Choosing a Last Name

Choosing a Last Name | CorporetteWhat should working women do when they get married — take their husband’s last name, create a new last name, or keep their maiden name? What factors matter? Reader E wonders.

I have a question about maiden names vs. married names. I am currently in law school and am planning an engagement sometime in the recent future to my boyfriend of four years. My question is this — I have a very professional and short last name, in addition to a middle name that I commonly use with my first. Both are one syllable, which is nice since my first name is three. Unfortunately, my boyfriend’s last name is also three syllables, and difficult to spell and pronounce.

Looking forward to my career I would love to use all four, but realize that that is probably too much for a work setting. What is the protocol on creating a work-friendly name. To be clear I do NOT want to use only my maiden name.

This should be an interesting discussion. There was JUST a New York Times op-ed about this, and Vivia Chen at The Careerist has recently(ish) explored the topic in a threepart series. We’ve talked about name change after divorce, as well as Ms. versus Mrs., but we’ve never discussed choosing a last name because, honestly, this is one of those topics where people get somewhat passionate, so I’ve shied away in the past.  (So ladies, please play nicely.)

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Here’s my official $.02: Do what’s right for you and your family. Everyone is going to have their own reasons, probably influenced by what their mothers and married friends (both of their age and older) have done. Your reasons — whatever they are — are valid because this is your choice, and yours alone.

Obviously, I come at this from the perspective of someone who took my husband’s last name. I’d rather not discuss the reasons why I did so in a public forum like this, not because they’re weird or unusual, just because they’re my reasons, and it’s ok/important to keep some things private. Did it help that I moved from a difficult-to-pronounce German last name (Vogele [pronounced Vogue-uh-lee]) to an easy, common last name (Griffin)? Yep. (For the record, I legally changed Vogele to my middle name, and used all three names professionally (Katherine Vogele Griffin) when I was last working as a lawyer; all three names are also on my driver’s license. It was a business decision to go with with Kat Griffin when I “came out” of the anonymous blogging closet — shorter for bylines/social media, more friendly/fun, and easier to remember and pronounce. (One of my best friends, asked for her opinion between the two names, said, “Hmmn. If I were casting for you in the movie of your life, I would see Meryl Streep playing Katherine Vogele Griffin, but Cameron Diaz playing Kat Griffin.” Apparently in my life movie I am blond.) It felt like an alter-ego for a time — only good friends have called me Kat in the past, and Griffin was still new to me — but now I’m comfortable being both Kat Griffin and Katherine Vogele Griffin. (If you meet me in real life in a non-blog capacity, though, odds are good I’ll still introduce myself as Katherine and then look like I want to change my answer.)

So… yeah. I’ll turn it over to you guys: Those of you who are married, what last name did you choose? Those of you who’ve been divorced, what last name did you choose?  What factors did you consider, and how do you feel about your choice now?

(Pictured: my personal stationery, bought at Fine Stationery.)

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Comments

  1. do those of us who are not yet married but hope to be someday get to weigh in? :-)
    I feel strongly about keeping my own name when I get married. The only way I would change it is if my future husband were willing to hyphenate his name, so that we would be Mr. and Mrs. my last name-his last name (or the other way around, however would flow best).

    I don’t judge women for taking their husbands’ last names, but it does bother me when women claim it isn’t patriarchal and is just a choice. Yes, it’s a choice, but a heavily loaded one. And why isn’t it framed as a choice for men, too? I’m not trying to preach here, but unless your husband is also considering changing his name, please don’t frame it as an issue unrelated to feminism/sexism.

    • Remember, your maiden name is just your dad’s name. It’s patriarchal either way.

      • well, actually, my last name is my mom’s last name. So it’s my grandfather’s name, and yes, that is patriarchal. But you have to start somewhere!

        • I agree, LilyB! I just got engaged and will keep my last name…which, sure, is my dad’s name–but I’m starting somewhere. Besides, I don’t see the point of going through the trouble when my name has been perfectly fine all along–and fortunately, he agrees.

          If we have kids, they will be FirstName HisLastName MyLastName (his comes before mine alphabetically). Then the kid can choose where to go with it from there when s/he is old enough to decide and/or care.

          • That’s a pretty smart system with the kids’ names.

          • Yep, that’s exactly how I’d want to name my kids. If it means they don’t get a middle name, then so be it! I will be 50% responsible for their existence (plus a little extra credit for carrying them around in my belly for 9 months!), and their last name should be 50% mine!

          • Anonforthis :

            That all sounds well and good until you marry someone that has a name that is just like nails on a chalkboard alongside yours.

            My maiden name by itself is fine. Dh’s name is fine. Together it would be something like [Firstname] Duffy Huffy. Do we really want our kids to be so-and-so Duffy Huffy?!

            Likewise, a friend married someone with a VERY similar last name. The kids would be [Firstname] Johnson Johnstone. Also pretty goofy IMHO.

            One more– marrying someone with a hyphenated last name. the [Firstname] Hanson Lebowitz-Murphy is quite the mouthful.

        • Wildkitten :

          + 1 I have my maternal grandfather’s last name too.

      • But it perpetuates the patriarchy to make an active choice to adopt the husband’s family name and say that it is unrelated to patriarchal norms.

        • I don’t think it is less patriarchal to go by one’s husband’s last name, than by one’s father’s last name.

        • Anonymous :

          This may have been mentioned elsewhere, but keeping your name means keeping YOUR name. . . so to me, the lesser of the two (patriarchal) evils.

          • This. I don’t know that I have strong feelings, but the patriarchal thing to me is that you’re losing the name you had your entire life. It suggests that your pre-marriage identity wasn’t as important as your post-marriage one–or that they’re incompatible.

            I see arguments on both sides and will ultimately do what I like best, but I think it’s very loaded.

      • anonymama :

        No, if you’ve had a name your entire life, it is your name, no matter where it came from. The system is patriarchal, but it’s ridiculous to argue that keeping your own name is patriarchal.

        • Maybe so. But one could also argue that it’s ridiculous say that keeping your “maiden”/father’s/patriarchal last name is a feminist act.

          • No, it’s ridiculous to say that because your ancestors adhered to patriarchal naming conventions that it’s impossible to ever break free of it.

    • I agree with this. I actualy had this issue when I was thinkeing that I would be MARRIED soon to Alan, but I did NOT fall in love with his name — SHEKETOVITS. Alan SHEKETOVITS and Ellen Barshevsky. I did NOT want to be Ellen Sheketovits, and the thought of hyfenateing our names also did NOT make me happy. Sheketovits-Barshevsky he wanted, if we were to hyphenate, and I said it would be better with Barshevsky-Sheketovits, if we had to do that. Either way, it was a big FOOEY b/c Alan got mad whenever I brought up MARRAGE. FOOEY!

      My Dad suggested that we drop the Sheketovits name entirely, b/c Grandma Leyeh said this was not a name of royalty in the old country, while Barshevsky was. I have NEVER found any treatises saying which names were royal, but there is a Barshevsky family tree that Grandma Leyeh maintain’s that she will not show any one. She was NOT pleased about mom’s lineage, and still think’s that she brough fat tuchuses into the bloodline, and now that they are IN, we will forever have fat tuchuses in our family. Dad agree’s, and Alan’s mother also has a fat tuchus, so mabye that is a good thing that I never MARRIED Alan. YAY!

      For now, I just have to make sure I VET any prospective suitor with Grandma Leyeh. She has a 6 FACTOR analysis she use’s to see if a guy is goeing to be worthy to marry me. YAY!!!

    • Veronique :

      One of my friends got married last year and both she and her husband changed their names, from She Smith and He Jones to She Smith Jones. I think this is an awesome idea that I would love to use if/when I get married, though it helps that both of their names are 5 letters and 1 syllable.

      • I would love to do that but my husband refuses. And somehow that makes me the difficult one.

      • SpaceMountain :

        My husband did that with his ex-wife. It’s been so hard to undo that I didn’t even consider it as an option. It’s been 20 yrs, and he is still asked to show his name change paperwork all the time, and we still get mix-ups with the government & other institutions over his name.

        • anon-oh-no :

          i have a friend who dis this as well and he is now divorced and getting remarried. His new wife now has a husband with his ex-wife’s last name, which is awesome. (you can sense my sarcasim, right?)

          • Veronique :

            It happens with wives (women who keep ex’s name for the kids) and step-kids all the time. In this thread alone, Sr Attorney wrote that she wishes that she had kept Husband 1’s name when she got remarried and if there is a Husband 3 she would still keep H1’s name.

            The real problem is that it’s so difficult and sometimes impossible for men to change their names upon marriage, while it’s relatively painless for women to do so.

          • Forgive my ignorance, but how is it harder for men to change their names than for women? (Real question here, I really don’t know.) I was under the impression that it is a giant pain in the butt for either sex. Especially after watching how hard it is for friends who get divorced to change their name back — any name change seems highly annoying.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I can’t remember where I read it (it may have been here on on the careerist posts), but my name is my brand/identity. It’s who I am and I have no intention of changing it.

      I may have it a little easier because I won’t be having children so I won’t have to navigate the issue of what last name the child gets.

      It’s not my place to judge the decisions that other women make. The only thing I would like is for everyone to at least know that keeping their name is an option. Ultimately though, I hope everyone does what is best for them and their family. My younger sister is engaged and never even thought of it as an option and started gathering all the info for changing her name. When she was complaining about the hassle of changing it, I mentioned that she could just keep her name and she said she hadn’t even thought of that. I’m not sure what she decided to do and whatever she chooses is obviously ok. I’m glad she at least took a little time to consider it.

    • anon-oh-no :

      but its not patriarchial for me at all. I wanted to have the same last name as my kids and i did not want to keep my maiden name (though i did keep it as my middle name to make my father, who i love very much, happy). I did not want to keep my maiden name for for similar reasons to Kat — i had a very difficult to say german last name and i married someone with a simply irish last name, so i couldnt wait to change my last name. And my husband did not care one way or another whether i took his name or not.

      • it’s not that you are choosing it for patriarchal reasons; it’s that the default in our society (for you to take your husband’s name) is patriarchal. Think about it- did your husband consider changing his name so that your kids could have the same name as you? Or did you consider keeping your name and hyphenating your kids’ names?

        • anon-oh-no :

          YOure making my point — my maiden last name was so difficult to say and spell that people stumbled over it my entire pre-marriage life and i could nto wait to get another good name. I did not consider keeping my name because i did not want it to be my last name any more. as a tribute to my father, i now use it as my middle name, and i regularly go by Firstname MiddleInitial Husbandlastname. And even if i wanted to use my maiden name, i would not have considered hyphenating my kids names because I cannot stand hypenated names. I appreciate that some people like them, and I appreciate that the sociatial default may be patriarchal, but my point is that there are indeed non patriarchal reasons for taking your husband’s name. not everything is black and white.

          • Yes, all of the judgey mcjudgersons need to realize there are plenty of other reasons to change your name. While I preferred the way my birth name sounded, I wanted to drop it for a variety of reasons. The biggest one was constantly living under the threat someone would google stalk me and find out that my dad is on the s*x predator list. Secondly, my mother is well known around town for being a crazy person. I wanted to distance myself as far away from that as possible.

            But, hey, go ahead and think less of me!

          • Totally agree with all points.

            Especially the one about hyphenated last names. I personally really dislike them.

        • Anonymous Poser :

          Yes, there are many reasons to change one’s last name when one gets married. When a woman decides to take her husband’s last name when they marry, patriarchy often does not make the list of reasons.

          The reasons/reasoning aren’t necessarily patriarchal. The practice and history of the practice are. That’s the distinction.

      • As a mom who kept maiden name and gave kids husband’s last name, I would advise you to worry little about whether you and kids have same last name, as your first name will change to “X’s mom.”

    • Baconpancakes :

      No one should feel guilty because they take their husband’s name – but let’s call a spade a spade. When equal numbers of men take their wives’ names, or when we figure out a system that doesn’t knock the women out of the picture after a generation (many Latin American cultures hyphenate the wife and the children’s names, but the children will drop their mother’s name once they get married in favor of their spouse’s name), then the choice of married names won’t be patriarchial.

      A lot of things are patriarchial, but we make choices to do them all the same. Giving away brides, men not having engagement rings, not changing from Mr. – it’s all patriarchial. It’s ok to not be a 100% Amazon feminist all the time, but don’t pretend it’s something it’s not.

      • +100

      • Thank you. As a person with a hyphenated name, I did not realize that growing up in the Southwest made life somewhat easier because many people from or familiar with Latin cultures are aware of the concept of two last names. At one point, my ID was created in error so that it only had one last name, creating unnecesary hassles at the airport.

      • Keeping my name :

        This.

        Also, we need to recognize that a man who refuses to even consider changing his last name but prefers or even insists that the woman take his last name is likely the product of patriarchial norms. Personally, I would have a difficult time envisioning myself with a man who could not recognize that this is a sexist stance. My boyfriend actually thinks that if we wanted to share the same last name, he would have no more right to insist on keeping his than I would have the right to insist on keeping mine. He makes the valid point that it may not be “the cross he wants to bear in life,” as men would likely be questioned more for changing their last name than women. Thankfully, we don’t feel the need to share a last name, so all of this is moot. But I am grateful that we had the discussion and that I am with a man that recognizes this sexist social norm. I have encouraged my friends to use this discussion as a barometer to determine how open men are to women’s issues, and they have found it to be very fruitful.

        As for the men that choose to “bear this cross in life,” cheers to you.

        • A friend of mine changed his last name to match his wife’s upon marriage. I didn’t know them until after their marriage, and didn’t know this for years after meeting them. Ok, maybe it’s because I am a female, but I admired him for changing his name (yo, mad props for the confident secure dudes out there that don’t let societal norms dictate their lives). They made the decision together, and it made sense for them because a) her last name was easier to pronounce and more interesting, and b) she was the last of her generation, so the name would die out if she didn’t keep it going, and there were a bunch in his generation to keep the name going. Yeah, occasionally people will make assumptions that the name was originally his (I was guilty of that myself), but if you’re cool with the decision, screw everybody else. And personally I thought the story was cool to hear.

          I kind of wish I my boyfriend and I could follow this model, but I don’t particularly like my name or want to make my boyfriend or my future children take it on. I struggle with this future decision because while on one level, I would be happy to free myself of my father’s last name for a host of reasons (and I considered changing it before I graduated college but ultimately decided to just deal with it), it has nevertheless become my professional name for 10+ years, so if I change it when I get married, I feel like I will be throwing away a decade of my career. The older I am, and the further I get into my career, the more I try to look at my father’s name as MINE, but I guess I’m just not emotionally there yet.

          I wonder if the later in life you marry, the more likely it is you will keep your maiden name out of convenience and work necessity.

          Thanks so much for all of this dialogue. This is definitely something I have been thinking about it lately.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I changed my name when I got married, for a variety of shallow and not-as-shallow reasons. I was concerned about the “patriarchal” overtones, but ultimately: (1) I have a terrible relationship with my father, and didn’t feel like keeping his name – as opposed to changing to my husband’s – was any kind of a “win” for feminism, or for me personally; (2) our two last names sounded utterly stupid together when hyphenated (think “Gomez-Pryzbylewski” or similarly bizarre Spanish-Eastern Euro combo); (3) H is significantly more advanced in his career than I am (I was, at the time, a 2nd year associate, while he’d been working in his industry for over 10 years and had an extensive portfolio in his name), so from a practical perspective, there was a lower professional “cost” to me changing my name than he would’ve faced in changing his; and (4) my prior name was impossible to pronounce/spell, and H’s name is an extremely common Spanish surname, so most everyone I encounter can pronounce it easily, which has actually been helpful when networking/job searching/etc.

      I do feel a little feminist guilt sometimes over changing my name, but ultimately, I had many reasons in the “pro” column on the change-my-name side of the equation, and none except “I owe it to feminism to keep my name” on the con side.

    • Anon in ATX :

      I took my DH’s last name and was happy to do so. I never felt my identity was tied up in my last name. I look at it as I was starting a new family with my husband. Would it be nice if more men changed their names, sure, but it just did not seem important to me in the grand scheme of things. The people who matter know who I am, regardless of my name. I did get married in Law School, so that was not an issue either.

    • AnonForThis :

      I took DH’s last name. He really wanted me to, and I appreciated his honesty and agreed even though I love my “maiden” (puke- who’s a maiden anymore??) name. His mom and aunts thought I was crazy, and people were pretty confused at work for a while (I also moved offices and changed jobs around the same time), but overall I like it. I really enjoy the convenience factor of businesses/customer service agents trusting/knowing that we’re married just based on our last name.

      I should mention that we also never wanted to get married in the first place, but we did to move countries for my job, and that now he’s a SAHH (so he’s not exactly a chauvinist).

      • I’m quite curious, what customer service issues require a belief you’re married? I ask as someone with a long term SO and I’ve never felt the need to pretend we’re married.

      • Anon for this :

        My husband and I have different last names and have not had a problem with customer service or with people not believing we are married, FWIW.

    • [German-Maiden] [French-Married] :

      I had been working for about four years and had been at my current firm for less than a year when I married. I changed my somewhat difficult German maiden name to my middle name and my husband’s more difficult French last name to my last name.

      Funny enough, I actually thought to myself: his last name can’t be any more difficult for people to spell and pronounce than mine. Well, I was wrong, And, three years later, it’s still annoying. People can’t pronounce it; people can’t spell it. And I realized that when you have an un-obvious last name that you’ve grown up with, you’re kind of proud of it; spelling it out constantly isn’t such a big deal because it reminds you that you have this unique family identity. Having taken on my husband’s family’s identity, I don’t delight in spelling it out five times a day. Instead it’s like, I know, I’m sorry. I can’t spell it either.

