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14 May 2007

Married Mechazens - did you change your name on marriage? [More:]The question of marriage has arisen and we're both pro (though the thought of arranging a wedding brings me out in a rash...). Previously, when I've thought about marriage, I've just assumed that I would keep my name (and he'd keep his), as a) it defines me and b) I use it for work - I'm experiencing some success in my field, and am becoming known for what I do, and there are no others with my name in this field.

But the more I think about it, the more confused I get. Wouldn't it be a big plus to have the same surname uniting family members? How do you pick which name to give the children? (and barring any physical problems, there will be children). Do you find that people just assume you changed your name, even if you didn't? Anything else I haven't thought about? If you did change your name, have you ever regretted it? Or regretted not changing it, if you didn't?

I'm sure I'll reach my own conclusions eventually, but in the meantime I'd be interested to hear how any of you have tackled this.
I changed mine. If I get married again I suspect I'll change it again, but that's me.

I know a few women who kept their last name as-is for business, and changed it legally, so the kids would have the same name as both parents.

I live near a border, though, so people actually do think about that a lot, as it's not uncommon for people with different names from their kids to have a harder time crossing. I guess it makes dealing with schools and stuff easier, too. Could vary depending on where you live, though. Buffalo can be a bit old-fashioned. A major city would obviously be far more used to dealing with kids and parents that have different names.

(also, for what it is worth, it seems about 75/25 of the single mothers I know who gave the baby the dad's last name vs their own.)
posted by kellydamnit 14 May | 08:30
I didn't the first time, I did the second time. Here's a couple things to keep in mind: 1) I found changing a last name to be a big PAIN, and 2) There's nothing wrong with having two names. For instance, you can keep your "old" name for business and tax and passport purposes, but in day-to-day life people can call you "Altolinguistic NewName" if they want, and you can refer to yourself that way informally. To this day I still get mail with two different last names (I changed back to the old one after my second divorce). The mail carrier doesn't seem to mind.

Also, you don't have decide this right away -- you can change your name 5 years after the wedding if you want. Frankly, arranging a wedding is quite enough stress without adding name worries to it.
posted by JanetLand 14 May | 08:32
Unless the UK's got some laws I don't know about, anyway . . . .
posted by JanetLand 14 May | 08:34
Yes. I now go by Jonmc Bono Allman.
posted by jonmc 14 May | 08:34
I didn't change it. When we pop a sprog it will get both of our last names, although for logistics probably mine as a 2nd middle, because mr. gaspode cares more about that sort of stuff than I do.

I know plenty of families with mixed names (second marriages etc.) and I don't think any of them feel like less of a family because they don't all share a name.

Oh, and why I didn't change? Eh, my name is my name. To me, changing my last name upon marriage is as weird as changing my first.

And I don't know why he didn't change.
posted by gaspode 14 May | 08:37
A friend of mine gave one child her last name and the other her husband's.
I don't want kids so that's moot, but I think I'll keep my own last name. Both someone at the New York Times and the mayor of LA combined their names with their spouse's.
posted by brujita 14 May | 08:40
I'm not giving my kids any last names, just single word names like Cher or Madonna. If they really want a last name, they can get a job and go buy one.
posted by jonmc 14 May | 08:43
We were going to hypenate, but just never did out of laziness. The kids have my last name. Our oldest has her name as a middle name and I thought our second would have the same, but my wife decided against it for some reason.

My wife gets a little annoyed sometimes when people call her Mrs. Dano, but I think it's a fairly minor annoyance. It comes in handy when we get calls or mail for Mrs. Dano, but we can dismisss them easily as junk if they don't even know her real name.

Schools and such seem pretty accustomed to kids having a different name than one or both parents.
posted by danostuporstar 14 May | 08:50
Kidding aside, Pips has kept her name for now. Since she's a teacher, this is probably a good thing. I remember my third grade teacher got married mid-year and the name change had the whole class discombobulated for the rest of the year.

(also combining her first and middle name with my last name would make her sound like a nun and she's not even Catholic)
posted by jonmc 14 May | 08:56
We kept our own names, as we got married on pretty short notice, and didn't have much time to really think it over/talk about it (the name thing, that is). I would have been willing to take her name, but she didn't think that was 'done.' :)

I guess that leaves us with an interesting discussion when we have kids, but I really don't care much about the last name (but do care a lot about the first name), so I'm sure it'll be easily solvable.

My brother, on the other hand, went through a lot of agony to find a name combination that both of them were happy with. They now have his middle name as their last name, and he has taken her middle name as a new middle name (and dropping both of their 'proper' last names -- it was a bureaucratic hell...)
posted by AwkwardPause 14 May | 08:58
I was thinking of asking this very question! The Mudd-Dude and I have been thinking about combining our last names (mine is Scottish in origin, his is Dutch), since it leads to the always-amusing "THORHEES", but we must think of the children.

