The best decision I made in my marriage? Keeping my name.

Guest post by Ashley Lauren S.
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The best decision I ever made was keeping my last name when I got married in October 2010.

I didn't change. I didn't hyphenate. I didn't merge. I didn't decide to use my name professionally and his name socially. I didn't make my name a middle name and take his as a last name. I didn't take any of the plethora of options out there regarding this important decision. I simply kept my name the way it was.

There are many, many stories out there about why women have chosen to change their names upon getting married. In fact, a recent survey by TheKnot.com stated that 86 percent of women getting married are changing their names. Furthermore, another survey by the Gender and Society Journal has stated that about half of the participants think that changing one's name should be a requirement for marriage.

Women keep their name for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a feminist decision that defies patriarchal norms that often come along with becoming a wife. For others, a name can reflect one's culture; when you have a culturally specific name and your partner does not, giving up that name can feel like giving up your culture, too. For still more women, it's about working hard to build a career in a culture that uses social media to associate people with their names. This is not a conclusive list, but the decision to keep one's name — no matter the reason — is an important choice for many women, and one that should not be taken away.

Granted, sometimes changing your name seems easier than keeping it — after the visit to the Social Security office, and the DMV, and calling credit card and billing agencies, to be sure everything is up to date. When you don't change your name, that stuff is easy; you don't have to do anything at all. But socially, when you are constantly asked, “What's your new name?” and then given disapproving or confused looks when you respond that you kept your name, it can be disheartening. Even more disappointing is when you start to receive cards in the mail from friends and family addressed to Mr. and Mrs. His Name.

However, the benefits for me have been immense. My name symbolizes my identity, and it was very important for me to be able to retain my identity when I got married. Of course, you have to fit your life in with another person, but the symbolism of completely becoming part of him, while he wasn't symbolically becoming part of me, was too much to bear. Plus, as a little girl, I never dreamed of having articles or books published or earning advanced degrees as Ashley Lauren SomeoneElse'sName, but I did dream of seeing Ashley Lauren S___ on bookshelves and diplomas.

There are as many reasons to keep your name as there are to change it, and the decision is not one to make lightly. The choice should be ours to make with our families, whatever that choice is.

Want the opposite perspective? Check this post:

Comments on The best decision I made in my marriage? Keeping my name.

  1. Thank you for this. No one has really tried to shame me about it or anything, but it’s annoying when people call me by my husband’s name — it’s kind of bizarre since it’s mostly people I have known since before I was married (like, even people in my own family), so there’s no reason for them to assume my name is the same as his. Luckily, most people have been good about it, though!

    • My parents gave my husband and me both checks for Christmas this year (we’ve been married since May) and mine was made out to “Adele HisLastName”. I was like… wut, you guys knew I kept my name, right…?

      Fortunately, the bank was cool about it. 🙂

  2. Agree. The choice is up to the woman and her family. I have even heard of grooms taking the woman’s name. My one friend’s fiancee is trying to figure out if he wants to hers or his grandfather’s, since he had no attachment to his name.

    • My fiance is not taking my name (we are both keeping our own), but he’s just finishing teacher training right now, so he took mine on facebook so that our friends would know who he was but he will be that much harder for students to find (obviously he’s taken other precautions as well). (Note: I would TOTALLY support him taking my name if he wanted to, and I applaud other couples who make unusual decisions for doing what’s right for them.)

      The unintended results have been really interesting. A few relatives have contacted him or his parents to express their support in his name change, while others have made really inappropriate jokes about it. It’s illuminated some people who now we want to get to know better, and that more than makes up for the weird comments.

      Accidental experiment aside, NO ONE asks me if I’m changing my name anymore. Any disapproval of breaking with tradition has been displaced onto the worry he’ll change his name and I’m being left alone. Now everyone assumes I’m keeping my own, more so than they seemed to believe me when I initially said I was.

