In Marriage, Men Are Taking Women’s Last Names

The Writers | November 2, 2015

Leandra and Amelia Gchat about a recent announcement in the NY Times

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Leandra: This weekend I read in Vows (wedding announcement section of Sunday Styles) that this one couple was taking the woman’s last name. They didn’t make a “thing” of it — just mentioned it.
Should I write something on that? I found it so interesting
Mostly because it seems like there has to be a very deliberate conversation that occurs between the couple before that decision is made
Whereas with women taking men’s names, it feels much more like, wash-rinse-repeat
Like there’s a level of compliancy about a woman taking a man’s name, right? You either do it — because that’s what the system has convinced you is normal — or you don’t, because you’re someone who questions and takes issue with the system

Amelia: Or for business
Or you hyphenate for best of both worlds

Leandra: I’m so curious about the impetus of a man taking a woman’s name, you know? Makes me think about whether the problem with femininity is that we don’t act more deliberately upon the decisions we make
Like…ultimately, I took Abie’s last name (which was an anniversary gift to him because I am cheap) because it meant more to him for me to take it than it did to me to keep my own last name. And it’s not like the I chose the first one in the first place.

Amelia: It’s funny because there’s making a statement and then there’s just doing it because why wouldn’t you?
I always assumed I would take my husband’s last name for the sake of tradition, which you know I love
And would keep my name for business and log-ins
And gmail

Leandra: That’s exactly it! The sake of tradition
The thing about women and decisions, I think, is that what defines “for the sake of tradition” is changing. Or is definable in too plenty a selection of ways

Amelia: That’s true. But also, now women can marry women, men can marry men — who takes whose last name is becoming less important.

Leandra: The point I think I’m dancing around is this: what does the conversation sound like between a man and a woman who decide to take her last name? And how is that different from the one that happens between a couple who takes his? (Often the latter conversation doesn’t even happen)

Amelia: For me it would be like:
Let’s be real. Diamond is better than whatever your ancestors threw at you. You know it, I know it. Let’s cut the bullshit and give you the better half of this team’s moniker
Or — what was their last name by the way? Should we call them The Moderns?
Mr. and Mrs. Modern (formerly Mr. Tradition and Mrs. Modern )
Maybe she wasn’t going to take it at all
But then he said: “I want us to feel like a family, I want people to know we’re married by name. It makes holiday cards easier!”
But they felt like hyphens in this age of brevity and character limits made for too many letters. Too wordy. Annoying on holiday invites. So she said, “Just take mine!”
And he was like “Ok you’re right your last name is way less likely to rhyme with Penis.”
And so it was.
But I like the idea that you often bring up — that this could move things forward so that in x number of years, the question becomes: so whose last name are we gonna take, mine or yours?
There is something very TIDY that I like about taking one last name for the whole family, though.

Leandra: I agree with you! It also connotes a sense of newness, and that’s what you’re doing, right? Building a new family.
I don’t think it’s un-feminist to take a man’s last name — nor do I think it’s misogynist to want that from your partner, but I also wonder if I feel like that only now because of a new perspective that challenges the patriarchy. Who are the men who are taking women’s last names?

Amelia: You’d have to be the kind of man who, every day, is cool explaining why you chose this last name

Leandra: Or at least idealistic enough to imagine a future where no one asks

Amelia: If you had the chance now, do you think you would ask Abie to take your name?

Leandra: I don’t think I would. I’d feel uncomfortable. That’s telling isn’t it? Maybe I’m old-fashioned

Amelia: Old fashioned in that specific category, sure, but then again, getting married is old fashioned. Having your dad walk you down the aisle while you’re wearing white is old fashioned. But it’s also kind of modern because these are things that still happen.
No one’s thinking about your virginity when you wear white
No one thinks your dad is selling you off for political reasons when he walks you down the aisle
What’s cool is that now, doing these things is a choice because we have the freedom to do whatever the hell we want

Leandra: But our motives are still being questioned right? When I saw in the paper that he was taking her last name, my initial thought was: that’s cool. And then I wondered what that conversation had been like, and then I thought to myself, are women having conscious conversations about the decisions we make? Are these the things that ultimately feed the engine of a system we’re constantly trying to rebel against? I don’t have an answer, it’s the conversations that move the needle, right?

Collaged by Krista Anna Lewis. Carousel illustration originally by Alice Notley via T Magazine.

