How to tell family you didn't change your last name (…and how to cash those checks written to the wrong name)

October 28 |
Mrs. Patton closeup
Photo by Amy McKenna
When I get married, I am not planning on changing my name.

Our families are not forward-thinking and are bound to assume I will take my future husband's last name.

My family tends to give money/checks at weddings and I am concerned that they will write out checks to "Mr. and Mrs…" and we wont be able to deposit them.

How do we let our families know that I'm keeping my name with out mentioning gifts on the invitation?

-Ticia

Ah, the never-ending Offbeat Bride issue of last names.

This specific issue's actually got an easy solution: there's no need to mention gifts or last names on the invitation.

If you receive checks written out to "Mr. & Mrs. His Last Name," check with your bank. At my bank, they just ask that BOTH parties sign the back of the checks and write "FOR DEPOSIT ONLY." (Your bank may have different policies — give 'em a call!)

But there's a larger issue, of course: letting your families know after the wedding that you're keeping your last name. That's got a relatively easy solution, too… thank you cards, which offer two opportunities to share the news:

  • Your return address on the envelope should include both of your full names.
  • Sign the cards with your full names — and you want to really drive the point home, draw a little arrow to your last name and note: Yep, I kept my last name! :)

Ultimately, it will likely still take your families a while to fully get it. But this will ensure that you've done your part to get the news out there.

  1. We've put it on the FAQ both on our website, and will mention it in our program. These are some great solutions, too!

    4 agree
  2. Yeah, the name-on-the-check thing isn't a big deal. Due to circumstances, we got checks made out to all different people, from Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast to a completely made up name that we've been telling people we're going to adopt. The bank didn't even blink an eye.

    2 agree
  3. One thing regarding checks – you can deposit them with "For deposit only" in place of a signature. My husband and I did this with a teller at the counter in case there were any questions (she was super helpful).

    We're sort of not worrying about the extended family knowing I've kept my name, but our close friends and parents were told up front. The parents were a little surprised, but my friends and coworkers cheered me on!

    0 agree
  4. Be aware of you banks deposit rules! I work for a major national bank, and we no longer accept checks endorsed "for deposit only." We get newly married couples in all the time and usually if you have a joint account it's not a big deal. However, some banking centers are more strict than others. Best to go into the bank together and ask an associate the best way to go about depositing.

    1 agrees
    • Erin speaks the truth. I can give general advice, but really talking to your bank is the best idea.

      2 agree
    • Former bank employee chiming up here too: when I was a customer service manager at a Canadian retail bank we did try to be understanding of the name issue (though it *is* bending the rules), especially if there was an existing joint account. However, Canadian banks at least generally do not accept cheques payable to 2 people into single accounts unless both people are at the branch to sign with identification (and a copy of the marriage certificate if you haven't changed your name/you're still waiting for new ID).

      1 agrees
  5. I'm pretty sure my bank required both signatures on some (but not all!) of our checks. I wouldn't have any hesitation signing Myfirst Hislast tho – there's no intent to defraud, and it's still *you*. Your ID can only say one thing at a time. I have occasionally had checks written out to me using a name I haven't used in a couple years and i've never had a problem depositing them as long as i sign the name that's on the check. (I also get fullname and nickname variants, which is also not a problem.)

    0 agree
    • Yes, my ex and I received a check in both of our names (First and First Lastname) and we both had to sign it – It was returned to us because only my ex signed it! I would not give this a try unless your bank specifically says it is allowed.

      0 agree
  6. We had our officiant announce it by saying "please join me in congratulating the newlyweds, Warren HisName and Sabrina HerName", instead of "Mr and Mrs HisName", as they sometimes do. We also had it at the end of our ceremony program. We STILL had people who didn't get it, but that's when you just gotta tell them! Good luck to you :)

    3 agree
  7. I also worked for a large bank and it is true that they are getting a lot more strict on check endorsements. However, as long as you bring your marriage certificate and proper ID, you shouldn't have a problem.

