Why I’m changing my last name, and why I won’t be apologizing for it

Guest post by Daryl Thomas
Photo courtesy of Rawtography
Photo courtesy of Rawtography

For a long time, I never thought I would change my last name. When we were dating I told my husband-to-be about this plan numerous times, and he was always supportive. Both of us have always been fairly non-traditional, so it was never a problem. I identify as a feminist, and I am passionate about causes that celebrate gender equality. Since changing my mind and deciding to change my name, I have received some eye rolls and unsolicited comments from my like-minded liberal community.

So what made me change my mind? For me, it boils down to one word: kids. As I got older, and kids became more of a near-future reality and less of a far-off plan, I realized that I had always pictured having the same last name as my kids. Growing up, my family was the Thomases — a band of pirates facing the world together. It made me realize I had always pictured that same idea.

Let me be clear that I am completely aware that names are just a label and have nothing to do with how families interact. This is just the image that I had imagined in my own mind. If we had decided to not have children, I would have kept my current name — this was the variable that changed my mind.

I know plenty of women who do not have the same name as their children; couples where the husband and wife both changed their names to a brand-new last name; couples who hyphenated; and people who’ve mashed up their last names into a fun combination of both. Today, there are a million choices for all of us! None of these choices are better than the other, but they are a personal decision.

For a little while, I went through the choices in my head. I could hyphenate my name, but my fiancé’s name is already a little unusual, and I felt like it would be even more confusing to people if I added another word to it. I also thought about having four names, but that is still a little more complicated than I would like to deal with.

The last choice that I considered was making my current last name my middle name. But my family sometimes calls me by my first and middle names, and I feel a connection to it that I’m not willing to let go of. For me, changing my last name is the one that makes the most sense to me from both a practical and an emotional standpoint.

And to me, THAT is an important part of what feminism is about: choice. The goal is to have equal support and recognition of our decisions, and the agency to decide what is right for ourselves. The real meaning of being an Offbeat Bride is doing what feels right for you, rather than what others expect, whether that is seen as traditional or not.

Have you received judgements based on your decision to keep your name or not?

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Comments on Why I’m changing my last name, and why I won’t be apologizing for it

  1. I plan on changing my name, but for another reason – I’m more connected to his family than I am my dad’s side of the family, who are people that I take pains to not connect with.

    So why not join a family that accepts me and loves me and cares about my happiness?

    Actually, in his family, it’s tradition (going back to his grandmother even, and all of his aunts and sisters and in-laws) to not take your spouses name. I’m breaking tradition by…..not breaking tradition. It’s strange. I like it. 🙂

    • That is such a great example of why everyone’s circumstances / decisions are different! I’m so happy for you that you found a family you connect with 🙂

    • This is often a reason that women give for changing their names. However, with all the men with horrible fathers out there, few take their partner’s name (in straight marriages, at least). I wish that women were not alone in taking this moment of reckoning about family, identity, and heritage.

  2. I changed for two reasons 1) My husband really wanted to share a last name; 2) I’ve never liked my dad’s family, so I didn’t have strong attachments to my maiden name. I briefly considered changing my last name to my mom’s maiden name, because I’m very close to that side of the family, but ended up not doing it because I knew it would hurt my dad (who I like, even though I’m not close to paternal relatives). If I’d been close to my dad’s family and really identified with my name, I wouldn’t have changed it! I did keep my maiden name as a middle name, but I didn’t have a middle name to begin with- in retrospect though, I wish I’d changed my name to Anka Mom’smaiden Husband’slast, instead of keeping my paternal family’s last name.

    • Anka, your POV sounds exactly like mine! No connection with fathers family, wanted to change name to mothers maiden name but didn’t out of love for father. I haven’t kept my maiden name at all though. I already have two middle names, both of which are very special and meaningful to me. I changec my last name to my husbands because I had no attachment to my maiden name and he is the only boy in his family carrying on the family name. Now we share a last name and it feels right to us. And isn’t that what counts in the end?

  3. THANK YOU!!! I could have written this same post. I feel the same way you do in regards to the name. Yes, my ID card says something else now, and I am someone’s wife, but I am essentially still the same person as before we got married. My ideals, values and personality hasn’t changed. Before we got married, I’ve had lots of friends ask if I was going to take his name, keep my name, hyphenate, etc. I always changed the subject because it wasn’t something up for discussion. This is my choice, not theirs. (And each person has the right to keep or change their name as they please after they get married.) Like you, I chose it because of the practicality. I didn’t get rid of my maiden name completely. Since I don’t have a middle name, I use my maiden name for the my middle name, I feel that helps if my name is registered with something and I forgot to change it, that it wouldn’t be a huge situation.

