My name isn’t “Mrs”: On changing my mind about changing my last name

Guest post by Brink Powell
MRS balloon and tassel kit by Etsy seller PaperboyParty
MRS balloon and tassel kit by Etsy seller PaperboyParty

I've always been for equal rights for women. I feel fortunate to perform on stage, drive a car, vote, hold a good job, and have so many other freedoms that women were denied for so long and in some places are still denied. But I admit that whenever I heard about a woman keeping her maiden name, hyphenating, combining, or taking any other route than simply adopting her husband's name I thought it was weird. I even commented on an Offbeat Bride article about the name change decision, saying:

“I am the last person in my family lineage to have my last name. Were we living in medieval times this would be a catastrophic event… but since we're not living in medieval times it's not such a big deal. I think a lot of women fear that taking their husband's name will somehow erase their identity. I don't look at taking my husband'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 be Brink M. longer than I was ever Brink P.”

For our fourteen-month-long engagement I planned to take my husband's last name, and didn't really give it a second thought. But in the days and weeks following our wedding IT started to happen to me. I felt like I was being erased as an individual.

As early as our wedding day people started calling me “Mrs. HisLastName” and I didn't like it. It was as though I had ceased to exist. It felt like my first name was “Mrs,” my last name was “HisLastName,” and no identifier of who I was previous to getting married was left. My co-workers were calling me “Mrs. HisLastName” in a friendly celebratory way and finally I just said “Please stop calling me that. My name is Brink.”

It made me especially angry when we would receive something addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName” as though I was not even worthy of a first name anymore. As though I am just a wife. I love being his wife, I love that we're married, but I want to define my marriage. I don't want my marital status to define me.

I was truly dismayed to discover that on top of feeling like I was losing my identity I really disliked how my “new” name looked and sounded. I never really considered how aesthetically pleasing or harmonious my given name is, but once I realized that it made it even harder to give up.

Because I had intended to take his name all along I shoved these initial misgivings under the rug. I thought perhaps I was going through an adjustment period, like getting a new job, or apartment, or pet. I started using it at work following the wedding and I didn't get used to it. It looked wrong, it sounded wrong, and above all it felt wrong. It didn't feel like me.

But, I felt really awful about it feeling wrong so I tried to get myself excited about it. I tried to take solace in the fact that my last name could become my first ever middle name but that turned out to be not much comfort, because how often does one really use their middle name? Most forms or accounts only ask for and display a middle initial at best.

The turning point for me was when I attempted to fill out the form to legally change my name on my Social Security card. I sat down to fill it out and got hit with a totally unexpected wave of violent emotion. It sounds so dramatic and if it hadn't happened to me I'd accuse myself of exaggeration but my hands were shaking, tears were blotting the page, it just felt SO 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 believe that marriage is a union of equals. After thinking it over it seemed unequal and unfair that I, as the woman, was expected to give up something that's been part of me for my whole life simply because we made the decision to get married. I found out that my name means a whole lot more to me and is a bigger part of my identity than I previously thought. It's a part of me and it's not a part I can give up.

Changing my mind about changing my last name was undoubtedly really confusing for my husband, because I had clearly stated my intention to take his name once we were married. Since he didn't have to experience being called something else post-wedding I'm not sure that he can ever fully understand. But a driving force of our relationship is acceptance and not attempting to change the other person. My husband accepted my change of mind with a calm good grace that greatly increased my respect and love for him, a feat that I previously thought impossible.

In our still stubbornly patriarchal society it is still the norm for a woman to take her husband's name upon marriage. I think there's a misconception that women who choose a different path aren't as committed to their marriage as those who do. My feelings about my name are in no way connected to my feelings towards my husband or my marriage. Whether we share a name or not, I am his wife.

As strongly as I feel about keeping my own name I also don't think that it's wrong if person wants to change their name after getting married. What it comes down to is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer and no one should feel uncomfortable about making the choice that is right for them.

Meet our fave wedding vendors

Comments on My name isn’t “Mrs”: On changing my mind about changing my last name

  1. I never planned on changing my name, and sort of had to gently break it to my fiance. I don’t think it had really occurred to him before that I might keep my name, but after I brought it up a couple of times he asked if I was OK if people mistakenly called me Mrs. A. (I expect this, frankly), and said he was fine with it. I’ve also considered that I can always decide to change my mind and change my name down the road, and that it would be less awkward than if I realized months or years later that I made a mistake and wanted to change my name back.

  2. In most Hispanic societies, women keep their maiden name always. Only my relatives raised and/or born in the United States have changed their names upon marriage. I think its cool either way you prefer it.

  3. I wasn’t sure whether I would change my name or not. Part of me felt like it would be nice to have the same last name as my husband because that might make us more like two parts of a unit. But it didn’t seem fair that I’d go through the hassle of changing my name while he wouldn’t. I asked him once if he’d consider changing his and he said, “The feminist in me says yes, but the lazy man in me says no.” That’s what sealed the deal for me.

    I think most of our friends and family seem to understand it, but I still got a bunch of Christmas cards addressed to “Mr and Mrs HisLastName” and I wanted to scream. Even if it said My First Name and His First and last Name, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but the idea that I suddenly became a Mrs. Him was really upsetting. I am so much more than just his wife, and I don’t want to be reduced to just a woman who got married.

    • Oh the Christmas card thing. I know exactly how you felt. I got a little stab of annoyance every time one would arrive to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. But, I did try to temper with “well, I brought this on myself because I DID plan on taking his name and everyone knew it.” But that never made the complete absence of my first name sting any less!
      I also completely agree with “I am so much more than just his wife.” I am a complex individual with many sides to my personality and it bothers me that getting married reduced me, at least on paper, to simply “a wife.” That didn’t happen to my husband and I don’t want it to happen to me either!

      • I guess I can kind of understand calling me Jessica HisName, just because that’s still considered the norm. But using iterations that completely erase me as an individual is what really gets me. Even if I had changed my name, I wouldn’t want to be “Mrs. HisFirstname HisLastName.” I’m not Mrs Him, I’m Mrs Me!!

