Mrs. asnider will actually be Mrs. herownname, what problems might this cause?
February 8, 2012 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Possible issues of not changing your last name when you get married, what might they be?

OK, another wedding-related question for you, MetaFilter.

My fiancee doesn't plan to change her name when we get married. This is no problem for us or for any of our family (as far as I know). But we are wondering if there are any issues that might pop up in the future as a result of this decision?

Mostly, the answer seems to be "no," but there is a lot of weird scare-mongering online and I'm having a hard time parsing out what is accurate from what is not.

I read this thread from October, but it seems to mostly focus on health care issues.

Are there other issues that could pop up for a couple without a shared last name? If you have experienced weird problems because you and your spouse do not have the same last night, I'd love you hear your insights.

We're not too worried about any serious legal issues (though, please tell me about them if they exist). Mostly, we're concerned about the minor annoyances that might pop up...we'd like to know what these things are so that we can be prepared to deal with them if/when we have to face them.

Relevant details: we live in Canada, specifically in Alberta (but there is a remote possibility that we'll have to relocate for work, so issues in other provinces might also be relevant). She owns a house and car, and we'll be adding my name as co-owner on both of these major items.
posted by asnider to Law & Government (91 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think the main one will probably be what last name your children will take.
posted by Grither at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you (as a couple) are Mr A and Mrs B (or Miss/Ms B?), and you have a kid called Jonny A, then there might be confusion when Mrs B comes to collect Jonny A from school. That could work the other way of course if the kid is Jonny B. Not a major hindrance but I have seen other people mention it when this subject has come up previously.

And of course there's Grither's point above.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:58 AM on February 8, 2012

My mother got stuck with my (infant) brother once trying to cross a border because it didn't occur to them that she was his mother, but once she was like "oh, I'm his mother" they were like "oops sorry", and she never had a single other incident other than that. But that was 30 years ago. Most people I know didn't change their name, and the biggest problem is getting annoyed at the people who call them "Mrs. HusbandsName", even among the ones who have children. Once you're like "I'm his mother", nobody cares. I don't have my husband's last name and it's mattered exactly zero times, including when we got our mortgage together and whatnot (actually, I'm not even sure they asked if we were married to each other, but maybe they did). Honestly, it's shocking to me that women still change their name... granted I'm in academia where it's super uncommon, but when my friends from high school and stuff do it it totally weirds me out.
posted by brainmouse at 9:59 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

My wife did not change her name (my line on that is that I would not GIVE her my name), and the only downside has been our daughter's hyphenated name, which annoys her (she has shortened it to just her mom's name, in that it is the simpler of the two).

Other than that, no other issues.
posted by Danf at 10:00 AM on February 8, 2012

My wife didn't take my last name, and if anything its been easier for her then changing it. Our only open question is Grither's point above about children's last name.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:00 AM on February 8, 2012

I'd recommend that you each get one of those wallet-sized copies of your marriage certificate and carry them with you. You can produce them in the event that anyone official needs to see proof that you're married before allowing you to do something immediate urgent like go into an ICU. This isn't a drawback, though — I've known people who did change their name who had to carry marriage certificates in order to be able to prove that they were the same person as the'd been when using their maiden names.
posted by orange swan at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've had no issues with my husband and I having our own names. We don't have kids.

The worst "issues" are things like getting personal cards and letters from (primarily) his family addressed to Me Hisname. It doesn't bother me. Your fiancee should assume that this will happen several times a year, though, and decide whether it's a big enough deal that she's going to really care what your greataunt thinks her name is.

We bank with a local town bank, with a joint account: Him Hisname and Me Myname. I have occasionally had checks written out to Me Hisname, and deposited them without comment. I can imagine circumstances under which that might be an issue. I couldn't venture to guess whether it would be easier or harder to deposit checks made out to Me Maidenname if I'd changed it to Me Maiden Hisname.

In short, it'll be fine.
posted by aimedwander at 10:02 AM on February 8, 2012

I didn't change my name, and I have a kid with Mr. BlahLaLa's last name. It has literally never, ever been a problem.

Getting onto my husband's insurance, sharing accounts for bills, etc. We have traveled extensively, including internationally. (Including times when I have traveled alone with my son.) We're enrolled in a public school, etc, etc. It's just a complete non-issue.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:02 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Married 14 years, different last names, multiple loans/mortgages, no problems at all, EXCEPT when we had a baby 14 months ago, we had to think about the last name. We ended up hyphenating.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:03 AM on February 8, 2012

I'd recommend that you each get one of those wallet-sized copies of your marriage certificate and carry them with you.

Yes, this. Any time you need to go deal with Bureaucracy, make sure you have a certified copy of your marriage certificate on hand.
posted by griphus at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2012

Oh, and unexpected benefit: when telemarketers call and ask for "Mrs. Hisname" I can cheerfully hang up on them.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2012 [12 favorites]

My mom didn't take my dad's last name. My brother and I have my dad's last name. The only issue we ever had was people asking, "Oh, are your parent's divorced?" They weren't, at the time, but it certainly made things easier when they eventually did get divorced.
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2012

FWIW, I have never, ever had to show our marriage certificate. We say we're married, and bureaucrats believe us.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Married over a decade no problem. I have no idea where my certificate is. We have children with hyphenated names, I am the primary contact for them so having my name at the front is very helpful.
posted by saucysault at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2012

I didn't actually change my name (that is, with the IRS/Social Security people). But I did adopt his name for most things. Both names appear on my driver's license. The only time this has been an issue is when we bought a house, and I signed all the papers Mrs. HisLastName, and then we got a notice that when they tried to report mortgage interest to the government, my name didn't match my number and I had to revise the name on the mortgage. We had another similar issue with a bank account that was reporting interest for tax purposes.

