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Options for changing your name when you marry?
August 5, 2014 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I just got engaged (yay!) and now, I have to think about what to do about my name. There are a few options I am considering. I need some pros and cons for each from those who have been down this road...

Some details :)

- It is my first (and hopefully only) time getting married, but not his. He claims to have no preference for whether I change it or not. He has known people who have and people who have not. He says it does not matter to him.

- I am an older person for this (just turned 37) and have obviously had a long time to get used to my present name. But I am not close to my father, and am not particularly attached to the name as an emotional thing.

- I do worry however that given my age, it may be more complex than I think to change my name since I have university degrees and certifications etc. using my present name. I am sure there are mechanisms to handle this sort of thing, but I am not sure how hard that all is.

- On the other hand, there are online relics of my teen years on Usenet (before the Internet Archive made the whole web permanent) that I would not mind being rid of. Nothing bad, but I don't think future employers need to see the Alt.Startrek posts my fourteen-year-old self made. And my present last name is identifiable enough that these things do come up in a web search.

- I am also a teacher and see a lot of kids at school with hyphenated names and mothers with different last names. I know there is nothing wrong with this choice but my emotional gut response is that I would like my possible future children and I to be listed on such lists as "The Newname Family" where it is all the same, rather than the "Oldname-Newname Family" where it is not.

- My mother thinks I should change it since she changed hers (both times). My sister is a feminist of the more strident type (and a daddy's girl) who vehemently feels I should not. My dad doesn't care.

What I have been thinking about doing is changing it socially, but not legally. So my legal name---at the bank, at the doctor, at work, on my taxes etc)---will be JoannaC Oldname, but on social media, the telephone, interacting with family members and childcare providers and so forth, I would be JoannaC Newname and answer to that as well.

But I am not sure if there are hidden pitfalls to this approach or if I could somehow get in trouble for using two names. If I get mail addressed to JoannaC Newname and must show ID to pick it up, will I run into problems if all my ID says Oldname on it? What if I get mail addressed to 'JoannaC Oldname Newname' and show up with ID that just says JoannaC Oldname? Will the post office give it to me? Are there other situations for which I might need ID and it would be a problem to potentially have it only in one name and yet they want the other one?

I am just not sure what I am failing to consider here. It may be easier to just bite the bullet, try and change it and accept that for the next year or so after the wedding, I'll have to carry around proof with me so I can change it at the bank or doctor's office or wherever. Or it may be that it is no trouble at all to keep all my paperwork as it is and just became known as JoannaC Oldname Newname.

Advice?
posted by JoannaC to Human Relations (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can always decide to change your name legally down the road (with perhaps a bit more hassle), so it seems to me like the harm of trying it your way now is pretty low. FWIW, my husband and I have completely different names and the post office has never complained about me picking up mail addressed to him, since we live at the same address. I also get mail addressed a wide variety of combinations of our names (including a joint family nickname, "The Somethings" that is neither of our names) and it is never really a problem. I have deposited checks in our bank account addressed a wide variety of name combinations, as well.

On the other hand, I don't really see the pros of keeping your old last name in some situations but not in others. There will be short-term hassle making sure the paperwork is up to date, but if you have effectively two last names, 10 years down the line it seems to me like you will be constantly thinking, "am I JoannaC Oldname or JoannaC Newname here?"
posted by muddgirl at 1:16 PM on August 5


I wouldn't change my name in this situation, but your mileage may vary.

- I do worry however that given my age, it may be more complex than I think to change my name since I have university degrees and certifications etc. using my present name. I am sure there are mechanisms to handle this sort of thing, but I am not sure how hard that all is.

- On the other hand, there are online relics of my teen years on Usenet (before the Internet Archive made the whole web permanent) that I would not mind being rid of. Nothing bad, but I don't think future employers need to see the Alt.Startrek posts my fourteen-year-old self made. And my present last name is identifiable enough that these things do come up in a web search.


The solution for the former negates any solution for the latter: it's a name change, not an identity change. On applications and official paperwork and the like, you will now put in your former name after providing your current name. Employers will still find things your past self did if they look up your maiden name, whether that's certifications or Usenet postings.
posted by RainyJay at 1:17 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I'm a feminist and I got married when I was 39. At that age, my career was firmly set in my maiden name so I knew changing it all out was not in the cards. How would anyone find me?

I was a teacher, and I started teaching before I got married. So the kids couldn't say my last name anyway, so I was either MISS, or Miss Mango. When my Dad taught, he was Mr. Magoo. both are corruptions of our last name. Whatever, it's fine.

I'm hyphenated, and I've not YET notified Social Security or Homeland Security...so officially, I"m still just Bunny Mango. We celebrated our 12th anniversary last week. Although I sign my name Bunny Mango-Husbunny, it doesn't matter, my charts at the doctor's office, travel reservations, etc...it's always an adventure. My passport, social security card and taxes are all done in my maiden name.

