What’s in A Name?

So, I was talking this week with a group of colleagues, two of them are engaged and one recently had gotten married. The conversation circled around whether or not to take your husband’s name when you get married.

The majority of the group planned to take their husband’s name, one person felt very offended by the idea and planned to hyphenate. A rant was involved….that’s all I’m sayin’…

Frankly, I’m not the kind of person who would get offended by such a tradition and it kind of shocked me how passionate she was about it. What’s the big freaking deal? So, you don’t want to take his name…no biggie, right?

I guess there are many reasons for and against taking your husband’s name when you marry…from the short list:

  • How will changing my name affect my already established career?
  • If we have children is it better if we all have the same name?
  • Do I have to lose my last name, I kinda like it?
  • Is it worth all the paperwork and hassle to change my name?
  • Will my husband-to-be be offended if I don’t?
  • Probably several more that I can’t think of…

Then I found this interesting statistic. In 2007, an USA Today article reported that more men were now taking their wives’ last names upon marriage (really??).   Two years later in 2009, USA Today reported that about 70% of Americans now believed that it was beneficial for a woman to take her husband’s last name when they marry….and more surprisingly, about 50% of Americans think that the government should require women to do so.

Really, people think it should be a government requirement? Wow! That’s kooky!

Where do you fall in this great debate? Tell us what you think?

Photo credit: stevendamron’s Flickr photostream


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Categories: Marriage


I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better place...one relationship at a time.

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18 Comments on “What’s in A Name?”

  1. November 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    It just seems so old-fashoned, silly and redundant to take someone else’s name. What’s the point? (and to some extent I feel like it exercises a man’s superiority in society). Maybe I say that because I am not married and don’t have a fiance!
    Strangely enough it’s not done here in italy. You would think it would as it’s so sexist and backwards.
    (Maybe if I was marrying Hugh Jackman I’d take HIS name… has a nice ring to it 😉 )

  2. November 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Personally, i think it would be pretty cool if we could invent a new last name when we become married. If this was the case, i would currently be Mr. TopOfThePops-GrooveSlinger.

    Since it’s not likely that that will occur anytime soon though, it might be cool if both members of the marriage hyphenated. It would only take several generations before we realized that we’re all related to each other and finally achieve world peace as a result. I mean, we’d all be too busy just trying to write our last names to cause anyone any harm.

  3. Really!?
    November 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I can see both sides of the argument. I indentify STRONGLY with my last name. My nickname is my last name. Through athletics, everyone has known me as my last name and some even thought it was my first name. That being said. I also understand a man’s need and pride in tradition over having his wife take his last name. For me, should I get married…If it’s important and makes him feel good…there are some things that are worth letting go for one’s partner. 🙂 That being said..t…I love the idea of inventing a new last name. FUN!. 🙂

  4. November 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    I do not think it should be a requirement, it should be a choice. I do not think the men should be offended either. I am sure that man isn’t going to wear his wedding ring all the time. Whether you change your name, or don’t have a ring on, doesn’t mean that you are not married…you are still married. We do not live in the world where the woman stays at home and takes care of the house and kids. Both parents are working now and now even some dads stay home, so if they can stay home, why can’t the women choose if they want to take his last name…or why can’t he take her last name. Hyphanating is also a choice, but that can be very complicated with applications or whatnot. Tradition works for some people. I did take my husband’s last name, but that was my choice from the very beginnng of my time when I started thinking about boys and marriage. But that was my choice. And like the other comment said ‘If it’s important and makes him feel good…there are some things that are worth letting go for one’s partner’ But it is their choice. :0)

  5. November 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    I too really identified with my last name….it was my nickname in high school and a lot of long-time friend still call me that. I also wanted to find a way to preserve my last name because in my career people really knew me by my maiden name. Despite that I did decide to change my name…but I moved my maiden name to become my middle name and took my husband’s last name. I now use all three names on my business cards, email signatures and such…so that in business people would still know who I was…but I also wanted to have the same last name in case we had kids.

    I do believe it should be a choice, and that it doesn’t really matter. It’s up to the couple to decide. Though I like the idea of combining names to make a new name…fun! How does Kristin Franter sound….or Kristin Waltini. 😉

  6. Beeps
    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    This was also the topic of conversation on my radio station this morning…with a bit of a ‘twist’ – many of the male responders would feel “insulted” if their bride did not (or would not) take their name!!

    • November 9, 2011 at 3:22 am #

      I definitely see that many of my guy friends would feel that way too…

  7. November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I had some unconventional reasons for hyphenating my name upon marriage. I did not consider how long hyphenation would make my son’s first, middle, and last name. He is currently in Kindergarten and, of course, has to be able to write his entire name.

    • November 9, 2011 at 3:23 am #

      See…these are some important things to consider. At the time of getting married it’s hard to keep points like this in mind. I have a friend who kept her last name and now she has a different last name than her son, it’s caused lots of confusion at his school and his friends don’t know what to call her.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    i seriously hope that if i get married my husband would never ever take my last name! first of all its hard to spell, its hard to pronounce and why would he want to? I would rather take his last name. I cant hyphenate, because it would sound so ridiculous.
    tho it would be hilarious if his last name was hard to spell, hard to pronounce as well.

    • November 9, 2011 at 3:24 am #

      I dated some guys with super scary last names that I’d never want to have to sport. I was secretly glad it didn’t work out so I didn’t get stuck with those doozy last names….lol

  9. November 9, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    This is always a hot discussion item. I’m not for marriage really, since it’s just basically a legal contract so everyone is best served with iron clad prenups and lawyers before you even kiss at the altar. But when it comes to the name thing, in Canada at least women have good options.