      • The Mr & Mrs HisFirst HisLast annoys those of us who changed our names to our husbands’ names also. It’s so archaic, it’s like, where did the woman go?

        • Right!? One of my friends who did change her name said she’s super annoyed by that as well. It just seems so demeaning. Even as we were opening our cards the night of the wedding, when I still thought I’d change my name, the ones addressed that way annoyed me. Every time I saw it I was just thinking “um … I’m still a person. Why does his first name get a mention and not mine?”

          • It’s demanding to change your name for someone, period, who simply won’t and refuses to do it for you.

            If someone does change their last name, I assume their “identity” just doesn’t mean much anyway – but their husbands sure does. I keep my last name and he keeps his because neither one of us are property.

          • I don’t necessarily think that if someone changes their name their identity doesn’t mean as much to them. They might be excited to take on a new identity. I have a friend who wavered about changing her name but did in the end because she wanted her name to reflect her identity as a wife and mother and wanted her whole family to have the same name. I respect that even if it’s not the path I would choose.

        • I totally agree with you, Kat. Luckily, I’ve been married for 8 months now and I have not come across anything addressed this way. I’ve had a few cards addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName” only, but I actually like that because it feels like we’re being called one unit. I think it works just fine when it’s just the last name and no first names involved. I do respect the fact that others may have different feelings about it, but I think that way still feels a bit more equal than “Mr. & Mrs. Him Him.”

          • Agreed! Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName does not bother me nearly as much as Mr.
            and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. I just feel like if a person is going to take the time to write out his first name it’s not fair to not do the same for me.

        • But what did you expect…when you took someone’s last name?! That they’d have the nuance to decipher what part of you were easing into a culture of ownership?

    • I sent all my wedding invites the traditional way: “Mr & Mrs A Smith & family”. You traditionally (apparently) become not only a “Mrs Smith” but a Mrs Adam Smith during formal invites. Who knew? I was just copying out the address book my future mother-in-law gave me. Adult sons and daughters (separate guests on my RSVP list) were reduced to ‘and family’, how’s that for being ignored?

      I’ve actually discovered the start of this when we were booking events for our mini-moon. He’d booked us in, I caught the names and I was a bit surprised to see “Mr A Surname” and “Mrs B Surname”. I asked him, and he said he was excited to use my married name (as at that point I’ll have signed the register and done it all). I did feel like saying “But I’m not a Surname yet, I’m still a Maidenname”, then remembered how I’d made a bit of a thing about how I didn’t care for my maiden name anyway and it only really had connections to the family I don’t speak to. Plus it means he’s excited to be married, so that’s lovely.

      Don’t scream if you get “Mrs Surname”, even if you are changing back – it just seems the way of it that by doing the whole marriage bit, that’s been the way of it for so long no-0ne knows any different and they’re not trying to ‘erase’ anyone.

  4. It was something (now) Hubby and I talked about before formally getting engaged. I wanted to keep my name.
    He was cool with it so long as any children were brought into our lives took his name. Fine by me!

    I actually have no problems with people calling me “Mrs. HisLastName” because it’s currently a societal norm I know what my own name is (so there!). Though Hubby is just as liable to be called “Mr. MyLastName” because I’m usually the one to fill out joint forms and such since my handwriting is better than his (also all our utilities are in my name because I bought the house before we were married).

    Though I had mentioned on the wedding website that I wouldn’t be taking his name, it was obvious how many people didn’t read it based on the Christmas cards we get addressed to Mr. & Mrs. HisFirstAnd Last Name.
    The even more humorous thing is my family (traditional Protestants and Catholics) are the biggest “offenders”. I never hide the fact that I didn’t take his name, but I also don’t militantly declare I’ve kept my name.
    Since all of Hubby’s maternal uncles are gay, his family was far more open-minded and curious as to what I was going to do with my name. Therefore all their cards are carefully addressed to both Hubby and myself 😉

    • I actually e-mailed my family prior to Christmas to let them know about my decision. Just a friendly “hey, so keep addressing things the way you always have because we still have different last names.” It was amusing to see how many different ways they chose to do it. Some put his name first then mine, some did my name first then his. Some did our first names and last initials, while some did the reverse and put our first initials and last names. Just more proof that there are a million different ways to do everything!

  5. It’s funny – I got invited to a wedding about a month after I got married, and that invite was addressed to Mr and Mrs HisFirst His Last, and admittedly I was pretty offended at that. Then again, the same couple had me listed as Mrs HisFirst His Last for place settings at the wedding. 🙁

    I ended up hyphenating my last name with my husband’s last name, and about 18 months post wedding, I wish I hadn’t changed it at all. Primarily because my new last name is 20 letters long, no one can pronounce it, and my full name no longer fits on almost any legal form.

    • Have you considered changing it back? I have no idea what the legal process is on that or how much of a pain it would be but if you’re unhappy with it now looking into wouldn’t hurt.

      • I’ve thought about it briefly, and I may actually look into it further when I have some extra time. 🙂 I don’t know anything about how difficult it is, either.

    • It seriously just sounds like a traditional way to address a woman during a formal occasion – I highly doubt it was meant to offend.

      Sounds like hyphenating was a good compromise, long name or not 🙂

  6. I spent my twenties assuming I was going to live my life happily single, and by the time I met my fiance, I had become an adult, started a career, gone on adventures, all using my maiden name. I had no intention of giving that up if I ever married, and I was clear about that while dating my fiance. He couldn’t care less, as long as we got to be married to each other.

    But something happened after we got engaged. I started to feel a little sad that weren’t going to be joined together by name. I lamented to him about never being able to buy one of those signs to hang in our front hall that says something like, “Welcome to the LastName Home”. He very reasonably said we could buy a sign that had both our last names, that we would be the MyLastName-HisLastName Family.

