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Am I missing some big problem to the idea of taking my wife-to-be's name?
March 27, 2006 1:35 PM   Subscribe

What's so wrong with taking my wife-to-be's name?

Of course, it will cost another $5 to get a new name here, and there's all those other internet accounts lurking about, but I think I can handle all that. My fiance doesn't want to change her name, which is something I can definitely respect, but for myriad reasons from the strictly anthropological to the completely sentimental, it's important to me that someone changes their name to the others'. I don't have a problem with it being me; in fact, I can see a lot of benefits to that arrangement.

Of course, the suggestion of it horrified my family. Even her family was pretty lukewarm, and her grandparents were card-carrying members of the Communist party. Yet even the arch-liberals repeated the refrain: "You'll regret it!"

I've looked into it, and it looks like the burden of paperwork on me isn't significantly greater than the burden on her would be. There's the social stigma, and the fact that people who know me now might think I'm "whipped," but that doesn't concern me much, either.

Given the ominous warnings, I'm beginning to think that I'm missing something. Is there some huge problem with a male taking his bride's last name that I'm simply unaware of?
posted by jefgodesky to Society & Culture (88 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's just cultural. If you're an only son and you're planning on reproducing, your parents might be caught up in that 'passing on the name' superstition. As long as YOU want to change to hers, and she's okay with it, just do what you want. (Alternately, you could hyphenate, and she could not hyphenate, and maybe that would be less dramatic for the elders.)
posted by cobaltnine at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2006


I see nothing wrong with sharing the same last name to make the family bond stronger. If it floats your boat, do it.

I've also heard of people combining their names to make something totally new. That could be another solution as well.
posted by idiotfactory at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2006


heh. i think it's a possible action and - as i am sure you suspect - that their reaction is just ingrained prejudice. however the same objections apply to this as to a woman changing her name: you lose a trace through your life (important if you publish papers, perhaps); you're indicating in some fashion, following some culture, that you are her property; it's a nuisance to change. in addition, you'll have to explain your decision every few minutes, get into tedious arguments with a few people, and annoy others. so i'm not really sure it's worth the (self-righteous?) point that it makes (scores?).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2006


In Spain and latin american countries, the children are given both surnames of their parents. Here in the US, we are traditionally given only the father's last name. I guess if you wanted to obliquely follow this tradition you could change your last name to (girlfriend's surname)-(Your Surname). Then your kids would share both names too.
posted by JJ86 at 1:41 PM on March 27, 2006


Each of your names represent your respective lineages, which will not change with marriage. If it's important to you that your names match, why not hyphenate?
posted by leapingsheep at 1:44 PM on March 27, 2006


Hey, if it was good enough for Jack White (ne Gillis) when he married Meg (and still good enough for him to keep after they divorced), why not?
posted by scody at 1:46 PM on March 27, 2006


Nothing.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2006


Alternately, you could hyphenate, and she could not hyphenate, and maybe that would be less dramatic for the elders.

I've also heard of people combining their names to make something totally new. That could be another solution as well.

I'm sure these work out well for many people, but to me it just seems far too ... indecisive? It's a personal thing, but it's not for me. Sure, they have their prejuidices, but then again, so do I!

you're indicating in some fashion, following some culture, that you are her property

It is a question of lineality, and that does come with huge sociopolitical implications--but it's not as simple as just "property." There have been lots of matrilineal societies, and many of them were also patriarchal, so obviously there's more to it than simple dominance.
posted by jefgodesky at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2006


I don't see a problem with it myself. I wouldn't want to do it, but if it's something you want then you shouldn't let anyone stop you. I imagine their reactions stem from the fact that as far as I know, it's just unusual. Infact, before I read your question, I had never even assumed anyone would want to, let alone that it could be done.

So I suspect that your family and her family and everyone else who expressed shock at your intent will eventually come round. Once they get over the initial shock at being exposed to something that is pretty much outside the sphere, they'll realise it's really not all that bad at all.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:51 PM on March 27, 2006


Nothing! If you want to do it, do it. Screw anyone who cares about it - it's YOUR name.
posted by agregoli at 1:51 PM on March 27, 2006


Agree with everyone that its a cultural thing -- as long as you and your girlfriend are happy with the change, go for it.

A few people have suggested hyphenation, and as someone with a hyphenated last name of 19 letters, I really want to warn against that (unless your names are really short). You wouldn't believe the hassle it has caused me... nobody can get it right either because its doesn't fit in the computer or the spelled something wrong or the computer doesn't recognize hyphens in names. As a result, I'm stopped as a suspicious person at airport security all the time, I have to make calls to companies to assure them that I'm the same person, etc. Just choose one name and go with it!
posted by purplevelvet at 1:52 PM on March 27, 2006


Nothing! If you want to do it, do it. Screw anyone who cares about it - it's YOUR name.

Amen to that, and I think it's a nice idea. Shake up the fuddy-duddies!
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on March 27, 2006


For what it's worth, I know a couple who did exactly this (husband taking his wife's last name), and have had absolutely no problems with it that I know of. They might have family who think it's odd, but no one who met them here in grad school thought anything of it.
posted by MsMolly at 1:57 PM on March 27, 2006


There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I have friends who did this exact thing.

Of course they received all the usual incredulous reactions, to which they just shrugged, said "whyever would you think that?" to the people who maintained he would regret it, and carried on doing their thing. 3 years later, nobody cares.

