Names and Blended Families

I knew I was in it for the long haul with my partner well before we even started talking about marriage. One of the amazing things that my single-dad sweetheart did was tell me on our third date that I wasn’t going to meet his kids for at least six months—and as a child of divorced parents and blended families, I was very appreciative of that. Part of this appreciation stemmed from my own issues—I sure didn’t want to contribute to any one else’s abandonment complexes, nor did I want to screw up his kids in any other possible way. Mostly, though, I didn’t want to learn to love these kids and then never see them again.

[[TOP SECRET: One of the things that stepparents never talk about is the terror that your partner will leave, and take their children with them. That you don’t have any legal rights to maintain a relationship with a child who might not like you at first, and that may require more work than you’d ever dream of investing to grow. It’s better to ignore this feeling most of the time. But when I met his kids, I wanted to make sure I was meeting them because they were going to be part of my life for the long haul, just like my partner was going to be.]]

After six or seven months of dating I met his kids as “Dad’s friend,” slowly progressed to staying over weekends, and even more slowly moved in. After about two years together the younger boy turned to me and said, “When you marry dad, you’ll be a ‘HISLASTNAME’ too!”

Oh my. You know, there’s a startling thrill in the tacit approval of your relationship by a seven-year-old. But then I had to explain to him about my name (T) and his name (G)—because I was really not going to change it.

Me: “Well, I don’t think I’ll change my name to G.”
Him: “Why not!?”
Me (terrified he thought I was rejecting wee seven-year old him and his daddy, striving for calmness): “Well, you really like being a G, right?”
Him: “Yes.”
Me: “And you love having family who are also named G, right?”
Him: “Yeah!”
Me: “Well, I’ve been a T for so long, and I love my T family, and I love being a T just as much as you love being a G.”
Him: “So….”
Me: “So, I’m going to stay a T, even if we get married.” (Secret thrills for saying it out loud to someone not my partner for the first time.)

Luckily I have got a lot of people in my extended and blended family with many different last names. So I ran through all the families who have different last names. To be honest, these days the only people who share last names seem to be the ones who aren’t married to each other any more—my mom and dad, for example, while my stepmom changed her name to her mother’s maiden name when she married my father.

After that we told the kids they could have whatever name they wanted to when they turned eighteen, and the eleven-year-old determined he would change his name to Awesomepants Megatron or something similarly ridiculous. Then we made up a blended ridiculous name (Tip Grundzilla) for this new ferocious foursome. Phew. Case closed, problem solved, and no wee little dudes worried about how much I really loved them.

I feel like I dodged a bullet! I don’t want to change my last name. I never have wanted to change my last name. But at the same time, it was a super easy decision to make because my partner and I aren’t planning to have any children together. It would be more complicated if we were going to have a passel of babies, because I would sort of like them to share a name with their father and half-sibs. I imagine we would hyphenate. It’s really easy to imagine, though, and I respect the struggle that new baby-families have to go through as they make this decision.

I didn’t change my name because I love my last name. I didn’t change it because I have long-standing and important-to-me connections to my dad’s family. I didn’t change it because it seemed like a lot of work, and because it pisses me off that it’s another thing that women take care of for their families. I didn’t change it because I’ve got a paper published under my name. I didn’t change it because I want to be a Ms. anyway, and not a Mrs. At the same time I recognize the inherent conflict in my reasoning—I want to maintain a family connection with my dad’s family—one made possible by women changing their names throughout our long ancestry. I feel so connected to my paternal grandmother—who changed her name when she married my paternal grandfather.

Even though we sign all our holiday cards “Tip Grundzilla,” lots of cards came this year to Mr. and Mrs. G.—which is fine, really. My parents know my name, my mom and dad-in-law know my name, and the kids know my name. My sweetheart knows who I am, all names aside. My boss and the IRS know my name. I know that my lovely partner supports my choice and the kids know we’re all in this together, no matter what our official handles are. There’s a lot of different ways to build a family, and even more ways to refer to it… and this is the one that works for us.

Post-script: When my partner was talking to one of his colleagues about our wedding, he got in response: “Mrs. Kari G., …hmmm.” To which my clever feminist sweetheart smartly responded, “Oh no, Kari is keeping her last name. There are already two Mrs. Gs in town, between my mother and my ex…” Which, you know works pretty well for a flip answer. Hilarity ensued.

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  • Granola

    What a charming post. And major kudos to your partner for sticking up for your choices *and* being funny while he did it.

  • Leila

    Thank you for this! I think we still need to hear examples of how families deal with the name change/no name change thing. This of course is a huge deal for both blended and non-blended families alike (although you could argue that all families are blended by the act of marriage I suppose). One example of a non-blended families w/ different last names:two of my closest friends kept their own names when they got married. They now have two sons and the first son has her last name and the second has his. It still surprises me that this scenario seems to be such a rarity. And Meg thank you for the reminder that it is the cultural norm for women to keep their own name/use both last names in other cultures. My dad is Iranian and my fiance is Swedish and in both cultures women generally keep their last names. I mean I’m not at all saying that this is what you “should do.” I think it is more of a reminder that you can/should choose whatever fits for your family.

    • I was surprised at how frequently I went back and tried to read my post through another persons eyes, because I *really* wanted to be sensitive to the fact that people can (and do!) do whatever they want, and it will be the Right Thing For Them. I think we should hear more stories too – so the current American narrative of all the ladies changing to the dudes’ names is overrun and people can really explore the why and how of what they want!

    • meg

      I did not know that Iranians and Swedes kept their last names. Ahhhh, more examples about how this is totally totally fine, and no ones family will implode because of it are so important to me.

      • Jess

        I studied abroad in Belgium for a year during my junior year of high school. When I first got a letter (letters! pre-internet!) introducing me to my host family, I was very confused why the host mom had a different last name than the host dad. Were they married? What was going on? Fifteen year old suburban kid was confused.

        Turns out they were, of course married, and had been for thirty years. I credit my amazing host mom for showing me that you don’t have to have the same last name to be a family. Of course, it was nothing unusual over there, but I noticed. And when the time came? I did not change my own last name.

        • meg

          My friend Marie-Eve told me that in Montreal, if you have the same last name as your spouse, the knee jerk reaction is to think that you married a relation. Talk about realizing that the cultural narrative is just that: a cultural narrative.

          • streamnerd

            This is a fairly recent development though. I grew up in Qc and all my extended family is there. No one from my generation and younger changes their name when they get married now but my grandmothers and all my aunts changed their names when they got married and my mom hyphenated.

          • That’s true about it being generational, since the law went into effect in 1981. However, if I met anyone under 45 or so, I would assume they were not married and were instead relatives (siblings, cousins, etc) of anyone they shared a last name with.

        • Erin

          I felt the same about my best friend’s mother in elementary school. She was a doctor, and so she kept the name that she’d earned all her education and credentials with, but she and her husband are still married, after something like 30 years. She was never militant about it (and it came up a lot, given that we were in Alabama), but always gracious and polite, and witty as hell when the situation warranted it. Awesome feminist role models FTW!

      • Leila

        And major historical precedence because the Viking women (i.e. Iceland) have kept their names for centuries. I think that is important if the other argument is that taking the man’s name is the “traditional thing to do”. Like many things that impact weddings this idea of tradition is sometimes more rooted in what has been culturally “correct” for a shorter period of time versus what has actually be done for centuries. So my conclusion is to not feel forced into “traditions” and just follow my gut.

        Of course, in that case your last name is your father’s name + dottir (for a girl). Johannes’s daughter Ingrid would be Ingrid Johannesdottir. So it is still a patriarchical naming system (referred to as the patrynomic naming system).

        • Jessica

          This is something I bring up regularly. While my husband and I both took both last names, my husband’s family (of Swedish descent, ironically enough) still are not happy with our decision. I also did not want an engagement ring and had a very small wedding, so I think I threw a loop in their whole “huge weddings full of all the traditions you can think of in America” system of marrying off their sons. My minor in college was Spanish, so I spent a lot of time learning about Spanish and Latin/South American cultures and realized that my name was my own and I could keep it. I then started researching other cultures and was amazed at how NOT traditional taking the man’s name actually was. We did want the same last name, so we debated renaming (combining our names), but I had a deep emotional attachment to my last name for a couple reasons, so we decided to both just take both last names. I still get called Mrs. HisOldName all the time, at work and from his family, and it always jolts me and sounds wrong. (His dad just sent him a letter the other day addressed to Husband HisOldName, and we’ve been married for 7 years.)

          Anyway, I love the culture here of being able to be open about this but not belittling anyone’s choice. As long as there is a choice, it’s just that: your choice.

      • Icelanders keep their names as well (which is part of why it always confused me that my Icelandic in-laws were offended I didn’t take the family name they all adopted when moving to the USA!!). Icelandic people can also use dad or mom’s first name as their last name – it’s relatively recent, I believe, that mom’s name was permitted into the mix. Very interesting about your friend in Montreal’s observation, Meg – I couldn’t have said it better: “Talk about realizing that the cultural narrative is just that: a cultural narrative.”

      • Class of 1980

        If I’m not mistaken, I think ALL the Middle East countries do this, not just in Iran. The women keep their names.

        • meg

          You guys. What I’ve learned from this thread is that women in a LARGE PERCENTAGE of the world keep their names. And in many, many cultures the women’s name is often passed down as well. Generally cultures we think of as patriarchal ones, at that.

          And I believe they all feel like part of their families ;)

          • Class of 1980

            I thought you already knew!

            If you look at population numbers, it’s possible that the majority of the world does not change names.


            Scroll down and read about the different countries.

          • Riah

            It’s also common for women to keep their last names here in Tanzania, which I didn’t see listed on that Wikipedia page.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        We moved to China two months ago. When B. explained to his Chinese colleagues that we had different last names because I’d chosen to keep mine, they looked at him with confusion. And then asked why I would even consider changing my name, since doing so would (presumably) offend my family.

        Add China to the list as a very family-centric culture that didn’t implode because women kept their names.

      • Zahra

        yes its such a cultural thing. I personally think its stupid to change my name after marriage. Now dont get me wrong ….I think everyone should have the right to change their name should they want to….but me? ugh I dont know. Just the thought of it seems unnatural. Why would I change who I am…something as ESSENTIAL to my identity as my name just because I married someone? Why cant he change his name to mine? ;) Oh well. Maybe its because I’m from an Iranian family and all the women I know kept their last names.

  • You know, after all these posts about name-changing, I had geared up for a fight when we got married and I kept my last name, and NOT ONE PERSON has made a single remark about it. To be honest, I’m kind of disappointed, because I’d saved up a ton of good arguments.

    I’ll just save them for my poor future hyphenated children, I guess.

    • Jessica

      I’m geared up for this fight too. So far my mom is the only one to act surprised, and she just ended the conversation rather than try to convince me otherwise.

    • meg

      You know, I’ve never had a remark about it either. But over time the passive agression has gotten to me (but this is one of my personal big issues, and something I’ll be fighting for till I die, so I notice). The mail adressed to David’s last name hasn’t stopped coming, and it’s been four years. As a result, every piece of mail and announcement we send out has both last names all over it, just as a reminder.

      Same with the babies last name. No fights. But lots of correcting things every time his name is written down.

      • We received one gift afterwards with a Hisfirst and Myfirst Hislast, and that’s exactly what I did – sent a thank-you with both of our full names in the return address. The person apologized to me the next time we saw each other!

      • The passive-aggression is what sends me into a rage too. I don’t mind if far-flung aunt dottie addressed the xmas card as mr. and mrs., she just assumed and we’re not close. When people who specifically asked me what I was doing with my name and then now 18 months later continue to address me as Mrs. His His I get pretty testy.

        • lucy

          I didn’t change my name, and i understand why people don’t. However i have to admit being lazy when addressing letters (especailly when sending out 85 hand written letter/envelopes for our wedding in particular) and i addressed to one name only. Sometimes the female, others the male, even if the couple weren’t married but were in a long term relationship. I wasn’t/am not trying to be passive agressive or upset anyone. I suppose that I am comfortable with either option and didn’t/don’t see the problem! Next time i better try harder or may inadvertently upset my friends :)

        • Bebe

          This is exactly what I’m not looking forward to when it comes to keeping my name rather than taking his, especially after the small fiasco with invitation addressing. We split our envelopes into four groups and divvied them up between our mothers and the two of us based on who would be most likely to have that particular address and whose handwriting the invitee would be most likely to read. His mother’s list included a married cousin whose wife kept her name; the envelope, when we were stuffing them, read, “Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.” When I commented that his mom had probably just been on autopilot and didn’t think, he told me that he’d actually been debating this with her and said that she should address it to both of them with their distinct names before she wrote the envelope. (And when I double-checked the etiquette, he was right.) That envelope got hastily rewritten.

          I am now having presentiments of many many years of cards and notes addressed to “Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast” from my mother-in-law.

      • My mother passive-agressively refuses to respond in any way to communications addressed “Mrs. My Dad’s Name.” It’s awesome.

        Although, her credit score has taken a hit . ..