    I was surprised that I got upset about this seemingly lost layer of connection I was choosing to forgo. But I’m still not changing my name. A lot of it has to do with my identity, but there’s a pretty equal part that just doesn’t want to go through the trouble of filling out all that paperwork.

    • Right there with you. I don’t have a problem being Mrs. Hisname in our personal lives, but I’m staying Mrs. Myname in my professional life. I don’t want a permanently hyphenated email address, diplomas that don’t match my name, having to get new ID’s, etc. The way I see it, I’ll have another layer of separation between home life and work life.

      • I’m sticking with my name in personal and professional life, but I don’t think I’ll be upset if someone who isn’t aware I kept my name addresses me by his last name.

    • Having worked as an administrative professional since I was about sixteen I am on top of that shit and weirdly enjoy filling out forms. The hassle of the paperwork aspect never bothered me when I thought about changing my last name. But, since I’ve decided not to so many situations have come up where I think “damn, that would’ve been a pain in my ass if I had changed my name.” For example, I got my new AAA card in the mail the other day. I would never in a million years have remembered to call them and change my name. So while it wasn’t a deciding factor for me, avoiding the paperwork hassle has been a nice perk!

      • Yup, it’s all the major paperwork on top of all the things I’d forget to change that make it especially daunting. I’d probably just suck it up and do it if I didn’t care either way about my last name.

  7. I like my surname, I always have. It’s a pretty rare name and there isn’t many of us left, most of us are even in the same area of the same country! (We’re like hobbits! lol)

    With this in mind both my children have hyphenated surnames, it was my plan all along that they would keep my name even if it was hyphenated. And now we’re getting married ill be hyphenated too.
    I don’t want to be Mrs. D, that’s his Grandmother, (and a million other women as his names is pretty common) I am quite content being Mrs. C-D though. Plus my first name sounds nice with my surname because they start with the same letter, there is just something off about just his surname with my name.

    • “there is just something off about just his surname with my name.”
      This was a big part of my issue. His last name and my first name just do not flow well together. His last name is a Mc so putting it after Brink sounds harsh with the “k” sounds right in a row. At least, it did to me. Plenty of people told me it sounded nice but … I didn’t think so.

  8. I hadn’t really thought about whether I’d change my name until FH asked me about it roughly a year before we got engaged. I decided to keep mine because I like my name. A friend of mine with a hyphenated last name since childhood warned me that hyphenated names are nearly impossible for databases to handle correctly. Also, if I hyphenated I’d have three ways of pronouncing ‘ch’ in my name. That’s just setting people up for pronunciation failure. Lol

  9. What’s really amusing is when your husband changes his last name to yours, and you still get letters addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast (which is really your last, but they don’t know that).

  10. I’m definitely going to change my name when we get married, but I am NOT looking forward to the paperwork at all…I know there are services but it seems like a giant PITA. Plus my state is one of the few where you cannot change your given middle name to your maiden without doing another name change.

    Even though I’m fine with, and look forward to being called ‘Mrs. HisLast’ I do NOT want to be called Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. But I do think, depending on the nature of the invite, or piece of mail or whatever, you have to consider that some people just aren’t going to put in the effort to figure out if you are the one married woman on their list that doesn’t share a name with her husband. We aren’t always that important to other people.

    I’m not that upset by it because I guess I understand their reasoning but…..right now my boyfriend and I are expecting a little one soon. We’ve decided to give him his dad’s last name since we do plan to get married in the next year or so, but SO MANY people assume that the baby will have his last name. Even people whose children were born under similar circumstances and have their fathers’ last name. It’s more confusing than angering, though.

    • If you are important enough that they’re sending you snail mail, you’re important enough for them to know your name. It’s an incredibly basic piece of etiquette to call someone what they want to be called. I have every right to expect that someone who is sending me mail knows what my name is.

      • I agree. The Christmas cards were my own fault because I had spread it around that I would be taking his name. But we made sure to order return address labels that say both of our names for the thank you cards. Once they go out I expect any mail we receive in the future to be addressed properly and I’ll be disappointed if people don’t respect my wish just because it’s easier to write Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName.

      • Totally agree with you. Especially since it’s becoming so much more common to not change, or hyphenate or for both parties to change names, and because it’s generally pretty easy to look up on Facebook or via email for most of us. In a lot of instances, it’s just lazy to not check.

  11. Your story reminds me of my Mum’s. Back in the day when they got married, there wasn’t an option of each partner keeping their last name in Germany, instead you had to choose a “family name”. I’d like to think it could’ve been my Mum’s if they’d wanted, but I’m not sure… it was the early 80s after all (man, even just thinking about all this, the lack of choice for women seems so incredibly antiquated!). Hyphenating was an option though, so a lot of feminists did that: the man would keep his last name and the woman would add her husband’s onto her maiden name.
    My Mum fully planned to take my Dad’s last name, until at the very registrar’s office while they were signing their papers she suddenly realised she didn’t want to give up that part of her identity! So she ended up hyphenating completely spontaneously. Come to think of it, I need to ask my Dad if that sudden change of heart shocked him 😉 – and my Mum if it ever bothered her that most people referred to her as Mrs Dad’s-Last-Name anyway. I know she’s known by the hyphenated version at work (or was, before retiring), but not everywhere, especially in situations where my parents appeared as a couple.

    • I think it’s great that your mother followed her gut instinct! I kept trying to shove my gut instinct away and it wasn’t until filling out the SS card form that it finally all boiled over and I gave in to what I was really feeling.

      • I agree, I think it was super brave of her to go through with it on a sudden gut feeling! I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to do that if I’d made up my mind differently before.

        • The night before we went to apply for our license was the first time I started to have doubts about whether or not I wanted to change mine. I didn’t say anything to my husband about it and when we were in front of the clerk and she asked if either of us were going to change our names I just automatically said “I am” and then in my head was going “Wait, am I? Why did I say that? Do I really want to? … ahhh!”