    All women should be aware that they can keep their own name and identity AND take the husbands. You can have dual lives, legally speaking. This is not a luxury afforded men. A wife can live and operate businesses, take out credit, open bank accounts, get ID, go to school, sign contracts, and everything legally under EITHER her married or her maiden name.

    It makes sense to me, while it is beneficial to have a “family” name for many reasons it should not be impossible for a woman to maintain her unique pre-marriage identity if she chooses to or needs.

    I’m happy living with someone, common law happens automatically and most matrimonial legal rights apply once it does. I personally don’t need the rings, the church stuff, the ceremony, the stress, the contract or the government license that gives me permission.

    What I’m more interested in is being loved, loving, enjoying time together and apart, sharing lives, and generally coexisting more or less happily with another person who wishes to share my existence.

    Preferably someone who secretly knows I turn down the thermostat at night to encourage her to snuggle with me, but lets me get away with it thinking she doesn’t know 😉 *sigh* romance!

    Thanks coupletastic… I’m glad you liked my green post on adhdcanuck.ca or I might not have found your blog! Good stuff 🙂


    • November 9, 2011 at 3:27 am #

      Canuck – Love your romantic streak!
      Glad I found your blog so you found mine. I’d like to hear more about what you think.
      I am enjoying your blog too! 🙂

  10. November 9, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    I would definitely take my husband’s last name. I’ve always had issues spelling mine out so I’ve looked forward to changing it. I think the extra paperwork for the time being is worth me having to spell out my last name for the rest of my life. And I agree with the children and me all having the same last name, to me it seems the best way.


  11. November 12, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Creat post, Couple-tastic! Oh, the controversy! I did change my name upon getting married, but not before discussing the options. Could we hyphenate? Sure… but it seemed more trouble that it was worth. Could we combine names? Maybe. My husband’s Aunt and Uncle actually did that! They were ‘Grub’ and ‘Wheeler’ and became ‘GrubWheeler’. I kid you not! We ran through the options for us. Either ‘Maleeler’ or Wheeloney’, which both sound equally or more ridiculous than GrubWheeler. (But the way Kristin, I think you should have gone with Waltini! Sounds like a fabulous cocktail!) Anyway… as I said, I did end up taking my husband’s name and as cheesy as it sounds, it was (and still is) an expression of my faith in us and in our ‘oneness’ as a team! Oh, and a little bit of ‘we-ism’ that we are damn proud of! At first it was just us and now we have 6 month old twins and I’m glad I don’t have a different last name from them. We are part of a unit. Hence, my blog being titled ‘We are the Wheelers’. And I should mentioned that it was a big deal to drop my maiden name, ‘Maloney’, and it is still one of two middle names for me. I use my maiden name initial all the time. And in my volunteer work, I use both complete names since I volunteer for a cause in honor of my father. Well, to each his own, right folks? (PS: I have learned one more reason why Canada is awesome. Women can legally keep their name and take their partners? Awesome.)

  12. November 12, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Both my mum and my aunty refused to take their husbands name. My aunty even told my grandad (her dad) off for writing her a card out using her husbands surname and not her maiden name which obviously actually belonged to him lol. It did cause an issue at the airport when she was going away on holiday with her two sons who have their dads name (he was flying out later) they said she needed their dads permission to take them out of the country because her surname was different and that she could have kidnapped them! they basically did not believe she was their mother due to the difference in surname.

    My mother didn’t change hers at first also. She is married to my stepdad and I have my biological dads surname and my little brother has my stepdads name. They also foster children in care it got to the point where we had a ridiculous amount of surnames in our family household. She now chooses to hyphenate her surname…but when she feels like it (thats my mum all the way) so for work, its hyphenated and she works in a school and says the children have no problem with her lengthy surname. But some letters come addressed to just her maiden name. She says unless it is to do with the house or family she doesn’t see why she has to.

    personally my surname is unique, no one can ever pronounce it but I have grown to love it, when I think of my partners name with mine it just seems like a really boring name. I too would think about hyphenating I just worry as my surname is already long.(8letters)

    really like this blog so far thanks for liking my post

  13. November 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I’ve been married this second time for over two years and my situation is kinda weird. I still have my first husband’s name. I’ve been this name for so long – longer than I had my maiden name. I can tell though that my hubs would like it to change.

    I still really don’t know what to do so, in typical fashion, I’m doing nothing.


  14. SCB
    May 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I understand if its your choice, but here all I see are women commenting. Where are all the men, and what is so wrong with men changing their last names anyway? If you search through your family history, last names change, and before that it was place names. Honestly, names change. I do not see the problem with it. I hyphenated, don’t regret it, but would rather combine it. We did the name change process once, now we want to do it again. But I want to do it at the right time. Like on our 5 year anniversary, and hopefully before we have kids. Plus all of this is cultural, some places the woman doesn’t change their name. In other places the Man has to, because its a matronymic culture (like in Indonesia with the Meankabu , (spelling error), and in China with the Mosuo, and in some North African tribes). In the Sikh Religion, women all get one surname, and men all get one surname. They are Khaur and Sigh, and this really means Prince (which goes to the women), and Lion (or warrior, which goes to the men). I think its a great practice. And in my view, when you study cultural naming systems, and how each one is so different, you sort of should take a look at your own prejudices & traditions and see if it is the prejudice & traditions you can let go off. For me I really dislike the idea of the woman having to take the man’s surname. Everybody acts as if it is required by law. Its ridiculous in a country that talks about freedom all the time, that we don’t have the damn freedom to change our names smoothly to what we want. I am thankful though that California changed the law back in 2007 or 2009 (forget which) to allow for either party to change their name, but an entirely new surname was out of the running for the options. Which I thought was ridiculous. All it needs to be is documented. And if you are doing it for Fraudulent reasons and are caught, then there should be a punishment for it at that time, but not before. I don’t see the need for making it a complicated legal process either.

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