      All this is to say, I think the name-changing business can be tough stuff, and it can take quite a while to get used to.

    • Brooklyn Paralegal :

      Very late here, but a friend of mine wanted to take his future wife’s last name and learned that he actually can’t. It’s a very different process from a woman taking her husband’s last name.

      • Anonymous Poser :

        The process varies from state to state. Where I live, it’s the same process for men who are getting married as it is for women who are getting married.

      • Anonymous :

        It’s a different process from state to state, but in all states you are allowed to change your name. It just wouldn’t necessarily be through the marriage license process.

    • Amberwitch :

      I’ve kept my birthname through two marriages, because I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise.
      The default position arould here is that noone change names upon marriage or civil union. It is an active choice to change a last name as part of the marriage – and same procedure regardless of your gender. I think it is the same for same-gender civil unions, but I am not sure.

      If I was going to have children they would definitely get my last name. And my husband is welcome to change his last name to mine if he so wish.

      My name sounds pretty normal, but in my country the only people with this name is my family, whereas my husbands name is fairly common. Both situations have their advantages and disadvantages.

    • A very long name :

      I’m obviously reading the archives here, but I’m the child of two parents who both legally hyphenated their names into one. I always swore up and down I wanted to marry a man named Smith and call it a day! That said, instead of doing that, or even just taking my husband’s two syllable (vs my previous five syllable!) name, we combined our names, taking a sound from each of mine and from his, making up a name that according to Google is only ours. It might not work for others, it probably wouldn’t even have worked for us except I’ve got one of those Celtic starters (like O’) as the part of one of my names we used to make ours. It makes a great story, it will pass along to my kids how much my husband loves me, which is what all of a sudden made me appreciate what my parents did (in addition to making my name too long for literally ANY form EVER!) and I’m glad my kids will inherit a legacy that is very uniquely ours and nobody else’s. My two cents.

  2. Threadjack :

    Do you think the saying “Once a cheater always a cheater” is true?

    • Anon for this :

      I don’t think it is true that he/she will necessarily cheat again, but I do think it is true that I personally would never fully trust him/her again. So if I was looking at it from a would I be comfortable embarking on or continuing in a relationship with that person – no.

    • I think someone who cheats might never cheat again. But they will always be a person who thought that cheating was okay, if that makes sense. And I would not be able to continue to date someone who made that decision. It wouldn’t be about the hurt or jealousy or any other emotional aspect of it — those I might be able to get over someday. It would be about the fundamental disconnect in our value systems. I could go on for days about all of the reasons I think cheating is terrible, but the baseline one is that you’re lying about the most important aspect of your relationship to the person you supposedly love the most. If you are in a monogamous relationship and you have an interest in another person that is strong enough that you want to act on it, you should end your relationship first. Period, no exceptions. To act on the attraction is incredibly immature/selfish. And yes, people do get drunk and make mistakes… but that’s not an excuse for driving drunk and killing someone, or stealing something, or punching someone in the face, so why is it an excuse for cheating? If you believe in your core that something is fundamentally wrong, you will not do it ever, no matter how drunk you are.

      • I love this and agree with everything you said. ESPECIALLY the last sentence. Being drunk is just an excuse.

    • No. I think it depends on why the person cheated. A person who cheated and takes no responsibility, sure, probably is likely to cheat again. But I could see a situation where a couple was going through a really rough period and one of them was feeling particularly lonely and lost, and then gave in to temptation, felt horrible about it, wanted to fix the relationship and approach his/her partner with remorse and a desire to rebuild — I’d give that person a chance. I’ve told my husband that if he cheated on me, especially if things had been really rough with us, I feel pretty certain I’d forgive him. But absolutely NO getting anyone else pregnant! I would have a really, really hard time with him being tied for the rest of his life to someone other than me because of his cheating.

    • anonforthis :

      I cheated on a boyfriend in college and felt terrible about it for months and months. I know you should never say never, but I can’t imagine a situation now in which I would cheat. I’ve learned my lesson. I also had another boyfriend later on who had cheated on his girlfriend and then learned his lesson when she cheated on him and he was devastated by it. The entire time we dated (5 years) neither of us every worried about the other one cheating.

      • AnonForThis :

        Same. I cheated on my ex-partner once. I did end up leaving him about two weeks later as I realized that I was deeply unhappy and the indiscretion was a symptom of my unhappiness. I cannot imagine a situation where I would cheat on my husband – if I was ever that unhappy again, or felt attracted to someone else, I would talk to DH about it immediately.

    • OfCounsel :

      Another thing I think has to be considered is when the cheating occurred and the nature of the relationship. Cheating on your girl/boyfriend at 19 is not the same as cheating on your spouse at 35. I had a friend who once broke off a relationship with her 30 year-old boyfriend because she found out he cheated on his college girlfriend during summer vacation (he told her about it when she asked “what have you done that you are least proud of”.) Context matters.

    • No. I cheated on a BF and would absolutely never, ever, ever do that to my husband.

    • Amberwitch :

      No. Not at all. If I was the one being cheated on, I might not be able to trust again. But because someone at one point cheated in one relationship, does not signify that they would do it again. It may mean that they would respond similarly in a similar situation. But not necessarily.

      I wouldn’t have a problem trusting a SO who had cheated in an earlier relationship, if I atually trusted him/her. if that makes sense. And I wouldn’t have a relationship with someone that I didn’t trust – I’d just use them for sex;-)

  3. Diana Barry :

    I added my husband’s name to the end of mine. It is a VERY LONG last name, and I didn’t drop any of my other names, so now I have 2 middle initials.

    I didn’t change it professionally until I switched jobs, about 2 years after we got married.

    Initially I didn’t want to change my name at all, but it was very important to my DH that our family have one name – I think this was part of his carried-over fear from his parents’ divorce. Our names didn’t combine well (two very different ethnicities) so he took my maiden name as his middle name so we would both have the same two last names.

    • Anoooooon :

      I did this. My husband didn’t care one way or the other, so I just picked what I wanted to do.

      I tacked his last name onto my name and use all four, like it seems Reader E wants to do. Yes, It’s confusing for some people. But I made that choice, so whatever. In the end I officially have 2 middle names, which I think eases the professional blow a little because I can just not use them when its inconvenient. Officially I am First Middle1 Maiden(Middle2) HisLastName. No hyphens, just the four (longish) names.

      I use all 4 on my resume and obviously they’re all on my drivers license and stuff. If I want things to be simple, then its just First HisLast. For a variety of things I am asked to just pick one middle name or middle initial, and I usually favor Maiden/Middle2 for those things. All four of them wouldn’t fit on my diploma, or my business cards, so I had to figure out an abbreviation I liked. It works out for me, and I like my name. I think having 2 middles gives it flexibility, because people don’t often care much about your middle name so you can figure out how having two would work for you. Two last names seems harder to me, because I feel like you have to use them all the time then, and both my last names have been really long, so I thought it would be cumbersome.

      • This is what I did, too: firstname middlename oldlastname husbandlast name. Socially I go my firstname husbandlastname, but professionally I’ve used all four. It was important to both my husband and me that we share a last name as we formed our own, new family (let alone that when we did have children many years later, it has made the family identity more apparent).
        However, I didn’t want to totally lose the last name with which I had grown up and of which I am proud.
        The snarky side of me does wonder when a hyphenated last name marries another hyphenated (Smith-Doe-Rodrigues-O’Brien), where does it end? Or do we eventually all just go with some hybrid like “Sdrob” ?

      • I wish that we lived in a “may the best name win” society. In the meantime, I just applied this logic to my situation (husband’s name was easier to say and seemed more crisp from a professional standpoint – plus, it was a substantial alphabet upgrade!)

  4. “recent future”? What??

  5. I moved my maiden name (2 syllables, Irish, but prone to frequent misspelling and mispronunciation) to my middle name, and took my husband’s last name. It is 12 letters, German, and many find it impossible to spell or pronounce. But in the end, I’m glad I did, because it makes little things in life easier in so many ways. I have the same name as my kids. It is easy when making reservations, doctors appointments, whatever, that we all have the same last name. I had 3+ years of a career, including publishing reports and papers, under my old name, but I don’t think my career has been hindered by my crazy long last name. People never get me mixed up with someone else, that’s for sure! I use my maiden name (as a middle name) on my business card and in many professional settings but as the years go by (12 years of marriage now) I use it less and less and that’s fine with me too.

    You can always do what a friend of mine did and create a hybrid…She took her maiden name (hard to spell and say) and combined it with another family name to create a new middle name that “flowed” nicely with her very common married name. Seems to have worked for her.

  6. Orangerie :

    I’m single and have never been married, but if and when the time comes I don’t plan on dropping my maiden name, at least professionally. My last name is unique and ties me to my family, and I work in a field where my network is already large and will continue to grow… so I’d prefer to eliminate any source of confusion.

    I would consider taking my maiden name as my middle name and changing my last name in my personal life…. but then again I don’t plan on having kids so I guess I don’t really see the point (I mean that with no snark, just that it seems much easier to share a last name if you have or intend to have children).

    • I’ll say this as someone who will probably add my fiance’s last name to mine. I HATE that places are like oh you’re Ms. Maiden Name but your kid is Jane Husbandlastname; we’re going to need to double check that your the guardian on file.If I’ve provided you their birth certificate, take two d@mn seconds and read it. And don’t assume last names mean the person is authorized to take said child (see, all the awful news articles about estranged parents kidnapping their kids).

      I will just say, if there’s ever a story on the news about a woman losing it on a principal over this issue, Hive, it’s me. Drives me batty. End rant

      • I have never had this happen to me once, not in 14 years. I actually find it a bit that it never has happened, especially when flying with the kids out of the country, but no one has ever said a word.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Same here. I had a different last name from my son starting when he was 12, and never had any problem. In fact, I was never required to prove I was his mom, even once, the whole time he was growing up. Everybody just accepted my representation to that effect. Which was convenient but kind of made me go hmmm…

      • Flown everywhere with my kids (different last names – they have their dad’s lastname, I have my maiden name as my lastname) incl the US and Europe and all over Asia/Australia – never EVER had this problem.

        My kids’ passport has my name on it as their mum.

        • Seattle Lawyer Mom :

          I also have my “maiden” name while my kids have my husband’s last name, and it has never been at issue at school, pick ups, doctors’ appointments, traveling, or anywhere. I just remember when someone is trying to look the kid up in a system and says “what’s the name?” to say “did you want her last name or mine, they are different.” But no one ever questions that I’m the mom or seeks proof.

      • Agree with the others. Never had a question in 5+ years of parenthood with different last names. Not at school or the doctor or traveling domestically and abroad. It is a non-issue in my experience.

      • While other folks never had a problem, they may all be the same color. I have the same name as my mother, but she often traveled with papers testifying to her relationship with me and my siblings as she is white and we aren’t. It was the 80s so a different time, but it happens.

        • That is what I am most afraid of and why I was seriously considering taking my husband’s last name! I am black and my husband is white. I’m not sure how our kids will look but I know that people will be very confused. I think our plan right now is to give the children the last name of the parent they resemble least.

          My mom is white and she had to put up with odd stuff like that in the 80s and 90s even though we all had the same last name. She went from an awkward German name to a phonetic African one. I choose to keep my phonetic African surname instead of taking my husband’s German name that has a silent T in it and is always mispronounced.

  7. I took my husband’s last name after I got married but continued using my maiden name professionally. Though I had only just started the practice of law my professional network (from law school and my summer jobs etc.) knew me by that name. It was a bit confusing as some of those people I was friends with outside work as well. However, when I left the law firm I was rather unhappy at to go in-house I just went with my legal (married) name for a fresh start and to make the HR process smoother.

  8. Not quite newlywed atty :

    I got married to my longtime beau right after law school and decided to change my name. My bar certificate and diploma have my “maiden” name on them, but I legally changed my name so that now my bar card, business cards, id — everything — has my new name. I made my maiden name my middle name and so I usually use “Firstname / Maiden Name Initial / Husband’s last name” these days.

    As Kat said, it’s a personal decision, but I felt strongly that I wanted to take my husband’s last name. I’m not a super conservative person, but for some reason I find the idea of taking your partner’s name and signifying outwardly to the world that you sort of “belong” together is really romantic and nice.

    • and what romantic and nice thing did your husband do to signify to the world that you sort of “belong” together?

      • This isn’t quid pro quo; it’s marriage. He does many loving and thoughtful things for me all the time.

        But thanks for judging my reasons when apparently everyone else’s are valid.

        • +1

        • Nicely said, and same here. I frankly just *like* the last name that my husband had better than the last name that I had growing up. My former last name was long, hard to spell and pronounce, and easy to make fun of. My husband’s last name, and my new last name, is easy to say and spell and doesn’t have unfortunate associations.

        • sorry to judge, it’s just really hard not to when a woman buys into this idea that changing her last name signifies her new state, her love for her husband, her new family, whatever. Men are able feel all those things without having to change their last names.

          • WestCoast Lawyer :

            So, really you aren’t sorry to judge at all. The idea that those of us who took our husband’s last names are “buying into the idea” implies that we have somehow been duped into believing a lie. Because, obviously, the notion that we used our brains and came to a different decision than you did means we are stupid….

          • It’s frustrating that when a woman makes a decision for reasons rooted in personal preference, convenience, or any of the other reasons a woman might keep her name, other women can point to that and say “it is sad that she bought into the patriarchal system.” It’s an obnoxious argument because no matter how much the name-changer protests (“no, I REALLY just prefer to take my husband’s name”), people can say, “see, she isn’t even understanding the nuances of this patriarchal system she’s been brainwashed by!”

            I think it’s un-feminist to give women so little credit. Sometimes women are just human beings doing what they feel like doing. Why should every decision a woman makes bear the burden of being a statement about society? Can’t it just be a decision based on preference, the way men can make decisions based on their preferences?

          • No, anon, a woman’s decision to keep or change her name is always going to be political as long as women continue to not be equal to men. So yes, often women just do what they want to do for their own reasons. But the personal is political when the powerful (male) majority still often treats women as a single monolithic entity and judges individual women by the choices other women make. When women are truly viewed as individuals by society, that is when an individual woman’s choice is not a political statement. Do what you want to do, but don’t claim you aren’t influenced by society.

      • anon-oh-no :

        really? I’m with the OP. Im not even a little bit conservative, but I love when someone calls us Mr. and Mrs. husbandslastname, or calls us the husbandslastname family. And my husband also does many romantic and nice things thoughout our marriage.

    • This is what I did. My name pre-marriage was kind of a jumble because of my parents’ divorce anyway, so I didn’t mind simplifying. Plus I like our family having one name. As to whether it was my name or his, he was simply more attached to his than I was to mine. But I do insist on being Ms. K, not Mrs. (I’ll be okay with our kids’ friends calling me Mrs. K, but professionally, uh-uh) and I really do hate when I’m addressed as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname. It mostly just happens with wedding invites or when his (extremely conservative southern) grandparents send me things, but still — do not like it.

    • This is what I did too. I also got married right before graduating from law school, so it was good timing for a name change. I know it’s patriarchal to take his name, but I like it because we now have the same last name, and his last name sounds much prettier than my maiden name.

      This may be controversial, but I’ll throw it out there: another reason I took his name is that I’m the primary breadwinner and the more dominant partner in the relationship in most ways. That already makes our relationship nontraditional. He’s very supportive of me in that role, but I think not taking his name would have resulted in outsiders viewing me as further emasculating him. He assured me that he didn’t feel that way, but others (friends and family) definitely did. I usually don’t care what outsiders think, but in this case I thought it would be easier on us to just go the traditional route and and use his name. Sometimes it’s good to take a stand, and sometimes it’s just easier to conform to social norms. (Is that horrible to say?)

      • This was our scenario. I didn’t make a bit production of that, but we were planning a move after I finished grad school where I would be the primary earner, would have a pretty prestigious job, and he wouldn’t have any job to start with and would be leaving all of his friends and his band. I though it made things a little more balanced.

      • That’s interesting. I’m married and kept my name, no kids. But I’ve always felt the kids would get just his last name, because I will most likely be the primary breadwinner, so it feels “balanced.”

        There are so many factors to consider!

  9. lucy stone :

    My name on this site is Lucy Stone for a reason. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Stone

    I was the last of my friends to get married and watched them all make different choices. We have:

    *First M. BirthLast
    *First M. HusbandLast
    *First M. BirthLast-HusbandLast
    *First M. BirthLast HusbandLast
    *First M.B. HusbandLast
    *First Birthlast HusbandLast
    *First M. BirthLast professionally, First M. HusbandLast or First M. BirthLast HusbandLast legally

    and a whole bunch of other variations. My husband and I discussed this for a loooong time before we got married. He is from (imo) a large, incredibly religious, overbearing family. I’m an only child who is very close with my parents. I am professionally and legally “Lucy Stone” but use “Lucy Stone Blackwell” when attending his church or at a function with his family. To me, it was worth it to keep the peace. Any future children we have will be FirstName StoneasMiddle BlackwellasLast. I didn’t want to hyphenate myself so won’t do that to a child either.

    We live in smalltown Wisconsin and I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a non-issue this was outside of my husband’s church or his family. My coworkers all asked what name I would use after the wedding. A few have gotten it wrong but immediately apologized when they were corrected. We’re really blessed to live in a society where we can choose what we want our name to be.

    • Well put!

    • Anonymous Poser :

      I kept my birth name as well :-)
      (And thanks for using that term!)

    • The last situation describes me; multiple variations for multiple situations. After getting married I changed my legal name to First M. BirthLast HusbandLast. I use this on my byline when I write as well.