  4. We don’t have kids. But I changed my name, well, because it is easier. I have a couple friends who did not change their names. One even carries her marriage certificate in her purse (well a copy) as a couple people (CPA’s) have questioned even if they are married?! I do have an attachment to my maiden name. I love my maiden name. This is going to sound strange. But if something ever happened to my husband (god forbid he passes before me). I have seriously thought about changing it back to my maiden name. Not because I don’t love my husband if he should pass before me. But because I love my maiden name. I never thought about dropping my middle name and using my maiden name as my middle. Maybe because I prefer to use my maiden name as a last name, not a middle name.

  5. What’s missing from this post is the option of the man to take the woman’s last name. If it’s always the woman who has to change/choose, that doesn’t really sound like feminism to me. Ultimately it’s always a personal choice, but the assumption that women have to make this tough decision while the man has no burden or threat to his identity is troubling.

    • Agreed! My finance actually gets called his last name by most of the people he knows (as a nickname), so I don’t think he would have wanted to give that up. We can’t walk across a parking lot in his hometown without hearing someone shouting it out to get his attention! But you are 100% right, and I know people who have done that too. There are so many choices now that it was tough to remember them all for inclusion! Thanks for catching that omission 🙂

    • Absolutely. I totally support every woman’s choice, and there are all kinds of factors that go into that choice. It just makes me sad that so few men ever think about it, and would find it strange to be asked.

      So much so that I was rather touched the other day when my other half, after many years of saying he would never change his name, suddenly said, “I don’t like your last name, but we can both change our names to something else if you like.” Now, as it happens, I don’t want to change my name anyway, and I know enough people from non-English-speaking cultures that having a different name to my children doesn’t seem that unusual. But I just liked that he had given it some thought, just as I’d had to (and woman generally have to).

      • So shouldn’t the thing be – we should start asking our menfolk? We can hardly blame men for us not asking them!

    • My cousin struggled with the same issue, but came to the realization that ‘keeping’ your name is a false choice because it only represents half of your parents’ family to begin with. So for most women the question is which patriarchal family name you’ll use, and keeping her dad’s name ended up not feeling as feminist as she thought! Where was *her* mom in the original equation? I thought it was a really good point that doesn’t get raised much. The system is rigged already, so it seems silly to squabble about how keeping your name is more feminist. Everyone’s choice should be just that. I just think it’s interesting that a lot of those choices are missing from the get go.

      • This point actually gets brought up *all the time*, and ignores the fact that taking your fiance’s name ignores his mother too, so that’s a complete wash. It’s not silly to “squabble” that keeping the name you’ve had your entire life is more feminist than assuming a new identity when you get married, something that men are not expected to do. Acting like a woman’s name is not her own because she probably shares it with her father makes no sense. According to that logic, only Prince has a right to his identity.

      • I actually hear this point all the time too, and it conveniently erases that a lot of people have their mum’s last name, not their dad’s. Or the last name of a man who is not their biological father. Or a last name that comes from neither of their parents.

        In general, I agree with OnMyBeat though. However I got my name, it’s my name and therefore part of my identity. I don’t think changing or adding to your identity is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s unfair that the burden of making a decision falls so unfairly on women.

      • My mom passed away when I was a teenager. She took my father’s last name when they were married and when I was born I was given my dad’s last name also. My father’s last name was part of my mom’s identity. When I got married one of the (MANY) reasons I kept my last name was because it was a connection to my mother. I know the rational seems weird since the last name I kept was my father’s last name but it was also how my mom was known, and she had been known by that name her whole adult life (they were married when she was 18). At one point I did consider adding her maiden name as a second middle name but I didn’t know her by that name so it didn’t have the same meaning to me.

        • I also feel this way. My last name is my fathers and has been the last name of some not very nice men in my family. However, it is the name my mother chose for herself and she spent a long time considering every aspect of my name first middle and end. All with specific meaning. A name becomes your name when you own it whether it was given to you at birth or changed later. There is this idea that a women’s name is not as important as a man’s and is it that idea that is anti feminist.

      • Oddly enough, my first name is my mother’s maiden name, so in changing my name (if I actually go through with it… I’ve been trying to make up my mine for a year and a half, and I’ve been married for nine months), I’ll be keeping my mom’s name and moving my dad’s name to the middle. Enh.

        • My sister did this for her first daughter. Our last name (Casey) is one of those names that could go either first or last. In fact, often times, in emails, I will sign both my first and last name, and then get a reply back with “Hello, Casey”. I am looking forward to taking my husband’s last name. It’s a bitching last name – Strong. Still haven’t decided whether to be Charlene Ann Casey Strong, Charlene Ann Strong, or Charlene Casey Strong.

