Addicted to novelty since 2001

Why Did You Change or Keep Your Name When You Got Married?

Jen recently created a thorough how-to guide to changing your name in BC, and it reminded me of a topic I’d wanted to write about.

It’s been interesting to see how many of my female friends and colleagues have chosen to change their name. I’d say the name-change rate is at 80-85%.

This kind of surprised me. For no particular reason, as a young man I had assumed that more women would keep their maiden name in my generation. I guess I was making a vague, incorrect association between feminism and keeping one’s name, but clearly I was off the mark. I’m also surprised how few female friends and colleagues choose the double-barreled approach.

In any case, I’m curious to hear from people on both sides of the equation: why did you change your name, or why didn’t you? Or, if you aren’t married, do you plan to change your name?

This is mostly a question for women, though I do know a couple of men who changed their name when they got married. I knew one couple who devised an entirely new last name (‘Steel’, if I recall correctly) for themselves when they wedded.

The most common reason I hear for the decision is that “I wanted to have the same name as my children”. I’m always a little confused by this, because it kind of assumes that the kids will get their father’s name, doesn’t it?

57 Responses to “Why Did You Change or Keep Your Name When You Got Married?”

  1. Wandering Coyote

    I changed my name when I got married. It was a hassle (I was in Ottawa at the time). My reasoning around it was “new life, new name…” But, I am divorced now and changing everything back was just as much a hassle as changing it in the first place. My feelings about it now are NEVER AGAIN. If I ever remarry, I’m keeping my maiden name. Not just because of the administrative stuff, but because the novelty wears off. And I think that’s why a lot of women do it – it’s kinda cool to have a new name! I’ll admit, I thought it was cool at first, too. But, now, I don’t think it’s worth it at all.

    As for those who choose to change their names so they have the same last name as their kids…well, I do believe you can work something out around this that would honour both surnames and eliminate confusion. It’s a weak argument.

    I do believe it reinforces the patriarchy when a woman changes her name. I feel a little more strongly about this now than I did in my twenties when I got married, so that’s another reason I’d stick with my maiden name, too.

  2. Rachel

    I am in the process of changing my name, assuming my husbands name. There are several reasons I chose to do this. First, I like the feeling of unity that comes with starting a new family under his name. Second, I have an older brother who can carry on my maiden name through his wife (who has assumed his name). Third, we have a production company under his name that he started and I have since joined, it’s nice to have the same name on the business cards. And finally, I hate my old last name. It is impossible to spell or say without a crash course, and everybody wrinkles their nose in an awful way when they try to spit it out. His name is much more pleasant. (Don’t tell my grandfather I said that!)

  3. Erika Rathje

    When I was younger I thought that a couple who had separate last names (one of my friends’ parents, for example) wasn’t as “close” or somesuch. It still seems strange to me if a couple is married but go by different last names. I happen to like mine and while I don’t think I have to worry anymore about the family name being passed down, I’ve established a name (even a brand perhaps) for myself in my industry that I feel I need to keep. I’m also not keen on being the second “Mrs. ___” But I giggled when the cashier at Safeway would call me Mrs. [boyfriend’s last name]. Cute…

  4. Colleen

    I have a friend who legally changed her name so that her it was easier to travel with her kids across borders. Both parents having the same name as the kids, apparently helps alot. At the same time though, she hasn’t given up her maiden name professionally. She still works under her original name. just were government and banks are considered is she under her husbands name.

  5. Beth

    When I got married, I took my husband’s last name, but mostly because I didn’t, at the time, like mine. Plus, if I kept “my” surname that I got from my dad, which he got from his dad, who got it from his dad. etc… well, how exactly is that not patriarchal too?

    When I got divorced I went back to my dad’s surname, which I now like. And I’m sticking with that one come hell or high water now, because changing your name is a real pain and doing it twice is more than enough for anyone.

    As for having kids, I have heard from people who have different surnames than their children that they have no problems traveling across the border. It’s really common to have blended families or moms that keep their original surname but give their kids the father’s surname that no one really blinks an eye at it.