Of course, none of that would have been an issue if I had just not started using his name.

So, what I'm saying is, it's not an issue, unless you're silly and sometimes change your name and sometimes don't, which I did. But even then, it wasn't a major issue.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:10 AM on February 8, 2012

I'm married and didn't take my husband's last name. We don't have kids, so the only minor annoyance has been getting cards and gifts addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast. We solved this for wedding gift checks by getting a joint checking account; if a teller even noticed that my name wasn't Mrs. HisLast, we said "oh, we just got married" and they shrugged and deposited the check. (We also had the minor annoyance of my mother-in-law being totally offended that I wouldn't take his name, but sounds like you do not have that problem.)

Conversely, in my first marriage I did change my name, which was a huge pain in the ass, with visits to the Social Security office, DMV, sending copies of the marriage certificate to banks and insurance companies and on and on. It is probably easier now because the first time I got married it was the dark, dark time before you could do these things on the internet, but still. Sooooo much easier to not change it.
posted by bedhead at 10:10 AM on February 8, 2012

Oh, and unexpected benefit: when telemarketers call and ask for "Mrs. Hisname" I can cheerfully hang up on them.

Yeah, the main downside is people call me Mrs Hislast name when I'm actually Dr Mylastname, and that's easily balanced by the upside that when a strange voice does it on the phone I can hang up immediately (since they're 100% always a telemarketer). We don't have kids though.

Any time when it really mattered that we're married I needed the marriage certificate anyway (even if they believed us), so having a copy of that was necessary regardless of the names.
posted by shelleycat at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2012

My husband and I each kept our names when we married. We have two children, whose names are First Middle Mylast Hislast. No hyphen, and we frequently drop my name on forms and whatnot, but I like having my last name be part of their legal name for bureaucracy reasons. When people ask for my name or my kids' names, I have to clarify whether they mean MY name or my husband/children's name, but that's all. I've never found the need to prove that we're married, although once we did have to pull drivers' licenses to demonstrate that we both lived at the same address for some banking reason.
posted by KathrynT at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm getting married soon and I'm not taking his last name. It weirds me out terribly that women default to that in the US, but that's neither here nor there.

Only potential problem I can see is one between the two of you, if you decide to have children. Talk about the hypothetical surname for the kids now and get on the same page, whether it's YourLast, HerLast, YourLast-HerLast, HerLast-YourLast, or whatever. You guys can always change your mind later, obviously, but it'll be nice to know that you won't feel blindsided by that issue when hormones and pregnancies and baby-stress are already potentially unsettling you.
posted by lydhre at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2012

One time at Costco while we were checking out, the clerk did not believe we were married because the last name on the membership card (my name) did not match the name on the credit card (his AmEx). So I had to dig through my wallet, pull out the AmEx in my name and pay.
posted by hmo at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2012

Different last names, married 18 years, no kids, no problems. If I ever think I might run into a problem, I bring a photocopy of our marriage license (and it lives in my passport) but I've never had to show it, either in the US or abroad.
posted by Quietgal at 10:17 AM on February 8, 2012

I didn't change my name when we married. It has never posed any problems at all other than occasionally having to correct well-meaning relatives or acquaintances. We have a joint checking account and have deposited checks made out to Me and Him Hislast without an issue. We have a child who has Mr. Architeuthis's last name and it has never posed a problem with his pediatrician, daycare, 529 plan, etc. We do take a copy of his birth certificate when we travel just in case.

On the other hand, when my mother got married she didn't want to change her name but had to in order to get a driver's license in the state where they lived!
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2012

I did not change my name. (For that matter, neither did my husband change his.) We live in a country where this is not the norm, and have had no problems. I don't proseltyze about it, though, which does keep things simple. When people ring and ask for Mr. Hislast and I say "He's not here, can I help you?" when they then ask "Is this Mrs. Hislast?" I just say yes and get on with the business at hand.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2012

Married for 26 years. Kept my name. Our kids have my name. We've never needed to show proof of being married, never had an issue with a school, bank, etc. It's handy for screening telemarketers. It's been one big non-issue after another. Been told that crossing an international border with just one of us without a letter from the other saying it's ok (with a kid) could be a problem but the times we've done it - US to Canada and vice versa it's never been an issue - the border agent once asked my daughter who I was and she, looking at him like he was insane answered "my mom" - but she was 16 or so at the time. Never happened to travel with kids solo across a border when they were really little.
posted by leslies at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2012

The only problem I run into is in a medical setting. My MIL is disabled and her poor health means that we have to deal with endless scores of medical professionals who really can't believe that I can be her daughter in law and not share her last name. I have also had a few people really truly believe that there is a law that says that I have to take his name. You may have some elderly holdouts as well, I have an aunt who still addresses things to Mrs. HisFirst His Last which drives me totally beserk.
posted by crankylex at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2012

Married with different last names. Never had a problem, and we even navigated the insanely strict world of US immigration and homeland security for a green card with different last names and they had no problems at all with it. If they can handle it anyone can. My husbands extended family address things to me with with his last name is about the only problem but I don't mind.
posted by wwax at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2012

We had to show our marriage certificate one time in 10 years, to get the married-man discount on his car insurance. (The agent said couples with the same last name just had to show their drivers' licenses. This was a pretty conservative area.)