    • I agree, Sara! It is a personal choice and I respect that but I never understood the whole having children argument when it comes to changing your last name. If a mother desires to have the same last name as their children, give them your last name! Why must the child assume the paternal name? If it is important for the whole family to share a name, why does it automatically default to the paternal name? Also, can we stop with this whole “maiden name” nonsense? I don’t know about you but I do not consider myself a maiden! Given name or family name is more appropriate for the 21st century.

  6. i’m changing my surname for one reason, and only one reason: i’m sick of having a surname that is not spelled the way it’s pronounced, has a hidden Z in the middle, and rarely fits on anything. my married name is spelled phonetically.

    • I feel you. My maiden name is Russian and not even the original name. It got changed to something (even though still Russian sounding), if people hear it quick, they think I am saying Costner, so they ask if I am related to Kevin. But my married name, which is very common last name, people think I am saying Murray (also a common last name), even when I spell my last name, they still want to hear Murray. So you can’t win, even with a common name.

    • I changed mine to get rid of a hyphen that always messed up paperwork. People liked to joke about me having three names though

    • The plan with my ex was to change at least my last name, although we contemplated changing both of our last names to a new one, but she started publishing, so that wouldn’t have worked. But I do NOT want my children to have to spell out their last name and correct pronunciation all the time.

  7. This is a great post. I’ve always been very partial to my maiden name, and it was important to my fiancé that I take his last name, so I have been at a crossroads. I recently made a decision to start a new business and because we are getting married in a month, I basically had to make a split second final decision as to what I was going to do with my name, as far as ordering business cards and setting up a web presence. I have been wondering if I made the right decision, and your post made me believe 100% that I did. Thank you for helping me realize what I’ve wanted all along!

    • Professional reasons can complicate this decision as well – as you pointed out with your new business. (Congratulations by the way!) There are so many things to take into account that no one’s variables will be the same as another person’s.

  8. I have had judgement from people because I don’t want to change my last name. The main person that is unhappy about it is my fiancé. I told him if his ex can choose to keep his last name I can choose to keep mine! It’s my identity, I’m open to exploring other options but I don’t want to give up my name. Everyone I know has taken their husbands name so I will be the odd man (woman) out, but I’m used to that. Lol….always marched to my own drum. I just don’t understand why people care what other people are doing. My last name does not affect you!

    • Everyone has their opinions (especially when it comes to marriage). But all that really matters is what you believe is right for you!!

    • To be fair, you finance isn’t ‘other people’. Ultimately the decision is yours but as your partner he should have a right to voice his opinion, and your choice can affect him.

  9. This really nailed it on the head!
    Im adopted, and have always struggled with NOT wanting to give up my last name. My Dad, adopted me when I was 3, and gave me his last name. That means to world to me.
    But, my FH and I have a daughter, who has his last name. And when we decided on her taking his name, he said “because one day, it will be YOUR last name too.” and that made me go all emotional and have all the feels.
    What I have decided to do, is to drop my current middle name. After all, it’s the namesake of a woman who despises the ground I walk on. (No, really she told me to ‘Eff myseld one year when I called to wish her a Merry Christmas). So, I no longer want that negativity attached to myself. So I am going to keep my Dad’s name as my middle name, and take my FH’s name for my last name. Then He, Our Daughter and I will all have the same name.

    Names mean so much and so little at the same time!!!!!!!

    So glad to see people doing what’s right for themselves!

    • This is so me! I love my maiden name. My family is amazing and supportive, my dad especially, and I would be heartsick to not share their name at all. I’ve also built a successful career under my maiden name. However, I really do love the idea of a unified family name. Conveniently, I shared a middle name with my lying, cheating former SIL, so I was happy to scupper it and make my maiden name my new middle name. My dad actually said, “I thought your middle name was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard. But now I’ll be glad to never think of it again.” I am so pleased with my choice!

      Except that changing your name is a major pain in the ass. My state made me do a quitclaim deed to “sell” my house to myself, just so I could change the name on my utility billing. DUMB.