  3. First, I want to say that I liked this post overall. But, as someone who DID change my name (I disliked my maiden name and dropped it completely, having spent most of my childhood thinking of the best possible way to rid myself of it!),
    “Even more disappointing is when you start to receive cards in the mail from friends and family addressed to Mr. and Mrs. His Name.”
    still sticks in my craw.

    I’m not Mrs. MyHusband! And I feel like friends and family should know better as well, no matter if I took his last name, I still have my own first name, and, last time I checked, I’m still my own person. So it’s not just those who kept their names who hate the old-style wife-ownership that the Mrs. His Name wording implies.

    • Amen sister. The first year we started getting Christmas cards addressed to “Mr & Mrs Aaron Finley” REEEEALLY tried my patience. My whole family thought I was nuts when I finally brought this: “I’m not Mrs. MyHusband! And I feel like friends and family should know better as well, no matter if I took his last name, I still have my own first name, and, last time I checked, I’m still my own person” up.

      I had to concede that most of my family would still blindly follow that tradition but SOME of them have actually made an effort to treat me like my own person on invitations and the like since they heard my rant. And I just focus on that and try to breathe through my rage the rest of the time. 😉

      • Totally agree. I like the “old fashioned” thought of taking my husband’s last name… but when I get married in 4 months, and they announce us for the first time? I’m making a POINT to the announcer to say Mr. and Mrs. Vance and Shannon Wheeler!!! (For ONE, I don’t want to be Mr. and Mrs. Vance Wheeler… I think that’s ridiculous for all the reasons you ladies have stated here… but for TWO, I’m excited to hear “Shannon Wheeler” for the first time!!)

    • EXACTLY. My maiden name was so long that going through school it literally would not have fit on all those standardized scantron test forms if it had been one letter longer. I’ve always disliked it, and thankfully, I got lucky enough to fall in love with someone who’s last name is only five letters long. 😉 Changing my last name to his was a complete no-brainer. I swear, signing or writing my name now seems *so* quick.

      But ever since I changed my last name (in July), I’ve gotten so many things from relatives addressed to “Mrs. Hisname” and that is *so* infuriating. I made it a point to address all our wedding invitations with Mr. Hisname & Mrs. Hername LastName (for couples with the same last name), but apparently no one took notice of how I addressed *them* and figured I’d want to be addressed the same way, like I hoped they’d would. Sigh.

      • I just mailed out wedding invitations and did the same thing! No “Mr. & Mrs. John Smith”. It was “John and Jane Smith” (or sometimes I put the woman’s name first…basically, I put whomever I actually knew better first, with their +1 second). I even checked on Facebook first to make sure that wives did indeed have their husband’s name, otherwise I would have been sure to put her real name too, “John Smith & Jane Doe”.

        • I did the same thing with my invites. My mom questioned me at first about putting some of the women first before their husbands but I wanted to put the person I’m closer with first. If I was close to both I just put the guy first. No Mr or Mrs on the names either.

          • When I addressed our wedding invitations to married couples I just put Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I thought it was easier than putting Mr. John and Mrs. Mary Smith and there was no way in hell I would ever write Mr and Mrs. John Smith. I don’t care what Martha Stewart or Etiquette Magazine says, I would never refer to a married couple just by the guys full name. Just because a woman is married does not mean she doesn’t exist as an individual!

      • YES!

        I addressed all my invites and my Christmas cards and everything as Mr. & Mrs. Him & Her TheirLastName…

        And now when people ask me for my address, I clarify:

        Mr. & Mrs. Him HisLast & Me MyLast

        …but then I get it back Mr. & Mrs. HisName HisLastName. Sigh.

        At least both our sets of parents respect it. They seem to be the only ones.

        • That amazes me that in this day and age, where “proper etiquette” SHOULD be RSVPing to events; yet people refuse to RSVP ‘cuz it’s “old fashioned”… (um, NO, not old fashioned, just common sense!! You want a seat? Let them know you’re coming! *duh*) But where people refuse to follow THAT obvious piece of etiquette, and yet they still insist on following the “SO CALLED” etiquette of writing out Mr. and Mrs. HisName LastName?!?!? Which, (to ME, anyways) ISN’T common sense?!? Doesn’t even MAKE sense?!?! Bizarre…

    • This is one tradition that has ALWAYS baffled me completely. Why do people do this???? It just seems so weird, to completely substitute the husband’s first AND last name in without even bothering to include the wife’s first name. Super annoying.

