I Changed My Name When I Got Married and Then I Changed It Back

Because it turns out I can do me and no one will mind one bit.


I didn’t know that it wasn’t right for me to change my name until I changed my name.

I suppose there’s more to it than that.  I waffled back and forth during our whole engagement, but eventually decided to add Hisname to the end of my name, giving myself two middle names.

Last June, we got married.

At first, I loved signing my husband’s name.  Two “t”s at the end was really fun to write.  It was novel and thrilling.

Then school started (I teach eighth grade), and every day I heard a name that wasn’t mine.  I made decisions; I introduced myself to parents.  I tried using both names together, but it only worked in writing.   We talked about the importance of Ms. I inwardly grinned when catalogs would show up with my old name on them or when former students or colleagues would slip up and forget my new name.  I tried waiting.  I waited three months, then four, for my students calling me Ms. Hisname to seem like it was right.  I hoped the time I spent pouring over women’s last names online and comparing my choice to theirs would diminish over time.  I gave into the idea that it was just something I had to get used to.  I had convinced myself that once the decision was made, I had to stick to it. I recalled some of the reasons I wanted to take his name: he and I having a team name, not liking the aesthetics of the hyphen, sharing a name with my future children.

I remembered how I had briefly considered using my name professionally and his name socially.  This was what I really wanted, but I had thrown it out as impractical.  I thought other people would be confused.  I live in a small community, and even if/when we leave this place, I really like teaching and living in the same district.  If/when we have children, I feared it would cause confusion if I taught at one school under one name and attended parent-teacher conferences with another.

There’s more, though. I think I had convinced myself that being an eighth grade English teacher wasn’t a worthy-enough profession for which to keep my name professionally.  That was something doctors or lawyers or published writers did.  Admitting and reading that now makes me more than a little sick. What I do on a daily basis matters.  I’m still not sure why I couldn’t see it as enough of a reason.

Something clicked last Friday on our teacher workday. I could do whatever I wanted.  People would figure it out.  Perhaps it was better to confuse a few other people along the way than to spend the days of my life confused about the choices I made.

Sure, it’s strange to change a name mid-year, particularly when I just started the year with a new name, particularly in my small town where few students have had a teacher that isn’t Mrs. ______.  But it sure provides a great opportunity to discuss identity and choices and changing your mind when you have given something a fair shake and you know deep down it isn’t right.

I talked to my principal and human resources (who were amazingly supportive) and students today (The best response: “This will come in really handy on your next crime spree”).  After school I sent an email to the staff.  Everything connected to my work at school is in the process of being changed.  I haven’t smiled so much in one day for a long time.  It finally felt right.

Why am I telling you guys this?  Because I believe the sense that it was okay to change my mind–even if I get talked about at lunch by other teachers, even if this is the only thing my students from this year remember about me, even if it gets a little messy–came (in part–but a big part) from APW and the community created here.  When I was making my decision before the wedding, I poured over the name change posts and read all the comments (probably without commenting myself–I’m kind of creepy like that).

Before I went into school Tuesday to see what my options (legally and logistically) were, I reread those posts and comments and it reinforced that I had to do what felt right for me.

Thank you, thank you for your support and constant reminders that we DO have choices, even if we made the wrong one for me the first time.  I feel like I can embrace using Hisname when I WANT to use it, and leave it out when I don’t.

Thanks. All of you.

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  • A-L

    Good on you for the courage to admit that you’ve changed your mind, and taking action to make your wishes come true. I can definitely sympathize with your situation. I’m a teacher myself and when I first came back from getting married over the Thanksgiving holiday many (most?) of the kids made a real effort to call me by hisname (which was always my intention to become my new last name). But when we came back from Christmas break the kids had slipped back into using my maiden name, except on rare occasions. And I don’t even think to correct them (I knew coming in that I wouldn’t expect people to call me by the new name until next school year).

    Signing my name in the church register, or on my e-mail signature has been changed to Myfirst Herlast Hislast, at least in part to aid in confusion for anyone who didn’t know that I got married, or didn’t know the new last name. After all, getting a random e-mail from a stranger is more likely to get deleted than read in fear that it’s some sort of virus spam.

    But I guess I’m also sort of lucky that our new last name is kind of nice and generic (without being too generic). It’s not easy to mispronounce, and there aren’t many ways to make fun of it (unlike my current last name). But I still feel that my maiden name is part of my first name.

    Of course, I’m making this all sound like my name’s been changed. But there was a delay in getting the marriage certificate, and then I haven’t had time to go to Social Security. But the date’s been set (Feb 7) because we have a half-day off so I can get this stuff done. And maybe I’ll feel differently after I change his name (though I admit, I’d prefer not to deal with the hassle if I do, but if I do decide at least I have brave examples of APWers who have done so).

    Anyway, looking forward to reading everyone’s comments!

    • Seaurchin

      Thank you so much. B and I just went through this talk. I have always known that I want to keep my last name. It speaks strongly to me of my family, state and my career. He found out when a friend asked me in front of him. I had already talked with my folks’ about it and his mom had asked me, so he felt like he was left out of the conversation. It became this whole big dramatic evening about him being left-out and how certain family members (his is much more traditional) would never understand that I wasn’t taking his last name.

      I think the option hadn’t even occurred to him (even though a friend of ours has routinely called him “Mr. Mylastname”). He said things like “a name is just a word. it doesn’t really matter to me” and we seem to have gotten beyond it, which is good, because a name is a word, and that word matters to me.

      here’s a hint to other’s though….have that conversation with him before it comes out some other way!!

  • Brenna, I love this post.

    I really struggled with my decision over whether to change my name or not. I had always said I *wasn’t* going to change my name. Without getting into too many specifics and sordid details, I changed my name to my maternal grandfather’s last name when I was 18. Even though I was the only one in my family (besides my grandparents, that is) with Newlastname (my mother, uncles, cousins, etc., all had Oldlastname; my father and his name were never in the picture), I never felt a meaningful connection to Oldlastname. Changing that to Newlastname was the first adult decision I made. I researched name change laws in New York State. I hired an attorney (with my mother’s – who was incredibly supportive of my decision – help). I started going by Newlastname socially while in college, even though my records weren’t changed from Oldlastname until the end of my freshman year, by the time all of the paperwork went through. I even fought with my school’s administration to allow me to tack Newlastname to the end of my name on my high school diploma.

    After all that, after choosing my name because it was meaningful to me, I didn’t ever want to change it again. I LOVE my name. (So do a lot of other people, by the way – it is an incredibly common firstname-lastname combo, which actually is not a bad thing! I have plausible deniability when googled!)

    However, after getting engaged, I found I felt more conflicted than ever. My husband and I don’t want children, so there was no “worry of confusion.” (Though, as I’ve said elsewhere, there are worse things that Johnny’s parents have to explain to him than why Susie’s mom doesn’t have the same last name as she does – in other words, Brenna, who cares if they’re confused? They’ll get over it!) He didn’t care one way or another what I decided. He just didn’t want to change his name. (Which I understood, obviously.)

    I never expected to feel so conflicted about a decision I had made so many years ago. I remembered thinking, if I had just kept Oldlastname, the decision would have been easy, and I would have changed my name happily. But, of COURSE I would have no problem dropping Oldlastname – that’s why I dropped it in the first place!

    I saw somewhere (possibly here, but maybe on OBB, or maybe somewhere else – I can’t remember) that “hyphenating is so indecisive.” And that was when I decided I wanted to hyphenate. Because, let’s face it – I WAS indecisive about it. I took my indecisiveness a step further – I hyphenated my name and changed only my necessary documents (driver’s license, health insurance, W-2s at work, etc.). I work in the HR office, it was pretty easy to do this and still retain control over my email and listing in the work directory, keeping it without Hislastname tacked on. In NYS, you can assume any name you wish so long as there is no attempt to defraud, so by going by Irisira Newlastname, with Irisira Newlastname-Hislastname on my identification is not even questioned.

    Some people asked me why I even bothered, if I’m not really going to use it. I respond, that I did it for me.

    • Oh, and one more thing –
      I have one family member who was NEVER supportive of my changing from Oldlastname to Newlastname, and would occasionally “accidentally” address cards/checks/whathaveyou to Irisira Oldlastname. Since getting married? Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname. *Barf*

      When my husband’s 95-year-old grandmother does it, I think it’s sweet, because I know she means it as an affectionate title toward someone whom she is happy joined the family (she doesn’t know I “kept” my name, and I don’t feel a need to correct her), but to the family member who is doing it deliberately just because she hates that I go by Newlastname? Ugh.

      Intention is everything.

    • I love this–hyphenating precisely because it might be indecisive.

      I think my husband can attest that perhaps I should have embraced my indecisiveness a little more. :)

      “I did it for me” is enough. Thanks.

    • meg

      For the record, I’m possibly the most decisive person on the face of the planet (Really, ask anyone that knows me), and we’re hyphenating for kids. Decisively. Because you know what? It’s *our* family, not his, not mine. So it can be done with great decision :)

      • I agree, it definitely can be. I was initially offended on behalf of people who had hyphened with that level of decisiveness when I saw these comments (because they were NOT favorable), but it got me thinking that the perceived indecisiveness may be why that decision would work for me.

      • Carrie

        Hell to the yes. I am super decisive that we’re hyphenating for kids.

  • Mallory

    “Perhaps it was better to confuse a few other people along the way than to spend the days of my life confused about the choices I made.”

    Love this. What a wonderful and inspiring story. Congrats on making the best decision for you. I’m still not completely decided about what I’ll do but it’s good to know that in the worst case scenario, if I make the wrong choice, it can always be changed if I’m brave enough.

    • I agree. Brenna’s story is completely inspiring and very reassuring. It reminds me that every decision I make, is not the last decision I have to make in that arena.

    • peanut

      Totally. I got some “…but won’t it be CONFUSING???” reactions to my decision to have one name professionally, one personally, and combine the two legally. My response was “it makes sense to me!” After 4 months of my new name situation, I know I made the right decision because it feels normal. Holiday cards and shower invitations arrive to my married name, which gives me a thrill, and I get grants and papers published under my maiden name, which gives me another thrill. I am proud of you for realizing what feels true to you and acting on that.

      • Thank god for this post. So, is this how you do it if you want to have both–separate but equal? Legally, both. And so long as your professional docs have one of your legal last names on it, you’re good to go? Or, what, exactly, do you have to do so the taxman doesn’t come after you. Yay! Yay! Yay! Finally, a solution to one of my marriage quandries. (If only they were all so easy, no?)

        I think we female teachers/writers, etc. have a bit of a hard shake here–we are identified by our last names only, and build a career around that. I can’t imagine not be Ms. Lastname. It’s who I am as a teacher. All my writing successes are under that name as well.

        Funny how guys don’t ever have to bat an eyelash about this stuff, huh? It’s like the invisible-last-name-glass-ceiling. Active glass ceiling busters: pew! Pew! Pew!

        • meg


        • peanut

          Actually, you can “go” by any name professionally, even if it’s not legal – you just have to make sure HR knows what’s up with the legal stuff. I have some friends who fully changed to their husbands’ name legally but still go by their old name professionally. I also have friends who never changed their name legally but go by their married name socially. As far as the taxman goes (ha), from what I remember there is a space on your tax forms for any “aliases” you go by. I mean, I’ve cashed checks made out to all three of my last names and haven’t run into problems so far.

          Hope this helps :)

          • Plus, every option is confusing in some way, to some people. I told my husband about this post last night, and explained to him that I didn’t want to fall back on the excuse of my career for why I kept my name. I said that it was a poor excuse not only because it doesn’t reflect the depth of my thinking and feeling on the issue, but also because I’m not *that* established in my career – as someone else said in the comments yesterday, people would figure out that I’m the same person who did the work under the prior name! He then pointed out that actually, people around town who know that we got married assume that I did change my name, and it is another step of confusion to say that I didn’t change.

            so — don’t worry about confusing people, number one, and number two, no more assuming anything about people’s names post-marriage!

  • mekoziol

    My fiance is Puerto Rican, born and raised on the island. It is customary for women of Latino descent to NOT take their husband’s name after marrying, however, it is the father’s name that gets passed when their children have children. Why? I never could find an answer.

    That being said, my fiance DID NOT want me to take his name (he thinks the European/Western practice is bizarre), and to hyphenate our future childrens’ names, as is customary (his name-my name). Although I do have two brothers, I have no idea as to when, let alone if, they’ll be having children, and there are plenty more Koziols in the world. You can say that I’m still debating the issue. It would be easier to just keep my name-no paper work-but it would be weird having my Mother’s title of Mrs. Koziol.

  • You know how sometimes, people here copy and paste a brilliant phrase or paragraph in the comments and that shows that it was the part that affected them the most? Or that they thought was the wisest part?

    Well, I started doing that, until I realized I had copied almost the entire post. Brilliant and brave writing, and some very big food for thought today. Thanks for sharing such a powerful process with us.

    • PS. I feel like THIS post is now going to be one of the posts that I refer back to (along with the other name changing posts) as we work through our decision. xoxo

      • Murdock

        Yes this will hopefully now be filed under Meg’s “favorite posts” section.

        • Thanks, ladies! I really appreciate your kind words.

  • Lerae

    This is wonderful. I went through a similar experience of going back and forth about what to do throughout our engagement, then deciding to add his last name to the end of mine. In my case it took signing my “new name” in the guestbook on our honeymoon to realize it was absolutely the wrong name for me. Although certain family members took a while to come around to the decision (you’d think the fact that I was keeping their name would make my parents proud, right? Not so much) I couldn’t feel more right about it.

  • Carbon Girl

    I was struck by how you thought teaching was not a profession wherein its worthwhile to keep your name. I have taught before and there is no other profession where you will be referred to by your last name so much. I think it is uber important that you like your last name when you teach as you will hear it a hundred times a day. Congrats to you for being strong and doing what you had to do.

    I have to say this post put a small pit in my stomach. It has been a year and I have changed my name on my social security card but nothing else. That may be telling me something.

    • meg

      Be brave lady. RARRR!

  • oh my word Brenna. that is one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard.. the name decision wasn’t very tough for me to make, I wanted to change my name and that was that. it took me a while to get around to making it legal, but when my co-workers immediately started calling me Mrs. Porter I freaking loved it (even the mrs. part. I know). but then when I started referring to myself with the name, and when I finally got around to legally changing it, I felt more and more like an alien. I wasn’t my old name, I wasn’t my new name. About all I felt comfortable with was my first name! I talked to my sister and she said it took about 2 years for her to feel really comfortable with her new name. When I think about it, it’s so crazy that we do this. Whyyy do we change our names? haha.

    I never changed it back because I didn’t want to; ultimately I still want the new name, and I am pretty much 100% settled into it now. But if I had really doubted my decision and wanted my old name back? I’m not sure that I could have gone through with the change back. I’m in awe of your bravery! I hope everyone can read this and know they always have choices.

  • Yay Brenna! What an inspiring and brave post. ‘having to lie in the bed one’s made’ is such a weirdly pushed concept in our society (don’t we have all this freedom of choice to, um, MAKE CHOICES?!) that it’s great to see you pushing back and saying it wasn’t right for you. Especially when I’ve heard or read so many women saying that it took so long to get used to a new name, or it’s never felt right.

    I’m not planning on changing my name when the time comes, but it’s nice to know that if I change my mind, I can.

  • Ariel

    I really like this post and the courage it takes to be honest with yourself about maybe making a mistake. I have commented before about this issue. I thought I would change my name socially and keep my name professionally. I haven’t changed anything. My professional life has stalled, to the point that it almost doesn’t exist, since we got married and I can’t bring myself to change my name socially. It feels like losing myself.
    But it seems my name changed without me. Every Christmas card and package that arrived this season was addressed to Mr & Mrs HisName. I’m still conflicted. It’s not about being connected to my husband through his name, but to his family. I went through a marriage ceremony that didn’t feel right for me to make his family happy and save future sanity. That was only 20 minutes. Changing my name would last a lot longer.
    Right now I am trying out HisName in random situations to see if I can get comfortable with it. So far, it is still uncomfortable and requires a lot of extra thought, not to mention the signature is a mess.
    I still don’t know, but thank you for the post.

    • Leona

      Ugh, my name has changed without my permission, too. Isn’t that irritating? I know it’s not meant to be and it’s a way of showing support for our coupling, but it’s just bothersome in a tiny, grating kind of way.
      I’ve been married for three months and still haven’t completely decided what to do with the name situation. Husband and I have embraced the idea of changing our names to an entirely new name that we both choose yet we still haven’t chosen. Meanwhile, the post office seems to be prodding me by sticking a question mark next to my name on everything they deliver. I’ve got news for them: not until I’m good and ready!

      • I love the question mark! My friend sent me something and addressed it Kim Mylast (or is it Hislast?). I thought it was fantastic because she didn’t assume. The assumptions are what kill me.

      • That’s what we’re planning on doing too, but we’re having so much trouble coming up with and agreeing on a new last name! (His choice is Kangaroo, hence my username on here, but I’m not totally sold…)

      • Elissa

        The post office wants to know what your name is? That seems really weird to me, and a bit rude, too. As far as I’m concerned, they deliver to addresses, not people – it’s up to me to Return To Sender the stuff that shouldn’t have come here, and my name, and the nature of my household, is none of their business. But maybe it works differently in the US? I’d love to know…

        • Leona

          To clarify, I live in a rental so we often get mail for previous tenants. I know that when Hubs set things up with the post office he registered my name as well, but since it doesn’t look like a family name I have a feeling they suspect I’m not a current resident, thus the question mark. It just prods something inside me to make an ultimate decision on our names.