As much of a PITA as it is, I really like hyphenating. It suits me and feels natural. We didn't have kids, but if we did, we'd have given them Husbunny's last name.

My mother married in 1962 and she moved her maiden name to her middle name.

Mazel Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:17 PM on August 5


I don't recommend using a last name socially that you don't have anywhere in your legal name. It has the potential to cause confusion. Changing my name was not a big deal and I didn't do it all at once. My workplace didn't ask for any proof at all. I still haven't changed one of my credit cards.

You could keep your OldName but move it to the middle. My middle name is "MiddleName OldName" and socially I go by Sarah NewName. Part of the reason I did this is so that it would be easy to prove that I am both Sarah OldName and Sarah NewName. If you don't like your middle name, you can drop it completely.
posted by soelo at 1:19 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


The dual approach is just asking for confusion and having to explain stuff all the time. Don't make a decision based on the practicalities of things like ancient Usenet content, or on what anybody else thinks. Decide based on who you'd like to be.
posted by beagle at 1:19 PM on August 5


Came back to say, I was lazy, I didn't change my name on ANYTHING. When we moved, and got new licenses, I just took the marriage license with me and my license is in my hyphenated name.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:20 PM on August 5


I will add this: having two last names without the hyphen just plain confuses people and I find I am filed under one of my last names sometimes and under both the other times. (e.g. Arthur Conan Doyle is Conan Doyle, not Doyle - but not being famous I become Conan Doyle and Doyle in different situations.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:21 PM on August 5


I am old. My wife is not. She took my last name. Her credit was bad. Now it is not.
posted by Postroad at 1:21 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I should have added to my comment, to explain my perspective, that I did not change my last name and I had no real desire to do so. My husband and I seriously discussed both of us changing our last names to our family nickname, but when the time came I felt a strong aversion to changing my name. You don't sound like you're in my shoes, and your concerns seem to be largely practical. I don't want to downplay those concerns at all, but it seems to me like if you want to be known as JoannaC Newname, whether or not you change it legally is going to cause practical concerns now or practical concerns later.
posted by muddgirl at 1:36 PM on August 5


Someone at my child's daycare goes by multiple names. She volunteered to do a task that required collecting checks from the parents. We all knew her by her "social" name, but it is not her legal name. So lots of the checks went to the wrong name and it was a rigmarole. But not a terrible one.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the list of parents names in my kid's school. Over half of the mothers had kept their maiden names. All of the kids have their fathers' last names. When we refer to families, we don't refer to last names, we refer to the child's family, i.e. "Mike's family". That probably doesn't affect your gut reaction, but might be interesting to you.
posted by pizzazz at 1:36 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I didn't change my name. I like my name. My last name is unique and my husband's less so (though admittedly my first name and his last name = a pretty name). I definitely have stupid stuff I wrote in college that's online but now that was more than a decade ago so if someone wants to hold that against me, that's a bummer for them but I'll get over it.

My sister-in-law changed her name because, as she put it, she wanted to be able to send holiday cards from "The Whatever Family." I thought, do what you want, but there is nothing stopping me right now from sending out holiday cards that say "The Party Time Awesome Family." Plus that would feel weird to me period because that's not how I talk so I don't know why I would sign a card that way - it would probably just say, from MyFirstName and MyHusband'sFirstName.

I understand the "legally but not socially" compromise but I don't really see how that's advantageous because it's not often that family members refer to me by my last name. I have a handful of older relatives who insist on sending me cards using my husband's last name but whatever, if it got to my house and has my first name on it, there's no question it's for me.

My husband has picked up prescriptions for me even though we have different last names, no big deal. We haven't decided what last name our kids will have. He has said that he thinks they should have my mother's maiden name because it is an awesome last name but we'll see.
posted by kat518 at 1:37 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I don't recommend using a last name socially that you don't have anywhere in your legal name. It has the potential to cause confusion.

Who cares if some people are confused? That seems like a much easier problem to deal with than having to change all of your documents and establish a new name professionally.

JoannaC, pretty much no matter what you do with your name after you get married you will have people giving you shit for it. Realistically, it is unlikely you could "get in trouble" in a serious way for using a different name socially than you do legally. If using one name socially and another legally/professionally is what you'd do, then go for it! Do what you want to do.
posted by medusa at 1:38 PM on August 5


Most women I know who had academic publications in their name at the time they got married did not change their name upon marriage, to make it easier for people to find all their academic publications.

Name changing is a hassle, but only lasts a few weeks* while you are doing it.

I think it's a matter of personal preference. If you end up with the mail situation you describe, you can always say you haven't gotten around to legally changing your name yet. The Post Office doesn't need to know it's been umpteen years since you got married.

I personally don't like the hyphenated last name thing, or retaining the maiden name as a sort of new middle name, and would prefer to see "either change your last name or don't." But that's just my opinion.

