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poisonedantidote's avatar

Marriage: How do names work?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) November 26th, 2012

I am currently engaged to be married, and I have just realized I have absolutely no idea how the whole names thing works. Maybe it is because it works differently here in Spain to the UK, and as those are the two cultures I know best, there is some confusion.

When a couple gets married, I know that there is something that happens with family names, they change or mix some how.

How do names change when there is a marriage?

Is it optional? are there alternative versions?

How do name changes affect any future children?

Is it possible to share names, rather than anyone lose a name?

What are all the options and alternatives?

I know this is probably a silly question, and the answer is probably obvious, but I am confused by it all. I know my English mother lost her last name and had it replaced with that of my English father, but in Spain it seems to work differently, as my friend has the surnames of both his father and mother, while I only have my father’s surname.

Thanks.

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19 Answers

whitenoise's avatar

Nowadays, in The Netherlands, you officially keep the name that you have been born with.
In your passport, you can choose to have a reference to being married and to whom you are. Your family name, however, will always be the one you were born under.

You would be “John Smith, ev Jones” and “Sarah Jones, ev Smith” (ev is a Dutch abbreviation of ‘married to”.)

Marriage does give one the right to use any combination of your family names, as your new ‘family name’. You can call yourself “Sarah Smith”, “Sarah Smith Jones”, “or Sarah Jones” or “Sarah Jones Smith”.

For your kids, you can choose the family name of either the mother or the father. This choice can only be made once, though… consecutive children will get the same family name as the first born within the same marriage.

But this is the situation in The Netherlands and that doesn’t help you much, I guess.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@whitenoise It still helps, as I really have no idea about any of it. We do like to travel, who knows, maybe we will end up getting married in the Netherlands, we do plan to have a vacation there in about a years time.

I have been reading about it, and how it works in Spain, and I am still none the wiser. Spanish people have 2 surnames, I only have one, as does my girlfriend, so I don’t even know how it would work after having read about it.

poisonedantidote's avatar

The more I read the more confusing it all gets.

According to a legal act I just read, a child in Spain may not be given the same name as a brother, unless the brother has died. This is odd, as I know some twins called pep and pep.

Jeruba's avatar

Many U.S. laws and customs are based on those of England. Traditionally the woman takes the man’s surname: Jane Johnson marries John Smith and becomes Jane Smith. The children all have the surname Smith.

For the past several decades in the U.S., though, many people have chosen to follow other practices. Some women keep their maiden names. Some couples hyphenate their two surnames. Some even create a new name that is a blend of two names (for example, Jane Johnson and John Smith become Jane and John Smithson).

I know one couple in which the man took the woman’s surname because she refused to change hers, and he wanted their names to be the same. And I know another where both spouses kept their birth names and they chose a completely other, unrelated surname for their children.

It used to be pretty easy to tell people’s relationships and changes of status from their names. Not any more, and I think that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The down side occurs mostly (it seems to me) when people follow nontraditional naming practices and then expect others to figure it out automatically without being given a clue—and getting indignant when they don’t (“Of course we’re married, and of course this is our son. So what if we have three different names?”).

poisonedantidote's avatar

@Jeruba Yes, I think that is how it works in the UK too. At least now I know how it works in that part of the world.

I will ask for more information when I go to the council today, I have to go there to get some info on marriage papers and dates anyway.

Ideally, we would like my name, plus her surname, plus my surname for me, and for her, her name, my surname and her surname. We will see how that goes. It is not too important I guess.

whitenoise's avatar

From wikipedia

Naming customs practiced in Spain are similar to those in other Spanish-speaking countries.

In Spain, a person’s name consists of a given name (simple or composite) followed by two family names (surnames). The first surname was traditionally the father’s first surname, and the second the mother’s first surname. In Spain this order may now be reversed, according to a new gender equality law.
In most situations, the practice is to use one given name and the first surname only, the full name being used in legal, formal, and documentary matters. For differences in Hispanic American usages, see Hispanic American naming customs.

[...] Traditionally, a person’s first surname is the father’s first surname (apellido paterno), and the second one is the mother’s first surname (apellido materno). [...] From 2013, if the parents of a child are unable to agree on order of surnames, an official decides which is to come first.

For example, if a man named Eduardo Fernández Garrido marries a woman named María Dolores Martínez Ruiz and have a child named Eduardo, there are several legal options, but their child would most usually be known as Eduardo Fernández Martínez.
Each surname can also be composite, the parts usually linked by the preposition de (of) or by a hyphen. For example, a person’s name might be Juan Pablo Fernández de Calderón García-Iglesias, consisting of a forename (Juan Pablo), a paternal surname (Fernández de Calderón) and a maternal surname (García-Iglesias).