People who meet them for the first time probably assume that it's "his" name that they share, but they don't care about that either. It's exactly nobody's business except theirs.
posted by gaspode at 1:58 PM on March 27, 2006


Something to keep in mind: You may discover that bureaucratic procedures exist at various agencies, government offices, utilities, and such for coping with a woman changing her name. They may become highly confused -- to the point of failing to help you -- when a man presents them with the same situation. The logical suggestion of applying the same procedures and forms may fall on deaf ears or be institutionally impossible.

Bureaucracies do not cope well at all with the unexpected, and it's only with careful consideration that you should court disaster in the form of exception handling.
posted by majick at 2:00 PM on March 27, 2006


Nothing wrong with that. I think it's admirable to flip the old lineage assumptions. In addition, I doubt barely anyone will notice other than the initial 'change name email' notices... and this isn't 1800, I doubt you'll get as many 'inquiries' into your name as you assume... I think if someone mocks you for it then clearly they have issues. Besides, I know at least three couples who made up a mixture of their last names and used that instead of either family name. How can that be any different?

I wish my significant (male) other would take my name when we finally decide to go legal, but I doubt that. I've mentioned it a few times. He has tons (like 7!) of brothers and sisters all with kids, but there is only my brother (confirmed bachelor) and myself to carry on my family name. Ok, ok, I do happen to have the french equivalent of 'Smith' so there's no chance my name dies out, but still... I refuse to take his name because I'm a scary feminist... and my name is prettier!

:)

In addition, he has a child from a former marriage so his family name has already "borne an heir" ... he's considering my request for 'our' child to bear my name. I bet you I'll win.

heh.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:00 PM on March 27, 2006


"I've looked into it, and it looks like the burden of paperwork on me isn't significantly greater than the burden on her would be."

Nothing wrong with it but as with all things unusual and bureaucratic it'll be harder for you than your wife just 'cause it isn't common.
And of course people are going to assume the other way.
posted by Mitheral at 2:01 PM on March 27, 2006


To offer an alternative opinion to the people who're saying your name represents your lineage or history or something, I'd suggest showing any relatives who're bothered about this a phone book, and looking up other people with your surname. Do you know these people, or feel any familial connection with them? Of course not. But they're part of the same 'lineage' that you'd be ending by changing your name, and yet neither you nor your family know who they are. In the end, it's just a word.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2006


Do it for the good of society.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:03 PM on March 27, 2006


A couple I know considered hyphenating to Hislastname-Bond and Herlastname-Bond. Literally, that is; "Bond" was to represent their marriage bond. You can't get much more monosyllabic and explicit than that.

In the end they didn't do it, but it's probably worth mentioning as an interesting idea.

(I also knew a Smith and a Smith who briefly considered hyphenating to Smith-Smith, but that's just silly.)
posted by tangerine at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2006


OK ... thanks everybody. Such was my suspicion, but with so many warnings, I was beginning to think I'd missed something big and obvious that everybody just decided to be all mysterious about.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:26 PM on March 27, 2006


In some Balkan cultures, the name taken by the couple is dictated by relative wealth, not gender: if Josip Blow marries Melitca Rockerfeller, he takes her name....
posted by availablelight at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2006


As an IT Manager, I'd always prefer that people didn't change their names at all. ^_^ Though I understand that can cause problems with what surname to give to the kids. The best compromise I've heard is for the newlyweds to both keep their name and for any girls to be named after the mother and any boys to be named after the father. That can cause some schools to choke when brother and sister have different surnames, other than that it seems to work very smoothly.
posted by krisjohn at 6:15 PM on March 27, 2006


In Japan, the inheritance (along with the care of the elderly parents) went to the oldest son. If a family had only daughters, an incoming son-in-law could take the wife's name along with the in-laws estate and the care of them when they got old.
posted by Jenga at 6:30 PM on March 27, 2006


Side question for gay marriage legal states -- Who changes their name?
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:30 PM on March 27, 2006


The only opinions which count are yours and your fiancee's. You'll be the talk of the office for a day or two, but hey, it'll liven up their drudgery.

(But Godesky? Seriously, that's a pretty cool name. If you're discarding it anyway, can I have it?)
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2006


Isn't obvious what name the children should always bear? Mama's baby, papa's maybe.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 6:32 PM on March 27, 2006


krisjohn, that's what we did -- I kept my last name (my husband almost took it but caved to his parents' freak-out pressure), and we gave our first kid (a daughter) my last name; our second child (a son) has his last name. Of course, if I'd known at the start we'd be having two kids, and that we'd be having a girl and a boy, I would have given the girl his last name and the boy mine, just to further mix things up. So far, it hasn't been a problem, though our older family member think it's quite shocking and strange.

To the original poster, I think your choice is awesome.
posted by mothershock at 6:37 PM on March 27, 2006


Roger - I got married in Massachusetts in 2004; a different-sex marriage, but all marriages in MA now use one single form, regardless of the sex of the couples involved. There's a spot for "Party A" and "Party B" to complete and say what they want their surname to be, so it can be the same, different, or whatever you want.

(I was Party A.)

