Marriage Matters Monday – What’s in a Name?

I recall how much angst one of my girlfriends went through after she got married and didn’t want to change her last name right away. She eventually hyphenated it but she put it off as long as possible. Her husband was not amused. The pair is (seemingly) happily married and even joke about my friend’s name change delay now but my friend experienced much more separation anxiety than she thought she would. I’ve since heard many women share similiar sentiments about the emotional challenges of changing their name after saying “I Do”. Crazy or common?

I plan to hyphenate my last name(s) after marriage. My fiance and I are cool with this. I have used my last name professionally for over a decade; my byline is largely how I earn a living. However for many men and some women, even hyphens after walking down the aisle symbolize a lack of commitment. What do you guys think? Does a name mean everything or nothing?

Take the poll below and leave your feedback in the comments so we can get a lively, intelligent discussion going about this, folks!


A bride changing her name after marriage:

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    1. This can be a very sensitive topic. I’ve learned that different people can view the name change totally differently. I think you were wise to discuss and agree on a plan prior to your wedding date. It seems as if too many people delay the conversation until it becomes a silent battle.

    2. SpikesDtr says:

      I think it can be a mutual exchange. Over twenty years ago I worked with someone whose sister married and both male and female hyphenated and used both names. When the children came, they were given the hyphenated name. It honors both sides. I admit that was the one and only example that I know of. Bottom line, it is so very personal/individual.

    3. Bridgette Bridgette says:

      @Erica J – I agree that communication is paramount in this situation.

      @SpikesDtr – I wonder if the couple you referenced is of Latin and/or Spanish descent. I recall reading or hearing about a very similar practice in those cultures. Very interesting either way.

    4. BMore Cutie says:

      It might not seem like a big deal but I too have witnessed husbands go through, “Um..What you waiting for??!!” moments with their spouses when they felt like their wives were dragging their feet on the whole name change thing. This is a sensitive but important topic for couples to discuss. I’m glad your friends are able to laugh about it now. ;-)

    5. Bridgette Bridgette says:

      @Bmore Cutie – Thx for weighing in!

    6. Fellas- we need to hear from you on this!
      It’s so complicated…I totally want to be “Mrs H” but, I am my father’s only child and it is very meaningful to him that I’m in my profession using his family’s name. When I was in school, he used to joke that I had better not up and start using some Johnny-come-lately’s name at work since Daddy had been my supporter since America’s Bicentennial! I know there was a LOT of truth in his jesting.
      My beau and I have discussed it and while he would love a full name change, it’s not realistic. I have been on my grind for a long time with this name and it’s not a simple matter to change my work licenses in 2 states and no longer being the person identified on my last diploma. Even though it will result in a 15-character last name, I will have to hyphenate to honor both my birth family and my choice family (the soon-to-be hubby).
      The bottom line is that each couple needs to be true to themselves and honestly express what they want and why it’s important to them. In the setting of love and respect, an amiable conclusion can surely be reached. Good luck to all on this.

    7. I think this topic gets uncomfortable when true feelings aren’t shared. @Ronda expressed in her comments the major reason she would like to hyphenate her last name. With that information present, it should be difficult to find a husband unwilling to accept this. However, if she had three brothers and still held the same view…one may be able to understand a husband’s discomfort or hesitation. Avoiding this potentially awkward conversation is the easiest way to fall into a less than desirable situation. Think of this – if you made it to the point that this is a needed conversation…you are both doing something right. It seems as if many couples are finding this topic to be the first argu-scussion encountered after the engagement. Use the opportunity to display how you will work thru. future issues. 1. Put everything on the table. 2. Provide support for your point of view. 3. Listen to the other’s point of view and support. 4. Decide together what works best for your individual situation. I hope this helped. I normally only work one day a month – FINAL FRIDAYS WITH COUSIN MARS (plug)

    8. Name change is not equal to commitment. The history of it has more to do with ‘property rights’ in relation to wives being the thing who was owned. Also, serial temporary monogamists change their names each time but have little to no committment to making a marriage work. I think the willingness to publicly declare the union should be the focus. After all, I’m not marrying the man so that I have food to eat or so someone will fix my car or so that he can manage the household money (mine hates all of those things); I’m with him because I CHOOSE to be with him for companionship, support and fun. Why isn’t that enough? If I did have 3 brothers, I’d still prefer to hyphenate because I’m 36 and have been in my game for 11 years building my name. Try changing the name of your business/brand that far into the game and see what kind of bumps in the road it generates…

    9. I’m just playing devil’s advocate…@Ronda why not remain an unmarried committed couple. You would remain with the one you CHOSE and you wouldn’t be expected or pressured (by him or societal traditions) to disrupt your thriving business. I truly am not intending to be rude, insensitive, or humorous. I’m simply throwing a question out.

    10. This is clearly a topic that cannot have only one right solution. With that being said, each person should suggest what they feel works for them in their current situation. My previous statement included the implication that a large number of men that are passionate about their wife-to-be adopting their last name could better understand the hyphen suggestion if it involved legacy or business concerns. @Ronda – I think this addresses your last sentence. @Nikki – I’m about to punk out until I hear from some other males, but thanks for backing me (i think).

    11. When my wife and I were married almost eight years ago, her father insisted that she keep her last name…. Funny thing was his wife had his last name??? Want to continue your name and bloodline? – Have a son! Otherwise, why not follow the tradition of marriage with the name change. People entertaining one foot in/one foot out options like prenups, hyphenated names, and annulments are some of the reasons the institution of marriage is a failing proposition. Too many options for dismissal or opt out.

      @Bridgette – As for those of you who professionally would be affected, I get it, but the rest of you, It’s symbolic of what each of you give up to be together.