*Except in the case of our bank, which continues, even three years later, to insist that my wife's name on our joint account should be Firstname Oldname Newname, even though she's repeatedly stated a preference to drop Oldname altogether. Their logic is if someone writes her a check to her maiden name she can still deposit it into our account. Three years after marriage, I think that's a highly unlikely scenario.
posted by tckma at 1:40 PM on August 5


It took me a couple of months to change over to my new name. The first thing I had issued in my new name was my passport. The last thing I changed to my new name was my driver's license. This way, I always had photo ID in the new name while I was in the transition period.

Having university degrees in the old name is not a problem. Whenever you do a background check, you specify that you had a previous name. Also, if it ever comes up say in an immigration/visa construct, you will supply the marriage certificate as proof of the name change and you are good to go.

I was a Canadian citizen living in the USA on TN status at the time and I had zero problems with changing my name even while in another country. It didn't give me any immigration issues and I had no problem crossing the border. And seriously, if USCIS can deal with it, there are few institutions that would not be able to handle a name change mid-stream.

The only issue was that I didn't change my names on any of my accounts back home until I returned to Canada permanently. This wound up being a minor inconvenience when attempting to resume my Canadian driver's license but it was not a big deal.

I would say that if your public identity is NewName then just change all the paperwork to NewName, in the long run it is more convenient IMHO.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:44 PM on August 5


When I researched changing my name (which I did, for other reasons, without hyphenating) it sounded much more difficult to maintain different social and legal surnames, particularly if you travel, and especially if other people have to book your travel for you. All it takes is one confused agent to make a normal check-in process a time-consuming nightmare.

For a bank, doctor, restaurant, or hotel, maybe that is no big deal. But the idea of having to present a variety of IDs to an airline or airport agent to prove my identity without missing my flight gives me hives.
posted by juliplease at 1:45 PM on August 5


I've had to search family history for citizenship purposes and it is of no end of pain to have all the documentation correct.

That being said when my time comes I will be in the neighborhood of your age range and I'm not sure what to do. Unless you're super attached to the 'feeling' of being a family as designated by name, then I might not bother. I have a bad feeling it will mean something to my partner, in which case he's welcome to do all the paperwork.

Someone above said it took a few wks to do and I highly doubt that. Passports. Banks. Degrees? Social Insurance #. Health card. Insurance. Car ownership.

Anyone hiring you would totally forgive a 23 year old star trek post. (I would.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:45 PM on August 5


Congrats on getting engaged. Please be aware that with the changes in voter id laws, it is becoming increasingly difficult for women who change their names to get re-registered to vote. Depending on the state you live in, you might have to show and prove how you came about your new last name. This means showing birth cert. or passport, then marriage certificate. It has become a hassle for a lot of women.

My grandma recently moved to a new state and went to register to vote. She first had to get a new ID for the state she moved to, which is perfectly reasonable. At the DMV, she had to show her birth certificate, but since her current last name is different than her birth cert. last name, she had to show how she got to her current last name (birth cert (maiden name), 1st marriage cert., death cert. for 1st husband, then her marriage cert. from her 2nd marriage and the death cert for her 2nd husband). Bullshit, I tell you!

My divorced women friends have had similar things happen when they went back to their maiden names. When they went to register to vote, they had to show the birth cert or passport, the marriage cert. and the divorce decree.

IMO, it just isn't worth it to change your last name in an official capacity.
posted by ATX Peanut at 1:46 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


I am your age, and going through the same process. Getting hitched in a month, have been Elly Vortex for 36 years...should I change it? Or not? Is it more feminist to keep my father's name, or take my husband's name? Bah!!

I figured I would decide on the day of the wedding, but it turns out I needed to decide when we applied for the license. On the spot I decided to ditch my middle name (which my parents gave me because "it sounded nice", not because it had any special meaning), move my maiden name to the middle, and take my fiance's last name. Then I will be Elly Vortex Hislastname.

For a split second decision, I'm quite okay with it. It has been at least a week and I haven't had any "oh god! what have I done!" moments.

Also:

Elly Hislastname has a nice flow to it. It sounds a bit like a Yiddish blessing.

If I am asked my name, for a while it will probably sound like "Elly Vortex. HISLASTNAME!" because I will default answer to my firstname maidenname, and then remember and slap his name on the end. Eventually I figure I will remember.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:50 PM on August 5


Just to make sure you have *really* looked at all of your options: Has your fiance considered changing HIS name - either to your last name, or to a new last name you both choose together?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:51 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I kept my name when I got married in my 40's. Many women I know have never changed their names, regardless of how old they were when they got married. Many woman I know changed their names, got divorced and had to unchange it--no matter how much they felt they'd never get get divorced.

I look at it like the theory behind Thaler and Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness--the automatic, default position, easy decision is not changing your name. You don't have to do anything and there's no actual reason to do it. You have a credit history, a social history, a professional and personal history and a bunch of records that say you are Person Birthname. In order to become Person Postmarriagename, you have to file papers, replace IDs, change registrations, correct people. It never seemed worth the trouble to me.