By the by, I know a few different-sex couples whereupon marriage the groom changed his last name to be the bride's. No big deal occurred. I kept my last name (a Chinese last name) and my husband kept his. I know someone upthread said that you don't lose your culture with your last name - but for me, I would be. Casey Chang (not my last name) is much different, imo, than Casey Burnett (which would have been my "married" name).
posted by cajo at 6:37 PM on March 27, 2006


Shake up the fuddy-duddies!

I agree. If a man told me he changed his name to his wife's name - I would be surprised (pleasantly) and think that's cool, and think nothing negative at all. I would wonder why, though, until the rationale was explained. I think you should tell people you chose to do it to honor your woman ;) (Ironically, this still has an element of stereotypical "manliness" in you referring to her as your woman.)

Personally, when I marry one day, I want to keep my last name to honor my father, who passed away in 1997, because he always wanted a son but got 3 daughters (and tried to get us all to play baseball, which we didn't like). I just want to keep my name to carry it on I guess (plus I like my last name). I've generally assumed I would go for the hyphenated version with the man's last name last (allowing it to be dominant, and in paperwork sometimes shortening my name to exclude my maiden last name), but if who I marry is willing to change his last name... that's cool, makes it easier.
posted by mojabunni at 6:41 PM on March 27, 2006


Nothing wrong with it at all. If you're both into the idea, do it. To hell with what anyone else thinks. It's your marriage, no-one else's.
posted by Decani at 6:45 PM on March 27, 2006


This question rocked my carefully constructed self-image as a progressive freethinker. When I read "What's wrong with taking my wife-to-be's name?" my gut reaction was, "because you don't want to be a pussy."

Kinda shocked myself. I had no idea I had such strong opinions on this issue.

When I got married, my wife toyed with keeping her maiden name, which was fine with me. But, since her maiden name is "Smith" she decided it would be a nice change to be something a little less generic. So she considered hyphenation, but not for long, because my last name has the Irish "O'" and having an apostrophe and a hyphen in your last name is just too unwieldy, whichever name comes first. So she took my name.

It never crossed either of our minds that I would take her name.

I'm a patriarchal gender oppressor! Argh!

Thank you for asking this question. It gave me some (unpleasant) insight into my apparently deep-seated androcentrism.

And whatever name you choose, I hope you two have a long, happy, fulfilling life together.

But please don't just make a name up. That strikes me as devaluing two lineages instead of accentuating one. Pick one or the other. I know, I have some work left to do....
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:49 PM on March 27, 2006


It's your name, stand up for your choice. Many of your relatives will, however, ignore your preference. If they write Mr & Mrs GuysLastName on a check, just deposit it. If they write Mr & Mrs GuysLastName on a holiday card, wish them Happy Holidays. When anybody introduces you, insist on the correct name. If this is your family's biggest problem, they're very lucky.
posted by theora55 at 6:53 PM on March 27, 2006


Something to keep in mind: You may discover that bureaucratic procedures exist at various agencies, government offices, utilities, and such for coping with a woman changing her name.

That's very unlikely, given that in most states anyone can change their name at any time
posted by delmoi at 6:58 PM on March 27, 2006


I seriously considered doing this, but inertia and fear of bureaucracy won out. My plan is to use my wife's name in my second career as a novelist and my third career as a superhero.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:00 PM on March 27, 2006


I agree with everyone that you should choose the name that you want, and that it is good to shake up people's preconceptions.

The one thing I would add, though, is that you should be understanding of your family. It's not surprising that they will be surprised and disappointed by what you are doing. Ultimately they should support your decision. But because it is so unusual, I'd give them some time to get used to it and be sensitive about their concerns rather than dismissive.
posted by alms at 7:03 PM on March 27, 2006


Full disclosure: we (my partner & I) are unmarried, but have one son (and, we've just discovered, another child on the way late this year). We've kept our names--and will after we eventually marry--but our son's name is hyphenated. Seemed a fitting way to honor both families. But for OP, I've known men to do it, and that's fine. It's your family, and so you should feel free to make it your family's name.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:04 PM on March 27, 2006


(Another side question : in this age of hyphenated last names, it seems like it won't be long before two people with hyphenated last names get married. Is there a quadruple-hyphenation? Or what if one hyphenated Gen Y kid marries a non-hyphenated? Triple-hyphenation? I'm actually asking a bit seriously... I offered to combine names with my wife. I thought Campson or Munbell would be cool. She had had enough Bunsen, Monsoon, Munster and Munchkin jokes to last a lifetime and went with my last name. Second side question : if you are keeping your last name as a feminist, shouldn't you make one up? The name you are keeping is not your own mother's maiden name is it? And even if it was, wasn't that her father's name anyway? In other words, given the extensive history of our current patriarchal society, the only non-patriarchal last name would be a made-up one, wouldn't it? ((Asking sincerely as an anti-paternalist)) )
posted by Slothrop at 7:09 PM on March 27, 2006


mitheral and majick make a good point. There are little inconveniences that a woman who changes her name has to deal with that are basically no problem, because when they say, "oh that's my maiden name" everyone understands. If it is a man saying that, however, I expect the problem does not go away so easily.

Example: You have a check made payable to your "maiden" name. You go into a bank to cash it, presenting your married name ID. Now I work at a bank, and this hapens to married women all the time. If they can show some id with the original name, I will cash the check. If a man did this, I would be much more wary. If he produced a marriage licence, I would have no problem with it, but I have coworkers for whom, I imagine, even THAT would not be enough to make them understand that a man could choose to change his name at marriage.

