Why I Didn’t Take My Husband’s Last Name

by Brandi on October 25, 2012

in Girl Talk, Sex & Relationships

I had the idea of how I wanted an ideal marriage to go long before I ever conceded that I myself might get married one day. I didn’t want kids, and on most days still don’t. I wanted a husband who took as much responsibility for the house as I did. I never would tolerate being called “woman,” and I for sure would never change my last name.

So when I met a man who loved the fact that I was strong-willed and progressive, I scooped him up fast and we got married earlier than anyone (us included) would ever have imagined.

From the start, I made it abundantly clear that I would not take his name. First off, I don’t love his last name for me. I love it on him as it suits him and is indicative of his extremely Irish heritage, but it’s just not a great name for me. For me to give up my last name, a name I adore, a name that suits me and has in a weird way been a sort of identity to me, outside of being a mere moniker, I would have to love how his name sounds with mine, and frankly, I don’t. Second, my name is extremely important to me. I grew up in a tight family. Our name has always been a badge of pride and I didn’t intend to give it up for a name I had very little connection to. Lastly, my husband is so supportive and has always made it clear that he was happy with whatever name I chose to have.

It’s not that I don’t respect every woman’s choice to do what she will with her name once she is married, but for me it was a no-brainer. I had no intention of becoming my husband’s “property.” (Cue the eye-rolls because I know, it’s so clichéd feminist and hippy-liberal.) It’s also just how I feel about it.

Plus, having different names means that in the areas that are important to us we can stand on our own. I am published academically under my maiden name and can write online without implicating him. He has built a successful career and presence through his own name that is not easily traced to me. We come together through our relationship and commitment, which are much deeper than eight letters can ever describe.

Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. Since we did marry so young I got the side-eye many a time when people realized I didn’t change my name. Once my husband was sick and called his doctor from work for a prescription. I went to pick it up for him and the nurse almost would not give it to me as I didn’t have the same last name as my husband, never mind that we had the same address on our ID cards. We’ve had more than one landlord ask that just one of us go on the lease because boyfriends and girlfriends often break up causing a lot of issues, and trying to do anything with a bill in just one of our names is usually a headache. Some people even refuse to acknowledge that I didn’t change my name and have continually called me by my husband’s name.

Minor annoyances aside, I can’t imagine being called anything else, and I think my husband would find it funny for me to share his name. There was a time where we thought we would both change our last names to something new but decided, paperwork in hand on the way to the courthouse, that it wasn’t in the cards for us, we were both so attached to our given names. In the end, we each have the name we have chosen to have and we feel really good about those decisions. It’s certainly not the choice most make but I recently came across a website that shares the stories of those who for one reason or another stray from tradition when it comes to married names. I love reading it and seeing a whole array of perspectives on what is really in a name. What’s in my name is family and history and loyalty and understanding.

So I’m really curious, did/will you change your last name or not? Can you ever see yourself doing it differently?

Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.

Tawny October 25, 2012 at 7:51 am

I changed my name. My maiden name is now my middle. I love sharing a name with my husband. We refer to ourselves as Team (Insert Last Name). Now that we are expecting a little one we have never felt more complete.

daisy October 25, 2012 at 8:41 am

I hyphenated. After being so long with my last name, I didn’t really want to go through all of the rigamarole. So, I still get to keep my last name (and our daughters) as well as having his last name. We now have 3 different last names in our house and it works well for us.

Chelsea October 25, 2012 at 9:02 am

Writing” “It’s not that I don’t respect every woman’s choice to do what she will with her name once she is married…” and following that with “I had no intention of becoming my husband’s ‘property’” in the next sentence seems a little bit contradictory, no? I took my husband’s name and am in no way his “property.” His name sounds better, and I was never fond of my own. Easy as pie!

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

I truly didn’t mean it that way. I meant to convey that choosing to take or not take a name is intensely personal and I, in no way, judge any choice that is made because I couldn’t possibly be aware of all the reasons behind it. But for me, I just have a really hard time looking past the historical fact that once upon a time a woman was forced to change her name because she was her husband’s property. And I just hate that in an era where a good majority of people want relationships to be fully equal the woman is still the person who is expected to give up her name. These are just my feelings, I don’t expect that other women feel the same because everyone has different opinions and I respect each and every one of them.

Chelsea October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

Maybe it depends on culture or geographic location or something I’m not thinking of, but it seems to me that many women today realize that they *aren’t* expected to change their names. We have a choice! I always get a little sad when others (not you!) look down their noses at women who *decide* to change their name at marriage–isn’t exercising our right of choice something to be proud that we’ve accomplished? Anyway. Food for thought :)

Britannia October 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

You’re absolutely right that historically a woman had to take her husband’s name because she became his property upon their wedding day; however, prior to that she had been given her father’s name and hence she had been considered to be her father’s property. A woman was always a man’s property. If she was unmarried and her father died, she would become the property of a brother or an uncle. This patriarchial set-up is clearly no longer the case but it is still reflected in our society today. For example, when a father walks his daughter down the aisle he’s no longer literally “giving her away” to the bridegroom, he is showing his pride in his daughter and his approval of her choice of marriage partner. Likewise, by taking my husband’s name, I am not submitting to him but honouring an age-old tradition which is no deeper in meaning than when my father “gave me away” to him.

That said, I have still kept my maiden name (hey, another old-fashioned term!) at work. The way I see it is, my husband has absolutely nothing to do with my professional life, whereas when we have children he most emphatically will have plenty to do with them, hence we will all share the same name then.

