Should You Change Your Name After Getting Married?

Look at Your Name Change Options Before Making That Decision

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Did you see the movie The Wedding Singer? There is one scene where the character Julia is saying her soon to be, new last name, Julia Gulia, and she breaks down in tears. Can you blame her?

Decision to Change or Not Change Your Name After Marriage is a Major Decision

Because names are very much a part of your identity and heritage, the decision to retain your birth name (maiden name) or not after getting married is a major one.

It is not unusual today for a woman to keep her maiden name professionally, and to use her married name socially. Whether or not to change names is one of the first decisions a married couple needs to make.

Name Change Options

There are many name change options available to married couples today. We're using the names Mary Jones and Pete Smith as examples.

Tovia Smith: "Hyphenating has waned since its peak in the '80s and '90s, in part, experts say, because it's become less of a feminist statement and more of a bureaucratic nightmare. But also —- as most "hyphens" will now tell you —- it wasn't really sustainable anyway. Hyphenating was destined to hit a wall after one generation."
Source: Tovia Smith. "When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up." 7/19/2012.
  • Both Use Your Husband's Family Name:
    This is the most widely used name change option in the U.S. (Pete and Mary Smith)
  • Both Retain Your Birth Names
    This name change option is a popular choice when you both have established professional identities. Some women who choose this option use their husband's last name for social purposes. (Pete Smith and Mary Jones)
  • Both of You Use Wife's Family Name
    This name change option is not widely used as some couples have strong feelings about using the wife's last name. (Pete and Mary Jones)
  • Wife Uses Maiden Name as Middle Name Along With Husband's Family Name
    This name change option is growing in popularity. (Mary Jones Smith and Pete Smith)
  • Hyphenate Your Two Names
    This is another name change option that is growing in popularity, but there is concern that it could create confusion for some people and computers. (Mary Jones-Smith and Pete Jones-Smith)
  • Both Use Each Other's Names as Middle Names
    Since you are both keeping your own last name, this is more of a symbolic gesture than a practical one. (Pete Jones Smith and Mary Smith Jones)
  • Pick a New Name
    Some couples use their last names to create a new name (Smiones) or they pick an entirely different name. (Pete and Mary Carter)
  • Latin American/Spanish Name Tradition
    Couples in many Spanish speaking countries give their children both their father's last name and their mother's maiden name to preserve the heritage of both families. When marrying, a woman has the option of keeping all her names and adding her husband's last name or dropping her mother's maiden name.

General Name Change Guidelines

The decision is up to the two of you. Here are some general guidelines when considering changing a name after marriage:

  • In some locales, changing your name generally requires some sort of documentation showing both your old name and your new name. Most people use a certified copy of their marriage license or divorce papers.
  • Other locales use the common law rule in dealing with name changes.
  • As your children mature, it is important to let them know that you will not be offended or upset if they decide upon marriage to not continue to use their birth names.

Final Thought

Changing your name or keeping your birth name is totally up to you.

Elki Parmar: "26% of brides-to-be wanted to keep their maiden names in some form, either through hyphenating or through not changing their surnames ... Many of the women we spoke to thought that changing their last name after marriage to their husbands’ conformed to a patriarchal ideology and didn’t want to feel they were giving up their own identity for their husbands. While some were planning to not change their names at all, others were going to incorporate their husbands’ name into their own. However many women also echoed the sentiment that a couple sharing the same last name is something that binds their family together.”
Source: "Survey Reveals Trend in 'Feminist Weddings.'" 7/24/2013.
Rachell Buell: "Also know that whatever you choose, you’re likely to run into some critics. But, hold your ground! Taking your spouse’s name does not mean the death of your independence, and keeping your own doesn’t mean that you’re not committed to your marriage. What is truly important is determining which elements of marriage and naming are most significant to you and your relationship."
Source: Rachell Buell. "Yours, Mine, and Ours: Perspectives on the Name Change Debate." 6/17/2012.
Meredith Bodgas: "Bottom line: Everyone has their own reasons for changing or keeping their original surnames, and to judge them for or make assumptions about a choice that has no bearing on your day-to-day is pretty pointless."
Source: Meredith Bodgas. "6 Things Not to Say to Married Women Who Kept Their Name." 2/23/2012.