If it is important to you, and worth the potential hassles, then by all means do it, but I would disagree with the notion that it will be no more trouble for you than it would be for your fiancee.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2006


Huh. My boyfriend and I got into a discussion on this not so long ago. I always planned on keeping my (fairly rare) surname; he finds it very important that we match. Hyphenating isn't an option for us, as it gives me some unpleasant initials (by the way, do the initial check, and say it out loud a couple of times before you green-light any name change).

So I guess when my day comes I'm going to end up being the white chick with an Indian surname, because this is one thing where I know I'll give (and I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't fly with his family for him to change his name).
posted by anjamu at 7:20 PM on March 27, 2006


Side question for gay marriage legal states -- Who changes their name?

The man, of course.
posted by kindall at 7:21 PM on March 27, 2006


No significant problems, just a lot of tradition on the side of wife taking husbands name. If it's what you want, just do it. The parents will all survive, even if they have to roll their eyes at their wacky son/son-in-law for awhile.
posted by desuetude at 7:41 PM on March 27, 2006


It's interesting, my partner and I would like to have the same last name, but we don't want to hurt his parents' feeling, or freak out my family. None of the straight kids changed their names in my family.

Personally, I love the idea. At least take her name as a middle name.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:42 PM on March 27, 2006


3rd Way.

Apparently the headmaster of a school I went to long ago came up with a neat solution.

His last name was 'Wagner;' her's 'Camel.'

They settled on Camner.
posted by mmdei at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2006


With names being a family thing... maybe you should see what your family thinks.
posted by meta x zen at 7:55 PM on March 27, 2006


You don't mention whether your girlfriend is OK with it (though that omission would lead me to believe that she is). I don't think I'd want to take a husband's name for various political and social reasons, but I think I'd also balk a bit at my husband taking my name, for almost all those same reasons.

But her reasons may not be my reasons, so if she's OK with it, I see no reason you shouldn't.
posted by occhiblu at 7:58 PM on March 27, 2006


I changed my name to my husband's name the first time I married, then reverted to my maiden name when we divorced. I changed my name again when I remarried (slow learner, me) but kept my second husband's name when we divorced. When I married for the third (and final) time, I kept my second husband's name because it just seemed like too much of a hassle to keep changing the damn thing. My wonderful husband only had a few qualms about my keeping a different husband's name.
posted by Joleta at 8:48 PM on March 27, 2006


in this age of hyphenated last names, it seems like it won't be long before two people with hyphenated last names get married.

There is already a protocol for this in Spain (where they've been having two surnames somewhat longer than the US age of hyphenation), though the traditional system filters out female family names over time, resulting in the same issue.
posted by advil at 8:53 PM on March 27, 2006


I HATE hyphenated surnames with the deep and abiding passion I first felt when they instigated mandatory square-dancing at my high school. Igo out of my way to only use the last part of the name. Beyond the pretentiousness, they are a ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS for anyone who does any mass data entry.

I don't care about the underlying politics. Take his name, take her name, mixed the letters to make an anagram of both or just pick one out of a hat ... but a pox on the practice.
posted by RavinDave at 9:07 PM on March 27, 2006


Banjo player in my band did it.

He lives to this very day.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:10 PM on March 27, 2006


It really depends on the names involved, doesn't it?

Don't hyphenate. Imaginge if your kids marry and want to hyphenate their names with that of their spouses; eventually your offspring's names will sound like a law firm.
posted by sour cream at 10:18 PM on March 27, 2006


Personally, I love the idea. At least take her name as a middle name.

This is what my intended and I are doing: swapping last names as middle names. Not hyphenated -- we'll each have two middle names and our own original last names.

This works particularly well as his middle name is his mother's maiden name, to which she reverted when she and his father divorced, and he uses it in everyday life. So he is putting my last name immediately after his first name, keeping his parents' two names adjacent. I am putting his last name after my current middle name because I like the way firstname-middlename sounds more than middlename-lastname, so the latter is what I am breaking up.

I'm pleased with it. I never really wanted to change my name, and neither did he, but I like the idea of having some sort of familial link. And this way we each share something of the other's.
posted by librarina at 10:28 PM on March 27, 2006


In some Balkan cultures, the name taken by the couple is dictated by relative wealth, not gender: if Josip Blow marries Melitca Rockerfeller, he takes her name....

Yeah, well, I'll want to see a reference for that, because it sure sounds like an (academic-style) urban legend to me (the modern variant of the medieval "in some African countries, the people grow with their heads in the ground and their feet in the air").
posted by languagehat at 11:36 PM on March 27, 2006


I think you guys should just swap names. That way it's fair because nobody's happy.
posted by aubilenon at 1:21 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm an unmarried, modern, open minded male. However, I'm with BitterOldPunk on my first impression. If one of my friends told me he changed his last name to his wife's, I'd probably just say 'Oh, that's interesting.' while I thought 'Wow, he's whipped.'


Slight Derail:

But then, I'm a total family link. I believe my parents only planned on two children, and had both a boy and girl name in mind, which they got first. When I came along, they were unsure.