  6. donna

    I don’t really plan to get married, but I don’t really care either way. I don’t even use my real last name at work… :)

    If it was important to a theoretical future husband, then I could change it.

    Although I did try to convince a friend of mine with a cool last name to marry me for the free name change. ;)

  7. Miranda

    I’m amazed that I am the first person to reply who decided to keep her surname when she got married.

    As a child I never understood why a woman was “bound” to change her name when she got married. I just never “got it”.

    Then for about four days, a couple of weeks before our wedding, I started to wonder about it.

    Ultimately I decided that, all my life I had never expected to change it, and that if I was truly re-evaluating a life choice and not merely succumbing to social pressures, I could always change it afterwards. Over two years have since passed, and I still don’t plan to change it.

    whitney Reply:

    I have been married for 2 years now and i kept my maiden name because i have a son who has my name( i had him before i met my husband) and a daughter who has my husbands name. i felt like i needed to keep my last name in order to keep my son from asking to many questions while he is young about why his is diffrent. his father wanted nothing to do with him so ….. my husband has been there since he was born. it was kinda important to me to keep my last name because of that….
    It really bothers my husband that my name is diffrent but he just doesnt undestand that i have my reasons…

  8. Wandering Coyote

    Beth:

    Yes, I realize that having your dad’s last name is similarly patriarchal to taking your husbands, but that’s not something we have control over until we’re way older, and that would involve a legal name change.

  9. Mike

    My wife and I combined our last name when we got married.

    I agree with the previous comments about starting a new life with a new, joint name, and also I like that the whole family (us and our kids) have the same last name now. I thought it unfair for the wife to always be the one to do the name change (but I lacked the courage to make the point and just take my wife’s name!).

    There are times when I regret a little the decision to change my name – like when I’m always spelling my name out for people. Or when I discover that a web form doesn’t let me put in my whole name and truncates it, or when I have to leave out the “-” because some web designer somewhere has decided that “-” isn’t a valid character in a last name.

    But all in all I’d do it again.

  10. Christine

    Like Miranda, I’m surprised that so many womeny opted to change their names. I would have thought that just the administrative work would turn people off.

    My marriage was quite rapid. My husband and I decided to get married on a Friday night, told our parents on Saturday and we were married the following Friday at the Justice of the Peace. The topic of name change never came up and we avoided the whole crazy wedding planning.

    I didn’t change my name, because, being French Canadian, I just couldn’t become a “Stewart”. The name is way too anglophone. Additionally, my mother-in-law is also called Christine. Having the same first and last name as my mother-in-law would simply have been too creepy.

  11. Cheryl

    I changed my name (not a legal name change but assumed the use of my husband’s name) largely because there was another person with the same first and last (maiden) name as me but who had major issues with creditors, so I was consistently hassled for her debts.

  12. Carla

    I kept my surname, partly because I like it, because it works for the name of my business, and mostly because my husband’s last name is McNamara. My poor kids didn’t learn to spell their own last names until well after all the other kids their age. And Safeway cashiers are forever mispronouncing it!

    I do use McNamara as my last name when entering contests, so when a telemarketer calls up and asks for Mrs. McNamara (actually it’s usually Mrs. Mcnamamamamamama), I truthfully reply that there is no one here by that name.

  13. crissy

    I kept my maiden name, and still have it. I never even considered taking my husband’s surname!

    However, what I have been considering is putting his surname as one of my middle names – but still keep my maiden name as my official surname. I have two reasons for wanting to do this:

    1) if we ever have a child, he/she will have his surname, and I would want to at least have the same surname somewhere in my name, just to “tie” us all together. :)

    2) in honour of my father-in-law, who passed away a few years ago. He was such a wonderful man and I adored him, so it would be out of respect to him.

    Cheers!

  14. Robin Capper

    My sister changed her name when married, never got around to changing it back when divorced, then met someone (unrelated) with the same name which saved the hassle!

    What happens with children of “maiden-married”?
    If they marry another “maiden-married” does the name become “maiden-married-maiden-married”? :-)

  15. Andrea >> Become a consultant

    I don’t know very many women who changed their names. In fact, I didn’t really meet any until I had kids — there are more people in the early 30s with kids set who seem to change their names.