  10. I am the last person in my family lineage to have my last name. My grandfather only had one son and that one son only had me, a daughter. Were we living in medieval times this would be a catastrophic event as there’s no direct male heir to pass the land and titles to. But since we’re not living in medieval times it’s not such a big deal. I’m the last P just as much as The Crow is the last JDM. He’s a IV and jokes a lot that he’s the “fourth and last” as we won’t be having children.
    In my mother’s family it is tradition to not give a daughter a middle name so that if she gets married she can retain her maiden name as her middle name. That’s what I plan to do. It’s sort of exciting to think I finally, after 27 years, get to have a middle name! I was the only one in my graduating class, both high school and college, to not have one. I think a lot of people, at least women I know who’ve gotten married, fear that taking their husband’s name somehow will erase their identity. I don’t look at taking The Crow’s name as erasing my pre-married self. I’m just adding a new layer to my identity and 28 years from now I’ll have been Brink M. longer than I was ever Brink P.

    • “…and 28 years from now I’ll have been Brink M. longer than I was ever Brink P.”

      I literally said to my sister the other day “I’ve lived like a third of my life, so when I’m sixty I’ll have been New Name longer than I was Old Name.” She got it, then.. lolz.

    • It’s really weird to read this comment now because I’ve done almost a complete turn around from the way I apparently felt about this 5 months ago. It’s weird, because I still agree with my statements that since we’re not living in medieval times being the last P doesn’t mean as much. In societal terms it doesn’t, but to me it does. I don’t want to give up my last name. Even though I would keep it as a middle name, how often does one actually use their middle name? Most forms don’t even require a full middle name, just an initial. I don’t want my last name to be downgraded to just an initial.
      How did this change in my outlook occur? After being married for less than a week I was sick to death of being “Mrs. M” It was like, not only has my last name been erased but now so has my first. It felt like “Mrs” was now my first name and I hated it. My co-workers were all doing it in a friendly celebratory way and I finally just said to them at the start of the second week “Please stop calling me that. I have a name. It’s Brink.” Everyone I’ve seen for the first time since the wedding has addressed me as that and it just feels wrong.
      But the real feels came along when we received the marriage license in the mail. It came with the name change form for the SS office and a handy checklist to use so you don’t forget to change your name somewhere. I’ll give our county some credit because there were two lists “Bride” and “Groom” so at least they weren’t implying that only the bride should change. I sat down to fill out the form and just started bawling. My hands were shaking, tears were blotting the page, it was just a totally unexpected and violent wave of emotion. It just felt WRONG. It felt like I was signing my life away. Like I was willfully erasing everything I’ve worked for and who I am. I’m the first woman in my mother’s family to graduate college and the name on my diploma would no longer match. I’ve had some really great leading roles in well known plays and my name would no longer match the old playbills and news articles. My father is a very well respected and important figure in our community and I am proud to carry that name because it gives me good standing as well. I don’t want to give it up, I don’t want to shove it aside.
      Not to mention the fact that after trying to use it for two weeks at work I simply hate the way my husband’s name both sounds and looks after mine. I never really consider how aesthetically pleasing my name is both to look at and hear but it is and I don’t want it to change.

  11. I love, love, love this article! I am counting the days until I get to change my name. I’m Russian and my last name is 9 almost unpronounceable letters long. His is 5 short letters. I love my family and will honor them by making my maiden name as my middle name (I’ve never had a middle name), but I’m so happy that I’m not the only one that feels this way!

  12. My current boyfriend and I have talked about marriage but haven’t talked about whether I’d change my name or not.

    I’ve always though I would keep my name. My mother kept hers (a very difficult to pronounce Italian name), which is my middle name, and my father’s last name is my last name. I’ve been thinking if I ever have children I’d give them a hyphenated name as my boyfriend’s last name and mine are 5 easy to pronounce letters each, so it wouldn’t be that bad of a last name.

    The rabbi at my synagogue has a hyphenated name as does his wife and children. They decided to hyphenate rather than either of them give up their name entirely. It actually led to quite a lot of discussion among the congregation when we found out who the new rabbi was! He’s the first rabbi in our congregation’s history to have a hyphenated last name and it made a lot of people realize it’s a possibility, even in a more conservative environment (we’re a ‘conservative’ shul – that’s a denomination of Judaism not our political leanings!).

  13. I have struggled with this a lot as I near my upcoming wedding. I told my fiancé from the beginning I would not change my name, and he totally supported my decision. As I started to think more about what our future would look like I was torn on the name thing. For me it came down to the fact that I WANT to have the same name as my spouse and my future kids. But I felt like I was betraying myself, my feminist ideals, and my family by changing my name. As I thought about it more I realized I shouldn’t do it because is what society expects, any more than I should not do it because it makes me a bad feminist. I needed to do what felt right to me. The truth is there is no perfect answer. Not changing would create problems, just as changing it would.

    When I told my fiancé I wanted to change it, he actively tried to talk me out of it. He liked my name and liked me with it. That was how I knew I was marrying the right man. We talked about mashing our names and BOTH changing to something new, but ultimately I felt like changing my name to his was the easiest for us.