        • Ruth

          I have a post office box and I did change my name after the wedding but I didn’t notify the post office right away. When mail started to come to Ruth Ourlast instead of Ruth Mylast, they didn’t deliver it because that name wasn’t an approved name for the PO box! So frustrating…

      • Carla

        We’re also planning on doing the “pick a new team last name” but haven’t made any decisions yet. He’s trying to sell me on Power. Then I’d be Carla Power. Which is awesome. But then he’s gonna want to name our kids Max and Super. So…

    • Kat22

      The automatic name change is a bit tricky. The first time I send something to newly married friends (especially ones I don’t have a lot of contact with) I wonder what to put – assuming she has changed her name isn’t great, but assuming she hasn’t isn’t OK either! Facebook often helps me out – I can see whether they changed their name there!
      If I don’t know (and can’t ask) I do usually put Mr and Mrs Hisname, as Leona said it’s trying to say ‘Yay, you’re married!’ on the envelope.

      • Carrie

        I understand the “Yay, you’re married!” sentiment, but as someone who kept my name when I got married, assuming that default kinda bugs me. Not trying to yell at you or anything! I totally get where you’re coming from, and I’ve done that exact thing myself in the past. But when you kept your name, having people unilaterally assume that you’ve changed it kind of sucks, even when you understand they were well-intentioned.

        I’m likely to just flat-out send an email and ask whether they changed their name. A lot of people did that when I got married, and I really appreciated it. I wonder in what situation you can’t ask? (I’m not saying those situations don’t exist; I just can’t think of one right now and I’m curious.)

        I also explicitly wrote in a box on my Facebook profile that yes, I got married, but no, I didn’t change my name — so no one assumes I just haven’t gotten around to changing it on FB.

        The most graceful way to handle it, I think, is for the couple to put a note in their program or send out cards that explicitly state their names & address as a married couple, whether or not they’re moving or changing their names after the wedding. That keeps people from having to guess.

        • Madeline

          I like the suggestion of sending out cards to let everyone know whether you’ve changed your name or not – thank you notes could be a good opportunity for that! I’m already daydreaming of pretty embossed stationary with our names on it….

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          We inundated people with our married name preferences (which happened to be the same as our unmarried name preferences). We put a note on our favors with our names and joint mailing address, the DJ at the wedding announced our names at least 4 times, we sent out thank-yous with both names inside and out, and we put our full married names on our wedsite and our photographer’s website.

          And about 20% of my mail has come to Mrs. Hisname. You do what you can.

        • Lizzie

          I’m in the same boat. I’ve been married five months and have been in a sort of holding period. I let people know that I’ve decided to keep my name, but that I’m open to the possibility of changing my mind later on when it’s more than just the two of us. But anytime I see mail come in for Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName, I just can’t keep my anger in. Not only do I lose my last name because the sender deemed my decision unworthy…but look, now I’ve also lost my first name. Consider me erased? Sigh. I really do appreciate reading other women’s thoughts on this though, because it is such an emotionally loaded decision.

      • SarahAustralia

        I used to do the Mr &Mrs Hisname thing – I’d just never considered that it could be offensive because exactly as Kat22 says – I meant it as a “Yay, you’re married!” thing. But I guess part of getting older is getting wiser, and part of getting wiser is considering more than just your own perspective. Now if I am unsure (and can’t check – as don’t have any other way of contacting them, this happened with my newly married cousin the other day) I just write both first names. How many other Ash and Ryan’s can there be living at that address?

    • meg

      I feel a roaring anger in my ears on your behalf. This has obviously happend to me too. At first it made me want to punch walls, and now I’ve moved on to taking my power back. Now I leave this message on people’s Facebook walls, and emails, and say it loudly at cocktail parties (the more public the better) “Oh, NEITHER of us changed our names when we got married. But if we hyphenate, we’ll let you know.”

      Which is a nice way of saying, make your own goddamn choice lady, and then tell people to shove it. In the most empowering way possible. I want you to feel like you OWN yourself… not like you’re losing yourself.

      And you know what. You can always change your mind later and take his name, if you want to.

  • Your story really resonates with me.
    I have never cared for my last name. I always figured I would keep it or change it if my partner had a better name. I was thinking purely in aesthetics.
    After I got engaged, I initially thought I would change it. B’s last name sounds really awesome with my first name. But as the wedding drew closer I realized that in fact it wasn’t just about aesthetics. I didn’t want to change it. At all. I felt connected to my name. I didn’t know that I cared that much.
    I am a fan of hyphenation and I tried to adopt that after the wedding. It did not stick. At all. Whenever I was asked my name I couldn’t bring myself to add the second name onto my own.
    So after all that, I decided that I would just keep my own name.

    • Aly

      I’m exactly the opposite- I always thought I’d change my last name, I remember when I was younger thinking it was awesome that girls got to change their name and boys were stuck with the same name their whole life. Oh, the mind of a 10 year old.

      And now that I’m engaged? I’m totally find with changing my name….just not to my fiance’s name. See, his last name has a lot of s’s. “Mrs” involved the s sound twice as well. And my first name already has an s. And I have a lisp. A lisp that sometimes means people don’t understand what my first name is (its also a little unusual, but mostly the lisp) when I say it, and I hate the idea of not being able to say my entire name. But I want to have the same name as my husband (and he has nixed the idea of taking my name…)

      So for me, its actually all about the aesthetics. Which seems like a really silly thing in such an important debate like this….but its important to me. And I don’t know what to do :(

      • kyley

        It’s not a really silly ting at all. Nothing about this is silly; it’s real and it’s really how you feel and these decisions are hard. Good luck and internet hugs.

  • Bee

    Such a brave decision! I really struggled with this, and your feeling of not having a job that was somehow “worthy” enough of keeping your name totally resonates with me. I’m also a teacher. That’s a huge part of why I decided to keep my name. I don’t think there are many jobs out there that cause you to tie your identity so closely to your last name as teaching does, but even still I also struggled with feeling like it was something only women with high-powered careers can do. Now, I feel silly for thinking that. Of course my career is important enough for me to make the decision that is the best for me, and even if it wasn’t, my life is important enough for me to make the decision that is best for me.

    • That resonated with me, too. You don’t need a “high powered” career to keep your name! I think people use that excuse because it’s acceptable in society. Keeping your last name is really frowned upon in our western male privilege society, so if you say, “It’s for my CAREER,” people seem to be more accepting of it. But, what started out as an excuse for women to keep their names has now become a “reason.”

      There’s a woman locally who is a well-known (local) journalist and blogger who is getting married in a couple months, and is excited to change her name. People have been commenting that she’ll be flushing down everything she’s worked for under her current name. Uh, really? People won’t figure out it’s the same person? She’s standing her ground and owning her decision, and I effing love it.

      For the same reason you don’t need an “important name recognition” career to NOT change your name, said career shouldn’t be a reason to stop you if it is what you want.

  • ah! i totally did this! i also considered using my name professionally (it’s on my degree, after all) and his socially and couldn’t really see it working. so i changed my name with some institutions and never got around to changing it at work because i couldn’t figure out how. i showed up on the first day ready for human resources to be annoyed because i was so confusing with my two names; instead, everybody called me by my name (not his) and for the first time since we got married i didn’t feel confused about the whole name thing.

    i’m so glad you found something that feels right for you and had the guts to do it. also, that you remembered that being a teacher is a totally worthy and awesome job. yay!

  • Zan

    Brenna! Not only are you brave and setting a strong example for all of us in the APW community, but you are clearly a great teacher too — using this very personal struggle of yours as a, “great opportunity to discuss identity and choices and changing your mind when you have given something a fair shake and you know deep down it isn’t right”

    And girl, if that’s the only thing your students from this year remember about you, well — that’s pretty awesome.

  • I am lucky. I love my last name and could hardly bear to consider changing it. But it would also be a weird name to hyphenate. I actually agonized over this for a little while and finally settled on the idea that I would just keep mine, but allow my future children to use my fiance’s. Of course, I did all my agonizing privately, which was dumb. When I informed him of my choice (“so this is what we’ll do,”) he cocked an eyebrow and said, “Are you sure that’s what you want?” I went off on a spiel about how much I love my last name and couldn’t handle changing it (his is also really common and really boring) and no, I still wasn’t satisfied but it was the best I could think of, he said, “Well, what if I take yours?”

    I hadn’t even thought about him changing his – and I’m so glad he put it on the table. Now, after much discussion, I think that’s what we’re going to do. And I know that we are going to have to deal with a lot of weird looks and judgments and maybe even objections during the process. We haven’t told his family yet, but even the friends I’ve told have said, “Really? That’s…interesting,” instead of, “Wow, that’s cool.” But we’re ok with that. It has been such a gift to be able to resolve it this way.

    I think Brenna’s story is so inspiring. I love that we are able to make these decisions now, and even if there are a few raised eyebrows and inane comments here and there, they’re accepted. We have options. We can choose for ourselves. We can change our mind. I feel like “empowering” is an overused term these days, but in this case I feel like it’s appropriate.

    • meredythbyrd

      Claire– Besides, after a while I’m sure anyone will forget that it’s your last name originally and won’t even care anymore. New people will not even know and you guys will just have a name that fits you both. Lucky you. Both my fiance’s name and mine are good last names, which makes this decision harder for me. I can’t really imagine them hyphenated. I might just do the two last names thing, but I sort of feel like he should have to do it too! Maybe that’s why your comment spoke to me. He’s said he’d be willing to change it to mine, but I really like his last name too! And the names I have for our future children sound good with it!

      I had friends growing up whose mothers kept their name. I think it was partially professionally and partially identity. One of them said she was so glad she did. But, they were called Mrs. Hislastname by the kids. None of them seemed to mind. I think I might do this. Socially be Mylastname but not get too upset if people get it wrong. I’ll know what’s right.

      • I am doing this. I think my husband is more upset than I am when people get it wrong. However, I used to get a little itsy bitty upset when my mom insisted on getting it wrong. Not knowing is one thing but she definitely knows. I’ve decided she’s just so excited we got married she can’t contain herself.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Wow, that’s cool!

      It seriously is. I hope that we’re moving towards a society where that won’t get any weird looks and when people ask what you’re doing they don’t have a preconceived notion of what your answer will be. More power to ya.

    • Mel

      Oooh I am so jealous that he is taking your name. In my situation, I am the one who is invested in the ethnic heritage reflected in her own name, and he doesn’t care about his ethnic heritage, but he won’t switch to mine. I do want us to have the same name, so I think I will switch to his. Having massively mixed feelings about all of this!

    • Jo

      This is SO COOL! I just made a comment alluding to how frustrated I get that, while everyone talks about the idea of a “team name,” it is usually the wife always who has to be the one to “take one for the team.” I love that your fiance is willing to change his name for something that is important to him.

    • Barbra

      I love this!!!

      My boyfriend is generally a feminist, but he came from a super traditional, conservative family living out in the country in England. Whenever marriage comes up, I’m very clear that I don’t want to change my name. He never really understood why, and when I asked, “Well, do you want to change yours?” he looked at me like I was an alien. I don’t think I would really want him to, but I’m so glad there are guys out there like your fiance!

      • There were definitely a lot of factors we discussed, but mainly it came down to two things: 1) I am an only child in a small family and he has two brothers and a ton of male cousins, and 2) I am very attached to my heritage and family, while he is not. Ultimately, he valued our family sharing the same name much more than he valued the idea that it be his name.

        To me, the most interesting thing was that this idea literally did not occur to me as an option. If he had not brought it up, I don’t think I would have entertained the possibility. Now I feel like of course I should have brought it up – maybe every woman should at least bring it up. As someone pointed out, women always seem to be the ones doing the compromising. Even if your fiance isn’t on board with changing his name, it might be a topic worth discussing, if only for what you learn about yourselves during the discussion.

        • Murdock

          Wow what a wonderful partner you have Claire. I hope that all your future discussions resolve themselves this wonderfully.

          And so good for you for voicing your opinion that it really does matter to you because of your family situation!

      • meg

        I actually had some brawls with David to make him recognize that this was an option… just like we had some serious fights about him being willing to hyphenate in either order. I said my name last HAD to be on the table.

        It was really, really hard. Hard for him, hard for me. But worth it. After those fights, and all that crying, I finally feel like we’re equals on the subject. So don’t be afraid to bring it back up with your boyfriend, and to say, “Look. This is still on the table.” Conservative family or not, it’s important to feel equality with our partners…. even when that makes them do some of the soul searching.

    • Ariel L-S

      How awesome that you two are doing that!

      My generally all around amazing and supportive and pro-feminist finance balked at the idea that he take my name when I brought it up. His actual words were: “But it’s always been my name.” Duh. Mine too, right?

      I really love my name. It rhymes. I do however like the idea of us having the same last name. My name is already hyphenated, because my mother never changed her last name and I use both of my parents names. Mymother’slastname-Myfather’slastname-Hislastname is way too much for me.

      I’m not really sure what we’re going to do. I enjoy reading everyone’s thoughts on the matter. Right now it’s just confusing me further, but it is getting me thinking.

      • Mallory

        My fiance had kind of a similar reaction. I made a comment to him that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about my name and he got pretty offended. But when I turned the table on him and asked if he wanted to change it to mine he immediately said no… yet he couldn’t really see it from my point of view. Yet this is the same guy that is totally cool with being a stay at home dad. Very bizarre.

        • Isn’t it odd? Men are socialized to feel really attached to their last names and put a lot of pride in them (tattoos on their backs, etc) but women are cultured to feel somewhat detatched from last names at childhood since they’re supposed to replace them. Not fair.

    • ka

      I am SO excited to hear about someone doing this!!

      My fiance also brought it up as an option (this was on our like fifth date, so my mind was blown for many reasons). I have a lot of attachment to my last name being the last person in the family to carry it on, and he has zero attachment to his super common last name. I refuse to hyphenate because the combination reminds me of toilets– I promise. BUT, he is known by his name –his initials actually — as an artist, so I don’t want to let him change it…

      But I do like the concept of having a team name, and I am worried about what name to give as-of-yet-undecided-on children… and I’m just worried about people believing we’re married. This sounds stupid, I know, but we’ve had rental car issues. We both have the same address and everything on our driver’s license, and they still will not honor each other as a free of charge “domestic partner.” How exactly, I wonder, is this going to change when we’re married? Because my ring looks different? Are we going to have to bring the marriage certificate? I know it’s crazy, but this is what worries me about having separate last names. People not believing we’re married.

      • Shotgun Shirley

        I hear ya. What happens when I want to pick up a package for him at the post office? Or him for me?

      • AB

        My mom didn’t change her last name and as a kid I was always worried it looked like my parents were divorced. However, now I don’t plan on changing my name either, so I’m all about convincing women that the hassles are quite minimal! My parents have a joint checking account so both their names are at the top of checks. I’m sure you’ll accumulate other cards (insurance etc.) that have both your names on it.

      • Alexandra

        Maybe get a little laminated card-copy of your marriage certificate to have for car rental companies and the like?

        I don’t see why he can’t keep his initials-as-artist-name, even if he does officially/legally change to yours. After all, plenty of women use their original name professionally and married socially, why shouldn’t a guy? :D

        (I’m probably changing my name. For reasons that are mostly-listed in the second page of comments. Still makes me feel like “a bad feminist”, even though there are many great reasons to change!)

        • ka

          Haha, yes, a laminated card is exactly what my detail-oriented self would do, though I’m hoping that it will somehow just be OK as so many name-keeping ladies have attested to. And you are right about the professional/personal thing… perhaps the subject should be revisited…

          (You’re not a “bad feminist” is you change it – it’s about making a choice that you’re happy and comfortable with, and if that’s changing it, it’s changing it. I think keeping your name to solely prove a point or adhere to a different set of “rules” is just as bad as changing it against your wishes just to follow tradition.)

    • meg

      Wow, that’s cool. Siiiggghhhh.

      And I’m envious. David has a very unusual last name that he’s very attached to, so this wasn’t an option for us. But I tried…. And you guys did. GO YOU GUYS!

    • Madeline

      I love that you’re doing this – it’s really cool! I’ve brought this idea up as part of my argument for keeping my name (after saying “but my name is so preeeeeeeeeetty!”). I only had this weapon in my arsenal because I have known for most of my life that my (apparently very forward-thinking) dad offered to take my mother’s last name back in 1984, but my mom decided to take his instead. There’s a long tradition in my family of women who hate their middle names (such as Maude and Hazel – I’m not making it up!), and therefore drop it upon their marriage. I seem to be the first one to break that tradition in about 5 generations, but my mom is very much a part of it. Also, when choosing my name, my parents expected me to keep my name when I got married, and made sure that my first and last names sound really good together. They expected the ‘antiquated’ concept of taking his name to no longer be the norm by this point!

  • I have 2 last names – my family’s name and my husband’s name, no hyphen. And the logistics have been confusing, to a minor degree. The only thing that ever really irritated me was when the higher-ups at work decided to hyphenate my name for me because it was “easier.” *insert really, really confused face here*

    This may sound fickle, but I’ve ended up having a last name that is conveniently flexible. And I’ve maintained my identity – no matter how people view my “role,” “responsibility” and “purpose” in this world and society and to my husband. Through that, I’ve not lost myself in the identity of being “wife.” I love that.

    • Me, too! Me, too! Except that no one has tried to hyphenate me (yet). I love the flexibility, probably more than I’d admit to most people.

    • I did the same thing, two last names with no hyphen, and five months in I’m finding it to be a real pain. The first last name (my only last name for 30 years) is often dropped in professional correspondence, and even personal correspondence from some family members. Both of the last names are difficult to spell and pronounce, which only adds to the problem. I’m considering adding a hyphen just to make it clear that I have two last names because I’m getting tired of correcting people. I don’t like how it looks though.

    • A-L

      I understand your desire to do this. My last name is hyphenated already, and though in college I joked about hyphenating my name to my husband’s, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable doing that in real life.

      Thankfully my parents never gave me a middle name, so I’m planning on making mylastname my middle name, and on all professional correspondence (and even on outgoing personal e-mails) just have all 3 names (first, mylast, hislast) so that people don’t forget that part of my identity, even if people only ever call me Ms. Hislast. But then I don’t have to deal with the hassle of filling out forms, finding my name in a database, etc. Because after 30 years with a hyphenated name, I know it can be a royal pain.