    I didn’t change my name. I could never see the point. And, as a marketer, I wasn’t about to abandon my branding. As a professional, I wasn’t about to throw away my professional networks by becoming impossible to look up. And I know how many women lose valuable word of mouth references because people don’t realize that “Sarah Wong” was previously “Sarah Smith”. Unless you can market your new and former names to everyone, you’re kind of hooped.

    I decided to give my kids their father’s name, mostly because it’s an easier name. I don’t see how it would make travelling harder. I travel with both my marriage certificate and my kids’ passports and birth certificates. No hassle.

  16. Yvonne

    I would never change my name. Not only is it a hassle, it’s expensive.

  17. Steve

    I think the Spanish have a great system for last names. As the About site explains “In general, a person born into a Spanish-speaking family is given a first name followed by two surnames, the first being the father’s family name (or, more precisely, the surname he gained from his father) followed by the mother’s family name (or, again more precisely, the surname she gained from her father).” So you keep your name when you marry, and your child takes first your hubby’s last name and followed by yours, with no hyphens.

  18. Kirsten

    When I got married, I changed my name because I wanted the unity of us having the same name, and my husband wasn’t interested in taking mine. Plus I figured just because women now had the right to keep our name, didn’t mean that we HAD to.

    Now I’m in mid-divorce, gone back to my maiden name, and wishing I hadn’t ever changed it, because of that administrative hassle. I’m glad to have my “own” name back (though I have no ill feelings towards my old name) and would never change my name again.

  19. Helen

    Japanese people who marry in Japan don’t have the option to not change names, one of them has to change. It can be the man, but usually is the woman. However, when a foreigner marries a Japanese person (as in my case) the foreigner doesn’t have to change their name.

    I originally thought about hyphenating my name with my husband’s, but then decided it was too much hassle trying to get my passport changed. And, now, I’m actually glad that I didn’t. My name sticks out here, where as my husband’s family name is rather common.

  20. Raul

    I happen to have two last names (as aptly indicated by Steve, above). It is now a pain because most of my research papers are published with my Mom and Dad’s last names hyphenated, but on the blogosphere, I only use my Dad’s last name (don’t tell my Mom or I’m not going to be blogging for much longer!)

    I like the tradition of keeping the last names. If/when I get married (and yes I realize I am a male) I am keeping my last name. However hard it is to pronounce. I don’t care :D

  21. Meryl

    When I remarried I was able to legally become Mrs. Barefoot and also keep my original surname of Huxham. This way I would not have problems if I travelled with either my children or my step-children. I think I paid a small fee for this, but it was not difficult. In other words my legal surname of Barefoot is semi hidden… cheers, me

  22. cellobella

    I changed my name because my husband was so keen on it… and he wouldn’t wear a ring if I didn’t.

    That said I kept my name for work.

    So now I am in the stupid position of having two last names… in fact 3. As my passport has a hyphenated version.

    It is beyond a joke.

    I wish I’d just kept my name… he doesn’t wear the ring anyway.

  23. Charity

    From a practical standpoint, it seemed to make sense to change my name. My maiden name is of Polish heritage, 12 letters, 2 Z’s. My husband’s name is four letters and two of them are E.

    But it just seemed like no big deal to do and the right thing to do at the time. We plan to not have children, so that isn’t the reason. It’s like another sign that he & I are a team. No logic involved in the decision.

  24. Tim Ayres

    In a business communication I received last week, there was a woman named who had the last name of Moore-Moore. Figure that out – a hyphenated name consisting of the same name. Which part is hers and which part is her husbands?!

  25. JohnB

    I’m surprised that — for me — the most obvious reason for keeping the original surname is email accounts and logins. So much of ones life is already set using the original surname, one might just as well keep it “for the duration” as it were.