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  • Great conversation! My mom never took my dads name, which has made me skew towards the ‘I am never changing my last name!’ And it’s been sticking with me, but that whole “we are a family”-thing made me rethink it a bit. So my boyfriend and I have decided to make up a new one that day a marriage gets planned.. To make it absolutely equal. We’ll see what happens!

    • Miranda Babbitt

      Make up a new last name? That’s awesome. Can you imagine if that became the new thing to do? The new tradition was to come together and create a new last name that meant something to only the two people getting married? I kind of love that!

      …but at the same time, it makes me wonder if the “family tree” thing would kinda fall to shit then. We’re becoming a much more individualistic generation, and I just wonder what those implications will be when “family” is so redefined that suddenly it’s not about our lineages, but our own individualistic legacies, new last name and all.

      • I never thought about the family tree thing, or how it might distance one from the rest of the family – the tree might just be really confusing with tons of paratheses 😉 but good thought, who knows, maybe we won’t even have last names in the future!

        • BK

          A future of no surnames is unlikely considering that they only arose on a needs basis, as means of identifying individuals when populations grew and there was a multitude of people with the same first name in an area or there were too many people to successfully know or remember in your head. Most surnames actually have identifying qualities, stemming from those early days where people used them to jog their memory: many connect to someone else (eg ‘Johnson’ is a compaction of ‘John’s son’), or are a remark on a profession (eg ‘Baker’, ‘Smith’, ‘Taylor’ – from tailor). Or they can be geographical, like Hill or Underdale – something like ‘John who lives on the Hill’ was the original identifier. Or it could be a specific place (my bff’s surname is Ireland) because you were from there originally and that was what set you apart from everyone else, so you were ‘John from Ireland’. There are other roots which form surnames beyond these. So in such a densely populated world as today where it’s impossible to know everyone, I think surnames are going to stick around for the most part, and for the long term.

          • Fair enough. I would argue that our name is only a part of our identification today, and many people now have the exactly same names, where different identification numbers set us apart. It was more of a ‘futuristic’ joke related to the fact that our physical lives are merging with our digital. Like here, now on MR. And also, some cultures don’t have surnames. They just have a name!

    • Jen

      My best friends made up a new last name when they got married too. The first half of his last name + the end of her last name. It’s a little extra paperwork, but I think it’s more common than people think and I think it’s such a fun idea! Now they have been married for a while and their name totally feels like them. It has never felt made up. Go for it!

    • YES my boyfriend and I are going to make up our own last name also, because all last names a patriarchal and will never truly celebrate the women of our past.

      • CC

        Not quite so. There are plenty of instances where names have been Matronymic (i.e., derived from the mothers name see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matronymic) or occupation based rather than Patronymic. For instance the name Weaver. The tradition of the woman taking the man’s name at marriage is patriarchal, though. You are right.

        • like Phillip answered I cannot believe that you can make $9890 in 4 weeks on the computer.try this website on `my` `prof1le`
          fgtygy

        • OK let me correct myself. Not ALL last names are patriarchal. However, occupation based names are also patronymic, including Weaver, those names derive from the male’s occupation not the female.

    • Miju

      this is secretly what i want to do too

  • Rae

    I plan to keep mine, for several reasons, not the least of which is that I’m too lazy to change it, but what it boils down it is essentially the opposite of what you said, Leandra: it means more to me to keep mine than it does to my boyfriend for me to take his. That said, I totally get the ‘united family’ argument; if we have children, we plan to give them my last name as a middle name to try and capture that without saddling said hypothetical offspring with a hyphen.

    • Alex

      My mom and dad did thAt, our middle names are her maiden name.

      • Rae

        That’s so great! Just wondering – how do you feel about it?

      • Miju

        My family did that too! My middle name is my mom’s maiden name, and my little sister’s middle name is my mom’s maiden name translated into English. I think it’s cool that we have a subtle/special ~sisterhood~ bond.

    • beaker

      How did you decide that his last name would be the children’s actual last name? Just curious.

      • Rae

        Mostly because he’s the only male child in his family, and his dad is estranged from all of his brothers; sort of a ‘carrying on the name’ sort of situation.

