Weddings and name changes
May 12, 2005 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Did anyone here keep their last name (female I should add) after getting married? Did your partner have a huge issue with it? Why would you want to change your name? What about the potential children? I'm having a heated debate with a friend.
posted by yodelingisfun to Human Relations (135 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I hyphenated when I got married, as did my husband. I was going to keep my name and he was going to keep his, but after much discussion we decided to create a new name that was a mix of our maiden names and both take it.

Reactions have been varied. His parents completely flipped, mine were fine.

He gets a big kick out of checking the "maiden name" box and filling it in.

Growing up, my mother kept her own name. It was generally a medium hassle when we had to deal with authority figures that couldn't understand why we had different last names.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:46 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name. My (now former) husband was totally cool with it -- he said he never expected me to take his name. His family was generally okay with it, though one of his grandmother's (not his paternal one, interestingly!) always seemed pretty irritated with me. If we'd had kids (or if I have kids with a partner in the future), our plan was to give them his surname, with my surname as their middle name.
posted by scody at 2:51 PM on May 12, 2005

I believe my sister has kept hers, as has her husband, but I'm not sure what my nephew's last name is. It seems to work out ok for them.
posted by kavasa at 2:52 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her maiden name, partially at my suggestion. We don't know what we're going to do when we get around to having kids, but making names up at random seems the most appealing. It's not like kids don't have at least 4 different people in charge of them these days anyway. Explaining that my wife and I are authorized to deal with them is a simple school database problem that I'm certain school districts solved long ago.

We've found that no one usually cares/asks about it, and when they do they're almost always older women (who we assume are bitter).
posted by togdon at 2:55 PM on May 12, 2005

My sister kept hers until she spawned. Then she said she started to feel like to take the husband's name would create a tighter family unit, and she's very glad she made the change.

Lesson is, kids totally mess a person's head up.
posted by xmutex at 2:55 PM on May 12, 2005

Since we had about eight days from when we got married and when I'd be applying for a visa to live in the UK, I kept my name so that I didn't have to go through the rigamarole of changing my passport/social security card/etc. etc. etc. before getting my visa. Or changing it all around when I got all the other stuff changed.

His parents didn't mind, my parents didn't mind, he didn't mind, I was quite pleased, and the only person who has ever complained was the Revenue Office when I got my National Insurance number — but since the guy then decided that New Orleans was in Los Angeles, I really think he was the odd one out.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2005

My ex-husband thought about taking my name, actually, but his family freaked. This, of course, really pissed me off; but they said that it wasn't because of patriarchal tradition, it was because my last name was not a family name. (I changed my last name legally when I was 18, but consider it my family name anyway. I mean, it's my name, right?) We both really wanted to have the same last name, however, so we did a double last name, unhyphenated. Very unwieldy.

If I get married again, I won't change my name. We'll figure out what to do with the kids later, although I will say that I very much want to have a kid with my father's last name, since I am the last of a long lineage and the name dies with my father's generation.

My sister and her intended have decided to make an amalgam of their two last names. Neither one of the names is particularly euphonious, and coming up with hybrids has been a source of amusement for many months.
posted by Specklet at 3:00 PM on May 12, 2005

Kept name/non-issue/kids took his name
posted by idest at 3:01 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name and didn't really think about not doing so, even though his name is perfectly lovely. My heritage through my father's line is important to me (13th generation CT yankee), so keeping the name itself was important to me. My husband started using my last name as his around the time we got engaged... at first for making reservations (because it's a simpler name and easy to spell), but then in other situations because it also works nicely with his first name. Nowadays he uses it as his middle name (in situations where he is credited, he uses Hisfirstname Mylastname Hislastname) and intends to have his name officially changed in the next year or so to drop his last name entirely. No one in the families mind at all. Maybe because there were lots of divorces in the previous generation, they've learned that last names are really of no consequence at all?

Potential children will likely be given my last name (I have no preference, but my husband has said he'd prefer using my name). I wouldn't care a whit if they decided to use his name at any point in their lives -- they could also use my mother's maiden name, his mother's, "The Great" -- it totally doesn't matter, so long as the passports and plane tickets match when they want to go somewhere.
posted by xo at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my own name, Hubby kept his. Some of his older relatives call me Mrs. Hubby, despite frequent reminders that I'm actually Dr. Quietgal, but those relatives are ignorable. The people who really matter to us are fine with the name situation.

I don't understand why anybody would want to go through the hassle of changing their name, unless it was a lousy name. If we had kids, the girls would take my last name and the boys would take his.

Not only is it easier to not change names, but I had published several papers using my own name and had started to build a good reputation in my field. I figured it would be almost like starting over if I changed my name.
posted by Quietgal at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2005

I've kept my maiden name and I've only gotten a few weird reactions at my last job. They assumed I meant to put my husband's name on all insurance, so my name was different on my insurance cards. I find that working out things of that nature can be difficult, but people in general seem pretty accepting. My husband didn't seem to care one way or the other, so long as I was happy. Neither of our parents made a big deal out of it. We don't plan to have kids, but if we did I think we would use his last name.
posted by renyoj at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her name. Neither of us cared to have her change it -- just a pile of paper work to change "Piller" to "Millard", the latter of which people always fucking mispronounce anyway.

Family didn't mind. The essentially unannounced, nobody-invited courthouse wedding pretty much put the final nail in the coffin wherein others had been storing their preconceptions about our relationship.

Kids? Nein d:)anke!
posted by cortex at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2005

Oh, and also: my sister kept our name as well, but took her husband's surname as her middle name, and now uses her full name professionally. All of her kids have her husband's surname.
posted by scody at 3:08 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept hers, and at the time of our wedding, I had a huge issue with it. Unlike the messages above, it never occurred to me that my wife wouldn't take my name, and so a few days before the wedding, I asked her what she had done to go about changing it, and was sort of stunned when she said she had no intention of changing her name. Her retort was that if one of us had to change their name, why was it assumed it would be her, and why didn't I take hers instead. It was by no means a deal-breaker, obviously, but I guess I am a bit old-fashioned. But, as with all decisions in our marriage, what she wants, she gets.

The long and short of it is that it's not as big an issue as I thought it would be. The only time it comes up is when we do anything jointly ... like sign a rental agreement. Or when we have the car fixed, since the shop repaired the car for her before we got married, so they always refer to me as "Mr. [her name]," and I just let it slide to avoidance.
posted by crunchland at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2005

I always wondered what would happen after about four generations of liberated-hyphenated couplings with offspring.
    Meet Miss Matilda Jones-Simmons-Treach-Compton-Foster-Smith-Quigley-Brown - and her brother Bob."

posted by yclipse at 3:13 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife and I have been married almost five years and she hasn't really gone one way or the other. It varies depending on what papers you look at. She's used all three variations (A B C, A B, A C).
posted by rolypolyman at 3:14 PM on May 12, 2005

Yeah, there is this sort of blase "oh changing your name is just so ridiculous" thing going on in this thread, so it's cool to hear from people who did change, or want to change it.

My fiancee plans to take my name, and she says because it makes her feel like we are more of a family. I'm cool with that, and tell her it's good with me either way. I am certainly honored to have such a wonderful woman want my name in the first place.
posted by xmutex at 3:15 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept hers. At the time (15 yrs ago) it was, as crunchland says, "what she wants, she gets." We've found it to be convenient because hers is easier to give when making restaurant reservations. We don't have kids, but we do have dogs, and it's often tough to remember whose name they're filed under. (A friend of ours, as a 20th anniversary gift to her husband, took his name. A wonderful gesture, I think.)
posted by booth at 3:20 PM on May 12, 2005

I always wondered what would happen after about four generations of liberated-hyphenated couplings with offspring.