We do keep a copy of the certificate reasonably handy in the house, just in case, but it was only that one time we needed it.

When we registered in our new parish, they had no way to register a married couple with different last names. I called the diocese, totally spoiling for a fight about it, and they said, "That's a really good point, we'll get that fixed," and six weeks later they had updated the database so you could be married AND have different last names.

We do get called by each others' last names, which neither of us is particularly wound up about. Now that we have kids (with his name), I more frequently get called Mrs. Smith. I don't mind being called Mrs. Smith socially. We also get the card thing, which comes from three kinds of relatives: older female relatives (especially widows) to whom being "Mrs. Smith" (instead of Ms. McGee) is a form of important respect so they're trying to treat you like an adult; relatives who can't remember WTF your names are and are crossing your fingers you're not going to get mad about it; and relatives trying to make a point about how your name is wrong. In no situation is it worth getting upset about.

One of my most treasured pieces of memorabilia from our wedding is the envelope to the card my grandfather gave us, which says "Mr. and Mrs. Smith Mr. Smith and Ms. McGee" -- apparently he found out I was keeping my name at the wedding, and wanted to call me what I wanted to be called. I did not care even a little what he called me but I love that envelope because of its evidence of his love and respect for his grandkids. Not sure where the card is, but I treasure that envelope.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2012 [18 favorites]

I've been married and changed my name. I've been married and kept my name. All things considered, I much prefer having my own name.

I have a different last name than my current husband. There have been about 4 times where it's been awkward.
- A contractor referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. HisName. We didn't correct him. Then I emailed him some information and he was embarrassed that it listed me as Gucky MyName. But he's really old-school formal
- My grandmother is so old-school that she wrote my birthday cards to Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. She really didn't know how to deal with it. I think she gave up. Now I just get things addressed to Ms. MyFirst MyLast. I think of it as progress
- Wedding cards were addressed weirdly
And, um, that's it. Doesn't really seem like a problem in the scheme of things.

To make things more complicated, my kid, from a previous marriage has a different last name than both me or my husband. We've never had a problem with it in any way. The school even addresses mail "To the parents of Kid'sName" as opposed to Mr. and Mrs.
posted by Gucky at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2012

I have also never had an issue with this in 9 years of marriage. Even when my in-laws sent me a check as "My First Name, His Last Name," I explained the situation to the bank teller, brought in a copy of our marriage certificate, and everything was fine and dandy.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:28 AM on February 8, 2012

immlass didn't take my last name nor I hers when we married.

She gets called Mrs. Carew more frequently than I get called Mr. Immlass, but both happen and we don't care.

If you combine your finances, you may need to take some extra care to make sure that her name is correctly on all utilities, credit cards, loans, phone service, etc, so that she doesn't lose having a credit history. I have no idea if they miss immlass more than usual because we have different names, because we've always used our own names.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:30 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and here's a one-way benefit: I'm involved in local politics, and most people don't immediately connect my husband or my children to my political activities. My husband's a more private person than I am, so there's that, and he used to be at a law firm and have to bring in clients, so if I stirred up any controversy it protected him from that. Since I'm on the school board, I prefer people NOT immediately connect my kids' school activities to that. I mean, everyone who actually KNOWS us knows it, but I feel like it both protects my kids from backlash if I do something unpopular that gets a lot of flack, and it makes it harder for them to get special treatment for being my kids (which some school board members have taken advantage of and I am really, really strongly against).

Also one time when I was practicing law my husband and I randomly ended up scheduled at the same time in the same courtroom -- neither of us knew the other was scheduled -- and the judge was pretty taken aback when we kissed hello since our last names were both on the docket but since they were different he had no idea we were married.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

My wife and I kept our original surnames and we don't have kids. It's definitely an occasional minor annoyance. The only time I can remember it having actual consequences was staying in a hostel in Florence (over a decade ago, so who knows if this would still happen); the guy at the desk refused to let us take one of the "married couple" rooms and insisted that we go to the separate "single women" and "single men" dorms. He appeared never to have even heard of the concept of women keeping their own names after marriage.

Other than that, though, there is a pretty frequent minor niggling over things like utility accounts and so forth. Someone will call about a problem with billing or service and if the person whose name the account is in doesn't happen to be home it's sometimes a hassle convincing them that you can speak for the "household"--in a way it just wouldn't be if you could say "sorry, Mrs SameName isn't in but this is Mr what's this about?" Of course, if we'd been smarter (coming from a country where separate names was a lot more common, we didn't think about it when we set these things up) we'd have just opened all such accounts as joint accounts.

