with you.

    • penguin

      Same on all of this. I don’t want to erase my fiancé’s Jewish heritage by not giving any hypothetical future kids his last name, but also I hate the idea of being the odd man out in the house and being the only one with my last name. It sort of feels like my keeping my name would just be symbolic at that point, since it wouldn’t actually change anything (i.e. future people).

    • Eh

      I kept my last name and I was originally going to give my kids his last name. We decided to hyphenate for our daughter (and any future children) because I felt we needed a unifying family name because I was a bit annoyed with people (especially my inlaws) referring to us by using his last name (e.g., The HisLasts or Mr and Mrs HisLast). My husband was also insulted for me when people would drop my last name and he quickly corrects them. We refer to our family by the hyphenated name even though only my daughter has that name.

      I also feel that we would have got more push back about hyphenating if we had a son (my MIL has been asking us to have a son before we were married). My MIL really wants a grandson to carry on my FIL’s last name through his line, and since my BIL/SIL only have girls, we are her last hope.

      • Lisa

        Because clearly you can control the sex of your children. You are personally crushing all of her hopes and dreams!

      • Liz

        Your MIL, you should forgive the expression, can suck it.

        I’m very glad your husband is supportive and quick to validate you.

  • Katharine Parker

    I did not change my name. My husband was like, “I’m not changing mine, so why would you change yours?” The priest who married us was encouraging of us both keeping our names and announced us as such at the end of our wedding. My dad is like, “of course you’re keeping your name! Why doesn’t your husband just become a Parker?” We plan to hyphenate our kids’ names (future NPR correspondents, for sure). I feel great about all of this.

    Still, every time we get mail for “Jack and Katharine Trainer” I want to burn it (unadvisable, sometimes the mail is a check) (also, this began before we got married–WTF, husband’s friend sending us a wedding invite). But seriously, I have a new love for one of my mom’s friends who wrote a check to “Katharine Parker OR Jack Trainer.” Bless.

  • Angel

    My husband and I both changed our name. We combined our last names to form an entirely new name. There was Din and there was Henriquez and together we became Dinriquez.

  • mjh

    He took my name. The shortest version of the story is that I feel a very strong connection to my birth last name and I never felt any pull to share a last name with my spouse, while he never felt a particular connection to his birth last name and he did feel a pull to share a name with his spouse. Him taking my name gave us each what we cared most about.

    The long version of the story includes cultural identity, feminism, how him being raised in a household which explicitly valued men over women led to him having a host of bs beliefs to sort out once he grew up and the ironic fact that if he were raised in a more feminist household, he’d probably be less invested in us sharing a name, and more. Maybe I’ll post it the next time the name discussion comes up, if I’m not two days late to the discussion that time :)

  • Haladi Heather

    I changed my name seven years after getting married! The SocSec office was fine with this amazingly. I wasn’t just indecisive or lazy! Though I often am both those. There were immigration visas, residency permits, citizenship and incorrect old paperwork that amounted to my husband needing a legal name change to fix it, so neither of us even talked about changing our names when we were first married. We had enough paperwork to deal with! After all that dust settled, I happily kept my last name and my hubs got his corrected and we thought that was the end of it. But then, with the paperwork finally done, I got an absolute bee in my bonnet and decided I had to take my husband’s last name as my middle name. My husband could care less about this, and I could care less what names he wants to have. Still, I changed my middle name to his new and self-chosen last name to A. honor his father who is amazing which is why my husband kept that one last name out of the grab bag, and B. to grease the wheels, so to speak, in my husband’s home country where we now permanently live. My first name is very foreign there, so having a culturally familiar name to throw in the mix as needed really helps with mail delivery, official document type people and general sense of belonging. It’s not something my husband or his family or even his culture expects, but it is one small thing I can give to say “thank you for being my family and my home!”

  • To me, the name change argument has always been at the bottom of the feminist hill to die on. I don’t really care what other people choose to do with their names. Heck, come up with an all-new name if you want. We no longer subscribe to the typical nuclear family unit, why should it matter what name we choose to go by? Do whatever makes you happy, and I’ll support you either way. Let’s just stop judging others on their own naming choices.

  • I think it mostly bothered me because the idea of my parents getting divorced was upsetting and I was a pretty anxious child. Also, it sometimes extended the amount of talking I had to do, even if minimally (I was also a pretty shy child).
    My parents were going to hyphenate their names but my mom decided last minute she didn’t want a change, but they did give us both names (although my mom’s as a second middle because of alphabetization reasons). Almost all of the women I knew well (so family friends, not my friends parents) growing up kept their names–so many lawyers–so I’m not sure why I had such a strong reaction to it.