  • “There’s more, though. I think I had convinced myself that being an eighth grade English teacher wasn’t a worthy-enough profession for which to keep my name professionally. That was something doctors or lawyers or published writers did. Admitting and reading that now makes me more than a little sick. What I do on a daily basis matters.”

    Brenna – I am so glad that you came to this realization. What you do matters immensely.

    My former life as an 8th grade teacher (now working in a state education office), was THE driving force in my name decision. I calculated that I had taught over 500 kids in my 7 years of teaching and they all knew me as Ms. S. While I love my husband and the idea of a team name, I knew that I wanted “my kids” to know what to call me when I hear from on FB and run into them on the Metro. I knew that I wanted my graduate degrees to bear my “teacher name” because the experience of teaching is what inspired me to go to grad school.

    So I am Ms. S professionally and Mrs. S socially. It confuses some people – and I don’t really care. I am both Ms. S and Mrs. S and I don’t feel the least bit confused. :)

  • This is probably my favorite post. I’m so moved by your words, Brenna, and I can’t even express how much I admire your courage to admit that you changed your mind.

    I also realized that I’m one of those women with a law degree who perpetuates the excuse that I don’t want to change my name for professional reasons … when really, I don’t want to change my name because it’s my name. You’ve inspired me to be more brave, and when people ask about my name choice, I’ll talk about my identity and my personal and political feelings on it, and not fall back to “I’ve got my degree and career in this name.”

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Yes. I never had any desire to change my name and I never felt conflicted about the decision, but the first time I had to tell someone I was keeping my own name I said sort of reflexively, “Kenobi is the name I’m known by professionally.” And while that was true, it was totally not the reason.

      In fact, from a professional standpoint there wasn’t really a good reason not to change my name. I’d only been working for 14 months when I got engaged. I worked in a small office and only knew a few corporate people, plus I transferred to a new office 3 weeks after the wedding. If anything, not changing my name caused a lot more confusion because so many people knew I’d just gotten married.

      Hence a thousand iterations of this discussion:
      “Oh, I meant to ask, what do I call you now?”
      “No, I mean what’s your married name?”
      “Abby-Wan Kenobi”
      “oh…. What was your name before?”
      “Abby-Wan Kenobi”
      “Oh, yeah I guess it makes sense not to change it at work. Less confusing.”
      “I’m not changing it at all. And trust me, it’s not less confusing.”

      After that first slip I try to be really explicit that I haven’t changed my name is because I don’t *want* to change my name. It’s wrapped up in my identity, my feminism, my independence and my affection for my ‘maiden’ name. And while it’s easy to ‘blame’ my career for this choice, it’s a choice that doesn’t require blame to be assigned. It’s a positive decision for me and for my baby family and I feel better when I own it that way – even if it’s uncomfortable to answer a question in a way that people don’t expect.

      • RachelLyn

        This is it exactly.

        Also, Abby-Wan Kenobi has to be the coolest name I have ever heard.

      • Wait, so, is Abby-Wan Kenobi your real name?! I am in awe, if so… I always thought it was just a genius username on APW.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Full Disclosure: Abby-Wan Kenobi is not my real name. It is clever though, right? I’m a geek-savant.It is my real handle on the interwebs though – if you see it at ESB, OBT, Pajiba, Feministe or Jezebel it’s the same me.

          My real name is too distict (I’m literally the only one, ever) and while I’d invite any APW-ers over for drinks in a second, I fear trolls and stalkers being able to pinpoint my location in the first page of a Google search.

          May the Force be with you.

    • TNM

      Yes, when asked, it’s somewhat difficult not to make excuses, or not to provide a litany of terrible thoughful reasons for my decision not to take my partner’s name. But I am trying now to answer the inevitable question “Why did you keep your name?” with just, “I wanted to.” It really should not be more complicated than that.

      • Morgan

        Also works brilliantly the other way. “Why did you change your name?” “Because I wanted to.” It’s the best answer for whatever you choose to do!

        (It sounds better than the joking reason I use for invasive questions about my own choice – I took his name so that I am the only person on earth called Morgan NewName, instead of one of a half dozen names Morgan OldName. True story, but your answer is so much more elegant.)

      • Jess

        Making excuses for not changing my name is something I also did for awhile. People would ask me why I didn’t change (and WAY more people than I expected asked me this), and I would make a joke about how his last name is even more complicated than mine. Even though that wasn’t really the reason. I felt like if I busted into a feminist diatribe I’d be insulting the women listening in who had changed their names.

        Lately, I’ve started telling people the real reason when they ask: if he wasn’t willing to change his name, why should I?

    • meg

      This is such a beautiful point. F*ck us making excuses about our decisions. “Because I wanted to” or “Because it’s my name” is reason enough.

  • Kate

    I too can relate. It’s something I didn’t give a lot of thought until I absolutely had to (read when I was filling out our marriage license application). I guess I just always assumed I would take his name. In the end I did what you did, Brenna. I used my old last name as an additional middle name. But when I went to work and then when I started my own business it just felt strange to go by my new name because this was my career. So I didn’t. I couldn’t. For me it has totally worked out and I can’t imagine it any other way. Way to go for being brave enough to realize what works for you!!

  • Lindsay

    No part of me wanted to change my last name because I felt like I would have to sacrifice part of my identity in a way that my husband didn’t have to–and that would start our marriage off on unequal footing. At our wedding rehearsal, I was talking about this with his friend, a married woman, who was going to do a reading in our ceremony. Long ago, she changed her first name (due to reasons from her childhood), and then her last name when she got married. She said this with a little embarrassment and then said something to the effect of, “Some feminist she was.” I said that it doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we have a choice. I am so grateful for that.

  • Anne

    Thank you for your brave and timely post! I have been wondering if this could even be done. The process for changing it is so complicated, it feels so final. But how do you figure out what you want without trying it out for awhile?

    I have been surprised how conflicted I feel about the name change issue. I’m in academia, and completely unclear on how to explain to colleagues that I want to change my name professionally, not just socially. And then, when I start the process I’ve outlined for myself, I find myself in tears at the social security office. Still unclear on what I really want.

    And strangely, at that moment in social security, feeling more married than at any other moment so far. Perhaps because the name change feels like the first outward change since the wedding? So much to still work out in my head…

  • And this is why I love Team Practical.

    You are so lovely, so thoughtful, so articulate.

    Thanks for all your kind words. And I thought I should share this link (Taylor Mali’s “Like Lily Like Wilson”), because it is an AWESOME teacher poem about changing your mind. You have to watch him perform it; wait until you’re home if you have to!


    • Ariel L-S

      I love this poem!

  • So glad to see this post. Recently, my friend (who got married last year) mentioned that the most real part of getting married for her was the name change. The wedding itself was just a hectic blur, but knowing that she would be forever changed by this act was pretty intense. She made the decision to change her name and it’s worked out well for her, but I think it’s more of an emotional experience than most people anticipate. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be going the name-changing route, but I know lots of couples who are either keeping their own names, adding a hyphen to include both, or combining their names for something totally new for both of them. I hope that, with articles like these, more people will be inspired to make the right choice for them.

    • Tracy

      Yes, exactly. I’m still in the decision process and I’m finding the name issue more emotional on some levels than most else I’m going through with the impending marriage transition. I realized at some point that part of what I needed was my partner to understand how emotionally difficult this decision is for me and why. He was always supportive – meaning he didn’t put any pressure on me either way – but that isn’t really enough. It’s not as simple as I want to change it or I don’t. Both decisions, or combinations of decisions, have emotions associated with them, and before I can feel like I’m not betraying myself with any decision I need him to realize just what I’m sacrificing no matter what I choose, and the injustice I feel about him not having to go through this (changing his name was never something that he was interested in). So, I think I’ve made the decision on an intellectual level, but I know I haven’t emotionally accepted it. I hope that I can wait out the time it takes to let my emotions catch up to the intellectual decision. But, it is very comforting to hear someone deal with the situation gracefully and confidently if this turns out not to be the case.

      • meg

        For really though? I wouldn’t let him off the hook with “hanging his name was never something that he was interested in.” Why shouldn’t he have to go through the fire with you??? Why shouldn’t he have to grapple with what it would mean to him to have to change his name. No matter what you decide, I’d ask him to walk through the fire with you.

        I am totally SICK AND TIRED of guys getting the easy way out on this issue.

        Clearly ;)

        • Aly

          Meg, you just inspired me to bring up the subject again with my fiance, who gave me some not-terribly-great reasons why I should change my name to his, and why he should definitely not change his name to mine. But you’re right, no matter what we decide, he at least needs to seriously understand what I’m going through and see it from my perspective.

        • Tracy

          Not to throw my partner under the bus or anything. We did recently have a good conversation where I told him the above and explained my feelings, and I felt like he saw where I was coming from. It was a start. But yes, it still stings that generally the man in a relationship can think that this is his partner’s issue and can remove himself from this part of the process without really thinking about the inequality of it.

  • THANK YOU. There is not enough credit given for the incredibly complicated choice that we each have to make when we get married (it’s almost more difficult now that it IS a choice). I applaud you for recognizing that there is no univeral answer here. You just have to do what feels right for you.

    Incidentally, I’ve never had the same last name as my family. As a love child of the ’80s with unmarried parents, I’ve always had my mother’s maiden name (all my siblings have my step-dad’s last name and my mom has her new husband’s last name. Yeah…). I’ve been pressured since the age of 5 to change it to my biological dad’s name, and for almost 20 years I’ve refused because that’s not who I *am*. And I think it all boils down to how you identify yourself. The way I was brought into this world is a big deal for me and I like to wear it on my sleeve. For others, getting married is a milestone that they want to publicly acknowledge with a name change. As long as you are doing it for reasons that are true to you and your partner (or undoing it for reasons that are true to you), then you’ll be good.

    Also, *hugs*.

    • ka

      Me too!! (I noticed your comment the other day, and was going to pipe in with how I love that you say “love child” which is a lovely phrase I never would have thought to use! Instead, my fiance and I have much pride around being “bastards” – our sense of humor is a jessst a little warped.)

      So yeah, I have my mom’s maiden name – which she never changed, so it was a bit easier that we matched. I was always told that I was free to take my dad’s or hyphenate, but it is my maternal grandparents’ name, and my mom’s name and those were the people who raised me, so why would I change it? I think it is the fact that I have already in essence chosen my name, that makes me not want to change it now…

      • This.

        Could not have said it better myself.

  • I admit to worrying over our future lack of “team name” – however we started referring to our future family with a portmanteau of our last names, which I think is fun and galvanizing.

    My family knows me well, and therefore never expected a name change, but I think the weird hybrid last name is pretty fun. We’ll both be keeping our names as is, but I like the idea of signing our Christmas cards “the Garciberts” (Garcia + Ebert).

    • Jo

      Some friends of ours basically did this. They each kept their names but their names blend together quite well, so that is how they sign cards and stuff. I love this because, while I get the whole “team name” thing, I (stubborn woman that I am) don’t understand why it is typically the wife who has to change for “the team.” We both like the idea of a team name too, but when I suggested that HE change HIS name for the team? … Well, suddenly it wasn’t as appealing of an idea! Our names don’t create a handy portmanteau, but we still joke about it. We’re both quite happy keeping our names.

      I really applaud Brenna for being able to say “Wait just a second! This isn’t quite right.” I have a couple of friends who seem to still be wistful about their choice to change their names. I bet they have never considered that they could change their mind even after the wedding. Maybe they will read this and it will ring true for them.

      • Aine

        Our names don’t go well together; they are too similar and sound like they were badly rhymed. However, I may inflict double-barreling on my children, so we all sort of match. My mother will be horrified, of course- she is working on her family tree, and its pretty darn awkward as it is, and jokes that she’ll disown me if I don’t change my name for the sake of future genealogists.

        • Yep, Brenna is brave and awesome. It would have not occurred to me for some reason that a name changed and regretted could be restored – and it seems like she managd it without too much legal hassle. Excellent!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      At first we were a little unsure about not having a “team name” but when we were addressing our thank-you cards we ended up just writing both last names on the first line intead of writing out ‘”Abby-Wan Kenobi & Professor Capitalist”. It kind of makes us sound like an investment bank “Kenobi Capitalist”. I’ve taken to referring to us as a family unit this way and I like it. My family has adopted it enthusiastically. It’s a little like an inside joke, but it’s fun to get calls from my mom asking if the Kenobi Capitalists are available for dinner next Thursday.

      And most importantly, we both feel good about how we’re addressed.

      • We do the portmanteau thing too. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious. It’s even the name of our wedding website.

        It definitely solves the problem when people ask, “Well what will people say when they are going to dinner at your house? Whose last name will they use?” (Digression: why is this such a problem? How do you go to dinner at people’s houses when they are unmarried?) And I just say, well they’ll say they are going to Team Portmanteau’s house.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I know. Most of the people we actually “dinner” with are my husband’s brothers’ families and they all share the same family name. So it’s impossible for us to say we’re having dinner at “the Capitalists’ house” because it doesn’t differentiate between the top 4 places we’re likely to be headed. Possibly as the result of this we pretty much refer to all of the couples we know (married or not) by their first names. We’re having dinner at Jason & Suzie’s. Or Jen & Andy’s. It’s not rocket science, right?

      • Laura

        Haha, sweet, I love the investment bank name! :)

      • We also put “HerLastName/HisLastName” as the first line on our address labels. I did it that way because I couldn’t think of a better way, but now I like it.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Before we were married I used to just use my last name as the first line of the return address label, it’s really uncommon and I was the only “Kenobi” in the state I lived in. When we got married it was just kind of instinct to put “Kenobi + Capitalist” there and now I totallly love it.

          Let’s be real, as an economist and an engineer, we’ve got more business-savvy than relationship-savvy anyway. My mom emails me meeting invitations when she wants to talk to me on the phone. Kenobi & Capitalist is a totally thriving business, we’re even considering expanding into new markets :P

          • Hihi. Awesome. And I wish you all the best if you choose to expand the business at some point in the future. :)

            And I might switch to the + instead of the / when I print more address labels. Your way conveys my intention better I think… :)

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            I like the + too. It kind of adds the whimsy of our names carved into a tree to our professional partnership :)

          • I did that, too (“K. MyLast”), and then found that I automatically put “K. MyLast & J. HisLast1 HisLast2” on our thank-you notes. Of course, as you’ve mentioned elsewhere, that doesn’t mean we don’t still get mail from Americans addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. HisLast1” or even “Mr. and Mrs. J. B. HisLast2” (the B=HisLast1, which is weird b.c in Spain (his country) the first is always used if you have to go by just one of them). It’s especially frustrating b.c I’m neither “Mrs.” nor “HisLast1/2”, of course!

            In Spain people don’t change their names when marrying, and the household (and the children) are always called “Los HisLast1 HerLast”. I love when tradition coincides exactly with what I would have done anyway! :)

            PS- Abby-Wan, I’ve always thought yours was one of the most clever handles! Mine is what Spanish people call me when they can’t pronounce my name… though it’s not really even close to it! My first name is also very rare (my parents made it up, but apparently they weren’t the only ones, since I’ve met a couple of others in the last decade or so!), so it would be immediately identifiable as well.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            That’s hilarious. Spanish-speakers cannot work out how to say my name when it’s spelled in English. I minored in Spanish and I used to spell my first name phoenetically on my papers to help out my professors.


      • My husband and I had our own law practice together during our engagement and the first part of our marriage, so when I thought about hypenating, or when people refer to coming over to the “His-Hers” house for dinner, it really DOES sound like a professional business. ;-)

        I joke about it, but I really sort of love it, and especially now that I’ve taken a job that’s outside our law firm. Hearing people call us the “His-Hers” makes me feel like a team in every possible way.

    • Annastasia

      Ha! Your combo last name is like ours… We’re the Thomberts! (Thomas and Gabbert) Some people roll their eyes, but it’s partially how we formed an identity as more than just boyfriend/girlfriend in the beginning- we weren’t just dating, we were each half of Team Thombert.

      • Kathryn

        Haha! I’ve never thought to try this, and at first was jealous because I think it’s so cute and didn’t think our last names would ever work but Team Salleeooney is pretty funny. Yay!

        • team salleeooney! love it! :)

          we’ve been “Rachary Pants” pretty much since we started dating. Pants was really a joke, only a mixed combo of the letters of our last names (doing a true combo just did not work), but the Rachary part works well. didn’t really matter since I went and changed my name anyway but it could have been the solution.

    • lolo7835

      We also refer to ourselves as team portmanteau. :D So much so that we actually have friends who think we are legally getting our names changed to said portmanteau. (which is still on the table actually)

      So glad we aren’t alone in this!


    I didn’t change my name, mostly because I didn’t want to, but with professional reasons too. BUT, I might. Probably just to eliminate my middle name and add his to the end. MAYBE. I would tell folks that if they are indecisive to wait and let it marinate after the wedding madness clears. It is a big decision.

  • Brenna,

    You are super brave, and I love that you decided to go with what felt right for you. I debated and debated and DEBATED this. Finally, I decided I would add his last name and have two middle names, like you did. I continue to go by my name professionally, and socially go by both or by our married name. Here is the kicker: We were married over 6 months ago and I STILL haven’t legally changed it. Part of it is I don’t want to go through the hassle, and part of it is I’m not totally sure this was the right decision for me. So it’s actually calming to hear of someone who feels the same. Thank you for this.

    • You guys aren’t the only ones.

