Changing Your Name When You Get Married

Taking a Name, Keeping Your Own Name, and All the Options In-Between

Midsection Of Newlywed Couple Holding Hands

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When you get married, there are many decisions to be made, such as the color scheme, the food, and the venue. But there are decisions to be made after the big day, as well. One of those with whether or not you will change your last name and leave your maiden name behind.

According to recent reports, somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of brides take their husband's last name when they get married, while 20 percent choose to keep their maiden name and about 5 percent chose to hyphenate. For same-sex couples, the numbers are about the same. A survey from The Knot found that about 61 percent of male couples and 77 percent of female couples decided to take one partner's name when they were married.

But is a new last name right for you? There's no right answer that works for everyone and there are several things to consider before you take your partner's name.

The Pros

There are many advantages to a married couple sharing the same name. While you may not see these effects immediately, they are good points to consider for your future.

  • Having the same last name throughout your family unit makes things simpler, especially once you have children. A common name makes you more easily recognizable as one family. That can make things easier when you go on trips, have to deal with schools, and even when you're just interacting with other parents.
  • If for some reason you don't like your given last name, this is an easy excuse to make a change.
  • Many brides find that having the same last name as their husband helps them feel more like a family. Changing their name is an important and official symbol of the commitment they've made to each other.
  • Monogramming home goods, personalizing decor items and making dinner reservations all become easier. However, changing your name for a doormat probably isn't the soundest reason.
  • Whether you intend to change your name or not, many people will assume that you did. That means they may begin to address you as Mrs. Jones whether you like it or not (you may even get that personalized doormat as a wedding present). Perhaps going with the flow is not a bad option.

The Cons

The New York Times shared that 20 percent of women keep their maiden names after marriage. This list of reasons may have you considering increasing that percentage. 

  • You are getting married, not becoming a different person. Changing your last name may feel like a loss of self or a loss of identity. If so, perhaps you shouldn't change your name.
  • It may go against your politics; after all, why does a woman have to change her name, and not the man? Or in the case of same-sex partners, how do you decide whose name to use? Furthermore, changing your name may imply that you are more old-fashioned or traditional than you actually are.
  • If you are the last of your family with your last name, you may not want to give it up.
  • If your name is unique, interesting, or alliterative, and your partner's name is hard to pronounce or just dissonant, it may be better to stick with the name you were born with.
  • If you are well-known in your career field, it may be hard to reestablish your reputation with a different last name.

The Alternatives

Fortunately, it's not just as black and white as choosing one person's name. There are other options to consider as well.

  • Hyphenate your last names. Sometimes just the bride hyphenates, while the groom stays with his last name solo. Other times both will change their names to the new hyphenated versions. It's something to discuss together and you'll need to decide whose name goes first.
  • Keep your maiden name as a middle name. In this way, you can choose to sometimes use Amanda Smith Jones or just Amanda Jones, depending on the circumstance.
  • If you're worried about being the last in the family with your given name, consider taking your partner's name, but use your maiden name as a first or middle name for a child. For instance, if your name was Lisa Alice Fielding, your son could be Fielding Charles Burwell. Using your former name this way can still carry on your family legacy. 
  • Your partner could take your last name. While only a small percentage of male-female couples are going this route, it will mark you as a modern couple who isn't afraid to buck tradition. If you have the cooler last name, both of you can win with this option.
  • You can combine both of your last names into a new name. If your last name is Miller and his is Pelton, why can't you become the Milltons together? Additionally, there's really nothing stopping you from choosing a new name altogether; think of it as a chance to make a clean break.
  • Consider changing your name legally to make personal matters easier, but still, use your maiden name professionally. It will be a small hassle setting things up when you change jobs but will make day-to-day life much simpler.

No matter what you decide, be sure to listen to your heart and make the decision that is best for your personal situation.