I have one of those first names that people assume I want them to shorten, even though I have never introduced myself nor referred to myself by the shortened version in their presence. It's irritating. Having people shorten my first name is way more irritating than any assumption I've run across as regards my not-using-my-husband's last name--it's also much more common.

Of course, I can't have children, so that's not a personal concern. But most married people I know who have children but don't have the same last name have no problems with it, even when traveling internationally with their child but not their spouse.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:53 PM on August 5


For complicated personal reasons, I changed my name socially and kept it legally. It has yet to be confusing to anyone except the benefits coordinator at my partner's place of employment, and from what I can tell, she's sort of an idiot.

I've had insurance cards in both names,have ID in both names, have cashed checks written to both names, etc, and I've never had a problem with any of it. People occasionally ask which it is, and I just say oh, one's maiden, one's married, and they say oh, ok, and move on.

Much less of a big deal than I would've anticipated, frankly.
posted by MeghanC at 1:53 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Hyphenate and you are less likely to have to say "It might be filed under O, it might be filed under N, and some or all of the letters are likely missing."
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 1:58 PM on August 5


I got married last year and kept my name. I loathe paperwork, and don't want to deal. I had a slight issue with our bank cause people wrote out wedding gift checks to Ohisee+Hisname, but it wasn't a huge deal. I've deposited other checks like that since with no problem. All my social media accounts have kept my name since those are more important to me professionally than personally.

However, if anyone ever calls me Ohisee_Hisname, I don't correct them. It just doesn't matter that much to me either way. It's kind of fun to see who just assumes I've changed it and who asks first.

On the other hand, if someone calls me Mrs. Hisname, I get pissed because I have an identity that is not his, thankyouverymuch.
posted by ohisee at 2:01 PM on August 5


Not sure what line of work you're in, but in medicine it is apparently a huge pain in the ass to have one's last name on degrees, licenses, etc. changed. If you aren't married before residency ends, you just forget about changing your last name for that reason. That point alone might make it more hassle than it's worth.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 2:12 PM on August 5


Since I see a lot of posts on the why you shouldn't and it will be a giant pain side of things, I'll add that I changed my name after lots of angst about it and it was easy and I've never regretted it. The deciding factor in my case was friend who asked, "what do you want to do when you have kids?" I realized that it was meaningful to me that we all have the same name. I already had my mom's maiden name as a middle name, I made my maiden name a second middle name, and now I have an awfully long name, which I like. Work stuff has never been an issue - it's still very common for women to change their names and HR offices are able to figure it out.

Plus, which no one has mentioned, it was a fantastic opportunity to get to reinvent my signature. My old signature had more letters and a lot of flourishes and took a while to write. I went to first initial-new name and I still get a kick out of fast it is to write....
posted by chocotaco at 2:23 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Do you care about old friends finding you? Do you care about genealogy? Those are the two places where you can essentially cease to exist if you change your name.

I work on genealogies, and it can be surprisingly difficult to trace women in the last century because of multiple marriages/name confusion/inaccessibility of govt. records. If you don't care and can leave behind good enough records that your descendants won't care, it's not an issue.

I have high school friends who have gone missing completely because they changed their names. I don't know if that's as much of a problem as it used to be.
posted by clarkstonian at 2:29 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I kept my last name and added my husband's last name with a space instead of a hyphen in between: Joan Holloway Harris. The nice thing is that I can use my maiden name or my husband's name interchangeably.

I will admit I mostly did this because it was important to my husband that we share a last name, while I was not particularly interested in letting go of my maiden name for professional reasons. It's a good compromise for us. If my husband hadn't had an opinion on the matter I would have just gone with my maiden name and we would have figured out kids' last names if it came up.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:33 PM on August 5


For my first marriage (married very young) I didn't change my name because feminism, and didn't hyphenate because it would have been unwieldy. That turned out to be a good thing since the marriage didn't make it and I didn't have to do anything to change back (there were also no kids, which might have complicated things). First husband generally said he didn't mind, but I'm pretty sure he did.

When I remarried, I was older and had lived as my own name for so long, plus had all the professional associations, so I kept it again. But this time I'm not so militant about it - in my personal life with my husband, I don't correct people when they address things to me with my husband's last name, and often use Mylastname Hislastname in emails with school (since our son has his last name and the emails seem less likely to cause confusion that way since my son's first name turned out to be unexpectedly popular). I still answer Mylastname if someone asks for holiday cards or invitations or when I first introduce myself. Otherwise I just go with whatever people call me. Current husband doesn't care, fwiw.