  • Aine

    I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about my name; I really want to not change it, but I kind of want us to share a name. If our last names didn’t sound AWFUL paired together, I’d hyphenate without a second thought, but together they’re both long and clunky and ugh. Then my mom threw another question into the mix- we’re kind of an international couple; I’m Irish AND American (legally, not just ancestry) and he’s Irish. My mom pointed out that we’ll be traveling a lot, and with the same background, she’s had a lot of stick because she only changed her name with SS- her license, passport, etc, are all in her maiden name, and sometimes immigrations (in both countries) is a little testy about that sort of thing. Especially if your name doesn’t match that of the young children you are travelling with (my dad frequently would come along later on a different flight, or leave sooner, or something,d epending on work). So there’s all these stupid legal worries to deal with too.

    It has been funny, though, to realize that I’m a lot more bothered with being “Mrs. ANYTHING” than I am about being Aine HisLast. I don’t know why changing my title is so much worse than changing my name.

    • I feel like I had this exact same revelation. The title of ‘Mrs.’ just makes me want to barf.

    • Jo

      My mom never changed her name and has actually been quite surprised by how LITTLE hassle she has gotten taking her children across international lines. I am trying to not be motivated by fear that someone, somewhere, might be confused by my choice. I was lucky in that I have grown up with parents with different last names and I saw first hand how it just wasn’t a big deal. So, I can only hope my experience will be the same. If not, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I don’t plan on going on doing anything illegal, so if boarder patrol wants to hassle me, I consider that a small price to pay for doing what feels right for me.

      • Heather

        That’s why I’ll be Dr., damn it. :)

      • I guess I don’t get how the travel thing even applies – plenty of kids have different names than their parents due to divorce, death, remarriage, etc. It is not as if TSA could give you gruff over not choosing to change your name because of choice rather than situation.

        I understand more of the simplicity of it with people you actually know, but that is not the case here.

        And unlike most commenters, I happen to love Mr/Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, even though I still use my maiden name at least 50% of the time. But I guess that is because I only see that on formal MAILED invitations and the like, and I quite enjoy getting fancy things in the mail, as well as the old fashioned notion of it all.

        But I can totally understand why most people have different opinions. Which in and of itself is quite lovely – different opinions and all!

        • I can’t say that I “love” it, but I (usually) don’t mind. I haven’t pushed the issue with his family. Most of them have figured out that while I may have hyphened legally, I’m going by MY name socially and professionally, and they don’t seem to care much either way.

          The thing is, from a social convention/western American English standpoint, I *am* Mrs. Hislastname. I may prefer to not be called Mrs. Hislastname, but it’s not inaccurate. If people ask me what to call me, I say Irisira Mylastname. But I don’t really force it on people. In truth, I wasn’t all that keen on forcing it on his family, because they’ve been so nice to me. I’ve been honest with them, but I haven’t been forceful about correcting them, because I don’t want them to think I hate their name or something.

          I think, though, part of my zen on this has to do with the fact that I went through this once when I legally changed my name for me. I was forceful to the point of obnoxious when correcting people about it. I finally got over it – anyone who was important to me knew why I did what I did, and anyone else was either irrelevant, got used to it, or didn’t know me until I had the new last name.

          I sort of feel the same way about this.

          However, because I did go through it once already, I can understand why people are so passionate about it.

    • Kira

      “It has been funny, though, to realize that I’m a lot more bothered with being “Mrs. ANYTHING” than I am about being Aine HisLast.”

      Totally true for me! I’m not married yet, but my boyfriend and I talk about both becoming Firstname Mylast Hislast (with Mylast as a middle) someday. I know that would generally be shortened to Kira Hislast, which doesn’t bother me, but the very thought of Mrs. Hislast–yikes! Ms. Hislast is fine. I guess it’s the feeling that once I change my name to his, I can own it. We’ll have the same name as each other and our kids–that sounds like a FAMILY name to me. I’m part of that. But if my title switches overnight from Ms. to Mrs.? Nuh uh, I can’t own that. That is always referring back to him.

      The whole point of “Ms.” is that it takes marital status out of the question. If I were to switch from “Ms.” to “Mrs.” after marrying, the intention behind the use of that title would be undermined.

    • meg

      You guys, you get to choose your title too. You can change your name and stay a Ms. That’s the whole point!

      Also, customs is getting a lot better. We fill out one family form when we travel, and they always get it, and are really nice about it. And if you don’t share a last name with your child, you just travel with a copy of the birth certificate, done.

      • I read somewhere that people traveling from Iceland really “confuse” customs agents. They still use the old-world Scandinavian naming structure. It is still somewhat patriarchal, but it is becoming more acceptable to use the wife’s first name for children as well.

        Even still – it certainly throws a wrench into western ideas of “family units” and “team names.” Obviously, they’re not any less a team in Iceland, and they’ve been doing this for centuries.

    • N

      If you figure out what to do, let me know! I am in a similar situation: want to have the same name, names sound like crap when put together, and I don’t mind taking his last name but I can’t imagine just losing everything that ties me to my family in my name. My first and middle names are very pretty, but they were chosen for just that reason and that alone–if my first name were my great-grandmother’s or something, I feel like that would be fine. My current solution is drop my last name, take his, and then to add a family name from my mother’s side as my second middle name, because it sounds better than my last name with his last. This seems a little random to me still, but its the one thing I’ve thought of that I feel like I can roll with. I am among those who used to think I would just drop my last name like a hot potato but it turns out its not that simple.

      But I want to say a BIG thank you to Meg and APW for bringing this issue up and talking about how emotional and how frustrating this decision and process is. And I think this post has made me resolve to discuss the possibility of him adding that second middle name from my family to his name too. I would like that even more.

      And on the Mrs. issue–I feel you, and I’m glad that Southern speaking habits have this problem partially solved for me. All elders are referred to (in my experience) as “Miss First Name” or “Mr. FirstName.” Married or not. Excellent.

    • Olivia

      I don’t know if anyone will ever see this comment, but anyway – we travel a lot and have a mess of citizenships between us, and having different last names has never been an issue. We moved overseas and do carry a copy of our marriage license just in case, but it has never been needed.

      And as for kids, we don’t have any yet, by my parents have two different last names and never had any hassle travelling with us.

  • I had always wanted to keep mylastname professionally (it’s on my degree! I spent three years networking in law school, and my entire life getting there with mylastname!), but legally change my name to hislastname for personal family reasons. And then I realized in the legal profession that wouldn’t work because I have to be able to sign legal documents with my legal last name. In the end I chose taking hislastname legally over being able to keep mylastname professionally, so in a way I’m very jealous!

  • Mejane

    “I think I had convinced myself that being an eighth grade English teacher wasn’t a worthy-enough profession for which to keep my name professionally. That was something doctors or lawyers or published writers did. Admitting and reading that now makes me more than a little sick. What I do on a daily basis matters. I’m still not sure why I couldn’t see it as enough of a reason.”

    Brenna, thanks so much for putting this into words. When I was trying to decide what to do name-wise, I had this thought as well and then felt ashamed because of it. I also remember thinking that I was so early in my career that changing my name would be unproblematic (I have a friend in a competitive PhD program who once voiced this same idea because she hadn’t published anything *yet*…she also worried that if she changed her name once she started publishing, other academics would look down on her).

    In the end, it turned out that a name change would have been *deeply* problematic for me for both practical and personal reasons. And it feels good to be able to own up to that, instead of wasting my energy trying to anticipate possible Nightmare World objections to my unchanged name (“but…you’re not a doctor…you’re just a librarian!”).

    • Vmed

      “And it feels good to be able to own up to that, instead of wasting my energy trying to anticipate possible Nightmare World objections to my unchanged name (“but…you’re not a doctor…you’re just a librarian!”).”

      Oh Nightmare World, why are you always so weird and scary.

  • fleda

    I changed my mind too!

    When we walked out of city hall having gotten our marriage license indicating the name change (a few weeks before the wedding), my stomach suddenly, unexpectedly felt full of bricks. It was just somehow WRONG. I lost sleep over it. We talked about it. So, a few days later, I went back to city hall by myself and asked them to redo the form. Which they did, very nicely, no questions asked.

    After months of mulling and deciding and undeciding, it was great to have that clarity of my gut just telling me what to do. And it was great that the bureaucrats were so kind in accommodating my change of heart!

  • I have to admit….I’m so happy to just not be alone in the agony of name-changing. It’s been two years since we got married, three since we were engaged and I started my waffling. The thing is, I’d known for years that I didn’t want to change my name when I got married. I knew it had nothing to do with my husband’s last name (so I made sure to tell my earliest boyfriend of my plan). What I didn’t anticipate was feeling all the friction about it from society. But at some point I had to realize that I was the one allowing myself to still be upset at the Christmas cards that come addressed to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast (probably the worst version of the lot, I think). My anger and frustration over *everybody* else’s actions was really just a reflection of how insecure I was being in my own choice. I still go back and forth about whether I made the right call. I had another agonizing moment when it came to my passport renewal last year and I thought, “do I really want to not have the option of taking his name for the next 10 years?” But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s my business, and my choice in no way needs to be factored on someone else’s convenience. I have a wonderful husband who supports whatever name I have, and that makes me pretty fortunate.

    • Sierra

      “do I really want to not have the option of taking his name for the next 10 years?” – You can do a name change on your passport for free!

  • I love love love love love this. I am always blown away by what an emotional response we have to the issues of name changing. I think rightly so. My name isn’t just what I’m called, it’s who I am. I kept my name but sometimes I really really want to “have a team name” and I really really want to have the same name as our children. We’ve talked a lot about my husband changing his name to my name and I think any potential children will have my last name. The door is really open on what we’re going to be called and what our children will be called. Which is good. I think.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I sometimes wonder about the flip side of this – the parental perspective 25-years later. I understand all the practical, logistical reasons for wanting to have the same last name as your children, but how to women feel about it later when their children marry, change their names and no longer match their children. Is there a sense of loss on the part of parents?

      I didn’t change my name and I don’t have kids, but I kind of wonder how I’d feel about having given up my own name (which I love) to share a name with my daughters, only to have them make the same decision and abandon our shared name for another. Or maybe that’s kind of an important step in severing the tie to your family of origin – for girls.

      • “Or maybe that’s kind of an important step in severing the tie to your family of origin – for girls.”

        Gah. When you put it like that it makes me so sad. BUT, I think this is changing. I now know three guys who have changed their names upon marriage. I think there is some sort of severing process from the family of origin, which is how it should be … to an extent. But I guess it just makes me sad that it would HAVE to be the girl.

      • My mom actually kept her name so my name is Hannah Mothersname-Dads and I think she’s proud that I still carry it. While I definitely can’t speak to how parent’s feel when their daughters change their names I can say that I have two friends who have changed their names when they got married, and I did feel a loss. It was their decision and I’d no more say they had to keep their maiden names than change my own but I did feel a loss.

      • My mom is really disappointed that I plan to change my name. She says my name is just too cool to give up, and she’s right that I have a really awesome FN-MN-LN combination. I don’t think it has to do with the fact that she changed her name, but is more about how much she likes my name. It’s the only pressure I’ve gotten in either direction.

        Although I think changing my name is going to be, hands down, the hardest thing about getting married, I’ve decided on it. And actually, “Or maybe that’s kind of an important step in severing the tie to your family of origin – for girls.” just made me more confident in my decision. My fiance already feels like part of the family to all of my extended relatives. I wouldn’t know most of his aunts if I passed them on the street. He’s moving away from his home city to come live in mine, near all of my family. Let’s call it less “an important step in severing the tie to my family” and more “an important step in joining his family,” and in our relationship, I think it’ll be a good one for us.

        • I like how you contextualized this decision with regard to your relationship to each other’s families. My fiance is probably more a part of my family than I am of his, but one reason for that is my family’s acceptance of our relationship/engagement/upcoming marriage and their disapproval. I feel really uncomfortable taking the name of a family who doesn’t want me marrying into it. It feels like stealing something that should be given.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Awesome perspective. That’s a way I hadn’t thought about it that is much more positive. It’s nice to be able to make a choice like that also be a kind of gift.

      • I guess my question would be why women are the only ones who have to sever ties to their family origin? The historical and political and mysogynistic reasons are plentiful, but I mean today – are women really leaving one family and joining another while men remain a part of their first? I don’t think that’s how most of us view it anymore.

      • Oh–great question. I think that’s part of the reason for not wanting to–100%–change my name. How else would I possibly identify with my family? Of whose name will end with my generation (unless my brother has a boy, stat. Fat chance.) So I almost feel a duty to the family, which I take upon myself, of course, to keep us bonded. They’re me. I’m them. And not so with my honey. He’s he. Me’s me.

        A name does not love make.

  • Jen

    This post just reinforces for me, over and over and over again why this community means so much to me. I’m kind of creepy like Brenna, in that I read often and comment too little, but the smart, brave and funny women (and men) who contribute here just continue to amaze me.

    thank you for being the brave person you are and thank you for writing about it.

  • Shawna

    Great post and very timely for my personal life.
    My mom got married when I was 6 and changed my last name for me to my new dad’s last name. Fine, except that turns out new dad was pretty horrible to me during my growing up years. So, I considered changing my last name back to my birth lastname (which is also my grandfather’s last name and he has been a wonderful part of my life). But, I never got around to it. So, when it came time to get married, it seemed like an obvious choice to change my last name to my husband’s last name, which I did. Problem is, since changing it, I feel totally conflicted (which I did not anticipate). I realized that, even though my dad wasn’t so great, I had made that last name mine– getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree with it, moving across country, and just generally making a life for myself. So, I’ve considered changing my name back. But, I’m not positive I want to be that last name, and I do sometimes enjoy being the husband’s last name. And I could change to grandpa’s last name, but I don’t think that name would feel fully mine at this point either. So, basically, I feel stuck not knowing which name feels like mine. Only my first name seems to feel like mine and no last name or combination of last names seems to sound right. For now, I’m signing my name with husband’s last name (because, after all, that is my legal name at this moment). But, I’m waiting for it to feel right– or for one of the other options to feel right for that matter. I’ve been married just 4 months, so I”m hoping time will provide an answer. It is sooooooooo reassuring to know that other women have had similar dilemmas.

    • I’m in a lot of the same situation where my name isn’t all that important to me except that it’s my name.

      My dad got re-married and he and his wife hyphenated their names, so I don’t even share a name with my dad anymore. And I don’t get along so well with his side of the family (my dad’s father, etc) so I don’t have any real attachment to my current last name. On the other hand, my mom’s got her birth last name still, and I’m so close to that side of the family, so I’d love to help pass on that name. We’re working on a way to combine *all* of our families’ names (so, my mom’s last name, my dad’s last name, his mom’s maiden name, and his dad’s last name) so that we can have a family name for ourselves, but still honor our families and our heritage.

      But I still have a lot of the same thoughts and worries about name changing at all. Good thing we’ve got 15 more months til the wedding, and a lifetime beyond that if we’re still not ready with a good decision for ourselves. But still: AHHHHH!

  • Mel

    I’ve commented about this a bit in the past. It’s been four months since the wedding. I told people I was changing my name, I signed up for MstoMrs.com, I got extra copies of the marriage license…..and I just haven’t done it. The afternoon I was set to go to the social security office on my lunch break, I started sobbing in my office at work unexpectedly. I tried to stop and it would start again. You’d think that would be a clear sign that I should not change my name, but I still want to. I tell myself that I’ll get used to it and I’ll be happy we are forming our own family-team with the same name. I tell myself that it will be good for me to separate from my parents’ family. I tell myself I can do this on my own terms, and that the meaning it has for me is valid.

    Now things are getting weird. A third of the mail I get has MyName HisLast, and the rest has my original name. I’m starting a new job, which would be a good time to change it, but I already filled out all the HR forms with my original name, and my new boss understands me already as OldName. Then this Christmas, my new mother-in-law got me a bathrobe EMBROIDERED WITH MY NEW INITIALS! I stared at it and literally did not know what these letters were. She said “It’s your initials!!” It was so bizarre. I was like, whose? Who is that girl? She always greets me with a gleeful “Hi Mrs. HisLasteName!!” which is actually really cute. But weird.

    I hate all of the options for the name dance. And I hate that my husband isn’t having to deal with any of this. Kudos to all of you who are finding options that work for you!!

    • “I started sobbing in my office at work unexpectedly. I tried to stop and it would start again.”

      Oh man! The exact same thing happened to me, except it was a couple days after I’d gotten engaged. This sort of stuff is friggin’ HUGE and life-changing, and a strong emotional reaction is completely warranted!

      Really getting to the bottom of what was bothering me helped a lot. For me personally, what I needed was reassurance that my identity as a person was safe, valued, and not going anywhere.

      I’ve thought a lot about name-changing, but our wedding is still pretty far off, and I bet the whole thing becomes a lot trickier once it’s *real.* I hope you’ll be able to reach a decision that feels right to you, but no matter what you decide, you’re still you, and you still contribute things to the world that no one else can. :)

      (Ha, didn’t mean to get all Mr. Rogers there… but it’s true.) <.<

  • Good for you for figuring out what you truly want! I would like to point out the fact that, just like you don’t have to take your husband’s last name, your future kids don’t either. Just in case you’re feeling a little grief about that!

  • This is so great. It’s so wonderful that you did what was right for YOU.

    I changed my name when I married, and I don’t regret it, BUT I’m really struggling because I want to go by Ms., and everyone is calling me Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. Like I’m just his appendage or something. I think I just need to be more vocal about what I’m going by, but I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m calling them out.

    It is so awesome you were brave enough to change your name back when it didn’t feel like the right thing for you. That rocks.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I find this hard too. I kept my last name, but I’m not as assertive as I’d like about correcting people when they call me by my husband’s name. We really emphasized our name choices at the wedding and in all our post-wedding correspondance, but one of his sisters-in-law still sends all her letters to “Mr. & Mrs. Capitalist”.

      A level of humor has been added (for me) since right now my husband and I don’t live together but his family sends all their correspondance to my house with his name on it. Very odd.