      But it’s often a hassle to have two last names. I never know what name I’m under in someone’s computer system, so I often have to give both before they can find me. And then there are the places that go ahead and hyphenate the names even though I don’t.

      Then we had a child and she’s Girl HusbandLast.

      So most of the time now I introduce myself as FirstName HusbandLast. Maybe I’m a victim of the patriarchy. Mostly I’m just lazy :)

    • I did the same thing. I originally wanted to change my last name to my husband’s last name, but continue to use my birth last name professionally. However, I discovered my company requires I use my legal name (as defined by my social security card) for our directory and email address.

      I decided to keep my birth name, but if i ever feel like it, i can use my husbands last name socially. For example, my facebook name is First name birthlast husband last. I use my birth name / legal name on Linked In.

      I like things this way, and I feel like it divides my personal and professional personas online.

  10. Mrs. Anonymous Fancy-Pants :

    This is the one place on earth I’ll totally confess –

    I am a name-last-keeping lover, see no reason to change last names.

    I took my husband’s name when we got married because in the smallish city where we were returning to live and work after law school, his family is very prominent and I knew it would give me serious professional clout that I otherwise would have to work a decade or more to hope to get.

    Four years in, I can confirm that my hunches were right.

    I have never told him. He thinks it is sweet and romantic of me, knowing that I had always said before I would keep my own last name.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      This is awesome.

    • meh. do you think a man in your situation would have changed his last name to his wife’s last name?

      • He married her? Let’s play nice, now.

        • That was supposed to go up above, but I suppose it applies equally well here. I thought that was a funny story, btw.

      • There is at least one famous example of a man changing his name to take advantage of his wife’s famous name. When Irene Curie (daughter of Marie and Pierre) got married she and her husband formed a combined, hyphenated last name. The purpose was so that they and their children could have the benefit of the prestigious Curie family name. This was in the 1920s.

        • Hasn’t that long been the practice of aristrocratic families in certain places? I feel like that is a pretty established tradition; and why you hear about double-barreled names in the UK signalling “poshness.”

      • A friendly suggestion: perhaps spending less time complaining about how women are not equal to men and more time achieving things in your own life that prove your equality would be more effective than posting nasty remarks intended to undermine the decisions of your fellow females.

    • Famouscait :

      I will confess here as well. After I got married, I changed my name to First Maiden Married. This is the convention my mother and older sister use as well. I no longer live in my hometown, but part of reason I actively use First Maiden Married is that my family name has good connotations/connections/karma/whatever in our neck of the woods, and I don’t want to loose that.

      However, my very practical hubby would happily change his Last name to my Maiden name should we ever move back to my hometown! So not much of a secret there…

      • Genuine question: Is there any actual practical difference between choosing First Maiden Husband and choosing First Husband? I mean, does anyone actually USE their middle name?

        • Famouscait :

          There’s only an “actual practical difference” if you do indeed use your Maiden name. I do, but it’s a habit I got from my mother. For example, whenever she would be quoted in the newspaper, it was as First Maiden Married, not First Married. My email signature contains First Maiden Married as well, for example. Think Hillary Rodham Clinton or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

          • Anonymous :

            Yeah but people just call them hillary clinton or ginsburg. No one actually uses the middle, even though it may ring a bell

    • I hope any man willing to marry me would also be willing to take my last name. I live in the town I grew up in and my parents are well known and well liked in professional circles. Being related to my parents is definitely an advantage around here. Now who wants to bet I stay single forever?

  11. I don’t know how people keep up separate personal and professional names (just checked out the op-ed — sounds chaotic!). I got married last year and officially changed my name (to FirstName MaidenName HusbandsName) a few months later….although my license still doesn’t quite match my other documents because of difficult NY State laws.

    I decided to keep my maiden name professionally until I changed jobs, which I was hoping would be in the near future. Eight months later it finally happened, and I was so ready to switch to one cohesive identify. It was exhausting keeping track of who I was at each moment.

    I guess it helps that I’m relatively new in my career (5 years). I think it makes things easier as a family down the road to have the same name. Plus, I wanted to share this with my husband. It was mainly a sentimental decision, I’d say.

  12. I have a similar problem: I have a Chinese legal first name. It’s not particularly difficult to pronounce as far as Chinese names go, but maybe 7-8 years ago during a college internship, I started using an English name professionally.

    It’s a little bit annoying because my husband calls me by my Chinese name and defaults to introducing me to people that way – including people he works with. I’ve told him that I’d rather be known by the English name in most professional settings. I’m always worried that someone will be talking to one of my colleagues and they won’t know me by my Chinese name. Then there’s the fun of starting a new job and having to explain to HR that you would like your email in one name and your paychecks made out to the other.

    To be honest, I’m not sure it’s been a great idea using the English name. There’s the benefit that it’s not unisex and easy to pronounce. It’s also sad to say, but I think it also makes me look more Chinese-American (which I am) than Chinese, which might help for some jobs.

    • Yes, sadly your hunch is right. There was a study a couple of years ago showing how if given the exact same resumes, but one with an “ethnic” name (Chinese first and last names), one with a Chinese American name (English first name and Chinese last name) and one with a generic Western name, employers tend to prefer the third resume.

      • Another B :

        Oh goodness, this bothers me.

        I am not likely to change my first name ever even if get addressed as “Mr.” from time to time.

        However, I would like to think that as more and more people keep their ethnic or non easily identifed as gender/”American” names, that these biases go away.

        Actually, I just re-read your summary of the study, which just shows bias toward non-“ethnic” folks in general. Ie. It’s not saying that Grace Lee has a better chance at a job than Ga-eul Lee.

        • Nah, actually the study also shows that “Asian American” names will still fare better than “Full Asian” names. Essentially, the more “Asian”/ethnic the candidate’s name is, the worse his/her resume will be ranked.

        • I had a five-syllable (although actually very easy to pronounce), very “ethnic” maiden name (which I love). However, I got tired of hearing “I won’t even try that one,” and people addressing me by my first name in situations where everyone else was being addressed by title/lastname (for the record, I was never, ever offended if someone mispronounced my last name). I was also in the midst of a job search when I got married and was curious to know whether I’d get more responses with my partner’s one-syllable, very non-ethnic last name (hint: the answer is depressing). I changed my name for lots of reasons, but in large part as a social experiment. Unfortunately, the exponentially greater ease of my day-to-day life with my new last name confirms that life is absolutely easier with a non-ethnic last name.

    • If it bothers you enough, I would consider changing your first name to your “English” name and making your real first name your middle name.
      Obviously, only if that’s something you want/prefer, but it’s not that difficult to change your name legally. I have several friends who go by their middle name with family/friends but have a different first name (sometimes for similar reasons to yours, sometimes because e.g., every first male child is named Charles but everyone then calls them the middle name, etc.).

      • Been there, done that. I have two first names – one Chinese, one English. I use my Chinese first name exclusively but all my IDs, legal paperwork, etc has my English name listed first. My last name is English and people screw that one up too. Still, I am not interested in changing any of my names.

  13. I completely agree that it’s a personal decision and no woman should feel she has to explain her choice if she does not want to. That said, I am always happy to explain my own choice if asked! I recently got married and did change my name. I have been known professionally for a while as “Ms. Jane A. Doe.” I wanted to take on my husband’s surname because we are a family and we both liked the idea of me having his surname. However, for professional reasons I also wanted to keep my maiden surname. Legally and professionally I am now known as “Jane Doe Jones.” I dropped my middle name, kept my surname and added my husband’s surname, so my name is First Name Surname Surname. On a personal level, I go by “Mrs. Jane Jones.” We have also decided that our children will only have one surname and it will be “Jones.” Honestly, people in the US sometimes find my choice confusing (“Wait, what is your surname? I thought you can only have one?”), but my work takes me all over the world and I’ve been in several countries where husbands and wives always have different surnames (they each keep their birth surname).

    • I did this also. And each of my three names is as simple as “Jane Doe Jones”. Much to my surprise, it has proven to be confusing for people (I’m in the US).

    • I don’t ask to single you out, but thought I’d ask because you said you are actually happy to explain. For you – and others who said it was important to feel like a family by having the same last name – was there any consideration that your husband would take your name or that you’d choose a new name together?

      I fully understand women who make the decision to change their name for very practical reasons like, “I like how his name sounded better” or “it’s easier to spell/pronounce,” etc. And I suppose in some ways, especially depending on where you live/your community, it’s in some ways “easier” if you have the same last name as your husband/kids. But I just wonder why you almost never hear about men having these considerations with respect to their last names. I’d love to hear from women why it’s considered romantic and nice when you do it when men so rarely consider doing it for themselves. I’ve heard plently of men opine on this, btw, and I get why they’re into it, but I’d love to hear it from a woman’s side.

      • We did consider this. Emotional issues aside (which we discussed in detail – I am just omitting from this comment), it was MUCH, MUCH easier to stick with the “usual” course. It is a huge legal hassle for a man to change his last name when compared to the simplicity of the process for a woman changing her last name after marriage.

      • I should have added this into my original post: my husband’s original last name was hard to pronounce and often misspelled by others. Added to that, he doesn’t know anyone from his father’s family and didn’t feel any closeness to that surname. So he decided to change his name by shortening his surname legally. Since he did this before we talked about marriage, we didn’t really talk about alternative surname choices. I’ll echo Rose and say when you legally change your name outside of marriage, it can be a huge hassle. And for my husband, parts of the process were a huge pain. I think that is one of the reasons we never really considered him changing his surname to mine or us taking an alternative surname — we didn’t want to put him through the legal name change process again.

        There are some states where you can choose the couple’s new surname on the marriage license. I think California allows you to choose either spouse’s surname, or a combination of the surnames.

        • Sydney Bristow :

          Hmmm I wonder if there is or would be a higher percentage of men taking their wives’ names or couples choosing a new name together in places where both men and women had the same processes to go through when changing their names.

  14. I’m keeping my maiden name professionally and personally. I have two diplomas and my admission to the bar of IL in that name. My name is common but not too common — if I took my boyfriend’s name, it would be an even more common sounding name. It is not unusual now for kids to not have the same name as their mom, I see no problem with it.

  15. I’m Japanese, and my husband is British, and it was very important to me that I maintain my Japanese last name after we married (that, and I published widely before I was married). Although I love my husband dearly, his last name simply isn’t meaningful to me, whereas my own carries a lot of importance to myself and my family. Our parents and siblings seem to be the only ones who stubbornly “forget” that I haven’t changed my name, hah! No kids yet but I fret about what we’ll do…thinking we’ll hyphenate? Five syllables? Oh, the poor kid!

    • Orangerie :

      My last name is 4 syllables (no, it’s not hyphenated). I turned out fine. Wouldn’t worry so much about the “poor kid’s” surname.

      • Yeah, I was just being glib. I wasn’t suggesting that multi-syllabic-last-namers don’t turn out fine.

    • This is how I feel. My last name is hard to spell and pronounce, but it’s part of my j3wish identity. My husband’s last name is incredibly common and not remotely j3wish. My daughter has my last name as her second middle name and his last name.

    • My birth name is (approximations) Hillary May Johnson Miller. My husband’s name is Mike Brian Smith. I use both my last names (Hillary Johnson Miller) and have only had one old man tell me to pick one and use it instead of both. People now assume that Miller is my husband’s name, and he’s used to being called Mr. Miller. But I don’t mind and he doesn’t mind. When people use the wrong name, we’re not angry, we just correct them. It hasn’t been a cross to bear or anything.

  16. In house Europe :

    I changed my last name but wouldn’t have done so if I had already started my professional career (We got married before law school). That said, most of my law school friends who got married after law school changed their name to husband last name.

  17. My mom kept her maiden name and honestly, I found it to be a huge pain growing up and having to explain that yes, that woman without my last name, was my mother so from a young age, I always said I would take my husband’s name for convenience factors unless his last name stunk. My sisters didn’t seem to care that much so my sister kept her maiden name when she got married, but when it was my turn, I changed my last name and went to First Birthlast Husbandlast to make the professional transition easier (although I love my middle name and will probably give it to a future child). I think we both have ridiculously old-fashioned husbands who would prefer we had their last names, but unfortunately for them, that didn’t really factor into either of our decisions regarding what name to use when married. I personally wasn’t interested in hyphenating because I didn’t want to have a long last name.

    • Interesting! My mom kept her name and I never, not even once, found it to be a problem.

      • Right, my sisters say it didn’t bother them at all so maybe I’m just overly sensitive? But by middle school, I was on Team Take My Husband’s Name.

      • +1.

        After my parents’ divorce, my mother changed her name back to her birth name, so for most of my childhood my brother and I had a different last name than our mother (who had primary custody). In high school I decided to legally change my name to my mother’s last name, but my brother kept our father’s name – and still has it to this day (he considered the name change too, but ultimately was too cheap to fork over the probate court costs). And when our stepfather entered the equation, my mother kept her birth name – so we then became a family of 3 last names (so many names on our mailbox!). I also never found it to be problematic, nor did I feel like our disparate names detracted in any way from our sense of family.

        Changing my name upon marriage has never been a question for me. I think that’s probably due to a combination of my personal feminist perspective, the fact that I consciously chose my last name, and that I have personally experienced a multi-surnamed family with no adverse effects on family identity or cohesion. My partner knows that if we ever get married, I will keep my last name both personally and professionally (much to his mother’s chagrin). I always kinda hoped that if I got married my partner would take my last name, but I find men are generally opposed to this idea, and my partner is no exception.

        Regarding the kids issue, were we to have children, there’s a whole world of surname options available to us. We can hyphenate (though that would be a lengthy 5-syllable nightmare), or perhaps create a new hybrid name. Or my personal preference: Girlchild Hisname Myname and Boychild Myname Hisname. But I’ll admit, I have a lot of lobbying left to do on this front.

        I just want to say that I love this debate and hearing other women’s stories about what they’ve chosen and why.While ultimately a personal issue, there’s no doubt that it has huge cultural significance, which makes the discussion so important. And although our society still has strides to make regarding gender equality, it seems like we’re moving past the knee-jerk reaction of women taking their husband’s last names simply because that’s just what’s done. Whatever decision is made, it’s made with careful thought and consideration by the woman who will be directly affected by it, and that’s the way it should be.

        That said, I hope to live long enough to see heterosexual men similarly debating which last name they should use after marriage.

    • +1 to all of this.

    • Is that experience still relevant though? I’d think kids today are a lot more used to different names, cultural backgrounds, same sex parents, etc.

  18. Calibrachoa :

    I intend to take my future husband’s last name unless something extraordinary happens.

    You see, right now my last name? is that of my mother’s abusive husband whom I am in no way related to and who died when I was too young to remember it.

    My mother has gone back to her maiden name but… the amount of h*** I have endured from members of the extended family makes me loathe to associate with them.

    My father’s side of the family? Has made it clear that I am not part of it, not wanted, in fact how about we just tell you about the funeral afterwards does not want me to exist so that’s right out, too.

    So yeah.. if I get married I am not keeping this name long-term.

    • Cornellian :

      I’ve considered going back to my mom’s maiden (she never took the name of my abusive father, as they never married)… I have a much closer relationship to that family. I feel like it might be seen as a slap in the to, around marriage, take a second name that is not your partner’s, but he’ll just have to understand and deal.

      • Anonymous :

        I have considered something similar. Not going to go into too many details for anonymity’s sake but I was thinking that marriage would be the perfect time to do something like this since most people in a professional setting will just assume that it was related to that. Obviously I’d still have to explain to friends and his family but I think they’d understand.

        FWIW, I don’t think that it’d be a slap in the face to anyone I’d ever want to marry. Anyone I’d consider marrying me would understand and not be hung up on such things.

        • Except I can’t see getting married any time soon to have an excuse (even if taking a different name). And I just can’t figure out how to go about explaining professionally that at 30 I (seemingly) randomly chose a new last name.

  19. Chitown Lawyer :

    I got married after I started my professional career so it was important to me to keep my last name. My name is easy to spell, pronounce and works well in a professional setting (but then again, my husband’s last name would not have created pronunciation issues either). Our two year old son has my last name as his middle name and my husband’s last name as his last name. If we decide to have another child, that child will also have my last name as his or her middle name.

    As far as what other people did, most of my law school friends who were married before they embarked on their legal careers changed their names. Most that were married after they started their legal careers kept their last names.

    • +1, as this is also what I did, although these days I think I’m in the minority of my friends. It was never on the table that I would change my name. Neither DH or I have hard names to pronounce, although his is shorter and mine has some sneaky vowels. I got married in my 3L year but had a good professional network (of which DH is a member) from pre-law school employment, which I wanted to continue to function in as my own person. Part of my thinking was also that because DH was older and already an established member of said network, I wanted to retain my own identity; people certainly know we’re married but I didn’t want to be thought of solely as his wife.

      Our kids are all FirstName MyLastName DHLastName. Makes it easy (only one name to pick out!), we all have names in common, and the inclusion of my name has made easier any issues with me traveling with the kids on my own. Although I will echo the ladies above who said their have never been challenged when traveling with differently-last-named kids and say that I also have found the lack of questioning ever odd. Still travel with copies of their birth certificates when we’re going domestic just in case.

  20. Sometimes it bugs me that women are expected to change their names, but a man rarely is even asked to consider it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either keeping or changing or hyphenating a name, I just think it should be the choice of the person who is making the change and not influenced by others. I took my husband’s name, simply because it is shorter and easier to spell and pronounce than my maiden name and I like the way it sounds combined with my first name. I don’t use my maiden name at all, not as a middle name or initial. If my husband’s last name were long and cumbersome, hard to pronounce or I just didn’t like the sound of it with mine, I wouldn’t have changed my name.