    0 agree
  8. I didn't take my husband's name, and never discussed it with anyone until it came up. At one point, there was a tense, blustery moment with my father in law "but our last name is a fine last name!!" to which I replied "so is mine!" and that was that.

    Also, I once had a discussion with a woman who ended up taking her husband's last name about five years into the marriage because she said she "felt" like her new last name, like she had grown into that identity, and I found that idea appealing, since right now I still feel like my Ms. Maiden name and not Mrs. My husband's name. So there's always the option to change it down the line as well.

    10 agree
  9. But how to tell your family you will be changing your name? My Dad is DEVASTATED (he thought he raised me as a feminist).

    5 agree
    • Just be honest: you want to be Mrs. [HisName]. You'll still be a [YourName], but you'll also be a [HisName]. And at the end of the day, it's your decision – being a feminist is all about having that choice. :)

      0 agree
  10. We've put it in our contact info that we posted on our wedding website. "Once we're married, our contact information will be…" with our full names and our address. You could maybe include this in your invite (a separate little business-card insert people can hang on to?) or website. This way it's under the guise of giving your address and not just your name. People will want to know your address to send gifts!

    3 agree
  11. I kept my last name, and some of our cheques (particularly from Kyle's family), wrote as if I had changed our name. We brought all cheques into the bank branch, and were both there as we deposited them into Kyle's bank. I never signed anything, and the bank women didn't even question it. Perhaps it's because it was going into Kyle's account and the cheques mostly had his last name. But they didn't even question the cheques that were made out to me with my maiden name! In sum, it probably depends on the bank. I was at CIBC, in Canada.

    0 agree
  12. I've found that people are more suprised that I'm changing my name than if I were keeping myname. It's as though people expect you to be young and independent and keep your maiden name. I'm also in Canada, and when we tried to deposit the cheques to ScotiaBank, they insisted that we both sign the back. I hadn't gone through any steps to change my name yet, but your legal name is any name that you use. For example, if today I decided that my name is Ashlie Offbeat, that would be my legal name.

    0 agree
  13. As a heads up, having just gotten married myself (and not even thinking about this… oops), we got a bunch of checks that were made out to Mr. and Mrs. hislast. Our bank was very understanding – we just explained the dilemma, and they had me sign the back of the check twice – once with my real name, once with his last (he had to sign too). I know it's not ideal, but if family still sends you checks made out the wrong way, you *can* deposit them. It may just take a little more work.

    1 agrees
  14. I work in a Canadian financial insitution and unfortuantly its not as easy as what Ariel said in her response. A cheque made out to Partner A and Partner B must go into a bank account between those two people. The only way to sign the cheque over (or endorsing the cheque) is if you sign in front of the teller with two pieces of ID that match the name on the front. If you are not changing your name you wouldnt have the idea. We can do what splatter said but only if the account is joint by the two of you already and you bring in a copy of your marriage certificate.

    the privacy laws in Canada seem to be much more strict then in the USA and because of this it can be much more complicated.

    The EASIEST way is to get your guest to make the cheque out to Partner A OR Partner B — that way it can go into an account that either names are on.

    I take cheques all the time that say for deposit only on the back — as far as my FI is concerned its personal perference,

    Hope this helps Canadian Brides and it can be very frustrating.

    0 agree
    • The "OR" part isn't just for Canada. When we went to the bank 5 months ago, checks written out to "A and B" needed both signatures and photo IDs to match. The teller said the checks could be deposited by one person ONLY if it said A *OR* B.

      2 agree
  15. Generally, explaining your rationale for this goes along with the general advice that I've seen often on this site. Be clear of what your motivation is for your decision, explain it lovingly, and ask that your loved ones respect it. If they don't, just say something like "I understand that this might be hard for you as it's not what you expected. But I hope you'll respect and accept our decision." Personally I might be inclined to say something in advance to a few key people and hope that the word will get out on it's own. Ex. tell your parents and then when Aunt Edna asks your mom what you guys want as a gift, mom can explain it to her.

    One alternative…you could register through a service like myregistry.com which allows you to set up a deposit section. We asked people to give money through the registry into our Honeymoon fund and it went through Paypal into an existing account. So much easier. I think that my mom even recommended to a few family guests that would be the most appreciated gift.