My first name is my Grandfather's name on my father's side, which was his father's name, and his grandfather's name as well, and is also my father's middle name. My Middle name is my Grandfather's first name on my mother's side. For a long time I assumed I would be passing on my first name to a male child to keep with the tradition, but I now have a nephew from my older brother with my first name as his middle, and my brothers first name as his first. This has gotten a bit confusing.

Anyway, the point being is that my entire name is a link to my family, and I would never give up any part of it. I wouldn't care if my wife wanted to hyphenate, and I'd be a bit annoyed if she wanted to keep her maiden name unless it was for business/networking reasons, but I'd get over it. If she insisted that I should change my name, I'd dump her, because she obviously doesn't understand my feelings in the issue. I respect both of my grandfather's very much, and my name is now a part of who I am. If she felt the same way about her name, I wouldn't force her to change it

Besides, pissing off and/or confusing your relatives isn't a great idea. Confuse your neighbors and you can just move elsewhere, family is with you forever. Social Stigmas are sometimes unfortunate, and you just have to live with them.

However, I would never tolerate a divorced woman's decision to keep her previous husband's last name over mine. That would make me feel inferior to her last husband, and that won't make for a good marriage. (Why was he good enough for that honor and I am not?) I don't think I'd make too much of an issue for a Widow to do that though.
posted by Phynix at 1:44 AM on March 28, 2006


I did it 9 years ago when I married (in the UK). It's actually quite entertaining challenging peoples stereotypes and expectations when you come to change bank account details / passports etc. It's no harder to do administration wise than for the woman to change her name, but people don't expect it so it throws them.

One of my sons has the same middle name as me, so my parents naming of me has not totally disappeared. My daughter has my wifes middle name.

I'm really glad I did it, in fact I'd go as far to say that I'm proud of having done it. I haven't regretted it for one moment.
posted by hmca at 2:47 AM on March 28, 2006


I have actually done this as well. It looked like it would be easy on the Mass marriage license, but we found that, for a man anyway, you can't use the marriage license to change your name in New York, you have to go to court and pay the judge(!). Once we satisfied the sexist bureaucracy, there's never been a problem. My in-laws were shocked at first, but warmed up to it. I actually got rid of my middle name and changed that to my old last name, as did my wife (we didn't ever use the middle names before). It was important to us to have the same last name, and for our kid(s) to share the same last name. My thought had been (since before meeting my wife) that whoever had the more interesting name would trump the other. If everyone did it, we could winnow all those Smiths out of the phone book.

Look up Lucy Stone League. There's more of us that you'd think!
posted by rikschell at 5:23 AM on March 28, 2006


As much as I don't like hyphenation (for my own aesthetic reasons and also the fact that my Chinese name and my husband's Scottish name would just sound awkward together hyphenated), I don't see why parents who want to hyphenate should worry about future generations and what they intend to do if they should happen to marry, and happen to marry someone else hyphenated. They have the same choices everyone else does: keep your name or adopt another (whether it's the spouse's or another one entirely).
posted by cajo at 5:34 AM on March 28, 2006


As to a not-hyphenated last name...

When making plans for married life
Consulting with your future wife
You might encounter the temptation
Of anti-sexist hyphenation.
Think twice before you do this naming:
You'll spend your future life explaining.

-- Patrick Nielsen Hayden

...who explains, here, the issues encountered when Patrick Hayden married Teresa Nielsen to become Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
posted by eriko at 5:40 AM on March 28, 2006


As you can see above, for some bizarre reason, there are people who think your last name is their business. These are stupid people. Ignore them.
posted by dame at 6:18 AM on March 28, 2006


Something to keep in mind: You may discover that bureaucratic procedures exist at various agencies, government offices, utilities, and such for coping with a woman changing her name. They may become highly confused -- to the point of failing to help you -- when a man presents them with the same situation. The logical suggestion of applying the same procedures and forms may fall on deaf ears or be institutionally impossible.

This is really my bigger concern than any kind of social ramifications. It sounds like I did get my checklist right, and I should just prepare myself for all the efficiency and helpful service one would expect of bureaucracy.

You don't mention whether your girlfriend is OK with it (though that omission would lead me to believe that she is).

That is indeed the case.

Besides, pissing off and/or confusing your relatives isn't a great idea. Confuse your neighbors and you can just move elsewhere, family is with you forever. Social Stigmas are sometimes unfortunate, and you just have to live with them.

Well, that's hardly the goal. Spouses with two different last names leads to too much confusion, and it's always struck me as almost like shame--you want to hide the fact that you got married. To me, it's a major change in your life, the kind of change that name changes are for. Hyphenation and blending strike me as far too indecisive for my own tastes, so it comes down to my name, or hers. Matrilineal or patrilineal. Matrilineal societies do quite well for themselves, so maybe that's the better way to go. Or maybe that's just the Scot in me, stemming from those matrilineal Picts.