  12. My fiancé and I didn’t even need to have a conversation about this – long before we were engaged I drunkenly teased him that I would not be changing my name and he laughed and said, “Oh, I already assumed that!” He knows me well. 🙂

    Maybe I’m being petty, but I just don’t see how it is fair for me to give up my identity and family lineage (only on paper, granted) to take on his. If we were to create a brand new family name, that might be different, but that sits almost equally as unwell with me and I know he would not be interested. Isn’t that funny though, that no one will ever admonish him for not wanting to change his name? But I’m sure I have many fun conversations ahead of me as this comes out, and they will all point to me. I don’t see why last names matter anyway – I’m his partner and we are a unit, regardless.

    • It is grossly unfair that women are so much more likely to get negative reactions about not changing their name than men are. Societal expectations and norms always take time to change though and I think this issue is definitely more of a “thing” in some areas than others. My father has a cousin who did not take her husband’s last name but she’s from a liberal area where it’s actually more common for a woman to keep her name than not. In my situation we live in a predominantly middle-class Irish/Italian Catholic area that is really steeped in tradition. In some ways that’s great and there’s a lot of great cultural events that go on here but in the attitude and assumptions about marriage are quite old fashioned.

  13. My boyfriend and I are really radical in this. I’m keeping my name and he’s keeping his. It’s a lot easier for us as teachers to just keep the same name, and cheaper since we’d have to fill out an atrocious amount of paperwork, and all of that’s in addition to the feminist perspective we both had growing up.

    However, we’re taking thinks a step further. Any male children we have will have his last name and any female children will have my last name. If they change genders later on, they can change their name or keep it the same. This is a very popular decision in my family, but some of my friends are FREAKED OUT by this choice, because they’re so ingrained that the child always takes the father’s last name. This is even the case for a friend whose children have different last names because they have different fathers.

    • I think that’s really cool! We’re choosing to remain child-free so it’s not an issue for us but it would have been interesting to see what we would have done in that situation. Especially considering I am my grandfather’s only grandchild who shares his name. I’m basically “the last Powell”
      (dramatic music). It really sort of doesn’t seem fair that kids should automatically have their father’s name considering it takes two sets of genes to create a new life.

    • i am so interested in this bc i too will be keeping my name and was curious what i would name my future children… my first instinct was to do what u mentioned, however what if you have all boys, haha. or all girls. then you may end up being the only one in the family with a diff. last name? it would be perfect if it worked out balanced but theres no way to predict that outcome… these are all questions ive asked myself, haha. 🙂

      • Instead of doing it along gender lines what if the first child got one name, the second got the other name, and so forth? I guess that would mean you’d have to have an even number of children to make it “even” though.

    • When we decided to hyphenate our last names for our children a few friends were surprised that my husband would be ok with my name being last. According to them most guys want to have their name last (where we live it is common to hyphenate and I have not noticed this). To me it wasn’t a prestige thing, my name last name is a homophone for a English adjective which has negative connotations so it doesn’t sound good if it is before my husbands last name.

      Also I know people who have children gave some of their children the husband’s last name and other children the wife’s last name. And I know other couples who gave all their children the mother’s last name.

      • Yeah, well. my boyfriend and I will be super weird in the town where we’ll be living because I didn’t change my last name, and all of our children don’t have the same last name. The usual way to have children with different last names where I come from is by having children with multiple fathers, and if my children have one father, this will confuse them.

    • Is that legal where you live? I’m Belgian and here, while we can choose to give our children either parent’s last name or a double one, all (full) siblings need to have the same last name.

  14. I always planned on keeping my birth name, and never questioned it for a second. I think much of this certainty came from the fact that my Mum kept her maiden name, so I know from personal experience that it’s not the end of the world if two married partners have different surnames!

    Further to this, my husband is keen for our kids to also take my surname. I feel very close to my father’s family, whereas my husband’s paternal surname comes from a remarriage in his grandparent’s generation, so doesn’t have that blood-tie connection for him. And again, from my own experience, I know that having a parent who doesn’t share your surname isn’t actually confusing for a child, nor does it make them any less your parent!

    We also don’t openly wear our wedding rings (I lost mine a year ago, and he wears his on a chain around his neck). The marriage is not a ring, or a changed name, but the work you put into it every day. I do not care if I am not encumbered by what society considers the trappings of marriage, because for me this union is so much deeper than that.

    • Well stated! I grew up with parents who did share a surname, and it’s my father’s. When we’ve talked about it my mother said she didn’t think anything of it when they got married and is perfectly happy being Mrs.
      Powell. At this point that’s been her name for longer than she’s been alive. That works for her but it just doesn’t work for me, and I think that’s what I wish people who are so staunchly traditional about it need to realize. That everyone needs to find what works for them and their family.

  15. I’ve been surprised to find that this has become a much more emotive issue for me over the last year or so. I have always known I would want to keep my own name if I get married, but felt pretty unbothered by what other people chose to do. The last couple of friends of mine to get married though, have taken their husband’s names and I’ve found it strangely upsetting. I think it’s a response to the way it’s shown up the cultural pressure to do it, rather than to do with their decision per se, but it’s made me realise that I’d be really upset if I married and people just assumed. I already know that most people on my partner’s side of the family would assume and we would definitely get wedding cards and greetings referring to me as ‘Mrs X’, and I think I would hate that (especially as I wouldn’t be changing my title either since I am Dr. Zooey). I’d love to hear how people have handled the ‘pre-information’ to discourage people from doing that.

    As children have become something which is also more on my radar, I’ve found my feelings shifting on that too – I used to think I would be fine for any children to take their father’s name, but increasingly I feel like I would be very not cool with that.

    Unexpected feelings! They are confusing!