      Resolving to be more vocal about getting my name right :)

    • Morgan

      I *like* being Morgan NewLast, but I will NOT be Mrs. David NewLast. Nun uh. I may have cheerfully taken his last name, but I sure as h*ll didn’t take his first name! I’m, um, very vocal about that. :)

      • GOD, YES. I don’t mind Mrs. Hislast, or Sarah Hislast; I am married, I took his name, and I’m enjoying being a wife (and a Mrs.). I’ll own up to ALL of that. But Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast? EFF. THAT. I am a person of my own, thanks. “Mrs.” is not my name, it’s my title.

    • ka

      I think I’m seriously the only person that isn’t offended by Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. I don’t know why not. Since we’re not planning on changing names, it seems like the only way I’ll ever be connected to him and his name in writing is the occasional accidental junk mail to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. Especially because we already get mail to Mr. and Mrs. Herfirstname Hislastname.

      But, yea, it would be waaaay different and much less cool if it was family/friends doing the addressing. Especially those that explicitly knew my wishes. I think I get it now. :)

      • Morgan

        Yeah, I’m not worried about junk mail or even the occasional super formal wedding invitation from a distant cousin or something. (Maybe.) But when I got something from my mom addressed like that? Yeah, I spoke up right quick.

      • Honestly, I’m completely looking forward to being “Mrs. Ben HisLast.” I just like it. In fact, the other day I was joking that I wish people still followed the Avonlea fashion and I could just be commonly known as “Mrs. Ben,” like in the Anne of Green Gables books :-)

    • meg

      No, my dear. CALL THEM OUT. Nicely, but do it. You’re speaking up for all of us when you do.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        24 hours later I just thought of something. If someone called me “Amy” instead of “Abby” there’s no effing way I wouldn’t correct them. Amy isn’t my damn name (though it is a very nice one). Why wouldn’t I give the same respect to my last name? Do I not value my chosen surname as much as my first name? Am I ashamed of my choice?

        No. To hell with that. EVERYBODY gets corrected from now on.

        • Tina

          such a great point. exactly to this. funny enough, i’m not even married but we set up a special dinner to celebrate our anniversary and we were automatically referred to as The Hislasts based just on the reservation he gave. i’m not sure why people automatically assume we are married. maybe we just look so natural together? i didn’t have time to correct in that situation, but it just makes me wonder about what’s to come.

  • I’ve always wanted to change my last name… Having the same last name is a very public way of declaring ourselves a family. I realize there are other ways but for me it has always been an important one. But in Argentina… the laws on names are very rigid. And I like it this way. Having strict guidelines for somethings in life just makes it easier sometimes. For example here you have a list of names from which you can choose from to name your children (so no Inspector Pilots or Apples here!). Children (born to a married couple) are given their father’s last name. Period. You can add the mother’s last name to that (and most people do) but the principal last name is the fathers. And you can’t opt out of giving the kid the father’s name. If you’re a naturalized citizen, they reserve the right to make your name more Spanishy is they deem it too difficult to pronounce.

    And when you married you can either keep your maiden name … or became a Yourlast de Hislast… However, most women just keep their maiden name these days. Which results in no one using last names on a social basis because nobody has any idea what anyone’s spouse’s last name is. And that kind of makes me a little sad. I like last names… they identify and separate people from a bigger group (and I swear everyone in this country born in the last 30 years is either a Valeria or a Pablo… we need last names to distinguish!)

    Also… a man can’t become a Hislast de Yourlast. Although notable gay couples of any gender may adopt the “de His/Herlast” of their spouse (gay marriage is legal here). Which I find curious. Because that would mean they have opposite last names (Xlast de Ylast vs. Ylast de Xlast) And implies are certain level of ownership one another. Instead of just one over the other. I suppose that would be a seriously egalitarian way of resolving the issue but I’m pretty sure the result is that no one would ever know anyone’s last names… I guess I don’t really have a conclusion to make from all this. I just thought it might be interesting to hear a perspective from outside the English- speaking world!

    • Tina

      Don’t forget Florencia. I had 4 friends with that name while living there. I identified them as young Florencia, profe Florencia, and so on unless I was certain of their last names. No one there says Florencia B. or whatever, but I sure did. Having said that, all the households I was at just went by the His Last Her last which was given to the children. Some of my professors had the idea of ownership with Cabeza de Gonzales as a made up example, but it definitely wasn’t the norm.

  • yes! my mom is a teacher, she used to teach elementary. me and my brother went to the school she taught at, and i don’t remember it ever seeming odd that we didn’t have the same last name as her. you’re just used to what you’re used to, you know?

    will you pretty-please write a follow up to this? i really, really what to know how the professional/social name split works for you. i’m leery of changing my name, but i so want to be the ____ family, which seems, as you said, impractical.

    • My now-husband and I bought our house together before we were engaged, and our insurance company addressed our policy and letter to “The His Last HerLast Family,” which was perfect, and the first time we’d been addressed as a family.

      I kept my name when we got married, and that letter is still on our refridgerator.

  • Oh how I struggle with this! My last name ties me to my dad’s family, who I’m not that close with and I don’t identify with my name like some people do because it’s always misspelled and pronounced. I like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and with our kids, and our names are way too long to hypenate. I don’t want to change my name, I just want to add his to the end of mine, but it looks like legally I will need to drop my middle name to do that. It’s so frustrating! I sometimes wonder if it will end up feeling wrong for me. I also don’t like that we will only be tied to his family with our name and not mine at all.

    All I know at this point is that the first person to call me
    Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast better WATCH OUT.

  • Kathryn in VT

    Brenna’s brave, wise post is motivation (finally!) for me to tiptoe into the world of commenting. I’m so, so glad I’ve found APW, precisely because of posts like this one. My partner proposed last month (in a funny aside, I’d been traveling internationally just before the proposal, and discovered APW while Googling “women proposing to men” from a hotel room in China; he beat me to it, though!). Every now and then I get sucked into believing, like so many websites and magazines and friends and relatives would have me believe, that this engagement is “about” the details of planning a wedding. Of course, it’s really about the much more important details of planning a life together. I’m bowled over at the strangest times — driving alone in my car, for instance, or drifting off to sleep at night — by the momentousness of what we’ve decided to do.

    On the name-changing front, I’m a little flummoxed. I will sheepishly admit that I’d been known, in my love-struck youth, to occasionally doodle MyName Boyfriend’sLastName in notebooks or on scraps of paper. (I know. Sheesh.) Now I’ve realized how strongly I feel about keeping my own name. My fiance is supportive (he even told that me that, as a writer, I should most definitely keep my own name professionally because it’s much more interesting than his name would be). Even though I feel confident about the choice, I’m realizing that there’s a sort of mourning that goes along with both choices. On the one hand, I’d be sad to give up my own family’s name, and the identity I’ve built for myself for 25 years. On the other, though, I’m now wistful for the what-if — that “team” name so many of you have mentioned. Neither path is entirely easy.

    • Pssssssh, don’t feel bad about doodling; own up to it! I did it for my entire life, and liked ALL the last names of my former boyfriends…. Except for my husband. Whoops. I took it anyway and love it now, but it’s still funny. The other names still sound so much nicer. Too bad the boys didn’t match up, heh.

      The letting go of choices we do not choose is hugely important. I’ve talked about this for various reasons in the past, and mourning the life we don’t choose or don’t have is good. And the engagement, while often intended for planning a Big Wedding and Party and Hoo-Hah, it’s also for the very real transitions you go through as a person. The separation from our families of origin, the transition to being a partner to someone, the emotional effect that this has on us. I found the engagement to be very important for many reasons, none of which had to do with chair covers. Take your time, think it over, and really relish this transitional time together.

      • Amy

        “And the engagement, while often intended for planning a Big Wedding and Party and Hoo-Hah, it’s also for the very real transitions you go through as a person. The separation from our families of origin, the transition to being a partner to someone, the emotional effect that this has on us.”

        I love this, and plan on repurposing it as my standard advice for my pack of newly engaged friends.

        • No one reminds you that aside from planning the wedding itself, you’re preparing to be married. It’s a Big Effin Deal. I would strongly suggest The Conscious Bride for anyone recently engaged, too.

          • Kathryn in VT

            This is all lovely advice that I fully intend on taking to heart. I’ve got a relatively long engagement (a year and a half) ahead of me — partly for practical reasons having to do with graduate school, partly for somewhat less practical reasons having to do with building the barn in which we hope to be married — and I’ve had to remind myself again and again not to rush. It’s hard to wait, because I’m so excited about starting this part of our life together, and there’s definitely a part of me that’s all, “Eff wedding planning! Let’s elope tomorrow!”

            But I’m also trying to approach this time as a reflective period of preparation and planning. I’ll definitely pick up “The Conscious Bride.”

      • “The letting go of choices we do not choose is hugely important.”

        Wow. Awesome. I think my indecisive nature in general makes it hard to do this. Sometimes I need to remember that this is the problem rather than the issue itself (not this time!).

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      “Even though I feel confident about the choice, I’m realizing that there’s a sort of mourning that goes along with both choices… Neither path is entirely easy.”

      Exactly. There are certainly things you give up no matter what decision you make. But I think it’s good that it isn’t easy. Having options is making us think and evaluate what is truly important to us. Making decisions is engaging us in politics and values and relationships in ways we might not otherwise.

      Reading all the smart, personal, wise reactions to this today is making me grateful to have choices about which to debate, and a place to go that gets me thinking about those choices in new ways. I’m getting smarter all the time, y’all.

      • I guess I wish more men had something to mourn when it comes to this. Or, at least, were able to sympathize with the mourning. My fiance is great about it, but it’s frustrating to see men blow off the experience, like “that shouldn’t be hard, everybody just does it.”

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          The very definition of privilege.

          Occasionally (okay, almost daily) something will irritate me and I’ll shake my head and say “F*cking patriarchy”. Most of the time Husband will agree with me and commiserate but the time when he’s not seeing the deep-down-evil I always try to walk him through it. No one ever tries to fix the injustices they don’t see. I don’t have the energy to preach to everybody, but damned if my own partner walks around with his eyes closed.

          • kyley

            I think I love you.

    • So wise.

    • Carrie

      Oh yeah, I definitely fantasized about Carrie [HisLast] several times. But when it came down to it, I just didn’t feel any kind of strong draw to his last name. I wouldn’t say I have a strong emotional attachment to my last name either. It’s just my name. I just defaulted to keeping it in the absence of a compelling reason to do otherwise.

      Now that we’re married, I really haven’t felt any sadness for not having the same last name as him. We refer to each other as husband/wife; people accept us as a solidly committed couple. Names haven’t been an issue with that. I was more wistful about it before we were married, for some reason.

      I really appreciate that my now-husband considered taking my last name, because he says he kind of loves it when men do that. And that he considered hyphenating too. He went through at least a tiny bit of mourning for options he didn’t take in keeping his name — that he didn’t get to rebel by taking mine. (He decided to keep his because he’s a freelancer and has already made his name into a sort of brand.)

  • stab

    I think choice is the most important thing we have acquired as women. Now we just need to lose the guilt and explanations and judgements for our choices. Even better if we can admit we made the wrong choice and correct it! Inspiring!

    After always adamantly and publicly proclaiming my wish to keep my last name, now that I am engaged I am considering the matter with new eyes. I have been with my partner for 10 years and we have moved across the country and then the world together and so I don’t expect marriage to change our relationship. Which is one of the reasons that I am considering the name-change… as I am not religious and haven’t been planning a wedding since I was a little girl so I am trying to understand what it will actually mean to me to formalise a relationship that I am in no doubt over. (which is why I am so pleased that I stumbled across APW) Inertia propels me not to change – I have no pressure either way from family (his or mine), I am not worried about people being confused about having a different last name as my future children, and I am in academia with a title and published works where it is the norm to at least keep the ‘professional name’ the same. I guess I just want to make sure that I have considered the options and made a choice rather than take the default option. I am mildly concerned that after I am married people will call me MRS mylastname (not Ms), because I am NOT married to my dad! That was a big problem for my teacher friend, and was one of the reasons that she was looking forward to changing her name. I like the idea of adding the extra name without hyphenation or having an extra middle name. People with two middle names are cool.

  • Isn’t it awesome when something finally feels right? And you just KNOW. Smiling all day is a great feeling, and if you do that with any choice it’s usually the right one. I don’t know you, but reading about how you made your own decision that wasn’t necessarily a typical pathway to get there, makes me uber proud of you.

    • And just to add to the pool of options:

      I took his last name because I like it more than my rediculously difficult last name that I have struggled through my entire life – so I was only too excited to give it up…


      I only took the last name on the agreement that I got to name the kids. Since his last name is theirs by default, it only seems fair that I got to pick the first names of the kiddos. I’m pretty stoked, and husband likes the idea too.

      • This was similar to our compromise. I’m keeping my last name, but agreed that the kids could have his … on the condition that they got Indian first names. Since they will get his cultural heritage through his last name, it only seemed fair to get my cultural heritage through their first names.

  • Theresa

    Brenna, I am so impressed with this post! Taking advantage of the opportunity to teach your students about identity is just inspiring!

    The name change decision is so hard. To me, I associate my personhood with my name. While I always thought I’d change my last name, when the time came, I just couldn’t.

    I think the ultimate difficulty is while it is an incredibly personal thing to do, we deal with the social pressures and expectations from family and friends. Everybody has an opinion about what we *should* be doing. We struggle with how to mesh our personal feelings with others’ expectations.

  • You are welcome!

    What was your husband’s reaction to all of this?

  • LifeSheWrote

    Thank you for writing about this and sharing your story. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot – and I had also wondered if I could do the whole MyName professionally and HisName socially and then thought it might make things too complicated. But sometimes the best choice for ME might just have to be a little complicated.

    Not to get too personal – but was your husband up to speed on each stage in this whole process? Both the I’m going to change it and then change it back cycle – and how did he react?

    • My husband is wonderful, wonderful.

      Since I waffled throughout our engagement, every week I would say, “I think I’ll do this.” The next week was “I think I’ll do that.” It got to the point that he didn’t believe any decision I said I had made. For the record, he never cared what I did.

      (This might have been a sign. I’m also so indecisive about mundane things that it comes as no surprise.)

      I tried not to talk about it all the time this fall when I was feeling apprehensive. Like I said in my post, I sort of thought I just had to get used to it and get over it. Which I wasn’t going to do by talking about it all the time. I know I talked about it with other girls when he was around. When I broached the subject at dinner a couple weeks ago, I said,”I know I haven’t been talking about this, but…” and he laughed in my face. “You talk about it all the time!” he said.


      “I still think of you as Ms. Myname anyway, when it comes to school,” he said. So he was totally supportive. I’ve also voiced (since I wrote this) that it might be a slippery slope of not even using his name socially–it feels so good at school that it might be right overall. But I’m going to give that some time.

      • Hi, are we twins?

        I think if we knew each other IRL, we would be BFFs.

        I did the same thing. My husband was worried about giving me an opinion (even if I asked for it), because he was afraid of swaying me one way or another, when he knew I was going through a personal struggle. I finally said to him, that I was asking him not as the person who had the name, but rather the person I trust most in the world, and whose opinion and input I value.

        • Yes! My husband did the same. I never phrased it quite that way, but really discussing it is part of being a partnership.

  • Amy

    Brenna, thank you for the fresh perspective! I changed my name, and never really considered keeping my old last name. (Reasons including sharing a name, my old name being a pain to spell, no need to continue my father’s name, Amy HisLast being ungoogleable, and since my career is the primary financial support, taking his name was a way to demonstrate respect for what he brought to our relationship.)

    While I still feel strongly that I did what was right for me, being called Mrs. HisFirst HisLast drives me BONKERS! (I’m slightly more comfortable with Mrs. HisLast, but still find it more uncomfortable than Amy Hislast.) I’d seethed privately against the loss of my first name, but figured that it was a given since I’d changed my name. Thanks for the motivation to expell Mrs. HisFirst HisLast from my life.

  • Murdock

    Thank you thank you thank you! Wow, this post was incredibly brave, heart warming, and I think I heard about 1,000 “hell yeahs!” from APW readers around the world. You rock sista! And thank you for bringing this conversation to light. As evidenced by the many comments this isn’t something we all do lightly anymore. It is a seriously super important thing.

    We’re getting hitched in November and I’m sure I’ll change my name to his but I’m in no rush to do so. Two big things – I LOVE my name. My middle name is my grandmother’s maiden name (also the same middle name as my aunt) and it is a STRONG name….Erika Dillon Murdock (at the risk of being known in the blogosphere). Hard consenants, it sounds good, I love it, I live it, and I’ve owned it. In addition….my family last name dies with my sisters and I. My father is the 4th (yes, 4 generations of men with the exact same name) and he only has daughters. So “Murdock” will die if I don’t pass it on to someone, or my sisters don’t. And this makes me incredibly sad. Really really sad.

    Whats interesting though is that in Mexican tradition (the hubster to be), I would change my name to Erika Dillon hislastname Murdock. BUT our children would be known as hislastname. I’m totally against hyphens, too much confusion, and I know he wants me to take his name. I also do like the whole part of it that symbolizes a new beginning, a new bond, an eternal bond (if you believe that). I think I’ll change it eventually and ease into it. Some other poster talked about it taking two years to get used to…I guess I’ll just ease into that gracefully and like our brave Brenna, I’ll use hislastname and mylastname whenever I just darn well feel like it.

    • Murdock

      Add to all of this that I will be the FIRST white woman marrying into the hislastname family for literally 5 generations. No pressure! :)

  • I got married almost 8 months ago and haven’t changed my name… yet. I’m so glad to know and be reminded that there are other wafflers out there and that any decision can always be changed. It seems like all my close friends who’ve gotten married lately just automatically KNOW and they’ve all taken their husband’s names. I feel like a lone sentry!