Even when there's no actual problem it gets tiresome just having to explain yourself. If you're in a situation where people know you are a married couple they will just automatically apply the name of the spouse they know to the other spouse (visiting doctor's offices, for example). Wives keeping their own names is still surprisingly uncommon in America and most people will simply assume that if you are a stable couple you are almost certainly "Mr and Mrs SameName." It's certainly not enough of a nuisance to make us think about changing either of our names, but it would be false to say it's not a nuisance at all.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only problem we've had so far is my wife's family giving us checks as wedding presents, made out to herfirstname mylastname, which we then couldn't cash.
posted by LionIndex at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2012

Been married 18 years this April, kept my own name, never had a problem. Never had to produce a marriage license (I wouldn't even know where to start looking for our original copy) when briefly questioned (for example, at a new doctor's office when presenting our individual insurance cards with two different names but the same Blue Cross policy number); one of us just says "we're married" and that's that. Maybe we look like an old married couple. I remember once a 70-something doctor (a temp we only saw once) looking at our charts, seeing the different surnames, and saying to my husband "Oh, she's one of those women's libbers, eh?" (Note: we don't have kids, so that issue never came into play.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:46 AM on February 8, 2012

Oh, and since you are in Canada it is much less of a big deal than the American horror stories you have read online. Married women keeping their name has always been the norm in Quebec I believe.
posted by saucysault at 10:47 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does anyone in Canada care? In 12 years we've never had it come up that we have different last names. No issues with our son's name being different from mine. The Christmas cards from my husband's sisters to Mr and Mrs X make us laugh. (I'm convinced that they're not sure what my last name is, since it's a little unusual.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:52 AM on February 8, 2012

Married for 3 years, has not been a single major problem so far (even during the process of buying a house together). The only time I've needed a marriage certificate was when I added him to my insurance - it was required for every couple.

Personally, 'someone got my last name wrong' is more amusing than inconvenient for me - I have a slightly unusual version of a very common last name in the first place, so I have been correcting people about my name my whole life.

We'll will figure out the kids-last-name issue when we come to it. My inclination is to give them middle names as last names, and let them decide what they want when they get old enough to make that decision. We also have a silly 'family name' that is a combination of our names that we might all adopt at some point. One thing that I've realized through this process is that 85% of the time, your last name is irrelevant.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2012

Addressing envelopes takes a little longer, and even as a separate-name family, I find myself not quite sure how to address mail to other families with similar setups. Neither of us are bothered by last name mistakes, but it may bother you.

A distant relative to my husband heard that we both kept our names and quipped that our marriage surely wouldn't last long if that was how we were going about it.

Once we were travelling, and needed to give passports to the hotel for them to check. Our room wasn't ready, so we left our bags and went out for the day. When we came back, we asked for our room key etc., under my last name (I'd made the reservation, and for the initial contact this was where they had it filed. After a bit of confusion not helped by my very poor Italian, we thought to check under my husband's name, and it was there.

"Oh, I gave you my name because I'd made the reservation! It must have been misfiled, I'm sorry for the confusion," I said.
"No, not misfiled. He is the man!" OIC.

And yeah, baby stuff. Not a problem if you've sorted it out between yourselves but it does take a little longer to explain sometimes. At the hospital where I had my son, the standard baby chart naming convention is Baby Sex Momslastname. When I called the pediatrician that attended the hospital a few days after we got home, he was very polite and asked some basic questions that made it clear he didn't remember us (I had not expected him to). 10 minutes after I hung up, he called back to apologize. "I just realized that your son is Baby Boy Momslastname! I hadn't made the connection to Actualname Dadslastname. Knowing that, I'll add [additional pertinent info that showed he remembered our case quite clearly]." It wasn't anything as important as "don't give him X because he is allergic to it," but it was mildly surprising.

Married nearly 10 years and these are the only 4 occasions I can think of. I'm sure we would have had 4 different stories had we shared a last name.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2012

My mom kept her maiden name when she married my dad. The only real problem I ran into as one of their kids is that once I got invited to a support group for children of divorced parents.
posted by naturalog at 10:58 AM on February 8, 2012

Regarding hospital care - my mother's boyfriend found himself in ICU at one point and my huband and I stopped by to visit. A nurse said that only family was allowed in, so I said "I'm his step-daughter." She let us in. The point being, proof of relationships is not really a big thing mostly.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2012

Mrs. Deadmessenger kept her name. No one has ever so much as batted an eyelash about it. The only issue that's ever popped up is that people occasionally call me by her name, assuming that our names are the same.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2012

I used to work in a hospital. YMMV, but we never asked for ID to separate friends from family. It's sort of assumed that everyone is on the up-and-up. At the point at which other family members are disputing your relationship, same-last-name-on-an-ID wouldn't really mean anything, anyway.
posted by muddgirl at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I once wasn't permitted to pick up a package for my husband at the (US) post office. He hadn't signed the delivery slip, and because my last name is different, the postal clerk couldn't--or didn't want to--verify that I had the right to claim the parcel for him. Once my husband signed the slip, I took it back and claimed the package with no problem--and no proof of marriage needed, either.
posted by serialcomma at 11:04 AM on February 8, 2012

The only ongoing irritant concerns my listing in the phone book. When last I checked, about 5 years ago, the phone company wanted an extra $30/month (!!!) to list us separately. And even though they will list both spouses' first names when they share the last name, they won't include my name next to his, even though it wouldn't take up any more space than if my first name were something like Mary Christina. Grrr.
posted by carmicha at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012

So far, my personal experiences are traveling related:

1. Cheap traveling in conservative countries without advance reservations. Getting a room with twin beds.

2. Telling a hotel it was our anniversary, and getting the Congrats, Mr and Mrs. MyName card(I made the reservations), which was only weird because that's my dad's name!