    We did end up getting a few Mr. & Mrs. checks and are going to have to get a morning off work to go into the bank branch together. (Our bank requires both signatures and a joint account.) Not the worst thing in the world, I guess but not super convenient either.

    1 agrees
  16. I, too, work for a major national bank and the "Mr. AND Mrs." can be tricky. The rule goes as follows, if it is made to Mr. AND Mrs., it needs to be deposited into your joint account. If if is made to Mr. OR Mrs. than it can be put into either your joint account or either person's single account. The AND rule is very tricky and sometimes your local bank teller may overlook it. However, banks and their policies are becoming increasingly strict and it would be best to call your bank ahead of time, create a relationship with the lead teller (who has authority to override most things that regular tellers cannot) by introducing yourself and explaining your situation. More often than not he/she would be more than understanding of your situation. Just be prepared to bring a wedding license if you don't already know the teller.

    Best way to avoid this whole ordeal is to open a small joint account for moments like this. That way either of you can deposit any of the Mr. AND Mrs. checks, and you both would have access to the funds as you like. If you choose to keep some accounts separate that is fine, just withdraw some moolah and deposit it where you'd like…

    And Hey Ariel, now that we're talking about taking names or not taking names, what are suggestions as far as finances go? It's traditional that the husband and wife have all joint accounts…but what about single accounts? What about joint savings but single checking? The different options are crazy..you think you could address this?

    1 agrees
    • My parents, who married in 1980's Ireland, have a joint account — and two other accounts each!
      My friend has been married for 30-something years. Her husband started his first single bank account for a new job three years ago…

      I'm not sure of the legalities of starting joint accounts before marriage, but it is perfectly acceptable to have your own money in case of emergencies (i.e. if both of you can't sign), or impulse buys that might land you in bother when the credit card statement arrives. :p

      So yeah, joint account for big/household expenditure. Personal for whatever else you want/need.

      0 agree
  17. My hubby took my name. We were introduced as such at the end of our ceremony… and there were a few confused, faces looking around the crowd. My parents knew ahead of time and they were watching the audience for their reaction with glee. Don't worry about the checks, we had no problem depositing the one's that were made out to Mr and Mrs. His Lastname.

    3 agree
  18. I love the idea of using the thank-you cards to announce your name change/no-change. I don't really want to have any discussions with family members about our decision to hyphenate for reasons I won't get into. I'd rather announce it later on and thank-you notes are perfect! thanks for this!

    0 agree
  19. The ones that we written out to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast (we both retained our surnames), our bank had me sign it first as Christine Leigh HisLast and then underneath it Christine Leigh MyLast. We were signing it over. She said it was a common problem. I'd ask ahead though – can't hurt!

    As far as telling the family – I just did it. I wasn't apologetic for it. I got positive reactions from my mother and his mother (whose was most positive), a mildly negative one from his father (who is fine with it now) and a really negative one from my father. I ended up writing my father a letter explaining why I was keeping my name (identity retention, and frankly I'm proud of my family) and he came around. I'm not sure he likes the decision, but he certainly respects the thought that I put into it, and he was impressed that I took the time to make sure he realized I wasn't doing it to bug my dear old Dad!

    1 agrees
  20. I thought it would be no problem with my family, but it's been harder than I thought. We put it on our website, and were announced at the end of the ceremony with our full names (I added his last name as a middle name).

    Immediately after the ceremony my mother greeted me as Mrs. Hisname, and then acted confused when I corrected her. "But I'm redoing my will, what should I put as your name?" "Well, probably the same name as you've always used"

    My sister asked me if I was getting used to my new name, and I explained to her about the middle name, "So, how should I address mail to you? Yourname-Hisname?" "Well, probably just Myname, or if you want to use both, there's no hyphen" Several weeks later the card from her was to Mrs. Hisname, most recently it was to Mrs. Hislast-Mylast. We're getting closer.

    I have to admit, there are moments I regret not changing, which surprises me. Mostly it happens when I get called Mrs. Mylast, (instead of Ms) which makes me feel a little like maybe I've married my father.