The relatives I can deal with. Eventually, they'll get it. What worries me, is if there's some massive bureaucratic apparatus I've failed to take account of that will make this much more difficult, legally. It doesn't sound like there is, and that I've basically got my checklist right. That's good!
posted by jefgodesky at 6:24 AM on March 28, 2006


for some bizarre reason, there are people who think your last name is their business

errr.... isn't what other people think the main issue here? names being what we use to identify ourselves to others, and the choice of last name after marriage being related to social conventions etc. after all, one hardly needs a name oneself - i don't say to myself "andrew, time to get out of bed" when the alarm goes off on a morning.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:28 AM on March 28, 2006


I've known two men who did this (one so that he would have the same last name as his new wife and her children from a previous marriage and the other... not sure, maybe he just liked the name). I would imagine other than the hassle of explaining it to bureaucrats and other people (high school reunion committee?) more often than a name-changing wife would, there shouldn't be any problem. It's unusual but not unheard of.
posted by srah at 6:46 AM on March 28, 2006


I had a teacher do this in high school, and we mocked him mercilessly for it. That we had mocked him mercilessly for being a giant dweeb prior to the change probably had something to do with it. That he took a much less interesting and memorable name after the switch was also cause for alarm.

My main objection to people who do this is that it seems fussy and like a plea for attention, frankly. If I met you afterwards, I'd never question your name, but if I knew you before I'd find it rather tedious. Yes, yes, you're upending convention. But without a good reason (like a terrible last name), it seems rather immature.

To balance it with another example from high school, one of my other teachers changed her last name from Israel to some long Polish clusterfuck of consonants. It bothered her that I never learned her married name, but I kinda feel like one of the benefits of marriage is a free name change if you really dislike or have problems with your last name. Otherwise, meh. Leave it.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 AM on March 28, 2006


after all, one hardly needs a name oneself

Well, no. What people think of how you choose to be intentified doesn't really matter because you're the one who hears it applied to yourself. There are plenty of names I don't like aesthetically, but I don't think other people should change them because I don't like them.
posted by dame at 7:10 AM on March 28, 2006


In some Balkan cultures, the name taken by the couple is dictated by relative wealth, not gender: if Josip Blow marries Melitca Rockerfeller, he takes her name....

Yeah, well, I'll want to see a reference for that, because it sure sounds like an (academic-style) urban legend to me (the modern variant of the medieval "in some African countries, the people grow with their heads in the ground and their feet in the air").


Thanks for playing, languagehat, but I didn't learn this in some lefty women's studies or anthro class: it was a bit of practical info referenced in several geneology books when I began to do research on the family tree. While the practice was restricted to certain regions (and the period of the Ottoman and Austo-Hungarian Empires), this quasi-matrilineal policy with surnames is certainly is a known factor if you're trying to look up baptismal certificates, marriage records, etc. in the Balkan region. You can find a bit of googled evidence for it here if you don't want to take my word for it:
Some men had their surnames changed when they entered into the Matrilineal marriage. Sometimes the husband didn't have to accept his wife's last name but their children were registered in the Church books with their mother's surname. For example, on 11 February 1857, Blaž Lamot married Marija Suk. They had 10 children and all of them bear last name Suk. On the 16 March 1870, Blaž Lamot and Marija Suk buried their twins. In the Church death records they were entered as Barbara and Jakob Suk, the parents, Blaž Lamot and Marija Suk. Other Church records refer to Blaž as Lamot - Suk or Suk alias Lamot, sometimes as Blaž and Marija Suk.
Diversity: weird and wonderful, and not always an academic urban legend!
posted by availablelight at 7:22 AM on March 28, 2006


My main objection to people who do this is that it seems fussy and like a plea for attention, frankly. If I met you afterwards, I'd never question your name, but if I knew you before I'd find it rather tedious. Yes, yes, you're upending convention. But without a good reason (like a terrible last name), it seems rather immature.

I agree that overturning tradition simply for its own sake is, as you say, rather immature. My fiance comes from the liberalest of bubbles, and is often quite reactionary. That's made me the "traditionalist" in this arrangement. But this is not upending tradition for its own sake--this speaks to the question of lineage, and thus, to the very shape of our culture.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:27 AM on March 28, 2006


For what it's worth, a friend of mine did this shortly after he and his wife got married. She's from Eastern Europe, her family name was a source of pride for her, and she didn't want to change it. The name change was most definitely not some "Look at me! I'm so radical!" middle finger to tradition. He felt strongly that his kids should have two parents with the same last name, so he took his wife's.

Of course, some people (including his father) thought he was nuts, but he shrugged it off, and did what he felt he had to do. And I have to say, even though I may not have done the same in his position, I respect the guy for standing up for his convictions, and doing what he thought best for his children. Now they have a lovely daughter and are the model of a happy family.

If you want more details, let me know, and I'll drop the guy a line and see if has any practical advice about the whole process.
posted by Gamblor at 7:33 AM on March 28, 2006


availablelight - you stated that inheritance was determined by wealth, but you're now arguing that matrilineal inheritance occurs. is the missing link that whether it was partilineal or matrilineal depended on wealth? if so, where is that described in the page you reference (this isn't 100% snark - i'm thinking maybe it's implied by some technical term, or "obvious" if you know the field, or i've just plain missed it).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:11 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm not sure if you or I are getting bogged down in terminology, andrew cooke. Serbia, Croatia, etc. are not traditionally matrilineal cultures. I just stated that, in certain cases where the woman's family owned more land, etc., the records sometimes reveal that a man (and any subsequent children) would take his wife's last name upon marriage. My understanding of it is that it was quasi-matrilineal --it only occurred in certain families in the case where the woman's family name was attached to greater land holdings/resources. I'm not going to spend much time on digging around the internet today on this so I posted the best I could find with a 15-minute google session: proof that this sort of swapping back and forth did in fact exist. (And can be a genealogist's nightmare, as you can see from the example posted.)
posted by availablelight at 8:43 AM on March 28, 2006


Side question for gay marriage legal states -- Who changes their name?