    • Are you worried about your partner’s family assuming or are you worried that they will be judgmental about your decision? I felt fairly lucky that several of my husband’s aunts decided to keep their name when they got married, so it wasn’t such a weird concept to family. Or at least no one seemed like they were offended that I “didn’t want their name.” Because I feel sometimes like grooms’ families view that decision as an insult against them, even if it’s not meant to be. If you’re worried about the assumption, I might suggest speaking with his parents before the wedding and telling them that this is an important decision and asking if they could help you spread the word to their respective families. They should know how best to deal with the varying personalities, I’d think.

      • I think his immediate family would be cool with it but would still want to refer to me as ‘Mrs LastName’ on the day of the wedding and his extended family would find it weird and do a lot of assuming but not be actively hostile. So it’s not that I’m anticipating anyone being horrible, just realising that when some people do the inevitable assuming and/or wilful ‘forgetting’ it will probably bother me a lot more than I had assumed until recently. I think the enlisting his parents is a good idea though as it would at least ensure that they knew it was a thing I had feelings about.

        Plenty of time to think about it – we’re not actually formally engaged right now but in that phase where we both agree marriage is on the cards for us at some slightly more convenient moment. But this is why it’s been even stranger to suddenly start having irrational feelings about other people’s choices flag up that maybe I am not as chill on this point as I assumed!

    • Unexpected feelings are truly confusing and potentially distressing!
      Having gone through a massive change of mind I learned that in some situations you just can’t anticipate how you’ll feel until you’re in the situation. I anticipating being totally fine with taking my husband’s name and it turns out I wasn’t. With the kids thing I’d say don’t worry about it until it happens because you may feel totally different than you think you will!

      You will definitely get wedding cards addressed to Mr. and Mrs.
      HisLastName. Even though in your situation I believe the proper etiquette would be Dr. and Mr. HisLastName. If guests choose to give you checks you also will probably receive some with the wrong names too. I think pre-information is a good thing to consider. Are you having a wedding website? You could put something in your FAQ section. I’ve seen this done where it’s worded like “Will names be changing post wedding?” “No, we will both be retaining our given names.”

      I can relate to your feelings about your friends. I was very surprised when a co-worker of mine who is a Dr. got married and immediately changed her name to her husband’s. She was like a militant fiend about it and by the end of her first day back at work everything (her e-mail, letterhead, etc) had been changed. I was surprised to feel myself feeling sad about it? Like, why should I care? But I guess I was just surprised that she was so easily able to shed the name she achieved her doctorate under because I couldn’t even shed mine and I’m certainly no doctor!

    • It’s funny, I also feel upset when friends change their names. I almost feel offended by it. It’s bizarre. In theory I totally respect that everyone needs to figure out what works for them and if they are happy changing their names then it’s perfect. But in practice it bothers me. The first time it came up I may have made a slightly rude comment about it (totally inappropriate I know! It came out before I could think about it, but that’s no excuse) but luckily now I know what my gut feeling will be and can keep it in check. It still makes me feel weird but the important thing is to not let that feeling affect me and respect everyone’s decisions.

      • I think it’s always hard to control gut reactions, especially when you feel strongly about the issue. Even though we all logically know that what we choose isn’t right for everyone I think seeing someone make the opposite decision might grate on us because it calls our choice into question … if that makes any sense? It’s like a defense mechanism. Someone taking their husbands name might bring out insecurities about me not taking my husband’s name which leads me to have an oddly negative reaction to their choice. Oh human psychology! We are odd creatures.

    • I openly broached it in my wedding speech (yep, I made the speech, not the groom!). I was fortunate that I could make light of it, as his surname is Payne and I’m called Isa, so my name would literally be “Is A Pain”. Everyone had a laugh, and I made my point. No-one was any the worse, and no-one ever addresses us as Mr and Mrs Payne. Except his Grandma, who does the Mr and Mrs HisName LastName thing, but whatever, she’s of a different generation.

  16. I’m already a hyphenated name and my fiance and I have been debating a lot about this. I really don’t mind if in my personal life (or even partially my professional life) if people use his last name, but I don’t really want to change my last name. And I want our kids to have both our names. But 3 hyphenations seems crazy long. Only problem is, if my brother doesn’t have kids, we lose BOTH of our parents’ last names. All of my aunts & uncles only had girls, who are all married & took their partners’ names. Just think it’d be sad for two families (my dad & mum’s) name lineages to come to an end. However, fiance doesn’t seem to be too keen on the idea that I keep my name entirely. But I also have two citizenships & live in a different country than my citizenships! So that’d be 3 countries’ paperwork + residence cards & everything else. No thank you!

    Any suggestions for what to do with kids when one of you already has a double barrel last name?

    • I also have that issue. I am definitely not changing my name, but I’m not sure what to do about kids’ names. I like the idea mentioned above of alternating names – one kid has my name, the next has my partner’s – I knew some people in high school who did that. I feel weird giving one child a hyphenated name and one child a single name though, especially with how much people criticize hyphenated names. (I loved my hyphenated name but I know that not everyone feels that way.) Otherwise I’m not opposed to taking one part of my last name and passing it on along with my partner’s name. But then the kids’ names won’t match either of our names, which is unusual.

      My partner and I are pretty tempted to just make up a new name…

  17. My fiancé and I had this conversation early. I was born in Puerto Rico so my birth certificate reads firstname middle fatherslast motherslast. But growing up in the states I had only my father’s last name in documents as long as I can remember. Then when I went to get a passport they asked if I wanted to add my mother’s last name to the document. Having struggled with “not looking Hispanic enough” all my life, it felt like I was given a chance to identify my lineage in a way I couldn’t before. I’m not giving that up and luckily my fiancé totally understands this.

    • I love this. I’m biracial who grew up constantly being asked “what are you?” (not white enough, apparently) and then becoming an adult who most people assume is white (wait a minute, not Asian enough, apparently). I often wonder how my life would be different if I had my mother’s Filipino maiden name rather than my dad’s white name. I’m glad you were able to align your lineage through that passport issue. 🙂

  18. My fiance and I are considering changing his last name- the idea actually really made me happy when he suggested it, though I was ok with no change as well.