(getting married soon, not taking his nothing's changing)
posted by sawdustbear at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012

Married 2 years, wife did not take my surname. Had to produce a marriage certificate to get her on my health insurance, but would have had to do that even if she'd changed it.

Only awkward moment so far: she teaches sixth grade, and when I went to see her after school one day, I was greeted in the hall by an enthusiastic "You must be Mr. [wife's-last-name]!" which everyone in earshot thought was hilarious. Also she sometimes gets mail addressed to her as "Mrs. [my-last-name']," but only from members of her family. I find this equally hilarious.
posted by Mayor West at 11:15 AM on February 8, 2012

Married for (almost) fifteen years and we each retained our own last names. No kids.

There are occasional mixups when contacting periodic service people - HVAC, auto service, carpet cleaners, etc. - and we can't remember which last name is on the account. It sometimes takes an extra minute or two for them to look up the other last name, but it's never been embarrassing nor has anyone ever complained about it.

That minor inconvenience is more than made up for by the fact that my husband (for business and personal reasons) wanted an unlisted phone number and no obvious record of his address, while I need (for business reasons) to be eminently visible in phone listings and so forth. Voila! Everything is listed in my name, so he has his privacy and I have my visibility.
posted by DrGail at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2012

Honestly, it's shocking to me that women still change their name... granted I'm in academia where it's super uncommon

I'm in academia and I changed my name. Makes it much easier, as a stepmom, to deal with the school.

I'm also a feminist -- and have the following stock answer to quizzical looks:

"Keep my father's last name or take my husband's last name? Either way, the patriarchy wins, so..."

Also --stepchild's name is hyphenated.
Didn't really want to add another hyphenated name to the mix.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:20 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Apologies if this is bad form (asking a related question in this thread), but it seems that most answers center on potential difficulty with naming of children. In the case of hyphenating, does this solution scale to the 2nd and 3rd generation? I've always wondered about this.
posted by dgran at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2012

Married over 10 years. Neither of us changed our names. Kids have his last name - there was a bit of a fight over that as I wanted to give them my last name as a second middle name, but he took such exception to that for a million stupid reasons not even worth detailing that I gave up the fight. We've never had any bureaucratic problems. I think when one of our kids was born, they offered the paperwork for an affidavit of paternity (done for couples who are not married to establish paternity) but we pointed out that we were married and the subject was dropped.

I will answer to Mrs hislastname, especially from kids. It's easier for them and I don't want to discourage politeness.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2012

I kept my last name when my spouse and I married four years ago. The only issue we've encountered is that whenever I go to the doctor, his medical insurance company calls him, wanting to know who this woman is using his insurance information. Based on the other responses in this thread, though, it sounds like that's just our insurance company and not a generalizable problem.

Funny story: I did an internship in a very conservative community several states away shortly after our marriage. When my spouse came to visit, everyone called him Mr. Mylastname. I found that very entertaining.
posted by epj at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2012

This is my second time being married and my second time not changing my name. In my experience, the only people who ever want you to prove your legal marital status are those who have to pay for it: Namely, employers who pay for your health insurance. (Since you're in Canada, this likely doesn't apply.)

And even then, only 2 out of maybe 8 employers ever asked for a copy of the marriage certificate. Which is stupid, if you think about it--they all look so different that they're extremely easy to fake. I digress.

I've been in public and private hospitals--lots of different health care situations--and never ever had to prove my marital status to either be allowed access to my spouse or for my spouse to have access to/decision making power for me.

The only other "issues" I've ever faced are from older, more traditional relatives chastising me for not wanting to "take" my husband's name. I always silence them by saying "I was given one name at birth. When I was adopted, my name was changed. There's no way that, as an adult, I'm voluntarily changing my name a THIRD TIME. That would be really stupid."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

~10 years and it hasn't been a problem bureaucratically. You'll run into occasional assumptions that you're Mr. Herlastname or that she's Mrs. Yourlastname, but if you politely correct people and don't make a big thing out of it, they'll make a mental (or clerical) note and that's that.
posted by usonian at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2012

We had a problem with a car rental agent not believing we were married, so she wouldn't put me on my husband's agreement for free. I got a refund when I came back with our marriage certificate after returning the car. Although at first she didn't even want to look at it, and insisted that I couldn't get the discount because she though we had gotten married in the day or two that had passed since we returned the car.
posted by ellenaim at 11:36 AM on February 8, 2012

I changed my name when I got married, but kept my maiden name as a second middle name. While this was a charming idea at the time, I don't recommend it. Almost all government forms (like drivers' licences) can't accommodate two middle names, so it got turned into an inaccurate hyphenated jumble that creates confusion whenever I go to vote or receive jury notifications, etc. I get mail misaddressed to me all the time too.

In retrospect I wish I had just kept my maiden name, but being very young when I got married I was overly concerned about not offending anyone in his family. This was a needless worry, as it turned out.
posted by daisystomper at 11:38 AM on February 8, 2012

The entire nation of China manages this with no issue, not to mention the majority of the Spanish-speaking world. And lots of other countries, of course.

I have had exactly one issue in the entirety of my marriage, and that was with Customs Canada. Which was not where I expected it. And it was a minor inconvenience--we just had to get our GST/HST refund by mail rather than at the border.