    My wife and I (okay, we’re not married, just shacked up for 18+ years) kept our surnames. We regularly get calls for Mr or Mrs MySurname or Mr or Mrs. HerSurname. I periodically reply “Mrs MySurname is dead … she died (pause for effect) one year ago today. Dear god, you are sicko playing a stunt like this on me. Who put you up to this?”

  26. Renee

    Here’s a piece of sexist trivia – in Alberta the woman can change her last name via marriage, but a man has to go through the legal name change process and have a new birth certificate issued. I had friends who were in the position where she had a way cooler last name than him, and he wanted to change, but it was hugely intrusive.

    Also, why do kids get the dad’s last name by default? It seems to make more sense that they’d get the last name of the woman who they most obviously came from…

  27. Christine

    I changed my name when I got married, and I’m happy that I did that. I like it when people instantly figure out that I’m married to this man whom I adore.

  28. Jan Karlsbjerg

    When we married nine years ago, my wife changed her last name to mine as a matter of cause, it seemed. I wasn’t so much surprised that she did this, as I was surprised that she did it without a moment’s pause. (Back in Denmark, at the time I think it was 50/50 whether the woman took the man’s name.)

    Now she’s using her maiden name with her business because folks who need ESL lessons have an even harder time with our last name than do the rest of the Canadian population.

    A couple of years ago the Danish naming laws were changed, and people are changing their last names left, right and center. Husband and wife taking a the wife’s middle name as their surname, etc. (Makes it hard to find them on Facebook)

  29. Susan

    I married relatively late (age 46) and at that point, I really identified with my surname, which is rather unusual. (In fact, my parents and I are the only ones with that name in our city of nearly half a million people.) My husband did not mind that I did not change my name–but I do not pointedly use my own last name with his extended family. If they want to address us as “Mr. & Mrs. HisLastName” that is fine with me.

    It was not really a professional decision (that is, wanting to keep my professional identity) and since we did not plan to have children the issue of having the same or different surnames as the kids was irrelevant.

    My husband is a different race than I (and has an obviously ethnic name) so we occasionally have people address him as “Mr. MyLastName” which is pretty funny. He gets a laugh out of it because he is, appearance-wise, so obviously NOT “Mr. My LastName.”

  30. alexis

    I don’t intend to EVER change my name for many reasons. One is because I love my name. Two is because it is my brand and because I published a book under that name. Three is because it’s an extremely rare name.

  31. Sue

    I changed my name because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t at that time have a professional reputation to concern me, and it seemed to be important to my husband that I take his name. My maiden name was usually misspelled or mispronounced so I figured I could dodge that by changing, but now people have different mistakes about the new name. I guess I also feel like we’re more of a family when we all have the same last name.

    In hindsight, though, it was such an administrative hassle that I don’t know for sure whether I’d do it again.

  32. Marina

    I’ve never even considered changing my last name. Like Miranda, I never understood why women had to change their names and I always thought I’d never change mine.

    Now that I’m older, I understand why women would change their names but I still won’t change mine when we “officially” tie the knot. With two girls in the family, someone has to keep the family name alive for at least another generation. At most, I’ll consider the hyphen but for now, I’m thinking of no change what-so-ever.

  33. Meghan

    I never even thought about changing… I was/am building a career under my current triple barrel and didn’t see any need to change… our children will have both last names with no hyphen and therefore will probably be known as my husband’s last name… this seems to mean more to him than it does to me, so I have deferred. I figure we can offer to buy them a name change for their 18th birthday it they want to trim their name down, but by giving them both they can use which ever one they prefer. Also a hyphen of both our odd-to-pronounce last names seems like too much of a burden to impose on a child who spends most of their childhood seeking their identity…

  34. Derek K. Miller

    My wife changed her name when we got married, but I didn’t want her to, and was surprised she wanted it. One part is that she’s a teacher, and getting my name made it harder for kids at school to find her in the phone book. (Remember phone books?)

    It does simplify things for the kids’ names and for travel, but that wasn’t a big concern back then. I think it’s interesting that marriage name-changes are more flexible than the other kind: Air is free to use my surname, or hers, or probably any combination.