    • Kelsey O’Donnell

      Wouldn’t it be nice if the conversations today were not about what it meant for you to keep and him to take, and was more about do we both value keeping over taking, is one indifferent to keeping? When I got married it was hard for me that the whole conversation was initially framed as Future Husband: “You can keep your last name if you want to, that’s ok with me.” As if me figuring out what to do with my name was the only issue, and the issue wasn’t what do we do with our names. So I said “Well I’m not sure I’m ok with you keeping yours, so let’s discuss.”

      • Rae

        TOTALLY agree. It does bother me that men are never expected to choose; it’s one of the reasons why I’m keeping mine. I asked him once if he would ever consider changing his, and he straight up said no. And then I said “Ok, well then I think it’s incredibly unfair for you to ever expect me to change mine.” Not that he ever did, or would; he knows me well enough to know what my decision was well before we ever explicitly discussed it, and if he expected me to take his then I don’t think he’d be the kind of man I would want to marry. (NOT that I think all men who want their wives to take their name are horrible people; just that it wouldn’t be for me.)

  • lizlemony

    Has any couple ever said “to hell with it all” and both changed their last names to something else entirely? Why not? Like Ms. Modern and Mr. Tradition both become Mr. and Mrs. Something New ? Would love to read about that…

    • I would change mine to Isawesome…. pronounced ‘is awesome’. full name: Courtney Diana Isawesome.

    • Jamie Leland

      I know a couple who did this, although I’m not sure what led to the decision.

    • Natalie

      Two of my good friends did that this summer! They combined half of each of their last name’s to make a new one.

    • kduck

      I was just thinking of this while reading comments! Too bad Duckersen sounds awful. Not sure Anderworth is any better :/

    • beaker

      I’ve heard of people combining the last names. Like Smith + Jones = Smones. Love that actually and I just made it up.

  • lenifromparis

    Me and my husband decided to both add each others family names to our own (won’t call it “maiden name”). It solved both our wish to be equal and our wish to have the same family name.
    Now we both feel really great about it, plus it sounds cooler 😉

    • CC

      Like the tradition found in lots of south american countries where you have two last names – one from your father and one from your mother. When you marry, you drop your mother’s maiden name and take your husband’s family name in its place. Always establishing and preserving your lineage. I really like this tradition.

  • Vienna

    I love that you wrote about this! It’s a topic that comes up frequently among my friends. I will not be taking my boyfriends last name when we get married. A lot of it is because I don’t understand why in 2015 it’s automatic that I would take HIS last name. Also, because I’m very attached to my last name, and it goes really well with my first name. He is Irish, and his first and last name is VERY Irish, whereas I am Italian, and my last name is very Italian. They don’t mix well. When the conversation comes up he is very adamant on our children having his last name, but does not want to take mine for himself because as an attorney he feels it would be difficult and somewhat “emasculating” to explain to people he took my last name (whatever). I grew up in a family that always had a different last name than me, since my mom remarried and I have half sisters. So a last name is just a name to me – I’m used to not feeling that connection. Alas, we shall see what happens. It’s always been a touchy subject, but we laugh about it and try not to take it too seriously.

  • DarthVadersCats

    I absolutely loved this conversation. I personally would never take my husband’s name unless it was a super cool one and tells a lot about my ancestry and I always thought I would get my children to hyphenate (but that might be a problem seeing as my surname is van Eyck and imagine I marry even a Smith it’s a bit weird to be Lemony Smith-Van Eyck ok I take that back that is very cool I have lost all train of thought because I want to marry someone called Smith.)

    AHA. This convo made me realise that I can, that it is within my rights, though I WOULD feel uncomfortable to ask him to take my last name solely, to hyphenate his as well. Duude.

    Also Zoe Saldana’s husband took her name.

    “I told him, ‘If you use my name, you’re going to be emasculated by your community of artists, by your Latin community of men, by the world.’ But Marco looks up at me and says [she puts on his Italian accent], ‘Ah, Zoë, I don’t give a sheet.” (from http://www.people.com/article/zoe-saldana-husband-last-name)

  • Chandler Dunn

    I think tradition and stigma have a lot to do with women taking the man’s last name, and I wonder if it is because we subconsciously see women, or really any person being proposed to, as the one being invited into something. I think we subconsciously forget we are creating something, not joining. On top of that I think is just the traditional feel the Amelia talked about; people like that trend and part of feminism allows women to do what they want so long as its on their own terms. My parents got divorced and all these years later my mom still has my dad’s last name— its part of who she is, and representative of the family she’s created and been a part of. At the end of the day the conversation becomes about how each individual views the concept of a name, what it means to them and how they see what they are creating.