None of my female friends changed their surnames when they got married, and none of them have ever had any issues with the kids or whatever. Most of their kids have the father's surnames, but my goddaughters have their mother's surname by their father's request (she has a simple-for-Americans WASPy surname, he has a complicated-for-Americans Ukrainian surname). Nobody's ever given him any stress about being the dad of kids with a different surname.

That said, all of said friends live in the Boston area or New York or the San Francisco area, where married couples with different surnames are very common (with lots of Chinese and Korean and Spanish-speaking emigres, as well as English-speaking Americans who just don't dig the name change for themselves). In other areas it might be more complicated. But that isn't a reason for her not to do what she wants about her own name.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

And in English, the proper honorific for a woman whose surname is different than her husband's is Ms. I'm still Ms. Sullivan; Mrs. Sullivan was my grandmother, because she was the wife of someone named Sullivan.

In Spanish, I'm SeƱora Sullivan, which makes me smile! I don't know Chinese at all, so I don't know how the honorifics work (or if there even are honorifics in Chinese that indicate one's marital status).

When I was a little girl, it used to drive me mad that US newspapers would come up with weird-ass shit like calling Jiang Qing "Madame Mao" instead of writing "Jiang Qing, Mao's wife."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2012

Apologies if this is bad form (asking a related question in this thread), but it seems that most answers center on potential difficulty with naming of children. In the case of hyphenating, does this solution scale to the 2nd and 3rd generation?

Most people in the US seem to take the same approach as people in Spanish-speaking countries where compound surnames are the norm.

Chris Dad-Mom and Terry Pa-Ma get married, each keeping their compound surname. Their children are generally Kerry and Brooks Dad-Pa. Kerry Dad-Pa and River Pere-Mere get married; their children are Apple and Moxie Crimefighter Dad-Pere.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:48 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: And in English, the proper honorific for a woman whose surname is different than her husband's is Ms. I'm still Ms. Sullivan; Mrs. Sullivan was my grandmother, because she was the wife of someone named Sullivan.

Good to know. We were actually wondering about that. Does she become Mrs. HerName or does she remain Ms. HerName. Now we know!
posted by asnider at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2012

My (white) dad has been called Mr [my mom's very ethnic surname] my whole life in situations where people know my mom and not him. This cracks all of us up.

The situation with surnames seems like it's a little more complicated when it's a mixed-race marriage. My mom doesn't really look like us kids at all, as it turns out, and having a different last name too meant she was sometimes mistaken for a nanny or other hired help when we were small. This was awkward and, you know, unsurprisingly offensive to her. We were living in a smallish city that was predominantly white at the time and once we moved to Los Angeles things got a lot better and people made fewer assumptions. Still, it is something to consider.
posted by troublesome at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just n-thing that the only issue for us was deciding what to do about Baby Oh Really's last name -- I was fine with just using his, but he insisted on hyphenating. Other than that, no issues -- & we've bought a house, a car, sold a house, submitted taxes, been in the hospital for a planned procedure & an emergency, etc, etc.

Ok, it is kind of annoying that his family insists on addressing me by his last name b/c they KNOW it's incorrect, but whatever.
posted by oh really at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2012

Good to know. We were actually wondering about that. Does she become Mrs. HerName or does she remain Ms. HerName. Now we know!

Nope, Ms. all around.

The biggest annoyance about keeping my last name was that, at the time, I worked in a conservative office in a conservative southern state. When I came back from the wedding, my boss had written, "Congratulations Mrs. MyLastName!" on the board, since it was obviously important to her to acknowledge the marriage by SOME sort of name/title change. I patiently explained that I was still a "Ms." About a week later, she introduced me as "MIZZZ MyLastName" to the president of the university where I worked, then awkwardly added, "She just got married. She's a feminist." Which was, uh, weird.

But true, I guess.

I haven't experienced any problems with people believing we're really married. Much more important than last names or marriage certificates seems to be memorizing one another's social security numbers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, somehow I missed that you're in Canada. My wife and I lived there (in Quebec) for a while and it was never an issue (mind you, under Quebec law the default assumption is that women will retain their name, so people are very, very used to the idea).
posted by yoink at 12:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

yoink's post reminds me to say that in French your wife's proper honorific will be "Madame". English is kind of an outlier in that "Mrs." means "Wife of someone with the following surname."
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on February 8, 2012

And in English, the proper honorific for a woman whose surname is different than her husband's is Ms.

Um, there's no "proper" honorific in this case. "Ms." was invented because the distinction between "Miss" and "Mrs" was seen as invidious (the "Master"/"Mister" distinction having broken down). It is true, in the US, that most women who keep their own last name after marriage are likely to prefer "Ms"--but that's just because both things tend to be identified as "feminist" things to do in the US. Your wife should call herself whatever she wants to call herself. If she likes "Mrs" then she can be "Mrs." If she prefers "Ms" then she should go with that.
posted by yoink at 12:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband and I each kept our last names. Once in a blue moon we'll be asked how we know each other crossing the border, we say "we're married" and that's it, or if the car is in his name, I'll be asked whose car it is, I say "my husbands and mine, but it's in his name", and that's it. I get called Mrs. Hislastname and he gets called Mr. Mylastname, but who cares? It's really not a big deal and it is increasingly common.
posted by biscotti at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, somehow I missed that you're in Canada. My wife and I lived there (in Quebec) for a while and it was never an issue (mind you, under Quebec law the default assumption is that women will retain their name, so people are very, very used to the idea).