    The paperwork for all the ID was a bit of hassle, but not too bad — except the Hudson’s Bay credit card, which refused to change her name, even though the Canadian passport office was fine with it. It’s still her maiden name on the HBC card.

  35. gilliebean

    When I was a little girl, I looked forward to getting married and getting a new last name. I was the kid who doodled her name with the last names of all the boys she liked in grade school. And when I first met my husband (seven years before we started dating), I had a crush on him. His last name is super hard to spell and so I memorized it.

    When we finally got married, it wasn’t something I thought about. I was just what I was supposed to do. Honoured to do! Proud and excited to do.

    So again, growing up I always thought that the wife is supposed to take her husband’s name. That’s just historical context. I realize that the times, they are a-changing; but if they change because people fear sexism, then they’ve changed for the wrong reason. They should change because the practice simply doesn’t make sense or simply isn’t practical anymore from a modern context. Which may be true! But it should not change because people are stepping out in fear against patriarchal sexism or some such dribble. It’s marriage for Pete’s sake! Doesn’t that suggest a following of the patriarchal code to some degree? Why not go all the way?

  36. Miranda

    Just a post-script to my earlier comment:

    My husband has had name issues of one kind or another all his life, so I suggested he cut through the rubbish and take my surname instead. He didn’t. :)

  37. AEB

    Leading up to my wedding (just over seven years ago), one of my former bosses sent me an email that infuriated me. Upon learning I planned to take my husband’s surname, she wrote, “XXX is impossible to pronounce, let alone spell. If you give me the rationale behind your decision to change your name, maybe I can support it.”

    I replied that I’d hoped she’d support me regardless.

    It was, in some ways, a compromise for me. It was something that was important to my fiance’s mother. I was marrying into a family in which all the other children were arranged marriages, and they were still getting used to the fact that their son was not marrying within his culture.

    But setting aside the family politics, I was never hung up on the whole ‘keep/change my surname issue’. In keeping my surname, I’d be taking my father’s name. If I were to take my mother’s maiden name, it would be her father’s name. And so on and so on.

    I’m just as annoyed when someone tries to “force” me to make the women’s-lib-approved choice as I would be if I wasn’t allowed to have any choice at all.

    Yes, my last name is routinely mangled, both in pronunciation and on paper. At the same time, I haven’t felt that it’s compromised my individual identity. In fact, my first and last name combination make my name — and identity — stand out more than they did before.

  38. Kimberly

    I was always against changing my name and actually convinced some of my girlfriends to not change their names when they married. However, when I was marrying my husband I was also moving to another state with no friends and only his family. These same friends convinced me to change my name to feel more tightly knitted to my husband’s family and “part of the tribe.” My husband was fine with whatever I decided. His family is not that keen on me and I them so now I wish I had stuck to my maiden name. At least it makes me feel close to my husband!!

  39. Mark Kuramoto-Headey

    There are many good reasons for not changing names on marriage. However, a relatively recent piece of advice from one Cary Tennis has this gem, which I think is probably a clincher:-

    Feminism made it possible for women to declare themselves as exactly who they are. And I suppose it could be said that for all its gains, if women now slip back into the old, comfortable models, then to that extent the historical memory of feminism slips away. Refusing to take the old patriarchal name is a way of extending a certain idea of freedom into the future and into future generations. It is a powerful step. It is a reminder.

    You, as a woman, having acquired and having been bequeathed certain gifts, a political dowry, as it were, are free to use this dowry as you see fit. But it does come with certain expectations. What are those expectations? Chiefly: freedom from unspoken bondage to family, work and society, freedom to make individual choices about how you present yourself to the world, what work you do and whom you associate with. Freedom from the assumption that the husband has the final say. Freedom from the assumption that in the end, all he has to do is put his foot down. Freedom from the historical assumption that the husband’s word in the house is law. It is not law. The law is the law and women can be lawyers and there is no other law, no household law in which man is king. Man is king no longer. That is the gift that you have been bequeathed: You are no longer subject to unspoken authority rooted in family. You are in all respects an independent operator.