I do think that of all the choices I made, "not caring" has been the smartest. The people who make trouble for women on the name front almost always CARE so much it can be hard to avoid an argument or a rah-rah conversation depending on whether or not they approve of your choice, and being able to just nod and smile and have no dog in their fight is pretty damn refreshing.
posted by Mchelly at 2:49 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I was 38 when I married. For years I was ADAMANT about not changing my name upon marriage. However, over time for reasons not important here, my attachment to my name waned. Enter Mr. Origami. Love his family; the name has a nice ring to it. I changed my name. Very glad I did. YMMV, especially if you feel a great connection to the name you were raised with. If I'd been more attached to my name I'd have kept it or considered the moving-my-maiden-to-middle idea and using both. Husband didn't care either way at the time.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:55 PM on August 5


I changed my name when I got married - years into my career and after publishing, and advanced degrees and certifications.

It was easier than I expected to get used to my new name. Within about a week, it was simply my name. It was a bit tougher for other people because my married name is lyrical and beautiful, but challenging to pronounce because it uses Spanish phonetics. They got it within a month. Getting my name changed everywhere was administrative nuisance, but not all that big of a deal. On my next contact with every company, I asked how to make the official change and ended up faxing or emailing my marriage license all over the place.

It didn't matter to me, but it was important to my spouse. It was totally my choice and my spouse admitted it was antiquated and silly, but it meant something special to him. It was odd because his mom didn't change hers or even do the Spanish custom of using "de hisname" for formality.

It was a bother. But sometimes when I see our names together it does feel really good because I know that it made him so happy.
posted by 26.2 at 3:03 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I'm an academic. I changed my name socially and legally, but not professionally. So, I'm Leahwrenn MiddleName MaidenName HusbandName on my passport and social security card. I'm Leahwrenn MaidenName HusbandName on my driver's license. I buy plane tickets as Leahwrenn MaidenNameInitial HusbandName.

At work, I introduce myself as Leahwrenn MaidenName, and I publish under Leahwrenn MiddleName MaidenName. All my colleagues know me as Leahwrenn MaidenName. The only frustrating thing about this arrangement is that the people at HR swear that it's impossible for Banner to list one name for payroll and one name for course listings, so officially at work I'm actually Leahwrenn MaidenName HusbandName. This means that I'm Leahwrenn MaidenName HusbandName for health insurance as well, and sometimes I get emails from students who don't know me to Dr. HusbandName (which is especially awkward since my husband is also Dr. HusbandName, and works in my same department).

Honestly, the only hassle is that I have to remember that I'm listed under Leahwrenn (MaidenName HusbandName) at the doctor's office and not as Leahwrenn HusbandName.

It's also a little weird because so many of my colleagues (a) didn't change their name and (b) assume that I didn't either because I didn't, at work. But really, I've had no difficulties at all.

Did I need to change my name? No. But I'm not sorry I did. Having the multiple identities has not been at all problematic, even at the bank or with the IRS, as far as I know.

I'm not sure how it would work to retain your maiden name officially but use Mrs. HusbandName socially. Somehow, that seems weirder to me, perhaps because your official name wouldn't contain your social last name at all.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:17 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I didn't change my name. The biggest problem I've encountered so far has been his extended family stubbornly refusing to understand this and therefore getting holiday cards addressed to a mysterious Mrs. HisLastName. The solution is to roll my eyes.

I have a daughter. She has his last name. I'm known as "Elena's mom" regardless.

I am a feminist and keeping my name was important. I would have hyphenated my daughter's name, but it is not legally possible in (prehistoric) Italy. She gets her dad's last name, period, regardless of what her legal given name is in the US where she was born. Since she has dual nationality this would have been a bureaucratic nightmare.
posted by lydhre at 3:30 PM on August 5


I got married and did not change my name. We had a child, his name is Child MyLastname Dad'sLastname. A daughter would have had my last name. Hyphenation was only appealing as a way to annoy the people who annoyed me about not changing my name. Well, *I* think MacLeod-MacIntyre sounds lovely, and I think we'll name our 1st child Mackenzie. In my state, I could legally use my spouse's surname, unless I intended fraud, without any legal name change. I only used it to cash wedding gift checks (Thanks!). You can legally keep your name, use it for work, use his name socially, or whatever will work for you. My last name came from my Dad, of course, and still patriarchal, but one has to start somewhere.
posted by theora55 at 3:56 PM on August 5


I thought I was going to change my name after marriage, but the following reasons have kept me from doing so:

- laziness
- sudden, unexpected attachment to the name I grew up with and the family that drove me crazy but I wasn't ready to symbolically abandon (being an only child has something to do with this)
- minor identity crisis experienced while merely thinking about casting off the name I've had for my entire life
- cost involved in getting a new social security card, passport, drivers license, etc.
- hassle involved in getting a new social security card, passport and license, and in changing names on vehicle titles, leases, accounts, etc.
- no need to think about our kids' naming situations, since we're not having any! (and the cats barely even know their first names anyway)
- I'd be abandoning one often-misspelled, mispronounced name for another often-misspelled, mispronounced name -- I decided to stick with the one I'm used to
- did I mention laziness?