    Another thought I had about this whole name change process…I was adopted at the age of 2, so I have already had 2 names. The more I thought about 1 year old me, now me, and future me – one person, three names, the less important keeping my current name became. My name does not define me, it only identifies me at a certain point in time.

    • I totally agree – I felt some of that “bad feminist” guilt as well. But really the point is to do what you want, not what is expected!

  14. all the lower to you – seriously, but I do find it a bit sad that the only option for kids is assumed to be to have their father’s name. I know lots of women who haven’t changed their last name yet their kids automatically inherited their father’s name. That’s why personally I always wonder a bit when I see people say they changed their last name to have the same name as their kids, if a true choice was made of just the default. I think the option to take your spouse’s last name is valid when it’s a real choice (& not just out of ignorance that other options exist), but I feel like… There’s literally no need to prove yourself. As you say, you’ve had worries about being a bad feminist etc etc… But outside of that, mainstream society loves you! Anyone who takes another choice is mostly spending time getting annoyed at people being ignorant (FFS, if your form doesn’t accept hyphens, your form sucks!). I feel it’s a sad state of affair that you feel you have to justify your choice because liberal people are too busy being angry that their own choices are being unloved by the mainstream that they have to shit on other people’s choice (which I’m probably doing to some extent at the start of this comment because I have all the feels about this topic).

    • You are right that this choice is the one most accepted by mainstream society – I can only speak to my own experience, which also involves living in a very liberal section of the country. And there are lots of choices for what last name to give your kids – hyphens, a new family last name, everyone can take the mother’s last name, etc, etc. The list goes on forever. I think it is great that we are living in a time when we are able to make these choices and have them respected.

  15. It definitely is a personal choice. But you must acknowledge that, societally speaking, it’s the easy one, the one that has the social (patriarchal) stamp of approval. Unlike those who do not change their names, or men who change their names to their wife’s name, or couples who choose a new name, your choice is unlikely to be scrutinized by anyone other than individuals who are both very liberal and very feminist (hi!), ie most people (at least where I live). Choosing to change your name to your husband’s confers certain types of social privilege that I think is important not to ignore and sweep under the rug in the name of choice feminism. As a feminist, I imagine you understand all of this thoroughly; honestly, I would appreciate some discussion about that, because I think it’s important and is frequently ignored, both in more mainstream discussions and in feminist communities.

  16. I’ll be changing my entire name. I’m sure you can imagine the response I’ve been getting.. most people start off outright saying they’ll call me my given name.. Then I, with a bit of humor, say something along the lines of “no you won’t” or “I won’t answer to it.” I’m giving them a new first and two new middle names to choose from. One of which is Clair- a name I choose partly because its one syllable and has the same KUH sound my given name does.
    I’ve decided that at the ceremony (which I have to admit is the part I’ve given most thought to but have “planned” the least of. Receptions are so detail-oriented, even when they’re stripped down.) the officiant will casually mention how I’ve chosen to change my entire name and be we will be introduced for the first time as husband and wife: Mr. His First Name and Mrs. My First, Middle, Last Name. On the ceremony program, after the reveal, I just changed to my new name when referring to myself. My closest people know I’m doing it but not everyone does. Either they will come around or they won’t.
    Your wedding, and marriage decisions are all yours. That’s why I love this site. xoxo

    • That is awesome – I love that idea. What better way to start a new phase of your life than with an entirely new name of your choice?

  17. Neither of us is changing ours–I honestly did think about it, but I like my name, and hers would combine really badly with mine (the first syllable of her last name is the same as my first name), and neither of us wanted to have a hyphenated name. I have heard that particularly for queer couples, it can be easier to share a name, because it is cultural shorthand for being a family. But really neither of us wanted to change, and we’re both published under our own names, so it wasn’t even all that big of a decision.

    I think this is maybe one of the places where it’s actually a little bit easier for queer couples? Because there isn’t this weight of tradition (yet?), so there’s a little bit more automatic freedom to do whatever you want (obviously any couple can do whatever they want, but it’s a little bit easier sometimes when you don’t have to actively decide not to do the “normal” thing, because there isn’t one). I’ve only had one person assume I might be changing my name, which startled me until I realized that he’d just heard me mention getting married, and didn’t know it was to another woman. Otherwise, really no judging from anyone.

    I did worry a little bit about future kids, and what name they might have–if I didn’t want to hyphenate, was it fair to do it to them, etc. Then I started thinking about my mom, who has a different last name from the rest of the family. But she definitely never felt like we were less her kids or anything. Obviously it’s different for everyone, and any choice is a fine one, but to me just that thought was really enough for me to realize that it would be fine with me if the kids have her name (I think).