  21. This topic comes at a perfect time for me. I’m engaged and I have 90% decided to take my fiance’s last name, but to use my last name prominantly in my personal and professional life (replacing First MyMaiden with First MyMaiden HisLast). It’s a difficult choice because honestly, I think I’d be entirely happy either way. If he had to choose one way or the other he’d like me to take his last name, but acknowleged it’s entirely my choice, doesn’t have a problem if I keep my maiden name, etc. (I would definitely have a problem with any pressure from him).

    Here were my considerations:

    1. Whether I liked his last name. I like his, I like mine, both are similar on the difficult to spell/pronounce spectrum. If I didn’t like his, I wouldn’t take it.

    2. I am ambivalent about / kind of dislike my current middle name, and it doesn’t have any real family meaning or significance. By taking my fiance’s last name and using my last name as my middle name, I get to have three meaningful names rather than two. And I like all three.

    3. Feminism. This is why I’m 90% sure and not 100% sure. I fully support and identify with the reasons women keep their own names, and I almost feel guilty that I’m considering not doing it. That being said, I am uninterested in all of the 100% fair options. These include his taking my last name, combining last names to make one last name, or each keeping our own names and hyphenating future kids’ names (I have a personal dislike of hyphenated names for admittedly no good reason).

    4. Ease. I don’t like the idea of having two names (personal and professional), so I’m approaching this as all-or-nothing (picking one name and sticking to it).

    Here are things that aren’t real considerations for me:

    1. Having the same last name as my kids. My parents divorced when I was young and I never had the same last name as my mom or half-siblings, and I don’t think it was ever a huge deal.

    2. Professional name recognition. Just not an issue considering what I do and my stage in my career.

    FWIW, we’ve decided that if we have kids they will have two (non-hyphenated) last names / two middle names, i.e.: First Middle MyMaiden HisLast. And we agree that I get an extra vote on kid’s First Middle (because they get HisLast last….and because I’ll be the one actually giving birth!).

    • anon-oh-no :

      I love your reasons and thought process. FWIW on the Feminism topic, Feminism in my mind is not keeping your maiden name for the sake of being progressive. In my view, feminism means having the legitimate choice to do what you want.

      • Cordelia Chase :

        That last part is otherwise known as “choice feminism” and is not what actual “feminism” means (actual feminism *does* necessarily include and rely on normative judgments).

        Sorry if that sounds harsh. Really hate “choice feminism.”

  22. My maiden name was very difficult to spell and pronounce so I gladly took my husband’s name. I was already a professional and had no problems in transitioning.

  23. Hollis Doyle :

    It’s interesting to read the responses so far in that the vast majority of posters kept their (her?) maiden name in some form whether as a middle name or hyphenated last name. I changed my name and never gave it a second thought. I’m a lawyer, fwiw. Most of my friends, including those with other professional careers, changed their names as well. Is this regional? I’m in the midwest and maybe we’re just more “old-fashioned” or something. I don’t know. Just thought it was interesting.

    • Anonymous :

      This. I’m in the south and nearly everyone I know has taken their husband’s last name, including me.

      • Anoooooon :

        My parents are in the south and consider my four-name choice to be very progressive and edgy. They we happy in the end because I still took his name and ended up keeping theirs, too, so its like they win on all accounts – I think they would have been actually upset if my brother’s wife had done something similar.

        • In House Lobbyist :

          I went with the four name route too and get comments on it all the time. My professional email is my first name and then maiden name and last name. I don’t hyphenate my two last names. However, I generally introduce myself with just my husband’s last name but sign everything with the two last names. I am in the South and can’t really think of anyone that doesn’t take their husband’s last name at least for the first marriage.

          Anytime someone comments on my two last names – I just tell them I kept my middle name too so really I have 4 names. I wanted to keep my middle name since it was my mom’s maiden name.

    • Famouscait :

      I have to admit, I feel a little sad when some of my girlfriends change their name to First Middle Married. I feel like it abandons her pre-marriage identity. Although I know on one occasion it was because she felt closer to the namesake of her Middle name (a grandma) than she did to her Maiden name (an estranged father).

      Do women outside the South go First Middle Married often?

      • I went First Maiden Married for professional reasons, but I much more attached to my Middle name than my maiden name. I also have a friend whose mother was not american and her middle name was from her mother’s culture and for that reason she went first middle married. I almost certainly will give one (if not all of my kids) my middle name as their middle name, but none of them is getting my maiden name. Love my dad, love his family, just not attached to the name like I am my middle name.

        FWIW, I lived for years in the DC area and it seemed like everyone who changed their name went First Maiden HusbandsLast but now I live in a small town and everyone thinks it’s really weird that I did that because they all do first middle husbandslast. Someone ALWAYS comments on it if it comes up.

      • Outside the South, and I will go First Middle Married.

        My identity =/= a name that my parents didn’t even choose for me. If anything, I’m keeping the two they DID choose.

      • I didn’t keep my maiden name legally or professionally at all, but all my college friends on my crew team still call me by my maiden last name. There’s no reason it still can’t be your nickname. I still call myself by my maiden last name in my head when I’m psyching myself up for something!

        I didn’t realize people went into such agony making this decision. I did it more out of gut feeling that I wanted a unique name (my maiden name is super common and Irish) and I wanted stuff w/ kids to be easy. I didn’t feel like I was bending to the patriarchy or something, but I guess I did.

      • Anonforthis :

        I planned to go First Maiden Married, but my maiden name and married name rhyme. So I dropped the Maiden and kept my existing Middle. I told DH he was worth it ;)

      • I’m from the Northeast and I went First Middle Married. My family is large and well known in my town and we all look alike. I can see strangers and have them go “of course you’re an X girl! which parents are yours?” I didn’t feel like I was abandoning anything because I will realistically always be known as an X in my region. My husband moved to my town and I felt like becoming a Y with him gave us a family identity separate from all the X’s running around my town. He did something incredibly sweet for me by moving to my town to be as close to my family as we are (moving away from his own) and I felt like this was something that I wanted to do to show him that he was as much my family now as all the other X’s

      • ExcelNinja :

        I’m in the Bay Area and went First Middle Married. No one defines my identity, past present or future, except me…it’s certainly not tied to my name :)

    • Miz Swizz :

      I’m from the Midwest and I took my husband’s name and kept my middle name. We had talked about hyphenating but our names together would’ve been hard to pronounce and anyone who tried would probably have sounded like they had a lisp. And at the end of the day, I wasn’t that attached to my maiden name.

    • Statutesq :

      I’m from the south and living in the kinda-south. Almost everyone I know takes their husband’s last name. A few keep their maiden name as a middle name and drop the middle. I didn’t think twice about taking my husband’s last name and wanted to keep my middle name, so my maiden name is no longer part of the picture.

      • Statutesq :

        Also for those thinking about changing their names as a professional, I changed my name 6 years into my legal career. Everyone still knows who I am, how to contact me, and the judges stopped calling me by my maiden name after about 6 months. It’s really not that big of deal from a practical standpoint.

    • Took husband’s last name, and I’m glad I did. We were young when we got married and I didn’t have my own “name” out in the world yet, so that wasn’t a factor. Our kids have my maiden name as their middle name, so I feel I’ve provided amble homage to my lineage. But more than anything, my married name is cool. The combo of it with my first name is awesome. The two together sound like a common word that has a positive, wholesome meaning. People grin when they say them together. (There also used to be a p*rn star with the same moniker, so depending on the audience, that may be what they’re grinning about)

    • I think it is. My husband is from the south and he is a little baffled sometimes by the fact that most of my friends didn’t take their husbands’ names. Meanwhile, my northeastern friends were baffled by the fact that I was changing my name.

      By the way, has anyone else noticed that there’s been a bit of a shift back to women taking their husbands’ names? My friends who married 5+ years ago kept their names. All of us who married more recently took our husbands’. Is there a reverse trend going on?

      • Definitely with you on the trend. I feel like it’s a generational thing. In my totally unscientific study of professional ladies with whom I have worked, those who were married in the 90s/early 2000s were far more likely to keep their maiden names or do the (often now-reviled) hyphenation. Starting in the mid-2000s, it seemed like it shifted and more ladies were taking their husbands’ names, personally and professionally.

        Is this a difference between waves of feminism–second v. third? Late boomers v. Gen X (and now Millennials?) Je ne comprehends pas. Some smartie-pants should use this as a lens through which to analyze shifting interpretations of feminism; somehow I think you could link it up to an article about the recent return to DIY/homemaking/natural births/whatever is getting the most hits.

    • anonymama :

      In the country my mother is from, it is traditional for children to have their mother’s maiden name as a middle name, and then when women marry, they use their maiden name as a middle name and their husband’s as a last name. It’s what my mother did when she married my dad, and what I did when I got married. I think some of it is just cultural norms, and some of it is wanting to keep some form of their old name.

  24. Professionally and legally I am still Ms. First Maiden. My husband completely understands because most people when they hear my “married name” think it is the name of a weather girl “here’s W.W. with the weekend forecast” or a stripper, but not a very good stripper, someone who is in the Tuesday afternoon crew at some shady joint in central Wisconsin (no kidding people have told me that). So rather than go into court and say, “good morning your honor, W.W. on behalf of…” and know that people are snickering, I kept my maiden name legally and professionally. However, socially I’m Mrs. W on wedding invites, our kids will all be W’s, we’re the W family, etc.

    • This. Except that my married name doesn’t sound like a stripper. We’re an interracial couple, so if I took my husband’s anglo last name, it’s confusing when an asian woman shows up. Also, my bar card/diploma and everything is in my maiden name. The paperwork is just not worth it. However, on cards, invitations, and anything not professional I’m Mrs. Husband’sName. I once heard that it would be “confusing” to my kids, but I think if I do my job right, they should know who their mother is. The only concern I have is going in and out of the country without looking like I stole someone’s kids. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

      • I have several friends whose last name doesn’t correspond to their ethnicity due to an interracial marriage. I never thought it was weird, or heard them say it caused problems.

        • Gahh. I clicked report on your comment. Sorry.

          Speaking from my own personal experience, my maiden last name is an anglo-sounding last name. All my life, people have been endlessly confused and often try to “Asian-ize” it. So, it does happen.

    • That’s exactly what we do. I considered making the switch legally, but I doubt I will.

  25. I have a hyphenated last name, and have had all my life. It isn’t a short one, either – it’s 4 syllables long. I always thought that when I got married I would change my name just to get rid of the really long one (plus I like the idea of everyone in the family having the same last name), but as I’ve gotten older I’ve gradually changed my mind. I kind of like my name, and it is how I am known professionally. I see no reason to change it when I get married, other than for the convenience of having the same last name as my child, which no longer sways the balance to me. Adding my SO’s last name to mine would just be silly (two hyphens? Weird cultural mix?) and I am fine with my child having my SO’s last name, even though TBH it is kind of a boring one.

  26. I kept my last name and use it for everything except greeting cards to family and family friends. Then we’re Mr. and Mrs. X. My husband supported my decision on two conditions- 1. Our kids have his last name and 2. His family never finds out I didn’t change my last name. I am fine with those conditions and LOVE that I kept my name. My name is personal to me and is part of my identity. It is annoying though when we need to give our names and people assume that our names are the same. We are always correcting that.

  27. CapHillAnon :

    I married as a 2nd year associate, 11 years ago, and I didn’t change my name. It was an easy decision–I always thought it was a bit of a strange convention. I do understand why people do it, and I adore my husband, who is a traditionalist, but it just wasn’t something I really considered.

    Our children have both our last names, not hyphenated. We don’t all share one word that is our name, but we don’t feel any less like a team for it. In fact, it seems appropriate that they have one name from each of us.

    My name has never been an issue making appointments or reservations. The only negative comments I received about not changing my name came from his family, and those were minor and joking and lasted 2 weeks. I don’t mind if someone calls me by my husbands’ name, which happens occasionally.

    It is an issue that people feel strongly about, and it is a big deal because names are a big deal, but the decision is really yours and yours alone. Good luck!

    • Anon in NYC :

      Funnily enough, after keeping my last name I actually DO mind if someone calls me by my husband’s last name! I thought that I wouldn’t care, but it really bothers me!

      • Amelia Bedelia :

        I can understand that. it’s your name!
        and it’s disrespectful of people not to acknowledge your choice.

  28. Maddie Ross :

    My husband is a junior, so changing his name was not really an option. Not that I would have probably asked him anyway. I’m old-fashioned I guess, but I didn’t have a problem changing my name and taking his. That said, I kept my first and middle and last and just added his on. I use all four professionally (Maddie Jane Doe Ross) and as someone said before, go by Mrs. Maddie Ross only with friends. I use “Mrs. Doe Ross” in court. It helps that my last names are each one syllable (not just here – in real life, too!).

  29. I kept my last name for professional and personal reasons, but DH and I have agreed in theory to create a mashup for our hypothetical kids (we’ve started to use the mashup for ourselves when doing random things like holiday cards, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a shock to the system for the in-laws).

    In terms of responding to the OP’s question, I have a (male) coworker who added his wife’s last name to his own name as a second last name (and she did the same with his). For example: your name is Elizabeth Ann Smith and your boyfriend’s last name is Washington. You could do something like Elizabeth A. S. Washington or Elizabeth A. W. Smith as your email signature. For any legal forms or bar admission documents, I’d make sure your full name reflects what you would like to be known as in a formal setting. If you have two last names, you have two last names.

  30. I kept my last name but will use his name socially when it makes sense. I don’t really understand the big deal about legally changing last names, to be honest. It just seems like an unnecessary hassle to me with minimal benefits.

  31. It is not equal, period, for only one part of a couple to change his or her name upon marriage.

    The practice of a woman changing her family name to her husband’s is also steeped in a terrible history of denied basic legal rights. Moreover, it irks me that only women have a “maiden” name. Nobody cares if a man was a virgin upon marriage, only the woman/”maiden”.

    In making this decision, it’s also interesting to note the statistics surrounding this issue and consider what judgments might be made about you based on your decision. For starters, the more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to give up her name for her husband’s. A woman with a doctorate is 10 times less likely than a woman with a bachelor’s degree. A woman who changes her name is more likely to be Republican and statistically has more children. The most popular region of the US for women to keep their names is the northeast.

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      I understand those are the statistics, but we don’t have to conform to statistics. I am an attorney with no children living in the northeast who took my husband’s last name. I don’t care what the statistics are. It is my choice that shouldn’t be influenced by the statistics (will i seem uneducated by doing this? too conservative? will people think I’m religious? why can’t the decision be “what do I want to do? people’s opinions be d*mned.”)

    • anonymama :

      Most relationships are not “equal” in the sense that each person does exactly half of everything, or exactly the same as the other person, all the time. Rather, they are “equal” in the sense of respecting each other and treating each other as equally valuable human beings. The name-change does not take place in a vacuum, it is part of a whole relationship with many other gives and takes, involving location, educational and career choices, lifestyle choices, family size, etc. I mean, it’s not “equal” that my husband cooks dinner 5 nights out of 6, or that I do 100% of the laundry, but they are both part of an equal relationship.

      • But it’s not part of a cultural vacuum either. If it was just give-and-take between couples, you’d expect that the man would change his name about 50% of the time where a name change took place, because you’d expect that to be how the give-and-take worked out about half the time. And yet it’s almost always the woman (and yes, there are isolated examples where it’s not, but it usually is). Why are women expected to “give” in this way and men expected to “take” in this way?

  32. Oh, and another consideration–as a child of divorced parents with different last names, it always seemed a little unfair that I had my dad’s last name and not my mom’s. My mom always expressed regret that she didn’t give me her maiden name as my middle name.

    • I know I’m late, but wanted to chime in. As a child of divorced parents, I had the same view, and the only thing I was adamant about was that the children would have MY last name, whatever that was.

      We talked through the options, and since I wasn’t as attached to my last name (see: divorce issues) as he was, and a mashup didn’t work, I chose to take his. I suppose wecould have chosen a completely new way, and in some ways I wish we did, but I actually like his name so didn’t mind taking it.

      However, if we ever get divorced, I’m not changing my name again. I chose this name and it is now me, regardless of marital status.

  33. OttLobbyist :

    Be grateful you have the choice. Here in Canada, if you have chosen to live and marry in the province of Quebec, you have no option but to keep your maiden name. Your children are automatically hyphenated. If you move to Quebec but were married elsewhere, you can run into whole heaps of hassle at verifying your identity for the purposes of health cards and driver’s licenses, or receiving other public services.

    That said, I feel a very strong connection to my last name, and would likely keep it. I find it interesting that folks would change their middle names, since in so many cases, including mine, they are traditional family names.

  34. This discussion reminds me: I was seriously annoyed when my husband’s friend sent us a wedding invitation addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s First Name Husband’s Last Name.”

    I guess it’s extra bad because I kept my maiden name (and he knows my name…or at least could have asked. It’s not as if the wedding was a suprise), but there’s something about the way that sounded as if I had no identity of my own that rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Mr. and Mrs. His First Name His Last Name is the traditionally “proper” form of address for a married couple with the same last name, but I would never use it for a couple with different last names. In fact, I’ve given up using it even for couples with the same last name, in favor of “Mr. and Mrs. His First Name and Her First Name Last Name.”

      • I know it’s traditional, but it just seems so anachronistic. Changing/keeping your last name is one thing, but becoming some sort of single unit subsumed under your husband’s identity is another. Anyway, I like your solution. :)

        • I hate this too. I know it is traditional, but I think it’s outdated and sexist. I insisted on using individual first names in my formal wedding invites.