My last name is ugly and my partner's last name is really generic, so neither of us wanted the other's name. It is, however, important to us that we match so what we are going to do (once we have the $500 each to pay for it) is use her grandmother's maiden name - Fairweather. There was no one in the family to carry on this name, so my partner was given it as a middle name. Besides which, I LOVE the name.

We have been married for three years now, but in Canada on the marriage forms Party A can take Party B's last name (or vice versa) but if you want something other than either one's legal last name, you have to pay and go through the whole name-change procedure.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2006


...and I wasn't talking about inheritance at all, only surname adoption. Yes, sometimes surname adoption was dependent on relative wealth, which is exactly what my first comment was intended to convey. That is the extent of my knowledge on this topic.
posted by availablelight at 8:49 AM on March 28, 2006


I know a few people who have changed their names for various reasons besides marriage, and it caused them no great problems. Yes, their are various bits of business to be minded and yes, I imagine the process is a bit more streamlined for the recently married woman, but the structures exist for a change of name for whatever gender or reason, and its got to come up frequently enough that anywhere it needs to be dealt with there's a process in place. Just make sure you keep that paperwork handy for a while as you adopt your new identity.

My guess is all the consternation and warnings of regret are about two things, first, people will think you're weird - and they will, and you get bonus points for bringing it up as little as possible, you know how some people do something weird and then they won't shut up about it? Also people tend to think decisions like this are some sort of political statement. The second thing is the whole vodoo around the "family name," you know, giving up the magic of your father's name and not passing it along to your children etc.

Hyphenation seems to be out of the favor for the moment, maybe forever, its just cumbersome... my wife and I just kept our names and my son took my name, so I guess tradition prevailed there, but it's also true that part of that decision is that I come from a small family with an uncommon name and I do in some sense want to see it persist. I can freely admit it is irrational yet there it is. A couple of friends of mine chose a totally different, cooler last name when they married. You could become Mr. Jason Tigersteel

For many of us our surnames are no more than two or three hundred years old, these things get changed and juggled all the time, certainly there is no uniform or universal rule of surname usage. I think you can proceed with confidence.
posted by nanojath at 8:59 AM on March 28, 2006


My wife and I had a lot of discussions about names, and neither of us wanted to give ours up, but we wanted the same last name.

She ended up adding my last name to hers (so she officially/legally has two last names- Olney Zide).

Professionally, I took her maiden name as a middle name (I publish as J. M. O. Zide), and socially, I just act as though that second middle name were a first name. (We are Mr. and Mrs. Olney Zide).

Some people don't really understand- her family keeps hyphenating, and mine often forgets the other name), but we're happy with it.

In other words- do what you want and don't worry about what other people think. You might consider keeping your family name in some way if it's important to you. (for instance: Firstname Middlename OldFamilyNameAsMiddlename NewLastname)
posted by JMOZ at 9:08 AM on March 28, 2006


(I will say that the marriage name changing time can be used for other purposes. I have a great uncle who used the occassion of his sixth[!] marriage to change his first name for free, from Marion to Adam. Since his state didn't specify either the gender of the partner who can change their name or the part of the name that could be changed, he finally took the opportunity.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 AM on March 28, 2006


You could always do the pretentious "family name" bullshit I encounter here in the good ole American South, and give one of your kids your old last name as your first name. I have encountered way too many poor little tots named Palmer, Calhoun, Blaithrie, Landry, etc. Ugh. /endrant.

Seriously though, do what's right for you. And happy wedding!
posted by radioamy at 9:30 AM on March 28, 2006


Thanks for playing, languagehat, but I didn't learn this in some lefty women's studies or anthro class: it was a bit of practical info referenced in several geneology books when I began to do research on the family tree

You seem to have taken my comment far more personally than it was intended. I wasn't snarking about "lefty women's studies"; I was asking for backup, since I've heard far too many vague claims of this "I read somewhere..." sort, and the suggested practice is striking enough that I want to either find out more about it or write it off as unsubstantiated. Since the only evidence you've provided has nothing to do with relative wealth, I'm tentatively taking the latter course. But if you find or remember a source you can cite, I'll be delighted.
posted by languagehat at 9:46 AM on March 28, 2006


It's your last name. Do what you want. I only offer a possible alternative. Consider both of you completely changing your names. Find a last name you can agree on and change your first names as well. My high school principal did this and he and his wife took the names of literary characters they found meaning in. (Jean Valjean was his.)
posted by IndigoSkye at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2006


There is already a protocol for this in Spain (where they've been having two surnames somewhat longer than the US age of hyphenation), though the traditional system filters out female family names over time, resulting in the same issue.
posted by advil at 8:53 PM PST on March 27 [!]