    I have to admit, the first old friend on my facebook just changed her name on there this week, and it took me aback. Intellectually I think it’s a perfectly good choice if it’s what she wants, but in the moment it was weird.

  18. Yknow, the more I read about this, the more I start to think it’s just another arena where Women Can’t Win Ever.

    Take your husband’s name? MOOING SLAVE TO THE PATRIARCHY!
    Keep your name? WHAT, YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR HUSBAND?
    Make up a new name? WELL AREN’T YOU SPECIAL!
    He takes your name? … FREAKS! (also, whipped)

    Only one thing is for certain: Whatever you do, somebody or other is going to judge the crap out of you for it, and assume (or even flat out tell you) that your reasons for doing it are insufficient, incorrect, wrong, or bad. Whatever you do, or don’t do, take one lesson from the title of this article and Never Apologize For It.

  19. I just wanted to say that there is an option that was not covered here, which we are doing. I am not changing my name and any future children will have my name rather than my husband’s name. I’m the last of my line and the only one who could carry on the name so it’s very important to me. Hubby to be has a brother who will carry on his name, so he is more than happy to do it this way.

  20. I am so so excited to change my last name! I have my estranged father’s last name and I hate it! I feel no connection to that side of the family and LOVE my fiance’s fam so I’m really excited to take his. The one thing I will miss is that my current surname is pretty overtly Latina, and his is textbook Irish. People might just be a bit surprised when a tan and curly haired lady shows up instead!

    I’m just starting out my career however, and am at a point where I may have something published before the name change happens. Does anyone have any suggestions? I’m thinking of publishing under my future surname, so that all pieces of work will be under the same title.

    • You could definitely use your future name – you could also select a pen name that you could use no matter what your actual name is.

    • You can always keep using your maiden name for publishing and take his name as your legal name. Generally, you can use whichever name you like to publish (some caveats depending on your field). Although if you hate your name, it might make sense to start using the new one now, otherwise you will always have to use the old one to let people know about that published piece. And having to reference two names is definitely less convenient. I publish under my maiden name and will always use that name professionally, but if we have kids we’ll both change our names to a shared combined last name.

  21. I love this post, and the name thing is something I’ve been thinking about since my FH and I decided to marry. I was married at 19, and took my then husband’s name because those many many years ago that is simply what one did. I didn’t question it. We divorced, and I kept his name. I don’t choose to return to my maiden name because my family is not one I want to associate with for various and sundry reasons not necessary to go into here. But, that leave me with no desire to return to my maiden name, a wish to loose the previous married name, and not willing to make one up out of the blue. My FH of course said he would be proud if I chose to take his name, but he left it to me – said he would honor whatever decision I made. Well, I’ve decided to take his last name. One of the previous posters mentioned that her FH’s family was more loving and kind and welcoming than her own, and I feel the same. I’ll be proud to call myself by the name of that wonderful wacky loving welcoming tribe! No regrets, no conflicted emotions…

  22. We both hyphenated, but go by my last name and will pass on my name to any children we have. I ended up with my mother’s maiden name, and I am very attached to it. I didn’t want to hyphenate, but my husband didn’t want his name to disappear completely and he wanted me to have it too. so our compromise was that.

  23. I decided a long time ago that I would keep my last name. My husband was actually willing to change his last name if it was important that we have the same last name (it wasn’t, and his mother would have killed us). (My MIL asked at our reception if I was changing my name – it was good that we’d had a few glasses of wine before the conversation.) About six months after we got married I started thinking about what last name we would give out children. I always assumed that we would give them my husband’s name but I was starting to think that I wanted something different. We discussed it and we decided to make a family identity around hyphenating our name (we have a sign that said HisLast-MyLast, we have address labels that say HisLast-MyLast, when we are playing a game as a couple our team name is HisLast-MyLast) and that we would give the hyphenated name to our children. This was a great compromise for us and works for us. We are expecting out first child in August and my in-laws do not know that we are hyphenating for our children’s last name (they are from a small town where wives take husbands last names so this is a bit out of the norm for them). At this point they may not find out until we announce the name.

  24. This was something that I struggled with a bit, my mom hyphenated her last name, and always corrected people as to the spelling, when she had my sisters and I, rather then traditional middle names, we got her maiden name as our middle names. When I got married I decided to adopt his last name, and use both, not hyphenated just the two squished together- like us, two people who decided to squish together. His family has a great tradition of having the first born son, with the mothers maiden name as part of their name, so that the name is carried on.
    Names are so personal, and at least in Canada you have a couple of different options after marriage with how you want to be known on legal documents.