      • It’s just outdated etiquette–even up to the early 20th century you’d be Mrs John Smith; being Mrs Mary Smith meant that John Smith was dead and you were his widow. (Or see, you know, Princess Michael of Kent, because she can’t be a princess herself because she’s just married to one; also why Kate Middleton isn’t actually Princess Kate.) So there’s precedent, it’s just…old and really not relevant now. Unless you’re marrying into the royal family I think you can keep your first name!

        My FH and I are both academics in the same field, so it wouldn’t make any sense to both be Dr Hisname, how would they tell us apart? He will stay Dr Hisname and I will stay Dr Myname and all will be well.

      • I just got married two weeks ago, and already the keeping-my-name thing has be tricky to publicize. I didn’t want to come out and just yell, “I’m keeping my name!” but when all of the cards we got at our wedding (save one or two) were addressed as “Mr. and Mrs. Evan HisLastName”…..*sigh* I need to find a way to subtley spread the word. When I sent out thank you cards, I used my full birth name on the return address. I’ve taken to teasingly call him “Mr. Jamie MyLastName” which is really just as valid as people calling me by his full name.

    • I’ll be getting married in less than a year. My SO is graduating from medschool soon and the only thing worse I can think of the “Mr. and Mrs. HisName” is “Dr. and Mrs. HisName”. I feel like I’ve been subjugated (which is ridiculous, but it’s how I feel).

      PS. (Guess I need to get a PhD after my masters is done!)

      • Agreed! I’ve joked with my partner that I’m going to do a PhD just so we can be Dr. and Mr.!

        • You may get some trouble with that. I was just reading an article about websites that use dropdown menus to select your prefix. Most do not have “Dr. and Mr.” or even “Dr. and Dr.” as a choice at all. It’s quite ridiculous.

          • heehee – we’re a “Dr. and Dr.” couple, but with different last names. much confusion for everyone else! but we couldn’t care less. these are our names.

            when we made the decision to start a family, we took three letters from his last name and three letters from my last name and made up a completely new name. we each took this as a second middle name and it will be the surname given to our (future) children. sometimes it’s nice to have a “family” name.

      • I’m getting my PhD right now, and my fiance is getting his Associate’s degree (then plans on stopping). He was (politely) joking the other day about how mad I’m going to get the first time we get something addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. HisName” someday. I’m not sure mainstream society knows how to type “Dr. and Mr.”

        • I’ll be a Dr. just a few years after we marry, my fiance is a very brilliant with a double masters… but his friends and family have already started making emasculating jokes about Dr. and Mrs still being appropriate….

          I always took a very feminist stance when it came to name change. I was always going to be Mrs. K– (or Dr. K as it turns out). But when it came time to start seriously considering the choice I realized a few things.

          1) it’s really important to me that we share a common name for our family and our children (no way in hell am I going to carry them for 9 months and not share their name…he felt similarly about raising them.)

          2) My future-husband will be a stay at home dad when the time comes, and I can see how subverting that norm has already caused waves with his very traditional family.
          Even though he is 100% willing to joint hyphenate our names, I have concluded that this is a blow to my relationship with his family I probably could not come back from. They see steps from the standard as shamefully emasculating to their son and I am already a suspicious outsider with my subversive feminist ways.

          The world we live in will constantly reflect our choices. From what I have read here and in other OBB posts on the subject…no choice on the name change subject is free of conflict. And as my mother always says “pick your battles.” So I have decided to fight the battle I have a better chance of winning- my expectations of myself as a feminist (as opposed to his family and some of society at large).

