These days it’s no longer assumed that a woman will change her name when she gets married. But that just means one more big decision to make during the wedding planning process. Should you change to honor tradition? Or keep your maiden name to honor your family heritage?
Hyphenating is always an option. Or using your maiden name professionally and married socially (like the lovely Jessica Simpson). And we love the recent trend of couples merging their names to create a new surname together. But what if you’re already established professionally? What if your families assume you’ll change? It’s enough to make any bride-to-be’s head spin!
So we thought we’d ask some ladies that have gone through the to-change-or-not-to-change process about their experience. Did they do it? Would they make the same choice again? And what advice did they have for anyone mulling over a name change?
While our “average” respondent lives in California, got married between 25-30, and has a decade or less of marriage under their belt, we had respondents up to 79 years old who'd been married 40+ years (talk about the right people to give advice!). Spoiler alert: Respondents were pretty split between changing and not changing their name!
Read on for some quotes — and advice — about changing your name (or not!).
What went into your decision to change your name or not?
“I find the tradition antiquated. He’s not buying me y’all!” — Texas, didn’t change, married 5-10 years, 25-30 when married
“I like change! And I knew I wanted to have kids and I wanted all of us to have the same name — like a team.” — Vermont, changed name, married less than 5 years, 31-35 when married
“Because: Feminism.” — California, didn’t change name, married 5-10 years, 25-30 when married
“I tried to have my spouse change his name to mine but he was very set on us having his last name. I was hung up on it for a while but now 20 years into our relationship I laugh thinking back at how ridiculous I was to put so much emphasis or weight on a name. In no way has it made the marriage commitment stronger or easier.” — California, changed name, married 20-30 years, 25-30 when married
“I felt I had to and actually disliked his last name — this was 1970 though! But I did change my middle name to my maiden name. And I changed back to my maiden name when we got divorced!” — California, changed name, 25-30 when married
“I didn’t want to lose my identity. I feel like I shouldn’t have to give up my name in order to be married or to be seen as a “good wife.” I resent the pressure that American society puts on women to change their names.“ — California, didn’t change name, married less than 5 years, 36-40 when married
“It is funny as I think back now — I didn’t really think much about it at the time. Either time actually because I have been married twice and changed my name both times. It makes me feel sort of sad now that I didn’t put more thought into it. My daughters have already thought about it though — they plan to keep their name or hyphenate.”
— California, changed name, married 16-20 years, 25-30 when married
“My husband had been married before, and his first wife did not change her name. Taking his last name was a meaningful gift I could give him. I also suspected it would make things easier for others interacting with us.” — Oregon, changed name, married 5-10 years, 31-35 when married
“Honestly, the paperwork involved. Who has time for that?” — Out of country, didn’t change, married less than 5 years, 31-35 when married
Were there any challenges you faced when deciding to change or not change? Knowing what you know now, would you make this choice again?
“I would definitely keep my maiden name if I knew how many times a day I would have to spell my new name for people.” — California, changed name, married 11-15 years, 31-35 when married
“My maiden name lineage ends with me. I originally felt a responsibility to make it last another generation. What I realized is my parents are still present in my kid's personalities, eyes, interests and the length of their legs :)” — California, changed name, married 20-30 years, 25-30 when married
“My in-laws don't understand it. My family doesn't get it. And it really messes people up who are trying to address an envelope to both of us. But those are minor inconveniences.” — California, didn’t change name, married 5-10 years, 25-30 when married
“Challenges: breaking the patriarchal tradition (even our family still address things to my husband’s last name) and choosing what last name to give our daughter (we do not share a surname; traveling internationally brings up questions when my husband is not with us). I would still make the same choice, though I would consider legally adding a hyphenation to my name for parenting reasons.” — Massachusetts, didn’t change name, married 5-10 years, 31-35 when married
“I was already an established professional—and a writer with my byline in the world. I worried about losing that continuity and recognition. I went from an uncommon last name to a common one, diluting my sense of uniqueness and search presence—and making it more difficult to get account names I wanted on websites.” — Oregon, changed name, married 5-10 years, 31-35 when married
“It’s an obnoxious process and even worse to manage daily. The world is not made for hyphenates, so inputting my name into online forms can be a guessing game about how I’ll be allowed to enter it.”
— California, hyphenated, married less than 5 years, 31-35 when married
“I didn’t have any particular attachment to my maiden name or the last name from my first marriage. I briefly thought it might be weird to not have the same last name as my kids but, to me, I felt that a name couldn’t change who I was on the inside so it didn’t matter. I will always be “Cheryl” and I will always be “Mom”. I would definitely make the same choice again.” — Minnesota, changed name, married less than 5 years, 41-50 when married (second marriage)
“No challenges. I would do it again. It makes things much simpler logistically (e.g. bank accounts) by having the same last name.” — New Jersey, changed name, married 5-10 years, 25-30 when married
“I changed my name because there was this sense that "this is the beginning of the rest of your life." But it was an administrative pain in the ass that is still not 100% complete because of the way I tried to do it (by not dropping any names). I would never do it again.” — D.C., changed name, married less than 5 years, 25-30 when married
Any advice to brides-to-be that are currently trying to decide if they should change their name or not?
“At the end of the day, it’s up to you and what you and your partner decide is best for y’all. I don’t want to say it doesn’t really matter, but others don’t care about your decision as much as you do, so try to just follow your own inclinations about it.” — Virginia, changed name, married 5-10 years, 25-30 when married
“You need to be comfortable with your decision so don't rush it. If you don't change it now (soon after the wedding), you can always change it later.“ — California, didn’t change name, married 5-10 years, 36-40 when married
“You can just use your married name socially and it would save a lot of effort.”
— California, changed name, married less than 5 years, 36-40 when married
“Consider your professional life — if you’re established under your maiden name, maybe you don’t want to change it.” — California, changed name, married 11-15 years, 25-30 when married
“No choice is wrong if it's your choice. Remember that all names were made up by someone at some point — a label is not an identity. And it's okay to strongly identify with your label.” — California, both bride and groom changed name to a hybrid, married 5-10 years, 35-30 when married
“I would say think further out into the future. In my situation, I didn't really think about what it meant to fully give up my name and only later thought about how it wouldn't be carrying forward. I immediately just went with the 'normal' tradition of taking the name and didn't see that as being a big deal.” — Nevada, changed name, married 20-30 years, 35-30 when married
“Just do what will make you happy. You’ve spent your first decades building who you are, you can keep that close to your heart or embrace newfound freedom in a new name. Either is fine.” — California, added partners name, married less than 5 years, 31-35 when married
“One of my friends (who is a nurse, so lots of bureaucracy when name changing) changed her name to her husband’s but he had to do all the legwork for her name change — which I think is a good compromise!” — California, changed name, married less than 5 years, 36-40 when married
“I think it solidifies the family unit to use the same last name, especially when there are kids in the family. You could keep a maiden name professionally if you have established yourself by that name.” — California, changed name, married over 40 years, 25-30 when married
“Do what YOU want, don’t give in to external pressures either way.” — New Mexico, married 11-20 years, 31-35 when married
We loved hearing all these thoughts from ladies that have already been through it!
After reading everyone’s advice and experience, it all comes down to some pretty solid advice for any aspect of your life: DO YOU! Our respondents advised really thinking about your life — personally, professionally and otherwise — and doing what makes sense for your situation.
Are you grappling with this decision right now? We’d love to hear what you’re thinking!
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