Honestly, I think neither of us care that much, so we will probably keep our last names. Hyphenating, in our case, is too awkward to consider. Or maybe I'll decide to just take his name, although I generally disapprove of supporting paternalistic traditions just for the sake of tradition.
posted by muddgirl 14 May | 09:07
My pastors kept their last names, and they just had a baby that got the hypenated last name (MomsName-DadsName).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 14 May | 09:21
I changed mine.

How could I pass up having the same name as a very well known President?
posted by bunnyfire 14 May | 09:22
i've never married but i've always hoped that if/when i do, the woman insists on keeping her own name or doing a hyphen, etc. it seems only fair. then again, i've always been a little afriad of women who wear pink all the time too...
posted by shane 14 May | 09:25
My wife did not change hers. Which was fine. . .a mutual decision.

My running line is that I would not GIVE her my name, that she's still earning it.
posted by danf 14 May | 09:25
Mrs. Plinth changed her name. She had been

FirstNameThatNobodyUses MiddleNameWhichWasEssentiallyHerFirstName LastName
She changed it to:
MiddleNameWhichWasEssentiallyHerFirstName LastName Plinth

but, you know, with real names instead of CamelCase fake names.
posted by plinth 14 May | 09:31
Not married but just for the info, our kid has both our names and we decided in which order they should go so we went with what sounded best which is 'hislastname mylastname'. No hyphen.
posted by dabitch 14 May | 09:35
I changed my name on marriage and kept it on divorce because (a) I hated my dad and didn't want his name anyway and (b) my old surname didn't scan at all with my fist name and I always had to repeat it and/or spell it, several times, before people 'got it'. My married (now divorced) surname sits much better with my first name.
posted by essexjan 14 May | 09:37
Do you find that people just assume you changed your name, even if you didn't?
Forgot to respond to this part. At my first marriage, when I didn't change my name, yes, virtually everyone assumed I did. In fact, two people asked me if I had to get "permission" from the government to be "allowed" to use my maiden name. Marriage and names is apparently something people feel very strongly about, at least in the U.S.
posted by JanetLand 14 May | 09:46
Not married, but the SO and I have discussed the matter. I simply said, "hey, if we get married, it's up to you. I couldn't care less one way or the other".

If we do wind up walking the plank, I'm still not sure which she'll choose. We have negative intentions on children, though, so that takes a lot of the stigma and wonder out of the equation.
posted by ufez 14 May | 09:46
I changed my name the first time I got married, but the bureaucratic hell on changing it back when we got divorced convinced me that I never wanted to bother with that again. I would have felt weird keeping his name. So I've stuck with my maiden name ever since. My daughter, from my first marriage, has her father's name while my son, 2nd marriage, has a hyphenated name (that was decided after much, much argument) which he doesn't mind at all, even though it's really pretty weird. A friend of mine who feels very strongly about the paternalistic overtones of name change went back into her & her husband's family history and found female surnames that had died out and gave those to her children. Sure, the schools complain a bit, but it's really not that difficult for everyone to figure out.
posted by mygothlaundry 14 May | 09:50
If this had been the kind of thing I thought about back when, I would have thought about it, but as it is, when I was married the first time, I took my husband's last name, but also continued to use my maiden name (since I was known professionally that way) so that I was taz/maiden name/husband's name. Then when I married the second time, I was no longer in my profession, and took my husband's name because I like it much more, euphonically, and there is no chance of my maiden name dying out in our family - or of me having kids anyway, so that point was moot. I like having my husband's last name, because it's much cooler than mine. Now, if only my passport would catch up without a lot of painful filing.
posted by taz 14 May | 10:20
Oh, and here's a funny story: I used to work with a woman who was a researcher in the disability rehabilitation field. She comes into my office one day and asks me to change the last name on her corporate resume. I won't use the real names, but let's say she wanted to change from "Maria Chao" to "Maria Holmquist." Well, I knew she was married, so I was a little uncomfortable, thinking I'm about to get a divorce story, but as it turned out, the only reason she wanted to go back to using her maiden name professionally was that she, as a very blonde Scandinavian type, was tired of being asked to serve on peer review panels, showing up, and hearing, "Oh. Gee. We . . . thought you were Asian. There goes our diversity on this panel."
posted by JanetLand 14 May | 10:34
My wife took my last name, though I wouldn't have minded had she not.

Here's my question: what do people with hyphenated names do when they get married?
posted by eamondaly 14 May | 10:48
Hee, Janetland.