    Then the question is, might this general independence that has been granted to all women atrophy if not openly and vigorously exercised by women every chance they get, in every instance of public and private interaction, not just now but into the future for generations? Well, yes, of course there is that danger. People are lazy. We like to slip into something comfortable. So every time we encounter a woman who has a different last name from that of her husband we are reminded: Yes, you can do that. Whereas when we encounter a woman who has the same name as her husband, although this, too, was a choice, we are not reminded, oh, yes, you can do that. Not so much. We more slip into the historical slumber of the status quo.

    Nonetheless, to take your husband’s name is also among your freedoms. You are absolutely free to make your own choice, and you cannot really make a bad choice because, either way, the important thing is that it is a free, conscious choice. My choice, the way I happen to be feeling today, would be to go on record celebrating the world-changing work of feminism and wary of the deeply rooted passions working against it that could so easily chip away at its gains. My choice would be to go ahead and choose a name that puts it in the record books, that puts one in the win column for feminism.

    That way, when your kids say, Why do you have a different name from Daddy? you can tell them that there was a time when women were not free to choose what name to take, when women basically belonged to the man they married, when they had to obey him and, in fact, had to obey pretty much any man they saw on the street, whoever he may be, just because he was a man, much the same way that there was a time that black people belonged to white people and had to obey pretty much any white person at all, and could not choose their own names, but were given the names of the white people they belonged to.

  40. Bethan

    It was an honour to take my husband’s name and I certainly didn’t feel like I was giving up my identity because of it. I mean seriously, if I believed my identity to be so precariously balanced upon my baby name, I’d have bigger problems to worry about, no?!

    Choosing to use your husband’s name, when there really is no need to do so in 2008, is a symbolic act. You didn’t HAVE to make that choice but you did anyway, not because of social pressures (as would have been the case in the past) but because you believe your husband truly deserving enough to give up your baby name for. If I felt that I didn’t want to give up the name that I inherited from my father, what would that convey to my husband? As I said, it’s a symbolic act, not a necessary one. The whole ‘name change’ thing has altered in meaning from the severity of our patriarchal past. To me, it has taken on a more – dare I say it? – romantic connotation. I LOVE using my husband’s name because I love HIM! But that doesn’t mean to say that my love for him is wrapped up IN his name, just as my identity was not wrapped up IN my maiden name. My thoughts, feelings, words, actions, etc. make up ME, not the name I go by. Just like the thoughts, feelings, words, actions, etc. between my husband and I make up the love between US, not the name we choose to use.

    The whole notion is taken too seriously! My husband and I enjoy a warm, cozy, fuzzy, funny relationship! It’s fun to take his name, it’s fun to try and perfect my new signature! Feminism has allowed the women of today to lighten up! I mean, we’re hardly talking about unequal pay here. Now THAT is something to take seriously! THAT matters! Feminism has brought us women on in leaps and bounds but we still have areas to work on, equal pay being a prime example. But the whole ‘name change’ thing? I can’t imagine anything so impersonal and unromantic as to bring the whole history and injustice of patriarchy into my decision of whether to take – and have fun with – my new husband’s name! We’re talking about marriage here, not a political campaign!

    And besides the past can’t be changed. Yes, we were screwed over (and over, and over) by men throughout the centuries. Taking a husband’s name is one of the legacies of such a constant screwing over. But now that Feminism has taken the ‘bite’ out of this custom, now that freedom in this area has been granted us, we can now look at it from a completely new perspective. We don’t have to feel responsible – or hold our husband’s responsible – for the wrongs committed to our female predecessors. Today, we can take our husband’s name without shame because it no longer suggests submission, it suggests pride. I’m exceptionally proud of the choice I made in marrying the man that I did. To take his name is simply an outward act that tells the world that I’m married and that my husband’s name is a name that I’m extremely proud to use.

    And, of course, it just makes me smile!

    Peter Reply:

    Hi Bethan, you have such a great outlook regarding this name change thing. I beleive it reflects trust, loyalty, unity, compassion, etc, etc.
    I am having a problem with my wife regarding this and would like to send you a private email explaning my situation.
    You have such wonderful words and I would appreciate your kind response from you and maybe even your husband. The info I have to send is lenghty, but you need to hear the whole storey before you can respond.
    Please contact me.
    Thank you.