Not to mention the trouble it will give to future geneology nuts. And the Mormons. Heh.
posted by piskycritter at 3:24 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept mine, my husband didn't mind and even had a mild preference for my doing so. My maiden name has been my name for my whole life and I saw no reason to change it. I can see making a new last name as both parties' married name, but I think the wife taking her husband's name is kind of weird and archaic, frankly, unless she does so because she prefers his name. No issues other than people thinking his last name is my last name and vice-versa from time to time. If we had kids, we'd probably do what a few people I know have done and give the kids hyphenated last names combining both our names.
posted by biscotti at 3:24 PM on May 12, 2005

The first time around I kept my name. I'm getting married for the second time in a few weeks, and this time I am changing my name. My fiance, bless his heart, reacted thusly: "why on earth would you do that?"

It wasn't an easy decision to come to. I spent a good while going back and forth. We do intend to have children, and "family unit" concept resonated a lot. I know, from not having changed it the first time around, the million little hassles that can arise because two spouses don't have the same surname. What really tipped the scales for me was talking with a female attorney at my firm, she came up in the early eighties when the legal profession was not terribly women-friendly, and when she married, she kept her name. She has a daughter, and her husband passed away a year ago. She said that she now regrets not changing her name, because she doesn't have the same last name as her daughter, and the person that connected them isn't there to fill that gap. She seemed profoundly sad that she didn't share her daughter's name.

The final, seemingly silly reason is that my surname is very short- three letters long, and at both my current firm and the previous firm where I worked, the voice mail directory instructs called to "enter the first four letters of the person's last name"- I am un-findable if you don't know my extension. If I had published things under my current name, I might feel differently. I don't see a "one-size-fits-all" answer to this question- I think it's something that people work out individually what works for them, and why.

When poking around on the net thinking about this (lots of dicussions on Indiebride, by the way) the one piece of advice that people seemed to repeat was to be consistent- don't use one name for some things, and another for other things, it create untold confusion.
posted by ambrosia at 3:25 PM on May 12, 2005

hyphenated/non-issue/kids took his name

Two caveats: for the sake of brevity, I usually leave my maiden name out of introductions and signatures; and I find myself wishing we had used my maiden name as a kind of "second middle name" for the kids. We might still add it at some point.
posted by whatnot at 3:28 PM on May 12, 2005

I was saddled with my father's name way too long. I intended to change my last name to my mother's maiden name a long time ago, but never got around to it. I was more than happy to take my husband's surname. It was a relief to get rid it. The only ID that I have with my maiden name is my passport and that will be getting changed next year.
posted by deborah at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her name long enough to go on the honeymoon as her passport had her maiden name. Then she switched her last name. Although, our mailbox still has her maiden name on it...
posted by achmorrison at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm not married and do not have kids, but when I do get married, I hope that we follow the she-keeps-her-name, I-keep-my-name, boys-get-my-name and girls-get-her-name thing. That sounds pretty awesome.

Hyphenated names seem in funny opposition to the dinner-reservations-easy-to-spell contingent in this thread, too.
posted by josh at 3:35 PM on May 12, 2005

Took me a while to adopt my married name, but kept my maiden name at work. Not a huge issue really.
posted by Chimp at 3:37 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife didn't take my name when we first got married but eventually switched over. Even though I was ok with her keeping her name I was glad she changed it.

Yes, maybe it's a bit old fashioned but I prefer for my whole family to have the same last name. Like the Griswalds.
posted by gfrobe at 3:37 PM on May 12, 2005

I had no real interest in changing my name - it's my name, I've had it for 33 years. My husband offered several practical reasons why I wouldn't want his, but didn't really bring them up until after I'd made my decision.

Potential children will get a last name, definitely. I don't know what it will be, but there will be one. Lots of kids don't have the same name of one, more, or even all of their parents, and they still function in the world. While I understand the reasoning behind the "family unit" argument, I feel sorry for all the kids who are somehow second-class citizens because of a name.

Our car insurance company's software doesn't seem to be capable of handling two separate names (or our agent is an idiot, I don't know). My mother knows damn well what my name is and choses to make up a name that doesn't even include me in it anywhere (Mr & Mrs John Doe, where my name is not Doe or John or Mrs, thanks mom). My grandmother does the same but I think is convinced that They (the state, Social Security, somebody somewhere) change your name whether you like it or not.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:39 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her name. At first, I was uncomfortable with it, but when I thought about it, I couldn't really think of a reason why it bothered me. So I decided to stop letting it bother me. Also, she pointed out that she has no cousins and one sister. I have a brother and a male cousin. She doesn't want her family's name to die out after this generation (I chose not to point out second-cousins), so I think we've agreed that any future children will take her name. Suits me fine, as long as they don't take the milkman's name.

I don't think anyone has ever really said anything about it. Only one of her married friends took her husband's name, and the rest of them tease her about it from time to time.
posted by Plutor at 3:40 PM on May 12, 2005

Just to add a bit of non-US culture to the mix: In Spanish speaking countries, kids take the names of both of their parents and a wife isn't so much giving up her name as adding her husband's name.

So, if someones name is Marcos Alonso Castro, for example, then their mother's maiden name is Castro. This causes confusion when Latins move to the US and we have to fall into the convention of dropping the mother's name from the end.

Anyways, for those that are interested, the mechanics of it are explained in more detail here.
posted by vacapinta at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm the kid of parents who weren't married, so my name is Dadsname-Momsname. When my parents split, I went by Momsname only till college, when they demanded I use the name on my birth certificate. I used both variations for a while, then did just the hyphenated because I like it better and so I wouldn't forget what name things were under. I have to spell it out, but whatever. The funny thing is, having a hyphenated name makes people think I'm married.

If I ever do get married, I'm keeping my name. Like others have said, it's been my name my whole life. Kids, while unlikely, would get either a three-hyphen or Husbandsname-Momsname, because I'm more attached to it. Really, if I have to carry it around for nine months, it gets my name.

Having a different last name from my mother, even if slightly so, doesn't matter. Then again, we're different colors, so that confuses people more.
posted by dame at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name, as my husband and I are both creeped out by the symbology of my becoming his property by assuming his last name. As for kids, a girl would get my last name; a boy would get his.
posted by arielmeadow at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! It sounds like most people support my side of this argument, but I am curious as to why in this day and age a male would be so offended that a fully grown adult woman wouldn't want to take his name? Is it really an issue of "ownership"? It's not something I've ever really thought about but I guess it just feels wrong to change your name..anyhow, thanks again!
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:45 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my unmarried name, just because it's cool and I like it. My husband could care less. He likes my name, too. We won't have kids, so that's a non- issue but might have changed my mind in some way.
posted by puddinghead at 3:45 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm a fan of the Spanish system. Though it can get just a bit unwieldy.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:47 PM on May 12, 2005

In Quebec, where I was born, women aren't allowed to take their husband's last name.

I always wondered what would happen after about four generations of liberated-hyphenated couplings with offspring.

My own last name is the parental unit's hyphenate, so that rules out ever hyphenating my boyfriend's hyphenated last name should we marry. Thackeray-Smith-Wildman-Gareau? Jeebus. I should move back to Quebec. Hmm, I'm thinking kids should be allowed to choose their own last name, whether it's hers, his, or something else altogether.
posted by zarah at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2005

This topic has always fascinated me. According to Miss Manners, traditionally a woman did not change her name at all. Only her social title changed. So married or unmarried her name was Anne Jones, but in a formal social setting she would be referred to as Mrs. John Smith. If she had a professional title, it would be Dr. Anne Jones and she would use that in her professional life. No woman would ever be Mrs. Anne Smith, that's a very recent construction. It depends on people knowing that a title is not just the prefix though, and it definitely implies that a woman is her husband's property.

Personally I've always liked the Spanish system best. The Icelandic tradition where male children receive their father's name and female children receive their mother's is kind of neat too but potentially very confusing.
posted by cali at 3:51 PM on May 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

She's keeping hers, it's a hell of a lot better than mine, and it's a non-issue.