Oh yeah, lots of people automatically call me by my husband's last name. I correct them, mildly, but if they insist on doing it more than twice I get mad at them. Or I start calling them "Fred" or something.
posted by gaspode 14 May | 10:52
yes, I met someone last week , at a group event, who told me she was recently married and that she hadn't changed her name - but later on, I overheard two other people in the group refer to her and one of them said 'oh, she's not Clare X any more, she's Clare Y'. People do assume.

Thanks all for sharing. My OH doesn't mind either way, and isn't troubled at the thought of my not changing my name. We might give a son his father's first name, though.

Now, if I can just get him to believe that weddings don't have to cost 20,000, we might be all set. Despite the fact that he knows me pretty well, he still seems prepared to believe that I will revert to a big-rock-wanting, multi-thousand-pound-dress-wearing Bridezilla...
posted by altolinguistic 14 May | 11:05
Mrs. Doohickie changed her name from FirstName MiddleName MaidenName to FirstName MaidenName MarriedName. She didn't like her original middle name and had no problems dropping it, and adopted her maiden name as her middle name.
posted by Doohickie 14 May | 11:07
(It ends up reading like a hyphenated name but it isn't.)
posted by Doohickie 14 May | 11:08
I was married (and now divorced) and never changed my name. Never even considered it.

JanetLand, that's a funny story. Back when I had college details on my resume, people sometimes thought for sure I was black because my major was African Studies and my first name was Claudia. Which at one point was apparently considered a black name.

My two kids are foster kids, so we each have a different last name, and different race/ethnicity. It's not a problem.
posted by Claudia_SF 14 May | 11:22
I kept my name. I got married, not adopted. Plus, the rossi family fed me, clothed me and put me through school. Why should the hubbyname family get all the credit? Our kids have my last name as a second middle name. I'll answer to his name in situations where it's easier (like at my kid's preschool), but I've got a number of people in my life who steadfastly REFUSE to refer to me as rossi and it really, really pisses me off.

But if you really want to get to me, call me Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. God, I hate that with a white hot passion.
posted by jrossi4r 14 May | 12:24
'oh, she's not Clare X any more, she's Clare Y'.

This creeps me out. The whole "She's married, therefore she has a whole new identity" thing is so... creepy. I can understand why the individuals involved in the family might want the same last name for all family members, but the whole implication from outside the family that the woman has changed so much that she has to change her name weirds me out.
posted by occhiblu 14 May | 12:35
I always used to wonder why, on certain oddly shaped pieces of mail, my mom's first name was "Judd," just like my dad's.
posted by Hugh Janus 14 May | 12:39
I'm not married, but I'll speak from the perspective of the kids. My mother never changed her name, although my brother and I both have my father's last name.

While I was growing up (I'm 27 now), it was rather unusual among my schoolmates that my mom had a different last name, but I can't remember it ever being a source of stigma or logistical issues. It helped that she was pretty relaxed about it - i.e. she didn't jump down my friends' throats if they called her "Mrs. [my father's last name]."
posted by lalex 14 May | 12:47
I get very annoyed when I'm called Mrs. Last Name--the assumption being that single women don't live in places like mine unless they've been someone's parasite--the only ones in my family who are called this are chupahija and my aunt.

If you don't know one's married status, use Ms.
posted by brujita 14 May | 13:41
Not married, but I have taught school and worked in camps and programs over the years with what adds up to thousands of children. One thing I can say about the world's response to children's names is that anyone who works with children eventually gets to be fairly blase about what their name situations are. There are too many divorces and remarriages, adoptions, inter-family adoptions, foster children, grandparents raising grandchildren, same-sex parents, and blended families to expect family names to be clear markers of the relationship. I've known families with every sort of combination. Since the summer camp I used to work for attracted progressive types, we had dozens of hyphenated-name kids there, and hyphenation is not really at all difficult to manage. It's just a name, like anyone's name. Some of the hyphenated names were the most mellifluous, and the names seemed to have more definite character than a lot of simpler family names. I know of no situation where the name became a problem or singled the child out in a negative way.

I don't ever plan to change my name, marriage or no. If my partner wanted to take my name or hyphenate, that would be all right with me if he embraced the choice. If I do have children I will consider all possible naming patterns. It would be nice for any children I have to carry my name, at least in hyphen form if not as a family name, because my brother is the last of the line in terms of males, and is not planning on children, so the name dies out if I don't pass it along.

That said, I enjoyed JanetLand's story for this reason. I am a white mutt American, but my last name is the same as a common Korean name. Enough people have said outright "I thought you were going to be Korean!" that now I'm aware when I go into a situation like a job interview that people may be surprised to see an Irish looking person.

