General Question

zannajune's avatar

Should I change my last name when I get married?

Asked by zannajune (1149 points ) July 30th, 2010

I’m getting married this next month and I’m trying to decide if I should change my last name. I want to know what you think are the pros and cons of doing so. I think the reason I feel resistant to it is that it feels so archaic and old fashion for a woman to change her last name to her husband’s.

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53 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

There are many future benefits for you and your husband, if you take his last name. so, why brake tradition?

tranquilsea's avatar

I thought about whether I would change my name a lot before I got married for the reasons you stated. In the end, I did change it mostly due to the fact that there would be no questions of parentage after we had children. I figured I was saving myself hours and hours of explaining.

I thought briefly about hyphenating my last name but as I thought about it I wondered where that would stop. So I choose, Smith-Franklin. My daughter is then stuck with the choice to add to that. I’ve heard that many women who have chosen to hyphenate are encouraging their kids not to for exactly that reason.

tedd's avatar

I’m a liberal guy, but a traditionalist here. I would want my future wife to take my last name. I don’t like the idea of being introduced as Mr and Mrs “Frank” smith, I would want both names said in any instance like that. And if I was marrying an only child or something where the carrying on of her name would be hindered, I would be less bothered by the idea of her keeping her name.

If you want to keep yours, why not sit down and talk with your fiance and ask him if it would bother him.

When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really mean anything. Other than making sure your children (and possibly yourself) don’t have confusing hyphenated names, lol.

Ivy's avatar

Be true to your self and you’ll never regret your decision. I didn’t take my husband’s name for several reasons, not only the ones you stated, but his last name was long and the kind you had to spell for everyone. The bottom line is, I like my name as much as any man has ever liked his, and was taught by my mother that what’s good for the ‘goose’ is good for the ‘gander’. Our two sons went by his last name growing up, but in his senior year, my youngest son had his last name legally changed to mine. One son took his father’s last name and one son took his mother’s, and now there are grandchildren carrying on both names.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I battled with this question. It took me a year after we were married to actually do it, and now I’m glad that I did.

janbb's avatar

I battled with this question nearly 40 years ago. In the end, I took my husband’s last name and use my maiden name as a middle name. I also gave it to my sons as a middle name. Still, I often regret not keeping my own last name as my family of origin is a big part of my identity.

perspicacious's avatar

I wouldn’t even consider not changing my name. I would want my family to have the same name, whether that consisted of only my husband and me, or with children. My daughter did not change her name when she married. Her children have their father’s name. Now, eight years into her profession she is feeling like she wants to change her name. So, she will be known by one name professionally and another personally.

Austinlad's avatar

I never had any problem whatsoever with my former wife using her own name. That’s how she was known in her profession.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s up to you, but as @perspicacious mentioned, you’d want to have the same last name as you kids, I would imagine. In fact, when Rick and I decided to marry, I really wrestled with the dilemma of changing my last name because it wouldn’t be the same as theirs any more. My son put me at ease and said, “You’re changing your name? You mean we can’t call you “Mom” anymore??” :)

Chrissi85's avatar

My fiancĂ© is changing his last name to mine. We have many reasons to do this, alot of them too personal to share on here. Also, we like my last name, whereas his is a bit… well… silly! He suggested it, and I am more than happy. My dad is pleased too, as he never had any boys.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Dying to know what his last name is @Chrissi85!

Chrissi85's avatar

Lets just say it incorporates a word for a certain part of the male anatomy….

UScitizen's avatar

If you believe that your family should appear to the rest of the world as a single indivisible unit, then yes, you should all have the same surname. If this is not a concern of yours, then craft as many different surnames for the members of your family as you wish.

Nullo's avatar

It symbolizes unity. If you happen to like your last name, I suggest that you change it to a middle name.

Likeradar's avatar

@john65pennington Which benefits are those?

Spider's avatar

I agree with @UScitizen. I would also caution against using reasons that are dependent upon future events, or based on the assumption they will happen.

The best advice I can give you echoes @Ivy‘s response. Whatever you choose, make sure you agree with the reasons that support your choice.

@TheOnlyNeffie‘s response might be a good compromise… see what it’s like first to keep your name, and if decide you want to change it after you’re married for a bit, then do so.

