The decision about whether to take your groom’s name or keep yours can be emotional or stressful for a lot of women who feel torn between honoring precedence and claiming independence and equality in marriage. The practice of taking your husband’s last name can be traced back thousands of years across multiple cultures.
In the U.S., it wasn’t until the feminist movement in the 1970s that women really began questioning the practice. Research shows that most women in this country still opt to change names when they get married. A much smaller percentage of women choose to hyphenate.
Some make a careful choice about it after much deliberation while others embrace social norms without much thought. The name-change debate may prove thought-provoking, self-affirming or irrelevant to you. Modern brides owe it to themselves to explore their options — starting with the hyphen.
Hyphenating has become a popular option. Maybe you just like your maiden name and hate to see it disappear. After all, a last name is like an appendage: You get used to having it around throughout your life, and parting with it can leave you feeling strange or incomplete. Your sentiments might stem from an even deeper sense of belonging or feelings of attachment to your father, grandfather or family heritage. If your name honors those feelings, by all means keep it!
For other women, making a decision about their married names is less emotional and more practical. Professionals who’ve earned higher degrees or a strong reputation in their field under their maiden name — such as lawyers, journalists and doctors — often keep their name for the sake of professional continuity. Giving up a name might mean losing recognition with clients, readers or patients that they have worked hard to establish. A hyphen can help bridge the gap between past and present, and it might even hint at an important aspect of your union. To many women, the hyphen can symbolize a true 50/50 partnership in marriage.
Hyphenating your names is just one of many ways you can address the last name debate. Here are some other options:
- Ask your husband to hyphenate his last name with yours
- Part with your maiden name altogether, keep your middle name and take his last name
- Have your husband take your last name.
- Keep your respective last names, and create a new surname for your children that incorporates both.
Whatever option you choose, be prepared for plenty of paperwork to reflect your name change! Some necessary actions include:
- Order extra certified copies of your marriage certificate for agencies that require originals before allowing you to change your name on documents, such as the department of motor vehicles.
- Request a new Social Security card or cards reflecting the name change. Call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to obtain forms and instructions.
- Make an appointment to visit the department of motor vehicles for a new driver’s license.
- Obtain and complete a Passport Amendment/Validation Application. Send this along with appropriate fees, your current passport(s), and a certified documentation of your name change (such as a certified copy of a marriage certificate or court papers) to the passport agency.
- Order replacements for checks, business cards, credit cards and other documents that contain your old name.
- Call employers and schools (if you are a student) to let them know your new name, and ask them to change it in their records.
- Change your name on your car registration, with your insurance and mortgage companies, and with your frequent-flier program.
- Contact the post office, utility companies and registrar of voters. You can announce your new name to to friends and family using stationery or thank-you cards with your new name printed on them!
NOTE: Bribing your fiance to change her name to yours may cost you a few pairs of shoes, bags and dinners.