    We knew he didn’t want me to change my name, knew that I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. And honestly, his family has been emotionally abusive and awful to him ever since he got old enough to make his own decisions and started thinking for himself about things. He wants a relationship with them, but it has to be at arm’s length or more. They also have been openly hostile to him over the engagement, though generally they play nice to my face about it. On the other hand, my family loves him and they are so happy over the engagement, and are showing him what a healthy relationship with family can look like. So if one name were our decision, it would probably be mine. We only worry that his family would see it as one more rejection, when they already see pretty much all his choices lately that way including the marriage itself- I don’t think it actually would be, but they would see it that way. So we’re also considering no change, or taking each other’s names as middle names like many women do with their maiden names. So many feels around the whole thing, that’s for sure.

    I prefer the hispanic tradition in general, where no one changes names at marriage and children have their mother’s and father’s names (though I dislike that the name passed to children is still paternal- it’s the fathers name from each parent). Problem is, the hispanic tradition isn’t mine and usually confuses people in the US. Just wanted to share where my decision-making process has taken me so far on the same issue- and chime in as someone whose husband might take her name, as that is so much less common.

    TLDR- Fiance might take my name, but it’s complicated. Mostly, I’m really glad we’re both talking about this as a decision “we” are making about “our” names, not just “will the woman change it?” It’s understood that this is a discussion with equal weight on both sides.

  19. I spent the entire year of my engagement debating whether or not to change my name. It was never about equality or feminism or any of that. I’m a female engineer and I’m the higher income earner and we have a really good relationship where we take on roles that we’re better at (he’s better at cleaning, ironing, building fires, and multi-tasking and I’m better at cooking, gardening, car things, and being on a single task at a time) and we’re both on the exact same page when it comes to finance. I most definitely never thought that I by changing my surname that I’d some how bow down to some ancient patriarchal female squelching thing. For me, it was about being totally, utterly lazy. LAZY! I am a dual citizen, so 2 passports, 2 driving licenses, bank accounts in 2 countries, different government ID numbers, etc, etc, etc… I just couldn’t bare the thought of changing any of that stuff. I loved his last lame and I loved my maiden name. I personally for me, didn’t like the way my name sounded hyphenated, but didn’t want to lose my name. He never wanted to change to my surname, or make a combination name which would have been fun. He never cared if I changed it or not. I debated right until that moment we had the ceremony. And I just kind of went “fuck it”, it will be fun to have the same name as my husband. Nothing swung me this way from what I can tell and I decided to keep my old last name as a second middle name. I like it. I’m totally confusing everyone with my new name and whilst I still have yet to change any official IDs, can’t sign my name properly and I still stumble when introducing myself, (it has only been 3.5 weeks), I somehow think that for me, it was the best choice. It’s not made a new me or identity and I’ve not lost any part of me at all and well, really, married life feels absolutely no different to non-married life. I know people say its supposed to feel deeper, stronger, they try harder, whatever, but we feel no different. We feel the same that we did when we got through lots and lots of life’s hurdles when we almost ended, but didn’t. Soul searching somehow got us through (but not necessarily intact), but somehow, once we made it through that dark period, we moved into a giggly, head over heels, yucky romantic, people puke at our PDA phase, which is going on 2 years strong now… Maybe that was our pivotal moment instead of our wedding ceremony. Not that I didn’t think for a moment that my wedding wasn’t perfect, because all of it was, pouring rain-strong wind -flooding and all. But maybe this is why I wanted to change to his name. Realising that we, were almost not and that together we’re stronger than apart. Yeah, just typing it, I think that’s maybe why I did it. Hmm….

  20. We got wedding cards that addressed us as Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast even though we made it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that no one was changing their name. We had to have a few conversations with people, some more than a few times, but we actually were successful enough that we did not get a single mis-addressed holiday card this year. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Interestingly, I have since been addressed as Mrs. MyName, to which I tell people, “No, dear, I am not married to my father.” (My mother added my father’s name to hers so she is FirstName MiddleName HerLast HisLast, but mostly uses HisLast.)

    Anyway, what I always tell people is that while the choice of whether to change your name is personal, socially speaking, it is more acceptable if the woman changes her name upon marriage. Acquiring the male partner’s name is rooted in marriage as a transfer of property from one man (the woman’s father) to another man (her husband). The name was essentially a label so that people would know to whom the woman quite literally belonged. This is what our society is rooted in, and the name change for women isn’t the only holdover from an era when women were property. Those holdovers are why people react so negatively to women who choose not to change their names– it’s why there are comments that those women are “not as committed to their marriage.”

    So yes, changing your name is a personal choice (it’s your name after all), but remember that no one exists in a vacuum. Choosing to change one’s name to one’s husband’s name falls in line with established traditions of patriarchy, regardless of the reason for the name change (I’ve heard women say they want nothing to do with their father’s name, for example). It does not advance the position of women within society; it does not help make it more acceptable to keep one’s name, or to select an entirely new name. As such, it is not a feminist action (if we define feminism as actions that advance or help maintain equality). That doesn’t mean it’s “bad” if a person takes their husband’s name; it just means that the person has other priorities, or may choose to advance equality in other ways.

    • It was amazing to me during wedding planning how many traditions I found that had somewhat “icky” origins. The name change is one of them. But, those origins are only “icky” by today’s standards. 50, 100, 500 years from now there will probably be societal traditions that we find totally normal that people of the future will balk at and change. It’s all just part of the evolution of societies and cultures. There are plenty of good reasons for a woman to change her name just as there are plenty of good reasons for a woman to not change her name. Like you said, it all comes down to personal choice, but it would be nice if the reaction was no reaction at all! Rather than potentially having to explain or justify to those who don’t like when tradition is changed.