    • Squished together might be the best description ever. 🙂 My fiancee and I have also discussed giving at least one of our kids my last name as either their middle or first name.

      I totally agree that names are such a personal thing!!

  25. The desire to not change my last name is probably deep rooted in my natural draw for being ‘different’. As a kid I liked quirky things, shaved my head as a 10 year old girl, and basically just danced to the beat of my own drum.

    Now that I have a bf that I want to upgrade to hubz status, the real issue is really really disliking his last name and how it will sound with my first and middle names. It’s a typical male first name (Dan) and the real kicker comes with my middle name being Danielle (:/)…while I could keep my maiden name as a middle name and drop the Danielle all together, it has sentimental value to me. So I’ve been pondering and discussing the issue with bf in length, and neither of us will budge. He doesn’t want my last name, nor I his…

    So, I envy ya’ll that can practically decide on a name that makes everyone happy.

    • “I envy ya’ll that can practically decide on a name that makes everyone happy.”

      To some extent it depends on who you define “everyone” as. For my husband and I it only mattered what we thought. There are family members who disagree with me keeping my last name (we both come from small towns/conservative families). I get mail on a regular basis from relatives that said “Mrs. [His First Initial] [His Last]”. And when we announce our daughter’s last name after she is born (HisLast-MyLast) people will again be upset (1. that we hyphenated and 2. that my name is last).

  26. This article and the whole comment thread has been very interesting for me. I kept my last name, but I never thought about how someone might want to change their last name to their spouse’s last name because they were closer to spouse’s family than their own. It makes so much sense to me, because in my case, the opposite is completely true. My husband was more than happy that I kept my last name – he is completely estranged from his father and “has no desire to pass on [his] last name”. He also mentioned that if we had had kids, he’d be totally for them having my last name and not his. He didn’t want to change his own last name, so I guess if we had a family, he’ll be the odd man out, so to speak.

    His brother is getting married this year, and he has said that he would be very upset if his fiancee DIDN’T change her last name (even though he is just as estranged from their father). Besides my husband, the rest of his family is very socially conservative, so I don’t think they liked that I kept my last name (although no one has directly said anything to me – his other brother commented that engaged brother’s fiancee could keep her current last name and “keep it in a jar with [brother’s] b*lls.”)

  27. Hawkguy was surprised that I wanted to take his last name. His last name is mellifluous and unusual – anyone in the U.S. that has it is related to him within 2 degrees – while mine is truncated from something Eastern European, that we aren’t even sure of, and several other names were frequently shortened to the same thing when families immigrated. So yeah, my decision totally came down to aesthetics. The important thing is that we have a choice.

    • My fiancee’s name is also unusual and a little tough to spell (which was the reason I didn’t hyphenate it – just for the practicality). But honestly, I’ve always had an unusual first name so I am pretty used to having to explain / spell / repeat my name anyways!

  28. I’ve been married twice and both times changed my name. The first time, my wife and I both changed our names and chose a new one. It was, in a time when we could not get legally married like today, a way for us to become a family. Plus, it was empowering. Our daughter has that last name. I also liked having a new identity of sorts for a new stage of my life.
    When my husband and I got married 7 years ago, there were no expectations on his part at all. His first wife had hyphenated. I decided that I just really like having the same name as my spouse. So I changed my last name to his and my middle name to my former married name, which is the same as my daughter’s last name. My husband was surprised, but he would have been fine whatever I chose. The hardest piece was to not have the same last name as my daughter anymore. Again, though, I liked a name that for me represented a new identify and stage in my life.
    I think the most important piece is that it is about choice and it’s personal. If it is done with thoughtfulness and honesty, it should be supported. Eye-rolling is disrespectful at best and totally rude and condescending at most. It has no place in accepting others for who they are.

  29. FYI to Offbeat Brides — You can have 2 middle names! Crazy, I know. But that’s what I did. My maiden name became my second middle name. And I took his last name.

    Sometimes people get confused and think it’s a hyphenated last name. But I don’t mind because I still like my maiden name.

