In recent decades, the topic of changing your last name after marriage has been a hot topic. This trend is even stronger in recent years. Like most wedding-related matters, couples feel empowered to choose the traditions that they like and discard the ones that don’t. The example of a new bride changing her name is a perfect example. Although our grandparents might not have considered it a problem for a woman to change her name soon after marriage, there are many reasons you might be considering your options. There is no rule that says you can’t trade your maiden name for a different one, regardless of whether you are already a successful professional or find the tradition outdated. If you’re all for changing your name, do it!
What is the takeaway? The takeaway? Do what is right for you. It doesn’t matter where you are on the last name-change spectrum. No one should judge you for making such a personal choice. These stories are from women who have been there. Six women were asked to tell us why they changed their last names (or not) after getting married.
Naomi S. is a Charlotte, North Carolina native who never knew her father. She was also estranged from her mother when she was an adult. Naomi says that she had no strong ties to Naomi’s maiden name. She says, “No one in my family had the exact same last name as mine so I felt that mine was something I owned.” “When I started dating my husband, who comes from a large family, it was sad that I wasn’t connected with anyone through my last name. So I decided to take mine because I wanted to have a family that is connected that way.
Sarah H., an American citizen, changed her last name while working in television news in Charlotte. According to a colleague, a more generic name might be better for broadcast work. “As a strong feminist, the thought of taking a man’s last name terrified me. But one day, I told my husband that I was changing my last name to his for professional reasons. It had been a year since he tried to convince me. He laughed. It’s not clear if I’ve been able to get more work or less. Or if it really matters.
Natalie W. from Albany, New York did the exact opposite. She chose to keep her maiden name for professional reasons. “I am an author, and I have four books written with my maiden names. It is a big part of who I am and my career. She says that although I could use my married name professionally, it is something I would prefer to keep in an official capacity. Natalie had considered using her maiden surname as her middle name. However, that didn’t work out. “I love my middlename, so changing it to my maiden is a difficult practice. Add in the fact my married name is already an hyphenated name and you have a very long name!”
Leah W., a Long Island City resident, explained that her decision to keep her maiden name was both personal and professional. “I was 31 when I got married. I had been an attorney for seven year before that. Professionally, I felt that I had created my own identity and I wanted to keep it. Although my husband and me are wonderful, loving partners, it was not right for us to share his last name. She also explains that if you are called Mrs. X from a feminist perspective, it means that you ‘belong to’ the person whose last name you changed. It can be difficult because one partner may feel the same way as the other, and sometimes family members might disagree. But overall, it was what was right for me.
Nandita G. from Atlanta, Georgia has been married almost 20 years. However, she stands firm to her decision to not change her last name. “When I spoke with my boyfriend about the possibility of us getting married, I mentioned that I was born with a name that defined me and that I wasn’t planning to change it. My maiden name is something I am proud of. She says that her late father was a decorated police officer. His name is also my middle name. Therefore, keeping my maiden title allows me to keep his memory with all I do. My husband and I have different last names. However, my daughter expressed an interest in adding my grandfather’s last name (my maiden name) to hers when she grows up, to honor her grandfather.
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Mary W. from Phoenix, Arizona has had the unique experience of doing both. She changed her last name when she got married, and then didn’t change it again the second time. “In my first marriage, the starter, when I learned how to not have a relationship, I took my husbands last name. But when we split, I returned to my original name. My original name was retained when I got married again. It was a superstition in a way. The first marriage didn’t work so I tried something new. However, after my second husband died, I tried to change it.” she shared. After ‘test driving’ the new name for a while I decided to stick with my old one as so many people knew it. When asked my name, I hesitated, trying to recall how they knew me. It’s hard to believe that this could not be suspicious. “Did I not know my name?”