Quebec is a bit of an outlier, in that it is both legally and culturally different from most of English Canada. But, yeah, I'm getting the impression that it is less of an issue here, despite the fact that most women still seem to change their name.
posted by asnider at 12:23 PM on February 8, 2012

Got married five or six years ago after living together for 15 years, too poor to buy a house but we have had joint bank accounts and car loans for most of that time. We did not change our names. The only thing at all odd is that bank accounts require a primary and secondary user, rather than two equal account holders, so (in short) when he gets a car loan, my name goes on his title first and his is second. (the bank never asked our marital status at any point before or after.) I handle my car purchases the same way for fairness' sake, making sure his name is included even though the bank would not require it.

As seems common, my mother in law was the only one who seemed totally baffled by no name change. I surmise that mothers-in-law have mixed feelings about their daughters-in-law having more individual liberty than they were afforded. However, mine is also a rural conservative whose husband was quite sexist and whose church and social dealings are too. In my workplace, not changing is very common, but apparently I'm the first example my MIL has encountered, and she still refers to black people as "colored," then looks at us and adds "or whatever they call themselves now," so change comes slowly indeed. I have gotten an interesting variety of naming choices on cards in the mail from her, but have never encountered any hesitation in any context when filling things out or saying "let me give you my husband's contact information too, his first name is X and his last name is Z."

Sometimes it takes us a second to remember in whose name we made a reservation, though.
posted by Occula at 12:23 PM on February 8, 2012

Sometimes it takes us a second to remember in whose name we made a reservation, though.

Ha! Yeah--I should have included that in my list of minor annoyances. And it's not just reservations: we subscribe to various cultural events (opera, theater etc.) and I'm forever going through the rigmarole--if I want to change a booking, say--of trying to find the account under my name...and then trying to find it under her name...and then discovering that they've somehow put both our names in in such a way that the "Last Name" field has my first name and her last name in it--or whatever. You might want to just make a firm rule like "all cultural accounts go in my name; all utility bills are in her name etc." Mind you, you'd never actually remember the rule when it came to it.
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Taking a new name upon marriage is a tradition (in some places) not a legal requirement. I have had no problems. I have a different last name from my daughter and am primary caregiver and have experienced no issues whatsoever.

Congrats on your impending marriage!
posted by amanda at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2012

yoink, thanks for pointing out the issue with what I said. Of course asnider's wife should call herself what she wants in all respects, including honorific.

But the customary (I should have said that instead of "proper") usage in English is that "Mrs." means "Wife of someone with the following surname."

Before "Ms." became widely used (it was created in the 19th century) in the 20th century, women using their original surname were customarily referred to as Miss TheirSurname. You see this a lot in the theatrical world; Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were married for a million years, and she styled herself (and was styled by others) "Miss Fontanne." When Bette Davis and Gary Merrill were married, they were "Miss Davis and Mr. Merrill."

This goes all the way back to Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell as far as I know.

I am not the strong arm of custom, but asnider did ask what the usage was. That's the customary usage. As far as I'm concerned, asnider's wife can use any honorific she likes. (Except for "Supreme Galactic Goddess-Empress," because that's mine and there can only be one!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Not changing names will make your wife's life immeasurably easier should you move to Quebec, which will not acknowledge her name change on government documents (Medicare, driver's license).
posted by jeather at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Funny, I was just participating in a thread on this issue on the Rookie Moms site. (Consensus: It's not a big deal, but bring your future kids' birth certificates with you when you travel.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2012

When I married, I didn't change my last name. Socially, it was common to be referred to as Mr. and Mrs. His-Last-Name, which was perfectly fine and convenient for others. We didn't have kids, but they would have had his last name.

Apart from the fact that I couldn't see the point of changing my family name (a perspective shared by nearly every male I've ever known with respect to their last names), it precluded the need to inform academic institutions, government agencies, employers, financial institutions, other professional vendors, every friend and acquaintance with which I've ever had contact and might do again, and so on, that my name had changed. A similar inconvenience was avoided when we divorced.
posted by cool breeze at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mother never took my father's last name, and I have my father's last name and there has never been any kind of problem. People don't even refer to my mother as Mrs. FathersLastName very often, and when they do, it's a non issue. However we live in Quebec, where it's the norm to not take your husband's name.
posted by CristinaT at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2012

the "Master"/"Mister" distinction having broken down

Slightly off-track, but the "Master" vs. "Mister" distinction never referred to marital status, but whether the man in question had reached the age of legal majority or not. A sixteen-year-old married man was "Master" and a sixty-year-old bachelor was "Mister".

Oh, English. Can't live with it, can't live without aergjrfjdfij;fraopjrfgamk.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:56 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't take my husband's name when we got married. The only issues have been tiny quibbles:
1) I occasionally get called Mrs HisLastName, which doesn't really bother me all that much.
2) I more frequently get called Mrs MyLastName, which bothers me more, by virtue of being completely nonsensical.
3) We both write First Middle LastName in formal contexts, so on anything official or formal, I worry about there being sufficient space.