    Also, can we not post comments as our Offbeat Bride Tribe profiles any more? Didn't that used to be an option?

    1 agrees
  21. I worked at national bank. If you did not change your name, do not assume that the teller will bend the rules to allow you to deposit a check made out to Mr & Mrs. Smith. When the check is made out to both people, both people must be present AND their IDs must match the name on the account it is being deposited into AND the names on the check. You should bring your marriage certificate with you to the bank, if you do not plan to change your name.

    All that being said. I only have one friend who changed her name. Everyone else kept their maiden name. The consensus among my friends is that it's kind of old fashioned to take your husbands name.

    0 agree
  22. Haha, I just had to tell my future inlaws on the weekend because they were trying out my "new name".
    I just came out and said that I find it morally objectionable that I should have to change my name and lose my family history and identity.

    There was a long stunned silence.. then MIL said quietly "yes well I suppose there's womens lib and all that now, isn't there?"
    Hahahahaha!

    5 agree
  23. "women's lib and all that?"

    Wow – I often wonder where we'd be today if the ERA had passed. Sad.

    2 agree
  24. I had a slight confrontation with my FIL about not changing my name. He wasn't upset that I wasn't changing, because he'd gotten some stuff monogrammed for us.

    The thing that's really surprised me is the number of my husband's friends who've addressed me as Mrs. Hislast. If we're in person I correct them. But if it's on e-mail or Facebook or something, it just seems kind of weird like I'm picking a fight. I figure between word of mouth and Facebook, people will realize sooner or later that I haven't changed.

    0 agree
  25. I've been married 2 years and about 6 months. I didn't change my name (for a lot of reasons) and ended up having massive trouble with the bank and our wedding gifts made out to Mr. and Mrs. Hislast. They ended up putting "my first name, his last" as an alias for me on a new joint account…and we did have to bring the marriage certificate.
    However, all these years later I still get Christmas cards from his friends and family and my friends and family alike saying Mr. and Mrs. Hislast. Just today my great aunt sent us a card with a check in it (as a gift for me). She made the check out to My First name, His Last name. The trouble is that we already took the hislast alias off the account since it's been more than 2 years and we figured we'd never have this problem again. My return address on holiday cards and thank you notes from the first, have always had both of our full names on them. I guess everyone doesn't look at return addresses, or resents the fact that I didn't change my name so much that they refuse to use the correct name!

    0 agree
  26. Yeah I might be really late on this one, but;
    Wow, looking through all these comments, I just am amazed at the cultural difference. It must be more common in Canada for women to keep their name upon marriage. Here in the States it is practically expected every where except probably the North East that a woman takes her husbands name, or she alone hyphenates. I really want to combine my last name. I may even legally change it to the combined version down the road, with or without my husband following. We hyphenated, both of us. And people here where we live keep asking us how to spell it. Its strange. That's all I can say. I want to give every one a book on cultural and religious diversity of naming conventions, that I meet. Seriously. I am thinking of using pregnancy (when I become pregnant five years from now) as an excuse to combine the name, legally change it, and then stamp it on our Childs birth certificate.

    So what do you all think of Brockurren or Brockurman? This is the combination of our hyphenated name. Which one do you like?

    1 agrees
    • Keeping your own name is incredibly common on the West Coast.

      4 agree
      • Agreed. I'm in Seattle and I got one comment about it from my husband's family, and one "what about the childrens?!" comment from a friend. Otehrwise we made it clear on the website and in the ceremony (we were introduced at the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception as Mr. Him Hisname and Ms. Her Hername.

        1 agrees
  27. Really? I didn't even know, I lived on the West coast, and all my family expected and most of his family and friends expected me to take his name. I guess I come from a really traditional family. He is from Washington, I am from California, so. It may just be social circles that we run in. Of course I'm also LDS Christian, so its probably a lot to do with that as well.

