Top 5 reasons hyphenated names are awesome

Guest post by Rebecca Miller-Webster
drawing a name

Last name discussions seem to happen a lot when weddings come up — especially on Offbeat Bride. Do you change your name at all? If so, do you just take your partner's last name or do you hyphenate? Does your partner change his or her name? Do you combine names or make up a totally new one?

As someone who has had a hyphenated last name — Rebecca Jean Miller-Webster — my whole life, I feel uniquely qualified to deal with the last name issue. I mean, I have been asked since I was about six years old what I would name my kids. Seriously. My answer: “I don't know if I'm having kids.” I was six. My reasoning: why would I have kids if I can't have my name too?

Since I've been asked since I was a kid what I would name my kids, I want to address it quickly … but I'll get to the top 5 list soon, I swear! My feeling about the “But what will you name your kids?” question is this: Everyone has to deal with this question. Everyone makes a decision about what last name to give their kids (or take as a spouse). They either make that decision without much thought and go with cultural convention, or they may make a thoughtful, conscious decision (which still could mean going with cultural convention). It is not a question that is unique to those with hyphenated names.

the maid of horrorPerhaps it's my own sensitivity, but I've found a general trend on this and other alt-bridal sites against hyphenated names. There seems to be this idea that it's really horrible or something. Well, I'm here to tell you that I LOVE my last name. Like love love. I might marry it if I could. (I jest!)

Ok. Quick disclaimer (and then I PROMISE to get to the point!): I know there are people out there with hyphenated last names who probably hate them and I am in no way telling you what to do about your own last name — that is a totally personal decision. And for the record: I did not change my name when I got married. What will I do with the kids? I'm still not sure we'll have any. We do joke that we'll give them a triple hyphenated name.

I'm also not saying that having a hyphenated name is all bunnies and daisies. It can be annoying. For example, airlines don't let you use hyphens in your name on a plane ticket. Pharmacy clerks seem to have a really really hard time with the idea that the first letter of my last name (Miller-Webster) is M and not W. I tend to think that this isn't any worse than someone with a space or strange character in their name, or just a name that is difficult to spell.

Phew. Disclaimer done.

Top five reasons hyphenated last names kick ass:

5. You can always find your name on a list. It's the longest one!

4. You know how people like to call others by their full name: FirstName MiddleName LastName? You got that three name ring without anyone having to know your middle name. In other words, it's fun to say. (This is based on the totally unscientific study of how often I hear my full name said.) Rebecca Miller-Webster FTW!

3. Everyone always remembers your name. ALWAYS.

2. I definitely don't have a Google doppleganger. What's a Google doppleganger? It's the person (sometimes the sketchy, criminal, drunken person) who comes up ahead of you when you (or a prospective employer) google your own name. BUT if I was Rebecca Miller or Rebecca Webster, there would be about a billion other people with my name.

1. The most awesome thing about my hyphenated last name? It's mine. Whether it's an homage to your parents, an honor to your new family, or completely your own, your last name is a part of who you are and that pretty much makes it awesome squared.

What's awesome about your last name?

Comments on Top 5 reasons hyphenated names are awesome

  1. a name is one of the first gifts you give your child and it stays with them their whole life, even if they change it later because it’s on their birth certificate. it’s worth taking time when making that decision. it’s equally important when choosing a name for yourself.

    • Actually if you change your name you’re supposed to get a new birth certificate, which from most states will have your new name and not your old one.

      • I thought you only changed your name on you SS card??? The birth certificate is a new one to me.

        • It’s not true for simply getting married. Your name remains the same on your birth certificate. You only get a new birth certificate if you are legally adopted and change your name for that reason. And, even then, not always, I’m thinking.

      • No, if you legally change your name it is still not changed on your birth certificate. I legally changed my name and was told in instances where a birth cert is required for ID I would also have to show the court document that legally changed my name.

      • I believe this varies by state as some make after-the-instant changes to birth certificates and some expressly forbid changes to birth certificates. I believe the same is true with assigned-at-birth gender and parents, some states allow changes and others do not.

  2. I feel your pain. Try having an apostrophe in the name O’Sullivan. People think my middle name begins with O, my surname is Sullivan. Nobody seems to get that both letters should be capitalised. Worst of all, an apostrophe in javascript or something pertaining to online forms means the extremely long tedious form you just filled in errors because of your name. I’ve even had banks saying my name was invalid.

    But after the fight to take my step dads name, I wouldn’t get rid of it for the world. I’m going to make life harder for myself by making it a second middle name and then taking his double barreled, unusual spelling name. Oh the fun that lies ahead

  3. If I change my name at all, I’m hyphenating purely because then my last initials will be “BS,” because I am emotionally a fourteen-year-old boy. But I told my partner that I’m not hyphenating unless he does, which he hates because then *his* initials will be BABS. Bwahaha.