    • Anonymous :

      I got one addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. HusbandFirst HusbandLast,” when we are both Dr. and I kept my own name. I agree that it is seriously annoying and a totally anachronistic. I don’t care if it’s traditional, it is sexist and offensive.

      • I would be apoplectic about that!

      • Anoooooon :

        My husband and I both went to the same University, and they sent us a letter once addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname.” While I did take his last name, I called and raised heck about how we BOTH graduated from there and we BOTH paid tuition and and we BOTH deserve a mention in the address block, thankyouverymuch. Since then it has become “Mr. First HisLast and Ms. First HisLast,” so I guess they took it to heart.

      • Baconpancakes :

        This is also technically incorrect. Per Miss Manners, whomever has a title gets a title. If a woman is a doctor, and her husband isn’t, it’s Dr. and Mr. Same with ambassadorships. This isn’t a new convention – rank has always been more important. The convention of Mr. and Mrs. HisName comes from men normally being ranked above women, saving a conferred title.

        I enjoy the unintended consequences of this, like Neil Gaiman being called Mr. Palmer.

      • lucy stone :

        We get a lot of Atty. and Mrs. HisLast. We’re both attorneys and I kept my name.

  35. Belle et Rebelle :

    It was almost visceral for me how much I did not want to change my last name when I got married a couple of years ago. Nothing wrong with DH’s name (it’s a short, easy to pronounce English name that is alliterative with my first name – actually sounds very nice together), I just feel strongly connected to my own name. My name is also unusual, but not too hard to pronounce or spell, and I find that while it used to bother me to have a “weird” last name, now I kind of enjoy it. It’s also good for me professionally as I can use it in my domain name and Twitter handle, etc., and it’s not likely to get me confused with anyone else out there with the same last name.

    I was not surprised that DH did not object to me keeping my name (he is a very live-and-let-live kind of person), but I was a little surprised when he said he actually preferred to have me keep my name. His reasoning is that he cannot imagine changing his own name, so why should he want someone to change their name to his and that he’s feel a bit weird about it. He is even the one lobbying to hyphenate any future kids’ names as MyLast-HisLast, even though I would be willing to entertain just going with HisLast (guess I’m just a teeny bit traditional in that way). Anyone here grow up with a hyphenated last name and want to weigh in on what that was like? In this case, the whole thing would be three syllables (2-1).

    • I grew up with a hyphenated last name (and still have it), and to my mind it is no big deal. In my case it is 3 syllables-1 syllable. When I am feeling lazy and don’t need to use my legal name, sometimes I just use the 1-syllable part. But honestly, it is just my name. I don’t give it much thought.

      In my case the name was all my dad (he grew up with it too). I don’t think I would like/dislike it any more or less if the name was partly my mother’s and partly my dad’s.

      I do get questions sometimes along the lines of – whose name is it? Your mom’s or your dad’s, or both? Oh, your dad’s? Was it his mom’s and his dad’s? …etc., but I’ve just learned to deal with those.

  36. Senior Attorney :

    I changed my last name when I married H1 because I hated my maiden name and his name was much more aesthetically pleasing. Ideally I would have kept my maiden name as a middle name, but my first name is two words (think “Peggy Sue” or “Mary Jane”) and I concluded that four names was one two many for me.

    I intended to keep H1’s name (which is also the name of my son) when I remarried, but it was important to H2 that I take his name, and in a moment of weakness I agreed. It wasn’t a huge deal professionally, and although it created a little confusion at my son’s school, I just answered to “Mrs. H1″ at school as necessary and didn’t make a big deal out of it.

    Now I am divorcing H2 and plan to take H1’s name back so that my son and I will match. I was concerned that H1 would be irked, but it turns out he’s all for it, which is nice.

    If I had it to do over again I’d still have taken H1’s name for esthetic reasons, but would have kept it even after I married H2.

    And needless to say, there will be no more name changes even if there is an H3 at some point.

  37. feminism? :

    I read this recently on the subject, about how it is, of course, not feminist to change your name, but you can do not feminist things if you want!

    http://kateharding.info/2013/03/08/why-i-lose-my-mind-every-time-we-have-the-name-conversation/

  38. I just got married in April and haven’t changed my name yet. My husband doesn’t care either way, and actually seems proud to tell people that I haven’t changed it :) I think he likes that I’m independent, so I don’t want to tell him that I’m really just lazy and indecisive. Hah!

    In going back and forth on whether I want to change it, I’m leaning more towards changing it because:
    1. I’m sick of people here being SO shocked by having the same name (I’m in the Midwest- where it’s a given that you change it), and then it’s just awkward to explain that I really just don’t care either way.
    2. I really like my husband’s last name (it would make my name sound much more “professional”)
    3. I have no real ties to my maiden name – I was actually adopted and had a different last name for the first four years of my life! So what’s a third name anyway?

    Also, related note: When someone is recently married please do not ask them “How’s married life?” I’m going to stab the next person who asks me that in the throat.

  39. I went back and forth about changing my name, but ended up changing it and taking my maiden as my middle. I use [First] [Maiden] [Married] for my professional bio and email signature (basically scenarios where others would use a middle initial I use my maiden name) but normally introduce myself to people in person as [First] [Married]. My first name is long but shouldn’t be difficult to pronounce (although it is for some people), my maiden name is long, not English and hard to pronounce and my married name is common, easy to pronounce and relatively short. All together, its a mouthful. I don’t think you have to have a short or “cute” name to be professional and you should use all 4 names if that’s what you want to go by. For me the biggest headache in doing the name change was getting HR and administration people to get that my maiden name was my middle name and my married name was my last name. Many people wanted to make it into a hyphenated last name or combine it as a two word last name so it was “[Maiden] [Married], [First]” which was not what I wanted. To this day new people get confused and it bugs me a bit, but once I’ve introduced myself as [First] [Married] a few times they get the idea.

    FWIW, my mom kept her maiden name professionally. Even though she’d introduce herself as [First] [Married] in non-work settings a lot of my friends and teachers knew her by her maiden name for whatever reason. People frequently asked me if my parents were divorced and it made me a little sad. I think its really nice for kids for all family members to have the same last name – the fact that we plan to have kids is the primary reason I changed mine. Otherwise I don’t think I would have.

  40. Veronique :

    ” I have a very professional and short last name”

    What’s a professional last name? Are some last names unprofessional? Who decides what names are unprofessional? Sometimes stuff like this can be read as racism and/or xenophobia.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      I see certain names as “unprofessional” because they lend themselves to jokes about their profession or otherwise cause snickers or their parents were nuts when they named them.

      Think Candace Kane (candy cane), Richard Head (dick head). I remember meeting someone with a last name that was the same as a very sexual word too. I can’t remember for certain but it might have been Horney. I can’t imagine going through life with that last name.

      As a woman, I also wouldn’t want an overly cutesy last name like “muffin” or something.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      I see certain names as “unprofessional” because they lend themselves to jokes about their profession or otherwise cause snickers or their parents were nuts when they named them.

      Think Candace Kane (candy cane), Richard Head (d*ck head). I remember meeting someone with a last name that was the same as a very sexual word too. I can’t remember for certain but it might have been Horney. I can’t imagine going through life with that last name.

      As a woman, I also wouldn’t want an overly cutesy last name like “muffin” or something.

    • I understand what you mean, but I think it’s more often just shorthand for an unfortunate fact of life that some names are easier to have in certain work settings, particularly when you have to use your last name often (depending on location, geography, co-workers, etc.). My last name is very unusual, long and can be difficult for some people to spell/pronounce. I would love to be able to leave messages for people where I could say,” Hi, this is AIMS Jones, call me back.” Instead, I have to go “Hi, this is AIMS Looooooooooooooooooooongname, L-o-o-o-o-o-o-o……………..”

      I also have read countless studies that confirm that for better or worse people do respond differently to some names over others. I have a very successful friend who attributes a small part of her success to having an alliterative short first name, short last name that just sounds good together. And maybe some of it is partly prejudice and mostly stereotype, but I think it can influence people’s decisions vis a vis changing/keeping their name. I think this is why many people – if you go back a generation or two – will tell you that their grandparents (or parents or whoever) changed the family name from X to Z.

    • This. I was just about to post exactly what you said, except with added WTF. Seriously, WTF.

      Incidentally there are quite a few long English names too, or difficult to guess at the correct pronunciation, unless you already know how. But of course what comes to mind by the OP’s extremely unfortunate phrasing are all the “ethnic” names. WTF.

  41. anon in tejas :

    we both hyphenated.

    I am She Herlast-Hislast. He is He Hislast-Herlast. It works. We both have long and different ethnic names. It was important to him that we have the same name, it was important to me that I keep my name.

    Our dogs have hyphnated last names based on gender- girl dogs (mine), boy dogs (his).

  42. file edit view :

    I just got married a few months ago. I never seriously considered changing my name. I have professional publications and reputation associated with it, and he knows I love him and am part of his family no matter what I call myself. His first wife took and kept his name, so there’s already his mother and stepmother plus the ex who are Mrs. X. My mom kept her own name and we never had any daycare or traveling problems. Our kids will probably get his name but it’s not a big deal.

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      I think this is an excellent approach. I truly believe whatever a woman chooses — as long as it is her choice not born from pressure (from peers or family) – is absolutely fine.

  43. My experience, as someone who didn’t change her name for the first 8 years, then did, is that people don’t care nearly as much as the internet would have you believe. The only reactions I ever really got were when I did finally change my name, and a few people who knew I’d been married but didn’t know me well enough to know my husband’s last name got a little awkward trying to figure out whether I’d gotten divorced. Overall, it was really not a big deal, and you should do what makes you comfortable.

    I am glad that I did change it, as, now that we have a child, I like to have one cohesive family name. I’d warn though, that lawyers are called by their initials a lot, so consider not just the name, but the 3-figure initial set when you consider what appeals to you (I’m not crazy about mine, though I don’t think I’d like the original any better.) I also changed my last name to my middle, which I’d never really liked anyway, and when I use my name in a very formal way, I’m “Lyssa Maiden Married.”

    (I’ll add that I have noticed that a lot of people are really turned off by hyphenated last names – not sure why, I think that they associate them (probably unfairly!) with militant feminism of the ’90s era (which seems silly, since it seems so much more militant-feminist to just keep your last name). So, if you’re concerned about that sort of impression, that may be a consideration. Or not, depending on your personality. I personally find hyphenated names cumbersome, but that’s just an aesthetic preference.)

    • On your comment re hyphenated last names – I don’t know why people are turned off by them, as you say. As someone with a hyphenated last name, I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s just my name, and that’s the way it is! It shouldn’t make a difference to anyone other than me, and I find my 4-syllable last name euphonious. :-)

    • Senior Attorney :

      As somebody who has changed my name twice now, I agree that it’s really not a huge deal. It’s a little annoying for a short time, and then we all get on with our lives.

  44. Many of us have strong opinions about which name to take. But the one thing I think is very important to note — if not already noted above — is that as far as surnames go, there isn’t any “professional” or “non-professional.” They’re all just names. My last name is transliterated from Russian and it’s hard to pronounce and there’s nothing “unprofessional” about it.

  45. I will never forget what my mother once said about this. We were both attending a baby shower with a bunch of 20-something female acquaintances. Of seven or eight women, some married and some single, I was the only one who said she was thinking of keeping her name… until my mom spoke up and said that she’d changed her name when she got married 35 years ago but she regretted it.

    Well, you could have heard a pin drop. Finally, one of the young women got up the courage to ask if her ex-husband had pressured her to change her name. My mom replied cheerfully that he hadn’t said anything one way or the other, but that they were still married so she’d ask him when she got home(!) After the laughter died down, Mom confessed that she’d changed her name because she thought keeping it would upset *her* mother.

    “Oh,” I said, “and it turned out she wouldn’t have cared?”

    “No,” said my mom, “she would have had a complete nervous breakdown. But I’m old now and I don’t give a [censored] what anyone thinks.”

  46. Amelia Bedelia :

    I took my husband’s last name. It surprised me how much this bothered some of my peers. I got a lot of “how could he make you do that?” and “what has he done for you that you think warrants this sacrifice?” I don’t know if because in my region it was uncommon, or what. I found it a bit unsupportive that someone would villify my decision to “support patriarchal norms.” It’s a choice. and I love my choice.
    I considered it a very personal decision and truly wanted to take his last name. It’s funny because he was very surprised when I told him I was doing it. I dropped my last name (though had considered making it my middle name), and am comfortable with that decision. I think I dropped my last name because I have a confusing and hard to spell last name and my husband has an ethnic, confusing, and hard to spell last name . . . I just didn’t want two of those!

    We’ve been married more than ten years and I still love my choice. I think everyone views this differently, and that’s okay. For me, I loved the family aspect. And I am okay that my family aspect is patriarchal. I still love it.

  47. Haha! I love the smalltown/Central Wisconsin shout-outs in this thread. I grew up there and totally understand!

    I’m not married, but I will admit that with each serious boyfriend I have thought about it. It mostly comes down to whether I “like” his last name more than mine or if our names would “sound good” together. If my hypothetical husband and I decide to have kids, I do want to have a common family last name. My last name is pretty decent (not great but not awful), and I wouldn’t be afraid to ask him to change his last name to mine if his name is hard to pronounce, spell, or invites playground teasing.

    I don’t worry too much about the professional aspects–people changing their names is pretty normal. I do appreciate it when my married friends go by FirstName BirthName HusbandName for the first year or two.

  48. I agree that this is a profoudly personal decision, for both the woman getting married and her soon to be husband. And fundamentally I think that the fact that we have this choice to make is progress, though as a feminist I also worry that the societal biases underneath the decision to take a husband’s name might be undermining that progress.

    I kept my maiden name, which is a difficult-to-pronounce-and-spell Italian name. My husband’s last name is a very standard British name (not quite Smith, but close) so I tend to use it for things like dinner reservations but otherwise I am still First Middle Maiden. I did not and will not change any of my ID.

    The primary reason I kept my name is that, while it’s difficult to spell and pronounce, it is part of who I am. Marriage is a hugely important change in my life, but I don’t think that getting married does (or should) change who you are as a person. Italy is also one of the countries where women don’t use their husband’s name on marriage, so that part of my heritage also prompted me. I made this decision long before my husband was on the scene and pretty much just announced it to him – and, luckily, us having the same last name was not important to him.

    Practically, I also prefer the way my name sounds with my maiden name. I don’t really use my middle name, just First Last, and the letters and syllable count for First Husband’sName just sound a bit too cutesy for me – definitely not what I want professionally, and not really what I want socially either. And First Maiden Husband’sName really doesn’t work at all. Professionally I was a couple of years into my practice when we married, and while I’m sure people could have learned a new name, I prefer to keep the same name. My last name is also unique, so once people do learn how to say/spell it, I think it helps me stand out.

    While it’s not important to my husband that he and I have the same last name, it is important to him that our children have his name, and neither of us like hyphenated names. So they will be will be First Middle Husband’sLast, without my maiden name. Because of that I expect teachers, their friends, etc. to call me “Mrs. Husband’sLast”, at least at first, which I’m fine with. Having two names in that way doesn’t feel schizophrenic to me – but I do also plan to (gently) correct people.

    As for what I’ve seen among my friends, it has somewhat surprised me that at least about half have taken their husbands’ names. My friends are largely highly educated, professional women, at various stages of their careers. Some of those are replacing non-English maiden names that, in English, have bad connotations – in their shoes, I’d’ve changed names too. The other decisions have been for similar reasons to the ones above – they want one “family” name, it’s important to their husbands and not as important to them, etc.

  49. I’m in Philly and am a First Middle Husband’s. I liked the namesakes my parents chose my first and middle names and so I wanted to keep them; also, I married young and didn’t have a career history using Maiden. Most common in my friend group is definitely First Maiden Husband’s, though.

  50. Amanda Wingfield Goldman :

    It was hard for me to let go of my maiden name when I got married- I had practiced under it for four years and I loved my maiden name. When I changed firms I made the switch a year after we got married (I had already legally changed it, but was practicing under my maiden name). I did it for my husband and for my future children. I have nothing against ladies who hyphenate, but when I was recently filling out place cards for a friend’s wedding and I drafted a long four-name hyphenated last name, I was thankful I took his name. Hyphenations can breed like rabbits. Yes, my diplomas say something else, but I don’t have the headaches that some of my other friends have when it comes to getting things done in their household because they chose not to take their husband’s name. And when you’re a busy working mom, you don’t frankly have time to deal with the BS that comes with explaining that you are married but have different last names when it comes to accessing a certain record on behalf of your spouse.

    • Anonymous :

      You’re making a lot of implicit and unexamined assumptions based on what annoys you.

    • I don’t think most of the things you describe as being a hassle are actually a hassle in real life. My SO and I are not married and definitely don’t have the same last name and I have had ZERO issues getting anything done in our household. I make doctor’s appointments, argue with the cable company (in his name), plan vacations, get hotel rooms, you name it. It has never once come up as a problem.

  51. Since Reader E doesn’t want to go only by her maiden name, I suggest she take her husband’s last name as her only last name. I’m not a fan of hyphenated last names. Hyphenation will only lengthen her husband’s already long name. And for whatever reason, I’ve seen more misspellings happen with hyphenated last names.

    No fiance yet but I plan on taking my last name. I have a really difficult to pronounce Chinese last name. (Why couldn’t it be simple like Lee?) I definitely plan to take on my future husband’s last name who most likely will have an easier to pronounce last name. Plus, I want my children to have one last name and to share it with them even if I ended up getting divorced.