To add my personal experience, when I was about to get married, I wanted to keep my own last name. I was the only one left in the family to carry on the last name, and I liked it a good amount more than my fiance’s name. Although I argued that it wasn’t fair that I had to change my name, I liked the idea of sharing a name for the sake of our children. I suggested that we both pick a name we liked and both change our names. (Any guy on here would probably not be surprised that he didn’t go for that option AT ALL.) In the end, since he WOULD NOT back down, and I convinced myself that my name didn’t matter, I agreed to change my last name and we would use my given name as a middle name for our child.

Whenever I signed my “new” name, there was a tinge of resentment that I ignored time and time again. After a couple miscarries, deciding (myself) not to have children, and (therefore) a divorce, I “got my name back” and still feel slightly guilty over how happy I am every time I sign with it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@john65pennington Such as? *jinx @Likeradar, didn’t even see that lol—

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would never take a husband’s last name – I completely disagree with the notion and it seems ridiculous that people do it for ‘tradition’s sake’ – traditions need to mean something, not just ‘because they’re there’. If you don’t like the idea of changing your name, then don’t – it is your name, after all and your kids can have whatever names. My first-born has his bio dad’s last name but it’s not even the last name his dad had his whole life (he chose a new name for himself when we got married and I still didn’t change it to that even though it was a new option). My second born has my husband’s last name because my last name is too long and I don’t like it. I am changing my name currently and my third child (if I ever have one) will have my last name. I don’t think not having the same name makes us any less of a family and if people can’t understand that you’re family just by looking at you and need all of you to have the same name to make their life simple, eff that – I don’t live my life so that others can have an easier time of theirs – that’s bs.

Chrissi85's avatar

I just think it’s nice. A totally personal choice of course, but really not a huge deal. You do what you want. I’d want my family to have the same last name, cos… as I said.. I think it’s nice. That’s it really.

JLeslie's avatar

If you are in America, it is much simpler to take your husbands name, especially if you might have children, because they will use his name most likely, and there is a lot more frustration when you have a different surname than your kids. I am not talking about it being right or wrong, just that there is more frustration. I have relatives and friends who have different names then their kids and they are asked to show documentation every so often, although rare, to prove they are the parent, when they never had that experience when everyone had the same name.

If you keep your maiden name, be prepared that many people will make the assumption you have your husbands name, so don’t get frustrated.

I personally think hyphenating is a bad idea. Most people don’t know how to file you. Say your name is Smith-Jones. Technically you go with the S’s since the hyphen makes your last name into one word so to speak, but many times you will get mixed in with the J’s and do you really want people to have to call you Ms. Smith-Jones. I prefer making your maiden name your middle name as some suggested above. I didn’t do that because my middle name had a special meaning to me, but in some instances it would have been convenient to have my maiden name on ID.

I changed my name, and I really like having the same name as my husband. We are the primary unit. My family, my parents and sister mean just as much to me as my husband, but my husband is the persn I live my life with day in and day out, and the name is kind of symbolic of that I guess. Sometimes I think new couples should create their own name for the new union, rather than taking on the man’s name.

However, I think there is nothing wrong with keeping your name. When I call distant relatives, and old friends I have no talked to in a long time I always use my maiden name, so they know who it is.

I say don’t change right away if you are undecided. When you change your name you have to change everything, it is not very difficult, but it is tedious.
If you change right away and want to change back, you will have to do it all twice. Plus, it is more difficult to go back I think. Not legally difficult, but I would think seems more odd and creates more questions from others.

Nullo's avatar

In Italy, the custom is for the wife to keep her family name, though she won’t pass it on. I always thought that it looked like she was being excluded from her husband’s family, even if it is customary.

Likeradar's avatar

@Nullo Can’t it also be argued that the wife taking her husband’s name make it look like he’s being excluded from her family?

For the record, I’ll probably do the maiden name as middle name thing, or maybe hyphenate.

lapilofu's avatar

I’ve never really thought critically about this. What are the benefits of changing your name to match your partner’s?

@JLeslie What’s frustrating about having a different surname from your children?

Aster's avatar

I think it’s womantic. I wike it.
Anyway, I now like the “hyphenated” deal where you use two names. But it hurts his feelings or something so I’ll back off. If I HATED his last name I’d have a problem. (oh , a doggie sneezed)
I would Never Argue about mundane matters like this or get all huffy and modern about it for petes sake.