    Some days when I think about it I think that choosing one’s name can actually be really empowering. This year has felt like a major transformation for me– it’s not only marriage– it’s also just life, but there is something kind of exciting about marking that transformation with a name change too. At the same time, when I was talking to my husband about being frustrated by this name limbo and that maybe it would just be socially easier for me to have the same last name as him, he reminded me that we’re not every other couple out there. We don’t need to make life easier for people or fit into social expectations. And just because I feel like people don’t totally understand me not changing my name isn’t really a good reason to change it. Our marriage is our very own and having separate names can be it’s own symbol of our unique and awesome partnership, too.

    So, I’m still in limbo, but thanks for helping me feel not quite so alone in finding my own path!

    • Lethe

      The funny thing to me about the “don’t want to confuse people” rationale for changing one’s name is – if LOTS of people felt free to keep their names, it wouldn’t be confusing for anyone! In my world growing up, every woman I knew took her husband’s name, so it definitely would have been “confusing” if someone hadn’t. But in my fiancee’s social world growing up, many-to-most of the adult couples had different names, so nobody thought much of it. If you didn’t know someone’s name, you just…..asked! Maybe if we were all less afraid of confusing others with an atypical choice, it’d make it easier for others to make their most authentic choice, too.

      • Because, the truth is, it’s not confusing, it’s off-putting. People don’t like it. Because, in their minds, it is an indictment on their decisions. It’s not, of course.

        • TNM

          Totally agree with this. It’s a big complicated world out there, but names, even (drumroll) hypenated names? Not that confusing. It’s just that for whatever reason, some people seem to need the affirmation of having other people doing exactly what they did. (On both sides of the name debate, I might add…)

          (Though I don’t even get what exactly is so affirming about emulation anyway. Lotsa people can think the world is flat, but that don’t make it so… )

  • Alizon

    I have a bit of a dilemma because my current last name is my ex husband’s.
    For ages I have wanted to change it to the point of toying with ancestors’ surnames. I felt going back to the name I had as a child was just that -going back (I married at 21, divorced at 40 and am now 50). I am also a writer and was looking for a pen name too.
    My ex is now married again and there is a new Mrs Exhusband’s (although she hasn’t changed which is wierd as I am known as Mrs Exhusband and she isn’t!) We have 4 grown up daughters who are cool with whatever I do.

    The big problem is that my exhusband’s name is the one to which I was awarded my doctorate and under which I have some publications so I am known as Dr Exhusband. I am not even sure I CAN change it and keep the title of Dr.
    To complicate matters further my sister in law (married to my exhusband’s brother ) is also a Dr so there are two Dr Exhusbands -she being J A and me being A J!
    All this was ok until my partner proposed. You would think this gave me a great opportunity to change to his (easier to pronounce and spell) name- after all I was planning to change; my old name is not mine anyway and there is a new claimant to it in the form of my ex’s wife. Why then am I suddenly attached to the name I have shared with my children, that saw me through my degree and PhD and which the kids at the school I teach in know me by? I am sure my new husband will understand if I keep my old name professionally, but it still feels wierd. Even the things I didn’t like about my old name- it’s unusual and hard to spell and pronounce- now make it attractive in its singularity.

    • I got my high school degree and completed my bachelor’s under one name and am now married; that doesn’t mean those degrees are any less earned by me. It doesn’t matter WHAT name you choose, that doctorate is still yours. You just need to connect the two names (I have a note on my resume that work completed in undergrad is under a different name than the one I am applying to graduate programs with).

      In any case, YOU are Doctor. Your name is what people call you, and you can change or not change it; it’s up to you.

    • ka

      Oh the other hand, I once had a wonderful professor (very feminist, go figure), who kept her first husband’s last name, despite being married 2 more times later. She was married very young in the 1950s, divorced in the 1960s, and felt that that was the time she became her own person and that was the name she did it under, so she didn’t want to change it. It was like someone had commented earlier said about having her stepdad’s name, and even though that wasn’t a good association, she felt as though she had made the name her own. In the end, I think it is about deciding what makes you happy to be called, and if you do decide to change it, like Sarah says above, there are ways around any potential professional consequences!

  • MegsDad

    Thirty-six years ago, the name change question was as volatile as it is now. When Meg’s mother talked about it with me, I told her that as far as I was concerned she could keep her family name, use her family name professionally and my family’s name socially, or just take my family’s name. We could also hyphenate the family names, but I was (and still am) not fond of that style. At the time, I was unaware of any other choices.

    My attitude was less common then than it is now.

    Reading the name change posts and the associated comments in APW has made me think about my attitude. I believe I held it because I tend to look at relationships and actions in terms of power and control. (I believe that this is not uncommon among men.) Given those terms, I wanted not to control my wife. If I controlled her, she would no longer be the woman with whom I fell in love and married. I wanted her to know that in terms of her decision I actually did not care what other people thought and what societal norms were.

    Even (especially?) our parents did not approve of this perspective.

    She changed her name to my family’s name as a matter of pragmatism. She taught elementary school. My family’s monosyllabic name was easier for her students to say and remember than her family’s polysyllabic name.

  • liz


    i reserve the right to use either of my names in any setting i choose, no matter what the legal documents say.

    (and yeah- i’m only a 9th grade english teacher ;)

    • Exactly what I want!

      (And, how ashamed I was to realize that deep down I was harboring some sort of inferiority complex about my career. How important our jobs are.)

      • Danielle

        YES, please, English teachers: you are so important. English teachers made my whole experience of high school worthwhile. Thank you so much for all that you do.

    • meg

      BAM, Liz. And that’s why I love you.

  • Suzanne

    This story made me remember my own experience in second grade.

    My mom never changed her name when she got married (and, in fact, was part of a lawsuit in 1974 against the state that automatically changed a woman’s last name on her license if she got married. The state lost, FYI) so I grew up with a different last name than my mom. It was never a big deal because it was just what I grew up with, so it made sense to me. My name is Suzanne MomsLastName DadsLastName. The only part I didn’t like was that I had the last name of my dad and brother and I thought I should have a “GIRL” last name — my mom’s. :)

    So, in second grade I decided to “change” my last name to my mom’s. After a few discussions with my parents, my mom went in and talked to my teacher and told her I wanted to go by Suzanne MomsName. And everyone went along with it! Looking back at tests and drawings, the name on them is Suzanne MomsName.

    I don’t remember how long it lasted because by third grade I was back to Suzanne DadsLastName and have been ever since. I got married this past September and didn’t change my name. We’re not sure yet what we’ll do when it comes time to naming our kids but I absolutely LOVE that I grew up in a family that gave me the freedom to choose and think about what *I* wanted to be called.

    It’s always refreshing to hear others think about names thoughtfully and choose based on their own gut rather than what others think. :)

  • ka

    Thank YOU.

    Thank you for being so brave and telling this story.

    “I had convinced myself that once the decision was made, I had to stick to it.”

    Exactly, it seriously never occurred to me that this was something that could be changed back. Stupid me! It is so…freeing… to hear/realize that I can try something out and if it doesn’t feel right it’s OK to change my mind, even if things get a little messy for a bit.

    Thank you. :)

  • Shotgun Shirley

    As usual, awesome post, and just when I needed it…

    Although I said I was changing my name to FirstName MyName HisName on the wedding certificate paperwork, I am still agonizing over what to actually do.

    I do want to be Mrs. HisLastName, and I’d always thought that of course I’d take my husband’s name, but I also love being a Kelley (e-y!), being RKelley, having two first names… and so I have been waffling. Also, because his name is Russian, we won’t even have the same last name. His ends with ‘ev’ and mine would end with the feminine version, ‘eva’ – so it would still be confusing!

    • Danielle

      R. Kell[e]y? I can see why you’d want to keep that name…

  • Another Alice

    This is a great article, very timely too. I also grew up never really expecting to change my last name, although I definitely doodled along with the best. My siblings and I were raised differently from a lot of the kids around us (2nd gen hippies) and our name really felt like a team name. Now my fiance and I are debating what to do with our names and we’ve run through all the options. I proposed blending as a joke, which has now become a serious option. I love the idea of this, and even know a couple that did it, and the fiance is at the same place, but we’re both having trouble actually envisioning the change.

    One thing I’m getting caught up on with the idea of changing it — the proposed blend would be HisFirstSyllableMyLastSyllable, which preserves the cool orthography and iconic bits of each name — is the idea of being alphabetized in a different order. Instead of being in the middle, I’d be near the end, which feel stranger than almost any other part of the process. I love the idea of having a team name for the baby family, but I seem to be personally unprepared for what that will actually involve.

    One thing I feel completely unconflicted about is that our kids won’t be Child HisName, whatever we do with our own names. Far worse than changing my own name is the idea that after 9 months of pregnancy and however many more months of breastfeeding (if my body cooperates with those tasks), the resulting squirt would get named after someone else. No frakkin way. Unless he gestates them, Junior style, in which case, all bets are off.

    • The alphabetical order issue was one of the things that I stressed about the most. My last name for the first 27 years of my life started with A, so I was always at the beginning. My wife and combined our names but the first part is the beginning of her name, which puts me in the middle of the alphabet. It was always so easy when checking in for conferences, etc. to say “I’m near the top” or “I’m on the first page”…now I don’t know where I’ll be!

      • Alexandra

        Oh, I feel you! My birth and current/always lastname is near the front of the alphabet, and my sweetie’s is near the end.
        I’d worry a little about any potential kids having to sit at the back of the classroom… [but we may not even have them, so.]

  • Amy

    Brenna, I’m so glad you found something that worked for you.

    I kept my name when I got married about 6 months ago. I’ve known since I was little that this was what I wanted and I am grateful that my husband and his family were cool with it. After we got married, one friend (who didn’t know me very well) commented on my Facebook wall that I should change my name on my profile and it was my husband’s uncle who commented back: No, she doesn’t!

    Another reason I kept my name was because I have a beautifully distinctive name. I come from a small family and I’m the only one in the whole world with my name (at least, as far as I can tell from searching on Google). If I had taken my husband’s family name, I would have been one of many.

    All those reason are still valid and I’m glad I have my name, not least because I avoided having to change my passport, all my work stuff, everything.

    BUT, I had a weird moment when I realized I wouldn’t be a Mrs. My husband and I were trying to figure out what prefix to put before my name on our honeymoon plane tickets. Miss wasn’t right, since I would be married by the time we used the tickets. Mrs didn’t sound right because I hadn’t married someone with my last name. So we went with Ms, which is what I use now. But…I kind of don’t like it. I know in America it’s all feminist and everything to use the Ms regardles of marital status. But I lived in England for a while where things were more traditional–Miss meant unmarried, Mrs meant married, and Ms meant divorced. I felt sad that I wouldn’t get to use a Mrs to demonstrate that I was married now.

    That’s my *only* regret, though, and it’s one that doesn’t come up too often anyway.

    Kudos to APW/Reclaiming Wife for helping women know they have choices!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’ve been married for 8 months now. I changed my name to his immediately. I was excited and it seemed like the only option. We hardly talked about it because I was completely set on changing. So within a week after we returned from the honeymoon everything was changed. I even had my sister log into my facebook and change it while we were overseas!

    Well, it’s been 8 months and I still feel like the name is not mine. I’m working hard to try to get it to feel like mine, but it’s just not going to happen overnight. I had a name that was mine for 26 years. I’ve had my new name for 8 months. I don’t regret changing my name and I’d do it again if I had the choice, but it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. When I was caught up in the whirlwind of wedding planning and showers and glowing grandmas it was all wonderful and I smiled opening cards to “Mrs-hisname-to-be”. But now it’s like I married this man (this wonderful, amazing man who I love more than life) and everything changed! It’s a process.

    My younger brother got married three weeks ago. His wife took his name (the one that used to be mine). I must note that it’s hard to say, hard to spell, not really a “nice” easy-on-the-tongue name. But it was mine. And now when I see her name, i have this weird confusion.

    My decision was to change my name to Mrs. Hisname. I’m glad I did and I’m happy with the decision, but I’m also happy to hear that other women have different ideas and opinions on what’s best for them. And I hope that we can respect all women’s decisions, whatever they may be because we are all different. And I will continue to work towards feeling like my new name is mine. Thanks for sharing!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      If it makes you feel any better to hear about people in the same situation, here’s a story- my uncle (Gary ‘Kenobi’) has a sister named Kathy. When Kathy was 11, Gary married a woman also named Kathy. For 10 years there were two Kathy Kenobis. And then younger sister got married and became Kathy Solo. I asked Aunt Kathy S. if after 25 years of marriage it was still weird to have a sister-in-law with her old name. She said she didn’t get used to people calling her SIL by *her* name until about 5 years after she took her own husband’s name, but that now she doesn’t have any attachment to it at all and she feels like it “belongs” to my other Aunt Kathy.

      Hopefully you’ll get used to it in less time than that, but maybe you can take solace in your new SIL having a different first name?

  • Cirq

    I am still debating about changing my last name. I always wanted to hyphenate my name, because its MY name and it’s been a part of my identidy for so long. But I have the unfourtunate circumstances that if I do hyphenate my last name with his, that my initials become a dirty word. I’ve honestly been thinking about this since we started dating. In a perfect world, I could hyphenate my name and no one would notice, but the chances of that happening are slim to none.

    I dont know what to do. I want the same name, to be an obvious team with him, but part of me still wants to hold on to my name.

  • NF

    The only pre-wedding emotional breakdown I had was about 2 weeks before the wedding, when I was looking up what I was going to need to do to change my name. From the very beginning of our engagement I had been confident that I wanted to change my name, so this caught me totally off guard. but I was so overwhelmed with all the other changes that were about to happen that I got very unhappy about “losing my identity”. After a while to think about it, I decided that I was sure I wanted to change my name, and I haven’t had any second thoughts, but I got emotional when I realized that I was signing my old name for the last time.
    In terms of being letters addressed to “Mr and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast”, it really doesn’t bother me, but maybe that’s just because I’m still in the excited newlywed stage where anything related to being married is at least a little exciting. It does surprise me when people my age address things that way, since I was pretty sure that no-one thought that was the current convention, but oh well.

    • This exact same thing happened to me, only it was a year and a half after we were married. I wasn’t so much concerned about losing my identity, but the whole thing was just so overwhelming (not to mention I’d been on the phone for half an hour with someone at the Social Security office). He called me from work and I was crying, and he was completely baffled as to why I was so upset.

  • clampers

    One of the best posts I’ve read on this site. The part about “it’s ok to change your mind” really resonates. Thanks so much.

  • This is so amazing. I don’t really know what else to say. Thank you so much for writing, it was so brave and honest and… inspiring. I have to confess I haven’t read all of the 9,000,000 comments, but here’s to hoping at least one other regretful name-changer out there will read this, bite the bullet, and change back.

  • Leah

    I don’t have the same name as my kids and it’s not a problem, you are right, people figure it out. And if they don’t, I know it’s me if they use the kids last name to get my attention, it’s not a big deal to me at all.

  • SO. I’ve read (wellllll skimmed, for some) all the comments and there’s a question that I don’t think has been touched on much yet.

    Does anyone have experience with actual, legal NewLastName creation?

    I grew up assuming I’d change my last name, which is just fine since it’s long and hard to spell. My fiance really likes his two last names (his mom didn’t change, so he technically got hers as a SecondMiddle and his dad’s as a Last) and would like for me to take them both. It seemed like a fine idea until my extreme discomfort unexpectedly recently set in. Symbolically, I would prefer to just pick a new one – ideally with some sort of meaning, not just out of a hat – and both adopt that. I’ve never known anyone who’s tried it, though.


    • I know people who have picked a totally new name as well as people who created a portmanteau name. In terms of the legal issues, I think it really varies state to state. Seems like in CA this is pretty easy to do, but I don’t know about other states.

    • It depends on the state. In NYS, you can only use the marriage certificate to change your name to specific things related to your current name(s). However, you can, after the wedding, petition the court for name changes and it’s not all that complicated to do. Most states have a similar process, but definitely look into it. There is likely information either on your State’s vital records site, or on your State’s court administration site.

    • I think this varies by state (and possibly in some places even by county?) so it’s probably best to get a copy of whatever the actual marriage license application in your land looks like. Our application (in Massachusetts) had a field for “surname after marriage”, where I’m pretty sure we could have put whatever we wanted. I didn’t see anything on there about being able to change middle names though. I know some other states just have one line for “name after marriage” and you can put whatever you want there and figure out how you want to divide it. We ended up combining our two last names into a new name (sorta took part of one and part of the other and smacked them together in a way that sounded good), which kind of confused our parents a little. My mom was like “Really? You can do that? Even though it’s not hyphenated?” I calmly explained that I probably could have changed my surname to Santaclaus; she found that less funny than I did. Anyway, moral of the story: check what’s possible where you’re getting married, but it’s definitely possible in many places. Good luck!

    • In the UK you can change your name to whatever you want by deed poll (within reason http://www.ukdps.co.uk/AreThereAnyRestrictionsOnNames.html) but you have to pay. You can change your name for free if you are changing it to your husband’s or wife’s name when you get married/civil partnered.
      Oddly this doesn’t apply to double barrelling – one of you would have to change first then or you’d both have to pay for deed polls afterwards.

  • Being a teacher, like yourself, I really feel that my last name is an integral part of my identity. I want to keep it! The fiancé has ‘checked’ a few times to see if I’ve changed my mind. ‘But what about the kids?’ ‘How will they introduce us at the wedding?’ and the unspoken ‘What will people say?”

    I hate to think he will have a hard time because I’m not changing my name. Even so, I’m not willing.

    It was pointed out to me that name keeping is reserved for doctors and lawyers. Oh really? I’m not as important? Not as deserving? I’m keeping my name.

    • z

      Reserved by whom?

    • meg

      Reserved by whom INDEED.

      And you know what? You don’t need to get announced at your wedding. We weren’t and no one missed it!

    • Bailey

      Our DJ just used our first names when introducing us at our wedding. If anyone noticed, they didn’t say anything to us!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Our DJ introduced us as “Dr. Husband Capitalist and Ms. Abby-Wan Kenobi”. He said our names like 4 times to drive home the point that we’re not Mr. & Mrs. Capitalist.