I briefly thought about taking hers, but family weirdness would ensue, and the administrative hassles just weren't worth it. In all respects it's best not to have to get new checks until you run out of the old ones.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:53 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm keeping my name. He's was kinda upset when he first heard my plans. But it's my name, thanks. Our daughter has his last name because it was really important to him to pass on his name and the family line, and a hypenated Myname-Hisname was going to be really akward, so I went with it. I figured it helped make up for his diappointment in me not taking his name. It was never an ownership thing for him. It was a feeling of connectedness and family and togetherness and committment.

Then there's my mom. When she got married, she took dad's name. I was born, got dad's name, and when they divorced she kept his last name - because she liked it better than her maiden name, and because it kept her connection to me. When Dad got remarried, his wives kept their own names. It confused some teachers that Dad myLastName and Mom myLastName weren't together, but I figured that was the teacher's problem, not mine.
posted by raedyn at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2005

When we married I kept my name and she kept hers. We're both women, but straight or gay around these parts (Quebec, Canada) you keep your name when you get married - it's the law. If you want to change your name to your partner's, you have to go through a name change rigmarole with the courts and posting in the newspaper and all that - and you have to pay for this. Consequently, very few women here change their names.

When we have kids they'll have my last name and her family name as a middle name. We're hoping this will make things easier when we travel together.

on preview: yep, what Zarah said
posted by Cuke at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept hers, which is normal (in fact, mandatory) in Chile, but as we got married in NYC, the lady at city hall gave her a really, really pissy look and a ton of attitude about it, like "you're not going to change your name? reaaalllyyy?".
My mom's Cornell degree has my dad's surname on it, Cornell being the bastion of patriarchical hubris that it is, which pisses off my mom whenever she thinks about it.
posted by signal at 4:00 PM on May 12, 2005

My first wife was interested in taking my name despite mild opposition from me, but recoiled in the face of paperwork and kept her own.

My second wife (again, despite mild opposition from me) has taken my name. Now, with a lot of junk mail, she gets two pieces--one in her maiden name, one in her married name. Cripes.

I've got a couple of friends where, when they got married, she kept her name, and gave her surname to her daughter.

What would be coolest, though, would be to have one-name kids. You know, like Cher or Bono.
posted by adamrice at 4:04 PM on May 12, 2005

Husband's name is "Snook", my name is "Howard." I kept my name. Everyone we mentioned it to on his side of the family was fine with it (even my mother-in-law, who told me Snook was a "shocker"). It wouldn't have mattered what his name was though; I was always going to be keeping my name. Like other posters have said, it's been my name for 28 years. It was just be too weird to be changing it at this point. A couple of the Snook's older relatives still send us things addressed to Mr and Mrs Snook, but I don't mind. We didn't, like, send out a notice or anything that I *wasn't* changing my name, so they've got to make an assumption and that's the traditional option. So I just laugh and insist that the next time we rent a car, he's getting written down as Mr Howard. Kids are a nebulous concept at this point, but I kinda like the girls = Mom's name, boys = Dad's idea.

I also have the example of my mother, who took my father's name when she got married but then got divorced and remarried a few years ago, taking the new husband's name. I still get my Mom's name wrong to this day. I type her old e-mail address, write her down on forms incorrectly, etc. She seemed to get rather huffy about it at first, but I was like, "What do you expect, my own mother suddenly changing her name after thirty years! It's difficult!"
posted by web-goddess at 4:11 PM on May 12, 2005

I added on my husband's name, but use first/maiden/new last name for my byline at work.

My maiden name is impossible to spell and grossly long, his is short and simple. And I already have brothers with adult sons, so my maiden name is in no danger of dying out.

I thought I would have to drop my middle name, but thankfully the woman at the marriage license bureau told me I could keep them all.

The only hassle I've gotten is occasionally from people checking my passport, which lists both last names, when they compare it to my driver's license, which did not have room for both, and so lists my maiden name as an initial.

If we have kids, I might give them my original last name as a middle, but again, it's ungainly.
posted by GaelFC at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2005

My first wife took my name despite being a wild-eyed feminist -- don't ask me why, I don't even remember at this point why we got married -- and then when we split up she had to go through the hassle of changing it again. My second wife kept her own name; I suspect that might have bothered me a little if she'd been my first wife (why? don't know -- some kind of hard-wired leftover from patriarchy?), but one thing divorce does is give you an appreciation for what matters and what doesn't.

as we got married in NYC, the lady at city hall gave her a really, really pissy look and a ton of attitude about it

Really? We had a city-hall marriage too (Municipal Building, if you want to get technical) and the lady was extremely nice about everything. I guess it depends on what day you go there.
posted by languagehat at 4:40 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her name.

Our son has a middle name and two "last" names. How he wants to deal with that in the long run is up to him, naturally. In the short term, he has four names.

We decided to do it that way after a friend of mine reclaimed her mother's name relatively late in life for that sort of thing.
posted by mph at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2005

Professionally, I am FirstNameInitial MiddleName BirthName. (I reject the phrase "maiden name" is a truly loathesome archaity.) Socially, I am FirstName Husband'sName. With friends, I am an odd combination of FirstName BirthName, FirstName Husband'sName, Dreama BirthName (Dreama being a nickname from college) and on rare occasions, Dreama Husband'sName.

Though it works (and actually helps "categorize" how I know someone, based upon what they call me) I've considered that from now on, I might introduce myself from people as Cookie.
posted by Dreama at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my last name, and added my husband's as a middle name. My husband did the same. When we were talking about getting engaged, I mentioned that if we got married, I had no intention of changing my name, and he was a huge proponent of my doing so.

The main reason I kept my name, beyond the fact that it's my name, is that I've already changed it once (to my mother's last name when I was 18 years old). I am Chinese American and my husband is Caucasian. For me to change my name to his seemed sort of like I was ditching my heritage.

We have never gotten slack for it. The only two people who have forgotten are one of my best friends who sent a Christmas card to "Casey & Josh Burnett" and my husband's grandmother, who made a joint check out to the same. I think she just forgot, because it really doesn't bother her - one of her daughters' kept her last name as well.
posted by cajo at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2005

I honestly thought it was still more common to take the husband's last name...I feel like some relic from the 50's. I changed my name because I love my husband a lot more than I loved my father. And I went from a name that was never mispronounced to one that I always have to say, spell, spell again, say again. I like the idea that when we have kids, we'll all share the same last name. Call me old fashioned, I guess.
posted by gokart4xmas at 5:00 PM on May 12, 2005

My mother decided to keep her maiden name 30 years ago - back then, it was something of a big deal. When it came to me, it was decided that her maiden name would be my middle name. This is much less cumbersome than the whole hyphenation thing and seems to suit everyone just fine.

One critical point: When someone addresses her by my father's name she generally doesn't make a big deal of it - especially when it's a friend of mine who doesn't know our family details.

Lastly: Perhaps it's because I was raised as something of a feminist, I can't imagine why someone would want to change their name. While I suppose I'd be honored should someone want to adopt my name, the idea of it seems a bit strange to me.
posted by aladfar at 5:02 PM on May 12, 2005

I can tell you as IT Manager, I'd like you to keep your last name. Changing account names on servers and in databases can be a bugger sometimes.
posted by krisjohn at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2005

My mother kept her name as a result of working for one of the big credit unions and finding out that they were (very) illegally keeping some married women's credit files as subsections of their husbands, even if they had applied independently. This was well into the 1970s.
I have both Mom and Dad's name, but my brother got just Dad's name since he was born in Mexico and my mother didn't speak Spanish well enough to communicate what she wanted on the forms. The only problems she ever had was in airports. If we traveled with just my mother she had to carry copies of our birth certificates and a letter from Dad saying she wasn't kidnapping us. They always looked at us funny when there were three people all with different names, and one kid has a U.S. passport and birth certificate while the other had U.S. passport and Mexico birth certificate.
posted by Hadroed at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept mine. My husband had no problem with it.