  • Hannah

    This is so well timed! My partner and I were just talking about the name changing issue this weekend. I always leaned heavily towards keeping my name because, much like you, I feel it connects me to my dad’s family, I’ve published under this name, and it just a damn good name! I was talking to my mom about it a few days ago, and she was definitely in camp change my name. Her argument was basically that don’t you want to seem like a family? All with the same last name? And I do. Changing my name would be a very literal interpretation of my fiance and I starting a new family together, and that is very important to me, and when we have kids they will likely have his last name. So then I should change my name. But my dad’s family is also very important to me, and I don’t want to lessen an already weakening connection there. So I shouldn’t change my name.

    Oh I just don’t know. Good thing we have a long engagement, cause I need some time to think this one over. I’m also fortunate that my partner is totally understanding and supportive of whatever choice I make.

    • never.the.same

      Why doesn’t your partner change his name to yours?

      • sarahmrose

        That’s my situation. I care more about keeping my name than he does; he cares more about having a unified family name than I do. Boom, done. But I know not everybody gets such easily resolved situations/feelings about it.

        • Claire


      • AIH

        My husband considering changing his name to mine when we got married, but if you live in Virginia, it can be really expensive and complicated for a man to change his name when he gets married. For me, they just changed it in the Social Security office and I had a new name within 5 minutes. For him it would have required a court appearance and over $600 in fees and would take months. Considering that we were preparing for an international move within a few months, that was just too much additional bureaucracy.

        • laura g

          On the Virginia court fees for name change question, readers should know that it won’t necessarily cost anywhere near $600. You can download a name change request form and fill it out. They don’t hassle people unless they think you’re dodging creditors or engaging in fraud. My partner and lots of other people I know have done it with pretty low cost.

        • dragonzflame

          Wow! In New Zealand, it works the same for the man as for the woman – when you get married, you automatically have the right to use the other person’s last name. He can use her name, or she can use his. No legal costs – the only fees you pay are for if you want new documentation, like new passports and driver’s licences.

          They don’t mind if you use your birth name or your married name or both (your birth name is always yours to use) – but they do recommend you pick one to make your own life easier ;-)

      • meg

        Indeed. We had this conversation, and when David said that was out of the question, I was like, “Well! Then I think you see where I’m coming from.” And that was the end of that.

        Seriously though. If there is one single message I’d like to impart, it’s that having different last names doesn’t make you feel or seem like any less of a family. Our ‘family name’ has just sort of unofficially become both names together, even though neither of us hyphenated. And I’ve noticed that happening fo other couples around us as well. It works out. Being a family is what makes you a family.

        • jules

          In many Latin American countries women don’t change their last name and offspring use the two last names, one from father, one from mother or both mother’s last names. What are other countries where women change their last name? I wonder why some do and some don’t!

          • Marcela

            In Brazil it is also common for your “last name” to be from both families. For example, my name is Marcela (Maternal grandma’s name) (Maternal grandpa’s name) (Paternal grandma’s name) (Paternal grandpa’s name).
            Announcers hate me.

          • meg

            Which is exactly the example I give when people worry that hyphenating makes last names too long. You want long, lets talk Latin America. Your kids will be fine!

        • MDBethann

          I decided that instead of burdening my future children, I’d take on that burden and be MyLast HisLast (no hyphen). Maybe, since my dad is the only son of an only son, I might have a convo in the future about giving our children a double last name, but what I’ve seen so far with my name is that part of my second last name gets cut off or sometimes the entire thing gets cut off. At least professionally it’s been consistantly the whole thing, and socially I just find it easier to be Mrs. HisLast.

          I know what my last name is, but if it makes it easier for people to see us as a unit by having the same last name, then so be it (it’s shorter to write anyway – 2 6 letter last names make for a longish last name). I know what my last name is, I get to have 2 last names that I like, and both families can be happy because I use both names. Grandkids might be another story, but we’ll cross that naming bridge when we come to it (I plan on using our grandparents names to name future children, so hopefully that will help).

      • Hannah

        We have talked about that too. But his last name is also pretty damn awesome! At the end of the day I can’t help but think “what’s in a name?” Regardless if I change my name, he does, or neither we will still be a family.

    • Another Meg

      I am pretty much in the same camp, Hannah. I’m going to be halfway through grad school when we get married, and that would make the world much more complicated for me. And I love my name! And while I love my FutureSpouse’s family and our kiddos will have his last name, I don’t think I could bear to part with MyLast. I’m so connected to my family, and while my mom is both upset and confused about my (current) decision to keep my name, she once told me she still thinks of herself as Mom Maidenname. After over forty years, in her head she still uses her original last name. I think that really says something. We’re getting married in a little over a year, and I’m sure I’ll switch back and forth multiple times, and mourn the choice I leave behind, no matter what I do.

      And honestly, I’m kind of ok with that. And I’m so happy whenever I get to see other examples of families with multiple last names. It really does help. :)

    • Kate

      The in-between I’ve settled on with my fiance is that I will not change my name, but I’m also not going to go out of my way to correct people who call me “Mrs. HisName” either. This is how my mother always handled it–she never legally changed her name, but she used both last names depending on the situation. She was Dr. MaidenName at work, Mrs. MarriedName at my school, and whatever felt most natural or was easiest everywhere else.

      • Ann

        This is how my Mom handled the situation, too.

      • Jessica

        This is how it goes most often for my parents’ generation of women who kept their names.

      • meg

        Just because it needs to be said: I correct people. Politely, but pretty constantly. I think it’s important that people call me by my actual name, and important that they realize it’s fine and normal for women to keep their names. I even correct people when I’m mistakenly adressed as Mrs. Keene, and nicely tell them that I’m actually Ms. Keene.

        As women we have HUGE pressure on us to be “nice” and likable, and not rock the boat. Correcting people on this issue, and possibly making them uncomfortable, can seem really scary. But it can also be really important and empowering, and slowly helps make change. If my daughters and sons have fewer people to correct, I’ve done my job.

        • Kate

          I might change my mind once I’m married and it’s actually happening, but I don’t think I’ll feel the need to correct people. I think of Mrs. HisName as being one of the ways I’ll identify myself, even if it’s not my most important identity (which will always be me, with the name I was born with).

          I think it also matters how you perceive the title Mrs. HisName. I just don’t think of Mrs. HisName in an I-am-the-posession-of-my-husband kind of way. For me it just identifies me as married, which I will be and don’t care if people know or don’t know, and it identifies me as a part of the HisName family, which I will be, even if my name doesn’t change and even though I’ll still be part of my own family.

          As a side note, what DOES always make me feel uncomfortable in a possession-type way is when the wife is called “Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName.” But some people might love it!

          • meg

            For me, it’s not my identity, and it’s not my name. I’m married, but that has nothing do do with my name.

            I will say, the lovely part is, we have to correct people who call David Mr. Keene just as often. And I always grin while making the correction.

            But think about it: if David didn’t correct people who called him Mr. Keene, people would really raise their eyebrows. “Doesn’t he have any self respect?” If I don’t correct people who call me Mrs. Davidslast, I’m just respecting my married identity and the fact that I’m part of David’s family. Something is unequal here.

          • I have a hyphenated last name which is my birth name, and we don’t correct people from say, the car repair shop that call me Mrs. Hislast, and we don’t correct people who call him Mr. Secondlast unless it’s really important.

            But I’m still working out how to sternly correct the judges that call me Mrs. Secondlast. Because there is this assumption that if you have a hyphenated last name, it’s your married name, and you want to go by your second last because it’s easier. (So far, I correct the law clerks when they call me Mrs. Secondlast.)

            It’s just funny to me how little it bothers me that total strangers think I took my husband’s last name, but that respected colleagues would make that assumption is offensive somehow. You might find that similar things make you prickly, but you might also find that it’s rarely a fight. (I’ve had…maybe two people ask why I kept my name???)

        • I definitely correct people! Politely, but firmly. Even elderly relatives. Not because I have any particular aversion to “Mrs. Brown” or “Clarissa Brown,” or because I want to make a scene. But because IT’S NOT MY NAME. I would make the same correction to anyone who called me “Larissa” or mispronounced my first name. I think it’s *more* polite to let them know!

          • meg


            It’s like people who call David “Dave” which he hates. And now it’s a mess because he didn’t correct them 10 years ago, so now it seems awfully rude to tell them he’s hated the name they’ve called him for a decade. Or the people who call me Megan, that I corrected a decade too late. They were MORTIFIED.

            Getting everyone the right information early is just kind.

        • Jess

          The correcting part will be easy for me. Keeping it polite? There lies the challenge.

          It can just be so hard to stay even–keeled when there is all the passive aggression and the judgy and its not just about one thing, its about everything in the wedding and everything after. Sigh.

          My fiance currently lives up the street from me while we wait for our leases to run out. I almost lost it the other day when my cousin sent us a card, to my address, (where I live by myself) but addressed as if I was just a subsidiary of this man I wasn’t even actually married to yet. It was just….so disheartening.

          • I know! I remember the first time I saw a piece of mail addressed to “Mrs. Gregory Brown.” I kept thinking, who is that person? She doesn’t exist.

            It came before the wedding and it really rattled me. I kept thinking, am I really going to have to put up with this for the rest of my life? How many times am I going to have to see that name and let it slide?

            That’s when I decided not to let it slide, but also to recognize that in the greater scheme of things, these elderly midwestern relatives are following the conventions they know, and that I was probably the first person in their family to make this choice. I still feel frustration when it happens (especially because some of them *choose not* to remember my correction and continue to address me incorrectly) but I also feel proud, because I make it a point to always speak up about it.

          • meg

            I’m polite the first threeish times I correct you. Then I start to get… edgy.

        • What remains staggering to me is that this can still be such a problem even when you make the “conventional” choice. I took my husband’s last name (not without a lot of regret, to be honest), but I really prefer to use Ms. MyFirst HisLast. I knew that there will always be people who will send things to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast, and I prepared myself to just accept that.
          However, there are people (namely, his mother and other female relatives) who INSIST on sending things to us as Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisMiddle HisLast. I swear to you, I have actually broken dishes this makes me so flipping angry (hello, do I even EXIST???). He wants me to just let it go, and there are extenuating circumstances that make that course of action appealing. However, I agree that it’s really important to stand up and politely explain that if there is room for his middle name, there is room for my first name, and actually I prefer Ms., not Mrs. It’s just challenging in that it will never go away, and we’re all going to have to just find the strength to keep reminding people of our choices. Even when it’s uncomfortable, and would be so much easier to just let it go.

        • Lauren

          I found a new way people judge me/us for keeping my maiden name. Our new neighbors have repeatedly called my husband “my boyfriend,” and we have rings (!) and call each other husband and wife (!), but we have different last names, so they’ve just decided we aren’t really married. I think it’s knee-jerk, honestly. But I need to get on it next time and correct them!

        • This is so how I feel about it. My gentleman and I just had this discussion, and part of what he said was, “You know people will still call you Mrs. W–, right?” To which I replied, quite flatly, “And I will correct them.”

        • Rachel

          About 15 years ago an acquaintance decided to keep her name, and move from Miss to Mrs.

          So she went from Miss Deborah Yung to Mrs Deborah Yung. And she and her husband were known as the Yung-McPhersons.

          This was in part due to the fact that she was a lawyer, and signed letters in the old fashioned style that was then in vogue in legal practices.

          Her letter sign off went from :

          DJ Yung (Miss), and changed it to DJ Yung (Mrs)

          Their baby was Harry Yung – McPherson

          I don’t know anyone else who has done that, but it’s akin to the German practice of moving from Fraulein to Frau when you are a grown woman, regardless of your marital status.

      • Alexandra

        This is also how I plan on handling it. It occurred to me that I have had many different names in my life (mostly online handles) and it never bothered me what people called me except that I knew it was me. And so… That’s how I think I’ll approach my last name.

    • Though I did change my name to my husband’s family’s, I don’t think you have to have the same name to be a family. My mom is very much a feminist. For example, she sued Wendy’s for wrongful termination when she was fired from her manager position upon announcing her pregnancy.

      She legally changed her name to Tordella-Williams when she married my dad (a Williams). She has been known as “Mrs. Tordella-Williams” or “Ms. Tordella” or “Susan TW” or “Susan Tordella” depending on the phase she was going through. [Looking back, I think the name preferences changed based on her struggles to self identify outside of being a mother and wife.] Williams is my maiden name as well as my first brother’s last name.

      However, my younger sister and brother have “Tordella-Williams” on their birth certificates… even though YES, we have the same parents, and are only a few years apart. I was registered in school as “Tordella-Williams” sometimes, and some years just as Williams. I didn’t even know that my siblings’ names were different until adulthood! Sure, it made me and my siblings different on that first day of school when teachers read off last names and we weren’t sure what they would say, but it was a small ‘burden’ to bear.

      I think the end result of the experience is that I don’t identify having the same name as being part of the same family, since it hasn’t been that way for me. I’m still a Tordella in my opinionated personality, frugality, and empathetic heart; a Williams for my love of Happy Hour, big feet, and desire for traditions; and a Fitzsimmons (my new married name) for a combination of all the things above. I did change my name because it meant a lot to my husband, but it doesn’t mean I left the other parts of me behind!

  • 39bride

    A lovely story, and beautifully written!