    Nelson Reply:

    Why it’s not an honour to him, to take your name?

  41. Peter

    I would like to speak to Christine from posting number 28. I like the way you view your marriage and need some insight from you. How can we get in contact with each other ?

  42. sharlene

    I value everyone opinion.I am a jamican. I came here to the usa to marry my husband. I got married and took his last name. Now i want to change back. My ssn and my green card is in his name. Honestly i would take both his and mine last name instead of his alone. Its been 1 year plus. Last year I wasnt thinking straight. Your reply is very much appreciated.

  43. Dianna

    I don’t think there are any easy answers to your question but I can offer some perspective on both sides of the issue. I got married for the first time at age 26. I decided I’d hyphenate my maiden name and my husband’s surname. After taking an entire day just to change my passport, I figured why bother with the rest of the ID and I kept my name for all other purposes except travel. Why did I do that? I don’t know I guess I just wasn’t feeling motivated. My dad has recently passed away and I think I was also feeling a real sense of attachment to MY name with no ‘attachments.’ We had two beautiful kids both of whom assumed their dad’s surname per North American tradition. I didn’t think hyphenating the kids names made sense. I think that trend just isn’t practical. At some point through the generations, someone’s surname would have to be dropped so I figured why start.

    Well, crap happens. We divorced and practically speaking, I was thankful the only ID I needed to change was my passport. It made a really crappy process a little easier.

    However while I was married to the EX, got was constantly referred to as ‘Mrs. Ex-Husband.’ Most of the time I didn’t bother correcting people if it was in social rather than business setting. We were after all, a family.

    Fast forward 5 years after my divorce, I meet a wonderful guy and after a 3 years of sharing a home we decided to get married. And this time around, I decided to assume my new husband’s surname on all my ID except my passport (just so that I have two pieces of ID that identify me as my mother’s child, half owner in my home which we bought before we got married etc). Why did I assume my husband’s name THIS TIME? Well for what ever reason it makes me feel more ‘complete’ (I know that’s not the best word, but it’s hard to describe). We are a team and sharing his name communicates that to the world and reinforces it for me ever time it comes out of my mouth or I commit it to paper. One unit of two individuals who have decided they want to share their home, their lives and raise their children together. But I don’t view this as ‘changing’ my name. In Ontario, where I live, I can legally use any combination of my maiden and married names. So at work and at home and on the majority of my ID, I use ‘our’name and for my creative pursuits that will hopefully live on much longer than me I use both my maiden and husband’s name, no hyphen. I’ve also reminded my kids to make sure that both names make it on to my tombstone. I don’t think there is a right or wrong approach here. My decisions really had nothing to do with feminism. This is a really personal issue and I think each person needs to make the decision that feels right for them, and according to whatever cultural or religious values hold true for them as individuals. Family, friends and coworkers need to just support that. Funny enough I got more flack this time for changing it, than I did 15 years prior for NOT changing it. Some people actually thought my husband ‘made me’do it which is ridiculous. In fact any time I asked hime what he thought I should do he refused to comment other than to say he’d be fine either way and it was totally up to me. After I made my decision he did admit to being pleased that I decided to use his name but reiterated that had I not decided to, he would be fine with it.

    My kids still use my Ex-husband’s surname so I still get referred to as “Mrs. Ex-husband” but I politely correct people and I don’t really have too many issues in that department.

    However on another note, my current husband’s ex-wife has decided to keep his surname even though she has now remarried! I can’t imagine why, other than she doesn’t want to explain it professionally (she works in public education). Or perhaps she still has some weird attachment to my husband and therefore doesn’t want to give up his name. They didn’t have any children together so it’s not a case of wanting to have the same last name as the kids. I often wonder though how her current husband feels about her being called Mrs. ‘Someonelse.’ I guess she has her reasons. I’d love to hear how folks feel about that scenario… why keep your ex-husband’s name if you are remarried to someone else? How would the new husband feel? It’s not like she’s Pat Benetar and has made a name for herself internationally that she doesn’t want to change (Pat got “Benetar” from her ex but has been happily remarried to someonelse for over 20 years).