I now carry around a copy of our license during traveling and such in case I need to prove that we're a legal unit, but I haven't had to use it. We get cards addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname and the wedding gift checks we got prompted us to open a joint checking account (which accepted checks written to Mrs. Hislastname even though she doesn't technically exist), but other than that we've had no issues. Not even when my well-meaning mother addressed a UPS package to Myfirstname Hislastname -- though I have told her not to do that until she gets word that my name has changed (which will be never).

Before I decided not to change my name, I did two things:

1. I did all the research involved in what I would have to do if I did go through with it, such as finding out that if I wrote my intended new name on my California marriage license I would be able to take the easier, cheaper path during name changing rather than paying hundreds of dollars to go to court.
2. I figured out whether to drop my middle name or my maiden name so I could fill out the intended new name spot on the license.

So my advice is, if there's even just a 1% chance you're going to change your name, do the research re: marriage license forms vs. going to court.
posted by phatkitten at 4:29 PM on August 5


My husband and I kept our names. Our daughter has his last name. Never been any hassles or problems.

As an aside, I don't get the notion that it's the choice between your dad's name or your husband's name, with the implication that it doesn't make any difference. I mean, one's husband has his dad's name too, presumably. But yet the name is all "his" once he has it? I claim that level of ownership over my father's name for myself.*

*that said, our daughter doesn't have my last name bc I don't have a relationship with my father and have no wish to continue the name. Might have been a different story if I did.
posted by gaspode at 4:59 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


I'm going to quote an answer I gave to a previous question:

This might come off as sounding slightly crazy -- I don't know of anyone who has done this thing that I've always kind of wanted to do -- but here goes:

I am not married, and never have been. If I were to be married, though, I would raise the following option to my wife-to-be (I certainly wouldn't insist upon it):

We combine our last names into an entirely new amalgamation, and both change to that. I don't mean anything like "we both take a hyphenated combination of our last name". Instead, for example, looking at the NYT's website and taking the names of the first man and woman that I see on there:

Were I Cory Booker, and engaged to Scarlett Johansson, I would suggest that we both change our last name to Bookansson*.

I think this sort of thing is pleasantly symbolic of our mutual joining, and the equality between us, and it avoids (what seems to me to be) issues that go along with hyphenation and such.

And, although I certainly understand and respect the wish to keep a birth name, honestly the idea of being "the X's" rather than "Cory Y" and "Scarlett Z" is appealing to me on some level; I think this is a good way to get to the good parts of that without needing to also take the bad parts ("the woman's name is thrown away because she is the woman").

*: I must admit I find "Bookansson" significantly more appealing than the option, "Johooker".
posted by Flunkie at 5:24 PM on August 5


I changed my name and took my former last name as my middle name. I probably would have kept my name, but it's long, foreign, surprisingly difficult to spell, and awkwardly associated on the internet with a bunch of crazy religious stuff my parents were into when I was a kid. I saw the new name as an easier to spell, semi-clean digital slate, and I haven't regretted it at all.

Almost everyone in my husband's immediate family has a different last name, so he's never had an opinion about name changes. Among our friends the choice seems to be about 50/50, and the academics and hyper-qualified professionals tend to keep their names, but it really doesn't seem to matter one way or the other. That said, I don't recommend using a different name socially than your legal name, because this has caused nothing but headaches for several friends who use their middle names or nicknames socially. We do know a couple who made a spirited attempt at coming up with a cool hybrid by having their friends play Scrabble with letters from their names, but sadly, Dr. and Mr. Skylaser opted for hyphenating instead.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:39 PM on August 5


We did exactly what you propose when we got married 10 years ago -- my wife decided she would change her name "socially but not legally."

She realized within six months that there were no social situations in which she felt she needed to be addressed by my last name. We still get some formal invitations from members of my family that address her with my last name, but otherwise she's 100% using her birth name. As far as I can tell we feel no less married and no less a family unit than other people do. (Our kids have my last name. This doesn't create any problems either, as far as I can tell.)

So I support your plan. Because it allows you to ease into whatever solution feels right for you.
posted by escabeche at 5:39 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I thought it would be a hassle to change, but did it anyway, and I'm glad I did. Six years later, I still run into one or two accounts (cable bill recently), that were somehow still in my old name, but it's really easy to change those. They don't even really care about proof of old name/new name. But I do keep a copy of my marriage certificate around, just in case. Not sure if it's like this in all states, but in Oregon, you put right on the certificate what you want your new name to be, and *poof* it's done when you're married.