Actually Spanish Civil law allows you to put either the male or female surname first, which means the name that gets filtered out over time is variable. In general, certain surnames are extremely, um, respected in Spain, so if the woman has a particularly "important" name it will be preserved at all costs. If both names are important, they are usually converted into a single name via a hyphen. This leads to some crazy long surnames among the Spanish upper crust.
posted by sic at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2006


if you are keeping your last name as a feminist, shouldn't you make one up? The name you are keeping is not your own mother's maiden name is it? And even if it was, wasn't that her father's name anyway? In other words, given the extensive history of our current patriarchal society, the only non-patriarchal last name would be a made-up one, wouldn't it? - Slothrop

I consider myself a feminist. And I'm keeping my own last name when I marrry. But I'm not doing it as some 'down with patriarcy' statment, but rather because I personally feel connected to the name that I've had my whole life. This is how I know myself, and how everyone else knows me. Getting married is an extension of the person I've always been, not some fundamental change to a new self. Make sense?

Of all the married women I know, I have yet to hear one say they kept their name as an anti-patriarchy statement. Each has thei own personal reasons for keeping or changing their name. If a woman said they made their choice only in reaction to patriracy, then I think you'd have a valid point*, but I don't think this is normally why women choose to keep their name.

* I do know a group of radical lesbian separatists that agree that you have a point. They have all changed their names into Amazon names, or after their totem animals or similar choices.
posted by raedyn at 3:03 PM on March 28, 2006


Spouses with two different last names leads to too much confusion, and it's always struck me as almost like shame--you want to hide the fact that you got married. To me, it's a major change in your life, the kind of change that name changes are for.

For what it's worth, as a member of a couple who did not change their surnames upon marriage, I certainly don't feel like I am ashamed that I got married. I am rather proud that I married a man who actively encouraged me to keep my own name (not that that was an option; I never intended to change it). I don't hide the fact I got married - I wear a wedding band, I talk freely and openly about my husband. Families are successful regardless of the names they adopt or do not adopt.

As to the whole "isn't the name patriarchal" thing - my last name is one I changed when I was 18 to my mother's last name, which she also did not change. At some point, when does my last name become MINE as well? Is it always destined to be my grandfather's last name forever and ever amen, even though he has been dead for 40 years? It is my name. It doesn't belong to a man, although other men (my uncles) share my name. It is mine. I think I've earned it enough at this point to make my claim on it.
posted by cajo at 4:53 PM on March 28, 2006


My wife and I combined our last names when we got married. The NY marriage license made it very easy to do so - it's one of the standard choices right on the form.

We also felt that the hypen route would lead to kids whose names sounded like law firms if they married other hyphenated kids, which is why we went the smashup route.

As the dude in the relationship, I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly various logistics for changing my ID's went. Interesting fact: changing my identity for my credit card and social security was a breeze - but the DMV and my phone company were a lot harder. The lady at the DMV must have called over two supervisors and a manager via telephone before they would accept my marriage license as proof of name change.

In any case, since practically both our whole names are smushed together, we gave our son a three letter first name, out of compassion for any box-filling he may have to do some day.
posted by ericbop at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2006


Ok. I'm a guy, and I consider my last name as much a part of my identity as my first. I don't think of myself as just "George" and I don't think of my last name as just a pointer to my father, it is part of my connection to the whole of my family on my fathers side, who I love.

I would not want to give up that part of my name.

I don't feel any less love for my mothers family for not having their name.

So yeah, I want to keep my name. However, there is no reason the woman I marry should feel any less love for hers. So it would be very unfair to ask her to change it if she doesn't want too.

So, no. I would not want to change my name to hers, but I would do so if she asked.

Hyphenation? It doesn't make sense to me.


So, John McCool and Mary Smith get married. Ok, they are now John and Mary McCool-Smith.

Now, what about little Mary and John?

Will John end up John McCool-Smith-McDonald-Rossi

etc.


I don't think the hyphen thing can work.

Maybe we can toss in some other punctuation?

John McCool-Smith/McDonald-Rossi?

No, I think we have to agree at some point we have to pick one name, if we like it or not. Let the husband and wife decide what to do, but don't force either of them into a course of action.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:10 AM on March 29, 2006


As to why bother with hyphenation, some ask ... I work under a woman who's published much research.. since before she was married, with her maiden name. Now when she publishes research, she does so with a hyphenated name, probably so people will recognize her as being connected to her previous work. Everywhere else, though, she just goes by her husband's last name. I've never heard anyone refer to her (herself included) with the hyphenated version of her name.
posted by mojabunni at 7:25 AM on March 29, 2006


Is there anything wrong with it? No...

It's all social stigma. If you take her name you are forever going to be whipped. Wether it's true or not people are going to look at you like a pansy who has gladly handed over the "pants" of the relationship.

Obviously, this view is not necessarily right but perception is reality. I know I would never take my wife's last name (plus it's Davis and David Davis is just dumb) and wanted her to take my name.

As has been said many times it is your name and do with it as you please. Change it to a symbol for all I care.
posted by SupaDave at 8:44 AM on March 29, 2006


I took my ex-wife's name hyphenated with mine. (As did she.) I really didn't encounter much trouble, either with the change or the change back. But it is true that there are little things here and there where there's no established way to handle a male's name change in this context. For example, my divorce decree had my name change written by hand, my ex's was part of the standard form. People sometimes were taken off-guard by it—this was 15 years ago, so times may have changed some.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:38 AM on March 29, 2006


Klangklangston, did you go to Huron High? I think the person you're talking about might be my Example #1. :)
posted by srah at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2006


Srah— Yeah, I did (I duel-enrolled at Huron and Commie). Heh. So reduce the sample size by one.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 AM on March 30, 2006


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