  44. Zena

    I want to keep my own surname when i get married but what do I call myself after we’re married, Ms, Mrs or still Miss?

  45. Sandra

    When I married over 20 years ago I did not want to change my surname. It is very personal – a part of me. After the arguments that ensued with my fiance I compromised (?) and changed it. The next 3 years were spent unthinkingly signing my maiden name half the time. I always had to be conscious of what I was doing whenever I wrote my/his name. Now that we are divorced I quickly changed back to my own name. I liked his name better but it was not me. I am now with a man who only wants me to be myself and is not hung up on the macho idea of needing a woman to change her name. My children carry their father’s name. In that I acquiesce to our partriarchal society.

  46. cycleboy1957

    I realise that this is now out of date and my message will probably not reach Bethan, to whom it is primarily directed, but I write in hope others will read it, because Bethan’s comments cannot go unanswered.

    Bethan: your comments are to be applauded and I certainly do not wish to cast any water onto the fires of your love for your husband. But (you knew it was coming, didn’t you) the thing that bothers me is the one-sided nature of this ardour; at least to the outside world.

    You say, “It was an honour to take my husband’s name.” Fine. But, how can he then “honour” you? Another commenter said she wanted people to know she was married to “this man whom I adore.” Again, lovely sentiments. However, if he’d taken her surname then people would still know they were married. The assumption was that only HIS name is appropriate. Why?

    You said you weren’t giving up your identity. Sorry, but you were. Of course, your name does not define your personality, your character. But, a name is “that by which you are identified.” Try looking up a phone number without a name. Do you Google people by description? Your name IS your identity. Change it if you wish, but don’t be under any illusions that you are not changing one of your identifying features.

    “I love using my husband’s name because I love him.” I’ve no problem with that sentiment. But again, it’s imbalanced. Why should it not be that a man might say, “I love using my wife’s name because I love her.”?

    In all cases I’ve read and heard, it’s always the women who have to show their love, commitment and honour by sacrificing their surnames, seldom the man.

    You refer to your surname as “your baby name”. A surname is bestowed on a child at birth, and that goes for boys as well as girls. If your surname is a baby name then it’s a man’s “baby name” too. If you consider your surname is a man’s name, I have to ask, whose? Which man? You father? If so, how come he “owns” his surname? After all, it was (most probably) bestowed on him by his father. How is it that a man own the surname he has been given but a woman does not? Either both boys and girls own their surname at birth or neither does. You can’t have it both ways. If both bride and groom therefore own their surnames, why is it then assumed that the bride should be less attached to hers than the groom to his?

  47. Sherry

    Back when my ex-husband and I divorced I kept his last name for business and personal reasons-the boys begged me to keep the same name as theirs, so I did. Twenty years ago I re-married and hyphenated my last name so–question–in what order should the names have gone? And by the way, it truly was and continues to be a pain!!
    HELP!!

  48. Virginia

    Well, as I am Spanish I don’t have this problem. In Spain everybody has two surnames. The first is the father’s first surname and the second the mother’s. So for us it’s a no sense a mother called exactly as their children. You only have the same surnames as your brothers and sisters. In the same way we found silly to change our names, people have the same name all their lives, you sing with it in contracts, judgment papers… so it is important to be always the same. It is not a question of feminism because it has been like this for centuries, But if I had an anglo saxon husband and we lived in USA or UK I would never change my surname. It simply seems too strange to me.

  49. Virginia

    Ah! and I was forgetting: children have the surnames of their parents so when you see a mother with children with different first surnames but with the same mother surname you can clearly see that she is their mother but she has been married more than once (or simply has had children with different partners) so I think with the spanish system the hole name of a person shows his/her roots. My surnames refer both to my father and mother and doesn’t refer to the father of someone I don’t have any blood relationship. And equally my children surnames will show their roots, my husband’s and mine.

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