    Something struck me, though…

    Lately, every time I read people talking about how hard it is not to change your name, I’m always so surprised. I really don’t run in progressive circles–my work involves the military and I attend a rather traditional church, for example–but I have had zero “awkward encounters” over the fact that six months after the wedding I’m still using the same last name (I wanted to keep my last name in some significant way, so I’ll be shifting everything to the left–having two first names, old last name now middle name, etc, and that requires separate legal action that I haven’t even explored, yet. So, I’m still “Ms MaidenName”). To be honest, the fact that we didn’t live together before we got married seems to have caused considerably more consternation than what last name I use.

    Then again, I do live on the West Coast, so maybe there’s more sensitivity to peoples’ choices? Maybe the fact that we got married for the first time at nearly 40 gives us cultural space to be more unconventional? I’m just honestly surprised to hear people for whom keeping their last name is still fraught with so many issues.

    Not trying to invalidate others’ experience in any way, just surprised it’s still an issue in some circles and not sure why it isn’t in my own…

    [EDIT: Now I see while I was writing, Meaghan said the same thing but with fewer words. Thanks, Meaghan! Someday I’ll learn not to be long-winded…]

    • Hey, thank you so much!

      I’m on the east coast and I don’t get much argument about changing my name or not – but it’s still very much the status quo for many people that a woman will change her name. If they meet my husband first the assumption is that I’m a “G” and while I don’t mind when individuals actually DO make the assumption (because I know they all love me, each and every one), the fact that it’s the status quo for a lady to change her name (and can be legally very difficult for a man to do the same) tortures me!

    • Kate

      I agree that I’ve had very little opposition (and lots of support!) over my desire to keep my name. What I HAVE noticed, though, is a lot of ribbing and questions directed at my fiance when his family/friends (mainly men) find out that I’m keeping my name. And that really kills me, because even though I know this attitude is archaic and sexist and we shouldn’t care what these bullies think, I know it hurts him a little when people tease him about it. Although he’s supportive of my decision not to change my name, he really wanted me to, so these people who give him crap about it are rubbing salt in the wound.

      • meg

        Interestingly (other than always needing to correct forms and such) this is where we took heat with the baby’s name. Not having your kid have just your last name apparently is ‘un-masculine” or some such shit.

        • Kate

          I think being unthreatened by thwarting tradition and standing up for the choices your family makes is super masculine!

          • meg

            EXACTLY. And I must say, I’m super proud of my husband, who did not take an easy path (on lots of levels) with this. Post (apparently) coming soon.

        • Ruth

          I”d initially wanted for us both to hyphenate, inspired by reading ‘Herland’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman at age 14 (for those not familiar with this early 20th century feminist sci-fi novel, it’s about a race of beings that are all female and what happens when a couple of male, English explorers ‘discover’ them. Anyway, one of the women and one of the explorers fall in love and she decides to go to England with him and get married. He casually mentions, “Of course, when we get married, you’ll take my name.” Her response: “How romantic – I’ll take your name and you’ll take my name!”) I always thought this was deeply romantic too – symbolizing how each person takes on something of the other in a relationship.

          Unfortunately, though, my fiance and I have been encountering the problems that Kelly and Meg mentioned – men get a TON of flack for making a nontraditional last name choice! My fiancée received horribly, shockingly mean comments (all along the lines of being “un-masculine”) when he mentioned the idea of taking my name to his colleagues. While I think it’s deplorable that people are being such *ssholes about this issue, I also don’t know if it’s fair of me to ask him to take such a nontraditional choice, knowing that it might mean him having to deal with such *sshole comments forever. Grrr….I wish we weren’t still dealing with these issues in the twenty first century

          • Kate

            Right?? It’s like other men look down on my fiance for not being able to “control” me and get me to change my name. According to him, though, he would never want to impose decisions on me or marry someone who allowed him to do that.

          • Caz

            I really like the idea of both partners changing their name. I think for me the issue is not taking on another name or changing my identity – because I believe I am in fact changing my identity by choosing to vow myself together with another person for life. But what does bother me is the cultural tradition that the man does not have to change his identity even though he is making those same vows. My solution (as inspired by a friend who did this before me) is that I am going to keep my last name and take his as well. He is going to do the same thing. We aren’t hyphenating or going by both last names…I am happy to be Mrs. HisLastName (although he seems excited to have people call him by both last names!). I just want us both to go through the ritual of changing our names as a signifier of our becoming united as a family. Perhaps its meaningless in the end, but since changing names is still part of our cultural ritual of getting married it feels meaningful to me right now. I realize it has significant public/social impact (and I have great respect for the women who feel passionate enough to fight the fight to change cultural ideas about name changes), but for me it is about the internal/personal process of choosing to take on the name, and therefore identity & family, of the other.

            As a side note….can APW have more posts about stepparenting? Even though this post isn’t necessarily about that role, it is always refreshing to hear from women who are taking on being a stepmom at the same time as stepping into marriage. I find myself often putting wedding/engagement/marriage thoughts to the side and spending way more time discussing how to get a teenage boy to eat vegetables and what the little one’s schedule of events is for the week. Instant parenting of pre-teens can be completely overwhelming!

    • Sara

      Same thing here. In fact, I am planning to change my name, and have felt the need to come up with defences and reasons to explain that to everyone, because not changing your name seems to be the standard around here. (It could help that I’m a stone’s throw from Quebec?)

      • Bebe

        I’m actually sort of jealous. I know several women who have gotten married in the last year and all have changed their names, and I’m getting a little bit of mild flack for not changing mine. One friend in particular, who is in fact my matron of honor and whom I love dearly despite the occasional moment of headbanging, has given me ribbing about going to “the other end of the alphabet,” even though I’ve told her a couple of times that I’m not changing. My own dad keeps mentioning a legal document we need to deal with in the near future and saying that maybe I should put it off till after the wedding, “in case you change your name,” again after telling him I’m not.

        • Adrini

          I get it/am getting to. I plastered that I wasn’t changing freakin’ everywhere, everyone knew. The only think left was a billboard. Yet my Mom got me a cheese board with his initial, I got personal stationary with his initial and my SIL still sends mail to Mr and Mrs his first has last. She’s just had twins so I’m hoping it’s the exhaustion talking but if she’s doing the same in a year there will have to be a talk.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m also on the West Coast, and come from a traditional outlook, and had planned to change my last name, but my husband didn’t want me to, so I didn’t.

      I have a church+professional friend who has brought it up 3 times now, with, “It’s really easier administratively, especially once you have kids, for everyone to have the same last name.” To which I reply, “He wants the kids to have my last name, too.”

      I had planned to change my name at church, but then I got on the church board, and felt it was important to use my legal name for a legal position. My name is listed in the directory as hyphenated, something I never even considered, and in the minutes with my husband’s name. Still working on changing all that. Ugh.

    • I think it’s funny where I have and have not gotten flack. My mother (who did change her last name) straight up was like, “you’re keeping your name, right!” She regrets changing her name but felt pressured to do so when she and my dad got married. (That said, all of her close friends and everyone on my dad’s side calls her “Maiden Name” as her nickname, like, “Hey, Maiden Name!”)

      And then my cousin, who is 24, and a very forward thinking lady, who is also getting married this year, totally LOST HER SHIT when I casually mentioned that I wasn’t changing my name. I was really shocked by that.

    • Hannah

      I tend to think the same thing. Do people really care? I have plenty of friends with mom’s with different last names. But then it when I brought it up to my mom and my sister they were both surprised that I didn’t want to change my name, and argued (very gently) about why I should change it. Weird.

    • KH_Tas

      Yeah, it’s still hard. It’s still the default to change your name in western culture, and it less women keep their names now than they did in the 80’s, it seems. I know of only 1 other person who (I think) kept her name, and that’s out of 15+ people in my generation who are married.

      It’s especially hard being in conversations where people are bemoaning ‘how anyone would give their kids a hyphenated name’ when that’s what you want and your (male) partner is not so keen on it.

  • Caitlyn

    I kept my last name because I like it and it looks really good on paper, and I didn’t really feel like my husband’s last name meshed with my first name. Similarly, his name also looks perfect on paper, so there was no reason to change his, and everything is great. But I just realized that maybe someday we will be grandparents, and we won’t be Grandma and Grandpa ____ like my grandparents are and his were, we will be Grandma S and Grandpa K, and that makes me just a bit sad now.

    • I couldn’t wait to change my name! (My maiden name is Gillette… like the razors. Not. even. kidding.) I love my family that I grew up in, but my maiden name had to go. Mrs. Gillette is my gramma, 2 of my 3 aunties (one is divorced but kept her married name), my mom and now my sister in law.

      No using it as a middle name or hyphenating with my married name, not for me. I’m still finding places that I forgot to change my name and get mail marked as Kara Gillette. (!)

      I much prefer being Mrs. Kara Davies to Miss Kara Gillette. I still have to think when I’m signing things which name to use and which address to use… and I’ve been married almost 6 years now! :p

    • Tennymo

      You can still be Grandma and Grandpa __ without changing your name. In my family, it is not traditional to change our names, but we still had Grandma and Grandpa Tea, thus named because they were the only tea drinkers we knew.

    • KRW

      Potential fix for the grandparents names is what my family (on both sides) did: When the first grandchildren were born, the grandparents came up with somewhat unique “grandparent pet names” for themselves – we had Mommom and Poppop, and Mimi and Boppa. So we’ve never used last names in referring to our grandparents, but everyone on both sides the family always knows exactly who we’re talking about.

      • I was just going to suggest this. When I realized that a lot of my friends referred to their grandparents with their last names included, my mind was kind of blown. It was a totally new concept to me, as I just had “Grandpa and Grandma” and “Nana and Gramps.”

        On a related note, a few years ago we had a slow day at the office and were kind of messing around and my intern was like, “OK, here’s a question: what do you want to be called when you’re a grandparent?” And once again my mind was blown because that question had never, ever crossed my mind before as something I should know the answer to. (I was 25.) Is this something people plan out in advance? Because I find that kind of charming/delightful.

        • My mind was similarly blown when a friend told me she refers to her grandparents as Grandmother and Grandfather last name, and when she referred to mine as such, too. My grandparents have been Grammy and Grandfather and Nana and Grandpa since I was small, though Grammy had a namechange (hah) when I was about eleven. I did have a great grandmother who was Grandma Firstname.

          AND, yes, some people do plan out what they want to be called as grandparents. It IS charming. My parents and I frequently have conversations about what they want to be called when any of us kids have kids of our own. It’s sweet.

          • rys

            My friend’s grandparents deemed themselves “too young” (they were maybe in their 60s) to be called Grandma and Grandpa and just had their grandkids call them by their first names — as did all the kids at the corner store they owned. This was in the late 1970s…options abound!

        • MDBethann

          We had different names for the different grandparents too.

          My cousin & his wife have a great naming convention for their parents: their kids call her parents by the Syrian names for grandma & grandpa (she’s Syrian) and our family is of German descent, so my aunt and uncle go by the German names for grandma and grandpa. Works out beautifully!

        • Remy

          I totally plan that sort of thing. I would prefer to be a Grammy, which — bonus! — sounds like my name already. I also asked my own parents (although I am not expecting to add children to the family for a few years yet) what their preferences were. My mother chose the name I use for her mother (Nana), and my dad prefers the name I call his father (Granddad). I grew up with Granddad & Grammy, and Nana, so it looks like my kids will have a Nana & Granddad on one side and an Abuelo & Abuela on the other. It gets more complicated when there are divorces and remarriages in the older generations, or if there are great-grandparents still living when the kids come along. My aunt, for example, did not become Grammy to her children’s kids, which would have been confusing because her mother was also Grammy to most everyone. She’s Oma instead, and her husband is Opa. Naming conventions interest me!

      • meg

        Exactly! That’s whats happening for our kids!

        Though honestly, our grandparents went by titles with no last names (we would have found the use of last names with grandparents, or first names for that matter really strange). So it was just really confusing, but we managed it. “Daddy’s parents”! Worked just fine.

      • Itsy Bitsy

        My family does this, too! Paternal side: Nana & Grampy. Maternal side: Gramma & Papa. Although for my family I don’t think it was a concious decision. We were just lucky that both sides were already called different things by the older grandchildren.

    • Wow! It seems so formal to refer to grandparents as Grandma and Grandpa _. Is it a regional thing? Or generational, maybe? My grandparents were MeMe and Grandpa Ray (my dad’s parents, divorced, and he wasn’t as close to his dad as he was his mom, hence the more formal title) and MaMae and PaTom (my mother’s parents, named such because my oldest cousin couldn’t say “Grandpa Tom,” and when he started saying “‘Pa Tom” everyone picked it up. Then my grandmother became MaMae off of that). It got so that everyone in town started referring to my grandparents as PaTom and MaMae, and even my friends did so/do so.

      • Kara

        Might be regional. I refer to my grandparents (both sets) as G&G last name, but just call them Grandma and Grandpa. It would feel weird to use their first names. I do call a couple of people Grandma/Grandpa firstname, but they aren’t actually my grandparents. I also have a bunch of “aunts and uncles” who aren’t actually either.

    • Our kids don’t have Grandma and Grandpa LastName, they have Grandma and Grandpa Firstname (especially because with divorced grandparents in the picture, last names are rather more confusing than less.)

    • Not Sarah

      I had “Grandma and Grandpa” and “Grandma”. Then I had Grandma C and Grandma W and then I had (Grandma and Grandpa H) and (Grandma). One of my grandfathers died before my parents married and the other one died when I was young, then my other grandmother remarried a few years later. So the last names weren’t really important because “Grandma and Grandpa” was different from “Grandma”.