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Yeah, the father “property” part has always bothered me too, but my father’s last name traces so far back historically and is a real connection to the people who came before me and made me who I am so I am more at peace with it. My husband’s name does the same for him, but not for me and so I don’t feel bound to that name the way I do to my own. And I bucked with tradition as far as the wedding went too. My father did not walk me down the aisle or “give me away”, we eloped! I’ve just never been one to follow the rules ;)

The children thing is the for sure the most difficult part, I’m glad you have it figured out! We are unsure if we will have any, but it does raise a lot of last name questions. Do you hyphenate? Do the second middle name thing? I’m not sure…we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Becky October 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I understand your argument about the past and being property, but the tradition of that isn’t the only reason to change your name. At some point, you have to stop hyphenating names. Or do you truly want people’s legal names to have like 160 names on them?

At some point, you have to choose a name. Or, maybe you won’t, but your child will have to. Will your child choose to keep his/her hyphenated name, or his/her spouse’s? Or will they take one name from each family? And will you be hurt if they don’t choose yours? Or will they choose one name from the four? Will every child have to choose two hyphenated names from the four available? And NO CHILD will then have a family name that matches his/her parents? Ever? That sounds pretty crappy to me. In the end, it makes sense for the family to accept a family name.

How you think it should work? Not just thinking about yourself, but everyone. Should two kids with hyphenated names give their children 4 hyphenated last names?

Brita October 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

I never thought your argument was a valid one. I don’t know you, so I offer you the benefit of the doubt that your consideration of future kids is genuine.

However, in my own life, I have been bombarded with that argument from people who all thought I was crazy for wanting to hyphenate or to keep my maiden name. The suggestion “Your future husband could just take your name” was NEVER offered. No, the question was always “What if your future daughter wants to hyphenate her last name? If you hyphenate, you’re removing her choice of last name!” It’s a circular argument. If I sacrificed my devotion to my last name so my future daughter can have the choice to hyphenate, then it would be very likely she would be pressured into sacrificing her maiden name for the same reason.

It’s 2012, not 1950. Some of my girlfriends hate their last names and can’t WAIT for marriage to get rid of them. I’m going to be a bridesmaid in my college roommate’s wedding next spring. She’s as much of a feminist as I am, but she’s never had a strong commitment to her last name whereas her fiancé really wants them to share a name, so she’s taking his. These are totally valid choices, but so is the choice to hyphenate or to keep a maiden name. Any argument to the contrary is just false logic used to manipulate women.

Brandi November 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Thank you for saying this much more articulately than I was able.

I think you nailed it on the head that while, obviously, a man can take his wife’s name it is not expected like it is for a woman. As one of the commenters earlier even stated her husband’s family would have seen it as a slap in the face. A slap in the face for a man to take his wife’s name, but a woman is supposed to do it without a second thought. All I’m here to say is that you do have a choice.

And I made my choice and have never regretted it. If we have children I want them, male or female, to see that you are allowed to question the status quo and do what feels best for you and your situation.

Erica October 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

My last name was so common I was happy to get rid of it. Plus having issues with my family made it that much easier to take his.

Melissa October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

I hyphenated my name to please my husband. He is very traditional and like you, I feel that my name is my identity. To me losing my maiden name felt like a slap in the face to the people who raised me and made me the person I am today.

Brynn October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Amen!! I didn’t change my name either, and it has really raised some questions and odd looks from people around me. Luckily, my husband is SO supportive of it (he assumed the whole time that I would keep my last name, and is very proud to introduce us as Brynn ___ and Kevin ___).

I LOVE my last name – it is very indicative of my Scotch-Irish heritage, and I adore my initials (yup, it’s the little things). Had I taken my husband’s name, I would seriously sound like a Dr. Seuss character. Also, I just wanted to keep my name – I never had the desire to change it.

As for our future children, they will use my husband’s last name as theirs, and my last name will be their second middle name (this is how my husband’s full name is – mom’s maiden name as his second middle name – and he loves that he shares pieces of both parental identities).

I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to people. Sure, we may be nontraditional, but our marriage in general is nontraditional and very egalitarian, which works perfectly for us.

Vera October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

I took my husband’s name, but use my maiden name professionally. I love having his name in my private life. I also like being able to use my maiden name–not only do I not have to change things like business cards and my web address, but the “history” I’ve built under my maiden name is still accessible.

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

I know a few women who’ve chosen this option. I think it’s a great way to honor every part of yourself.

Wendy October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

I didn’t want to change my name. My maiden name was Russian Jewish, parts of my heritage that I deeply identified with. It was a tie to my father (an only child).

Taking my husband’s name was the only thing that my husband fought for. The only thing. He said, “If you’re not taking my name, why get married?” I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with him. But because it was the only deal-breaker for him, I compromised. My slightly unusual & ethnic sounding middle name is now my second middle name. His bland, though funnily spelled last name is now my last name too.

Kristy October 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

To each their own! I changed my last name to my husbands because mine was HORRIBLE, here goes (deep breath)…… Raper, there I said it. Not only do I detest my father and his family but I was stuck with this last name all through school and hearing it called on every roll call every new year and then the teasing, awful! I lived with my Grandmother and Grandfather and I adore their last name and used it as my own on everything that wasn’t official, but we could never afford to do the name change officially.

M October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I didn’t change my name when I got married. My last name is uncommon, it’s indicative of my heritage, it’s who I grew up as, and I’ve published a lot under it. Plus, I felt deep in my gut that I couldn’t change it; I’ve never been a person who has thought it’s “just” a name.

No one has to agree with me, but I do NOT understand the people who continually refuse to call me by the correct name (they’re mostly on my husband’s side). I just don’t answer. :-)

Catherine October 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm

My first marriage, I changed my name to his reluctantly. After our divorce, it was his idea for me to return to my birth name. With my second marriage, however, it wasn’t even a consideration. I’m ok with my professional and social identity to be called Catherine K (birth name) or Catherine C (married name). I haven’t changed my name legally, because of the upcoming election, but plan to do all that sometime next month. I guess that at 38, it isn’t a big deal to me. Hell, I still get mail addressed to me in the name that hasn’t been mine since 2005.

