Changing your last name after marriage

Marriage is associated with a lot of things – family, love, children, and weddings, to name a few.  It’s also the moment when many young women leave behind their family name and take on their husband’s family name.  A few years ago, a study presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting found that 70% of Americans believe that a bride should take her husband’s last name.  A little disturbingly, 50% of respondents in the study felt that it should be a legal requirement.

Photo Credit: firemedic58 via Flickr

Photo Credit: firemedic58 via Flickr

Why?

Well, there are some practical reasons I guess:

  • Assigning a single name to the family creates a unified family unit… at least on paper
  • In the past, a name might have been the only indication of paternal identity available (*snicker*)

But supposedly we live in an enlightened age!  It costs about $150 to legally change your last name in Canada.  After the initial paperwork, you still have to follow up and get new copies of all your cards and documents.  It’s not a terribly streamlined process, despite the apparent support for it.  So why do we still insist on making women go through the process and cost of changing their last names?  Simply tradition?

In a recent article in The Atlantic, couples who have gone an alternative route were highlighted.  Some couples featured men who changed their last names, while other couples chose entirely new names.  Some families kept their names and allowed their children to choose which last name they wanted!

I would not change my last name, if I were to get married.  Beyond the initial cost of time and the monetary cost of the required paperwork, there is a very clear cost to you and your personal brand.  I am 28 years old now, not a 20 year old fresh out of school.  I have built up a personal brand – there are published articles with my name on it, industry contacts who know me by name and numerous social networking sites all connected to me.  If I suddenly change my last name, how will these acquaintances find me?  If someone searches me on Google scholar, what happens when they cannot find an article that I claimed I had published?

Readers might recognize the same sentiment that I expressed in my article about why I’m not having children: I  am very resistant to institutions and expectations that erode at who I am.  Like having children, perhaps my opinion has evolved because I have left it too long and my sense of self is more ingrained than it would have been if I were younger.  But at the same time, I think it’s important to value the personal brand that each of us has created over the years.  It is part of our identity.  Marriage isn’t always forever, after all.

Who here has changed their name after marriage?  Who’s planning to change their name after marriage?

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26 Comments

  1. Great reconsiderations of a tricky subject. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. Ahh this is such an interesting topic because it invites so many different opinions. I’m getting married this summer, and I am going to be changing my name. My reasons are 1) I’m still young, at 23, I will continue to build my personal brand with the new last name 2) I’m excited to have the last name as my fiancé and his family, since they are wonderful people and 3) I want us to build a family together that might possibly include children, and if it does, I’ll like the whole family to have the same last name.

    I’m sure lots of people feel differently from me, and this is about the only way I’m traditional, but I think, for me, changing my last name is the right decision.

    • CF says:

      You ARE still young – yikes :) I would tend to agree, at a younger age, you’re still developing “you” so it’s much easier to make changes.

  3. I married last summer – haven’t changed my name and don’t expect to in the future. It’s a hassle and it’s not that important of an issue to myself or my husband. If we have kids, we have talked about giving the kids MY last name. ;-)

  4. eemusings says:

    I’m not – it’s a non negotiable for me, which disappoints T but he understands.

    My post on this is coming up! I wasn’t sure I would blog about it; I’m afraid of the hornet’s nest I might store up, but we’ll see in a couple of weeks.

  5. There are many people who opt not to change their name because of personal branding. I don’t think it’s something that ‘has’ to be done in my opinion. If for example my wife wants to take my last name she can if she doesn’t then so be it. Look at all the celebrities who keep their last names. It’s just a name and it does cost $$ to change that name as well. Everyone wants a fee for their time, postage, photo copies, faxes etc. It’s a personal decision and a great topic. Posted on FB as I want to hear what my fans have to say!

    • CF says:

      Thanks for sharing it! I’m always interested to hear what other people think. It seems to be a topic that some people feel strongly about while others are “meh”.

  6. It was really important to Mr. PoP that I change mine when we got married, so even though I was initially skeptical, I went along with it. But I kindof compromised. I added my maiden name as a second legal middle name. So my name is now legally: First Middle Maiden PoP, where it used to be First Middle Maiden.
    I use all 4 names for everything professional – “First Maiden” or “First PoP” finds me pretty easily on google, so my entire old “brand” and accomplishments are still very easily associated with me since I had a pretty unique name to start with.
    If anything, my “brand” is now more unique since Mr. PoP’s family name is very rare and I’ve never known anyone not related to him with it. Makes it really easy to get prime online usernames!
    From a relationship perspective, it’s nicer than I thought it would be to share names. I don’t have to correct anyone when address me as Mrs. PoP and when we call ourselves Team PoP, we really are a team with one name. It took about 3 years, but I finally feel normal introducing myself as “First PoP” and take pride in it.

    • CF says:

      That’s an interesting compromise. It would not work so well for me, as my last name and Brian’s last name sound ridiculous together :S

      • My name would be too long. Sigh.

        My husband is very adamant of me changing my last name to his. And I come from a culture where you keep your name!
        I have compromised a bit, but haven’t changed all my documents!

  7. Ya if I do choose to change my last name, it won’t be right after the wedding. And I’m still not sure if I will. Decisions, decisions.

  8. Mackenzie says:

    I changed my last name when I got married but it was something I wanted to do. I think it is an individual choice and it’s not for everybody :)

  9. Believe it should be a LEGAL requirement?! *snap*
    FYI, in BC, either spouse can adopt the other’s last name, with the marriage certificate. Yay for equality! The process and sequencing is still annoying though.
    I’m a doppelganger. I have some CCs with my sposue’s last name and a bank account with both names. That makes some things easier to deal with. It’s still an extremely sore point, but my name is my name and that’s that.

    • CF says:

      I get stuff like that confused easily so I’d be really frustrated to have different names on different items! I get weirded out even when a company includes my scarcely used middle name.

  10. A good friend of mine’s last name is Reichelderfer, she’s joked with me the only last name she wouldn’t take is Roethlisberger(and if she did she’d hyphenate).

  11. I’m not planning on getting married anytime soon, although I am at the age where people have already been married for a couple of years and are now procreating. I don’t really like my last name, so I would probably change it. I got made fun of lot for it growing up. I have thought about the possibility of using both last names, but I still like his better than mine. It’s less easy to make fun of, because it’s so hard to pronounce! Haha.

  12. Sarah says:

    The study claiming 50% of people think changing the name should be a legal requirement has some issues – see here: http://boingboing.net/2013/03/08/sloppy-statistics-do-50-of-a.html

    I like my name and it’s a part of my identity. I’m not suddenly changing my identity now that I’m married, so I didn’t think I should have to change my name either. My husband likes his last name so we both kept our own. We’ll deal with kids when it becomes necessary.

    • CF says:

      Ah thanks for pointing that out!

      You guys seem to be taking a sensible approach. No need to worry about something like that just yet.

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