    • MT

      “we subconsciously see women, or really any person being proposed to, as the one being invited into something. I think we subconsciously forget we are creating something, not joining.”

      I looooooove this.

  • I fully understand the patriarchal roots of the practice, but I took my spouse’s surname because it’s a way cooler last name than my birth name. Why pass on an opportunity to upgrade? ?

    • Miranda Babbitt

      That’s the spirit! 😀

    • this I have no problem with lol as long has the dad isn’t like super offended.

      But I guess is the question is would he take your last name if the tables were turned and your last name was way cooler than his?

  • Heina Dadabhoy

    One thing I notice in conversations about “traditional” is that non-WASP traditions are rarely taken into account. It’s pretty traditional in many places in the world and cultures to not change your name upon marriage.

    • beaker

      But how about the children’s last names? I find the patriarchy often slips in there, but I’m not versed on all cultures.

      • Heina Dadabhoy

        They tend to take their father’s in pretty much every culture.

    • SaraLovesBeauty

      You’re exactly right. My dad is Persian (my mom isn’t), and he was totally shocked when she assumed she would take his last name when they got married. She ended up keeping her name, and us kids took dad’s last name (this is what most Persians do).

      When my sister got married and wanted to take her husband’s last name (ours is long and hard to pronounce), it took a LOT of getting used to for my dad. My sister ended up using her old last name as her middle name (she axed her old middle name) and taking her husband’s last name.

  • BK

    YES YES I LOVE THIS AND HAVE CONSIDERED THIS AT LENGTH when I eventually hoodwink/am hoodwinked into marrying someone I’m going to throw my surname into the ring for him to adopt and – not to get too Hunger Games about it – it’s going to be a strongest-wins situation. my surname (Kelly) is in Australia is shared with our most beloved outlaw Ned Kelly and his Gang (consider: Jesse James but beardier and illiterate and more Irish, plus he only got into crime to stop a policeman from ravaging his sister, not out of loyalty to the Confederate states which I doubt he’d even heard of). So our family, which is enormous, Irish, of jolly farming stock and, in my dad and uncles’ heyday, not entirely law-abiding (nothing too damning, settle down), are known within a 300km radius as The Kelly Gang and why would anybody not want to join them? My husband’s surname would literally have to be Diamond or better (i.e Wonder, Springsteen) to prise me away from the Kelly Gang. And even then I can’t guarantee there won’t be repercussions from the more loyalist factions of the Gang.

  • Laura

    In Spain everyone keeps their own last name. Plus, we have both last names from both our parents! Sometimes it’s funny to see non-spanish people trying to figure out what is our real name, or our second name -we usually have none xd-, or our last name haha. But yeah, I guess the conversation here goes around which one of the last names goes first on the children… usually it’s first de man’s, second the woman’s, so that’s what we’re trying to change (I know a lot of couples who have already chosen the opposite, actually). And if your referring to the family in, like, a letter or something, you put both names as well, as in Martinez-Perez Family. Ya, we do everything a lil bit more complicated than everyone else does haha

    • CC

      I just shared this thought and I hadn’t seen your comment! I REALLY like this way of honouring your spouse and also the family your came from. I work with a lot of Brazilians and Colombians and was the first time I came across it. The flow of Latin names makes the combinations sound really appealing. Our French/Irish combo: the Blanchard-Fitzgerald family is a bit of a tongue-twister!

    • Raquel

      Not complicated but just more equal, really. I am Brazilian,have both my parents surnames and really don’t understand the fuss. I live in the States and it feels so weird to see women my age taking out their surnames to add their husbands’ surname. It’s hard to resonate.

  • MT

    This issue was simplified for me in a couple of ways:
    One, my mother had changed her name when she married young. That marriage didn’t last, but she began her career with it, so she kept it. She didn’t change it when she married my father, and then all three of us kids grew up without “traditional” middle names, and instead carried mom’s last name as our middle, and dad’s last name as our last.
    Two, my dad’s last name is a bummer. It’s unusual and no one knows how to spell or pronounce it. It also rhymed with my first name, and people liked to INFORM ME that it rhymed. It was annoying.
    Three, Husband’s name is simple, common enough to be easy to pronounce and spell but not so common that I’m ever interrogated about extended family. There are two semi-famous people who have it and super occasionally someone will ask me if I’m related as a joke.