Marian October 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I also had a name change when I got married and would never do it again. It cost me 250.00 to get my name back when my marriage broke up and I lost so much of myself. For me a name is so important. it does identify who I am it is me.

I want the next person to consider taking my name.

Catherine October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

That stinks. It was wrapped into my divorce filing fee. I like my name a lot. This decision just seemed right for me. But like I said, I haven’t made it legal yet!

Rachel October 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

We were both going to hyphenate but thought that our two names hyphenated sounded truly ridiculous together (his name has only one extra letter sound than mine even though it’s spelled totally different – think a hyphenation of two similar words like Toll and Troll and you have exactly the idea)…I ended up changing mine because his father was truly upset (this from a man who never shows much emotion) about the idea of his son giving up his families last name and it ended up being something that wasn’t an important enough battle for us to upset his father that much. We are happy with our decision because our families are very important to us.

Catherine October 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Also, I wanted to hyphenate but when your first name is Catherine followed by a 7 letter birth name + 10 letter married name, it ain’t gonna work.

Lori October 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I am deeply attached to my last name. I never went to the trouble of officially changing my name after marriage, and I am glad I didn’t! Now, I am divorced, but engaged, and he is much older and more traditional than I am. He wants me to take his last name. I asked him about the heritage of his name, and he had no idea! Uh, no thanks. So, here I am. Stubborn as a mule, but my name is my own. I love it. I love its story, its roots, the heritage and pride behind it. It is who I am, and what I identify myself as. I know some women look at it as being “too far in right field”, but, as Popeye said, “I ams what I ams”.

Dac October 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

I agree, Lori. My fiance doesn’t know anything about his family name either. Not where they come from, when they arrived in the US, how long they’ve lived in the area…

I know all of this and more for both my father and mother’s sides. And I take pride in both of those histories.

Dac October 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I don’t plan on changing my last name when my fiance and I get married. My father always instilled a lot of pride in our last name given our family history. Plus, it really is an awesome last name and people compliment me on it all the time.

I think my fiance would prefer I take his…but honestly my first name + his last name = too close to a stripper name for me. I have asked if he would take my last name and he feels that would be even more of a slap in the face to his family. And I just don’t like the idea of hyphenating. So that’s the end of it.

We’ve been living together for 6 years now and we’ve both been called by each others last names, and it really isn’t that big of a deal. I don’t get offended and neither does he.

Becky October 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

That family name could only exist in the first place because other people took it on.

If you have kids, will they take on your name or your fiance’s name? Will you be the only one in the family with a different name? How will that make you feel? Probably not like a family. I think it might be nicer for any future kids for you to instill a sense of pride in family, like your father instilled in you. Instead, you risk them not having a united family name at all.

Dac October 26, 2012 at 10:40 am

We actually are unable to have children of our own. However, a name does not make a family. Love is what makes a family.

Brandi October 26, 2012 at 10:47 am

I could not agree more.

Becky October 26, 2012 at 11:58 am

If a family name doesn’t mean anything, then why were you reluctant to give yours up and ultimately decided not to do so?

Amanda October 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Probably not like a family? Really? I did not take my husband’s last name but my kids have his name and our foster children have a third name. Surprisingly, I have never NOT felt like a family.

Amanda October 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Probably not like a family? Really? I did not take my husband’s last name but my kids have his name and our foster children have a third name. Suprisingly, I have never NOT felt like a family.

Jen October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I changed my last name. I moved my maiden name to my middle name and dropped the middle name I had always despised. It was an easy decision for me because his last name is easy to spell, easy to pronounce and is not the euphemism for a sex act which my maiden name was. And since I taught high school at the time getting rid of Ms. Head was fine by me.

Candice October 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I did a boatload of reading about this before I got married b/c I flat out did not want to change my name by my husband was seriously hurt by the idea that I might not take his. In reading around, I found that women who changed their name gave one of three reasons: 1) they loved the idea of sharing a name with their husband/it was romantic that he was “giving” them his name; 2) they had issues with the dads/families and were happy to be rid of their maiden name; or 3) their maiden name was long/awkward/hard to spell, etc and they were happy to have something simpler.

I am a declared feminist with a short and easy maiden name and I adore my dad – I also love my middle name and didn’t want to drop/change it… so what I did was add my husband’s last name to mine, no hyphen (aesthetically, I don’t like the hyphen) but in some places (like the DMV and my bank) it’s hyphenated b/c the computer has no way to put spaces in last names (RIDICULOUS). Most people in my family (both sides, annoyingly) just used my husband’s last name. Most people at my job just use my maiden name. Some days I wish I stuck to my guns and just kept mine alone, but I mind less now, especially that we have a son and now I share this name with him.

Kate October 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

A year-and-a-half ago, we got married on our 10th anniversary.
The original plan was to find a new last name together, but the paperwork, expense, extreme hassle of name-changing stopped that idea pretty quick. Neither of us were attached to our respective last names, nor did either of us care for the other’s last name (he would have had less of a problem taking my last name than I would have taking his [mostly due to family issues]).
We each kept our names, remain happily childless-by-choice, and with the exception of all the irritants listed in the article–including my mother-in-law sending me a card addressed as Mrs. His-Last-Name!!!–we have no problems.
We do use a combination of our last names for fun purposes (signs in the house/return address labels for friends & family/blog/etsy shop/etc.) and that works out well too.

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Haha, we have a funny little name we use together too. Just a smashed version of both of our last names.

Sherry Carr-Smith October 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I’m the only grandchild of my amazing grandfather to have his last name, so I didn’t want to give it up when I married. I have hyphenated both times I’ve gotten married. A year ago, my husband adopted my oldest son, but I didn’t want our to lose his biological father’s name, so we hyphenated his last name as well. So, now everyone in our home has Smith attached in some way.