A friend, who also kept her last name, has five kids. They alternated naming them with his last name and hers. For the first four it ended up the boys got his name and the girls got hers. I'm not sure if the 5th(a girl) got his or hers. I think they're pretty unconcerned if it confuses people--it's their problem and not really their business anyway. They're a family no matter what their last names are.
posted by lobakgo at 5:16 PM on May 12, 2005

I never even considered changing my birth name... it's a perfectly good name, so why should I? And that's one of the many things my redneck-feminist husband loves about me. He deeply dislikes the implicit idea that a wife is a lesser appendage to her husband.

His mama didn't like it at first but she got over it. My folks thought it was fine. If we have a kid, we plan to flip a coin to choose a last name and use the other as a middle name. Two last names would be awkward since my Dutch last name is two words already.

When we meet new people, they usually ask why our last names are different. I just say "I kept my own name." Most people accept that. If they don't, they're not the kind of people I want to talk to anyway. My husband quickly developed the habit of introducing me at social events as "my wife, full name" instead of "my wife, Naomi" because otherwise people assume I have his name. Likewise, I introduce him by his full name.

Having different last names has never created any problems for us in signing legal paperwork, getting insurance, buying cars, buying a house, or anything else that actually matters.

Based on my unscientific but extensive life experience in the south, I would say that 90% of all women in our region DO take their husband's name when they get married. And remarried... and remarried... I would also say that most of those women and all of their husbands are seriously perturbed by women who fail to conform.

But luckily most southerners are too polite to say anything to my face. And it's pretty entertaining to know that I can have a revolutionary influence on their children, just by being myself.
posted by naomi at 5:37 PM on May 12, 2005

The Icelandic tradition where male children receive their father's name and female children receive their mother's is kind of neat too but potentially very confusing

I think it's patronymics on both sides. If Thorlief Olafson has a son Barney, he's Barney Thorliefson. If he has a daughter Esmerelda, she's Esmerelda Thorliefsdottir. At least, the Icelandic exchange student in high school was Gudliefsdottir, and I think Gudlief is a man's name (usually, at least, like Ralph).

First wife took my name, went nuts, and ran off with her therapist (praise be). In Round Two, the Bride of Xenophobe kept her name, which is fine with me as the one I use is only mine by half-adoption; I'd drop back to my birth name but it's "taken" professionally.

No kids, and I'm largely indifferent between any reasonable solution, so long as it's not too weird and reasonably euphonious. About the only thing sort of off the table would be just giving a son my last name -- I'd sooner go Icelandic and name him Borax Logansrun Xenysson.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:41 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept mine, and there was no problem. I was surprised however, at the large number of our friends (early 30s, the vast majority graduate schooled and feministy-type people) that assumed I would be taking his name. Never occured to me - I would as soon change my first name.

Kids are getting his name because he's the only son, and would like the name to continue.
posted by gaspode at 5:42 PM on May 12, 2005

My ex-wife did. I had no problem with it at all. In fact, I was damned pleased she wanted to keep her name. I see absolutely no reasons at all - other than antiquated, sexist ones - why a woman should be expected to take her husband's name.

Kids? Whatever. Alternate. Pick the surname that sounds best with their first name. But insist that they should take the man's name? Sexist and retrograde. Like so much else in this world.
posted by Decani at 5:45 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife kept her maiden name when we got married. It's no big deal to me (I know we're married, she knows we're married), and it was nice not having to go through all the legal hassle/paperwork/etc.
posted by mrbill at 5:47 PM on May 12, 2005

I have also been surprised by the number of people in my circle who have taken their husband's names; to me it seems pretty much a no-brainer that you'd keep your name, but a higher percentage than I'd have expected of family/friends have been traditional on this.

re: it's "connectivity" not ownership, well, it's connectivity via absorbtion; the wife's nominative identity is soaked up by the male line.

re: kids, I'd say alternate or go with a gender rule (though not nec same to same) or make a new name (hyphenated, mashed, or just created) or if one of you has an obviously preferable name for one reason or another (phonetically, historically, personally etc) then just give the kids that one. Sure, it's slightly less simple, but then, the production of a kid is not that simple a thing to start with. My middle name is my mom's last name (dunbar) and I am glad to have both names connected to me. Of course, I think of my whole mother's side as being "dunbar" when in reality there are at least two or three other last names involved...
posted by mdn at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2005

I changed mine when I got married. 16+ years ago. I had very little under my birth name (a car, a credit card, a university record, a driver's license that was up for renewal anyway). If I'd had any professional work, I'd probably not have changed.

My birth name is kind of long, very unusual, nearly impossible to pronounce (outside of the family, I've met six people who've managed to say it correctly the first time, and there's a sizeable number who never do quite figure it out, despite repeated reminders), and apparently even more difficult to spell. My sister is slightly luckier than I, in that she lives in an area where Russian surnames are not unusual. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, but I'd not want to saddle any of my kids with it. My dad was cool with that, despite the fact that there would be no descendents with that name.

I don't feel like property. I also don't feel like the girl I was when I carried my birth name.

My college friends are split on the subject - some hyphenated, some kept theirs with the spouse's last name as their middle names, some changed, some didn't change at all. (The kids carry their father's name.) Most of the people I know through my kid's schools changed theirs - it's still more common that the parents and kids all have the same non-hyphenated name, although it's not unusual for mom/dad/kids all to have different last names.

Personally, I think it's just a name. It doesn't really matter. Keep it, change it, call yourself "george". Just realise that whatever you do, someone will get on your case because you didn't do the "right" thing.
posted by jlkr at 6:27 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife and I each kept our own last name. Our tentative plan when we have children is to give the children a new last name, and have each of us use that new last name in combination with our current last name. We like this system because it allows my wife and I to keep our old identifiers, it binds the whole family together with a shared identifier, and it scales from generation to generation (unlike the hyphenation thing). We're also hopeful that this will be enough to help teachers and others identify us easily as our children's parents.
posted by alms at 6:45 PM on May 12, 2005

WOW! I am amazed by this thread. I know MAYBE two females who have kept their name, one of which is hyphenated, and my wife and I have quite a large social/family circle. As you can guess, my wife took my name, but made her maiden name her middle name.

I don't know if it is where I live (midwest), but this thread just baffles me. I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name. Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???

I guess I like the simplicity of not having to worry about what name goes where, what name the children get, etc. I wouldn't have minded if she kept her name, but it is just easier this way. For reservations, you can pick any ole name you want (we usually do use her maiden name as it is easier).
posted by bagels at 6:58 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name when I got married. I just didn't see a need/reason to change it. I was also bothered by the idea that marital name change was an identifier that I had become my husband's property. But, I suppose the argument could be made that, by keeping my name, I am identified as property of my father....

At any rate, I just liked my name and didn't feel like changing it. My husband was fine with it. His mother is passive-aggressive about it, but she is the only one with an issue. Our children will have 2 middle names, my last name being the second, and his last name. They can then choose how they wish to use it when they are older.
posted by Mrs. Green at 7:04 PM on May 12, 2005

I don't know if it is where I live (midwest), but this thread just baffles me. I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name. Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???

I think it is a combination of the way the question is phrased, inviting in particular responses from people who kept their birth name, and the demographics of Metafilter. I am surprised that you are actually baffled, though. The simplicity discussion tends to make me slightly sad, just because of the way it almost always works out. I would have loved it if my husband had changed his name to mine, but he was not any more interested in doing that than I was in changing mine to his, so here we are.