  52. I grew up with a hyphenated last name and happily took my husband’s name, something I always knew I would do if I got married. I think that if I had a “single name maiden name” I would have kept my maiden name as my legal name (for professionial and feminist reasons). But I hated having a hyphenated name for a lot of reasons, and plan to have children one day and did not like the idea of having two names different from my children (since I hated the hyphen, I would not have passed it on!). My brother dropped half of our last name soon after he graduated from college and entered the workforce.

  53. Anonymous :

    I think the nicest thing to do is for both partners to change their last name to create a new one. That said, it doubles the administrative hassle.

    Personally, I took my husband’s last name. To me it came down to past/future — if I kept my maiden name I stayed aligned with my past, my father, my parents. If I took my husband’s name I was really just taking my FutureKid’s name. I always thought it was a bit sad to see older women who are still tied to their past and completely detached from their present/future — to know that anything they’ve accomplished or name recognition they’ve gotten, their fathers (if still alive) can take credit/pride in but not their sons or daughters (like the book authors I know who still have their maiden names). It’s one thing to keep a name that you’ve established some cache — for me when I got married at 30 I decided that while I’d done some cool stuff (worked with a personal icon, published a few small things) the best was yet to come, so I chose the future.

    All that said, I remember years ago dating a man whose last name sounded phonetically like a sexual thing (a body fluid) — $10 says I would have kept my own name (or insisted we create a new one together) in that instance. So everything depends.

    • Gosh, I really hope my hypothetical future husband and children still manage to be proud of me even if we have different last names. If your sister got married, changed her name, and had a different name than you did, you would be any less proud of her?

      And honestly, my current last name isn’t my past – it’s my present. It’s me. My husband’s last name is only my future if the decision to change my name is preordained.

      • Feel free to ignore this question if it is too personal, but I seem to remember you posting about changing your name back to maiden post-divorce. Are you committed to not changing your name again if you remarry, or is this more a position of not making assumptions?

        • I’m committed to not changing it again. The process of changing it back really pushed me to examine why I changed it in the first place, and to realize that I’d made a decision that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with at the time. I also think that, as a result of that experience, I view my name as an essential part of my identity as an independent person. We all have things that we do to maintain our independent identities after marriage, and I’ve come to realize that for me, this is an important one.

          I know it doesn’t have that weight or significance for everyone – I don’t mean in any way to suggest that women who change their names have sacrificed their independent selves – but it does for me.

    • I don’t mean to pick on you, but your post reminded me of a trend I’ve observed that drives me crazy: Feminist women who keep their name but then give their kids their husbands’ last names.

      It’s none of my business, of course. But it just feels like punting the question for a few years. I truly don’t understand the logic, emotion, or politics of that decisions. I’m a feminist and I absolutely believe in the power of symbolism, so I get and support the decision not to take a husband’s name (I didn’t take mine) – and I get and support the reasons someone might choose to do so. But I can’t get my head around what you’re accomplishing by keeping your own name but automatically assigning the kids’ names to him.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I tend to agree with this. I think my idea solution to this would be to keep my maiden name and give female children my name and male children my husband’s name.

        • Senior Attorney :

          And let me hasten to add I’m speaking in the abstract and not criticizing any individual’s choice.

        • Baconpancakes :

          Thank you. I was starting to think I was the only person in the world who thought this was the ideal solution. Isn’t there some Scandinavian country that does this?

        • This is my brother’s hypothetical future solution. I kept my name, and probably my kids will have my husband’s. My name is my name and always has been, so no reason to change it. My kids have to have a last name, so I don’t see a reason why it couldn’t be my husband’s. They’ll have my mom’s maiden name as a middle name.

      • My solution to this future problem is to divvy up the naming rights with my future baby daddy – he can give the kid his last name if he wants, but I get to pick the first name. Or vice versa – kid gets my last name and he can pick the first name.

    • Pittsburgher :

      “I think the nicest thing to do is for both partners to change their last name to create a new one. That said, it doubles the administrative hassle.”

      It way more than doubles it. My husband and I wanted to do this, but me changing my last name to his is free and pretty easy. Him changing his last name, or me changing my last name to anything but his, requires a court order, hundreds of dollars, and dozens more pages of paperwork and hours waiting in lines.

      So we took the easy way out and I just took his last name.

  54. I didn’t change my name after getting married, despite my husband’s name being shorter and easier to spell and my two unusual middle names cause me a lot of trouble. Why should the default be so strongly that women change their names but not men? Along the same lines, my husband’s attitude is that he wouldn’t change his name, so why should he expect me to? However, our kids will have his last name because it just seems too complicated to do anything else. I think in my field (academia) it’s very common for women to keep their names due to published papers.

  55. marketingchic :

    I took my husband’s last name, mostly because it’s much easier to pronounce and spell than my maiden name. All other issues aside, I was happy to stop spelling my name for people constantly.

    On my resume and on Linkedin I”m Firstname Maidenname Lastname, as I worked for 5 years using my maiden name. It’s funny back in the pre-internet stone age, I used to worry about people calling my first employer for a reference using only my married name – which that employer wouldn’t recognize. Yay for the internets!

  56. For anyone concerned about the inconvenience of having a different last name than your kids (if you keep your maiden name), don’t be. I kept my maiden name and my kids have my husband’s last name, and there really just isn’t any inconvenience to it at all. I think when many of us were growing up, it was unusual for a family not to all have the same name, but things are totally different now. Last year, I went through the school directory for my kids’ grades, and in each of the grades there was a substantial percentage — sometimes as much as 50% — of kids who had a different last name than one of their parents (for all sorts of reasons — moms keeping maiden names, divorce/remarriage, kid living with a different family member, ethnic norms, etc). It’s just not that much harder to say “hi, I’m Gus MaidenName, Kid HusbandLastName’s mom” than it is to say “hi, I’m Gus HusbandLastName, Kid’s mom.” And of course if one of the kids’ friends calls me “Mrs. HusbandLastName,” that’s fine, I don’t bother to correct them, but as they get older, I’ve found they’re pretty savvy about knowing who has what last name.

  57. Anoooooon :

    On a related front, can the world at large stop using “Mother’s Maiden Name” as a security question on my online accounts? It’s becoming an increasingly less secure question, it’s confusing if your mother didn’t change her name, and the assumption that she did change her name is less true all the time. It just needs to stop. Powerful women of the world, let’s unite on this issue, even if we can’t decide how to arrange our names for ourselves.

    • My mother does have a maiden name (she took my father’s name when they married) but I invented a fake name for her that I use to answer this question. I figure her real maiden name is probably google-able at this point.

    • I'm Just Me :

      You know you don’t have to use your mother’s actual maiden name to answer that as a security question? Especially if you are worried about security. You can put anything in that space, as long as you remember that was how you answered the question.

      I just use a made up last name to answer that, and I’m consistent so I can always respond if the website in question asks me. Same when it asks what city I was born in, I always put Paris (not really, just an example) even though I was born as far from Paris as can be imagined.

  58. Clementine :

    I got married just less than a year ago and agree that it’s an incredibly personal decision. I knew I would keep my last name professionally as it is one syllable, a noun that’s easy to pronounce but not a common last name at all, and a nickname of many years that many professional contacts know me solely by.

    My husband’s last name is Darling. I wasn’t sure if I would keep my last name or hyphenate and then somebody said in a FABULOUS Katherine Hepburn accent, ‘Jane Smith, DAAAHLING’.

    Aaaand that’s why I’m legally hyphenated… well, on some things… Still not fully switched.

    I will confess though, when someone calls me Mrs. Husband’sFirst Husband’sLast, I get this sense of RAGE in my stomach. I can only compare it to when you’re in elementary school and a teacher calls you by a sibling’s name and you just want to scream “NO NO, THAT’S NOT ME”.

  59. Gen X Partner :

    So happy to hear from the younger women wanting to keep their names! It seems like it has gone out of fashion, which makes me sad. I did not change my name when I got married in 2000 and have had zero problems. Many, many families where I live (Arlington, Virginia) have multiple last names, for whatever reason, and the school system is used to it. Our kids have my last name as a middle name, but not hyphenated. I don’t feel the need to try to make the patriarchical tradition fair and have actually decided that I love that I have a different last name from the rest of the family – it’s like a proud badge or tatoo saying “I am a feminist”! I certainly do not feel like we are less of a family, or like it is un-romantic. In fact, it was a good test for my husband that he did not ever ask me to change my name.

  60. I married 36 years ago and kept my maiden name as my middle name. (my mother had done the same.) My reasons: (and this was at the height of “women’s lib”), I am an only child and didn’t want my family name to “die”, but I took my husband’s name as my last name because when we married, he became my family. I now find out that this was an unusual choice for the times but I am happy with it, the three names are all two syllable and it sounds nice, and it means something to me.

    • My grandmother, who married in the 1940s and is not what you would call a feminist, uses her maiden name as her middle name.

  61. Being on the other side of a divorce and having had the delightful experience of changing my name twice in three years, I’ll never do it again. I’m actually sad that I did it in the first place – I was ambivalent about it, but there was SO MUCH positive reinforcement associated with changing my name (“it’s part of becoming a family!”, “Aren’t you excited to be Mrs. Hislast?”, etc.) that I just sort of tipped over into doing it. And I ended up being excited about it at the time. But then, even before I got divorced, I just..missed “me.”

    So yes, I changed it back, and no, I wouldn’t do it again. And I generally encourage my male and female friends who are getting married to think very hard about the social, political, and personal dimensions of changing your name. It’s a personal decision, but it’s a personal decision that, even if subconsciously, is heavily influenced by social norms.

    I haven’t thought about what name I’d stick my hypothetical kids with, but I’m untroubled about having a different last name than they do. If that’s the hardest thing in my future children’s life, they’ll be lucky b*stards, you know?

    • The positive reinforcement thing is SO TRUE.

      I was surprised when my family objected to my name taking my husband’s last name. My grandmother sat me down for a Very Serious Talk, in which she said that only women who were “accomplished” should keep their last names. Ha!

  62. I’m not a huge fan of the First Maiden Married. It’s a compromise, sure, but to me it feels a bit like you’re just putting the last name you were born with into second place. Obviously that doesn’t hold for everyone, or even for most, but that’s how it always struck me.

    And I do respect everyone’s choice to be called whatever they want, but I just wish that it wasn’t always a choice that only a woman had to make. For all the talk of couples creating a new family name together, no one I know actually does it. I remember reading somewhere that Jay Z and Beyonce changed both their last names to Carter Knowles and I just thought it was kind of awesome. I guess for two people who go by only their first names, maybe it’s less significant career-wise, but as a statement on their relationship, I thought it was surprisingly powerful. Granted, this is completely silly, but before I thought about Jay Z changing his last name to reflect his wife’s, I never felt strongly about the whole two last names thing, but realizing that 9 out 10 (self-described “progressive”) men I know would never do that, made me rethink the whole thing.

    Incidentally, most of my law school friends changed their last name or hyphenated when they got married. My non-lawyer friends all kept theirs, except for one who just hated her last name and really liked her husband’s (totally valid reason!). I think that for all that lawyers are supposed to be concerned with their careers and professional identity, the legal field still remains a very traditional, conservative one.

  63. I think that First Maiden Last, or having different professional / personal names, or hyphenating when only one partner hyphenates, are all just attempts to have it both ways and are totally wishy-washy. As if somehow you are not “really” taking your husband’s name by doing that— of course you are! So just say that’s what you did. When I see these hybrids, it just makes me think that the wife did not really want to change her name but was persuaded to do it, and is trying desperately to hold on to some sense of her own identity.

    Unless you keep your own name, or both parties change their names, you are taking husband’s name, period. If it’s your choice to do so, then do it with conviction!

    • Ouch! Your comment sounds quite harsh. When you see hybrids, you think the women were somehow coerced. That’s a pretty low opinion of women, if you think so many of us are that malleable (not to mention “desperate” — yikes!).

      I think that people should be able to do what they want. Some people do just that. Some people cave to (real or perceived) familial or societal pressure. Some people really don’t care. Some people care passionately. I know I wouldn’t begin to try to slot people into any of those categories based on knowing one thing about them (the name(s) they chose to use after marriage).

  64. I went from First Middle BirthLast to First BirthLast HisLast. Through college I would have said adamantly that I would not want to change my name, but age mellowed me. DH was ok with whatever I wanted. In the end, I decided that (1) I hated my middle name; (2) I had no particular attachment to my BirthLast; (3) I really liked the idea of our friends saying “let’s invite the HisLasts for dinner” or “we saw the HisLasts last week”; and (4) it seems easier [TO ME, FOR ME (and DH)] to be collectable into a single name — the HisLasts.

    For me, “like” and “easier” trump hate and indifference, and so the decision was made.

  65. Anonymous Biglaw Associate :

    I debate about this from time to time, as I’m getting married soon. Leaning towards changing it. Here are my thoughts.

    Pros to changing:
    -SO’s name is very short and easy to pronounce. My last name and first name would be 6 letters total. I like that idea for some reason.
    Could easily drop middle name, and make maiden name my middle name (my maiden name can be a female first name as well). Anyone does this?

    Cons to changing:
    -I’ve published a lot with my maiden name.
    -Last name (Korean) doesn’t “match” my ethnicity/ethnicies (Jewish/Chinese/Cuban). But no one ever knows I am anyways, for obvious reasons, so it probably wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But does this even matter?
    -His last name is VERY common, and my first name is also VERY common. It could be hard for people to search for me (or maybe this is a good thing).
    -We don’t plan to have children, which in my mind lessens the need for changing my name.

  66. Has anyone ever had the gender roles reversed in this situation? Meaning that your SO wants you to keep your name and you want to change it? My boyfriend is adamant that he wouldn’t me to change my name — he’s very progressive on all topics like this, and he thinks that if I were to change my name it would signify that he “owns” me. I, however, really don’t have that strong a reaction to a name change and frankly find it to be really convenient and easy to have the same last name. And I’m not sure why, but I don’t have a really strong attachment to my last name — maybe because even though it’s an easy name to spell, it’s frequently mispronounced. We both agree, however, that we wouldn’t want to do hyphenated. Too long and too much hassle.

    • Yes – my boyfriend refuses to let me take his last name. He doesn’t like his last name (he has a very Jewish last name, but his mother is Asian and he doesn’t identify as Jewish at all), and I think he likes my independence too much to “own” me. He’s suggested creating a meld or taking my last name. I don’t actually like my last name that much though and wouldn’t want to wish it on him – so we might be in the situation where both of us want to take the other person’s last name!

      All of this has been in very casual conversation though, so we’ll see what happens if it becomes a serious issue.

  67. What’s the deal with the term “Married” name? I’m married, and I kept my name. So it’s now my “married” name.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Well, you have to call it something in order to have a discussion about it, right? But I think you make a great case for redefining the term “married name” to mean “the name one uses when one is married, which may or may not be the name one used before one was married.”

  68. AnonInfinity :

    I hyphenated. I do like my last name because I think it flows well. But if I was getting married today, I would just keep my birth name. Hyphenating is confusing sometimes, and I do get annoyed explaining it to the doctor, dry cleaner, whoever I have to give a last name to. A comment above resonated w me when it said that a woman who hyphenates when her husband doesn’t is really just taking his name. That is true for me. I was really uncomfortable taking his name and feeling like I was giving mine up, but I was young and not really confident enough to go against the grain in my small Southern town.

  69. This was a big issue for my husband and me. We discussed all the options: keep our own last names, he takes mine, I take his, hyphenation, I make mine my middle name and take his last name, we both take mine as our middle name. None of them sat right with us.

    In the end, having the same last name mattered to us, and neither of us wanted the hassle of hyphenation. We considered both of our last names and neither of us could get comfortable taking the others’ name. So we decided to create a new name (which launched many more months of discussion: combine our names? choose a word from the language of our shared heritage that means something to us?). We didn’t end up choosing the name until the night before our wedding.

    Aaaaaaand two years later we haven’t gotten around to actually making the change, and I’m not sure we ever will. It’s a BIG hassle to change your name to something other than your husband’s (in our state, taking my husband’s name would have just involved a check on a box on our marriage license; the new name involved finger prints, court dates, newspaper advertisements, etc.). So at the moment we still just have our original last names. Heh.

  70. Blonde Lawyer :

    I married at 23 and took my husband’s last name. I’m First Middle Married. I hadn’t yet really established myself professionally. I kept using my maiden for a bit while in law enforcement because we didn’t want the offenders in our small town to know we were married. (Both in law enforcement at the time.) Then my employer said I had to sign my legal docs with my legal name and offenders would see it anyway so I just went with the married name and didn’t look back.

    The racist/xenophobe comments are interesting. I’ll admit that my prior long term bf has a Hispanic last name and I am very Irish and figured I’d keep my maiden if I married him. My Irish first and middle name just sounded ODD with the super Hispanic last name. My husband’s last name is Scottish/Irish and flowed well with my very Irish first and middle name so it seemed more natural to take his.

    I love us having one name and I don’t really miss my “maiden” name. For me, I liked the symbolism of us starting this new life together, though I concede that he didn’t get the same symbolism.

    One thing he does (on his own) that I really like is he always puts my name first on things with both our names. Wife and Husband last name instead of Husband and Wife last name. It could be it just sounds better but it is a little non-conformist.

  71. I am one of those children who was given a hyphenated last name when I was born. Not only that, but I have a hyphenated first name as well. So, FirstName-FirstName LastName(Mother)-LastName(Father).

    I can tell you that as an adult, I have put considerable thought into whether or not I should change my last name to just my Mothers or just my Fathers for the sake of simplicity. Of course, family politics quickly come into play and my intent is quickly dispelled. I now, however, am engaged and am trying to figure out just how to address the last name dilemma as well. Though I do not agree with the tradition of taking the mans last name without thought, I do feel that again, for the sake of simplicity, it may be the right way to go.