Barefoot Rose October 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I kept my name and so did my sister. My story sounds an awful lot like yours. I love my name. I came into self acceptance under that name and it felt wrong to give it away. Had I never accepted myself (The Greatest Love of All), I wouldn’t have been able to love my husband. My name was the name given to me on my day of birth. People used to ask me what name My kids will use. I said, “Whatever name we give them.” we used just my husbands name because it felt right. Their name was a gift from us. I had people ask what the big deal was about changing my name, it’s JUST a name. So, I ask them why they don’t pick a new first name too.

Ashley M October 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I’ve decided long ago I won’t be changing my name when I am married. My fiance doesn’t care either, so that’s a win. I love my last name as is, and yes it’s a part of me that I do not wish to change. Also has to do with the fact that I am proud to carry my father’s last name. :) Our daughter, however, has her fathers last name. That was an easy decision.

Kayt October 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I changed mine. I knew we were having kids (I was actually five months pregnant at the ceremony) and it was really important to me to be “The H Family” instead of having different ones. My husband is the only boy, and I have no brothers either. Our compromise was for me to keep my maiden name as a second middle name. If we have another son, his middle name will be my maiden name.

KristenS October 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I love reading all the reasons different women chose what to do with their last names. It shows just how much freedom we truly do have nowadays, compared to how it used to be.

Admittedly, though, I did chuckle a little at the “property” part (I still love you, you know that!), because I very happily took my husband’s last name, and I’ve never felt that made me his property by any means. I’m pretty traditional when it comes to the roles I want myself and my husband to play in our own marriage (absolutely no offense or judgement mean to anyone who feels differently! that was just our agreement from wayyy back when we started getting serious), and I even had our fairly progressive minister put the traditional “honor and obey my husband” part back in our vows – totally *my* choice.

My name is now Kristen (given middle name) Schinsky; I got rid of my very plain, bland, Welsh maiden name. The “plain, bland” part helped make the decision, too. I’m just happy we all have the option of doing what we want with our last names!

Also (I know this is getting long, sorry), I once heard a woman on the radio who was so AGAINST being labeled as her husband’s “property” by taking his last name that she was trying to force *him* to take *hers.* I thought it was hilarious when she totally denied it was the same thing as him forcing her to take his…and he was just fighting to keep his own name, not trying to get her to take his!

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Yeah, I didn’t articulate that quite the way I wanted. I, of course, was talking speaking from a historical perspective.

I think it’s fantastic that you thought about it and did exactly what you wanted. That’s the only point I’m trying to make, that women should know they can think deeper about it and don’t have to follow the norms if that isn’t what feels comfortable to them.

Crystal October 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I most certainly will take my husband’s last name. I live in a household where my mother has a different last name from my brother, my sister and myself. It causes confusion. I will keep my maiden name as a second middle name…it’ll be a long ass name, but as the three of us are the only 3 left with our family name, I don’t want to give it up.

Galena October 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I took my husband’s name because I didn’t want to keep my father’s name. We have a poor relationship and I’d rather have the name of the man I choose to spend my life with.

Diana W. October 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I believe when you get married it is two individuals coming together with the intention to start a new family and stay married. In my opinion, families share the same last name. My husband feels the same way so NOT taking his name was never an issue and was never discussed. I am not generally old fashioned so please don’t bother blasting my hair back. I realize the world is a different place and the “traditional” family is so many different mixtures and the new normal and I am certainly supportive of that. I still like having a family name we all share and glad that is what we did.

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

You won’t receive any blow-back here. I think the idea of being one unit with your spouse and children and sharing a name is really beautiful and I respect it tremendously, but it happens not to be the choice I made. (Not the not being a unit part but not sharing a name part ;) ) I just don’t tend to agree that my husband and I are not family because we don’t share the same name.

Becky October 26, 2012 at 9:24 am

In your post, you said you didn’t want to change your name because it reflects your family and the people you grew up with. Now, you say you disagree that you and your husband “are not family because we don’t share the same name.”

You can’t have it both ways. Either the name means a family or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then you should have had no problem taking on any name. If it does, then you clearly chose your past family over creating an adult marriage/family of your own.

It seems you held on to your family name to remain in your childhood family–not create a new family identity with your husband (even if it’s just the two of you).

I don’t think it has to be the woman to take on the man’s name. He can take on hers. But I think sharing a family name shows you’re coming together as a family instead of being just two adults in a relationship.

Chrissy October 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I’m glad you wrote this, Brandi. It has made me think about what I want. I have always assumed that I would take my husband’s last name, because I love the thought of “Mrs. So-and so” in an old-time romance kind of way. However, you know that my last name is unique. When you google it I’m related to all of the results. My dad’s side of the family is small, too. If we went the traditional route with only guys carrying the name on, it would just be my nephew and cousin to do so. So while I like the idea of taking my husband’s last name (especially if it was with my current guy, since I joke that they are like the Kennedy’s of Michigan), I almost feel like it’s my duty to carry on my father’s legacy.
This is something I’ll have to consider more in the future.

Sarah October 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I didn’t want to change my name, I just couldn’t imagine calling myself anything else. My husband felt differently. He was disappointed and hurt when I told him that I had no intention of taking his name. As a compromise I went hyphenated. I haven’t actually used my hyphenated name, and I don’t think I will.

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I’m curious….you haven’t used your portion of the hyphen or your husband’s?

SwingCheese October 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm

My husband didn’t mind one way or the other. He even said he’d consider taking my name, if it meant that much to me. I’m an only child and I adore my father, but I didn’t feel one way or the other about the name. I took my husband’s last name because it was a tie to the traditions of my family. Also, he’s “the second”, so it would have been weird for him to lose that part of his identity. And our names, when hyphenated, just sounded like a law firm. I also chose to put my married name on my Master’s diploma. We had been together for four and a half years before we got married and I would never have made it through graduate school if it hadn’t been for his support. But that’s me. I have several friends who have chosen differently, and I certainly don’t consider them “less married”.