      Other kids that had both grandparents on both sides used different names for each side.

      Sigh, I miss Grandma W. She was awesome.

    • Another Annie

      We have familiar titles as well: Nanny & Papa for my mom’s side and Nana & Steve (NOT actually his first name, haha) on my dad’s. My mom’s grandmother was Big Grandma.

      Only my dad’s grandmother was Grandma Lastname, and mostly because she was the matriarch of our family. She died just shy of age 103 after being very active in crafts, prayer and phone tree duties, and making afternoon tea until the very end of her life. She was also missing an eye for the entire time I knew her (she died when I was 16) and wore an eyepatch with panache. I loved her so much. She was amazing, and she’s the sole reason I’m keeping my last name when I marry.

      Sorry for my weepy off-topic reflection. But at least I tied it back to the theme at the end, right?!

  • My mind has changed about this issue in light of my parents’ divorce (while I was in college) and meeting my partner.

    When I was a kid, I definitely wanted to keep my last name. My mom had kept hers, and she was a very strong role model for me. Though also as a kid, I always secretly wished that I had her last name instead of my own last name- I was and continue to be much closer to her side of the family than my own. After my parents’ divorce, my relationship with my dad got tense for a while. And with my major relocation, I’ve been even more distant from my dad’s side of the family, as it’s difficult to see them even on major holidays anymore.

    With all that, I feel less connected to my own last name, and much more strongly about showing another outward connection to my partner. So I’m pretty sure (with marriage some ways down the road yet) that I’ll change my name. Though if I had my mother’s last name to start, I’d probably make a different choice.

    Yay feminism! and yay naming ourselves and our families as we see fit!

    • never.the.same

      You could always change your name to your mom’s last name, now. There’s no reason you have to wait until your married!

      • I’ve considered that, but I think my family dynamics would get really stressed then. I’m on good terms with my dad (now), and he was never too thrilled that mom kept her name when they were married, so it would definitely make things weird. If I were to have kids, I would definitely incorporate her name into theirs. I don’t really want kids though, so unless I think of a more creative solution, it’s just good old-fashioned love and respect to honor her in my life :-)

        Honestly, I think taking my partner’s name is a good compromise for me- anyone who might be miffed at my shedding my current last name won’t think twice about me taking my partner’s. For me, it’s a strong individual choice, to them it’s a very traditional choice. Win-win.

      • This is one of the reasons I want to change my last name (which I haven’t totally got around to doing yet) and it frustrates me to no end that this is almost automatically the response given when someone suggests changing their last name because of a tense relationship with their father.

        It’s a suggestion that might work for some people, yes. The idea that it’s an something that hasn’t been considered and that the decision to change names is so one dimensional is just a little bit insulting. There are a lot of dynamics in play with this and family’s complicated.

    • I agree with you when you said that if you’d had your mother’s name, you might not have changed your name. Growing up, I was always so close with my mom’s side of the family. I still am. I think of myself as a Q (mom’s maiden name) much more than an L (my dad’s side/my maiden name). If I had been born Molly Q instead of Molly L, I don’t think I’d be Molly F today. It’s funny reading the author’s story and all the comments here from women saying, “I am close to my dad’s family, which is why I didn’t change my name,” when I have the totally opposite experience which led me to make the choice I did. Same reasoning, different result.

      • Definitely agreed. I do love my extended family on both sides, but the most connection I felt to being an “E” was having that letter attached to me all throughout school (Thanks, millions of Sarahs born in ’88)

        • One More Sara

          One More Sara (born in ’88) here! I think one reason I’m keeping my name is bc with such a common first name, it was my last name that made my identity unique. (There was even another Sara B. in my HS graduating class, so people either called us by our full names or full last names.) But seriously parents in 1988. Were you guys required to name every 5th baby girl Sara(h)? What gives?

          • I hear you. Having spent so long being “Sarah E.” I couldn’t imagine NOT having the last initial. However, family happens, yadda yadda. Also? I was not a fan of high school, so I’m more than happy to let that identity go.

          • One More Sara

            I was also an athlete in college, and got called by my last name almost exclusively by all my friends there. When my partner and I first got engaged, my friends asked what they should call me after the wedding since my name wouldn’t be B anymore. Before that moment I hadn’t really thought about keeping my name as an option, but that comment by a friend really hit me where it hurt, and I realized I didn’t want to change my name. My only naming regret is having already given our son my partner’s last name (and now in the country we live in, all children coming from the same parents must also have the same last name, so there isn’t even another option for our future children)

      • I have a pretty good relationship with my dad, but was mostly raised by my mom and am incredibly close with my mom’s family, including the very extended family. When we got married we both took my mom’s last name (less simple than it sounds) because I wanted that as my last name and he wanted to take my name.

        I am still sorting through what that means and the fallout and reactions, but I just wanted to put that out there as another option for people.

        (I also have not quite figured out if I should be Mrs. or Ms. under the circumstances, or which I prefer. I love saying “my husband” but don’t really like being Mrs. professionally.)

        • aww I love that you both took your mom’s maiden name.

          As for the Ms./Mrs. thing, since I took his last name, I am technically a Mrs., but I ALWAYS check the Ms. box. I don’t mind if someone addresses me as Mrs. F, but I prefer that strangers don’t know my marital status before they meet me. They wouldn’t know a man’s, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m married or single to anyone except my husband. (And maybe our insurance companies and the IRS, so I guess they’re free to call me Mrs., too.)

        • I love this! I have my mom’s name and love it. I couldn’t convince my husband to change — I either wanted him to take mine or for both of us to take my great grandmother’s maiden name (Rowan Rillo sounds so cool).

          You’ll get flak but you just have to take it. Every time someone is brave enough to change a tradition s/he gets flak (think about the women in the 70s who were the first to keep their names). Now it is better. Congrats on being on the front lines. You’ll do great.

    • Not Sarah

      For some reason, I have always wanted my mom’s last name, too. Maybe it was because I identified more with her mom than with my dad’s mom and I definitely identify with her more than I do with my dad? Maybe I’ll end up marrying a guy with my mom’s last name!

  • Due to family problems my whole life that blew up during wedding planning, I couldn’t wait to change my last name. Unfortunately, continued problems with his family after the wedding has made taking his last name feel way less special. And now, I’ve decided to change my middle name to shed the final ties to a birth family I don’t connect with any longer, but my husband doesn’t like the middle name I’ve chosen and thinks he gets a say in it which has led to fighting about how much influence a spouse can expect over something that isn’t theirs.

    There are days where I wish we were all as cool as Iman and could just rock one name and be done with it.

  • Breck

    Even with all the trials and tribulations still faced by women who choose to keep their name, I do think that things are getting better! Just my own anecdotal evidence: my boyfriend’s mom kept her name, and my dude (who’s 5 years older than me) said that over the course of his childhood he has had many, many people ask ridiculous, probing questions about whether or not she’s actually his mom. If people were asking a kid that, who knows what kind of passive-aggressive BS his mom was experiencing. When I was growing up, there were a couple kids whose moms had kept their names and they either had the dad’s name or were hyphenated. Even though this wasn’t the reality for the majority of kids I knew (not by a long shot), this didn’t seem weird at all to me; I just knew that some people did that. Fast forward to my little brother (who’s 8 years younger than me). In his grade, there are kids with two dads and others with two moms. A handful of kids have hyphenated last names. A couple of kids’ parents combined their last names and made up brand new ones. YAY for progress!

    • meg

      I love this comment hard.

  • NYC Anon

    I haven’t changed my last name. I have no intention to. My DH doesn’t care, but doesn’t want to change his last name either. And, as much as I said (pre-wedding) “oh, I don’t think I’ll care if someone addresses me as Mrs. X socially,” it drives me freaking NUTS.

    We’ve given ourselves an unofficial moniker and made it the return label on our holiday cards, and we’re seriously considering giving the made up last name to any kids that come along. My parents won’t really care, but his might.

    • Emma

      I was exactly the same in that before the wedding I had decided not to change my name, but thought I would not really mind what I was called socially. Afterwards I found that actually, i I really do care, and I really dislike when people call me by my husband’s surname.

    • Emma

      I was exactly the same in that before the wedding I had decided not to change my name, but thought I would not really mind what I was called socially. Afterwards I found that actually, I really do care, and I really dislike when people call me by my husband’s surname.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      I’ve encountered something of the inverse — before the wedding, B. felt strongly about me taking his name but recognized (after much emotional discussion) that it was ultimately my choice. I didn’t change my name. Now, less than a year post-wedding, he finds it amusing when people refer to me as “Mrs. HisLastName” and actively corrects them.

  • I love this and appreciate the dialogue it provokes. My mother never took my father’s name, for many of her own reasons, and as a young girl I always admired her for it. When I was in junior high I decided that to be like her, and also to honor both sides of my family, I’d use both my parents’ last names as my own, a decision I’ve never regretted, but a decision that has certainly been a source of confusion. I don’t plan to ever change my name, and am at peace with the fact that my children will likely have a different last name than my own, but I feel confident that like my mother before me, I’ll find many other ways to connect with my kids and let it be known that we are related–if anything because we make choices that represent ourselves and our own identities.

    (I definitely support women who change their name as well; I think it’s our right to determine who we are and who we want to become, regardless of how people address their envelopes.)

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Claire

    First off, thanks for the story, Kari.

    I’m continually surprised by the fact that ALL my (straight) female friends have adopted their husband’s last name – because they want to have a shared family last name. Which is fine. It just makes me sad (and a tiny bit stabby) that the foregone conclusion is that the hypothetical future kids will automatically get the man’s last name, no discussion. So if the woman wants to share a last name with her children, it’s on her to be the one to change her name. I’d love to hear of a conversation that started from a more level playing field, with all the options on the table, including adopting the woman’s last name as the family name. (GASP!)

    • efletch

      Yes this! When we found out that we were having a child both of our last names were on the table to become the family name. Even though I don’t feel strongly about my last name, I don’t like the idea of my changing being a given. I would hope that my partner would not expect me to do something that he would not be willing to.

      • We had a really long discussion about my family name, his family name, and our hypothetical future kids’ last names. Ultimately, I decided I am taking my fiance’s last name, and our kids will have his last name. There was a lot that went into that conversation – I have always felt strongly about sharing a last name with my future spouse, and even after taking a lot of time to examine why that it, ultimately I decided that was what I was going to do. My fiance was supportive of whatever I decided (and decide – we are not married yet).

    • meg

      Claire, I love you. I just sent an email to the staff saying exactly the same thing, and saying I better get off my ass and write a post about her kids last name. It makes me crazy that the assumption is no matter what you do, the kids obviously get the mans name. Changing that message, even within our own household, was a shockingly uphill battle, but also a profoundly worthwhile one.

      • Claire

        Oh, I’m so excited to read about your experience with this. I’ve been secretly hoping you’d share your choice and process with us.

      • Jess

        My fiance just announced, on Facebook no less, that our potential future children will have my last name. It’s really great to me that an idea that was initially shocking to him has become a source of mini pride, and that he wants to “educate” (his word) others about it. I hoping that whatever hassle I/we have to go through about it will make it that much easier for someone else who wants to do the same to follow that path as well.

      • Yes! Yes yes please please share your experience, if you’re comfortable doing so.

        We had a bit of a breakthrough last night when the husband said (of hypothetical future kids) “I guess it won’t be such a big deal to give them both (last names.)” THIS IS HUGE, you guys. Fingers crossed that it sticks.

        • meg

          Here is to breakthroughs. Even with feminist men, it can be really really emotionally hard. And from the other side (now) I’d say really worth it, for both of us.

          • I would love this post because our plan is to give our kid my last name. It was my husband’s idea. I have no doubt we will run into some major push back (especially from his family). And to think, I get enraged when people passive-aggressively call ME by his last name, imagine what will happen when they do that to my kid.

      • Jessica

        Oh please write this post if you’re comfortable sharing. We are struggling with this SO BADLY right now. Never really resolved the name issue when we got married, which led to neither of us changing our names “for now,” and now that we’re expecting a kiddo in the fall, we’re feeling the pressure to come up with some sort of arrangement we can both live with. I’m so jealous of the people who said they’ve never gotten any flak for their name decisions, because our families (especially his) have STRONG opinions about what my name should be, and they have even stronger opinions about what our future kids’ names should be. (Hint: Hislast, period.) It’s to the point where it’s hard to sort out how we actually feel from the pressure we’re getting from the outside. And now the clock is ticking….!

    • Heather

      Thank you! This drives me nuts too. I was talking with my dad about not wanting to change my name when I get married, and he was like, “Well, don’t you want to have the same name as your kids?” and I said, “Heck, I’m going to birth them, I think that they should have my name!” He just mumbled something about how I ought to let my husband have something.

      I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best solution for us. My boyfriend and I have cumbersome names, so I’d feel bad saddling and potential children with that, but I can’t stand the thought of being expected to give them his name.

      • Class of 1980

        “Heck, I’m going to birth them, I think that they should have my name!” He just mumbled something about how I ought to let my husband have something.”

        I’ve often thought that maybe the tradition of children having their father’s name stems from centuries of no DNA tests. It was physically obvious when the mother became pregnant and gave birth that it was her child. Perhaps bestowing the father’s name was the only way a man could lay claim to a child.