The issue of bardophileJr's name was easy; child shares my middle name and father's last name, and I got to pick the given name. :D
posted by bardophile at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2012

Increasingly, the Mr. and I have been able to give both our names, tied to the same file. For example, this is an option at our veterenarian's office, and with our local NPR affiliate membership.
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2012

My mother reverted to her original surname when my parents divorced. (Prior to that she was Anne Middlename HerSurname DadsSurname, but with HerSurname treated as a middle name, not an unhyphenated double-barreled surname.) I don't recall the fact that she had a different surname than my brother and me ever being a real issue. The school was convinced that we were the 'MomsSurname Family' on their correspondence, which I think my dad was entitled to kick up a fuss about per the divorce agreement, but it was just amusing. My friends from school would call her Mrs MySurname, which was a bit weird. (Including people who I didn't know when my parents were married.)

However, had my parents divorced when my brother and I were 'little kids', particularly if it had been before my mother became a US citizen, there would have been no way in hell my mother would have crossed a border without proof that she was our mother. (One of my mother's great fears when we were little was being separated from me and my brother at a border. However, I seem to recall Dan Savage mentioning always travelling with proof his son is his son, so it's not just my mother's paranoia.)
posted by hoyland at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2012

The only even-close-to serious complication I've heard of involved a friend who kept her name and was traveling with her son who had her husband's last name. She was pulled aside at customs and questioned if the child was really hers.

It took all of five minutes to sort out, but it was a VERY stressful five minutes for her. It would have been much more difficult had her husband not been ten feet away. So, if you have kids and different last names, I would absolutely carry a birth certificate in addition to passports when traveling.

I've been married twice, once without changing my name. I never had a problem with it. When I did decide to change my name when marrying my current husband, it was so that our whole family (I was already 17wks pregnant) would have the same last name. Without a kid in the mix, I probably wouldn't have bothered.
posted by sonika at 4:03 PM on February 8, 2012

Married 13 years, different last names, two kids each with one of our last names, no problems. Hospital visits, bank accounts, house buying, taxes, travel, interactions with the kids' schools, writing our wills, insurance, never been an issue. I have no idea where my wedding license is and have never needed it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2012

The problems were all annoyances, not serious. Annoying that teachers couldn't deal with my last name not being the same as my son's. No, you may not call me Mrs. HisLastName, unless I can call you Ms. Doofus. Annoying that my Mom and his Mom got their knickers in a twist about it.

Nice that my ex- was always the one who corrected people, and made it obvious that it wasn't a Thing.
posted by theora55 at 5:50 PM on February 8, 2012

I didn't change my name legally. I use my husband's last name socially and my nonmarried name professionally. She should let the bank know that your last name is different (she may have to provide a marriage certificate) so she can cash checks incorrectly written to Herfirstname Yourlastname.

If she ends up taking your last name socially, just remember to use her last name on tax documents/passport/driver's license/etc.

If you list each other as your emergency contact with your insurance, that should cover you for hospital visitations.
posted by elizeh at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2012

Oh, one other potential pain in the butt--if she decides to take your name later in life--I think more than 2 years after the marriage--she'll have to go to court to change it, rather than just submit her marriage certificate to the Social Security office. It's totally doable, just more steps involved.
posted by elizeh at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2012

Ignore that--that's in the U.S.
posted by elizeh at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2012

I honestly have never had an issue with my bank refusing a check written to me as "Julia Husband'sLastName". I just endorse it with my actual name on the back and it goes through just fine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:05 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

older female relatives (especially widows) to whom being "Mrs. Smith" (instead of Ms. McGee) is a form of important respect so they're trying to treat you like an adult; relatives who can't remember WTF your names are and are crossing your fingers you're not going to get mad about it; and relatives trying to make a point about how your name is wrong.

Yep. This. For the first instance I accept it as a compliment, the second I make sure to include our full names on something relatively soon after and if they don't catch up they wind up in the third category. The third category bugs me because I am irritated that the world is a sexist place, but the actual practitioners just get an eyeroll.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 PM on February 8, 2012

Down here in Texas, married 6 years, didn't take his name. Mostly not at all a problem, but when we got out of DFW to buy a car (in the "sticks"), they asked us about 12 times if we were married as if we were trying to pull one over on them.
posted by getawaysticks at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2012

None, for me. Absolutely zero.
posted by agregoli at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2012

I recently got married in the U.S. It's taken me over a month to complete my name change, and in the meantime the only minor difficulty I've noticed is that lovely, generous people wrote us checks as gifts. Those checks were often addressed to "Mr and Mrs lastname" or "asciident lastname". We went down to my husband's bank to deposit the joint ones and had to present our marriage certificate. For the ones addressed to me, I signed with the name on the check and the name on the bank account. It all went fine. Check with your bank for their procedure if you happen to get a well-meaning gift with a name that your future wife hasn't taken.
posted by asciident at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2012

...and by contrast when I deposited checks at my bank's ATM they did not reject any checks from our wedding , which had every combination from "Me Hislastname" to "Mr. and Mrs. Him MadeUpLastNameWeMightTake".

In my experience, rokusan's comment in a recent, similar thread is spot-on:
As long as your bank can map it to your account somehow (often just by human judgment), it will end up in your account just fine, and since you're the one depositing it into your account (either in person or via a machine), you are linked to it to start with.
Individual banks and individual tellers may have different rules, but this is how the system is intended to work.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2012

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