I have a friend who didn’t have a good relationship with her father, and only liked part of her last name. She was only too willing to lose it when she got married, but she didn’t want to take her husband’s last name, either. Her solution was to keep the part of her last name that she liked and ditch the rest. There are many, many ways to make a marriage pact :)

Brandi October 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm

There certainly are!

Val P. October 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

I took The Hub’s name. I have no connection to my father or his last name, it truly means nothing to me.

Jamie October 26, 2012 at 8:52 am

I am struggling with this right now. We have just returned from our honeymoon. Right now I am just using First Maiden Married, Hillary Rodham Clinton-style, but I can already see it becoming a PITA. My husband does not have any strong opinion on it either way – some of my friends have mentioned that they had trouble keeping a maiden name once they had children, and the two different last names was a hassle they just gave up on. We’ll see!

Becky October 26, 2012 at 9:17 am

I don’t think the woman necessarily needs to take her husband’s name, but I do think a married couple should share a last name. She could take his, he could take hers, the could create an entirely new one, whatever.

The writer here says she is proud of where she came from and her family name. She wants to keep that identity. Well, when you get married, that becomes your new family. That family deserves a family name, too. In this case, she said she might have kids. If she don’t they deserve to be the “Smith” family, just like the writer got to be? Instead, they’d be “Smith,” “Jones,” and “Smith-Jones.”

When you resist creating a new family identity with your marriage, then I don’t know if you’re actually ready to be married. This writer still sees the family she grew up with as her family. Instead, she and her husband are a new family, who have united the family she grew up with and the family he grew up with. A family name reflects that. She and her husband are basically saying they’d rather continue seeing the family they grew up with as their family instead of growing up and creating a new one of their own. That’s not marriage. That’s two separate individuals in a committed relationship.

Brandi October 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

I don’t think it would surprise anyone to hear that I disagree that my husband and I are not a part of a marriage, or ready to be married, simply because we don’t share the same legal name. We have been married for 7 years in February and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows us in life who would say anything other than we have created a wonderful little family (including 4 fur-kids ;) ). And we do have a “family name.” We have a goofy version of our names smashed together that much of our family and friends jokingly call us and we use when we want to be “Team [smooshed-together-name].” But we would never actually use it because it’s a ridiculous, fake name.

The fact of the matter is I have a strong connection to my (recent and distant) past through my name and so does he. But my history is not his and his is not mine. That doesn’t make us any less of a family together because we each decided to honor that through our name choices. And children are by no means a certainty in our life but if we do have them I can easily see us hyphenating their names or making one of our names the second middle name. I would want our children to have a deep understanding of each side of their family and a name that lashes us all together. And then, much like us, when they are old enough they can decide to take whatever name they wish.

I firmly believe you can’t make a family just by assigning people the same name. My husband and I are no less of a family because we don’t share the same legal name. We are bound together by much more than that. And unlike my husband, I don’t have a great way to honor my ancestors other than through my name, so I choose to do it that way. And it’s ok if we don’t see eye to eye, everyone’s different and I personally like it that way!

Chrissy October 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

You say that starting a new family means uniting the family she grew up with and the family he grew up with. That is exactly what she is doing. They are taking each of their halves and making it a whole. They don’t have to wash one name out, or wash both out together. You say that she may not be ready to get married “when you resist creating a new family identity with your marriage”. The point is that she IS creating a new family identity. They are not just assuming the other’s name.

Just because someone has respect for their family/ancestor’s name, does not mean that they don’t have a real marriage. They have a mutual respect for each other’s decision to keep their family name. They know vowing to spend the rest of their lives together extends beyond having one name on the mailbox. That is a real marriage. Not just sharing a string of letters.

Jessica October 26, 2012 at 9:38 am

I used to feel very strongly about this subject. I am the oldest of three girls, this means my father would have no one to carry his last name. Although I have like 10 guy cousins in my family and they are all carrying down our last name, I still felt very strongly about keeping my last name. I like the way it sounds, it just fits me perfectly. Years have passed, I’m no longer a teen, and most importantly the relationship I have with my father has pretty much diminished. We can’t talk or see each other without getting into a huge argument. So now I really don’t know if I would keep his last name if I ever get married. Also, my mom took my father’s last name when she got married and I remember I used to criticize her for it when I was a teen..I couldn’t believe she dropped her maiden name when that was her identity for so long. Point is things happen, people change, situations change. I now have mixed feelings about this subject, but you do have a good point. I agree with everything you said.

Becky October 26, 2012 at 11:56 am

I think it also serves a practical purpose. If your mom hadn’t changed her name, what would yours have been? A hyphenated version of your parents’ names? Right now, you say that you might struggle to give up your family name. But what if it had never matched your dad’s to begin with, or your mom’s? If you got married, would then then add an additional hyphenated name at the end?

I think all that hyphenated stuff can quickly become ridiculous. At some point, then, family names would either not matter because no one in the family would share a name (father and mother are different, and their kids’ names are different), or people would have to make a choice about what name to take. I think that’s more realistic. At some point, you have to choose a family name. I don’t care if it’s the wife’s name or the husband’s name or whatever, but I do think they should all share a family name.

Jessica October 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My sisters and I have both of our parents last name. In total we have four “names” -first name, middle name, dad’s last name, and mom’s maiden name. In my culture this happens a lot or maybe it’s just where my parents are from. My whole family (cousins, uncles, aunts -extended family) use this method. On our passport and state id’s the only last name that shows is the father’s though. If I were to have kids I don’t know if I would do the same. The interesting part is that if you don’t have both your parents last names, it gives the impression that you’re the child of a single parent and sadly, some people still look down upon that. I think this is another main reason why people make sure to put both last names on the birth certificate.

