Readers relay a few customs from other countries:
Just wanted to add my two cents to this thread. In a lot of Hispanic cultures like Cuba (where I’m from), you take both your mother’s maiden name and your dad’s name. It’s not hyphenated – you just kind of have two last names. The assumption though is that when your son gets married, his wife will take only the father’s name. However, even if your kids ultimately don’t take this approach, I like the idea of the double last name. If your concern about taking your spouse’s last name has to do with whether your name will live on, you can give your kids both names and then both parents have, on average, more than 20 years to convince the kid to pass on one or the other’s last name.
Iranian women, on the whole, do not change their surnames after marriage. By the way, Happy Persian New Year (Norooz Mobarak!)
Québec long ago came up with the answer.
By law, no names change in marriage. All women keep their own name. If you want to change your name, that is a different legal function – a legal name change, like anyone else who wants to change their identity. When I first moved here, I did not know this, and hearing all the politicians and their wives introduced I thought “Is everyone shacking up?” But Québec – which for 40 years has had some of the most progressive civil law in North America – was an early bulwark of feminism, and for pure equality and consistency’s sake this makes logical sense.
Update from a reader:
I’m not sure your reader from Quebec is highlighting anything different than in the US. A name change is not some integrated part of a marriage in any State that I’m aware of. I happened to get my marriage license in North Carolina (hardly a bastion of progressive civil rights) and there was nothing about a name change included. We just filled out the paperwork and mailed it in. There was no assumption (other than culturally) that her name would change and we didn’t have to opt-out of anything to prevent it from happening. In fact, from what my friends have told me it’s quite arduous to get your name legally changed.
A name change is a formal legal function independent of marriage here just as in Quebec and I’m sure it’s been that way for plenty of decades. Sorry to rain on his holier-than-thou parade.
But another clarifies:
Here in Quebec, women are not allowed to take their husbands last name. My wife and I married last summer and though I had no expectation that she should take my name, she would have liked to on account of her own conflicted feelings about her family name. Since 1981, however, Quebec law has specifically prohibited it, although one can apply to change it after a few years if one can provide evidence that one is commonly known by another name.
Not surprisingly, I see a higher percentage of hyphenated names here than elsewhere. Although there are many great things about living in Quebec, this refusal to accept people’s choice of whether to change their names or not reflects the heritage of the French nanny state that I could certainly do without.