    • Omg, I love the “I’m not married to my father” comment. Pretty much everyone in my life knows I didn’t change my last name, but many are still pretty damn confused about how to address mail to me. I get a lot of Mrs. MyName-HisName, even though I didn’t hyphenate and some Mrs. MyName as well. I like when they get the name right, but I really prefer Ms. And as a PhD student, pretty soon it will be Dr. MyName anyway!

  21. This reminds me of my grandmother’s medical records. My grandmother passed away when my mom was a teenager. When I was a teenager my mom requested my grandmother’s medical records because my mom (youngest of four) and her siblings did not know much about their mothers illness other than she died of cancer. My mom was very shocked and even pointed out to me that my grandmother was always referred to as ‘Mrs [grandfather’s first] [grandfather’s last]’. This was in the early 1970s. My mom felt like the record erased part of her mom. My mom also passed away when I was a teenager, and one of the reasons I kept my last name was because it was her last name (even if that’s because she took my dad’s last name).

  22. women keeping your names ( i will be one of them too when i get married this summer..) what are you going to do if you have children? i’ve heard so many options- give the sons his last name, give the daughters hers…. create a new last name for just the kids… neither seem really great to me? i guess hyphenating the kids is probably the most desirable for me personally? just looking for advice. thanks 🙂

    • We have a daughter, born last summer, and we hyphenated HisLast-mylast for her. We have being using the hyphenated name as our ‘family’ name since about six months after we got married after my husband’s parents called us the ‘The HisLasts’ even though I kept my name. We have been criticized that her last name is a mouthful but it’s the same length as my sisters last name (she took her husband’s last name and its 12 letters).

    • For us it’s a moot point because we’ve decided to remain child-free. But if that weren’t the case I would definitely want my name to be a part of theirs somehow. I’m the last of my father’s family to have my last name and it would be important to me to keep the name going. I think the easiest solution would be to hyphenate but I think I would also be okay with using one name as a middle name and one as a last name. I am sort of glad though that I won’t have to deal with this issue because if deciding what to do with my name caused me so many feels I really can’t fathom how I’d deal with choosing someone else’s!

    • You might consider choosing an entirely new family name, so that everyone’s name changes. That way, you are signifying your unity via name (which sounds like it is important to you), as well as not bowing to tradition.

      That being said, my husband and I will never have biological children. We may eventually adopt if (and only if) we feel it is the right choice, but that won’t be for many years. If that happens, we may actually leave our adopted child’s name as-is, so we all have different names. In my opinion, a name doesn’t make a family– the people and their relationship to each other make a family. So while having one name may be important for some, it’s not important to me or my husband– our family is no less legitimate than anyone else’s.

  23. It’s all such a minefield!
    I love the idea of having a family name, but hate the idea of having to change my name and him not having to change his just because that’s how it’s **supposed** to be. I am totally down for hyphenating, or for combining our names, or just coming up with a completely new name for our new family, but the paperwork involved is substantial (in BC for any of those options you actually have to change the name on your birth certificate, which seems so drastic to me- like erasing the past). The path of least resistance seems to be just keep our own names, but he doesn’t really want our eventual kids to have hyphenated names. Our names combine really well, and while it’s a bit silly, I love it. My family will think it’s odd and rather wrong, but they also know me and know I’m just gonna do what I want to do. *His* family, though… I worry that they’ll think I forced this on him…

    At this point we may keep our own names and wait until we have kids to decide, though that feels a bit like admitting defeat…

    • I think it’s interesting how a common theme seems to be fears about how the husband’s family will react rather than the wife’s. I worried about this as well but as yet haven’t gotten a reaction one way or another. I’m actually not sure if my husband even told my in-laws about my decision!
      Apparently, my grandfather was very pleased that I’d chosen to keep my name which makes sense because it’s his! However, I think it would be interesting to see how he would’ve reacted if I were a man and my wife had decided not to take our family name because I don’t think it would have been so positive. I think for some in-laws it might feel like the new wife doesn’t really want to be a part of their family if she doesn’t choose to take their family name. That’s not the case with us because my mother-in-law is remarried so my in-laws have a different last name than my husband. Like you said it’s all just a minefield and any decision can have so many different outcomes based on the personalities of all involved. In any case, I think as long in the couple in question is happy with whatever choice is made then it’s really none of either set of in-laws business!

      • We did not discuss me not changing my name with my in-laws before we got married. I am the first married woman on either side to keep her name (I do have a step-sis that uses her maiden name professionally). We live in a city where it is common for women to keep their name and relatively common to hyphenate last names for children. Both of our families are from small towns and my in-laws are very conservative. My MIL asked me what my last name was at our wedding reception after both of us had a few glasses of wine (it went over better than I expected, well until months later when they still insisted in calling us ‘The HisLasts’ which upset my husband more than it did me). My husband told me that if it was important to me that we have the same name then he would change his last name to mine. We knew that would not go over well with my in-laws. My MIL really wants a grandson to carry on my FIL’s last name (through his line – a male cousin with the same last name has a son). My BIL/SIL have three daughters and don’t plan on having anymore. We have a daughter, which was probably good considering we hyphenated for her; if we have a boy in the future my MIL is not going to be happy that he’ll also have a hyphenated last name but there will be precedence (and my kids aren’t going to have different last names).

        I think some people did wonder how committed I was to the family. I think if my SIL did not take my BIL’s last name then they would have said she was not committed to the family (the family thought she was a gold digger). I think they have seen from my behaviour that I am committed, I just like to do things my way.

        • I’m glad it went over better with your MIL than you expected. I’m only the second woman in my family to keep my last name. The first was my father’s cousin who lives on the opposite side of the country so for all intents and purposes I’m actually the first one. I’m positive I’m the first in my husband’s family to do so and I’m still not even sure if they know that I did. No matter what their reaction is though as long as my husband is good with my decision and understands that’s all I really care about. Since we’re remaining child-free at least we don’t have to deal with that part of it in the future. I feel like it would be really important to his family that he pass on his name since he’s his father’s only son and all that.