I have some strong feelings about getting "dibs" on last name for any children I have, but so does he, so that will be fun to hash out if it comes to that. It turns out that I have a visceral feeling about second-middle-name as a distinctly second-class/second-place position, and can't imagine getting over it. We'll see, I suppose.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:22 PM on May 12, 2005

Here's what I wonder: For couples that have decided boys get his name, girls get hers, what happens when you have four boys? Or three girls? I'd feel kinda cheated.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:25 PM on May 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Explaining that my wife and I are authorized to deal with them is a simple school database problem that I'm certain school districts solved long ago

feel like we are more of a family.

[background] My (step)father became the more involved dad in my life and is my dad when asked.

When my mother changed her name it gave me a differnt name than my parents. So near the end of every school year my teachers became concerned about never seeing or recalling my parents’ attendance at the school functions.
This was due to my parents attending teacher meetings and having audience participation without me sitting with them. After my last name was changed to theirs, it was never a problem again.
posted by thomcatspike at 7:27 PM on May 12, 2005

But, I suppose the argument could be made that, by keeping my name, I am identified as property of my father....

I suppose thats the one thing that intrigues me about much of this: the patrilineal lines are so intrinsic that when a woman is making the choice to "keep her own name" or give her child her name what is happening is that one male line (her father) is taking precedence over another male line (his father) Just an observation.
posted by vacapinta at 7:30 PM on May 12, 2005

the patrilineal lines are so intrinsic that when a woman is making the choice to "keep her own name" or give her child her name what is happening is that one male line (her father) is taking precedence over another male line (his father)

Right, but for me, at least, the more immediately salient factor is the association of the name with my very own self. Sure, it was my father's name too, but the important connection is to ME ME ME! (me!)
posted by redfoxtail at 7:33 PM on May 12, 2005

My wife changed her name, but not because of any pressure from me. I certainly wouldn't want to change my name, but I figured her name is hers to do what she wants with and she's welcome to mine if she wants it.
It always struck me as perfectly sensible for women to keep their last names and, in the case of children, give the female children the mother's last name and the male children the father's.
posted by willpie at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2005

It always struck me as perfectly sensible for women to keep their last names and, in the case of children, give the female children the mother's last name and the male children the father's.
One reason I imagine wanting to keep my last name is so that it doesn't die out (I only have sisters), and giving it to just the girls would defeat that purpose.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on May 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

I really don't get all the "difficulty of hyphenation" comments. Having a hyphenated name isn't hard. At all. I think it's kinda dinstinguishing. Then again, my first and last names are very common, so having an uncommon last name is nice.
posted by dame at 7:44 PM on May 12, 2005

I guess you've got enough info, but my wife kept her name, I kept mine. It was a slight big deal for her family, but they are cool with it. My family didn't care, and I sure didn't. I think I like it better this way - I feel like an important aspect of our marriage is our individuality and for me to insist on my wife giving up that part of her identity just wouldn't be fair. I sure wouldn't have wanted to change *my* name.
posted by drobot at 7:49 PM on May 12, 2005

Just as another datapoint, my sweetie and I have been together 11 years, but are not married. We each (obviously) have our own names.

Interestingly, most people who meet us now assume that we are married, and never question the last name thing -- what makes this of particular note to me is that in none of the married couples we know (not a single one) has the wife kept her original name, yet everyone seems to accept without question that this is what I have done.
posted by anastasiav at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2005

We don't know what we're going to do when we get around to having kids, but making names up at random seems the most appealing

You sure you can legally do that? I thought children had to have the last name of one of the parents (or both).

What really scares me, though, is in 20 years' time when all these hyphenated name kids start marrying each other.. what will Martin Lewis-Smith and Julia Childs-Smithe call their children? Elizabeth Lewis-Smith-Childs-Smithe? I can see it happening.

I'm a fan of the Icelandic system. Take your same-sexed parent's name and add 'sson' or 'sdottir'.
posted by wackybrit at 8:29 PM on May 12, 2005

the patrilineal lines are so intrinsic that when a woman is making the choice to "keep her own name"...

sure, but by this argument, no one is keeping their own name, since that father only got the name through his father's father's father's etc. The point of it being your name is that it is how you have been identified for your entire life. I identify more with my first name, but when someone calls my last name or when I see my whole name printed somewhere, I definitely respond to it. To adopt a whole new identifier seems symbolically pretty big to me.
posted by mdn at 8:31 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name. I like my name and have had it for over 3 decades.

No one in either family seems to care. So far, I've rarely been identified by my husband's last name. As for kids, right now we plan to give boys my name and girls his name.

Almost all my friends, though, took their husband's name.
posted by debgpi at 8:38 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my name. And my son has my last name, too.

My husband's last name is our son's middle name.

I've always wanted a child with my last name, and I'm not sure my husband felt that strongly about it one way or another. At least not until our son was born. He's now said that if we have another child, he'd like that child to have his last name.

Fair enough.
posted by Badmichelle at 8:55 PM on May 12, 2005

You sure you can legally do that? I thought children had to have the last name of one of the parents (or both)

It would be a state issue in the US, and mostly it's unregulated. Go nuts.

There are no numbers on that site, but as far as I know only a few states place any formal limits on names (though I imagine that Child-Services might step in if you name your progeny "A Sniveling Little Rat-Faced Git" under their general powers to stop you doing fucked-up nonsense to your kids).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my last name, and my husband, bless his heart, had no problem with it. But he's from South America, and so used to the idea of women keeping their names. (Whenever I visit his family and have to sign my name for something, I do tack on his name but keep my own. It makes a very long name but I refuse to not write it.)

One thing that keeps happening though is that people assume MY lastname is HIS lastname. We've been married almost 12 years, and I've never been called Myfirstname HisLastName, but he's often been called HisFirstName MyLastName.

Has this happened to any other guys?
posted by luneray at 9:04 PM on May 12, 2005

I was 20 when I got married. I was mad at my folks, my mother had kept her maiden name, my dad had unofficially changed from my last name (his stepfather's name) to his birthname. DeHaan sounded exotic compared to boring, old Peterson. (I told everyone, "It rhymes with Gahan, like Depeche Mode!")

But, well, the name never felt like me. I never responded when people called me by my last name. I was/am sick of explaining to clients that, although a genetic mutt, I am not actually at all Dutch.

I've established a career under his name and my daughter carries that last name as well, but I feel like I should just, well, give it back. It just doesn't belong to me anymore.

I was really gung-ho about my maiden/birth/whatever name at first, but the glow of it is fading for me. I'm not the person I was 10 years ago.

[I've got a two weeks to decide what I want to do with my last name. My coworkers, who call me Gucky even in front of clients, have suggested that I use my handle as my new last name. Just makes me wish I picked a cuter handle back in 1989.]
posted by Gucky at 9:15 PM on May 12, 2005

I always wondered what would happen after about four generations of liberated-hyphenated couplings with offspring.

Not to mention the trouble it will give to future geneology nuts. And the Mormons. Heh.

Go ahead and laugh. I'm the only person in the entire world with my last name. How many people can say that?
posted by hootch at 9:21 PM on May 12, 2005

My husband just got home. I was curious and asked him if I hadn't wanted to give up my last name (if I had changed to my mum's maiden name that might have been the case), would it have bothered him. He said no, it wouldn't have been a problem to keep it. If we were going to have children (which we're not) we would have hyphenated it.

I was kind of surprised at how many women kept (or are keeping) their surnames. In my experience, most women take their husband's name. But as someone said upthread, I think it has to do with the phrasing of the question.
posted by deborah at 9:59 PM on May 12, 2005

In Quebec women who marry keep their maiden name by default.
posted by clevershark at 10:05 PM on May 12, 2005

To me it comes down to an esthetic choice--who has the last name that will go best with our first names. I find the whole thing to be incredibly arbitrary: our genealogy is a tree, and no particular path down that tree is any more special than any other.