    No, but seriously. I *love* my last name. A LOT. I am either hyphenating or doing nothing at all because I refuse to give up my awesome name. My only concern is that my current last name is short (5 letters) and my partner’s last name is, like, four thousand letters and very few vowels, so people always mangle it. We went on a cruise recently, and went through hell trying to get our documents together–they couldn’t find us in their databases after we’d booked the tickets, and it turned out it was because one of the data entry folks had mangled the spelling of his last name beyond recognition. Hmm, decisions, decisions 😛

      • I was born with the initals BS, and I can tell you it’s been fun my entire adult life. I like to call people their initials if they are cool like MC or something like that and then have them call me by mine and then they get all giggly when they realize what they’ve just said. I just initial with my middle inital too, and it’s obvious when someone attempts to forge my initals too!

      • 44 RBS outlets are expected to close, I’m sure you can pick up some monogrammed coffee mugs and stationary for cheap!

        I’ll be CBS.

    • As a 14 year old boy who’s last name is hyphenated to the tune of B-S, I can guarantee that is a bunch of fun. For the entirety of middle school, I went by Leo B-S. My entire squad and I would torture teachers with it so often, they would just call me Leo BS without a fight. I am changing my name once I turn 18, but not just to get rid of the BS, as I have reasons that I don’t want the S associated with me. So in the future I will be Leo B with no middle name. It was fun while it lasted, and who knows, maybe I will just change the S to something else like J or something. xD

    • I can do one better…my initials will be BSBS…as I told my mom- Double the BS

  4. My last name is French, it has letters that are not pronounced, and it sounds horrible if said without a French accent. That being said I do love it. It is my name after all. However, when I wed my FH I will be taking his MUCH easier to say and spell last name. I will be keeping my maiden name, and use it along with my middle name without a hyphen. The bonus is I get two middle names which I have always wanted.

    • i did the same thing. my husband’s last name was SUPER easy, while my maiden name was complicated and hard to spell. so now my middle name is my maiden name!

      • I never thought of doing things that way before! I have the same problem…my current last name is Italian and long and hard to spell and pronounce. My FH’s is only shorter by 2 letters, but is much easier to pronounce and spell. I have always been proud of my Italian heritage and name, but it’s killer when spelling it out for someone over the phone, or listening to someone butcher it. I have considered the hyphenating thing, but then my last name alone would be ridiculously long and my name doesn’t fit on most lines as it is. However, it would be interesting to keep my maiden name as a middle name. Thanks for the idea!
        Now the only question is, do I keep my original middle name or nix it? I kind of like the idea of having 4 names though.

        • I did exactly that, 4 names. I have always liked my name just the way it is and I wanted to keep the history attachment I have to my last name but it was super important to the husband that I have his name also. Dropping my middle name was a no go from the beginning, it is unique and familial and will be passed on to the generation I create. So when it was time to change my name it became Myfirst Mymiddle Mylast Hislast. A four part name. At the SS office they told my I could have my name read out however I wanted (the exact example I believe was Purple McStuffins Twinkletoes) so both my last name and his last name are my legal last name separated by a space because I don’t prefer hyphens and now I can use either last name. In short: I vote for having 4 names!

  5. My fiancé and I have decided we’re both taking our names together, probably hyphenated. My name is so common it’s ridiculous, which brings it’s own set of challenges, such as the wonderful confusion throughout college regarding me vs. the other Sarah M***** who also had blue eyes, blonde curly hair, and a very similar major to mine.

    Also, a friend realized our kids could have the initials BAMF, which pretty much sealed the deal. Now it’s time to find good BA name combinations!

  6. I’m adopted by my father. I chose to have to last names with no hyphen and believe me, its crazy to try and make people understand. At my doctor’s office, its listed with a hyphen…when I went the DMV to update my license they hypenated it (but I had them correct that) I agree, I love being unique. I also love my maiden name, Walton (and for the record, my brother is John Boy!). I also loved the tradition of taking my husbands name so I just compromised.

    • My friend has that policy- and triplets. The two boys have the father’s last name and her daughter has her last name. My feminist mother had quite a mouthful to say when she heard about it- that separating by gender is no better than having all children take one last name- but I think it will give the littler girl (who is still a baby) a special bond with her mother growing up.

    • My fiance and I are considering doing two last names with no hyphen. I am wondering if sometimes people ignore your first last name, thinking it’s your middle name? Or any other issues you might have.

      Or, if you really like it, I’d love to hear about that as well.

      • My FH was born with two unhyphenated last names. It’s been horrible for him. All of his major forms of ID (birth certificate, SS card, passport) have different versions. All 1 word, hyphenated, space, 2nd one gone entirely, etc. Which makes it EXTREMELY difficult when trying to identify himself for things like boarding airplanes or getting PO boxes or ID cards.