Marriage
In Spain, upon marrying, a woman does not change her surname. In some instances, such as high society meetings, and with no legal value, the husband’s surname can be added after the woman’s surnames using the preposition de.

One Leocadia Blanco Álvarez, married to a Pedro Pérez Montilla, may be addressed as Leocadia Blanco de Pérez or as Leocadia Blanco Álvarez de Pérez. This format is not used in everyday settings and has no legal value; it is rarely used and only in situations where the relationship to the husband is being stressed.

ucme's avatar

After a row, spouses may still call each other bitch/prick, but wedded bliss means you soon make up.

whitenoise's avatar

@ucme
As a nice gentleman from rural Texas once told me…
“You can divorce your wife, but she’ll always be your sister.”

ucme's avatar

@whitenoise The UK has a similar locale where this is common practice, it’s called Wales.
“You can divorce your wife, but she’ll always be your sheep!”

Pandora's avatar

I live in the states and when I was getting married I realized that it bugged me to get rid of my last name but I did want to have my husbands name as well because I didn’t want any future children to have a different last name to mine.
So I asked the lady in the court house where I went to sign my marriage license if I could hold onto my maiden name and she said sure. I didn’t have a middle name so it was simple to change my maiden name to a middle name and then add my husbands last name. That is all it took.

marinelife's avatar

It works the way the couple wants. I kept my last name when I married and my husband kept his. We did not have children.

Actually, the plan I like the best is that the couple choose a new name they both take and their children take.

poisonedantidote's avatar

For those who are interested…

After talking to the woman in the registry office, it turns out I don’t have to worry, as names are based on blood lines here. Because of this, our names would not change at all, seeing as we both only have 1 surname. I can not take her name, and she can not take mine, unless one of our parents adopts the other.

As for kids, our kids would get 1 surname, and we would have to decide if it is mine or hers, they can not have both unless they decide to be Spanish nationals.

Easy solution… we will just have our names changed in the UK by a judge after we are married, then have the changes take effect here.

glacial's avatar

@marinelife And so, we would return to a time when “Smith” and “Johnson” had actual meaning. I kind of like that idea, too.

jerv's avatar

@Jeruba GA, but I should add that the US had no requirement that the married surname beats any relationship to the maiden name. I know a couple who changed their name to Pendragon when they took their vows.

gailcalled's avatar

My nephew and his new bride have each kept their own names. What will happen if and when they have a child is unclear.

hearkat's avatar

I am in the USA, and when I married 20+ years ago, I elected to keep my birth name – which was uncommon at that time. I gave my son his father’s last name; which gave us a few inconveniences after I was divorced, but it’s not something I regret.

Nowadays, it seems to be increasingly common for women to keep their birth name, as we typically have built our own educations, careers, and reputations with that name. But it is also pretty fluid, and I see many people with hyphenated names, or some people where both parties changed their surnames to one that they chose together.

downtide's avatar

@poisonedantidote If you want to change your name in the UK after you’re married, that’s very easily done with a Deed Poll. You can either download and print the form yourself and take it to a solicitor to be witnessed (not legally necessary but some organisations such as banks won’t accept it without a solicitor’s signature). Or you can use an online service where they just post the certificate to you already signed. It’s a little more expensive that way but it’s easier – I did it that way when I changed my name; it cost me £35 for 5 notarised certificates.

Legally, in the UK, if the parents have different surnames the child takes the mother’s surname at birth, but again, the deed poll can be used to change the baby’s name to whatever you want.

JLeslie's avatar

Each country has its traditions and laws. Most western developed countries you can choose what you want to do, but it is good to be aware of the local custom. For instance my husband full name is Firstname PaternalSurname Maternal Surname. Whe. He came to America he dropped his mom’s name, but he could have moved it to a middle name if he wanted to keep it in his name. His mother uses her maiden name still on her Mexican passport, but in America only uses her married surname. It’s important to be realistic about traditions and customs in your current country to avoid problems. My MIL had trouble finding a bank account because they wrote her last name as DeMarriedsurname. She never uses de unless she is giving her complete name and it is not part of her last name, it is inbetween her maiden and married name. If she had understood American forms and our customs better that would not have happened.

It’s whatever you want basically, or more importantly probably whatever your spouse will want for her name.

sparrowfeed's avatar

Typically even if the woman doesn’t change her name or chooses to hyphenate it, the man will still require for his children to be brought up under his name.. unless you end up marrying a really accepting and liberal guy. So ya.. it all kind of sucks for females.. STILL.

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