If both names fit equally well, then perhaps a coin toss would be in order. Of course, one's partner may be a bit more attached to tradition.
posted by cytherea at 10:08 PM on May 12, 2005

Data point: in Korea all women keep their family surnames. This seems paradoxical, given the low status of women in Korean society, but it's all about bloodlines here. Paternal ones.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:12 PM on May 12, 2005

Also, related, is my somewhat odd case. I was born with FamilyName1 -- my mother took her husband's surname. He died when I was young, my mother remarried and took a new surname few years later, and I used FamilyName2, and was formally adopted and started legally using that name when I was 16. He died in turn when I was in my 20's and my mother remarried yet again (she's a survivor!), and took, yes, FamilyName3. If she's widowed yet again, I don't know what the hell she's going to do.

So I'm in the odd position of not using my birth family name, having my single surviving direct blood relative (my mother) using another family name, and having no other living first- or second-order relatives using the same family name as me.

Messy. But I'm not a big family guy, so it's cool. Korean folks look at me with horror when I try to explain it all, though. It's like I'm some kind of ancestor-hatin' monster.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:19 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm keeping my last name, and never even entertained the thought of changing it. It's mine, I've had it for a long time, I'm published, I have degrees under it... It's even part of my damn Metafilter name. "jennyh" just doesn't have the same ring to it. I'm also extremely uncomfortable with the whole idea of naming as an extension of ownership.

Any hypothetical kids can have corpse's last name, as my only attachment to my last name is that it's the one I've had for 32 years. I don't really care about the family lineage as I'm not close to the side of the family that the name came from.

My mom and I have had different last names since I was seven, so the idea of not having the same name as my kids is no big deal either.
posted by jennyb at 10:44 PM on May 12, 2005

My family changed its name (for aesthetic and internal warfare reasons) when I was 12. My wife has had four names during her life, the last one of her own invention. (It was the last name of her dog first; don't ask.)

By the time we married all evidence of our ancestry was vapor -- but we were too tired to change names to some common one again. (And my wife has published.) So, his 'n' hers, kids get mine.
posted by argybarg at 10:52 PM on May 12, 2005

I kept my last name, he kept his. The children have a first name, two middle names, one being my last name, and his last name. He didn't care, except to note that saying my first name with his last name sounded like someone he didn't know at all. I rather concurred, plus... I have a perfectly good name already.

His family still calls me Susan HisLastName or His Name & Susan HisLastName, but we gleefully send them mail with our return address as Mrs & Mr. Susan MyLastName.
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:07 PM on May 12, 2005

When my partner and I joined in German Lebenspartnershaft (gay pseudomarriage) I was surprised when we had to choose last names, it hadn't occurred to me. We just kept our own names simply to keep it uncomplicated. And we felt for either of us to change would give insult to one set of parents. If we ever have kids (unlikely, I feel I'm too old) its another problem, we're both only sons of only sons.

If I were straight and expecting to marry and make a family, I'd prefer a shared name just to keep it simple. But I ain't straight, and I'm rather old fashioned when it comes to some things. Just as I separate church and state, I separate tradition from sociopolitical issues. (I'll be outraged at a woman not given equal pay, and be unconcerned if a woman complains about the assumption she bare her husband's name)
posted by Goofyy at 11:28 PM on May 12, 2005

After reading the wonderchicken's response I have to add that my mother's maiden name was her father's stage name, which he legally changed to before he was married. And my father's name was given to his grandfather by the orphanage he was raised in. So neither of my parents' names are ancestral either.
posted by cali at 11:31 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm Iranian and in Iran women keep their surname. When we moved to England and later to the States it struck people as weird that my mom, step dad, and I all had different names.

If or when my girlfriend and I marry, she plans to become Mary Her name-My name, but I'd rather she kept her own name. My surname is easy to pronounce as far as Iranian names go, and strangely enough it does go with "Mary", but something about her taking my name (even if she hyphenates) makes me feel uncomfortable. I might as well lead her around by a chain attached to her nose ring.
posted by Devils Slide at 12:18 AM on May 13, 2005

I kept my name, which is one very few people have and that I've learned to appreciate for its distinctiveness if not its grace (no one can spell or pronounce it on first try, either). We live in the midwest, both of us from families in very small towns, and no one objected, though it's funny to see the wall people sometimes hit when addressing things to us: they send things addressed to our first names only, or to my husband's full name and my first, or invent a hyphenate for us (my own dear father!, who didn't protest my choice but didn't really get it, either). One of my closest friends, from another very small Kansas town, kept her name too. So, bagels, though I agree it's less common in the midwest, it does happen. (As a caveat, we've all spent a lot of time in academia, where it's very common for women to retain their given names.)

My name means a lot to me. It's the name under which I made all my young mistakes. But it's also the name on my degrees, my papers, my entire adult work history, and the deed to my first house -- everything I ever worked for and earned myself. No stunning achievements, but all of them mine, and I didn't want to submerge any of it. I know some people think the question is trivial, but for me, it wasn't. My name is me -- the good, the bad, and the mediocre -- and I wanted to hang on to it, just as my husband got to keep his own history without question. So that's what I did, and both of us are happy with that choice.
posted by melissa may at 12:29 AM on May 13, 2005

Fascinating thread. There's a definite slant towards keeping the maiden name isn't there? My unmarried observation is that it's maybe 50:50 out there in publicland. Maybe ladies here are above the cut in education (& even intelligence perhaps, not that that means anything on this front) and are more singleminded than the non-MeFemme majority out there?
posted by peacay at 12:52 AM on May 13, 2005

My mom kept her name. On the other hand I got it only as a second middle name, I have my dad's last name. So the names are still passed on in the traditional way. Still, I admire her for doing it - way before it was popular.

I think my dad's parents weren't terribly happy but they didn't like her anyway. It has caused some confusion on forms but nothing major.

The problem with hyphenation: what do two hyphenated-name people do when they get married?

I'm never getting married, but if I did, I would sure as heck keep my name and I would probably want my kids to get it too.
posted by mai at 1:22 AM on May 13, 2005

Don't have much more to add to what has been said. I live in Spain, as Vacapinta said (and others) here everybody keeps their name intact when they are married. Sur names already include both parent's names. The child receives the first part or the sur name or each of the parents, the order that they are used in the child's name is decided by the parents.

I remember the look of utter horror on my wife's face when she first heard that in the US (among other countries) women change their name to their husband's. It struck her as traumatic that a woman changes her identity just to get married.

I tend to agree with her.

My fiancee plans to take my name, and she says because it makes her feel like we are more of a family. (...) I am certainly honored to have such a wonderful woman want my name in the first place.
posted by xmutex at 3:15 PM PST on May 12 [!]

She wants to be called Mrs. Mutex??
posted by sic at 2:36 AM on May 13, 2005

A fella I work with got married; his wife didn't like his name, so he took hers instead.

They divorced eventually, and he kept the married name (i.e. didn't revert); now he's engaged again, and we're all wondering who's going to take what name... :-)
posted by Chunder at 3:17 AM on May 13, 2005

As an academic in the UK it's getting to the stage where it's quite unusual for women to take the partner's surname on marrying. This is practical as it messes up publication records if one changes. However, I would argue there is also social pressure not to make the name change. This may be more apparent in the social sciences (and possibly humanities) than in science disciplines. I have to admit to being quite surprised when a friend of mine who lectures in an arts subject opted to take her husband's name.
posted by biffa at 4:23 AM on May 13, 2005

(though I imagine that Child-Services might step in if you name your progeny "A Sniveling Little Rat-Faced Git"...