          Just because I will now be Mrs., then Dr. H does not make me any less of the strong individual I have always tried to be. I have many other battles in my nonconforming life. I just decided that keeping my name would not be one of them.

          • GOOD for you!! That’s fantastic! Nice to hear a “middle of the creek” point of view. Not extreme to one way or the other. You have your view and opinion on it, but you’re willing to let that go for the sake and sanity of your “new” family! I hope you live very happily with your decision, and don’t regret it, because it’s a very unselfish decision, and I like that you’ve “chosen your battle”, or in this case, NOT to battle. Attagirl!! =)

      • When DH was in the military it was going to have to be 2nd LT and Mrs. Everything was supposed to be addressed to him and his friends that way. He was even given a military etiquette book for me to read to make sure I addressed everyone the “right” way (barf)

    • I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’ve almost never seen ANYONE addressed as Mrs Hisfirst Hislast or Mr & Mrs His First Hislast.

      Mr & Mrs Lastname I’m ok with because that’s still putting both partners equally, but to give the man his full name and reduce the wife to nothing but a title seems incredibly sexist to me.

    • i agree! i really prefer his name over mine. although i also dislike my middle name and like my last name as a first/middle name anyway.. so i have no qualms with dropping my middle name! 🙂

  4. My groom to be and I are still trying to figure this out. I’m not for or against name changing. I did it the first time, but only because my ex was very adamant about it. This time my fiancé is very sweet about it and says its up to me. He likes to joke with it though and use our last names in funny ways to make me laugh about it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do after it took so long to get everything back in my maiden name before, this a great post. Thank you for your view point on it.

    • This is the same exact issue I’m dealing with – changed my name the 1st time, changed it back after the divorce and now I’m really struggling with what to do. I don’t want to change my last name but I want to have the same last name as our future children and I don’t think it’s fair for the kids to be stuck with hyphenated last names… sigh.

  5. FUCK YEAH NAME-KEEPERS.

    I had this conversation with my fiance shortly before (and again after) we got engaged. I was very up-front about my belief that the ONLY way I would change my name was if we both changed our names (hyphens, new name, whatever). He’d changed his name once already in his life (during legal adoption by his stepdad) and said he had no interest in changing it again, so that’s that. He didn’t have strong feelings about it either way.

    And honestly? He could have had strong feelings about it, and if he wasn’t willing to be flexible, he would just have had to deal with them. My name, my call, end of story.

    • I wasn’t willing to change my name unless DH was willing to change his. His parents ridiculed the idea so he never changed his name…so neither did I. Works both ways!

  6. I want to change my name, because the name I was born to is my older siblings’ father’s name, so I have never really felt like it was mine. However I do have a bachelor degree in my current name, and soon, a Master’s, so it would be weird if the two had different names on them…

    • You can get your name changed on your diploma and they will mail you a new one!

      • Seriously!??!?!?!

        This I did not know and is very key. The one thing that makes me super sad about changing my name is that my diploma has my (current, birth) name on it … and one day that won’t be my name anymore.

        You’ve totally just made my day.

  7. I’m absolutely changing my name. I changed it with my first marriage a) just cause and b) my maiden name was long and hard to pronounce so I delighted in finally getting a “normal” name.
    After my divorce, I kept that name rather than going back to my maiden name a) because I have kids and b) cause I like having a name that’s easy to pronounce now.
    Now that I’m getting married again, I’m changing my name to his name a) because I don’t want to keep my exes name anymore and b) because my new last name is also easy to pronounce. 🙂

      • I tell my fiance I’m just marrying him for his place in the alphabet! Moving up from a W to a H! AWESOME! Though I find it silly that my not too uncommon last name, I never have to spell, but he always has to spell his 4 letter last name because people ALWAYS put an E at the end! Ugh!

      • I’m seriously considering taking my husband’s last name and it is super complicated to spell and pronounce! The reason is that my daughter’s last name is her dad’s and I would like to have the same as future children… His last name is important to him because it is connected to the land that his family has been settled on for 600+ years. It’s a unique history and I’m happy to be becoming a part of it!