        I guess if you’re suuper careful and always pay super close attention when getting your documents for the first time, it might prevent the headache. In FH’s case, his birth certificate, SS#, and passport were all created when he arrived in this country as a young child, and his parents obviously didn’t pay that much attention (or probably even realize how important it would be down the road).

  7. My mother didn’t change her last name when she got married, but would often use her maiden name hypthenated with my dad’s last name when it pertained to my sister and myself (school forms, etc.), since we just have the same last name as our dad. The only problem with this is that she often forgets which name she has things listed under, her maiden name, my dad’s last name, or the hyphenated combo. Now that I’m all grown up, I realize how cool it is that she kept her own name, but never got all offended or condescending if someone called her by my dad’s last name. I intend to follow in her footsteps.

    • I like this idea, too and was hoping to just do that – keep my name everywhere official but won’t mind if people call me Mrs C. This is partly because I’ve gone through a name change twice (full name due to ridiculously religious Hindu family of the manipulative ex and again after divorce) and it is a great pain to do when you reside in UK but hold a Polish passport.
      The kids have my last name as their second middle name. Problem sorted

  8. My last name is Jolly and I LOVE IT! As for changing it? He never even thought to ask. 🙂
    Instead of hyphenating for possible children (because Jolly-Paleos sounds wretched), boys get his last name, girls get mine, and they get the other parent’s name as a second middle name. *dusts off hands* Easy!

    • Do you have a plan in place for what you’ll do if your kid is intersex or trans? I ask because I have a trans friend with a Jewish mother and a Christian father – the parents decided to raise the girls in their mother’s religion and the boys in their father’s religion. My friend has had some identity conflicts related to this choice, since he got raised in the “girl” religion. I can imagine something similar happening to a trans or intersex child (or any child really) who is given a last name based on their gender.

      • That is a great question that I had not thought about at all…if intersex, I think we would let them choose, and if trans then they can change their name to the appropriate one–or pick a new one entirely. I have a sister who has no attachment to the name I love so much, so she goes by our mother’s maiden name and plans on changing it legally. I love my name, but I have no illusions that anyone else does or should. 🙂

        (Also, I’m still holding out some hope that my husband will still change his name to mine. He’s not averse to it…)

    • cool last name! i’ve never heard of boys taking dad’s last name and girls taking mom’s..
      To each his own.. it just sounds so gendered to me.. like separate families. Different last names in a family is totally cool, but purposefully doing it based on their sex? Is this a tradition I’ve never heard of?

      • I don’t know of this being any specific tradition but I considered it the moment I realised that if my bf and I decide to get married, I might want to keep my last name.

        I love my last name. I’m an only child and no one else alive in my family, save for my parents, have it. I don’t really want to get rid of it.

        Mixing names wouldn’t work well. Hyphenating would be awkward, too. I already have two middle names, and our names don’t really flow well together and in the one order, it’d make me sound like a road. (My last name’s Lane. Also, I usually have to explain/spell about twice before people on the phone understand that it isn’t Lang.)

        Anyway, having all the prospective kids have his last name didn’t really seem fair. I still feel it wouldn’t be quite fair if mine went to just the girls since then the name still wouldn’t be carried on unless that child kept their name as well. Maybe we should mix it up.

  9. Though hyphenated last names are awesome I chose to not hyphenate my last name when I got married for two important reasons. First my first name has a hyphen in it already. I thought it would just be too much of a good thing to have two hyphens. Second I was never given a middle name so I took the opportunity to have my old last name be moved to my middle name.

    • This is my reasoning too, I struggle for ages to come up with a solution that doesn’t mean discarding my name but equally doesn’t leave me with two hypenated names. (I’m not married yet.) Also, our last names are very similar – they’re next to each other in tartan souvenir shops, ha – so it’d be an unwieldy hyphenation.

      There’s also a tradition of having last names as middle names in my dad’s family, though it’s more generally that children are given the mother’s maiden name as a middle name. We almost did this for our daughter, and I’m starting to wish we had now!

      The other reason (aside from the fact that I *like* my surname) for including both names/not discarding my surname involves our children – I have a daughter from a previous relationship who has my surname, and for various reasons (including practical ones, like when dealing with officialdom, eg customs, or medical staff) it seems like a good idea to keep that surname as part of my name somehow.

  10. I didn’t want to hyphenate but didn’t want to lose my maiden name either. My compromise was dropping my middle name (which didn’t have much significance) and replaced it with my maiden name. It made it more complicated with the whole legal name change business but I’m pretty happy with it. And if we have kids (TBD) they are all getting my maiden name as their middle name too.

    • oooh i totally hadn’t thought of that option… i hate my middle name (it is my mother’s first name) and replacing it with my surname might just work. Thanks for the idea!

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