JLeslie's avatar

@lapilofu When you have to dig out birth certificates to prove they are your kids, because a school, government agency, or some other institution or corporation requires it. Happened to my girlfriend when she wanted to add her kids to a new healthcare insurance. a few months ago a family member recently had something with the courts, or her car was impounded, or her son’s was impounded, can’t remember, and since her last name was different she had to prove the relationship, cannot remember the exact story.

lapilofu's avatar

@JLeslie Damn. That’s a bummer. The more I think about it, the more I believe that governments and institutions should be more flexible in allowing people to decide and state who is in their family. Of course, that would be a huge financial loss for insurance companies, so I see why they’d want evidence. Still, something’s wrong with the system, huh?

JLeslie's avatar

@lapilofu Well, we could go down a whole tangent of how I want single payer healthcare for all, but I don’t want to hijack the thread. There are times when it is for safety, you want to make sure the child is indeed with its’ mother, but I think required documents should apply in all cases then. An aunt and a child could have the same last name, even two completely unrelated people can have the same last name. People just get thrown when it is not what they are accustomed to. That is why I don’t like the hyphen, it is not common enough. Meanwhile, bunches of moms take on their second husband’s name, and their kids don’t match. You would think people would be used to it by now. And it’s not just kids I would think. If you want to put your husband on your health insurance from work, I wonder if extra documents are asked for if it is different last names?

Jeruba's avatar

I did, even amidst the first sweeping waves of feminism in the U.S. Being the liberal that I was, my choice surprised almost everyone who knew me.

It wasn’t that I was so traditional after all, although I do have plenty of respect for traditions (no conflict in my mind). My maiden name was dull and boring, and my husband’s name was beautiful and rare. Who wouldn’t swap a clod of earth for a faceted ruby? I’ve never been sorry for a minute.

Jude's avatar

If and when I do get married, I’m keeping my last name. And, no hyphenated business either. Personal preference.

YARNLADY's avatar

These days, many people are changing both their last names to something that they like better. Mr E marries Miss S and they become Mr and Mrs U

laureth's avatar

When I got married, I debated this. I saw the act of changing my name (and naming any future kids after him) as a relic, a symbol of being “owned” by the man much as slaves were owned (and took the name of the master). I was repulsed by the idea. Some folks here might not see anything wrong with women being symbolically owned in a patriarchal way, but I do.

With this in mind, I offered my husband my last name, but he was not keen on taking it. (He’s a “the third,” as in “John Q. Public III,” so it’s relevant.) I also offered to make a new name with him like some friends of ours did (for example, “Greenfield” + “Springer” = “Springfield”) but that was a non-starter as well. He was, though, fine with me keeping my own name if that’s what I wanted to do – he had no notions of ownership or patriarchy, he just wanted me as a wife.

In the end, I changed it. Why? It’s kind of fun. Also, I grew up in a harsh family, but his family adores me – I felt a little bit like I was being adopted by people who love me. His name is also more charismatic and ethnic-sounding than mine was – mine was so very American White Bread that it seemed neat to have a name with character. And also, frankly, I really, really love this guy. I could tell it would make him happy, and he did say that it made the relationship feel more permanent, like I planned to stay for a while.

I don’t regret changing it, but my mom hates that I did. Oh well. But I totally support the idea of keeping ones’ own name if these reasons are irrelevant. I didn’t change from tradition, I changed because I wanted the name.

NormanL's avatar

I am a male and I have never thought it right that a woman had to give up her name to get married. My wife did, but I would not. I would join the two.

Linda_Owl's avatar

If you do not want to, then don’t. But you & your husband should decide, before you have children, what the children’s last name will be.

Nullo's avatar

@NormanL What does your maleness have to do with the validity of your opinion?

@Likeradar Not really. For the last umpteen generations, the family name has passed along the male line. Classically, the family is headed by the paterfamilias. The woman leaves her family (classically, also headed by a paterfamilias) and joins that of her husband. This is where we get the bit of the wedding where the bride’s father gives her away.
From this perspective, a woman who refuses her husband’s name appears more to be tied to the family tree instead of being grafted into it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo I think his maleness counts, because it is generally the men who care whether their wife takes their name or not. I know many women who preferred to keep their own name, but it meant so much to their husband they went along with it. I know one who I am shocked did it for her second marriage when I know she hated it the whole time during her first marriage, but when I found out she changed it, and I gave hem my look of surprise, she responded with, “I know, but he just really wanted me to change it.”

I hate that father giving the bride away, and that the mother is seated like a bystander during a marriage ceremony while the father has a more prominent place. I think I have seen in some Christian weddings that when asked both the mother and father respond during the ceremony, would that be correct, or do I remember it wrong? My parents both walked me down the aisle, and my husband was escorted by his parents, my family stood under the chupah with us, including my grandmother.

laureth's avatar

My mom walked me down the aisle, actually, but that’s a different subject.