    So my options were: ditch mom’s name, ditch dad’s name, or not change my name because I felt obligated to keep a name I didn’t really like in the first palce. I hated those options, so I kept them all.

    In hindsight, I’d have done it again, but I would have had a longer conversation with my husband about it, about whether we should have come up with some other solution, but in the end, my tense relationship with my father made the decision really easy.

    I have friends who both added each other’s surnames to hyphenate their own: He became R-M and she became M-R. I kinda love that option.

  • Leanne

    Such an interesting conversation — thank you for sharing. I got married this past August and struggled with the whole name-change thing the entire time we were engaged (13 months). I ended up taking his last name (officially) but I still have yet to identify internally as Leanne New-Lastname. I questioned the system so much but just kind of had that feeling deep down that changing my last name is what I felt was right for me. Everyone will feel something different and that’s totally cool! I thought I’d keep my maiden name in there somewhere, but went with the full change. I still think about it and question myself! It’s a whole identity crisis thing, some days.

  • Aubrey Green

    I think another interesting topic, would be women proposing to men – why is it that men propose to women (not saying it’s wrong/bad/etc. at all) – would any of the women here be okay with proposing to a man, would you want to be with a man that would want you to propose to him? As for last names, I would take the man’s last name or like a few suggested change to a name we both agreed with :).

    • beaker

      I would be fine with proposing to a man. If I get engaged, I would see it more as a conversation rather than a formal knee thing.

  • beaker

    I personally don’t think that having the same last name makes a family – because my family all had the same last name and that didn’t turn out so well.

    I hope that in future more men will take women’s last names or more new last names will be invented. I still have not gone to a wedding where the women did not take the man’s last name and I feel sad about it.

    I dont even have a boyfriend, but I think I’d keep my last name and give mine to the kid if its a girl and his to the boy if it’s a boy. I dont want to give the kid a ridic long last name.

  • Great conversation. In my family and I think most Hispanic communities, the husband and wife keep their last names. So, my mom’s last name is her father’s last name and my dad’s last name is HIS father’s last name. When I approached my long term boyfriend about what he thought if this, he thought it was really odd. He wants me to take his last name (he’s Ukranian with a Jewish last name and my name, Patricia, is very old-sounding and I feel I would just sound very very old, especially since I HATE when people pronounce it Pa-TRISH-ah). Anyways, I’d be more open to hyphenation (although our two last names combined sound crazy). Whatever you do, I think it’s for sure a good sign to have that convo.

  • Fcas

    My mother kept her last name, I feel its your identity its who you’ve always been and known as. I feel i would probably prefer to keep my last name its keeping part of me, but I mean if I were to get married and the man I was married really took it badly me wanting to keep my name I would probably consider changing it. Its a difficult decisions.

  • Sg

    Why confine women and their choice to just two categories? The introduction to this dialogue suggests a woman is either a convincible, complaint name changer or a questioning, bold name keeper… how is this progressionist thought?

    For that matter, you don’t seem to have met the groom in question. Why attempt to enumerate the potential reasons behind his personal decision?

    #speculativejournalism

  • Stephanie

    Why confine women and their choice to just two categories? The introduction of this dialogue suggests a woman is either a convincible, compliant name changer or a questioning, bold name keeper… How is this progressionist thought?

    For that matter, you don’t seem to have met the groom in question. Why attempt to enumerate potential reasons behind his personal decision? #SpeculativeJournalism #AlmostAsGoodAsPurposefulDiscussion