      Interestingly I haven’t gotten a lot of negative feedback about keeping my name, although I’ve had to correct people who assumed I haven’t. I did (unexpectedly) get quite a few compliments from women at the wedding telling me they were proud of me for keeping my name. That put a big smile on my face, for sure.

  • I think being a K-12 teacher makes it extra important that you feel comfortable with your last name, so don’t think it’s an unworthy profession. As a teacher, your students and colleagues refer to you using your last name throughout the entire work day, every day. While I see my last name on outgoing emails, it rarely comes up in conversation on an average workday, but I suspect the average teacher hears his or her last name dozens of times every day. Props to you on following your heart and making the choice that’s best for you!

  • z

    I feel like this is one of the APW threads where there’s an elephant in the room. Sure, feminism is all about women having choices, but I kept my name for Feminist Reasons, I personally think that keeping one’s name is the More Feminist Option, and I’m not ashamed to own that opinion even though it sometimes makes people defensive.

    Not that feminism should be the only consideration in one’s personal life, but are we so terribly post-feminist that the subject is taboo in these discussions?

    • I tend to be uncomfortable with anything that smacks of “all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others” rhetoric, because it is divisive. However, you’re not wrong about this. It IS the more feminist option. Yes, our maiden names are (probably) our father’s names (mine is actually my grandfather’s, but I’m an oddball), but the buck has to stop somewhere.

      • Oh! Almost forgot (I’m multitasking commenting here and tweeting about the SOTU). Yes, it is the more feminist option, yes, the buck needs to stop somewhere. Yes yes yes. I agree.

        But. I think more goes into the decision than that. Someone on the first page talked about how no matter what the decision is, someone sacrifices something. Whether it be the “team name,” aesthetics, your name, your husband’s name (if he changes), what have you … someone loses something, and that’s huge. And, sometimes, feminism isn’t the driving force behind the decision. And THAT is OK. We have to do what works best for us, first and foremost.

        But to pretend that it isn’t more feminist to keep your name than to change it? No, you’re right. It isn’t equal, in this case.

        • z

          Well of course more goes into the decision and something is lost. I just wish it were socially acceptable here to talk about feminism in this context. Are we so fragile that we can’t? I feel like it’s “just not done”.

          • I think because it’s still very raw for those of us who consider ourselves feminists and are battling these decisions. Are you a “bad feminist” if you choose to change your name? Not necessarily. Just because it is the more feminist option doesn’t mean that it’s the right option for you.

            But, because it’s raw, we don’t want to say that. We talk a lot about owning our decisions on this blog, and I think this goes along with it. Why do we need to be told we’re not “bad feminists” if we change our names? Own your decision! You made it because it was right for you! If that runs counter to feminism … well, life is not always so simple as to work out perfectly so that our personal values run completely parallel to those issues closest to our hearts.

      • z

        Men’s names are their fathers’ too, yo. It’s like some people think men “own” their names from birth, but women are just borrowing them for a while.

        I wish it weren’t so divisive, and like I said I don’t think feminism has to be the #1 determining factor for all personal decisions. But sometimes APW is so “yay for you, you made a CHOICE” and I feel like it’s a taboo to discuss how different choices align with feminist theory. Like applauding the act of choosing has to be the end of the feminist road. I think that really sells women and feminism short.

        • Men’s names are their fathers’ too, yo. It’s like some people think men “own” their names from birth, but women are just borrowing them for a while.

          Good point.

          • I admire you bringing this up; I think you do ask an important question.

            Honestly, I think this is a big reason why I struggled with the decision SO MUCH. I knew that women had paved the way for me to even be able to make a choice–so what happens to our future generations if I don’t utilize the option?

            During my process I also felt like it was very important for people to understand my thought process. I wanted people to know that if I did end up changing my name, I didn’t take it lightly. I don’t think it sends the same outward message as keeping your name.

            I really like what Ruth (and Meg) say below about it not being a true choice until it’s one that weighs on the COUPLE.

            I do think it’s important to acknowledge all the factors that go into individual choices. Hmm.

          • I think you hit what Z is trying to say here, Brenna. These choices wouldn’t be choices for us if a few strong women hadn’t stood up and said, I’m making a choice that bucks tradition.

            They were making a statement, when a statement had to be made. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. I think that it makes us think, it makes us “scrape bare the walls of our souls,” in many cases, whereas before women just blindly went along with convention and changed their names, many of them suffering in silence about sacrificing their identities.

            But now, we don’t have to suffer in silence, we can talk things out. However, like Ruth said, so long as it is only on the woman and not on the couple, it’s still not really a choice.

    • I think it’s great that you feel passionately about your opinion and your choice, but I also think there are lots of great reasons for changing one’s name for whatever reason and none of those choices make one more or less feminist. I think when women try to outdo one another in issues like this, it doesn’t serve to promote feminism or individual women in any way.

      • z

        Really, Becky? None of those choices, at all? Is it not ever acceptable to say some choices do more to advance feminism than others?

        • I think that a woman making a conscious decision to take (or not take) a new name after marriage, with carefully-thought out reasons and the ability to articulate those reasons to others, does plenty for feminism, regardless of what her choice is. I don’t think that “I’m keeping my name because I don’t want to deal with the paperwork hassle” is more feminist than “I’m taking my husband’s name because my name came from my abusive father and has a lot of bad memories for me and my husband’s family has welcomed me wholeheartedly as part of their family”. Nor do I think that combining my last name with my wife’s last name so that we would share a family name with each other and our someday children is any less feminist than it would have been to keep our separate names.

        • Barbra

          I think it’s really important to say that pointing out a choice as “more” or “less” feminist is not the same thing as judging someone (or ourselves) as a “good” or “bad” feminist.

          For example, I would consider myself to be an environmentalist, but when I bought a new car, I chose not to spend extra money on a hybrid. I made a less environmentally-friendly choice, but I don’t think of myself as a “bad” environmentalist. Someone back there (I read these comments yesterday and then thought about this, so I’m not sure who) said something about our political ideals not always being in line with our heart or what is right for us at an given point in time. I totally agree with that.

          I think women are so prone to judging ourselves and always trying to live up to a perfect ideal, that we’re not able to say, “Yes, I made a choice that is less feminist, but I”m still a feminist.” It’s more complicated, and maybe more difficult to admit that we don’t fit into the box we’ve created, but I think it’s more authentic.

    • Ruth

      I also see keeping your own name as a more feminist option but it seems like we’re just supposed to be happy that women have choices to make. It drives me crazy that it’s almost always talked about as the women’s choice and I don’t think it will actually be a true choice for anyone until it’s more about what the couple will do with their names, not just what she will do.

      That said, I changed my last name when I got married and my husband made my former last name his middle name. There are millions of reasons for this that I won’t go into, but because I’ve seen keeping my name as the more feminist choice, I immediately felt like a “bad feminist”.

      I’m working on giving myself permission to have made a decision one way while not agreeing with the cultural and social norms that surround that decision. It’s challenging, but just reading everyone’s thoughts on here and knowing other people also think about this, makes it easier.

      • I don’t think it will actually be a true choice for anyone until it’s more about what the couple will do with their names, not just what she will do.


        • meg

          Yes. Agreed. Yes.

          Which is why the ONLY language we use in our family is, “*neither* of us changed our names when we got married. If we hyphenate at some point, we will let you know.”

          • Zan

            I’m still on the fence but if we go the “don’t change” route then we will be shamelessly stealing this line. Just FYI.

    • meg

      I don’t know, Z, I’m pretty out and proud on the feminism issue, and I wouldn’t even vaguely consider myself or APW to be post-feminist.

      I’ve been super clear that I didn’t change my name, I didn’t consider changing my name, I asked my husband to change his name to mine (he did not), and that we are hyphenating for our kids, but we haven’t even decided on an order for hyphenation. What’s my personal vote? Don’t change your name.

      BUT. But. I think it’s really important to emphasize that we all have choices, and that we should feel empowered to make those choices. And, I don’t think feminism is about judging other woman, or making them feel badly about their choices. It’s about GIVING them choices, stating our own opinions, and yes, encouraging feminist choices.

      Which, you’ll notice, this post does. While still encouraging everyone to feel empowered to make their own minds up, and then change them if they want to.

      • z

        Well, it just seems like there’s a pretty fine line between “encouraging” feminist choices, yet not “judging” people who are making other choices– so fine a line that it feels like a taboo to even bring up the topic. Is there any way to express a view that some choices are more feminist than others without being seen as “judging”?

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I’m glad this topic is out here – I wouldn’t have thought that feminism was a taboo topic or even noticed it hadn’t been mentioned more in the comments because this is such a flagship feminist issue. I read the post and all the comments through a distinctly feminist lens. Not using the word ‘feminism’ doesn’t make this a discussion that isn’t about feminism.

        I kept my name (my father’s name, fwiw) for Feminist Reasons. While I am personally disheartened when a friend changes her name I would never think less of her for doing so. Every person has to live with the decisions she makes and while I wish we all had the energy and strength to make the best feminist choice every minute of every day, that’s an impossibly tall order. There are things I do that I find distasteful as a feminist, but I find to be more than I have the energy to defend. And I hope other feminists still think I’m a good person.

        Your name is such a visible part of your identity that the choice you make when you marry can be a very powerful feminist statement, but it’s also a really heavy torch to carry, one I’d never force onto anyone. There are a lot of strong statements you can make for your beliefs (like, say, waiting to wed until there’s marriage equality for everyone) but you have to make the ones you can sustain.

    • Marchelle

      Very good points.

    • LBD

      This article stirred a lot of conversation for me and my (mostly very feminist) friend group (we do a lot of article sharing/discussing via Google Reader).

      One point I particularly liked, was that most of us are given our father’s last names, and heck, that’s just as much a part of the patriarchal tradition we’re fighting against as taking our new husband’s last name. At least taking your new husband’s name (thanks to feminism) is something you get to choose.

      Feminism is about giving women choices. While keeping one’s original name arguably does more to raise awareness that women have a choice and should have a choice, I agree with the article I linked to’s premise that it’s not our place to judge another woman for making the choice they make.

      • NF

        Thank you for this reply. The statement (or at least implication) that I’m not being a good feminist because I CHOSE to link my name to my husband’s name instead of to my father’s name seems really unfair. I didn’t change my name because that’s what traditional culture told me to do, I changed it because for me that was a meaningful part of the process of marriage, in the same way that following my religious and cultural traditions were part of that process. Sure, it would have worked just as well if my husband had changed his last name, but forcing him to do that wouldn’t have made me a better feminist.
        I think it’s wonderful that we now have the options of not changing our name, and I’m grateful that my choice to take my husband’s name was mine and was not imposed upon me. However, insisting that it’s more feminist to keep my own name feels too much like a first step on the way to defining what choice “real feminists” need to make, and to me that doesn’t feel much better than the traditional attitude that “real women” should take their husbands name. (Note: I’m not saying that anyone here is defining “real feminism”, I just think that we need to be really careful when we talk about which choices are more or less feminist)

    • After I got married (and didn’t change my name), a number of women in my progressive circles around town told me that they were proud of me, and revealed that when they were married and kept their names in the 70s, they felt like that would be the new and obvious chocie for all young women. Instead, one woman said, she feels like its almost less accepted or common for women today to keep their name.

      I, like Abby W-K, feel some sadness when my female friends change their name. I don’t judge them, and I know these are personal and complicated decisions (lord knows I’ve had my debates about even, even though I’ve been pretty damn clear about keeping my name).

      Still, I think this is a very important feminist issue, even in 2011l. I think Meg is absolutely right to encourage (insist?) that both partners take on this issue and grapple with every option, and *that* process will help make any choice more feminist.

    • AP

      I really identify with this comment. I don’t judge women who take their partner’s last name, but I do agree that some options are very simply “more feminist” in the same way that, politically, everyday actions I take can be categorized as “more progressive” or “more conservative.”

      That’s why I made sure my fiance seriously considered taking my name, what that would mean for his sense of identity, and how he would be received by the world for making that choice. Because I’ve already thought about it a lot! (To his credit, he has indeed thought this over and expressed that he’s open to being “Mr. AP” even though it would be hard.)

      After doing this, we both came to the conclusion that perhaps a portmanteau is the best way for us — something involving a mutual show of commitment and, to a certain degree, sacrifice.

  • My husband and business partner and I began our marriage and business the same year. We felt we were not interested in “rules.” That was 36 years ago.
    I changed my name in a flush of excitement that year. Then about six years later I changed it back–driver’s license and all. My reason was this :the people we did business with did not take me seriously. They often commented on my participation as if I was just “helping out” in the office. Truly, I was enraged and gladly went back to being a “person of my own”. Ironically, I realized this name was actually my father’s name.
    Then fast forward 25 years to a life raising kids and staying married. I used for business my maiden name and my married name for most of the school contacts. As years went on I found like on soccer parents’ lists people assumed we were divorced because I had a different name!
    I became skeptical that keeping my name was making any kind of a statement to anyone in my social circle. It was only useful in the business world–since I was in partnership with my husband. So I relaxed. Can you imagine that? After years of being known for example as “Nick’s Mom” or “Gabe’s Mom” and “Lois’ Mom” and hey, how about “Mike’s wife,” I found I had become more than I was.
    So now my attitude is: call me what you are comfortable with the first time, after that if you like, I’ll explain it to you.

  • I think it’s really awesome that you did what felt right no matter what that was. I think there are so many women out there that just do things because they think they’re suppose to, but doesn’t feel right. No matter what it is, changing your name, keeping your name, or making a new one all together should feel right for you and no one else. I think it’s brave any time anyone does something like that. For me, taking his name feels right. It’s what I want to do. Granted, he has expressed that he wants me to take his name, but I know I am not doing it for him, I’m doing it for me. I’m taking his name because I WANT to not because HE wants me to. And I think that’s what’s important. As a published writer, I have established some sort of small reputation (albeit only in small, niche communities, but a reputation nonetheless) under my maiden name and I will continue to use it professionally. There are so many options and so many choices out there and I hope more women keep doing what feels right instead what is expected.

  • For me, changing my name made me so happy. I kept my first and middle name, which were the most important parts of my name. Those were the two names my parents picked out for me, and my last name was just what was attached at the end. My father was adopted, and he and his mother were left by his father when my dad was five, so in my case, I’d rather leave that name behind and take on a new one, my husband’s family name. That way, both families have contributed to my name. In my case my husband changing his name didn’t come up, because I didn’t want him to, but he would have certainly taken me seriously if I did.

    Really the only time I ever gave a lot of thought about families with different last names was addressing envelopes for our wedding invitations – I didn’t want to insult anyone women who kept their last name by using his, so I made sure to check first. What to do with kids last names on those envelopes gets even more confusing, especially when the kids have different last names from each other…

    but honestly, that’s the only time it’s ever been an issue. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter does it? It’s a family.

  • ANI

    the last time we talked about this issue, I had no freakin idea what my boyfriend and I would if we ever got married. NOW I am pretty damn sure we’re getting married someday (1 to 10 yrs from now ;-) AND he recently said he has agreed to take my last name as a middle name for himself! So he will be Boyfriend J. mylastname hislastname. This is a very big deal because he is FTM and not so long ago went through a big hoo-ha about what should his new name be. AND, he chose his name once before as a kid, when his parents got divorced and his Dad remarried and he moved in full time with his Mom’s sister’s family. Whew! And believe it or not, none of this was the big deal for me!

    The big deal for me is what do we name the future kids? And my heavenly BF said that the kids can all have my last name, IF I agree to name the first kid HisLastName (as a first name) MyLastName. This is actually reasonable as it makes an unusual but not insane unisex first name. This was a big deal for me, but now I am agreed and he is agreed and all is well!!!


    PS (i’m not changing my name. I’ve know this since I was 8 yrs old and I heard somewhere that women didn’t have to, and i’ve already NOT changed my name through one marriage and divorce.)

  • Madeline

    This post is awesome! I’m a bit surprised by how interested in this subject I am, considering that I’ve never thought changing my name was a good idea. I have a lot of reasons for keeping my name – it is aesthetically pleasing, it’s a big part of my identity, it helps me keep a connection to my late father, my parents chose a first name to go with a last name that they expected me to keep (which I think is SO COOL and progressive of the 1980’s version of them), I don’t want to deal with the paperwork – and not being allowed to keep it has always been a deal-breaker for me in relationships. It’s interesting that I can think that I didn’t really have to make this decision when I feel so strongly about it. And at the same time, I think I won’t be offended if someone calls me Mrs. HisLast. Despite knowing that it’s an antiquated, male-driven social convention, I can’t help but see it as a title, rather than as someone mistakenly believing I’ve changed my name. I plan to have other titles in the future, including Dr. MyLast, so what’s one more title? Also, I have a hard time imagining explaining to a child why they can’t call me Mrs. HisLast. Of course, I’m Southern, so I expect children to call me Miss Madeline.

    P.S. Interestingly, East Side Bride posted about this today too – http://www.eastsidebride.com/2011/01/should-i-take-my-husbands-name.html

  • I wrote about this too when I was going through it.

    The idea of taking his name alone just didn’t sit right (perhaps because it sounded ridiculous? and I love my ethnic name and what it means to me). I just loved the idea of a double barrel because it meant we were starting our own family. Yet I have no idea what we would have done if the names didn’t mesh so well.

    His mother hates this idea as apparently it will be too difficult for “the children.” 1. Where are these children – they may never happen and 2. We are both bright young things, we are hoping said children will be brighter. (I fear there are greater reasons for her sadness?)

    I won’t be actually changing my name to our little family name until my passport comes up for renewal in a couple of years (ah frugality bites). (Although for work I probably would just stick with my maiden name.)

    Bean (my husband) has changed his, so I’m happy! Although it makes my teeth hurt when I receive letters to Mrs Hislastname. (So I know we have made the right choice!)