NormanL's avatar

My family tree will end when my son dies. He has a daughter. I would like her to keep the name going.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Just talk it over with your fiancé, and go with what you feel is best. It can always be changed.

Many countries/cultures have different practices on how names are handled after unions and the birth of their children. I find it quite interesting.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@NormanL Dear Fluther friend: Your family tree will not end when your son dies. Even if your granddaughter does not bear children, or does and has them take on their father’s family name, the great-grandchild is still a part of the tree you branched out from. No matter what the names are, they are still flesh and blood that is connected to you.

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie Well, the two-parent approach isn’t jarring, at least. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a denomination that held that as standard practice.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo I don’t mean to criticise the tradition of the father walking their daughter down the aisle, I might have been too harsh. There is something to tradition, I understand why people follow tradition. My wedding was a religious ceremony, broke the glass and everything. My father and father-in-law both did the blessing over the bread, and I am not religious at all. My dad is an atheist and so am I, but I like the tradition. We also were lifted up in chairs, all of that Jewish stuff.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie They dump you out of the chair?? Wish I could have been there!!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Dump? Lift. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOPmOCld4Gc But I was only up for maybe half a minute and the men at the back of my chair were holding it higher than the front, and I almost slid right off, so maybe practically dumped is accurate LOL.

Ivy's avatar

Out of curiosity I’d like to hear from a few men WHY it’s of such importance to them for their wife to take their last name?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Ivy Possession. Control. (Illusion.)

NormanL's avatar

@Ivy If my wife was a professional; I would want her to either her last name or use both with the hyphen. Otherwise it would be her choice.

Haroldesic's avatar

Life is long. Sometimes people from your past want to find you and see how you are doing or what kind of person you are now that you have grown up. If you change your last name they will not be able to find you and you may miss out on a friendship remade from your childhood.

While I hope that your marriage works, many do not. If this is the case, and you have developed friendships and relationships (professional and personal), a devorce may force you to make this same tuff choice all over again! Do I keep my married name or go back to my original last name?

My wife kept her names (Chinese) and in english I kept mine, but when we are in China; I go by her last name.

My favorite system is the one where all names are added to each aditional generation. This may seem daunting but you simply do not use all of them on a daily basis. Use the first name, then follow with the two last names of the parents. If each parent has more than one last name, just pick the one listed first by each of them. This may seem like too many names but any given person would only use three names (First middle last) the remainder of the names will be kept as record and referenced only when extremely important things in life happen, like, marriage, birth, death, taxes…etc. When you look at the big picture (ten generations later) people will always be able to find friends and family regardless of what gender they are or how many times they were married. In the day of computers this will be no problem… ever.

Nullo's avatar

@Ivy It’s traditional, as I pointed out above.

Ivy's avatar

@Nullo It used to be tradition for people of color to sit at the back of the bus, for children to be seen but not heard, and for females to wear dresses to school and all social functions. Do you stand for all patriarchal, sexist traditions, or just this one?

Nullo's avatar

@Ivy You are suggesting that all tradition is bad. This is not the case.
And FYI, the bus thing was a legal matter, not a traditional one.

Ivy's avatar

@Nullo I’m stating that most tradition serves the patriarchy ~ not a bad thing, certainly, for the patriarchy. And FYI, ‘the bus thing’ ~ commonly known as malignant racism, most certainly was an entrenched tradition in many (most?) regions of the U.S., and just like the tradition of withholding the vote from women, ‘the bus thing’ was made illegal but neither of them changed the traditions of sexism and racism, or racist and sexist traditions.

laureth's avatar

If it weren’t off topic entirely, I’d remind @Nullo that his Classical family with the pater familias also came from a time when Christians met in catacombs and were regularly used as entertainment in the Coliseum. Similarly, the pater familias also held life-and-death power over his family, including the right and responsibility to expose newborn infants to death, especially if they were in any way deformed. One way to view traditions is in the context of their times.

To bring it back to the question at hand, the pater familias was a position deeply entrenched in the Roman tradition. The last vestiges of it reverberate to the present, as @Nullo observed. However, that tradition may be the arse-end of something repugnant to the current culture, and I could see where certain individuals, women especially, would like to see it (as well as the tradition of taking your man-owner’s name) go the way of the dinosaur – along with many other traditions from Rome.

janbb's avatar

If you had asked me in 1974 if this would still be an issue, I would have been shocked.

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