Chances are you’ll already have a strong opinion as to whether or not you should legally change your last name well before you get engaged. Or maybe you’re feeling confused or a little lukewarm on the subject even after you say ‘I Do.’ While figuring out if you should legally change your name is a question only you can answer, it sometimes helps to listen to how other brides feel about the subject before you make your decision.
Bustle.com recently talked to 27 women about why they took their husband’s last name, which was a follow-up piece to why 27 women decided not to. And the results were interesting. Not only because of their rationale as to why they were for or against it, but people’s reactions to a woman’s decision either way can be eye-opening. For example, Bustle cited a 2010 study published in Basic and Applied Psychology which showed that “women who change their names after marriage are more typically viewed as more ‘caring and emotional,’ while women who kept their last names were viewed as ‘smarter and more ambitious.’ Geesh. Which one is for better or worse?!
I personally struggled for about three years before AND after we got married with the decision to legally change my last name or not. It’s a long story that I might write about here one day, but I felt extremely connected to my last name (as I know a lot of women do as well). Even though when I was a little girl I fantasized about getting married and doodled my fake future husband’s last name after mine, I never really considered having a sort of identity crisis at the thought of doing it. When the time came to actually change it, I felt that not only would I be losing a small part of myself if I got rid of my last name, but that I would also be losing my cultural identity in a way (going from a Jewish last name to a non-Jewish one). While my family actually encouraged me to change my last name (probably trying to get rid of me. Juuuuust kidding?), my husband was extremely supportive either way. He just wanted me to be happy. And what made me happy in the end was deciding to drop my middle name and make it my maiden name instead (even though I still go by my maiden name professionally). That was the perfect compromise for myself that has worked out great so far…except when making restaurant reservations, in which I totally forget which name I used. Oh well.
I’ve compiled a few of the for/against legally changing your last name after marriage responses from Bustle, below. Hop over to their site to read the full lists. And let us know which camp you’re in and why in the comments section!
Why Women Changed Their Last Name
“I’m pretty traditional and liked becoming a new person once I got married. It was like shedding my old skin and leaving that self behind. It gave me a fresh start.”- Kacey, 32
“Because it was important to my husband-to-be, and because my mother changed her name when she got married, yet still retained her maiden-name pride. It was a hard decision for me — if my name was shorter, I would probably have hyphenated.”- Emma, 28
“I changed it for tradition. I think it shows unity for us as a new couple. I also see it making our relationship clear if we ever have children.”- Ana, 27
“I changed my name to show I was serious about the marriage (since I had previously been divorced), and in recognition of the fact that my now-husband was assuming a bunch of responsibility for me.”- Pamela, 29
“To symbolize the shedding of my family name I grew up with, and creating a new family with my husband. When we have children, they will take on this last name too; we will be a family unit under the same name (just as I grew up). I’m not fundamentally different just because I changed my name — any more than I would be if I went blonde.”- Olivia, 28
“We both changed it as a compromise. His last name was meaningless to him, seeing as he had really been taken care of by unrelated parents; we thought about taking my name, but deciding meeting in the middle was the best option. We both changed our name to the name of his ‘adoptive’ parents, though he wasn’t technically adopted.” Jessica, 25
“There’s something so special about becoming a wife and taking your husband’s last name. I didn’t feel as though it changed my identity, or I gave up being the same woman I always was. It solidified that we are starting off together as a family and beginning this next chapter. There’s an empowering feeling to be that tied to someone and the love you share.”- Kirsta, 30
Why Women Did Not Change Their Last Name
“I like my last name better. Plus, my name ends with me, as my whole family had girls.”- Kate, 32
“1. Feminism; 2. I’m a lesbian — there was no script for who should change her name and who shouldn’t, and taking one name or the other might imply that the originator of the name was the less feminine partner, which wasn’t something I was interested in signaling with our names; 3. fear of giving up my identity.”- Eleanor, 32
“Laziness. I hate paperwork and it seemed like a pain in the ass.”- Erin, 38
“In a lot of the marriages I admired — my parents, colleagues, friends’ parents —the women kept their names. It seemed to make sense. There’s the practicality — my degrees, bar admission, work identity, they’re all wrapped up in this name. And most importantly: my husband. The fact that he honors my independence and never even asked if I would change it — and completely agreed when I said I was keeping it…I like to silently think about how awesome that is when people ask.”- Fay, 30
“Because I am still me when I get married, and I would never change my name unless my partner changed his name (i.e. we both blend or hyphenate our names). I literally cannot believe people still change their names to their husband’s names and are excited to do that. It’s embarrassing as a society that we permit that.”- Noorain, 31
“I’m a doctor. I might have changed it if I weren’t, but the paper work was a hassle. Also, I’m the only doctor in my family. People with my last name supported me through college and med school. The last name deserves the title.”- Anonymous, 33
“1. I liked my name better than my husband’s. It seemed like a lot of effort for a name I liked less; 2. as a writer, my name is also my brand, so it would be like starting my career over; 3. my name is Italian and my husband’s is German, so it would be selling out part of my heritage.”- Marisa, 34