  24. Add it to the FAQs on the wedding website! And not just under “Are you changing your names?”, but also under “I want to send you a gift or a card, what is your address?” And then add your address and exactly how you would like your names written. Obviously, some people won’t read the FAQs, but it might be helpful to put this information in a practical, copy and paste version.

  25. Funnily enough, my fiancé’s surname is also Powell. Before I ever got into a long-term relationship, I knew I wanted to change my name at marriage because I’ve had to spell mine out all my life (Twyman) and I get people pronouncing it Tyman or Tweeman or Twynan or something, which gets boring really fast. I’ve thought about it from a feminist viewpoint and if I had a surname people didn’t mess up so easily, I’d keep it; but my surname is a chore to me. I’ll miss the swoopy ‘y’ I do in my signature though :/

    • I can definitely see how having an annoying original surname would prompt you to want to change it! Since your last name is going to be Powell I suggest doing some nice loopy flourishes with the two L’s at the end.
      Might make you miss your swoopy y a little less 🙂

  26. Friendly greetings! I’m an American who married an Italian in Italy 2 years ago. We now live in California. When I got married, I didn’t change my last name but now, 2 yrs later, I want to change it to his last name. I don’t know where to start. Who do I contact? US Embassy? Our marriage license was originally made in Italy. Any Help is Greatly appreciated. Happy New Year Every One 🙂

  27. Happy New Year! If I were you I would start with the social security office since you’re American and that’s generally the first thing you change your name on. Just a warning that you may find there’s a bit more paperwork since it’s been two years since your marriage. I seem to remember during my planning a friend who works for SS told me that after two years the process changes. Good luck!

  28. I also did not opt to change my name upon getting married this year (though I had never intended to in the first place). It is so frustrating the number of people who have assumed that my name would change upon marriage and have taken the liberty of addressing me by my “new” name. Even one of the stores we registered at sent me an email with the subject line “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast!” While I realize it is the norm for marrying women to take their husband’s name, it is certainly not unheard of for that not to be the case. And fewer women are doing so. It is very presumptive to call a woman by a different name than what she’s introduced herself as.

  29. I’m really struggling with this one, because MyLast + HisLast = an adjective you’d rather not apply to yourself, which some friends think is hilarious. Feminism wise, I’d be keen to keep my name, especially as we both get on better with my family than his, and I have several degrees under my own name! But having the two names present just invites the joke, which we really want to avoid. I like the romance of being Mr and Mrs SameName, but I get worried about it feeling like I’ve given up part of my identity 🙁

  30. I’m not sure my husband really understood my decision to keep my name until our honeymoon. I booked our room under my credit card, and the very fancy hotel assumed we were Mr. and Mrs. MyLastName. So for 3 days, he kept getting called Mr. MyLastName. By the end, he was like “ok, I get it now…”

  31. I’m not taking my partner’s last name. I honestly don’t like it any better than I like my last name (which I hate because I’ve never had a good relationship with my father). I’ll be two weeks shy of my 45th birthday when we get married. I’ve built my career and life using the name I have. I don’t feel inclined to change it…unless I do something radical and change my last name to the one I really want– my maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

  32. Ive never really thought about it tbh, but as i’m reading your article i’m agreeing with everything you are saying. I think about how, if i changed my name then i would be a part of his family, which is lovely, but then i would lose something that connects me to my own. I was this name when i was teased at school for being a teacher’s daughter and i was this name when i was called up to graduate with a 1st class degree. It’s a slate i wouldn’t want to wipe clean; these memories belong to me, to that name.

    Then again i think ‘my partner’s name is cooler, i’ve never really liked mine’
    And i got to the bottom of the article and see you have the exact same surname as me.

    You definitely have me thinking.

  33. Not to offend or otherwise bother anyone, but just a thought on the side: it’s funny how some issues are considered ‘offbeat’ on this website, apparently only because the USA seems very traditional when it comes to weddings, marriage, and potentially a whole lot of other things in life. I’m Belgian, and almost no one here changes their name after their wedding. Some women might use a hyphenated last name on e.g. Facebook, but legally they just keep their own name. Also, many people don’t even get married here, and have children while not married (I know, *gasp* :-p ). I feel that in many of there issues, the USA seems to run about a generation (or 2) behind on Europe. I guess we’re lucky, as many of my own choices and decisions might be considered very offbeat and potentially even shocking in a more traditional environment, but here no one even blinks an eye at us getting married while already having 2 children, not getting married in church, inviting exactly and only the people we want, and after a relationship of almost 15 years (I’m 30). Any thoughts or replies?

  34. I have been married for a year and kept my last name. Neither myself or my husband wanted his father’s surname – so he has officially taken his mother’s surname now, while I still have my own. This was always fine with me until very recently – we are expecting our first child together in 3 weeks and agreed a long time ago she would also share his mother’s surname. This is pushing me towards changing my name to share our daughters. The reason he took his mother’s surname was because it represents family to him – he in no way expects me to take his surname(old or new). I have always felt (for possibly 15 years or so before I even knew I would ever want to marry) that I would prefer to keep my last name. But the thought of not having the same surname as my daughter who I have carried for the last 9 months is tearing me apart.

    • Hi Jess,
      I understand how you’re feeling, but it might be reassuring that part of how you feel might be due to all those pregnancy hormones that make you do and feel all kinds of possibly unusual stuff. I have two children who share their dad’s surname. It sometimes feels unfair that I’m the only one in our little family with a different surname, but most of the time it doesn’t bother me anymore. You haven’t physically seen and touched your child yet, and that can make you overestimate more symbolic things like a name. Once born, your child will acknowledge you as her mother in much more than just her name ever could, and it will be obvious to anyone that you are her mother regardless of names or other symbols. A more experienced mother might also note that it’s much more fun to be able to blame your husband when the children are annoying or naughty, as they share his name and not yours, but you might not see the advantage in that… yet 😉 Don’t worry, in a year’s time many of your current worries will seem silly, and for the others you will have found a good solution!

Comments are closed.