    12. Carla A. Nelson says:

      This is such an intersting topic. My former hair stylist used her maiden name for her business, but she used her married name for personal transactions. There are other reasons why women keep their persona name – CREDIT! Women of other ethnicities keep their name not because their husbands have bad credit, but it allows them to increase credit for both of them! Instead of filing jointly,they file and apply for things seperately but enjoy them together!

      One thing men do not realize is the burden of changing our name is on us. If a women has been on her own for a very long time, when she changes her name – EVERYTHING changes. It is not just your drivers license, it is your credit cards, phone bill, medical records,employment records, social security card, retirement and investments, ANYTHING that has her name on it! So by the time she is done changing her name,it’s almost like her former self no longer exist. That can be very depressing, and a man will never understand the process, her feelings, and the frustration to get it all done.

      I have a girlfriend who got married for the third time, and she is extremely happy now. She legally changed her name back to her maiden name (she was using her 2nd marraige last name from which she had a son) a year before she got married to her current husband. It was basically making a fresh start. Her marriage is so great, her 20yr. old son is considering taking his step-father’s name!

      Lastly, if a women has children with her last (maiden) name, it can be a problem for the kid during their school years (I am a product of this). Everyone thought I was adopted – not a good feeling!

    13. I hope we can have a robust discussion but still keep things cordial. The basic principle is that it is a very personal decision.
      @Don P- Thank you for weighing in. “Have a son” is an odd suggestion considering that it’s rarely a choice. Unfortunately, that statement is open to being (?mis-)interpreted as devaluing the life/presence/love of a daughter. I hope you’re familiar with the origin of the name change tradition since you’re such a strong supporter thereof. Maybe men should consider hyphenation, too, or is it only women who are expected to give things up as a part of joining a couple? In many cultures, matrilineal names and inheritance are the rule since ‘daddy’ is an assumption but ‘mommy’ is always a fact. I hope that your partner shares your views and adds positivity to your life.
      @Mars- please know how much I love hearing from you and support your work here on BBB. Don’t fear the disagreements. We rarely learn from those with whom we completely agree so I value our little jousts since they get me thinking more about my own motivations and how I can be more considerate of my beau.
      @Nikki- it’s an option for some but not for me. I don’t desire to be a ‘live-in’ and hope that’s a choice that can be respected.

    14. Bridgette Bridgette says:

      I’m loving this lively exchange! Keep the thought-provoking comments coming, y’all!

    15. Hyphenating your name, keeping your maiden name, etc; it’s all like having a middle name, you went through the trouble of having one but what was the point? Does anyone use their middle name or even care? I say this because to satisfy her husband and father my wife ended up making her maiden name her middle name and taking mine. – We never see or hear her middle name!
      @Rhonda – Wonderful thought provoking questions. Honestly, I didn’t know the origin of the tradition (you made me look it up though – lol). I’m not interested in the origin but the tradition. I know the origin of the word picnic but I still look forward to summers and barbecue! Also, by the ‘Have a boy!’ comment, I only meant the tradition of continuing your name is via having a son. Have a daughter? Continue the tradition of paying for a wedding or having a sweet 16 party – lol

    16. Zenobia Hatcher-Wilson says:

      I love both my names so much (maiden and married) that I keep them both and have done so for many years. When I first made the decision to do so I did consider the changes needed, i.e. checkbook, driver’s license, work records, etc.; using both names was initially a transition but it just seemed like the thing to do. It was not anti my husband but just pro me. I too know a couple who used both names and the wife’s maiden name as their children’s middle name.

      As for the suggestion to live together, to me that seems to be a red herring. Whether you keep your maiden name or assume your husband’s last name says nothing about the covenant that you enter into through marriage.

    17. I have an issue when women say, Oh I have been using my maiden name professionally for years. Ok, you can still use your new name professionally; I think it is an excuse not to change your last name. I can’t stand the hyphen at all, just keep your last name if you are going to do that. As a woman I understand you want to keep your last name that your father gave you but, you have to let go baby. You are building a legacy and new beginnings. I will use my last name as my middle name when I get married. I will not walk down the hyphen line at all.

    18. I am a Daddy’s girl, and I love my last name, but I think for me it is important to get my husband last name after marriage we are starting a legacy together. I know the Spanish culture use both lastnames, Mother and Father but that’s very long I have came across folks with 5 names

    19. Bridgette Bridgette says:

      Day 2 and the comments are still flowing! Loving this.

      @EVol Me – Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this hot topic. My future hubby and I have agreed on this so anyone else who has an “issue” on why I choose to hyphenate my last name for professional reasons is well…Yeah. I’m good. But, I am a bit curious as to why you still plan to keep your maiden name as a middle name since you seem so anti-hyphen and feel so strongly about “letting things go”.

    20. I’m good on how my beau and I have decided to do it and none of us really has the right to condemn another’s choice on the matter. To paraphrase the Bible, whatever a man and woman have worked out through discussion/prayer/sweat/tears, let no other mortal put it asunder. Truthfully, all of our comments end with a parenthetical ‘for me and my spouse’. I know successful couples who have done all 3- full name change, hyphenation, and no name change. All of them love their partner and are completely engaged in the day-to-day work/joy of marriage and family.
      @DonP: Words have power. We should use them wisely and while I was no history major, a word’s past carries meaning even into the present.
      @ZH-W: That’s really at the heart I what I was trying to say. I want the covenant, not just a roommate.
      @EVol me: If you abandon the ‘old’ to get the ‘new’ you may find that you’re missing out on something. As people who are largely cut off from our distant ancestors, names have meaning and I want my potential children to know that I’m proud of all of my and their origins.

    21. try having a hyphenated name going into the wedding! then what? :):) I’m keeping my last name for now…we’ll see what happens in a few years! xo

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