    • Jessie

      Yes! This! That bothers me too. It’s not fair that it’s My husband and I agreed that if we have kids, they’ll get my name. But not without a lot of discussions and arguments.

      And here’s something else that bugs me: I was telling my own parents that if we have kids, they’ll get my name. (Please note – this is all in the far away hypothetical future). My father said, “Well, I hope you have boys.” I asked why. He said, “So they’ll carry on the name.” The name – that is, my last name, which I got from my father. I said, “Didn’t you hear anything I just said? I’m female, and I’m keeping my name and planning to pass it along! If I have girls, they’re just as capable of doing that too!” He didn’t really respond. Ugh, assumptions…

    • I would have fought harder for my husband to take my last name if it wasn’t hyphenated. I would be fighting more for hyphenating my kids last name if my last name wasn’t hyphenated. Which are some of my many frustrations with having a hyphenated last name.

      The most frustrating aspect of this is that my last names are hard to spell and my husband’s last name is easy. His last name is objectively “better”. But I’m still not okay with it.

      We haven’t decided yet if the kids will have a hyphenated last name, or if the kids will have different names. But I appreciate that my husband is open to these as solutions. I don’t think his family will be as okay, but he thinks they’ll be cool about it.

    • Rebecca

      Current plans on our homefront is two kids, split last names. He has dibs on the first boy for his last name (he has one of those fancy names with the number after it, which right now we’re in favor of continuing), I get dibs on the first girl. The kids get different last names. We’re pretty sure they’ll be fine.

      • Jessica

        I work at a school and have encountered two different families (not related at all) where all the boys in the family had the dad’s last name and all the girls in the family have the mom’s last name. I love it!

    • Victwa

      Blended family with a different experience here. We have a 8 month old, and my fiancé said he would have been fine if we gave her my last name. His first two are hyphenated and he really isn’t so worried about the whole name thing– he just doesn’t want to change his (but there is absolutely no pressure to change mine either). I also think that if dad changes his name so that it’s not his existing kids’ names, that could be an issue. I was actually the one who wanted the baby to have just his last name, and I’m probably going to change mine when we get married. (However, if I already had a child who had my last name, I would probably not change my name when I got married, if that makes sense.) I fully support everyone in the world coming up with whatever name combo works for them, but I really want this child to feel connected to her siblings. Already, they only spend 50% of their time here, so there’s a way in which they’re their own little unit, and there’s something about that, plus the baby having a different last name that didn’t feel right to me. It’s like it’s one more way in which their lives are separated. And yes, I get that names do not a family make. However, it’s also a “thing” to be part of the HisLastName family. Also, I’m very close to my family and they live closer to us than my fiancé’s family, who are on the opposite coast. My child will feel connected to my family for sure, but I want her to feel also like she’s a part of the HisLastName family, and names ARE one way we show our connection to people. (Otherwise, this discussion wouldn’t be so important!) I think if my fiancé had been remotely pushy about what he thought I should do (or what the baby’s last name should be), I would probably have been much more rabid about not bending to tradition. However, it’s like because he really didn’t have much investment in any particular scenario, I felt free to think about what felt right– and the traditional path, in our very non-traditional family, feels right.

    • Denzi

      Yeah. I think my husband has gotten to the point where he is okay with the fact that our kids are going to have a shared family name that is a portmanteau of our two last names. (It’s an awesome combination: Firo.) He has no intellectual objections to it, but we don’t live in a vacuum and so his thought is always, “Man, my parents will hate this. My college friends will hate this. I’ll get so much crap. I don’t want to have to go through that. And if we stick to the default [kids take his last name], I don’t have to go through that.” But I think he has gradually realized that choosing the path that is easy for him and hurtful for me is not usually the best choice for us as a family. And that maybe it’s worth fighting for something that’s so important to me.

  • Lan

    I’m keeping my last name. It is hard to spell and impossible for non-Vietnamese to pronounce. However, it is my name. Although I was born in the US and don’t follow many Vietnamese traditions, this is one I choose to observe. My mother, my aunts, my grandmother, my cousins…none of them changed their names when they got married and I don’t plan to either. I’ve always had a different last name than my mom and never thought twice about it.

    My future MIL was a little disappointed when I told her, but that’s my choice.

    • meg

      Vietnamese women keep their names! I love this thread! So many cultures do it that I had no idea about. Yayyyy!

      • R.

        So do Koreans, if you want to add to your list further.

        • As do Chinese! Most East Asian cultures in fact, I think. I wonder if there’s a correlation between women keeping their names and cultures wherein your family of origin remains very important even after you marry.

          • meg

            Ok, so our current list of cultures where women keep their names, via this thread:

            -Latin America
            -East Asia
            -Much (all? some?) of the Middle East

            By my reckoning that’s a fair chunk… of the world. Which is still turning and full of families. Ladies! We can do this!

          • Class of 1980
          • Class of 1980

            Add Greece. Add Italy.

            If you look at the link, there are really more countries, because some countries have more than one choice that’s considered normal. For instance, in France, women technically keep their names, yet often use their husband’s names socially and on documents even though there is no formal act to do so. Upon divorce, they can’t use the spouses name any longer.

            And then there’s places like Japan where you are supposed to belong to a specific household. Usually the wife becomes part of the husband’s household and changes to that name, but the husband can become part of the wife’s household. In cases where the wife has no brother, it’s common for the husband to become part of her household and to be considered an “adopted son-in-law”.

            It seems that it’s very much an English-speaking practice to take the husband’s name and that tradition prevails in former colonies where it was adopted.

  • Kelly

    While I agree that it’s getting much easier for a woman to keep her name when she gets married, most of the push back we’ve had is around my fiance changing his name, too. We are both hyphenating, and while people think that’s cool for me, he gets a lot of flack about it, which I think is super unfair. It’s becoming (very, very slowly) okay for women to do whatever they want with their names, but men are still expected to not make any changes.

    • Jessica

      The news I’ve heard recently about it being more expensive for men to change their last names and having difficulty in breaking out of gender roles is a reminder for me that a patriarchy harms both sexes.

      I think you could probably throw out the argument of wanting to have one family name and reflecting the importance of both sides of your new family in this instance, and have it work in your favor.

    • Jessie

      This is very true. My husband took my last name as a middle name, and I can’t tell you how much flack he got for it from his family during the decision making process. And he didn’t change his last name.

  • Maddie

    Yay, I love this post so much. I come from a blended family (very, very blended) and I’ve never had the same last name as anybody in it (well, not since I was like…three). Not my mom. Not my dad. Not my stepdad. Nor my siblings. My dads side of the family used to try and convince me to change it to his last name all the time, but I just didn’t see the point (and fought it vehemently). I never felt like less a part of my family (even though I also don’t really look like most of them). We didn’t have issues when we went on vacation. And everybody always knew whose kid I was and who my siblings were. Being a family made us a family. Even when there were divorces and changing names back.

    I totally understand that for some people a common last name can be an important symbolic signifier of being a family, I just want to put it out there, from my personal experience, that you don’t HAVE to.

    • Claire

      “Being a family made us a family.” Love this so hard.

    • Sara

      I am entering into a very similar situation, my future step-daughters are in a very similar complicated blended family. Between the 2 of them, there are 3 fathers and a few half-siblings, half- and step-aunts/uncles/grandparents… it’s quite messy!

      The nice thing about this complicated family is that we talk a lot about what it means to be a family. They like to make the distinction between “Dad” and “Father”, for example. We talk about how family isn’t defined by last names or by blood, but by love.

      That being said, I think the kids are looking forward to me changing my last name because it’ll be so much easier to spell! :)

      • Maddie

        Yes, I totally feel you on this! It was a slow transition to calling both my dads “Dad” and I still really only call my bio dad my father. I have also made distinctions in my family based on nothing but feelings (like I won’t consider my siblings to be my half-siblings, but I do consider my step-siblings to be my steps).

        Anyway, I think the more complicated things are, the more opportunity for important conversations like these, which is great.

    • YAY! so glad you loved this, because *I* love your stories about all of YOUR big blended family. it’s so nice to hear about a family unit that is comprised of, like, twenty little separate families, that still manages to suck it up and work together to be a big blended family.

    • Wait, so if you didn’t have your mom’s last name or your dad’s last name, where did your last name come from?

      • Maddie

        I have my mom’s maiden name! She remarried when I was REALLY young and took her husband’s name. So I’ve always been the odd man out!

    • BeckyPhD

      Yay for blended families! My husband grew up in one though I did not. Blended families are my primary example of how “no, we won’t be ruining our children by giving them different last names.” We decided to go with a gender-based naming system. Girls get my name and boys will get his. Baby #1 is on the way, and we look forward to (and fear) the reactions.

  • MTM

    I, too, have decided not to change my last name. I’m not sure if other step parents feel like this, but I didn’t want the same last name as my husband’s ex-wife. I’m still debating changing my middle name to his last name, but you can’t do that without paying $$$ in Ohio.

    • Victwa

      Ha ha ha! Actually, it’s very sad to say, but one reason I AM changing my name is because my fiancé’s ex did not. And I get her reasons for keeping her name and all, but yes, there is a part of me that is perfectly happy to be different.

    • MDBethann

      My husband’s ex did change her name but then she changed it back and she lives in a different state, but I get where you’re coming from.

      For professional reasons, and maybe a little bit of this too, I am doing MyLast HisLast for my last name but socially I’m going by Mrs. HisLast.

      Though recently, he’s been called Mr. HerLast a few times. I’ve told him that if that happens again, he should say that his father-in-law doesn’t live there, that he’s Mr. HisName.

      The only time it really bothered me was earlier this week when the mortgage broker doing our refinancing called us Mr. & Mrs. HerLast. He has all of our personal info, he should really know better, so he was corrected immediately and very nicely apologized I might add.

  • Chandra

    Nice story, Kari! I especially liked that you acknowledged that some people do want to change their last name and that’s fine, too. For me, I didn’t feel all that attached to my maiden name. It also started with a W and I always hated being at the end in alphabetical order. It was important to me that my new family unit have the same last name. I suggested to my husband that we both change our last names, to something completely different (like Zyzxx, an unusual road name we once encountered, or something smart-sounding), but he wasn’t up for the hassle of changing his name. So, I took his name, which is nice enough, in the middle of the alphabet, and it was a simple process for me. Now that we have two kids I like that we can be referred to as the [lastname] family.

    • yay my friend Chandra! I tried really hard while writing this to not make anyone feel bad about their choices because I can NEVER know what’s best for another person, only for myself. I’m so glad I managed to hit it right with this one. Thanks for letting me know!

      (I also tried really hard to not overly embarrass the little dudes, but you know, that’s going to happen anyway, they are OF THAT AGE – so all little dudes stories are cleared by their dad.)

  • Sheila

    I always think these conversations about name-changing are so interesting. I don’t necessarily regret changing my name when I got married five years ago, but I do regret not talking about it more.

    Did any of you read Kate Harding’s (formerly of Shapely Prose) recent blog post about this issue? If I can sum up her argument, it’s basically this: You can be a feminist who takes her husband’s name when you get married, but it is still NOT a feminist thing to do. Okay, I actually can’t sum up her argument very well, so go read it! Gave me a lot to think about…

    • meg

      I’ve done a lot of personal thinking on this issue recently, and we were having an APW staff discussion about this, and that’s the exact conclusion I personally came to. It’s fine to be a feminist and not change your last name. Of course! Feel no guilt! But please respect the fact that those of us who are not changing our last names to fight the feminist fight are doing something hard, and will be fighting for this for… I hope not the rest of our lives, but the forceable future. It’s not easy, and it is important. Just give us a fist-bump as you go by, please.

      I do tons of things that are not the feminist choice and make my life easier, but I need to fully respect people taking the harder road, even if that’s not my fight.

      (PS Just realized I needed to amend my comment. I think there are times when changing your name is a feminist choice. There are feminists close to me that changed their name because their father was abusive. That’s a whole different kind of strength.)

      • Yeah, I 100% agree with this and I think this is always what has bugged me about so-called “choice feminism.”

        I’ve made a lot of feminist choices in my life — for example, I’ve kept my own last name and I’m insisting that my husband take the exact amount of parental leave as I am taking — three months, because it’s very important to me to establish from the get go that we are both “primary parents,” equally responsible for our kid, and that on the flip side, neither of our careers is less important than the other’s.

        But, my kid is also getting my husband’s last name. It was a hard thought out decision, and I think it is the right one for us specifically, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend it is a feminist choice to give my daughter my husband’s last name. It isn’t.

        And that’s okay. You can be a feminist and make anti-feminist choices. But own that reality.

        And Meg, fist bump to you for not just giving your son David’s last name.

      • Because last names were so mixed for me for many reasons, and I felt closer to my mom’s family then my dad’s, I definitely, as has been said elsewhere, and you allude to, viewed it as my dad’s name over my husband’s. And to me it felt no more feminist to keep my dad’s last name (which I did not choose, for a dad I did not choose, no disrespect intended to my dad) than to take my husband’s, who I did choose (or his father’s name). I think as long as it is a choice and a discussion then it can be a feminist choice, and had I taken my husband’s I would have been doing it as a feminist not owned by my dad or husband. And that blog writer, and you, can think differently. And I understand it is hard, but criticizing women and telling them that the choice they made is not feminist just seems counter-productive to me. Unless you made up a name, or come from a non-patriarchally named society, your name has a patriarchal component. So you made one choice, and someone else made another.