    Good on you for realising that your new name wasn’t right. Even better that you’ve done something about it.

  • Zoe

    Ah! Late to the party on this one, but I have totally been taking the tactic of wait and see.

    There are soooo many complicating factors.

    1. I’m building my career, and when you google me (and I’m the only person with my name), you get some pretty cools hits (Human rights presentations, reports, conferences)
    2. If I took hislast, I would share my name with someone else
    3. I would be open to adding hislast onto my name at the end, and using Mylast professionally and hislast socially but I already have two middle names, both of which are emotionally significant and neither of which I’m willing to drop.
    4. I don’t like us being “unequal” as other commenters as said. When we have kids, I really like the idea of us all having one name (no way in heck I’d give the kids his name if they live in my freaking womb for 9 months)… But he’s not open to taking my name (it is, admittedly, a weird name)
    5. His name is also a little weird. This sounds totally shallow, but if it gave me a movie-star sounding name, I’d probably be more open to taking it.
    6. Its a funny little point, but my current last reflects an ethnic heritage that I don’t look at all like. I kind of like messing with people like that. They see my name on paper and picture a totally different person than what they get. It kind of annoyed me before (I get a lot of “what ARE you?”) but now I kind of don’t want to give it up….
    7. If I were going to change my name to ANYTHING, it’s my mom’s maiden name, because that’s the family I’m most attached to. I’ve floated the idea of both of us taking that name, but husband isn’t into it.
    8. BUT… If I keep my name, and give it to our kids.. well… it’s kind of a hard name to saddle kids with. All of the ethnicity questions it took me so long to get used to, plus always having to spell it……

    There are too many choices and not enough choices in this for me right now.

    • AP

      I hear you with #1! I’m an attorney who has a very googleable, very “ethnic” name as well. The most attractive solution I’ve seen so far is a portmanteau of our names, but I’m not sold yet…

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  • I’ve decided to shelf the name change decision until we enter the kid-having stage of life.
    My friends have asked what to call me, what to put on invites, etc., and I tell them all I don’t really care. I’ve received wedding invites addressed to Mrs. Myfirstname Hislastname and really, I just makes me feel like I’m playing pretend and writing Mrs. Hislastname on notebooks again. My general reaction is “aw, cute!” and then I forget about it. Call me whatever you want just don’t call me late to dinner!
    yuk yuk.

    But seriously, I’ve noticed that while I don’t mind hearing or seeing myself referred to by his last name, I DO mind being referred to as Mrs.

    I’ve always preferred Ms. and the fact that I’m married isn’t going to change that.
    Ms. My last or Ms. Hislast, whatever. Just don’t call me Mrs.

  • I am starting for feel a little weird about this “team” name ideal. By its nature it assumes that those of us who didn’t change our name aren’t on the same team as our spouse. The fact that we are using it so much in this discussion – whether or not we “took one for the team” – perhaps reinforces the idea that this is a real thing. My new husband and I are a team – no matter the name. Yes, it is not as easily identified to the outside world as being a member of the same family. But I think of our siblings (not in my case as my twin brother is not married and I kept my name) but for my husband. His sister, to whom he is very close, got married and changed her name. So has she moved to her husband’s “team” and out of her family’s? So is her bond to her brother any less? I don’t think so. You can have a team with different last names.

    I thought I was going to change mine. I liked the way his sounded, I too was the girl who doodled Myfirstname Hislastname to see if I could come up with a good signature. In the end, though, it didn’t feel right. I was coming into the marriage as me, and he was coming in as him and our identies didn’t change. I got some comments from family about it (an aunt saying “is it so you can easily get out of the marriage?”) but I also got a cheer of support from my mom – who said she would have kept her maiden name when she remarried but already had kids and three names in the household would have been too confusing.

    I live in New York, and most of our friends are really progressive folks (I work in fashion events, he is a circus clown) so they didn’t even blink when I said I would keep mine. Everyone once in a while, though I get addressed by “Well hello Mrs. hislastname” by someone who knows us really well. I assume it is just a way to acknowledge and support our marriage. Am I slightly petulant if I want to immediately correct him?

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I get this too, people occasionally calling me “Mrs. HisName” in an endearing “we’re so happy you’re happily married” way. But it isn’t endearing to me. I get more of a kick out of people referring to him as “YOUR husband” because it acknowledges our marriage and our belonging to each other without walking on our choice to keep our own names.

    • I really like the way you articulated your point about the team name.

  • Angela

    What a great story. Thank you so much for sharing! I feel so confused on this issue personally that I could just cry right now. It’s nice to hear that someone changed their name and changed it back because they had the courage to do what was right for them. I hope I have the same courage in my decisions. Bravo!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Hugs!! Take your time and trust yourself, I’m sure you’ll figure out what is best for you!

  • LBD

    I admit, I had an easy time. I’m keeping my last name:

    1. My friends, for the most part, call me by both my abbreviated-first-name and last name (Both are monosyllabic). My last name is thus a huge part of my identity.
    2. I like to make my patriarchal evangelical conservative side of the family as uncomfortable as possible whenever possible.
    3. And to seal the deal, my fiance’s sister has the same first name, but we use different nicknames. Still, it would be way weird for my fiance for me to have the same name as his sister.

    I imagine the what-do-we-name-the-kids thing, however, will be more difficult. Random number generator to determine who gets to be first in the hyphen? His name is so long though! My one syllable will feel so lost to his four! So yes yes, I get the conflict. I am not sure what I will feel happy with when the time comes, or once we put something on the certificate, I’ll like how it works out.

  • kyley

    It’s really incredible that women have the opportunity to make a choice about their name. It certainly wasn’t always the case, and it makes me so proud of us and of the women before us who bravely insisted on making a choice.

    But I think it’s important to recognize that any choice you make involves some sacrifice. And you might be proud and happy and willing to make that sacrifice, but there might also be sadness present. Allow yourself to mourn the choices you are not making; remember to give yourself space for those emotions, too.

  • ashley

    So, I’m late to the commenting game on this, but I wanted to share my story for those still reading. For personal reasons, I chose not to take my husband’s last name. He understood and agreed. We still wanted the same last name, however. Our last names were sort of long and tedious, not really able to combine nicely, so we dropped them. We made up a name. We went to court and had it changed legally, which wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it might be. It is something that makes us smile and feel very united. Though we both are very close to and love our families very much, this was a nice way to give our own little family unit its own special identity. I share this as an option for those struggling with what to do. Most people that find out (after they high-five me and declare my husband to be the coolest EVER), say they didn’t know you could do that. You can, I did, and it’s awesome.

    • kyley

      You are both the coolest ever. Go you two. xo!

  • Whew! All of the name-change posts are just awesome, and come at a time when we’re wading through it intensely.

    Feminism isn’t abstract at all to me because of the patriarchal religious environment I grew up in. I literally had to fight to be educated because “women only need to know enough English to read a recipe and enough math to double it.”

    That said, I’ve always tossed around changing my last name because I want to shake the last bits of abusive-father-dust off of my feet. I do not want to go from there to another male-dominated, assumed tradition. So I’m kind of stuck on trying to figure out what direction to take to narrow down my choices. How many kajillion last names are out there?! And how do I make sure it’s authentic and not poseur-ish?

    Children is a whole ‘nother bridge. I think that’ll actually be easier to cross because the options are a bit more limited.

    • kyley

      In this instance I think that, by actively making a choice you’re being a strong feminist, regardless of the decision you make. Good luck with whatever decision you make.

  • optathy

    I added my husband’s name on the end of my own, because I wanted us to have a common name. Legally, I’m MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast HisLast. However, MyFirstName is also a common first name. It’s been really frustrating dealing with people who really can’t wrap their heads around it. Even in my email address, where it’s pretty clear that my full last name is MyLast HisLast, I’m usually filed under HisLast and addressed as MyLast. So I think I can be Ms. HisLast socially and go back to Ms. MyLast professionally.

    My husband had the same reaction as another poster; he never considered changing his name for a second, despite wanting to be a stay-at-home dad. He has his degrees in his name, and would never ask me to change my name because it’s such a pain in the ass. (True.) He also said an engagement ring for him was kind of effeminate, which I think is a) dumb and b) hilarious because we’re from a west coast city where lots of/most men are effeminate.

  • Alexandra

    Ahhh, great post.
    I have a friend who changed her name at marriage, and realized after 3-4 years, that she wasn’t comfortable, and changed it back.
    So I’ve actually heard about name-reversal before!

    This has been a tough issue for me. I wasn’t a doodler, and I’m definitely a feminist. But I have eight+ reasons why it is okay or desirable for me to change my name. Most revolve around “my dad wasn’t the greatest” and “my sweetie’s name is awesome-in-meaning and better reflects my ethnic heritage”, but I’m still not looking forward to the paperwork, trying to fit my signature into those little electronic boxes in store check-outs, or feeling like less of a feminist.

    It does make me happy when I see that women have kept their names, or have made up their own new name for their baby-family. (I know at least one couple like this IRL.)
    I like the idea of the guy taking hername as a middle name [a la John & Yoko!], but, again, dad wasn’t the greatest [and his whole family was on the colder side]. Whereas my sweetie’s family is super warm, loving, welcoming, and delightful.
    My initials will be way better after the change. I’ll have “a movie star name” [actually, I think it’ll sound like a Baroness. Heh.]…but the feminism of it still bothers me.
    Awesomely, my “FiL” did say that he would’ve been willing to change to the maiden/original name of the love of his life.
    My sweetie is willing from a feminist standpoint to change, but less-willing because he’s the only male grandchild with this name [and the issues with my dad, again].
    (& once/if/assuming I change, I’ll be the only [googleable] person with that name, instead of one of many. Which I like.)
    I’m certainly glad that we have choices to consider and think about!!!

  • Shannon

    I always thought I would change my last night. Its German, NEVER pronounced right and even less often spelled right. My fiancee and I have a 3 year old daughter whom we’ve given his last name. (Which is fool proof to say and spell). While I dont have the greatest relationship with my dad, I know no other Mylastname’s expect my brothers. My mother took my step-dads. My fiancee has a HORRID relationship with his father, hates his name but wont change it. Im also not worried about our daughter being confused because she knows my whole name, and likes that its different. And so do I. Fact is, I just dont want to change it because I like the fact that not many other people have my name. Actually, Im pretty sure Im the only person in the country with it. Which feels pretty freaking special.

  • Kristen

    With my first husband, I hyphenated my name with his, but I always felt like it was the wrong decision. Professionally, I kept my oldname. After we separated, I immediately changed my name back to my old one. Now I’m engaged to a wonderful man however, he wants me to change my last name to his and feels that since I already did it once that I should do it again, and if I don’t do it for him then I must not really love him and want to marry him. He is VERY traditional and feels that in order to be a family we must have the same name (including future kids). He of course would never imagine changing his last name to mine- men just don’t do that.

    I’m almost getting to the point of saying fine I’ll hyphenate yours with mine even though it will never feel right with me and also be a mouth full, in fear of loosing him.

  • Erin

    Seriously, everyone – thank you for writing about this! I also have been reading here for a long time and comment very infrequently, but the name thing is really stressing me out, and I appreciate every single post and comment on the subject. My fiance has never assumed I’d change my name – I’m in an industry where that doesn’t really happen (I can walk into certain stores and point out my name in print), and in graduate school to boot, and he’s always been really supportive of my career and ambitions. His mother has no idea why I wouldn’t change it, and apparently they had an argument, though she hasn’t said anything to me. My last name is short, easy to spell, and I really like it, and we’d already discussed our kids having his last name (and him having to teach them how to spell it!). But I’m starting to waffle – should I change it legally and keep my name professionally and socially? The irritating part isn’t even people asking about changing my name, but referring to me as “the bride” – I have both a name and a title at work, and calling me anything else is infuriating! I really value all the discussion here – I have months to decide (or however long I need I guess, right? The wedding date isn’t a date by which all decisions must be set in stone), and I feel so much better knowing how many others of us are thinking about the same things.

  • It’s ok to change your mind, any time, about anything. It took me a long time to get that but I’m so much happier once I finally, truly did. That is all. :)

  • Danielle

    This is interesting because it reminds me of some friends who have changed their names because they are transgender. They/we may have thought at first, “That’s wierd. I’ll never get used to it. Girlname is Girlname, NOT NewBoyname.” But guess what? After a few weeks, months, years, we all gut used to Boyname. That’s just who they are now :)

    People are flexible and adaptable.

  • Christine

    I think that your decision was the best possible for you. Not everyone feels that the name truly needs to be changed after you are married, it won’t make you any less so. I have also encountered more than a few hyphenated last names recently, which means to me that more and more women are embracing their family identity, whether it be for employment purposes or identity of themselves as an individual.

    I have gone over this idea a few times in my head. My fiance and I are getting married in November and I have considered not taking his name. The problem with that is, I have been looking for a reason to change my last name since I was 15 years old. I will not bother you with the reasons, I am just not attached to my family name at all. I am also not a professional until I graduate in August, so perhaps I will simply start my career with his name… Either way, changing my last name is what is right for me.

    This website is fantastic, by the way. I just found it this morning and have not left it since. There is some great information here that I believe any person planning a wedding should see.

  • Madeline

    I am new to your blog, and this post amazed me. I was pressured into taking my husbands (difficult, Polish) last name when we married 24 years ago, and despite my initial resistance, I caved to his pressure (“but all the other wives took my brother’s names…”). It never felt right, and although it made it easier with my kids in school, in my heart of hearts, I was still frustrated and still identifying myself inside with my “maiden” name. So after 24 years, and MUCH brouhaha, I have changed it back to my own name, just this week. I applaud you for figuring it out, and sticking to your inner voice, and changing back!

  • Stephanie

    I changed my name, and it was an easy decision to make. My Mom changed her name when she and my Dad got married, but she chose not to change it back when they divorced, or to change it again when she re-married. My sister also changed her name when she got married, but she changed her middle name to our old last name. My middle name is Sunshine. There was no way I could give that up!

    I had nearly identical conversations with both of my parents (divorced for 30+ years) within a week or so of each other during my engagement. My Mom said “you’re not going to change your name, are you?”, and my Dad said “you’re going to change your name, aren’t you?”. I just found it sort of amusing that they both thought they knew the answer, and I sort of felt like I was letting my Mom down a little when I told her that I would be changing my name. She didn’t seem to care at all, and she’s been extremely conscientious about using my new name, which I love. Our anniversary is next month, and I still get a little thrill every time someone calls me Mrs. newlastname.

  • Rachelle

    These comments are so empowering and have made me realise I am not alone!

    I was adamant that I would change my name when I married 18 months ago and did so soon after we married. However, I totally underestimated my emotional attachment to my maiden name. My married name is quite a different one to my maiden name-initially this was a novelty however before long the frustration of my married name being both difficult to spell and pronounce caused the shine to wear off. Moreover was the fact I feel no connection or pride in my married name at all and have still not gotten used to it, much less like it.

    So I am currently mulling over what action to take-whether to try hanging on to the married surname a while longer, whether to restore my maiden name professionally and use my married name socially or to hyphenate the two. I also have the added concern of my husband being dead against me reverting back to my maiden name and my own family, who also feel that my maiden name should not be used when I am married.

    Would welcome your advice and support!

    • Jackie G

      Hi there – I am in the same boat as you “in hanging in there…” to see how things change. I never changed my name officially but added my husbands last name to mine on facebook and then things catapulted from there- maybe not the smartest thing to do but it threw me into considering the name change. In my professional artistic endeavors I go by my maiden name and then in my other job (which is more conventional) I have my maiden name as my middle name and my husbands as my last in writing, and I go by his last name in conversation. I am trying to feel things out this way. I like may things about sharing the his name – we have the “team” feeling, its a great name and I get to keep my last initial (which was a large part of the deal maker I realize – had his name been another letter or not at hip I probably wouldn’t have considered it that much – I know that sounds low :) ) however I don’t feel the same pride/ ego attachment. He admitted he wouldn’t be into taking my last name since it’s a lot more ethic and difficult, which makes sense in way. It will be 2 years that we are married in August – so I feel like I have to hurry up and decide – but this post makes me realize I have time. I think that people will all get over my decision (whenever I make it) it’s not like I am the center of everyone else’s world – just my own. So – I don’t think you should let what your family might think in this very moment affect YOUR decision that lasts your entire life. They have their own lives to worry about and will get over it. YOU are the one living with it. Of course be courteous when listening to their opinions, you can just tell them “Well I just don’t feel the same way – and lucky for us women now-a-days, there’s no prescription of what to do, only for us to make a decision and go with it!

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  • Karrie

    My husband and I wanted to have the same last name because getting married after living together really solidified our feeling of being a two-person family.

    The complication was that I don’t like the idea of taking my husband’s name, for my own reasons, and although he liked my last name and was open to changing his, he didn’t like the idea of being judged about that by other people. So we did something different – we made a name up and we both legally switched to it. We made up a completely new name and we’re the only people that have it in the world. All names are made up at some point, so I say just do what feels right to you!

  • Sarah

    Wow, I love this. So honest. My husband and I hyphenated our last names. We have gone through all the hassle of changing it, and now I want to do it again to reflect a name change of my maiden name. I do not want to go back, I want to move forward.

    His opinion, he should just be his “maiden” name, and I should just be my maiden name again. However I do not want to. We would end up giving the hyphenated name we have now to our children in that case. If I am pregnant this month. A name change for me is all the more imperative, because as I look for names for our children, I keep thinking about my desire (secret and not so secret at the same time) of doing something with my long moniker I’ve had since birth.

    I just want to change my maiden name and add to my middle name, and in the end my husband would have to change the hyphenated name to reflect my change. However our last name may not be hyphenated if we choose the name Saint, but it will if we choose the name Diaz. I either want to reflect a more regal sounding his last name or have a reflection more of my spanish heritage from my Mothers side. Diaz is my Grandfathers maternal name through his fathers side.

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