    0 agree
  28. This is a godsend! I've been debating what to do with 2 generous checks made out to Firstname and Firstname Lastname, since I do plan on legally changing my name but I don't have any free time to do so. I think maybe we will both march into the bank on Saturday with the marriage certificate and see where that gets us. I was previously told by a different bank that I need to legally change my name first AND add my husband to my account to cash them, I can't just have him cash them since it's made out with an AND and not an OR.

    0 agree
  29. I'm glad to be linked to this post! I'm going through this right now… our bank won't let us cash the checks made out to Mr. and Mrs. Hisname because I didn't change my name. After the honeymoon, we're going to set up a joint account… I'll make sure to bring a copy of the license for that.

    0 agree
  30. Actually, if a check is made out to two people (with an and, ampersand or plus sign) then you need both people. I worked at a big bank and that was a common issue with people not having joint accounts and needing to deposit, as well as newly married couples who didn't yet share a last name. Exceptions can be made, but those were always explicitly stated as being exceptions, and if you didn't have your marriage certificate they wouldn't do it. Other banks might have different policies but the bank I worked at was one of the biggest in the US so there are bound to be lots of people here who bank with them. Hopefully the bank would understand, but no promises! :(

    0 agree
  31. I know this article is soooo 4 years ago, but am I the only person who has never signed the back of a cheque ever? I was told that you only endorse the cheque if you want to give it to someone or instantly cash it? Or all of the banks in my city don't really care?

    1 agrees
  32. I have to chime in on the check-cashing issue. We were given a check written to both of us; when we went to deposit it, we were told that the bank did NOT accept double-endorsed checks. Paypal's check-deposit (which we both commonly use) gave us the same answer, as did another of our banks. It didn't matter that we were both there to endorse the check; it didn't matter that it was written to each of our current legal names; it didn't even matter that I have a business account at my fiance's bank. The rules have certainly changed. Ask your family members to write a check just to one of you, or be prepared to use those checks to open a joint account!

    0 agree
  33. If you're in the UK there's no such thing as signing the checks if you're the payee.. And a check payable to two people will never be paid into a single account. However, the name issue – as long as the clerk can be assured that The miss and the Mrs are the same person there shouldn't be a problem. That's the training I received when working for a high street bank over here.

    I'm thinking of putting a kind note on our invitations that if anyone is intending to give us a check, they shall make it payable to my other half only, to avoid any difficulties in banking especially that we are not intending to open a joint account.

    0 agree
  34. Or you can just ask people to send gifts to your PayPal account.

    0 agree
  35. According to Martha, the old-school way of dealing this is with an At Home card. It was how couples let guests know what to call them and where to find them after the wedding, since marriage often comes with a change of address. It's exactly what it sounds like: a little card that says "At Home:" or "After the Wedding" with their names and address. Putting your names on the card is an elegant way to say "Hey, I'm still using my name, so write your check accordingly," without having to say it.

    Instead of a whole card, you could just make that one line on the invitation.

    0 agree
  36. We've received several check-gifts already, long before the actual wedding, and long before my name will get changed. They've been addressed to HisName and MyName HisLastName. We solved this by me just signing MyName HisLastName and him depositing them into his account in person. So far we've done this twice with no problems.

    I've also seen the advice that you request checks be made out to "HisName OR YourName" rather than AND, so that either one of you can cash it. And in this case, you could just choose the person whose name's written correctly.

    0 agree
  37. We had such a nightmare with this. I did make the decision to change my name to my husband's but it took about 3 months to register the marriage then receive the certificate before I could actually change it.
    Our guests were very generous so we didn't want to have to wait months and months to cash the cheques, we had some in his name only, some in mine only. The majority were in both our names some with my soon to be married name, some maiden name, we didn't have a joint bank account yet so it took several trips to the banks and dealing with bank managers who were giving us a really had time.
    The stupid part was that so few people even knew that I was going to change my name so I was a little annoyed by the assumption.

    0 agree
  38. When I got married in 1980, I had an extra enclosure card printed that went out with the invitations, which read:

    The bride will retain her current surname after the wedding for all legal and social purposes.

    Short and to the point. No one ever sent any mail or checks to me with the wrong surname, though I'm sure many did not approve.

    0 agree

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