        In the same way that I think it is important it not be un-masculine that my husband took my mom’s name with me, or that other husbands take their wives names, I don’t think it is fair to call a conscious choice un-feminist. And for the wives taking wives names, I don’t think the name-taker is weaker or un-feminist.

        To me, the point of feminism is that there is a choice. And that I should be allowed to make it for myself, or with a partner. Anything that supports only one option limits, and frankly, insults me. And yes, that is choice feminism, and she is free to think it is bad all she wants, and I will continue enjoying things without thinking I am antifeminist because I bake, or would have changed my last name to his.

      • Class of 1980

        My father was abusive to my mother, and a bad father to us.

        The reason so many women still change their names is because cultural traditions cause emotions. A lot of women (and men) still have an emotional connection to the whole “one family name” tradition. They may even be attached to the idea just because beloved family members did the same. If there was no tradition of changing names, there would be no emotion attached to it.

        I think I felt that to some extent, but mostly I was happy to get rid of my father’s name! If you’ve NEVER felt a sense of pride about your name, it’s hard to understand the emotions of a lady that wants to keep hers.

        The only way I can tap into that emotion, is to imagine that I had my mother’s maiden name, which is associated in my mind with everything that’s wonderful. That’s what I have to imagine to feel the pain of giving up a name.

        We really underestimate the emotional reasons people choose to keep or discard a name.

      • Imsostartled

        Yes! Love this.

        I personally changed my name to my husband for a host of reasons (father left for many years, no ties to the name, husbands name rare and wouldn’t be passed along), but yet I still struggled so much with changing when it came time. So we discussed discussed discussed and I felt so much better with my choice when my husband knew all the things I was concerned about. Mainly, since I am very feminist, I felt like I was betraying myself and playing into the cultural narrative. BUT, when everything was voiced I felt much more comfortable because my choice was not due to those pressures but born out of independent desires. Which means, I have to fight the good fight in other ways. Like when people call me or address mail as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname… Just thinking about that makes me irate. When I got married I did not loose my identity people!!! I did NOT change my first name… Rawr…. vent over.

        Anyways, as one name changer to the non-changers, I respect the difficulty of the choice you are making! Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less committed to your family for not changing, because that is completely illogical and wrong. :D

    • That article made me angry and defensive right off the bat, and I disagree with the conclusion. But I appreciate you sharing it, because it makes me think even more critically about my own opinion and it forces me to find better articulation for WHY I disagree. It’s a complex subject, and the dialogue in these comments (and every APW name-change post) helps.

      • Class of 1980

        The one thing I disagreed with in the article is that even getting married is anti-feminist. Any feminist who says that we ought to do away with marriage has lost me.

        Regardless of what marriage laws existed in history that were hurtful to women, you have to look at marriage laws as they exist right now.

        Considering there is a whole bundle of legal protections that come along with marriage, it just comes down to protecting yourself. Some of those legal protections can’t even be gained otherwise even if you pay an attorney.

        I think it’s feminist to protect oneself. Marriage is a legal contract.

        • Yes, that was a red flag in a major way for me, too. Especially given the time all of us spend here discussing feminist marriages.

    • rys

      Just read it now and love love love it. Especially this:

      “But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are fucked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.”

      {I get that not everyone will love this the way I do, but, for me, it helps articulate the tension I feel when “choice” is used as the obvious or be all and end all justification for choices/decisions that aren’t necessarily feminist — in reasoning or outcome, with name-changing simply being one of many venues in which this occurs.}

    • Hlockhart

      Thanks for posting this! I kept my name, but our kids will have my husband’s name. The reasons why are personal and based on the particular nature of how I feel about my last name, and how my husband feels about his. But not putting up a fight about it was not a feminist choice: it was just an area in which I wasn’t interested in fighting.

  • CoffeeCup

    This is the reversal of my family’s story. My dad got remarried and his new wife took his (OUR!) name and, while we may have had the same name, but it never made us a family. The marriage didn’t last and I haven’t seen her in over a decade, but it’s still strange that, somewhere out there, there’s a lady with the same last name as me, another Ms. S. It’s so bizarre, I can barely wrap my head around it.

  • Lily

    So, this is a wonderful post, just one thing. I currently live in Québec, but was married outside the province. I moved here last year, after I had changed my name to my husband’s family’s name. I love both of my current and former names (and identities), but it really, really bothers me that I have to use my former name on my ID and health everything and whenever I do anything “official”. Beyond the fact that it is annoying that I have to try to remember which name to use, I feel like I’ve been stripped of both identities. I don’t think laws should be lauded for forcing women to do things with their name. We should be able to do whatever we want and have it be FINE.

    • I imagine it must have been (and still be) hard to have decided to change your name with marriage, and then move to Québec where your pre-marriage last name is viewed as your legal name.

      I had sort of a flip experience. I knew I was moving to Québec as I was planning to get married and moved here 6 weeks before getting married. I was raised in a region of the U.S. where every married woman I knew except one had changed her name. However, I was open to the idea of not changing my name by the time I got to my later twenties. When I learned of the Québec law, it didn’t really bother me too much, but I was a little concerned that if we didn’t share a name maybe we would feel less “unified,” etc.

      As it turns out, I realized I was happy to have kept my name. (Hmm, that’s how I see it, but I guess I was happy to have had to keep my name?) Obviously, it is super helpful that I was already considering the possibility before moving here and getting married, so my adjustment to the law was smooth.

      I appreciate the “climate” the law has established (yes, by removing the choice) where families are just as much of a family no matter what the last names of the people are. And how you can’t tell a woman’s marriage status by her name (last name or title since everyone is Madame), and there is equality in the fact that neither men nor women change their name with marriage. Other reasons, yes, but not because one got married.

      I don’t know anyone who grew up in this culture (born in the late 70s or later) who finds it weird that people can’t change their name with marriage, but I do know a lot of people from here who don’t understand why someone would change a last name with marriage. It’s just not what people here are used to. They see name change as being completely unrelated to marriage….which means change can happen in a culture really quickly, since it’s only been about 30 years since the law was changed.

      (But I do understand that this law must be quite frustrating for you since you are not from here and already changed your name with marriage! When I fill out paperwork here and need to list my mom’s name…her name is with her maiden name, which I have never known her by, so it’s weird…)

      • Jessica

        My understanding of the Quebec law is that it just made all name changes equal. You can change your name, but you have to provide justification for doing so, and marriage itself is not an adequate justification. From the Wikipedia page:

        “Newlyweds who wish to change their names upon marriage must therefore go through the same procedure as those changing their names for other reasons. The registrar of civil status may authorize a name change if: 1) the name the person generally uses does not correspond to the name on their birth certificate, 2) where the name is of foreign origin or too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form, or 3) where the name invites ridicule or has become infamous.[20] This law does not allow a woman to immediately legally change her name upon marriage, as marriage is not listed among the reasons for a name change.[21] However, she can use her husband’s name socially and may eventually apply to change it under the “general use” clause.”

        Hope this helps!

        • Yes, that is also my understanding of the law regarding name changes. Including the part about socially using the name and eventually changing it as “general use” part…

    • Class of 1980

      Yeah, I’m personally very uncomfortable with what Quebec has done.

      If you can’t decide your own damn name, then what can you decide? My view is that it’s an example of government overstepping it’s boundaries.

      Even if I was getting married and keeping my name, I’d still feel this way.

  • I think one of the hard things about name changing (or not name changing) in this country is the assumptions. If you don’t change your name, you’re a crazy feminist (said by one of my more traditional friends). But if you do change your name, then you’re giving in to the male dialogue (said by one of my feminist friends). I changed my name. There are lots of mymaidenname’s out there, whereas my husband has a smaller family. I’m attached to my middle name (mom’s mom’s maiden name) and not my last name. My maiden name drove me bonkers because I always had to spell it out, my married name isn’t so bad. And, (a sad reality of our society), I could get the URL for my married name and not my maiden name for my business.

    The second (not so often realized) problem with name changing is that every culture is different. So in a country where no two people have the same cultural heritage, we struggle to find a “norm”. Changed? Kept? We’re a melting pot and I feel like no matter how you try to navigate the name change waters, you’re going to offend someone without meaning to.

    • I agree with you about the assumptions being the hang-up. If you’ve only just met me, my name does not tell you about my values or my personality, it tells you how to address me. If you’ve known me for a long time, then you already know my values and my personality.

      When we learn about other people’s choices- about names, marriage, jobs, whathaveyou- I hope we (as a society) can move toward either accepting them at face value or asking politely about the decision-making process, rather than jump from an image or symbol to a foregone conclusion what the person must have meant by it.

  • Marcela

    I’ve been going back and forth on this since we got engaged (and if we’re being honest, even before then). I come from a long line of women who did not change their names on both sides of my family and my fiance’s family is pretty darn traditional. I already drive them crazy with my Obama-loving, feminist thinking, semi-socialist views.
    Finally this week we were going over the packet the DJ sent over and when we got to the page about introductions, I blurted out “I’m keeping my name.” Fiance clearly came down with some inarticulitis but mumbled “ok, that’s your decision.” He then said that we should still be announced as Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName and we didn’t have to tell his family about it.

    How to deal ladies? Most of my friends are taking their husbands’ names and I don’t know where else to look. Help me get through the rage so I can calmly discuss how to inform people about the non-name change. I’m afraid I might velociraptor out on someone if they refer to me as Mrs. Hisname.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My best advice is to wait.

      We talked about the name-change issue for over a year before making a decision, which was not to make any changes. I regretted that decision within 24 hours of getting the license. I didn’t get a new license, though. I did change my name on my personal email and Facebook, though. A couple months after the wedding, I regret even those informal changes. But I’m not quite ready to correct people using a changed version of my name, and I think that’s OK. People have known me by my maiden, real, desired name for years. I’ve had these strange married names for 3 months. They’ll revert when I’m ready to deal with the situations.

      We did not have any announcements/introductions at the wedding. Everyone knew us. Why “introduce” us? So you can just skip the announcements/introductions. My personal take is to not worry about people not knowing your name-change decision. I was asked what my name was after I got back from the honeymoon, which was really good. Mostly, people have followed my lead.

    • Sheila

      Like I said above, I did change my name, but wasn’t completely comfortable with that choice. I told our priest that when he announced us, I needed him to say “Sheila and Jon-Paul [HisLastName]” rather than “Jon-Paul and Sheila [HisLastName] because I wasn’t ready to hear my name paired with the new last name right away. Hmmm… possibly that should have been a sign that I needed to think on the issue a little more?

      Another story: I attended the wedding of some friends where the woman did not change her name and was quite adamant about making sure people knew she was NOT “Mrs. [HisLastName].” Unfortunately, the DJ completely ignored the many times he had been told this and announced them as “Mr. and Mrs. [HisFirstName] [HisLastName]. Instead of smiling and walking to the head table, she started toward the DJ to tell him off. Her husband calmed her down but she was pissed off the rest of the night. At the time I felt like she should have just gotten over it, but now I think I understand it more.

      So… no advice really. Just maybe that you remind key people who might be announcing you what your preferences are. (And then remind them again and again.) I think my friend could have handled one or two people getting it wrong in casual conversation – but the DJ announcing it wrong as they made their entrance to the reception was just too much to deal with.

    • Jessica

      We were just be announced by our first names: “…for the first time, as a married couple: Jessica and Jeffrey.” Of course, now we’re stuck informing/reminding everyone that I didn’t change my name, which gets old, but it was the best option at the time.

    • KH_Tas

      I get the rage just thinking about it, so I can only say {solidarity fistbumps}.

    • Denzi

      Have no advice, but I feel like this sort of thing is a really common problem? The “well, you can have your feminism if you want to and I accept it, but it’s not my job to fight this fight with you.”


      Yes, the sexist society that gives us a certain default is also hard on dudes, and it’s really tempting for most of us sometimes not to fight the fight.

      But “feminism is my female-bodied partner’s problem, not mine” is, you know, part of the problem, actually. Women’s rights are human rights.

      And beyond that, learning how to balance differences of opinion in a relationship is really, really important relationship work. Part of that work is figuring out how to support your partner in regards to something that is important to them that is less important to you–or that you flat out disagree with.

      So I guess my advice is to keep talking? I don’t know. Marcela, my husband has some of the same tendencies, especially when it comes to kids–names, maternity and paternity leave, etc., and I am SUPER RAGEY hearing your story because it reminds me of when my husband does similar (achem, anti-feminist) stuff that make me SUPER RAGEY and that I don’t have a perfect answer and there are still RAGEY PROBLEMS in our marriage.


      • Marcela

        Denzi, I want you to know that I really appreciate you.
        There was much talking, long into the night, and it brought up even more areas in which we do not see eye to eye on. The look on his face when I brought up the idea that our future children should maybe take my name instead of his was just incredible. That idea was so completely out of his realm of reality that I think me keeping my name all of a sudden seemed small potatoes.
        What really bothered me throughout the entire conversation was how worried he was over his family’s reaction. I’m so used to my family where the decision to keep or change your name is considered entirely your own that I wasn’t really prepared by how concerned he was about what his family would think.
        So yeah.. RAGEY HUGS

    • MDBethann

      Ask the DJ to introduce as “the bride and groom” or “Marcela and X” or “the newlyweds”

      No Mr, no Mrs. and no last names. If people are at your wedding, then they SHOULD know who you are.