Anyway. My recommendation would be to do what suits you. There are so many variations in families and couples these days.
posted by Miko 14 May | 14:09
My sister and her mate decide to take neither name and just both change their names to a new one. They picked Alden, mainly because it had no family significance on either side.
posted by StickyCarpet 14 May | 14:11
I have a couple of friends who did that too, StickyCarpet. It's a fun idea.

I like how even though the question was "married mechazens: did you change your name?" most people are interpreting it as "did the woman change her name?" Not snarking, just pointing out that our default assumptions are nice and normal. :)
posted by gaspode 14 May | 14:16
I took the mister's surname when we married, but not because of tradition. I was ecstatic to get rid of the sperm donor's name. Should we ever get divorced (which will never happen - it's toe tags all the way!), I'll use my mum's maiden name. I had considered legally changing my surname to her maiden name before getting married, but never got around to it.
posted by deborah 14 May | 14:17
I kept my name when I was married, and didn't ever consider changing it (my ex-husband said he never expected me to change my name, either, but that didn't stop several of his family members from indicating their unhappiness with me). If we had had children, they would have had his name.

If I get married again, I'll probably keep my name, though I am more open to the idea of changing it (or at least hyphenating, or using my own name professionally). I would still expect kids to have his name.

My sister uses her (and my!) name professionally, uses her husband's name personally, and all the kids have his name.
posted by scody 14 May | 15:11
I like how even though the question was "married mechazens: did you change your name?" most people are interpreting it as "did the woman change her name?"

Does anyone have an anecdote about a man taking on a woman's last name in a marriage (not hyphenating, just substituting)? I don't recall seeing that situation in any of the mefi threads. And I mean in the US or countries were the mainstream practice is similar.
posted by mullacc 14 May | 15:16
Does anyone have an anecdote about a man taking on a woman's last name in a marriage (not hyphenating, just substituting)?

I know a couple who did this, sorta. They wanted to take a new last name that didn't include either of their 'maiden' surnames. So they took the woman's maternal grandfather's surname. The grandfater had just died and there weren't any sons or grandsons in the family, so they a) accomplished their desire for a new name for both, and b) kept the name "alive."

I thought that was a cool solution.
posted by mudpuppie 14 May | 15:19
Two of my friends from college took on their wife's names when they married. They got some shit for it, for about a week. Then nobody cared anymore.

I maintain that it was less of a big deal to many people than a woman *not* taking on her husband's name.

Also see this thread in indiebride about the subject.
posted by gaspode 14 May | 15:20
I know a couple who dropped both their names and use his middle name, which I think is his mother's maiden name, or something like that; it's from his family, anyway. I don't believe I've personally ever run across a man who adopted his wife's last name.
posted by JanetLand 14 May | 15:30
Yes, to Sh*thead.
posted by PaxDigita 14 May | 18:42
I was thinking of posting this exact question! I took my first husband's name, because my maiden name never did much for me. The marriage didn't last. But the funny thing is, I really love the person I've become under this name. I don't even think of it as belonging to my ex-husband. It's become mine, it's the link to my sons. When I remarried, my youngest was five. He thought that if I changed my name, I wouldn't be "Mommy" anymore. So I didn't change it. And now it's been five years, and I'm still not sure. I do add it to my name, not hypenated, sometimes. And he's mentioned it more than once, but swears that he doesn't care if I don't take his name. I can't decide!

My mom, on the other hand, took my dad's name when they married. Then took her second husband's name. Then when that didn't work out(after 13 years), she went back to her maiden name. It was the only name that never gave her trouble, she said.
posted by redvixen 14 May | 20:31
Mullacc, Lucy Stone's (a 19th century feminist) husband took her last name.
posted by brujita 14 May | 23:42
I changed mine, and plan on keeping it even after the divorce is final. Were I to marry again, I would probably change it again.
posted by rhapsodie 15 May | 00:57
I like how even though the question was "married mechazens: did you change your name?" most people are interpreting it as "did the woman change her name?" Not snarking, just pointing out that our default assumptions are nice and normal. :)

yes, I deliberately kept it gender-neutral, though I knew most of the replies would concern women...

But if you really want to get to me, call me Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. God, I hate that with a white hot passion.

I frequently get called Mrs HisLast - as we have lots of things in joint name, like bills and the mortgage, people just assume we're married. No-one's tried Mrs HisFirst HisLast yet, though, and woe betide them if they do.
posted by altolinguistic 15 May | 04:02
I keep adding one more thing:

In England, back in the ye olde days, every now and then a man would take his wife's last name, because she was the heiress to the big estate, and had no brothers, and that was one of the parental conditions for marrying her.
posted by JanetLand 15 May | 07:59
JanetLand, some friends of mine did this. He took her surname. His surname was Green, her first name is Teresa and she said there's no way she was going through life as 'Trees Are Green'.
posted by essexjan 15 May | 08:12
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