No one minded that a father named his kid Loser in NYC...
posted by mdn at 4:39 AM on May 13, 2005

My spouse did a writing order logical shift left of her names, shifting my last name into the last name slot.
In other words, she grew up going by her middle name and signed things with her first initial then middle then last. When we married, she took her middle name as her first name, moved her last name to her middle name and took my last name.
I'd assumed that she was going to keep her name as it was. My surprise.
posted by plinth at 4:39 AM on May 13, 2005

I don't see what the problem is when two hyphenated-last-name people get married. They, like all of us, choose what their last name will change to or stay as.
posted by cajo at 5:37 AM on May 13, 2005

this thread just baffles me. I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name. Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???

Or maybe it's a case of someone leading a sheltered existence, hanging out with like-minded people, and suddenly having it brought to their attention that there's a whole world out there of people not like them? It reminds me of that woman who was so confident the Democrats would win because nobody she knew would dream of voting for a Republican.
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on May 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

OK, that was excessively snarky. Sorry about that. I'm trying to avoid work and feeling guilty about it. And now that I think about it, I agree that the percentage of women taking their husband's name is probably much higher in the world at large than here on the boards of MeFi. So just ignore my last comment.
posted by languagehat at 6:10 AM on May 13, 2005

The wife used her former last name as her new middle name and dropped her old middle name.

Used to be: A B C
Now: A C Unixrat

Works for her. She took the idea from her sister.
posted by unixrat at 6:13 AM on May 13, 2005

I kept my last name. My husband was fine with it. Everyone addresses me by his last name though. I think that has more to do with remembering how to spell my last name. Whenever we have kids, they'll take my husband's last name. It's shorter, easier to remember, and much less of a hassle at airports.
posted by miftik at 6:32 AM on May 13, 2005

Late to the thread, but as others have mentioned in Quebec you are not permitted to change your name upon marriage. So my wife and I have the names we were born with.

A more interesting case for the purposes of this thread is that of my mother. When she was married to my father, not in Quebec BTW, she took his (my) name as a matter of course. They divorced, but she was living in the city HE, not she, grew up in, and her whole history there (including professionally) was under her married name. So she kept it for a long time, even when she remarried.

Eventually, though, being identified by her long-since-ex-husband's name grated so much that she did change her name - but not to my step-father's name, back to her pre-married name. Honestly it was a bit of an adjustment for me, and it took a couple of years for it to sink in universally (bills, mail, etc. as well as some individuals), but she feels very happy and comfortable to have the name that she feels is truly HER name.
posted by mikel at 6:45 AM on May 13, 2005

languagehat-- that sentiment is usually attributed to Pauline Kael, in reference to the election of Richard Nixon.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:49 AM on May 13, 2005

There's a definite slant towards keeping the maiden name isn't there?

Metafilter is, obviously and historically, comprised of a very liberal demographic. As a result, the men and women who post here are predisposed toward more liberal, less traditional concepts, including maiden names. A married woman keeping her maiden name is not unorthodox, per se, but the question does play into the heart of the don't-include-me-in-the-establishment mindset of the community. If you really want to see Metafilter counterculture in action, run a search on wedding planning or engagement rings.

As a result, MeFi opinions on topics like this are not necessarily representative of the nation/world at large. Datapoint: I work in an office in a feminine industry in liberal New York City. Of the eight married women who sit near me, four took their husbands' names, two hyphenated, and one is in transition (married name on voice mail, maiden name in email, etc.). Only one of them kept her maiden name, and she may switch it once she leaves the company or has children.

Please note that I am not against maiden names; I'm just attempting to balance the discussion before the thread closes.
posted by werty at 6:49 AM on May 13, 2005

This is something that I have struggled with. It's good to hear all the different perspectives. I think I will take my fiance's last name if only because I loathe my father and have no contact with him or his side of the family, thus I do not want to be connected with them in any way. Plus, it's a rotten name and people can't pronounce it.

The thing that perplexes me is when women are referred to as Mrs. John Smith. Wtf? Where did our first names go? It's definitely going to be interesting when we decide on the wording for the wedding invitations.
posted by crapulent at 7:46 AM on May 13, 2005

I do think it should be recognised that the automatic tendency for name-taking to be done by the woman rather than the man is sexist. No two ways about it: it's sexist. Sexism is a bad thing.

If one wishes to argue that it's about the "convenience" of the entire family having the same name then why not simply pick the name which you both prefer? Can't decide? Why not flip a coin? Both want to keep your own names? Do so. The kids? Alternate. Coin toss. Which sounds better? And so on. My ex-wife and I had no kids but we did discuss the naming issue and we agreed that as we both liked her surname better that would be the one we'd use for any kids. Why not?

What is this bizarre, thoroughly irrational urge to "keep my name going", anyway? What does it matter? That stuff smacks of extremely primitive thinking, to me.

There is no good argument for always using the man's name. It's a sexist tradition; that's all. We do not need to be sexist unless we want to be. Or unless we don't wish to personally resist the societal pressure to be sexist when it doesn't suit us.
posted by Decani at 7:47 AM on May 13, 2005

I kept my birthname, but it did upset my husband. In spite of the fact that we had dated for 9 years before marriage (and that we were 25 years old when we were married), he felt that if I didn't take his name, that meant I didn't "love" him enough.

I was like whatever. It still irritates him. It only irritated me once: when I gave birth to our daughter, the people filling out the record of live birth assumed that I wasn't married and wanted the name of the father so they could go after him for child support. I was like yes, I know who the father is! He's standing right there! People should never assume that people are married OR unmarried.

I am the only one in my circle of friends who kept her birthname. I didn't like my hub's last name, and if I ever publish professionally, I want to use my original name. I also felt it was a sign of ownership and I'm nobody's property. I wish my hub had been more agreeable so we could have hyphenated our daughter's name, but to throw him a bone, I agreed that she could have his last name. I picked the first and middle names, though.

I like my name, period.
posted by cass at 7:55 AM on May 13, 2005

My husband was awesome when it came to the name discussion--his first response was, "Your the one with the cool last name, I'm totally changing mine to yours!" We ended up just keeping our own names for simplicity's sake...

Though, honestly, I really considered changing my name--not to his, just to something else. For me, if was a great opportunity to disassociate myself from my awful family (seriously). And why is keeping my father's name any better than taking on my new husbands, right? In the end I kept the maiden name, but only because having an outward association with my particular ethnicity was very important :-)
posted by ibeji at 8:09 AM on May 13, 2005

ThePinkSuperhero writes " One reason I imagine wanting to keep my last name is so that it doesn't die out (I only have sisters), and giving it to just the girls would defeat that purpose."

Unless, of course, your daughters passed it down to their daughters, and so on and so forth.
posted by heatherann at 8:29 AM on May 13, 2005

> I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name.
> Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???

Those who have done something nonstandard (for whatever reason) may be counted on to be eager to bend your ear about it. The New Yorker's useful phrase: MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over.)
posted by jfuller at 8:32 AM on May 13, 2005

I'm getting married in October and I still haven't decided fully what to do, but I'm 95% sure I will keep my name. I'm not sure why some men feel this is startling - if they want to pass on the history of their name, then it should be understandable that a woman wouldn't want to let go of the history of her own name.
posted by agregoli at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2005

It took me a while to change my name when I got married. I was never against the idea, and my husband didn't ask/pressure me to change it. In fact he said he would change his last name and take mine except that he is named for an uncle who was killed in war and he wanted to keep his full name, for himself and also for his father, who would have been sensitive to a change because of the namesake situation. I just had trouble deciding....keep my somewhat weird last name or take his more cool/easy-to-spell one? In the end, I decided NOT to drop my maiden name but to add his as a second surname, no hyphen. Sometimes I write out Firstname Middle Maidenname Lastname, and sometimes just Firstname Lastname. Changing it was a bitch, but it was my choice to do so. We're childless by choice so don't need to be concerned on that front.
posted by turtlegirl at 8:52 AM on May 13, 2005

My mother's a serial wife, and is on her 3rd husband right now. In every marriage she's taken the new husband's last name.