I enjoy sharing my husband's name, and don't regret taking it for a minute. (it also helps that his name is super easy to pronounce, and spell, compared to my maiden name.)
posted by hydra77 at 10:21 PM on August 5


I didn't change my name, and people frequently call me Catseye Hislast anyway, even when they are close friends and family who know I'm Catseye Mylast. (Like, I've had a relative on his side of the family ask "I know you didn't change your name but is it okay if I put you as Catseye Hislast on this announcement?") So I've basically ended up with your two-name compromise anyway, even though it wasn't my choice to do so.
posted by Catseye at 10:31 PM on August 5


I use a nickname instead of my legal first name almost all the time and it's an unusual shortening of my full name, so everyone thinks it is my full name. The bank won't accept cheques that are written with the initial of my nickname. The post office doesn't accept my ID to pick up mail. I've had problems when friends book tickets for me that don't match my ID. When some organisation forces me to use my legal name it causes havoc (confuses my clients with my ID badge, means people can't find me in email directories etc)

Having said that, I wouldn't change my name if I married. That's just weird!
posted by kadia_a at 11:49 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I changed my name upon marriage at 42, but I left my maiden name on the books I've (self-) published, had a note put in my new passport that I'm also known as [old name] and have changed my social media to Liz [new name was old name]. Changed it formally with banks etc and have been gradually doing other things (Amazon account) as I go along. Husband wasn't bothered what I did, but I liked committing to my new joint life with him by changing my name. I am a feminist, but I decided that it was my choice, and that was feminist enough for me. I did get a LOAD of hassle from random people about wearing engagement and wedding rings, changing my name, getting married at all ... grrrr!
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:56 AM on August 6


My wife did the dual solution: didn't change it legally and continue to use the old name professionally, but informally goes by the new name when it is convenient. So far there has been no confusion and no regrets, and her professional name remains the same as on her pre-marriage publications which avoids another source of confusion.
posted by Tehhund at 5:03 AM on August 6


You know, I think all the possible scenarios - changing it entirely, leaving it entirely alone, hyphenating, two last names, going by one name socially and another professionally or legally - are juuuuust common enough now that people can deal, although hyphens and double last names seem to still cause plenty of database problems.

And honestly, this is going to sound awful (and it is), but because you are The Lady in your marriage, people are going to call you all sorts of nonsense regardless of what you do with your name, because of whatever default they have in their heads. Whether that is Mrs. Maidenname, Miss Firstname, Mrs. Maidenname Marriedname, Kids' Mom, or anything else.

I kept my maiden name and have been very happy doing that. The bank has had very little problem handling checks addressed to My Nickname Hislastname (seriously, people? not even my legal first name?), or Mrs. Hislastname, or Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname, even though those entities don't actually exist. We've had no problems with being treated appropriately with regards to our rights to one another despite different last names, although we've yet (thankfully) to face a medical emergency to test the theory.

I prefer not to refer to us as The Hislastnames or The Hislastname Family, but lots of other people do, and wouldn't bat an eye if I did in future. The only people who address me by last name socially are generally older family members or people writing out formal announcements and invitations, and they tend to give me his last name in those scenarios, even though I've corrected them. So if you WANT to go by his name socially, that's probably what people will be inclined to do anyway.

TL;DR: do what makes YOU feel good, since you'll be the one living with the name and possibly filing paperwork. People will adapt.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:44 AM on August 6


As someone who has two versions of her first name (long story!), I will cast a vote in favour of administrative consistency. Over the years I have had so much trouble with "official" things, I have just resorted to only ever using my "legal" first name on anything remotely official (credit cards, driver's licences, passports, etc.). No one calls me by my legal name except the government (and Mastercard). My friends don't typically read my tax returns, so this works out well.

I didn't change my name when I married, but if I were going to do so, I would have legally hyphenated my name, but used just the husband's name in all non-official capacities. A friend of my mother's had recommended that so that the "trace" of her maiden name remained in official documents, but it was easy to drop that for social situations.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 7:38 AM on August 6


> Is it more feminist to keep my father's name, or take my husband's name

If you think your last name is your father's and not yours, then the decision is between keeping your father's name or taking your father-in-law's name.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:51 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


I kept my last name when I got married 15 years ago, and my husband kept his. This has never been a problem. I am very, very, very glad that I did so.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:56 PM on August 6


> I am old. My wife is not. She took my last name. Her credit was bad. Now it is not

You're implying there's a connection. There isn't. You don't get to ditch your credit history just by changing your name.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:58 PM on August 6


That's just weird!

Honestly comments like that one are probably the worst of it. People think they are entitled to give you their opinion of your choice. No matter which way you decide, you get people telling you that your choice is weird or wrong.

And - as the old song goes - you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.
posted by 26.2 at 7:04 PM on August 6


I've never had anyone tell me it was odd that I didn't change my name when I got married. Maybe it's regional.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:12 PM on August 6


There's no right answer to this question. There are upsides and downsides no matter what you do. Do whatever makes you happy.