    Anyway, I just wanted to comment from the ‘hyphenated last name child’ point of view that although it is a wonderful compromise with your SO in terms of naming, it does pose some significant challenges for your children when they grow up.

  72. hellskitchen :

    I have an unusual FirstName and MaidenName. Neither is easy to pronounce and I always had a hard time with those speech recognition systems on calls. Mu husband has a fairly well known and easy to pronounce lastname. So I gladly took his name when we got married. I never had a middle name and wasn’t about to add one. It was a purely practical decision and I am glad I changed it because my new name has a better ring to it than my old one. Because my first name is unusual, I haven’t had any issues with maintaining my professional identity or with my network finding me on social media.

  73. Baconpancakes :

    Let me preface this by saying I’m not judging at all, just coming from a perspective of someone who has her mother’s last (Maiden) name. (If you want to change it, sure! That’s kind of the point of feminism – choice.)

    So maybe I’m just missing something here, but for all the women who are advocating changing because they want to have the same name as their kids… why not give your kids your last name and let your husband keep his different?

    • MyNameWasAPain :

      Mostly because I wanted all of us to have the SAME name. It is nice to be the “Smith” family, Hypenation might work for two relatively short, easy to spell names. It does not work so well for Bezukladnikov-Konigsberg (which is close to the name I grew up with).

      • Baconpancakes :

        So if your maiden name was Smith, and his was Bezukladnikov-Konigsberg, would you have considered keeping your name, and asked him to change his?

        • MyNameWasAPain :

          Honestly – I am not sure. My dislike of my name was tied to a bunch of stuff left over from my childhood. I would definitely have wanted all of us to have the same name. Beyond that, I would have had to discuss it with my spouse with the difficult name and have us make a decision together about what would work for us and our family – which is what I hope everyone feels free to do.

  74. I was married for a few years and changed from First Middle BirthLast to First Maiden MarriedLast. I went from one mispronunciation to another, so I didn’t particularly care at first. As the marriage worsened, I really missed my identity as one of the few BirthLasts around.

    Also: Ladies who are thinking that changing your maiden name to your middle name helps avoid confusion professionally, keep in mind that no one usually cares what your middle name is now, so they don’t particularly care later, either. You have to work at it. It does, however, help (a little) with the transition right after marriage and divorce.

    Turns out, he was crazy, and three years post-divorce, I’m still fighting to eliminate the scourge of his last name in a few places. It was ridiculously easy to change the first time, and extremely difficult to change back at work (seriously, it was like NO ONE had ever gotten divorced before).

    Professionally, I see no reason to change again if/when my guy and I run off together. He doesn’t either – in fact, we both think it’ll make me look flaky. Let’s not even mention the additional paperwork or confusion. I’m reasonably well known in a highly specialized niche area, so I’m not willing to give that up a second time. What’s more awesome is that my guy made that point before I could figure out a way to say it nicely.

    That said, socially I’m certain everyone will call me Mrs MarriedLast2, which I’m perfectly okay with and actually prefer (“Ms” was often initially used in situations where marital status was unknown – but then, I’m kind of OCD on accuracy, and have always hated the pronunciation “miiiz”). I suspect it’ll bring us together as the MarriedLast2 family emotionally. I can’t have kids, and his from his first marriage are old enough it’s very unlikely I’ll ever fulfill a stepmom role, so it’s not an issue.

  75. MyNameWasAPain :

    I was one of those hyphenated children (and my parents then got divorced and my mom re-married and changed her name, so my name did not match even one of hers). It was a massive, incredible pain. The name was waaaay long, hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and impossible to fit on the back of a soccer jersey. I spend half my life explaining that was my mother – not my step-mother. The dentist could never keep our files together and my name did not match my siblings on either side. I hated it, but could not change it without major family drama. I was so, so, so happy to get married, change my name and have the same name as my spouse and (now) kids. Maybe I caved to the (unrecognized) patriarchy, but it made me happy. (And I would have been massively, furiously angry if some government official had told me I couldn’t – good thing I don’t live in Quebec.)

  76. As an initial disclaimer, I am not married, but have given this plenty of thought. What seems both like yesterday and a hundred years ago, I, too, was “planning to get engaged.” I’d lie in bed at night and say my name to myself…followed by his last name (and may or may not have also named our kids). Sparing you the details, things fell apart in a devastating fashion.

    Reflecting on those nights spent fantasizing about becoming Mrs. HisLastName have made me change my tune- I now want to keep my own last name, regardless of how nice a ring his has to it. I appreciate (and envy, just a bit) the romanticism of adopting a man’s last name, but after going through a tumultuous year, I’ve learned more than ever to value my identity. Having felt like I lost it for a bit, its something I want to hold on to. I feel like my last name is a significant, though perhaps mostly symbolic, portion of who I am.

    I suppose this is a “things happen,” pessimistic, (I say realistic) approach to the subject, but I would hate to now have his last name! I’m also a young attorney, though have now been practicing long enough to, like SB, feel like my name is my brand/identity, which only further solidifies my decision.

    To quote Dr. Seuss, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” I’ve had this last name my whole life, I’ve got it today, I’ll have it tomorrow, and its me. I don’t want to be anyone else.

  77. Charlotte, Esq. :

    I dropped my maiden name entirely and took my husband’s name, but my decision was influenced in large part by the fact that my maiden name was actually my dad’s step-father’s last name which he adopted as a teenager, not the name by which my father was actually born. And my dad’s step-father is a real b@$tard, so aside from sharing it with my immediate family, neither he nor I had much sentimental attachment to it and he encouraged me to take my husband’s name. It was important to me to share a name with him and our future children.

    My father did give me his “birth” last name as a second middle name when I was born, though, and he asked me to keep that one, which I have. I don’t use it anywhere by my Social Security card, but I like that it is there.

  78. I think in Ontario that it’s easier to change your name than it sounds like it is in other places. After marriage, you can assume your spouse’s name (whether male or female) or change to a hyphenated last name – all you do is bring your marriage certificate to the various identity entities (driver’s license, passport, etc.) and you get a new card with your married name. You don’t “legally” do anything, and you can revert back if/when you choose. Your birth certificate stays the same.

    For myself, I thought I would change my name, for many of the same reasons others have said: it seemed quaintly old-fashioned, I was excited to be married and being a “mrs” made it feel more real. In the end, I didn’t do it, because it felt so strange to give up the name I’d had since birth. So I kept my name. If my husband had strenuously objected, I would have considered it further (but likely would not have married the type of person to strenuously object).

    That being said, I still get invitations, etc. with Mrs Myfirst Hislast and it doesn’t both me one iota. Our kids will (very likely) have his last name. I can’t see that being a problem – it’s so common in my area not to have the same last name as all members of your family. And if someone assumes that I’m Mrs. Hislast because my kids are Hislasts, no big deal.

  79. I changed my name when I got married. I didn’t really connect with my father’s family and my ex and I had names of the same cultural heritage. I used First Maiden Last. I switched back to First Middle Last when I got divorced and would never ever change my name again. It’s my name and I’m keeping it. Total pain to change it back and now I have at least one publication out there with a name I don’t use.

    My first boss kept her first husband’s name even after she remarried. Her maiden name (first and last) was the name of a character from a vintage TV show. But I never understood why she didn’t change to her second husband’s name. She had no ties to first husband at all and they lived in the same city and it was weird.

  80. I took my husband’s last name. I have never admitted this to anyone, but I regret doing so. We have an awesome marriage, I just really liked my maiden name and miss it. After 5 years, my last name still makes me cringe.

    The only bonus is that it is the most common last name in the US, so, I am not as easily identifiable online, and everyone knows how to spell and pronounce it. It also made it easier when having a child.

  81. My husband is already a hyphenate, which would have made our conjoined last name a nightmare. So far, he’s keeping his and I’m keeping mine. Sometimes I think about this decision as a win for feminism, but then I remember that it’s largely because I’m lazy (too much paperwork to change) and for practical reasons. So much for smugness and feeling superior …

    Also, we’re considering changing both our middle names to some amalgam or even something brand new if/when kids become part of the picture, and have that be their last names. So, if I’m Mariah Jay Something and he’s Mark Kay Else, I’ll become Mariah Newname Something and he’ll be Mark Newname Else, and the kids will be little Jane and John Newname.

    Whaddya think? :)

    • Baconpancakes :

      I like it. How are you going to decide on your new name? I think that would be the hardest part!

  82. I was married a year ago. I changed my last name on the marriage certificate, but nothing else (so far) for many reasons. Didn’t think about hyphenating at the time on the certificate. I’m at attorney and my “brand”/reputation is with my maiden last name (after practicing for 10 years under the maiden name). My husband wants me to change to his which of course is hard to pronounce and spell. I know some people keep their maiden name professionally, but use their married name for everything else which seems like the best option for me, but no one has really been able to explain to me how that works with a bar association when your SSN, license, etc all say your married name and you practice under your maiden name (how do you sign legal docs?). If anyone can explain that or give me some guidance, I would really appreciate it because the bar in my state didn’t even know.

    • In my state (Virginia), as long as you don’t change your name with the Supreme Court, you can change it on your drivers license/SSN/everything else and keep practicing under your maiden name (and use that name on pleadings, etc.).

    • I’ve always thought that for someone keeping their name for work and changing it for personal life, it would be easier to legally keep your name so that work, SS card, taxes, bar membership, court admissions, etc. can all be in your legal name, which isn’t changing. Then in your personal life, just use your husband’s name: introduce yourself with it, have a facebook/email account with that name, sign that name on church and other organization registries, etc. That always seemed to me to be the easier way to go about having a different personal and professional name. Although, of course, many actors and writers do it the other way, but I imagine all of their agents, attorneys, and other work contacts all know their legal name; it’s just the public in general who knows them by their stage/pen name.

  83. I took my husband’s last name in order to dump a first name that I hated and NEVER used. It was so exhausting telling people that I didn’t actually go by my first name every time I scheduled an appointment or started a new class, etc. The process was much more involved and required going to probate court to have it changed instead of just the social security office, but I could not be happier. Don’t ever make your kids’ middle name their preferred name!

    • So to clarify, I’m now FormerMiddleName MaidenName HusbandsLastName and FormerFirstName is gone.

  84. My husband and I both changed our names when we got married. We married in our early 30s, so our careers were already established, and we both use our middle initials, since we have common last names.

    We each took the other’s last name and added it to our middle name. So legally I am Jane Lynn Doe Jones he became John Charles Jones Doe. Professionally, I’m still Jane L. Jones.

    My mother doesn’t understand it at all (we’re southern, so I should have taken his name “properly”), but it was the best solution for us. I don’t feel like I gave up my identity or the privilege of sharing a new one with my husband.

  85. I have almost an opposite situation re: parents. I changed to ex-DH’s name, and kept it after divorce, since that was my professional identity. On several occasions when traveling with my parents, when I’ve made the reservations (to enjoy loyalty program perks), my parents get addressed as Mr./Mrs. ex-DH’s Last name!

  86. I think it’s a 100% personal decision, and that no third party has the standing to criticize whatever decision is made. I married in my 40’s, and as a result, I had been known professionally by maiden name for a long time. There were no children to factor into the decision nor any expected ones either. I am probably best defined as a quietly militant feminist. After marrying, I did not change my legal name, so medical, financial, government and professional records are BirthName. (I really do hate that term – “maiden name”.) In professional and social settings, I am usually known by Husband’sLastName, although I had birth name for so long that I am often addressed byBirthName. I cheerfully answer to both. For whatever reason, or perhaps no reason, I do not feel an overwhelming urge to use one over the other. I am who I am, whatever the name attached to me. After reading so many excellent comments on this post about others’ preferences, I feel a bit odd that I don’t have a personal preference, but I just don’t.

  87. It never even occurred to me to change my name!

  88. Lyra Silvertongue :

    I am First Middle BirthLast-HusbandLast. We got married young (22 and 23 years old, respectively) bit I was already in law school. Some of my considerations were:

    1) My birth name is MY name. 22 years might be relatively young, but it’s many years with this identity. I’m sure there’s a lot of feminism wrapped up in that, but I don’t feel the need to discuss it here.

    2) I still live in my hometown. Very active in my community. As a new lawyer, I feel a little name recognition couldn’t hurt. My husband, on the other hand, is from overseas.

    3) I’m the last person in my family with my last name (Dad was only son in his generation and he just had one daughter). Adds some significance IMO.

    4) I’m an only child (see above) and very close with my parents. His family are really awful to us and are verbally/emotionally abusive. Yeah, no thanks, I didn’t feel comfortable becoming one of “his last name”s in their eyes.

    5) Ease. I have a short first name, and each of our last names is just one syllable. My hyphenated surname is only eight letters. Easy to pronounce, fairly common.

    I don’t regret hyphenating, though it is occasionally tricky. Spelling over the phone, picking up Rxs, push-back from the DMV. Most people have been fine about it. The most hurtful comment came from my best friend in law school, who stated that she felt that women who hyphenate “already have one foot out the door” of their marriage. Fortunately, neither my husband nor I feel that way!

  89. My husband probably would have been willing to entertain a combined/new/hyphenated name if not for the fact that he had a fair amount of brand established under his name already, and it didn’t feel worth it to either of us to risk losing that. So we both kept our names (a feminist way to frame it.)

    I would also be interested in talking about the Kat/Katherine distinction in a future post. Calling me “Katherine” means you’re a telemarketer, I just feel like that is not my name. As an academic, I even publish under “Kate Last” because I like the idea of people being able to immediately connect me to my published work when they meet me. But I’m intrigued by people who go back and forth more fluidly.

  90. No thanks... :

    Recently married and I didn’t change my name. The ‘official’ reasons were 1) I like my last name, 2) I never wanted/planned to change it, 3) it ‘goes’ with my ethnic first name, 4) I have several degrees in that name, 5) I don’t want to deal with the paperwork.

    There is another reason — my husband was married before and she did change her name — and then, to his annoyance, after they divorced hyphenated with her maiden so she’d have the same name as their child. She dropped his name when she married again. Even though it wasn’t her last name anymore, we don’t live anywhere near her, and it’s a common last name, I didn’t want to me the second Mrs. Hislastname. I admit it’s petty and never plan on telling husband.

    BTW, I think she was totally justified in keeping it after they divorced.

    Husband is still a bit whiney that I didn’t change my name — under the guise that he’s ‘joking’ — which is annoying, even though I ignore it. He knew early on in our relationship I wasn’t changing, too late to complain now!

  91. [FirstName] [MaidenName][HusbandsName] :

    While I can’t say that I’m a big fan of my husband’s last name, I took it because it was important to him that I do so, I didn’t HATE the name, and with a kid on the way I think it’s better for our family to have one common identity. I am, however, attached to my maiden name, it is a part of my professional identity (I’ve been a practicing lawyer for 8 years), so I compromised – I got rid of my TWO original middle names and took my maiden name as my middle name, and I now force people to refer to me as the entire damn thing, even though it’s not hyphenated.

    My husband’s name is a fairly common American name, like Johnson, whereas my name is Scottish and a little more unique (I think), and it flows with my name.

    At the end of the day, do whatever works for you.

  92. Nervous 2L :

    My partner and I have agreed: boys will take his last name, girls will take mine. That way, we can have both of our names carried on (if we have both kids) and are creating a matrilinear and a patrilinear culture, which I think is way better than doing one or the other. This way, nobody sacrifices their last name!

  93. I’m glad I lucked out in the name game. My maiden name is the same as Mr.’s surname. It’s an extremely common surname. So common that his mother’s maiden name is also the same as his father’s surname. Our families have traced the family trees for dozens of generations and haven’t found any overlaps or crossings.

    Mr. jokes that we should hyphenate our surnames for our kids so that their surname is, for example, Same-Same or Same^2 (that would be Same-squared). Our friends joke that we should give one child the first name of Same so that his/her full name would be Same Same or Same Same-Same. Or that I should “take” his name so that my name is [First] Same Same or Same-Same. Yeah, somehow our friends never get tired of playing with this.

  94. Corporate Fledgling :

    One thing I’ve noticed here is how regional/cultural the choice is.

    I live in Wisconsin, so people have the expectation that I will take my husband’s name. However, my boyfriend and I both come from multiple cultures, and we are both trying to make a name for ourselves. We probably won’t get married until we’re well into our thirties, and by that point, our whole lives’ work will be tied to our pre-marital names. So professionally, we’ll probably both keep our names.

    To add a level of complexity, I have a second legal name. My mother is from an old samurai family, and her family name is my surname on my Japanese passport. (There is no way I’m letting go of that legacy.) Traditionally, Japanese women typically take their husband’s names, but in the event that a woman has no brothers, her husband may take her name. My parents actually did this- in official Japanese family records, my father took my mother’s family name.

    My boyfriend has a similar background. We both have mothers with strong (may I say cool?) warrior ancestry, and we are not at all close to our fathers’ families. Therefore, I see us keeping our father’s surnames for professional cohesion, and we’ll probably name our children after their grandmothers.

    Minor note- MyFirst FathersLast sound very nice, unique, and professional together. MyFirst BoyfriendsLast doesn’t sound at all special or memorable. Love my boyfriend, but I don’t love his father’s family like I love my mother’s family.

  95. Didn’t change my name when I got married because my name was my name and is my name. Its on my birth certificate. I felt rebellious about women-as-chattle in history (and, in some places, present culture). Nobody owns me. Also, I had been practicing in Big Law for 15 years already and it seemed professionally counterproductive to change names all of a sudden. The issue of kids eventually came up – and we used his name because that signaled him as the biological father. Until/unless some convenient new system is widely adopted in a country like ours, I guess we’ll continue to have the naming convention debate.