Erin October 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

I didn’t really want to take my husband’s name, but he felt SO strongly about it and INSISTED, so finally I gave in. I’m now wishing I hadn’t. I always liked my maiden name and have always been proud of my family, and I liked sharing a name with them, and in order to take his name a had to give that up. (Oh, I kept it as my middle name, but that’s not the same, and as a result I lost the middle name my parents gave me.)

So I took his name, because he was all like, “I’m really proud to be a Cameron, and now you’re part of our family and so I really want you to share my last name.” But he and his parents have had a huge falling out with the rest of his family, and he’s never gotten along with his own parents, so now I’m stuck with this name.

And he and I aren’t doing so well, either, so who knows? If we divorce, I can get my old name back. But I’ve already started to submit/publish under my married name (I write fiction), and create a public persona — so, even if I take my old name back, I’m still stuck with the married name on a professional level.

DeeDee October 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I have no intention of changing my name if I get married. Though I don’t believe my name has any deep significance for who I am as a person, I’ve always like my name. It’s also extremely rare; only 52 people share it. I certainly don’t want to go from my surname to a nondescript one shared by thousands of people.

In addition, I resent the fact that as a woman, I’m automatically expected to be the one to give up my name. Sure, there are husbands who take their wife’s name, but they are a minority. As are women who keep their surnames after getting married. For me, it’s a matter of principle. Even if changing your surname to your husband’s no longer means that you’re his property, it’s not a tradition I want to carry on.

And if I want to have children, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Maybe we’ll hyphenate. Maybe we’ll give the girls my name and the boys his name. Maybe we’ll alternate. We won’t be any less of a family if we don’t all share the same surname. Anyone who thinks so seriously needs to reevaluate their definition of what makes a family.

As for giving my children the same connection to a family name as I have… Well, I don’t love my surname for the connection because it ties me to my parents or siblings. I love my surname because it has always been my surname.

Jen October 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

If I choose to marry (and I would like to, one day in the long future, marry my current partner), I will most definitely be keeping my own name. Although most of the pro-name-keeping arguments stated here apply to me to one degree or another, the main feeling in me is: it’s my name.

Yes, I’d be choosing to commit to spend my life with someone else. Why does that mean I should have to change my name – particularly when he wouldn’t be expected to? That doesn’t work for me. For me, marriage is a committed relationship between two individuals, not some kind of Borg coalition; individuality is good! And I wouldn’t be marrying any man who wanted me to subsume my identity into his, which is how I personally feel about it. He’s choosing to marry me; his name, his choice. I’m choosing to marry him; my name, my choice. If we’re equals going into this thing, why would one of our names automatically take precedence just because of historical gender roles which shouldn’t apply today if we don’t want them to? Likewise, anybody who knew that my name remained as it has always been and insisted on trying to call my by his anyway would be a disrespectful person I wouldn’t want to know. Not that simple, in reality, I know, but I feel strongly that even if you would do it differently, you respect what people want for themselves where legal and reasonable.

Plus, it’d give me a great way to screen nonsense cold-calls. If someone calls asking for “Mrs. Hislastname” I’ll know automatically that they aren’t someone with any business calling for me, as there will be no such person in the house, and if they were someone I wanted or needed to speak to, they would know that they should be asking for “Ms. Mylastname”.

And as for “all families should share a single last name”… well, Iceland seems to manage okay, doesn’t it? Although it’s usually patronymic, which sort of mildly exasperates me in the way such things do, I particularly admire the system in which a person is identified by their first name and then identified as the son or daughter of both their parents. For example, I would be Jen daughter of (my mum) daughter of (my dad); my partner would be (partner) son of (his dad) son of (his mum); any children of ours (we can’t have them, but hypothetically) would be (name) daughter of Jen daughter of (partner) or (name) son of (partner) son of Jen. Obviously in English that’s extremely unwieldy, but I love the principle of it and I wish there was a way to do that as elegantly in English as it’s done in Icelandic.

K October 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I have two lastnames; my mother’s name is bland and I don’t think my father’s name sounds pretty, although I’m used to it. I always looked forward to the idea of taking another person’s name. But, my fiance’s last name is similarly bland and he doesn’t like it because it came from a stepfather he had for a few years, when he was originally given his mother’s maiden name. He’s considered changing his name back, but I can’t really drop just my dad’s name without hurting his feelings. So we may take an entirely new last name together, but if we keep the ones we have, we will probably name our children after my mother.

(Incidentally, my last name is different from my mother’s, which is different from my stepdad and sister’s, which is different from my step-aunt who lived with us for a while, which is different from her daughter, who was named after her own father. There was never any problem with having a lot of last names in the family, just an occasional laugh.)

Jamie October 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

I was known under my maiden name, plus I hated the way his name sounds with mine. In addition, his parents are both J._, which my name would have been. AND they BOTH have bad credit. I can’t have that association in my field. So I never changed my name till I was pregnant with our first child. He would get so upset the ultrasound would say baby M instead of baby H. I finally got around to doing it and I just added his last name to my whole legal name. So it’s Jamie Michell M_ H_. No hyphen either. I’m fine with it as at work I am still recognized by my maiden name and I can go by Mrs H when I need to (school and physician issues with my son are the best example). He is still irked I didn’t just take his name, but he’s been told I just don’t care :-) . The no hyphen thing makes it super fun finding my name at any dr’s office for me, but I’ve just told people to look me up under my birthday to solve the issue. I think the issue of changing names is something everything woman needs to decide for herself and everyone else just needs to respect it. A name does not make/break a marriage.

Brita October 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

My boyfriend and I plan on getting married within a few years. He has known since the beginning of our relationship that I will keep my maiden name, and he’s totally supportive. His family won’t object either–his brother’s wife kept her maiden name.

I’ve always liked the way my name sounds. My last name isn’t super-unique, but I can trace my dad’s family line back to when they first moved to our hometown over 100 years ago. There’s even a street in my town named after my great-grandfather.