      Or just don’t do introductions.

  • Ruth

    The name issue reared its ugly head for us when thinking about how we want to be ‘announced’ at our wedding reception. My fiancée is really attached to the idea of being announced in the old-fashioned way, “and now for the first time…Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName.”
    To him, this announcement makes our marriage ‘official;’ to me, it feels inauthentic, because I’m hyphenating, I’m not taking his name.
    He understands my reasons for wanting to keep my name and hyphenate, and is being supportive of that choice. But he asked if I’d be a “Mrs. HisLastName” for just this one day.
    It doesn’t feel right to me, and I wonder if I’m digging my heels in too much about this.
    I think he finds the traditional way romantic – like how in a rom com, you know the couple is married when the man brings the woman breakfast in bed and calls her “Mrs. HisLastName.” I want to be called by the name that I’m choosing, no exceptions – but at the same time, I don’t want to dash this moment that he told me he’s dreamed about since he was a little boy.

    • Marcela

      Are you my twin? I’m running into the exact same problem with my fella. I feel bad because this is pretty much the only thing he really asked for for the wedding but at the same time, this is my name we’re talking about here. Makes me wish he had pushed for wearing flipflops instead.

      • Omg, so happy I’m not alone on this one, Marcela :) And likewise, this was the only thing my fiancée really asked for too, so I’m feeling doubly bad about it! Just curious, did you guys come to a decision on what you’re doing?

        • Marcela

          See my comment above. We have most definitely NOT come to a decision. I feel like what we are announced as sets the tone for what people will refer to us (mostly me, since he isn’t changing a thing) as from wedding on. I feel like there will be more confusion if we are announced as Mr. and Mrs. Hisname and then I go around continuing to use my name, than if we are announced with the correct names.

          We might have to just be announced with first names only.

          • Hope

            I’ve seen the awkward announcement bypassed (and done it myself) by having the couple introduced using their first names prefaced by something along the lines of “The happy couple” or “The newlyweds”.

          • Ruth

            Marcela – so sorry I misread your comment initially. Now that I read it a second time, don’t know how I did that – whoops.

            I’ve been concerned about it setting a precident for how I’ll be called too – my fiancee’s suggestion was to make sure in all the thank you cards we write after the wedding to sign my full name, with the hyphen, to make it clear that this is what I’m going by in the future. He also promised to correct anyone who calls me Mrs. HisLast after the wedding.

            It’s a compromise – but like I said – we’re still on the fence

    • Emma

      Noooo, don’t give in! It seems really weird to me that you would be introduced as “Mrs [hisname]” when you are actually “Ms [yourname]-[hisname]”. The announcement is actually a brilliant opportunity to tell everyone what your married name is, so use it!
      I think it will be more authentic and therefore much more romantic to use your actual names (“Mr [his name] and Ms [yourname]-[hisname]”). Or as Hope said, you could use alternative wording – I came across some good suggestions on another wedding website, Offbeat Bride I think.

  • Jessica

    So another funny cultural story. My partner’s family is from Bangladesh, but he grew up here; thus his cultural narrative is / was I should change my name when we get married. Then we were at his parent’s house with his brother & sister-in-law. I find out that his sister-in-law did not change her name; in fact, in Bengali culture the woman is not necessarily expected to change her name. Rather she goes by “First Name,” daughter of “Dad’s name.” When she gets married this changes to “First name,” daughter of Dad’s name, wife of Husband’s name. So still connected back to the men in her life – but it was just funny to realize this name-changing thing that my partner expected wasn’t even part of his traditional culture’s narrative! And he didn’t realize it, having grown up in the American cultural narrative.

  • RF

    It was amazing to me how much support I got for not changing my name from people my parent’s age and how little from people my own age. Including questions about why we got married in the first place if we weren’t going to share a last name… From a 25 year old! My new default reply to any comment like this is that we are one of those modern couples that don’t love each other (that’s a Scrubs quote, I think)

    Unfortunately, our country doesn’t let both partners hyphenate. Once we had that looked up, the rest of the name change discussion took 5 minutes, at most

    • Hah! I am using that quote. I love it!

      • RF

        Found the full quote:

        Carla: Turk? If I decide to keep my last name after we get married, that’s no big deal, right?
        Turk: Course not baby. We’ll just have one of those modern marriages where the husband and wife don’t love each other.

  • Nicole

    I changed my last name because we wanted to have the same last name, but we are young and poor and it was way cheaper for me to change mine. Of course, the fact that would have been so much more expensive and difficult for him to change his name is a result of our patriarchal societal norms and I’m so thankful for all the women who have stood up and fought the system. Even though I did change my last name, I am definitely still a Ms. and not a Mrs. I just don’t understand why should my title should also change now that I’m married, while my husband’s stays the same.

  • I changed my last name to his (and squeezed my last name after my middle).


    I felt absolutely no pressure to change my name. In fact, the only pressure I felt was to NOT change it (pressure I created because of the articles I chose to read written by intelligent ladies)


    I REALLY wanted to change my name, but I almost didn’t because I felt like I was a bad feminist, or setting women back. I definitely flip flopped on my decision, but every time I “decided” to keep my name I felt uneasy. It was only when I thought about changing it that felt right.


    Once I decided that the imporance lies in the decision making process, I felt ok to change it. I do wish more women actually took plenty of time to consider WHY they are changing it.

  • I’ve been reading these interesting comments, frankly a little shocked at how important this issue is to so many people. To even have Meg saying, “But please respect the fact that those of us who are not changing our last names to fight the feminist fight are doing something hard, and will be fighting for this for…” has been seriously flabbergasting to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to understand it, but I can certainly try to be more respectful of it. I kept thinking through all these comments that at the end of the day, despite still being in the midst of my name change fight, it honestly doesn’t carry that much weight in my life and that maybe folks were being a little too serious about it.

    I see now that for some of you, this is ground zero for feminism in some ways and therefore it carries much greater weight. Mad props to you ladies. I might not care about this issue but if I have a daughter, she might and I’m glad someone out there is fighting for what she might want someday.

    • Elaine

      Exactly to this. I changed my name; it was pretty much a non-issue for me. I had lived through some pretty difficult stuff under that name, and jumped at the opportunity to change it. I live in the liberal Bay Area, and the majority of my friends and colleagues didn’t change their names upon marriage. Frankly, for most of us in both boats, it seemed to be a question of aesthetics, ease of spelling, relationship with our family of origin, etc. It’s really interesting hearing from those who see name change as the “ground zero for feminism,” as Kristen so eloquently put it. Excellent read!

  • Lauren

    I love how everybody’s experience with these issues is unique.

    I am actually changing my name, because I like his better than mine. That’s about it for reasons, though I feel like I need to have a more philosophical approach from the way people ask me about it.

    I come from a very liberal family, and many of my friends and family members have actually reacted negatively to my decision to change my name. I don’t know if they’re just surprised that a feminist like myself would do this, or what. So it’s interesting to hear about the challenges that come along with NOT changing your name.

    I think that just like any other major identity decision, whether it’s how you dress, your gender identity, your career or your decision to be a parent, the choice belongs only to YOU YOU YOU! And everyone who doesn’t like it can just suck it up and deal. Because you’re never going to make everyone happy- you might as well just focus on making yourself happy.

    Love to all you thoughtful soon-to-be marrieds!

  • Even when the decision about what happens with your last name once you get married is easy to make, it’s complicated.

    I quite definitely want to change my name for a variety of reasons, although there are one or two that I point to as shorthand when asked and I find that every time I bring them up they’re treated as issues to get around or solve so that I don’t “have to” change my name. It’s not something I need solved – I’ve thought about it and I’ve considered the alternatives. Changing my name isn’t a simple choice, and I’d be blind if I didn’t acknowledge that keeping one’s name is in any way an easy or simple decision.

    At the same time, four months in I haven’t made a single step towards changing my name other than making a facebook change and swiping up an elusive email address once became available and in the places that still have my old name on file I have been lucky enough to receive zero flack for it.

    One thing I have done to try to balance some of the responsibility onto my husband is assign him a lot of the pre-name change paperwork. Sending away for the marriage certificate? His job. Figuring out where I need to go to change it with various agencies? His job. It doesn’t make it fair or equal, but at least it’s not all on me.

    • I like how you’re asking your husband to take some responsibility. I was talking about this with my mom, who changed her name when she married my dad, and she mentioned how frustrated she was that she had to do all the work herself.

  • Rebekah

    Kari, what I really want to say is thank you for being so forgiving and understanding about mail that comes addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname” because, as much as I want to be respectful and accurate, sometimes with all these great options women have it’s hard for me to keep track of everyone’s full names. And really I just wanted to send you some personal mail, and maybe I forgot or didn’t know that you’re just Mrs. Yourlastname and Mr. Hislastname. So yes, thanks for being cool and gently reminding me until I get it right. (“me” in this case obviously being a well-meaning non-bff-level friend or coworker)

    I also come from a microculture where taking His last name is what you do. Because of APW I have been having an internal discussion with myself about how much my name means to me and in what ways. My FH knows it’s a discussion we’ll have in the near future, but I know how much his name means to him, so it will be a fun one to explore together.

    By the by, you women are all super inspiring, and once again I’m just so happy to be part of this community.

    • aw, Rebekah. I want to give you a big hug. It IS really hard to keep all these names straight! I often don’t know what to do either, and find myself hyphenating a lot of peoples on cards I send.

      the only time I’m really wicked with it is when telemarketers call and ask for Mrs. G and I can honestly say “oh, she doesn’t live here.”

      • Not Sarah

        I used to get calls from telemarketers back when I lived in Canada who would ask if Mrs. C was there and I could gleefully say “No, she doesn’t live here.” I am not even married and they would ask that question!

        I *hate* it when people call me Mrs. C, just assuming I’m married. But for some people, it’s that their native language is not English and their language only uses one title for women, so I try to forgive them, but it’s hard because I’m NOT Mrs. C. Sigh.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        When in doubt, I check facebook/linkedin and assume that whatever name they’re using on social media is fair game. It falls apart a little with people who use one name socially and another professionally, but generally it’s a good guide.

  • So after reading all the comments, and feeling the very same frustrations about this issue myself, it makes me realize that all this comes full-circle back to men. I have had a similar issue: I have a more traditional future-hubs, and I get stuck not wanting to crush his traditional, whimsical, man and wife (not person and person) dreams. But I also will not pretend these traditions are okay for me when they’re not. It is a tough battle, but ultimately, it makes me really realize that so much of this is about educating our sons, as well as our daughters. I’ve always thought about having a daughter, and gotten really excited about how much I’m going to teach her and show her about life when she starts becoming her own little person. But now I’m realizing how important boys and men are to feminism. I want my future little dude to dream of having a lady who feels strongly about her name, herself, and having a shared and equal life together, and I don’t want him to bel hung up on dreams driven by traditions that frankly, can really hurt.

    • I work so hard to teach my little stepdudes about feminism. I’m lucky that their dad is not afraid to use the “f” word and he reinforces it all the time. but as they get older and the lessons become more nuanced, it’s a struggle to not wimp out. you can do it, though! we need strong feminist men just as much as we need women who call themselves feminists!

  • I have my mother’s last name. She didn’t change it when she married my dad and they planned to give their kids her name. In 1977 when my sister was born the hospital nurse refused to put my dad on the birth certificate if his name wasn’t there – she was going to list father as “unknown.” It amazes me that a nurse in a hospital had this much power. My mom claims she was still under the drugs of the emergency c-section she had just gone through and decided to hyphenate. The problem was the names did not go together well and I grew up with a very long, very hard to pronounce name, hating it for as long as I can remember knowing it. Before I graduated college I legally dropped my dad’s name and kept my mom’s (it felt right, going back to their original intention). I love that I have my mom’s name, it feels so bad-ass! I didn’t change it to my husband’s and when we have a kid (we both want a girl) she’ll have my name and officially start the tradition of the female line keeping the female name (that was his idea – he doesn’t identify as a feminist but he so is).

    • I love this so much! This is what I want!!!

  • Not Sarah

    There’s a little piece inside of me that dies every time someone gets married and changes their last name. Maybe that’s anti-feminist and I should respect their decision, but it’s so hard when no one around me is keeping their last name and I really, really don’t see any reason to give mine up when I get married. (Except my cousin, go her!)

    So thank you, APW, for providing stories of women keeping their last names!

    • Elissa

      Yay, it’s not just me! I see the new names appear on FB and go make a weird sad/icky noise, because every single woman of my generation that I know, bar one, has changed their name. I would probably have decided to keep my name anyway, but this makes it even more important to me to do so, because 1) because the default is /so/ predominant, it’s more important to carefully consider it, and make a feminist choice, and 2) I don’t want my own name to make me go “nyereww”.

  • Kari, this post is brilliant, and thank you APW for getting this conversation going.