        • Also, one thing about the “hard to spell” reason to change your name, I worry that we’re going to over-Anglicize all North American last names by changing the Eastern European/Asian/African names to Western names.

          • My last name is super hard to spell (includes two C’s, two Y’s, and a Z) and I am KEEPING it. I LOVE having a crazy unique name, so I never understood changing a name to make it easier…I wouldn’t want a homogenized society where everyone had boring Anglo-American names.

          • I changed my rather ordinary, easy to pronounce maiden name to my husband’s much more uncommon, “ethnic” surname. I enjoy having a unique name now, and seeing people’s surprise when they meet this white chick with an African name. Sure, people seem to have more difficulty pronouncing it (why, I’m not sure — it’s entirely phonetic), but they’ve always butchered my first name anyway. I don’t like being called Mrs, though. Oh well, soon enough I will have my PhD and be Dr. instead!

  8. I briefly considered changing my name because my name happens to be long, French and impossible to spell. Now that I’m immigrating to the US (I’m Canadian) and I’m going to teach, I know my students won’t be able to pronounce my name and my husband’s name is much easier to deal with

    In the end though, I love and need my name! My publications are in my maiden name and I don’t want to lose those. My name is interesting and unique and even though I know I’m going to have to endure people butchering it for the rest of my life, I’m keeping it

    I never had a desire to be Mrs. My Husband’s Name and I’ve worked damn hard to be Dr. My Name. In fact, at our wedding reception we were introduced and Mr. His Name and Dr. My Name. And I aims to keep it that way

    • I have friends with a long impossible-to-spell French name. My husband has one of those, too. It can be a hassle sometimes but certainly nothing life-impeding, and it makes them stand out in a crowd of Smiths and Joneses. If you love and need your name – keep it!

    • YES! THIS! Well, not the french-hard-to-spell part (my last name is sort of french, but easy to pronounce), rather the I’ve-worked-hard-to-be-Dr.-MyName-part. I love how you had yourselves announced. Epic way to head off awkward questions and conversations. 🙂

      I’ve already had one awkward conversation in which MY dad was disappointed that I wasn’t taking my husband’s name and that’s about all I have the patience for. Why is this anyone else’s business?!

      • That was a big reason I had us introduced that way….to sort of make it clear to everyone there that I was, in fact, keeping my name. And it’s true that you spend years imagining “Dr. My Name” while you’re working so hard. To change that would have made me a bit sad. On the plus side, since I know my students will have a hard time with my name, I’ve decided to just be “Dr. L” which makes it easy for them, and also seems kinda cool and relaxed like “yeah, I’m THAT kind of cool prof” LOL

  9. I kept my name and made it pretty clear to everyone I know that it was important to me. I still go by ms, rather than mrs, which is neutral on the marital status. My reasons are personal and I take them very seriously, so it makes my blood boil when we receive correspondence from our friends to Mr and Mrs His name. I feel like it would be rude to respond to a greeting card with a “you misused my name and title”, so I usually don’t say anything, but at some point I’m going to snap and write a bunch of angry letters to these people. 😛

  10. I also decided to keep my name. From the very beginning it just didn’t feel right to change it so I thought I would hyphenate. And when I just couldn’t get it to look right, I thought I would keep my name officially but use his socially. I went back and forth with this indecision and uncertainty for several months. But when it came right down to it, I knew I didn’t want to change it because I wouldn’t feel like me. So I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. My husband, friends and family have been very supportive. His grandmother, however, STILL sends cards and letters to Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName even though she knows I didn’t change. While I understand this was the norm in her day, I do feel it’s a bit disrespectful to completely ignore my real name. But I pick my battles and let it go since she’s the only one. I’m still me to everyone else 🙂

    • Send cards back, and make sure to put the return address with your real name. 😉

      • I’m in the same boat and clearly write out my name in cards sent to my husband’s grandma and I STILL get cards and checks addressed incorrectly. Ugh.

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