If you're about to get married (or even newly married), you might have already thought to yourself, "Should I take my partner's last name?"
It's a pretty normal thing to consider when getting married, and most couples have some sort of discussion about what they'll do. Luckily, the woman having to change her name is no longer the norm, and for most women who change their names after marriage now (myself included), it's a choice. And there are lots of other choices now, too: hyphenating your name, having your husband change his name, creating a new name for the two of you, and so on.
In fact, if you're a fan of The Bachelorette, you'll know that Rachel Lindsay announced she plans to take Bryan's name after their marriage — a big choice for the reality TV star, given that she's an established lawyer known professionally with the last name "Lindsay."
When my husband and I decided to get married, I had no idea whether I would want to change my last name. I always thought that even if I ended up in a happy, long-term marriage, I wouldn't want to change my name. It wasn't that I was especially tied to it or anything. It was more that I thought it would be a hassle. I already had not one, but two established careers under my maiden name, and I just wasn't sure it was necessary.
Right before my husband and I got married, though, I realized that nothing would make me happier than changing my name. It didn't carry all the weight I thought it would to switch my maiden name, but it did carry a lot of weight for me to change to my married name (because I chose it, and no one else made that choice for me).
There are lots of pros and cons to consider when deciding to change your name after marriage, and no one choice is right for everyone. You should make up your own mind about what you want to do (without the input of your partner, at first), but here are a few good things to consider:
1. It'll Make You Feel More Like A Team
One thing I could never have anticipated was how changing my name made me feel like a true team with my husband. It's not something I can put my finger on directly, but it's just that having his last name makes me feel very "us against the world." It's nice that I was able to do something so big to show my commitment to our "team," and I know that if I had wanted him to change his name, he would have done it in a heartbeat.
I also realized that changing my name was more symbolic than anything: I was married once before for a brief 10-month period (it was obviously one of those youthful mistakes!), and I never, ever considered changing my name for my first marriage. Now, when I look back, I can see that it's because we never were a team, and I never wanted to be one with him because he was the wrong choice.
My husband, though, is my soulmate and definitely "the one" for me. Changing my name feels like a way I can show that to the world and continue to celebrate our little team of two.
2. You May Have An Identity Crisis
When I changed my name, not only did it feel like I was committing to a new team, but it also felt like I was starting a new adventure or beginning a whole new part of my life. I didn't realize changing my name would make me feel (happily) as though I was leaving my "old" life behind and starting a new one with my husband.
Of course, I liked my "old" life, and I still do everything that I did when I was single, but still, it felt good to change my name as a symbolic shift into something new.
If you are excited about getting married and committed to making your marriage last, then changing your name might be a good option for starting that new journey. You can be excited and committed either way, but speaking from personal experience, changing your name makes it feel like a brand new adventure.
4. It Could Be Hard To Change Professional Associations
On the day of my wedding, I had already been a licensed attorney in two states, admitted in two Federal District courts, the author of a book, a new YouTube experimentalist, a blog writer, and highly published on the internet with my maiden name. It wasn't going to be just my neighborhood friends adjusting to my new name — it was basically going to be the entire world.
I considered that and decided that doing what I wanted for myself was more important to me than letting other people's difficulty in getting used to a new last name dictate my decision. And I'm happy I did: Although changing my name with the New York and Florida state bars wasn't that easy, it was easy on the internet and almost (see point 6!) everywhere else.
Even if you don't have as many professional associations as I did, it can still be something to consider to change your name for work and other business commitments. If you've been published anywhere, you might also be wondering how hard it'll be to switch things over. That's why the choice is such an individual one.
5. It's Easier For Day-To-Day Life Stuff
Even if you're not that traditional (and I'm really not that traditional), the fact is there are still a lot of highly traditional people in the world today. And you are going to meet those people — at the bank, at the mall, at hotels, at restaurants. And having a different last name than your partner will irritate those people, and they will, in turn, irritate you.
Now, other people's bullsh*t expectations are not — I repeat, NOT — a good reason to change your last name. You should do what makes you happy. But from experience, I actually kind of like it that having my husband's last name makes things easier for us wherever we go.
This comes, of course, because I already wanted to change my name, despite anything else, but it's been a nice fringe benefit to be at the bank or something and having someone ask, "OK, what's your last name?" and then writing it down and writing my husband's name down, too, with our last name, without checking in again.
It might be a weird reason, but it's true that having the same last name as a married couple (especially if you want kids later) will make things a bit easier. And people are probably going to refer to you as "Mrs. So-and-So" anyway, so be aware of that when deciding to switch your name or not.
6. The Paperwork Sucks
Legit, the paperwork to change your name is awful. It takes forever, it involves a trip to the social security office AND the DMV, and you'll probably be on the phone with your phone company and credit card company for days.
If you're someone who hates paperwork and stupid, administrative garbage, this is something to consider before you decide to change your name. It really is a lot of paperwork. You'll think you have it all done, and then, you'll turn around and get some weird piece of mail sent to your maiden name, and you'll be like, "Sh*t, now I have to change this, too!"
If you really hate it, maybe the paperwork to change your name legally isn't the way to go. Conversely, if you don't mind it, go right ahead and cruise on over to that DMV waiting line.
7. People May Judge You
The sad fact is, no matter what you choose, people will judge you. Because people are judgy. And people are jerks. So this point is less of something to consider and more of something to be aware of and prepare mentally for.
People will judge you if you change your name. They'll say you aren't a feminist and that you are too old-fashioned. People will judge you if you don't change your name. They'll say you're not embracing your marriage and that you don't love your spouse. Like I said, people are jerks.
Don't let anyone else's opinion of you or your life impact what you do with you or your life. You're never going to be able to please everyone, so there is really no point in trying. Do what make you happy.
If the judgment comes after your wedding, it's because those people are sitting around judging everyone, and they aren't happy with themselves. Skip along and don't forget to wave goodbye to them in your rearview mirror (maybe with your middle finger).
Taking or not taking your partner's last name is a really individual choice, and you shouldn't let anyone else make it for you. These are some things to consider when deciding on this major life change, but whatever you decide, make sure it makes you happy, first and foremost!
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