    Names are so powerful. It’s one of the first defining facts you learn about yourself — I am so and so. Even in fairy tales, you can’t break Rumpelstiltskin’s spell until you call him by his true name. I thought of this fact often, both as the child of divorce, and a woman newly married.

    My parents were divorced when I was young, but my brother and I asked my mother to keep our shared last name. Even now, years after my father has since remarried, my mother still shares that tie with us. We lived in a small town, where that last name meant something — it was like a key that opened so many safes, that helped you navigate the world, and made you feel special and strong.

    When I got married this past fall, I chose to change my full name, dropping my middle name, making my maiden name my middle name, and taking my husband’s last name as my own. The past six months have been a tumultuous time — we moved in together two hours from the area in close proximity to all of my family and friends where I’d lived my whole life, got married, and I began a new job by which I am referred to by my new last name all day, every day.

    But making the choice to change my name by adding, rather than subtracting, by expanding rather than replacing, was something I was able to do for me, to align myself with the changes in my life. This process had changed something inherent about me — the choice that I made to create a family meant that I was no longer Nicole Maiden Name to myself. My new name is a comfort during this time — a key that I am surprised to find will open many safes, helps me navigate the world, and makes me feel special and strong.

    • This is part of what I wrestle with in this discussion. As a lover of stories, I absolutely see the power in words, and can readily believe the power in naming.

      At the same time, in a more spiritual sense, I see a name as just a label for ourselves. Yes, it’s a label we feel strongly connected to, but given how many “Sarah”s there are in this world, it’s not as though the word itself refers to me and only me.

      So I’m torn between the mundane and the mystical. (Here meaning only that mundane pertains to reality, not that it’s boring)

      • That’s a really interesting point, Sarah. I’d never really thought of it from that point of view. I should have probably divulged that I’m a children’s librarian — books and the power of storytelling are basically the crux upon which I let my world turn!

        • Fist-bump for librarians! My favorite cousin is a librarian, too. I could tell you were a bibliophile, glad you made it a profession :-)

          One of the compromises I have between wanting to live in the story and also realizing that my name is not a descriptor for my Self (in the mystical, trippy sense), is that I just have to find my own magic name that just refers to me. . .if only I could find the right wizard/witch/elder/elf to teach me the ways!

  • For me, last names come down to family or origin and family of choice, primarily, and identity secondly (this is just me, personally) and it’s really because of those reasons that I have never considered changing my last name to Fiance’s LastName.

    Because beyond just loving who I am as a person (I don’t write under my last name but that’s mostly because The Internet Is Forever), it’s because I love my family of origin that I want to keep my last name. In fact, what I’d really like to do (and might take getting married as my cheap way to do so) is change my last name to Mom’s Maiden Name – Dad’s Last Name, because both sides of my family have done so much to shape who I am.

    It doesn’t mean I love my fiance’s family any less – I adore them – but they didn’t shape me. They didn’t raise me. I was me before I met them; I cannot say that about my own family.

    So, I’m not going to change my name (unless it’s to add my mom’s maiden name!). But I don’t know what to do if/when we have kids. I have a daughter from a previous relationship and she doesn’t have my name and I kind of . . . hate it? I kind of really hate it. (It also bears mentioning that she has a stepmother who DOES have her last name, and it’s nothing against her step mom – I think she’s cool – but it makes me feel less than, in a way.)

    I suggested giving any future kids a blended name, but my fiance sort of stubbornly disagrees. And that’s a hard battle – and an annoying one! – because he isn’t even CLOSE to his dad or his three older (half) brothers and probably could not give a rat’s ass if those people even had a relationship with any of our future children. But he’s so set on the cultural narrative that says that any progeny from his loins must bear his name and I can’t figure out a way to compromise there.

    • Update! Prompted by this post, we discussed it last night. Any future children will bear the last name “Skywalker.” Signed, sealed, delivered.

  • SD

    I LOVE my last name. I’ve had it for 39 years. Its an awesome one. The kind that makes people smile in a good way. I love my dad. He is awesome. But he had three girls and no boys. Bad planning on his part as far as carrying on the family name.
    I am getting married in 2 months and my fiance is hurt (very, very hurt) that I do not want to change it. We’ve discussed and discussed and discussed this. The only resolution we’ve reached is that he knows I don’t want to give up my name and I know that he wants me to.
    I finally compromised on a dual last name (no hyphen because then – apparently- I can legally sign with *either* name), but it still comes up in these jabby comments at odd moments, his weapon of choice is my step kids, his reasoning being that a different last name somehow makes me not *quite* part of the family, or that it will be harder for me to deal with day-to-day stuff because people won’t believe I’m their mom. (They’re 13 and 18, quite old enough to speak for themselves and look more like me than they look like their mother for Heaven’s sake) . He’s a wonderful man, but he has these incredible blinders on about this one thing and he won’t let go of it, and its making me crazy.
    For me it isn’t about feminist/not feminist or anything other than for me, my name is who I am. If I had gotten married at 25, maybe I would have felt differently. I don’t know, but my name is so very much mine now that the idea of letting it go is, for me, unimaginable.

    • Rebecca

      Anecdata! My dad married my stepmom when my sister and I were in the same range of ages as your steps are, and we weren’t at all confused or less close with her because she kept her name. I mean, by that age you’re pretty clear about how names and family work and how it doesn’t take one to be the other. I don’t really recall it being a problem with other people either. Generally, if both a 13 year old and an adult claim to be part of a family unit, people take their word for it.

      I never asked her why she kept her name because hey, it’s hers, she can do what she likes, but I imagine that, getting married for the first time around your age, changing it would have been pretty strange.

      I’m totally with you on the “it’s mine, I’m keeping it” feeling- that’s pretty much why I kept mine. I’ve been correcting people about my name since I was three- I’m hardly giving it up now.

      • SD

        Actually I think that part of the reason my fiance reacted so badly to it was that changing my name to his had *never even crossed my mind* not even a vague fleeting thought of it being a possibility. As in he mentioned it, and I had an immediate blank look and a “what the heck are you talking about?” expression.

    • MDBethann

      I’ve done exactly what you’re planning on doing with your last name. I kept mine and added my husband’s last name. My angle was professional (I’ve been publishing under my original last name for 9 years and don’t want to change now) along with the fact that Dad had 2 daughters and was an only son of an only son.

      Our future children though will likely just have my husband’s last name and socially I go by Mrs. HisLast, but that’s fine with me. A little weird at times, but it helped when I had to be my husband’s “person” last week and sign stuff when he had surgery.

      And I am sooooooo with you about signing with either last name. It’s nice :-)

  • picardie.girl

    First-time commenter here! I’m pre-engaged, but have thought about this issue a fair bit. I’m very much in two minds.
    I have loved being part of a family that had the same last names and being known as the [last name]s – there’s a clan-like element to it, no doubt – so I feel quite strongly about the niceness of our (possible, future) family all having the same last name.

    So, I’d like us to have the same name. As to what that is, here’s where it gets a little trickier.

    I love the idea of creating a new name for a new family, however my bf is an artist and very attached to his (really beautiful) name. There is almost no question of him changing his. Which leaves it up to me. Which in itself makes me a little annoyed (why should it be just me that has to go through this?), and my ego chimes in with aversion for it looking like I’ve just followed tradition when really it has been a long, thought-out process. But really, it’s no-one’s business but mine and his.

    In the end, although I’m not sure how his last name sits phonetically with my first name, since I am not particularly attached to my last name, I feel taking his is really the only option available. We’ve got a lot of bridges to cross and a lot of discussions to be had before we even get to that point, though, so it’s all just thought soup at the moment!

    Articles like this help me to wade through it, so thanks. Sorry my post is so long.

  • Zilla

    Great post!! This all hits hard in the general gut region for me right now.

    Sorta of a bratty champagne feminist problem, but we had decided to both change our names because we both kind of wanted a shared name (we also have quasi matching tattoos. We are gross.)

    Since we would *both* do that was fine for me…

    Until I realized that everyone would assume forever that I took his name. Do NOT like.

    On the flip-side, I live in mortal dread of the moment someone calls me his last name. Not because I doubt my ability to politely correct people who call me the wrong thing.. Just because the idea of being my first name + his current last name would be the worst thing ever and makes my stress level shoot up even thinking of it. Maybe because I’m being a baby, but… whatever. If we have the same last name, hopefully less horrible mis -rendering of my name in the long run maybe.

    Adding to this, it never occurred to either of us that we’d ever change our last names… So it’s kind of confusing to even think about.

  • Rachel

    We’re in an unusual situation in our family where 3 sisters have 3 choices and this being urban New Zealand, no-one bats an eyelid.

    One sister is Ms Myname
    One is Mrs Hisname
    And a third (me) plans on Firstname Myname Hisname (with or without the hyphen)

    I also plan to happily answer to Ms Myname, Mrs Hisname or Ms Myname Hisname as the wind blows. I have a right to all those names and I’m happy to use them as it suits me.

    For me I don’t see why we need to be limited to only one name – we have lots of different relationships in life. I can be a wife, mother, daughter, lawyer, manager, friend and answer to different title variants for each.

    If Prince William can be William Windsor, Captain William Wales, William, Carrickfergus, William Strathearn, or William Cambridge (or Earl Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, Cambridge, or the Duke of Cambridge) then I can rock multiple titles too.

    • MDBethann

      I cannot EXACTLY this post enough – that’s what I decided to do after our marriage last year. I am Ms. MyName Hisname, no hyphen and easily flip between MyName, HisName, or the combo depending on the situation. It’s a mouthful sometimes, but it’s ME!

  • Emma

    Ah, it infuriates me how “society” expects a woman to change her name and is shocked if a man even considers changing his. What century are we living in?!
    I like the idea of a couple joining their names so they’re adding a name and not taking one away. Then their children get the two names. I suppose if and when the children got married they would need to choose one name to keep. But if everyone did it, having two surnames wouldn’t be so weird or annoying.
    I have two surnames. When I was born my parents weren’t married so I was Emma JR (J=Dad’s surname, R=Mum’s maiden name). They separated and my Mum got married and changed her name to S (stepdad’s surname) so I changed my name to Emma JS. Now, my Mum and stepdad are divorced. I think that when I get married, I will change my name to Emma JE (E=fiance’s surname). It annoys me that I have to change it, but my fiance would be hurt if I didn’t take his name at all (damn the weight of cultural expectations!) and I’m not attached to the S anyway. I’m still working on persuading him to take J as his middle name (he doesn’t have a middle name atm). And I’m not sure about our future children, if we have them – part of me wants them to have both, but I also know what a pain it was for me to have two surnames!
    Whatever happens, I’ll call myself Ms (not Mrs)… it must be cool to be a Dr and skip that debate altogether! And I had been planning not to correct people if they call me Mrs E. But as Meg said, it’s probably important to correct people, in the interests of educating the world!

  • Lizzy

    Thanks so much for this post! I crave reading other experiences of women marrying divorced fathers…

    I never thought I would even consider changing my name…until I fell in love with a divorced father. He is very attached to the name and identity he shares with his kids, since they don’t live with him full time. His ex-wife–who lives around the block and is in our life on a daily basis, whether I like it or not–kept his name so she also shares that identity with the kids. It no longer felt right to be the one and only person in my household without that name (I’m already an outsider enough by not being a full-on parent), but I wanted to keep my identity (and not get confused by friends and neighbors with the other Mrs. G…).

    So, when we got engaged we decided to take a suggestion I read elsewhere on this site: we’re taking each other’s name as our new middle names! So we both keep our main last name, but also share both names. Future kids to come into the household will also have each of our names as middle and last names, alternating as they eventually arrive. Hopefully that balances out individuality/collectivity in the name department.

  • I have been told several times that I might as well change my name to Elizabeth Hisname, because once I have kids, everyone will just assume that my name is Mrs. Hisname. (I think this argument stems from the fact that many of my family members are teachers.) I keep saying that just because people will assume that is my name and probably call me by it, that doesn’t mean it has to go on my passport and driver’s license. Like Kari said, your close family and the IRS will always know what your name is.

  • Ilora

    I always find the name change debate to be fascinating. One of the most common arguments I hear against hyphenating is that “it’ll make a long name for the kids/the kids won’t have the option to hyphenate”.
    When my parents got married they combined (no hyphen), so both go by Momslast Dadslast, as do my brother and I. I Love it! I’m so proud that my name is made up of both of theirs and I use both initials when signing my name. It definitely has it’s challenges, I’m supposed to be alphabetized by Momslast because it comes first, but people often assume it’s a middle name so whenever someone is looking up my files anywhere it’s a real guessing game where I’ll be found. BUT, since I love my name I don’t mind the confusion, I’m used to it and just welcome it as contributing to the identity of my name (yes of course my name has it’s own identity!)
    When it comes to the idea that the kids are going to have difficulties with their own name change debate I think it’s important to remember that one of the recurring themes here is that “Your wedding is not an imposition, your guests are adults and can make their own choices” So now I get to say that the name my parents gave me is not an imposition, it is what was right for them, and now that I’m an adult I get to make my own choice.
    Incidentally, the choice my guy and I have settled on is to take all of the letters from both of our names (there are a lot! but lots of repeats…) and basically play scrabble with them until we come up with something we like. We’ve made fridge magnets out of them and alternate between making silly and serious suggestions for our future name. Personally I’m enjoying the fact that using our letters we could change our names the become the Ninja family!