  • Amy

    I can tell you how the conversation went between me and my husband. I got married last year when I was 24. Shortly after getting engaged, I realized I was very uncomfortable with the thought of taking my man’s last name. This sort of thing wasn’t unusual behavior for me as I’m always standing up for women. So, I just told him. I’m not particularly in love with my last name, but I definitely identify with it. I couldn’t really imagine just having a new name one day and expecting it to feel like my own. I have two brothers so they are there to carry on the name (unless of course they marry someone who challenges that) so that didn’t have anything to do with it. I also felt like with as strongly as I stand up for women being equal in other situations that I had to bring up this conversation, or else it wouldn’t be congruent with my beliefs. I didn’t necessarily offer a solution but rather we just talked about our options. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with just taking my name, and I didn’t feel that was the best solution either. We considered making up a new surname but that still didn’t really offer the sense of identity that we wanted to keep. There was also talk of only me hyphenating, but ultimately we decided we wanted to have a family name. If I only hyphenated, what name would our children take? His? Again, that didn’t feel like equality. So in the end, we both decided to hyphenate, his name first and my name second…. Purely because it sounded better that way. My husband is middle eastern and his family really couldn’t understand why he was hyphenating, and even more so why his name wouldn’t come last. His parents rely heavily on tradition as an explanation. Neither my husband or I can get behind using tradition as an explanation for anything unless it’s a tradition we actually believe in. I think it’s important to really consider and sometimes challenge traditions (after all, not all traditions are good ones). He used to explain it to his family that it was something that was important to me and he valued my beliefs so it was important to him too. While I credit him for “doing it for me”, I was always a little disappointed that he wasn’t saying it was something he personally valued. I’m happy to say that that has definitely changed. He has had to explain himself numerous times and his response has changed to it being a decision we made together because it felt like it supported equal rights and that’s what we’re about. We’re both really happy with it and it actually feels like we did something to “make a change”, however small it may be. I must say, it feels strangely good 🙂 Loved this post! —I’m an avid MR reader and this is the first time I’ve been so compelled to comment! But
    also, oh happy day! Office apropos is one of my favs 🙂

  • CC

    I’ve thought and thought about this. I really think its something ONLY women think about. The marriage name changing thing still holds a lot of symbolism and so is probably more important to people that it should be. I’ve always thought my name was inextricably linked with my identity. We’re not talking drivers licence and passport ID, we’re talking about sense of self. Our last name is a given before our first name has even been chosen. Its our heritage. Its clan membership. Its branding. I couldn’t change my name. It would be like erasing myself and having to start again. Denying my past and my family. The ultimate conclusion I came to though, is I don’t really believe in marriage. My partner is my family because we chose each other and thats enough for me. The question of future children’s last names was surprisingly easy to settle. There is something very primal that links a mother to its child. I don’t need them to have my last name. But I think for Mr CC, as the only male in his family, its a nice tradition to uphold, to keep his family name going.

  • Sanna Wege

    My dad took my mom’s name and that was back in 1981 when hardly anyone did that. I sometimes wonder if that’s why I am so set on keeping my last name or if I would do so anyway if it was different.

  • I don’t think taking the man’s name has to be inherently patriarchal since having taken your father’s name instead of your mother’s is already patriarchal…but I do think women in love with the idea of being a Mrs. is rooted in patriarchal ideals, however innocuous the individual’s intent.

    “What’s cool is that now, doing these things is a choice because we have the freedom to do whatever the hell we want”–more choice than we ever had yes, but for the majority of the US it still seems like we desire to walk down the aisle in a white dress, with a diamond ring on the 4th finger of our left hand (which in modernity has been mostly US tradition that has spread to the world) that our soon-to-be husband surprised us with in the somewhat recent past. Maybe in certain pockets of society that dress is getting less white and the engagement ring is getting smaller, but I notice that there is still many a financially independent and strong-willed woman that doesn’t for a minute question that a diamond ring given from man to woman is involved with an engagement…or that there needs to be an engagement period in the first place.

  • Sonsy

    I kept my own name, not out of any familial connection but simply because it was mine and I had spent a lifetime with it and to change it felt bizarre. I grew up with a remarried mother and was the only person in my family with my last name. Unity isn’t about nomenclature.