Here's a funny story about my friend Jane who kept HerLastName legally and HisLastName socially. Over the years, Jane became very active in local organizations, especially the PTA. Eventually she decided to run for the school board and learned that on the ballot, she had to be listed by her legal name, Jane HerLastName. But everyone in town knew her as Jane HisLastName. Friends who knew she was active in local affairs were calling her to ask, "Who's this Jane HerLastName person who is running for school board? I've never heard of her!" She had to spread the word that she, in fact, was the mystery woman.
posted by islandeady at 11:55 PM on August 6


When I got married the first time (at 26), I changed my name. I don't think I ever really wanted to, and changed it back well before we got divorced.

This time (at 38), I didn't even consider changing it. Our son has my (11 letter, often mispronounced) last name as one of his middle names and my husband's (common, 5 letter) name as a last name.

I didn't change my name. The biggest problem I've encountered so far has been his extended family stubbornly refusing to understand this and therefore getting holiday cards addressed to a mysterious Mrs. HisLastName. The solution is to roll my eyes.

This is exactly my experience, except maybe substituting "refusing to understand" with something a little less charitable. But these are folks who roll their eyes at my not eating meat, so it all works out.
posted by Pax at 7:37 AM on August 7


I have changed my name socially, but not legally or professionally.

I have experienced zero negative consequences as a result of this.
posted by corb at 12:54 PM on August 7


To me it sounds like you really emotionally want to take your husband's last name but you are having intellectual/ethical misgivings.

My two cents:
1. Do what you want. Life is short. You can change your mind later (albeit with some hassle). But please do not rationalize it in feminist terms. The practice of women taking on their husband's identity (and children taking on their father's) is inextricable from the sexist patriarchal context it grew up in. Your personal participation in it is barely a drop in the bucket and not sensible to angst about if it's want you want to do, but don't play games with yourself - or with other people who are more driven by other motivations than you.

2. You're really torn between your misgivings and your emotional leanings. Default to staying with the status quo (keeping your name) until you're more clear. You can always change your name down the road if things clear up for you (or your husband can change his name, or you, him, and your babies can all take a new name, etc etc).
posted by Salamandrous at 5:05 AM on August 12


When I married twenty-four years ago, my (now ex) wife and I hyphenated our names together and it was pretty important to me that I used my new last name. The change was painless for both of us, surprisingly in my case, too, and the change back was equally painless, as the divorce decree sufficed. I've never bothered to notify Social Security, so they still have the hyphenated name for me.

I was actually interviewed for some Florida newspaper article about hyphenated names years ago because of a discussion about it here. And that's partly because we'd worked out a whole system about it.

Our aim was equity and a shared familial identity were we to have kids (we didn't). But people always talk about ever-increasing hyphenated names when children marry and then solutions to that problem often end up reverting back to something that's not equitable.

So our thinking was that in opposite-sex marriages, and with kids later in life, there'd be a mirrored structure where the same-sex parent's portion of the hyphenated is preserved while the child would take their spouse's same-sex parent's name (assuming their spouse also had a hyphenated name in some utopian future ... hey, I was in my twenties). So, in the long run, what would happen is that female descendents of our marriage would all have, before and after they married, my spouse's portion of our hyphenated name, and the same would be true of all our male descendents with my portion of our hyphenated name. The parallelism is equitable, for individual families there's a shared surname, and both men and women get to have an intergenerational continuity of a (partially conserved) family name.

With same-sex marriages, which I advocated for in the early 90s but were then mostly theoretical, I recognized that it would be more complicated but just decided that individual people could choose which portion of a hyphenated name to keep. Or something else. You can't solve all problems, only some of them.

Anyway, this sort of thing has gone out of fashion and a lot of feminist women these days are just taking their husband's names, which I feel is regressive though certainly not the most important issue to be concerned with, or keeping their own but having their kids have their husband's name, which, frankly, kind of weirds me out in a different way. But it isn't up to me; this is something each person rightly gets to decide.

Personally, and I think I can say this as a man who did this, I find it revealing and annoying that this is typically understood as something only women need to worry about and almost never does anyone, ever, expect the man to change his name. As Salamandrous and others have said, there's a lot of feminist concerns that are arguably much more important and no one ought to be guilting you about your decisions about this. But I think people ought to be guilting men about this. I'm not sure how influential a political statement is a woman keeping her name or hyphenating it or not, but it's influential and people notice when the husband makes the change and it's pretty infuriating that this isn't even on most people's radar at all. Maybe your husband should take your name. That shouldn't be off-the-table.

I didn't notice if anyone had mentioned this, but the name you use commonly, socially, acquires over time some legal force and can effectively become your changed legal name. IANAL, of course, but as I understand it, having a name you use socially that is distinct from your "legal" name does not create as absolute a distinction as many people think it does. I don't really know what the implications of that might be.

Finally, again, your mileage may vary, but in my experience and in the experience of some people I've known, changing names through marriage and divorce is procedurally commonplace and trivial, even when it's something as unusual as a hyphenated name, taken by the husband, and twenty-four years ago. But I've also heard of people who did similar things and had a lot of trouble.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:39 PM on August 13


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