    • Random upside of making your last name a second middle name is that your (US) Passport reads like this:

      First Middle OldLast on one line
      NewLast on another

      Totally un-jarring. : ]

  30. I saw this NY Times article on this subject today, and it’s great to see it being talked about on a “regular” news outlet http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/upshot/maiden-names-on-the-rise-again.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&abt=0002&abg=0

    I’m planning on making my maiden name a second middle name, and will keep using it as a last name professionally. I would have liked to hyphenate or combine names but our last names don’t sound good together. I decided to take his last name because I like the idea of being a family unit, especially when we have kids ( and I didn’t want him to change his last name because his name is perfect and he’s the only guy in his family to carry the name)

  31. My fiancé wanted to change his last name when we first met because he hates his deadbeat father and hates being saddled with his name. So, though he didn’t go through with it and though only about .01% of men think about changing their last names, I gotta be like “not all men” when it comes to “men don’t change their names.”

    To be perfectly frank, the first three letters of my maiden name spell “cum.” (Sadly, it’s not “Cumberbatch.”) Even though I love a good dirty joke, it was the icing on the cake that made middle and high school hell for me (#yesallteenageboys). I’ve found that very, VERY few feminists/progressives will actually snark on women changing their names, they just ask because they want to make sure you’re at least thinking of the societal implications and context of women changing their names. If this piece and the comments on it are any indication, we do. Oh, boy, we. Do.

  32. Choice! That’s exactly it! Being a feminist means realizing you have a choice and you don’t have to do anything. I wouldn’t be changing my last name if my Fiancé said that I had to, but I am doing it because he is supportive of whichever decision I make. If anyone gives you crap about that, just pinch them!

  33. I changed my name and am currently going through the process of changing it with everyone on the planet. We are childless and will remain that way as we are both middle aged adults. I am a 45 years old woman who has had a 20 plus career with the same name which unfortunately was my ex-husbands name. I foolishly kept the ex’s name after we got divorced because I was (stupidly so) wishing we would get back together and it was easier to say and spell then my maiden name. I have regretted that decision for the last several years especially since getting engaged. It needed to go. And this process of getting rid of it has been cleansing. No one has said boo to me about it. Everyone totally understands the need, desire, and want to take my husband’s name. Which by the way is 10 times harder to say and spell then my maiden name ever was. It is a choice. No one should judge you on it. Embrace all your decisions. Just make sure they won’t be ones you regret later.

  34. I’ve been thinking about this a lot longer than I’ve been engaged, but it’s because I’m a writer/hopeful editor, and in the publishing industry, names matter.
    I eventually decided to keep my name as my legal name so my writer name and editor name are the same, but my real-life name (on Facebook and so-forth) will be his last name. It keeps my writing/editing life separate, cuts down the stalker potential should I somehow become rich and famous, and gives my private life privacy.
    Also, Stephen King’s wife is also a writer, and she publishes as Tabitha King, and comes after him in the alphabetical shelving. Which is just not fair. (My fiance is also a writer, and I want to be another letter in the alphabet from him).

    ETA: He also happens to have the same first name as my brother, so there is just no way he’s changing his name. It’s complicated enough in my family already.

  35. For myself, I first intended to only take my husbands last name, but I didn’t want to give up my last name for one major reason: My stepdad adopted me when I was 11. He has been the person I have always seen as dad and was there for me since he met me when I was 5. He never once treated me like I wasn’t completely his. I was proud to be his daughter. So for me, I didn’t give up his name. And I didn’t give up my husbands either. I just joined two names that I can’t imagine living without.

  36. My fiancé and I started having these conversations before we were engaged. He definitely wanted to keep his name as it is and I was happy to change mine to something new for both of us but not to his current surname. I’m not sure it’s completely rational but the idea of dropping my family name to take his made me feel weird, but a totally new name that would have been just for our new family would have been fine.
    So the final result is that we will both being keeping our names (and titles, I’ll still be Ms) and our kids will be hislastname-mylastname, making that our family name.
    Generally we haven’t had a problem from anyone in our lives. My Dad was surprised because he didn’t think of me particularly as a feminist (which sparked a whole new conversation) and weirdly one of my friends was stressed about what she would call us as we left the church (our names?!?) but I think that was just a knee jerk reaction.
    However one of my friends told me that when she was trying to decide, someone said to her “Aren’t you worried that your husband will think you’re not fully committed to your marriage if you don’t change your name?”. Yep.

  37. I think on this issue everyone just has to stick to her guns. As you can see in the comments, you’ll get insensitive eye-rolls and assumptions no matter what your path.

    The first thing my mother-in-law said when my husband and I told her we were going to get married was, “You’ll be Mrs. Jones!”. Well, no. Actually, I am Ms. Smith-Jones. But she didn’t think to ask. Now, when I know someone who’s getting married, I just wait for his/her cues as to the name thing. I make sure to spell it right and say it right 🙂 And I try to respect everyone’s choices, though I have to say the Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname thing is still pretty foreign to me (probably generational).

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