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    This is great, I love it, I do. But conversations about last names often rub me the wrong way, though I’m sensitive. I hated that people asked me what my decision for my last name was when I got married, and my male counter part was left alone to rejoice in whatever personal decision he made without announcing it. From the age of – very young – I never understood why so few left alone a tradition that values preserving the male’s family identity over the female’s family identity. For me, it’s another “don’t make such a big deal out of things, stop emasculating him” brick that makes up the foundation of patriarchy. I think it’s a personal choice, and I’m not going to get down on a woman for taking a man’s last name, but let’s be honest, this “choice” more often than not, means a woman has to consider: do I give up my last name or hyphenate or keep, whereas a man barely has to think – he just waits for his counterpart to decide. The conversation still feels very much a “what’s her decision” not “what’s our decision” and that annoys the hell out of me. I wish more men thought “hmm, I don’t want to give up my last name, ergo, I totes get why she doesn’t want to give up hers. Let’s discuss and problem solve together!” But more than anything, I wish more men and women were willing to re-frame traditions. Traditionally, woman took man’s name because she was his property, not cool. Ok, so from that practice, what evolved tradition can we carry forward? Instead of she takes his, or does her own thing, let’s take away the values of family unity, compromise and problem-solving, to wit, we encourage heterosexual couples (& all, but it’s kind of built in for same-sex) to sit down and discuss: Do we want the same name? Who’s name shall it be? Or do we create a new name? Why? And within that conversation, the family identity of both people are equally valued, and we don’t assume it’s easier for a woman to forgo her last name because, traditionally, a patriarchal system demanded it. Changing my last name would have broken my heart, which is why I kept it – not to make a grand stand, but because I value it, love it, cherish it and was unwilling to let it go, much as my husband was unwilling to let his go (though I fought for that). We eventually concluded that our idea of family unity did not require the same last name, and though it was a team-decision, I am burdened with the “oh, so you decided to keep your last name?” No friends, we decided to keep our last names.

  • Kristi Kuiken

    Just knowing my friends who have hyphened last names I’ve never thought that’s the best idea because it gets super complicated for them on a day to day basis. Plus what happens when two people with hyphenated last names get married?? Madness!
    I might ask my potential husband to take my last name because I’m the last one to carry it out of three girls so it would be cool to carry on the tradition to a new family.
    Think it should be a discussion, nothing wrong with taking either!

  • Leslie Hitchcock

    I got married just over a month ago and the conversation leading up to it about my name was pretty interesting. My husband actually wanted me to keep my last name (it is pretty cool after all) but after years of saying how I’d never change it, I decided I wanted to be a hyphen in my private life and keep my original name for my professional life. We also toyed with the idea of him taking mine, but I suppose tradition didn’t make that something I would choose. I’m in my mid-thirties and have a pretty established career so changing names didn’t make sense in that capacity. But I found that the idea of becoming a family in name was important to me, more important than I realized, so I settled on a hyphen and it makes me pretty happy. Didn’t feel like I was bending to patriarchy, but instead making a choice for what worked best for me, for my husband, and for our future family that extends beyond us. Who knew there was so much in a name.

  • Harri Winter

    So interesting to read Mette’s comment, I grew with the same last name situation as her and came to the same conclusion soo last year when I got married we chose two names (my husband’s mother’s maiden name and my dad’s maiden name) and played cards on our honeymoon for the winning name. It now thoroughly feels like OUR family name!

  • Lauren Swindol

    I think the lovely thing about this article is that we are realizing we do have choices, and that tradition isn’t the only route. I personally love my maiden name, and I was always called by my full name in school, so it was natural for me to just tack on my husband’s last name to the end. I have been married for 4 years now, and I still feel strange when someone refers to me with just my husband’s name. I don’t hypenate. I’m southern and we all have double names here, so I don’t think it’s weird.

  • Irene

    In Spain women don’t change their names when they get married and I’m really happy about it. Why should I? Am I my husbands property or is he mine? For us spanish women it would be really weird to be called differently, it’s like losing our identity somehow and I still don’t know why in the rest of the countries either the husband or the wife has to change their surname when they marry. At least they should have the option not to do it. Every spanish has two surnames also, the first surname comes from the father (it was tradition that this one comes first, but now they allways ask and you can choose) and the second surname is the first from the mother. This is also really useful because if one of your parents has a really common surname, you can allways put the other one first. It’s also more difficult that two people have exactly the same combination of name-surname-surname.

  • M

    I’m female and my husband took on my last name when we married. If you guys have any questions you’d like answered for writing on the topic drop me an email and I’d be happy to help.

    It’s always cool to see discussion of the concept in the hypotheticals. I’ve had plenty of discussions with friends about how each of us decided what to do with family unit names, spouse last names and kid last names, and I’ve read a lot of discussion about it but this is the first time I’ve read a discussion between two people (whom I don’t know) talking through first reactions to the concept of a man taking his wife’s name. Thanks for sharing.

  • So my perspective- I don’t see the need to do either. Why does anyone have to change their name? As a society we put way too much emphasis on marriage as a life changing experience and so on. Which it should not be.