  96. I realize that I’m about to invite a huge flamewar, but I’m anonymous here. And even though I can’t really defend my point of view as fair or right, I think a lot of people secretly agree with what I’m about to say. And I think that people who are considering changing their names should know that some people feel this way, even though most people say “whatever you want is awesome because feminism is about choices!”

    I secretly on some visceral level lose respect for women who change their names when they get married. I try really hard as a feminist who believes in freedom of choice not to feel this way, but I can’t help it. Because taking their husbands’ names makes me think that they think that they’ve changed as people now that they’re married, and I’m sort of creeped out by the idea of defining yourself in relation to another person so thoroughly that it subsumes your own identity. I know I’m not supposed to think that, but I do, and none of the arguments that people have presented to me in numerous iterations of this debate have changed my gut-level response of disdain for women who are so happy to subsume themselves in that way.

    I’m a woman, and I’m not married. I sort of dislike my name (it’s boring, sounds clunky to my ear, and reminds me of family members I don’t much like). That said, I wouldn’t change it if I got married. It’s my name, and I’ve considered changing it, but ultimately, it’s mine, and absent some huge change in who I am as a person (like, a gender change, for example), it’s who I am.

    “I don’t like my name” is a copout. If you really didn’t like your name, you would have changed it before now. “I want my whole family to have the same last name” is a copout unless you’ve equally considered your husband taking your name. And using different names in different contexts is just confusing. Again, I really try not to feel that way, and I feel guilty about feeling that way, but in all honesty, and here in the warmth of internet anonymity, I just don’t buy those reasons, and they seem to me like fig leaves for “women change their names when they get married so that they can honor their husbands,” or some other patriarchal BS.

    I’m going to continue to work hard to be nonjudgmental and accepting and tolerant of other people’s choices. But I think that deep down, I’m always going to viscerally react by thinking of women who take their husband’s name to be a little weaker and a little less independent. I try really hard not to let it affect how I treat people, though.

    (And everything I said above is many, many times more true of women who use “Mrs.” Again, I know I’m being a judgmental bitch, but women who go by Mrs. always strike me as either uptight or weak.)

    • I agree with you on some level; it does cause a visceral reaction in me. But I personally want to change my last name so we have the same last name, and to me that’s an acceptable reason.

      I don’t particularly like my last name other than its indication of my ethnicity, and going up the family tree on both sides, we don’t have a whole lot of good options. I understand we can go with something completely different and out of the blue, but 1) it’s much more of a hassle legally and financially and 2) we both like his last name (other than the punctuation thing mentioned in my other comment).

      I am not a fan of the Mrs. HisFirst HisLast thing, though.

    • Anonymous :

      The thing is, though, EVERYONE is secretly judging everyone for whatever choice they did or didn’t make. I judge women who kept their names. I know I am and was judged for changing mine.

      And we wonder why women don’t actually get anything accomplished in this world — maybe it’s because people are running around thinking about the importance of their last name too much. (See what I did there? I judged you.)

      Sigh.

  97. When I got married I dropped my middle name (which I never cared for), made my maiden name my middle name, and took my husband’s last name. My full legal name now is First/Maiden/Married Last. I have it on my business cards, email, etc. It is a mouthful but it was important for me to keep my maiden name in there.

  98. Somewhat related question.. has anyone had to deal with changing to a new name that has punctuation (other than hyphenating HisLast-MyLast)? For example, if new last name would be St.John – which even his family doesn’t agree on how to write it out, whether it’s St. John or St.John, or when you can’t have periods, StJohn versus St John. It causes problems with things like voter registration rolls, and he often gets mail addressed to HisFirst John or even John HisFirst. However, he is reluctant to change it even to a last name further up in the family tree, especially because it’ll more of a legal hassle for him than it will be for me.

    (More related to this thread: Only my last name shows that my parents are immigrants, and it’s what’s on my diploma and my bar certificates. I do want to take his name, and I don’t want to hyphenate, so I plan on making my maiden my second middle (First Middle MaidenMiddle HisLast) so I don’t lose all semblance of ethnic name and name recognition in networking circles. But it’s just this last bit that’s throwing me for a loop!)

  99. I have to make the name decision soon and really don’t know what to do. I always thought I would change my name. Until I got engaged, and realized that (shallow alert) I don’t like my FH’s last name. It is not as nice as my last name. I used to be happy to ditch mine, because I imagined upgrading to a new classier last name that sounded amazing with my first name. But his is bad. FH doesn’t care either way, and I am early in my career so I don’t think it would be much problem to switch. I just feel like such a mean person not taking his name solely because it doesn’t sound nice.

    Also, my 0.02 on the not keeping your maiden name “for the kids” – so outrageous. I know so many people who have switched for that reason only. If people stopped doing that, it would be more common to have parents with two different last names and people would be used to it, therefore, no inconvenience to the kids. I find it hard to believe in this day and age (and 5 years from now when these people have kids ready to go to school) that people would be so shocked to see a mother and father having two different lastnames. Just my thoughts.

  100. I’m surprised so many women take their husband’s last name. It’s always seemed so strange to me which is why I kept my last name.

  101. I wonder how other cultures and civilizations manage this?

    Surely a new set of standards could be concocted to respect our current culture (or perhaps ideal culture). Perhaps both spouse take each other’s last names as their own middle name? Jane Smith marrying Juan Gomez would become Jane Gomez Smith and Juan Smith Gomez. Girl children could be given their names in the same order as their mother and boy children could be given their names in the same order as their father (or vice versa). When children grew up they would loose their middle name and it would be replaced with their spouses last name. Both the matrilineal and patrilineal lines would be continued (although not both in all children, but that gets impossible pretty quickly anyway). Or some other system.

  102. There was just an interesting piece 0n this topic on the Ms. Magazine Blog as well: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/09/10/my-feminist-name-quandary/

    Some of the comments are just as interesting as the article itself.

  103. I have relatively common, easy to pronounce Anglo last name, and my husband has a relatively easy to pronounce Irish last name. I didn’t change my name when I got married because I didn’t really see any need to. I’d always been Kate W. and I saw no reason to change. It didn’t make us any less married. Now we have two kids, both with the husband’s last name (I got the middle names) and it is no problem to make reservations, doctor’s appointments, school registrations, etc. just because I have a different last name. Try this out, “Hello, this is Kate Mylastname and I’m making an appointment for my daughter, Nuni Herlastname.” Nobody has questioned whether or not my familial relationships are in fact, the relationships I say they are in 10+ years of marriage and 6 years of parenting. And when I make reservations, I usually make them in my name because I’m making the reservations – same for him, if he’s doing it (i.e., never). Occasionally I get called Mrs. Hislastname and occasionally he gets called Mr. Mylastname and we just deal, or correct if necessary.

  104. girl in the stix :

    What are same-sex couples doing?

  105. My parents had the same last name so neither changed. My husband & I kept our respective monosyllabic last names – his Euro, mine Asian. We decided on boys as Firstname myname hisname and girls as Firstname hisname myname. It turns out we have boys, we moved to his country which requires a common family name, and his society assumes I took his name (except at my workplace). My only consolation is that having kids with myname as a middle name reduces the suspicion of border officials.

  106. Stephanie :

    I was pretty neutral on the whole thing, but leaned a little toward keeping my name, so I did. The reasoning went something like, it’s the name on the door and on the diploma, so it stays. Also, I’m an only child, and my husband’s family is sort of annoying– his dad even got mad about it, storming away from the table shouting “a woman changes her name, it’s JUST WHAT SHE DOES!!!!” So damned if I was gonna do it then. But afterwards, it was just sort of there– didn’t think a lot about it, sometimes even regretted it because it’s hard with the kids, people get confused at hotel check in, etc. Until one day over a decade later when some of my friend’s husbands would get sort of weird about it, even make jokes, and a number of people insist on calling me by husband’s last name even though they know it’s not my name. So at that point, it’s like, WTF? Now I do have a bug up my ass about it, and I’ve swung back around to being proud to have kept my name, just like I’m proud to be one of the only working professional moms in our circle of friends.

    • I have one degree under my maiden name, and two under my married name. On my later diplomas, I list all four of my names and it makes me exceedingly proud :-)

      Whatever you use professionally, you aren’t obligated to use personally. Your personal/SSI/IRS name only drives your IDs, credit cards, and tax returns. My employer doesn’t care that I use Maidenname Lastname together while my payroll records show Lastname. I could call myself Dorkus and they wouldn’t care either.

  107. I’m coming late to this. I have strong feelings on this issue and didn’t want to skip commenting b/c I’m a day behind.

    It’s a common practice for women to change their names when they marry. Individual women can make individual choices to follow the practice or not. This practice is only expected of women and can cause complications for them that most men don’t have to deal with. To me, that makes the practice of women changing their names a women-unfriendly tradition.

    Women list many different reasons why they chose to follow the tradition in their specific circumstances – it’s romantic, he wanted me to, I want our family to have all the same last name, my kids will be given his name and I want to have the same last name as my kids, I liked his name better, I want to get rid of my difficult to spell/pronounce last name, I didn’t care that much and my mom/his mom/my husband did, etc.

    Women also list many different reasons why they chose to deviate from tradition and not change their last name – I like my name better, I’m professionally established/it will hurt my career to change my name, I want to keep the same name that my kids have, I don’t want to have an “ethnic” name that doesn’t match my ethnicity, I’ve had this name my whole life and I don’t see the point of changing it now, it was a pain changing my name for my 1st marriage and divorce so I’ll skip the name change this time around, I’m a feminist who doesn’t want to perpetrate patriarchy, etc.

    I believe that those reasons for choosing to follow or not follow tradition are honest and valid. I do not believe that women are deluding themselves or unthinking if they make a different choice than me (or the same choice for different reasons). I do however believe that when a large quantity of women make the traditional choice to change their names, that continues the women-unfriendly practice of changing names upon marriage rather than letting the practice die out from lack of use. That makes me sad.

  108. I never planned to change my last name until a couple years after we got married. My husband has done so much for me and it meant a lot to him for me to change it. I have a non English maiden name which is two words with a space in the middle (5 letters first word and 10 letters second word), so I took his last name with only 4 letters!! But what I did was that, I legally changed my name so I took the first portion of my maiden name as my middle name.

    At the end of the name, it is just a name and does not identify who you are…

  109. LFT: Is a name non-identifying for men or just for women? Why would your husband want you to change your name if it is “just a name”?

  110. Choosing to change your name is un-feminist. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you get kicked out of the feminism club. I think it is hypocritical to assert that changing your name is a choice you made in a vacuum, because you didn’t. But we all do things and say things from time to time that are un-feminist. I don’t judge my mom for changing her name because that is just what you did back then. I don’t judge any of you for changing your name if that is what you wanted. I only judge you (quietly, to myself) if you claim it was a choice you made freely without any influence from our patriarchal naming system.

    • It’s worth noting that the definition of feminism (and there are a few) is that it is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Note that nothing is said about those rights and opportunities existing in a vacuum or not. Men and women both have the choice of changing their names in the US, as many times as they like. There is no law that says women must change their names. Because our cultural history is that the father’s name is passed to the child doesn’t mean that any of this is “un-feminist.” Your name at birth is chosen for you; your name at marriage is one you choose. Equal rights and opportunities for both, equally impacted by our own societal norms.

  111. Green Lamp :

    Holy five pages of comments Batman!

  112. When I got married, my decision was somewhat made for me by the IRS. I wanted to be Julia Bennett Santorelli and keep my middle name in there somewhere. Essentially, not “drop” a name but also not use my middle name. I didn’t want to hyphenate either, but I wanted to take my husband’s name because a. I wanted to be Mrs. and b. it would be so much easier for the kids.

    However, when I went to file our first joint return (sigh – big day for a tax accountant like me!), there was only one spot if we were sharing a last name. So I changed my name with SSI and the IRS to be Firstname Middle Maidenname (as a second middle), Marriedname. 15 years later (wow), I’m happy with my decision. 1. It DOES make it much easier for my kids. If I hyphenated and my husband hyphenated (friends of ours did this) then what would our kids do when they married? 2. I LIKE being Mrs. Santorelli (not my real name, but right ethnicity). 3. Professionally, I go by Julia Bennett Santorelli and it totally works, except that my married last name gets misspelled and mispronounced all of the time. and lastly 4. My husband is never referred to as Mr. Bennett. Which I’m not sure he’d mind, as he’s a good egg, but I would. Because that’s my dad!!

    Do what you like, but do plan ahead on how difficult it will be if you have a different name from your kids. I like being Mr. & Mrs. I like that we are the Santorelli family. And I like that I still have the heritage from my maiden name along with my reputation in my professional name.

    One last perk of changing your name? I don’t pay to have our phone number unlisted. Instead I am listed as J. Bennett with no address, and since socially (and with the kids’ school) we use our married name, it means I am relatively anonymous at no charge.

    • Oh, and another perk of having one name professionally and one name socially (which my aunt did back in the 50’s before it was cool because she was a doctor and her husband was a doctor and they didn’t want to get mixed up)…. anonymity (somewhat). I have a friend who is a very famous athlete and sportscaster, and socially she uses Mrs. Marriedname while professionally she is Firstname Maidenname. No one bugs her kids at school, her personal life is relatively anonymous, and yet she can capitalize on her well-earned fame.

  113. SoCalTraffic :

    In my family a woman’s maiden name is passed on to her oldest daughter as a middle name. At this point that’s the only thing I’m sure about doing – oldest daughter will be first mymaiden hislast and all kids will have his last name.

    Honestly, I’ll probably keep my birth name because I’m too lazy to go through all the paperwork rather than because of any sort of feminist stance.

  114. I moved my maiden name to be a second middle name, and I go professionally by Molly Maiden Married. I graduated law school with my maiden name, so a lot of people know me with that name, but I got married just a few months after graduation and before starting work, so a lot of people now know me with my married name. Using both seemed to be the best way to bridge that gap.

  115. Alternatives to ‘maiden name’ from my fantastically feminist mom – ‘natal name’ or ‘given name’, to describe the name you were born with (and FWIW my mom took my dad’s last name when they were married).

    My dad’s family tradition going back several generations is to give middle names to sons, but not to daughters, so a daughter could take her husband’s last name and keep her own as a middle name. I think it takes a lot of angst out of the decision. My sister recently married and took her husband’s last name, but felt like her name was still First Last – she just added First Last Smith. I’ll probably keep my name as is, for professional reasons, but either way I’d be honoring my family’s traditions.

  116. I’m stuck in name-limbo. I joke that I don’t even know my own name.

    I’ve been married nearly two years. I always wanted to get rid of my maiden name (like Kat’s, mine is a hard to spell and pronounce German last name). My husband has a simple (but not common) last name, and it sounds good with my first name. I was happy to take his name!

    We got caught up in applying for visas, and to meet a deadline we had to send off my passport before I had a chance to get my name changed. To get my passport re-issued in my married name with my new visa would cost a ton, and cause even more hassle since we decided to move back to the USA and I had to apply for a visa for my husband!

    In the UK, I could call myself whatever I wanted, as long as I didn’t do so fraudulently. So that was cool. I was Catherine MarriedName over there. But back here in the USA, I never know if I should use Catherine MaidenName, or Catherine MarriedName. So I’m stuck with a legal name of Catherine MaidenName, but I tell people on Facebook and casually that my name is Catherine MarriedName.

    We moved back to my small, midwestern town in the USA. Advantages to keeping MaidenName are that everyone knows my MaidenName name, and that it carries some influence. Disadvantages are that people here are really judgmental about me not using MarriedName, and that it’s a pain to explain to everyone why I have two names. People write me checks using my non-legal MarriedName… ugh, it’s a mess. Roll on 2015, when I can renew my passport.

  117. Icelandsoon :

    So here is my dilemma. I see a lot of you saying you picked his name because you liked it better. What if your maiden name is just objectively better? My fiancee has a super common generic last name and I cringe to take it. He knows I like mine better, but he is also defensive about his name. I dont want to essentially hurt his feelings because mine is objectively better (thats just luck!) Does that make sense?

    He is defensive about his family too. Have to admit I dont really want to share their name either. Mine is just so good! But it is not necessarily feminism or professional concerns that have me wanting to keep it – I am kind of a bully on a playground with this one.

    I will still give my kids his last name – ugh – but they are getting really arefully chosen first names to balance it out!

  118. This is fascinating. I got married at 21. I did not even question taking his name at that time. It’s just what you did. Plus, I wasn’t all that attached to my maiden name. Thereafter, I graduated from undergrad…then went to law school. I have been in practice now for 8 years, in a mid-size community. In that time, I divorced my first husband. I gave no consideration to going back to my maiden name. I hadn’t been that name in so long! Plus, my ex-husband moved away and I was the only person with my last name in town! Most importantly, my reputation within the legal community is tied to my name. Since then, I remarried. I did not take his name. And my husband doesn’t particularly care either way. The only consequence of this arrangement? He gets called “Mr. FirstHusbandLastName” a lot. ;)

  119. I changed to my husband’s short, easy to spell last name from a Mittel-European hard to spell and say last name because I wanted to do so. Any one who thinks I’m a tool of the patriarchy is in for a rude surprise.

  120. This is a very relevant discussion to me since I’m getting married in 3 weeks (!!!). I have to admit I don’t feel strongly about it one way or another, so I’m just going to keep my own name. It seems like a lot less hassle, and my name is a lot easier to spell and pronounce. Both our names were North Americanized to some degree (mine more than his) in the 20th century so it’s not like there is an extensive legacy to uphold for either of us.

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