by Chris Bodenner
The above screenshot (click to enlarge) from our Urtak survey shows how 58% of female readers are planning to keep their name after marriage compared to 83% of male readers. Also, 6% of married readers hyphenated their last name in marriage and 7% of unmarried readers are planning to do the same. Explore all of the results here. Below is another big follow-up to one of our most popular threads this year:
I don’t think that anyone has mentioned yet the professional concerns around changing your last name to your spouse’s upon marriage, in an age where your “brand” is very much linked to your online identity and it’s a given that potential employers are going to be googling job applicants. While you can always change your last name easily on social media sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc., it’s basically impossible to go back and change it on the masthead of your law journal, the articles you wrote for your college paper, the announcement for the scholarship you won, or the acknowledgements page of your professor’s book that you helped research. Put simply, an increasing number of women today will have racked up a list of accomplishments under their birth names prior to marriage, so I’d rather be searched as “Jane [Maiden Name]” than “Jane X” upon marrying Mr. X. I’d think that a good number of us are reluctant to give up the online “brand”/professional identity that we’ve been building for years.
Of course, the fact that you can find absurd amounts of information about virtually everyone through a quick online browse works in the other direction as well. Hence, a name change might be beneficial for those who have past indiscretions tied to their maiden names and would like to “start over.”
Another factor that hasn’t been raised thus far is divorce. Many divorced Americans who had taken their spouse’s name revert to their original name, even before they consider another marriage and yet another name change. Perhaps millennials are more likely to keep their name in marriage due to all the name-changing they saw from their remarried and re-remarried boomer parents, the most divorce-prone generation. Another reader:
For my first 23 years, I had no middle name. My mother tried to spare us the dilemma of having to choose whether to use our middle name or our maiden name when we did get married (she chose the latter). So for the government, my middle initial was ‘N’ for none. If I had to have a middle name (again, for government documents) it was ‘NMN’ for no middlename. So I was very glad to finally get a middle name when I married.
Another has advice for parents:
Here is a solution that my grandparents came up with. You hyphenate last names when you get married. When your children grow up and get married, they keep half the hyphenated name from the parent of the same gender as them (or they can just pick one in the case of same-sex couples) and take half of their spouse’s last name. This allows for the continuation of lineage through surnames, while still eliminating the gender imbalance in the process.
I swear this is not apocryphal; I know these people; they were at my wedding. His name is Bent. Her maiden name is Dover. They decided NOT to hyphenate.
My wife and I are late-20s Philadelphians who both felt attached to the family history behind our last names. We decided over a beer one night to flip a coin and avoid the hyphenated circus.
We flipped a coin outside the bar and she won so, I took her last name. You should have seen the social security office when I went in. The woman behind the desk didn’t know how to enter a man making a marriage-based name change, and whispered the scenario to her coworker like I was doing something I should be embarrassed about. I’ve gotten similar vibes from her small town extended family as well. Meh. I only know one other person in all my urban Northeast network where the man took a woman’s name and it’s my cousin in Brooklyn (who also doesn’t know anyone). I recommend the coin toss.
The best ever solution to the last name question was a rock-paper-scissors match between the best man and the man of honor (the bride’s best friend was a guy), played during the wedding ceremony. A win by the best man meant the couple would take the groom’s name, ditto for the bride’s name if her attendant won. What to do in the event of multiple ties had not been considered. This became more important when both attendants threw a tie six times in a row. While hybridnames were considered, the couple elected to soldier on until the tie was broken by the best man, and the couple have happily shared the groom’s name ever since.
I didn’t take my husband’s name, and probably for the worst of all possible reasons: spite. Back when we were still dating in college, we went out one night with another couple. The other guy mentioned to my now-husband that his girlfriend had told him she planned to keep her name if they married. My husband (who possibly wasn’t aware I was within earshot), laughed at him and said, “No wife of mine is gonna keep her last name!” To which I immediately replied, “Oh, really?”
Prior to that, I would’ve taken his name without a second thought. But I’m contrary by nature, and the moment he implied I had to take his name was the moment I knew I wouldn’t. I hate it when someone tells me I have to do something.
For the record, we celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary last month. And I generously allowed our son to have his dad’s last name.