I was born during the first marriage and given his last name (Stoddard), but she and my biological father split about a year or so later and I don't remember him. When I was 5 my mother married the guy I consider to be my father, and we both started using his last name, Cotrone. By the time I was 12, everyone knew me with that last name, and the elementary schools had no problem using it on file even if it wasn't legally my last name.

Unfortunately the junior high wouldn't do it, so when I moved into 7th grade I was forced to go back to using Stoddard and explain to all my friends why I'd had to change. To make matters more interesting, 3 years later my stepfather adopted me and I had to explain to even more people as well as teachers why I was switching to Cotrone. Fast forward 8 years, my mother is married again and switching her last name for a 3rd time.

When I got married at 25 I changed my last name. I felt no attachment to any of the last names I've had and didn't even consider hyphenating it or using my maiden name as a middle name. I never even considered not taking his last name. Being another childfree couple, we don't need to worry about what we'd name our kids.
posted by chickygrrl at 9:07 AM on May 13, 2005

I kept my last name. My daughter has my last name, my son has my husband's. If I'd known we were going to have two kids and that one of them would be a boy, I would have given the boy my last name and the girl his, but that's just how it worked out.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2005

I always figured I would keep my name and I did when I got married two years ago. What surprised me, though, was the choice was not as automatic as I thought it would be. I really thought about it long and hard.

When I was grappling with this decision, I got a lot of advice. Some of it was completely stupid--"He's letting you keep your name? Wow, I would love to do that but it would just devastate Steve."

But some was from older, educated professional women who had kept their name and regretted it. That really kind of threw me.

I remember one woman was really pushing me on it. Her argument was that most people will assume you have your husband's last name and will call you by it. That name will mean nothing to you so there will also be this mental disconnect for you.

I considering hyphenating but I know so many women who have taken that route, only to abandon it later because of the clunkiness.

Incidentally, Lynn Harris of Break-up Girl fame wrote an article for Salon about how snobby people were when she announced she was taking her husband's last name. It was an interesting read. You may want to check it out.
posted by Sully6 at 9:27 AM on May 13, 2005

My wife kept her name, and I was irrationally grumpy about it too. It'll pass.
For the kids, you could use their middle name to track their maternal line
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2005

My wife kept her name. This was the extent of discussion of the issue: "You know, of course, that I don't expect or want you to take my name, right?" "I know."

My parents didn't quite get it, saying that they understood, that my wife had professional credentials and it would be troublesome to change (they came up with that themselves -- we'd never mentioned it.) I told them that had nothing to do with it, that neither of us liked the idea of her changing her name.

It's always been our plan to remain childless, so that was a non-issue.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:25 AM on May 13, 2005

Addressing a comment or two above:

I'm well aware many women don't change their surnames. For me it was a no-brainer and had absolutely nothing to do with sexism nor living in a vaccuum. I abhor my father and was relieved to be rid of the burden of his last name. My husband is a wonderful person and because I like his last name, it isn't a hardship to use. Well, there's the paperwork crap, but believe me you, it's well worth it.

This is most likely simplistic but everyone - male or female, married or not - should use the last name they feel is best for him/her. If someone has a problem with it, that's his/her problem, not yours.
posted by deborah at 10:32 AM on May 13, 2005

I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name. Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???
It could also be a generational thing. Maybe a high percentage of women currently alive & married have taken their husbands' name, but since younger people are getting married later and maybe they're less likely to change their name when they do get married. If that's the case, in 40 years there will be more married women that kept their own name. Or maybe no one will bother getting married anymore. Purely speculation, but it's a thought.
posted by raedyn at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2005

What's amazing is never whether someone takes their husband's name or not, or (as two of my wonderful friends did) come up with a mingled name - it's what absolute jerks so many people are about something that's none of their damned business. Mind-boggling.

On reflection, it's comforting to me that I am still shocked when people are such jerks.
posted by phearlez at 11:03 AM on May 13, 2005

My wife dropped her middle name and now uses her maiden name as her middle name:
Before: Linda Freda Smith (not her real name)
After: Linda Smith Doohickie

The kids don't have her maiden name in their names at all.
posted by Doohickie at 11:06 AM on May 13, 2005

I agree that it's a completely personal choice. But I do think the tide is turning toward more women keeping their names. Out of my friends (yes, overly educated, liberal, blue staters, so not a representative sample) nearly all of them kept their names. I wouldn't worry about institutions -- if they can't deal with it now, they're going to have to learn.

I changed my name because I like the symbolism of becoming a family and all of us having the same last name. (I never thought of it as me being my husband's property, because it was my choice to change my name.) Making the traditional choice has definitely made my life easier -- no confusion about who's named what, what the kids' names will be, what to write on forms. But as mentioned above, I was in the situation of trading an ethnic name for an American one. People definitely look at me funny when I say my last name, because they're trying to figure out what I could possibly be.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:13 AM on May 13, 2005

My wife took my last name, because it's easier to spell than her maiden name, and also because it fixed her initials. Prior to marriage, her initials were ASS. Always a source of amusement to me. She was about three months premature; her parents didn't really realize the initials would be that way until long after the shock of her early arrival had worn off.

We didn't discuss it, really. If my wife had objected to switching, I wouldn't have pressed the point.

I personally find the hyphenation unwieldy, and quite like the idea of people who make up a new name for both rather than smush them together. Point-blank expecting one person to change the name is unreasonable.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:20 PM on May 13, 2005

Explaining that my wife and I are authorized to deal with them is a simple school database problem that I'm certain school districts solved long ago.

To clarify, I know that it's a problem they solved long ago because my Mother never had the same last name that I did while I was in school. She'd divorced by the time that I was in Kindergarten (1982), changed her name back to her maiden name, and then proceeded to change it a bunch more times along the way. No one ever blinked at her writing me a note, and she was certainly noted as showing up for conferences for both my sister and I (who share the last name of our father but rarely interact with him or his family).

Seriously people, going nuts naming your kids whatever the hell you want to. No one should care, and if they do, they're a stick in the mud and you can and should gleefully ignore them.
posted by togdon at 12:32 PM on May 13, 2005

cali : The Icelandic tradition where male children receive their father's name and female children receive their mother's is kind of neat too but potentially very confusing.

Actually, the tradition is that all children recieve their father's first name as their last name. Boys are "soandsosson" and girls are "soandsosdottir."

My husband is Icelandic and so, despite my wishes to be rid of my last name (which is my father's name), I didn't change my name when we married. I will be changing my name to my mother's last name when I move back to the US and have time to get a new passport.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:05 AM on May 14, 2005

wackybrit : It's not your same sex parent, it's just your father. I know that in recent years, the option to take your mother's name instead has been legalized, but I live in Iceland and 99% of patrynyms are, in fact, the father's name.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:07 AM on May 14, 2005

Kwantsar: Thanks!
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2005

I've got one friend who hyphenated his and his wife's last names and they both use that, as do the kids... And another friend who took his wife's last name, completely dumping his own.
posted by raster at 3:51 PM on May 16, 2005

If anyone cares:

Wife kept her name. So did I. Boy children will get my name. Females get hers. In fact, we have our first daughter. Her last name matches my wife's.
posted by scottythebody at 10:50 PM on May 16, 2005

I thought that 90-something percent of women took their husband's name. Maybe this is a case of the vocal few???
It could also be a generational thing.

No, it's a metafilter thing. Not saying its a bad thing, but I'm pretty positive these results are far from the norm. Pose this quesstion to a different group of people, get a different answer.
posted by justgary at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2005

My mother kept her name professionally (she was a physician) but would use her married name socially. I did not change my name when I married (I was in my mid 30s). My husband had no problem with it and it was never a problem.
posted by gleenyc at 10:50 AM on May 19, 2005

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