The compromise with children is pretty straightforward. I have a very unique first name that can be traced back on my mother’s side 100+ years to when her family first emigrated from Norway to the States. We will name our daughter Brita. All our children will take my boyfriend’s (future husband’s) last name. We have several family names to consider for our son’s name. (Yes, we’ll have one of each because I want one pregnancy and one adoption).

Brandi November 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm

You and I sound like kindred spirits!

Liz October 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm

My dad died when I was 4 and my mom re-married when I was 8. My stepdad wanted to adopt us but we chose not to because both my sister and I felt we wanted to keep that connection to our dad, who we never really got a chance to know. My (step)dad totally got that and it was never an issue. However, we then had a different last name than both of our parents growing up and it was very confusing. I hated that I’d have to always explain in school why my mom and dad had a different name.

Therefore, when I got married, I had to face another decision of changing my name. It wasn’t hard for me to decide that I wanted us to have the same last name. I didn’t want my kids to ever have to explain why either of their parents had a different last name. Of course, today’s family is totally different than it was when I was growing up and I think the majority of kids have parent’s with different last names. Even so, I wanted simplicity for my kids after a lifetime of having the last name be complicated and confusing.

Steve October 31, 2012 at 10:30 pm

My fiancee and I are going through this debate right now. I do not consider myself traditional by any standards but wish that she should take my last name. She says that she wants her name to continue, however, I am the only person to carry on my last name. This has also led to a disagreement on how the children will be named. She said she doesn’t want to be traditional but have a modern feel to the family. I brought up the fact that I will not wear a wedding band (hate rings, watched, necklaces etc), which caused her to flip out…why…because that is what is supposed to happen to show commitment towards one another she says. I say it is a double standard…help!

Brita November 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

Sounds like it’s time for some major compromise! Obviously only y’all can figure out what works best for y’all, but here are some ideas.

1) Stop pressuring her to take your last name, or agree for BOTH of you to hyphenate.
2) The kids can either have a hyphenated version of your names, or their middle name is her last name and they share your last name.
3) What if y’all exchange rings as part of the service, but you don’t wear it after your wedding day? Maybe wear it on your anniversary each year? My dad rarely wears his wedding band, but he still has one. My mom doesn’t care.

The most important thing for BOTH of you to remember is to respect the other’s viewpoint and not force the other to do something unwanted.

Good luck!

Steve November 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Thanks for the reply! To reply:

1. I have given her zero pressure just shared my desire and let it go. It came back up with the children discussion and hyphenating wont work. I already have a hyphenated middle name with my middle name being hyphenated with my mother’s maiden name.

2. She wants a boy with her father’s last name to please him. I really want a boy with my last name to carry on the name. Once again, hyphenation wont please her, her father or me.

3. I guess we could but it seems like a big waste of money.

I guess we will see how it all ends!

Brita November 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

It sounds like maybe she needs to compromise a bit more here. I don’t know what y’all’s last names are, but some make for really cool first names. I would love to have a son with my mom’s maiden name as his first name. Or if she’s really set on pleasing her father, maybe his first name could be y’all’s son’s first name. Especially since you’re the only one carrying your family name–it’s logical for y’all’s son to take your family name.

It sounds like she’s lucky to have you. It’s great how much thought you’re putting into all this.

Brandi November 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm

I agree with Brita that you seem like quite the guy for even thinking about this so much! I also think that using a family name as a first name can be a great way to carry on, if it works for a first name of course. In fact, if we ever have children I have a couple of forgotten family names I would love to use as first and middle names. Maybe that could work as a compromise?

As for rings, my band was only about $50 and my husband’s was less than $300 so you can really do it without too much expense. And it would be very special to have a day where you break them out. Or you could do what my husband and I did when we were first married and very poor (the bands came later), get ring tattoos! Always on your finger but doesn’t feel bulky ;)

Jen November 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I must say that to me it sounds a bit like six of one and half a dozen of the other. You want her to take your name, she doesn’t want to take your name. She wants you to wear a ring, you don’t want to wear a ring. Communication and compromise are, as I’m sure you’re aware, going to be key, on both your parts.

I won’t advise you on what to do, because from what you say it’s clear that your views and mine are not in happy agreement with one another. What it would feel right for me to tell you would most likely be something you would not consider reasonable. What I will say is that it’s my view that it’s neither a ring nor a name that makes a marriage, but the love and quality of the two people within it. That being so, I wish you and your fiancée both the best of luck in reaching a peaceful compromise for the two of you, whatever that may be, and increased understanding and happiness together in reaching it.

sarah November 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm

i kept my name, pretty much always knew i would. i’m fine with random people calling me mrs “hislastname” but get sooo ticked off at people who know me doing it – for example my best mate from uni sent wedding invites to mr & mrs “his first inital” “his last name” oh my goodness i got mad! who calls a women by her husbands first inital?
my husbands mother actually asked if i was allowed to keep my own name!
my husband doesn’t care at all, he knew who i was/what i was like well before we married :) but he does love to playfully tease me when i get called my his lastname
we will use his lastname for our children, it would be to long for them to have both, and i’m fine with them having their dad’s name, just like i do.
i had a different name to my mum due to my parents spliting up and it never worried me.

Brandi November 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Oh my gosh, it is my BIGGEST pet peeve when someone introduces a woman as Mrs. [his first name + his last name]. You are completely canceling out the woman when you do that. I mean I don’t know of a single wife you takes her husband’s first name as well as his last. I know I’m probably just hyper-sensitive about this but I just think it’s so rude.

Lisa November 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I COMPLETELY AGREE!!! It’s like he’s marrying himself.

Will Lopez November 3, 2012 at 10:09 am

You will always be the property of a man. I laugh when feminists refuse to change to their husbands last name, while forgetting that they still obtain the name of their fathers. Or maintain their mothers last name even though their name came from their father….you will always be the property of a man.

Tidanna November 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

Wow. Spoken like a true chauvinistic pig.

Brita November 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Trolls have no lives. Moving on.

Lisa November 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Doesn’t mean she has to take the name of another man…
And who says the male bloodlines are the only ones to exist?

Ray November 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

I’m from a very “modern” city in Asia and this was a topic I’d never even considered till I moved out “West”. Where I come from, women don’t change their names. My mum didn’t, my aunties didn’t, my friends’ mothers didn’t and when the time comes I won’t.

I have no issues with my kids not having my last name, frankly it’s long and rather cumbersome. And while I adore my immediate family, my extended family on my dad’s side, the ones I share my name with, I honestly am not fond of. For me it’s just my sense of identity. I’m proud of who I am and where I’ve come from. I don’t see the need or have the desire to change any of that.

But at the same time I think it is a personal choice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking your husband’s name although hyphenating has always turned me off – again that has to do with the fact that my name is long enough on it’s own without adding something behind it.

I think the fact that we’re able to have this discussion at all is a major win for us girls!

Lisa November 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I honestly do not want to give up my name because it makes me feel close to my family. If I were to give it up, I’d feel separated. Of course he finds MAJOR offence to this and he says it seems like I don’t love him. But if he doesn’t want to change his name then why should I?? Just because I’m the woman?? Please…
This isn’t the middle ages.

Melissa December 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I kept my name (got married in 2010). I cannot believe how many people in his family have an issue with this! Kind of sad….

Melissa December 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

And for the record, my husband did not care that I kept my name. His family sure does though….

Kate December 27, 2012 at 1:35 am

My boyfriend and I plan on getting married maybe three or four years down the road, but we are pretty set on it happening. So we have discussed on a few occasions what to do about last names.

I consider myself a strong feminist. At first I had said I want to keep my last name, which he is completely cool with. Then I asked what to do about kids. Our names would sound horrible hyphenated, there is no way to stick them together, and I believe that children should at least have the last name of their mother because in the event of a divorce, the children will almost undoubtedly be left under her custody. He said why not give one child my last name and one his (we want two). It just seemed like a troublesome solution, and we left the conversation be for a few months.

Just the other night, we discussed it again, and he *gasp* actually agreed to take my last name. I would never demand it from him because he would never demand it of me, but he admitted he wasn’t all that attached to his last name. I kind of feel guilty for some reason. I know his family will hate the idea, too, but I really like the idea of us sharing a last name. I should be happy about it but I have mixed feelings now.

Brandi December 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Wow, no matter what you decide I think it’s pretty phenomenal to have someone open to such a nontraditional arrangement. The family thing is hard, I know there are people on both sides of our life who still roll their eyes and think I’m little more than stubborn for not doing what they think is best. And I totally understand the feelings of guilt. Despite my firm beliefs I did feel a little guilty for not being the quiet and subservient “wife” for a while, but knowing my husband and I chose what is best for us ultimately squelched any of those feelings. Being true to yourselves will give you much longer lasting peace than following any pre-ordained “rules.”

Good luck with any decision and more than anything, trust your gut.

Ashley February 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

I am on the verge of marriage, and my last name has been a very big stress as our event draws near. I have been planning to hyphenate since I was in high school, because, like you, I have a very strong connection to my name and my family history. My Dad is the only son of his father, and he’s had only daughters. I don’t want to lose my last name (as common as it may be) just because society tells me I have to take my husband’s name (which is also quite common). I have expressed wanting to hyphenate to my family and they gave me the eye roll and told me to stop being weird. So I asked my fiance if he would take my name. He said “There’s no way that’s going to happen.” So I said “If you won’t take my name then why should I take yours?” We are very fair and treat each other as equals in every way we can, but that seemed a bit harsh to me. One thing I keep seeing from women that do take their husband’s names is that it creates a stronger connection; and heaven knows I want us to be as close as we can be, but I really don’t want to take his last name.

Melissa February 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

Ashley, as someone who did not take my husband’s last name, I can honestly say I’ve never felt closer to him. I like my name so I kept it, he didn’t have any problem with it. I’m sorry you are having to deal with it. It’s frustrating for sure. His family wasn’t happy about me not taking the name, but I wasn’t marrying them, I was marrying my husband.

Brandi February 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

I agree with Melissa, the family’s feelings can be the hardest part. But I also agree that I don’t think my husband and I have lost any connection by not having the same name. In fact, I think it’s sort of bonded us further as we had to come together on our own because we couldn’t rely on the superficiality of a name holding us together.

I don’t envy your decision! Since my husband and I eloped we didn’t get the pre-wedding side eye and only had to deal with it once our names were firmly decided. Perhaps you guys could take a unique approach. You could both hyphenate legally but still use your birth last names informally? That way you would have the same last name and each of you would be taking on a bit of each other while keeping yourselves? Or you each could add the other’s last name as a second middle? That again wouldn’t be used in every day life.

No matter what I hope you can figure out something that works for you both and leaves you both feeling satisfied. Best of luck!

Nepenthe March 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

““There’s no way that’s going to happen.” So I said “If you won’t take my name then why should I take yours?””

Yes. If he’s not willing, at least in a hypothetical, to take your name, why should you be willing to take his?

Your name is your name. It’s not your father’s. It’s not your grandfather’s. It’s *yours.*

I hate this idea we have that men somehow own their names (when they, too, are named after their fathers) but women’s names are effectively “on loan” until they get married and find a new name.

“One thing I keep seeing from women that do take their husband’s names is that it creates a stronger connection;”

I’m sure it does, especially since society constantly reinforces the idea that married people should share a name and that it should be the man’s name.

We don’t live or make choices in a vacuum.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been with my husband for 10 years, married for two. I did not change my name. (Why would I? It’s my name.) And I feel just as close to him/as strong a connection as ever.

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