Should You Keep Your Surname When You Marry?

By Anne Mihelakos

What’s in a name? Well, your identity, for starters — you’ve spent your whole life “making a name for yourself.” That’s why changing your name after marriage isn’t necessarily easy. The good news is that brides today have many options.

Keep Your Name
Can’t let go? Keeping your own name means you’ll avoid the hassle of alerting everyone you know to the change. On the flip side, dealing with traditional in-laws who don’t understand your reluctance to take their name won’t be so simple.

Take His Name
Taking your husband’s name is the most traditional option. Be prepared to receive twice as much junk mail — mailing lists won’t know you’re the same person. But everyone else will figure it out, and you’ll avoid confusion when you have kids.

Take His Name (Sort Of)
You could use your husband’s name legally and socially but continue to use your own for business purposes; alternatively, you could keep your own name legally and professionally but use his in social situations.

Take Both
Or you could decide to keep both names and hyphenate them. If both names work well together, then this could be an option. It gets trickier if the names don’ work together or they have already been hyphenated; this then gets a bit much.

This is all great in theory, but in practice what do brides have to say?

I took up my husband’s surname. It gave me an added feeling of union, but it’s not essential.

I don’t see why I should have to change my name to his. This is who I am and everything I have achieved has been in my name so why change it? Why do WOMEN have to change for the men? I know its all tradition, but tradition isn’t really relevant in this day and age, it’s only because we live in such a patriarchal society that this occurs.

I don’t believe in changing my name as it is my identity, something I will retain – obviously – throughout our marriage. Also, I don’t feel the need to change my name to prove my commitment, or feel any deeper commitment – that is something emotional and spiritual and unrelated to name changing. I must also admit there is also the feminist in me that baulks at the idea that traditionally women changed their name to a man’s as she became, legally, another one of his chattel’s along with the cow and horse (Obviously not suggesting this is relevant these days…!)

Anyway, despite my moral high horse, I encountered problems when I discovered my other half did not feel the same and wanted us to have the same name. I made a flippant remark that if he felt that strongly about it he could change his to mine (nothing legally stopping him). From there we came to a compromise that we would both change our names and hyphenate both our surnames. A good compromise to start our marriage, I get to keep my name whilst he ensures we both have the same name.

I would never change my name. I now attach great importance to it. Besides, my parents did all the hard work and I feel as though I am giving that credit to some other family by changing my name. We have had this discussion and he would never expect me to. I personally don’t feel the need to be unified under a name. I did not change my name. I am in two minds about this. Sometimes I feel as though I should change it because it would make me feel like it was more of a union…but then other times I think we have no boys in the family and if I do not carry on the family name who will?

The problem is that my surname which is hyphenated has come to an end – there are no males to carry on our name. It’s very sad as I am very proud of my name and it has a lot of history. So when I marry my man one day but what do I do?? I really like his surname and would feel kind of honoured to take it (soooo traditional I know!)

I’ve kept my surname, I’ve also known men who have taken their wife’s surname. The winner though, goes to a friend who, upon realising her maternal grandmother (her maiden name) was the last in the family line with that name, the bride and groom both changed their names to hers. It was a beautiful gesture.

I get REALLY riled up when people question me on my decision to change my name. They say things like, you’ve lost your identity – Sorry?? ****. My identity is in my personality, my values, my memories and experiences, my upbringing – and my surname is only a small part of that. And losing the connection with my family? That makes no sense to me. I have a wonderful family, which after my wedding doubled in size. I feel a connection with ALL of them, and there are 50 different surnames within my family group. Some people choose not to change their name, and that is entirely their choice and I have no problem with it. I have chosen TO change my name, and people should, in return, have no problem with that, either. Don’t let anybody pressure you into a decision one way or the other.

“I can’t decide. I don’t feel especially loyal to my existing ‘family’ name/identity (after all, my grandparents came from 4 different families, but only 1 of their surnames has been passed down to me). It’s more that I like my first name plus surname combination as it is. Megan M****. It’s has symmetry and style. On the other hand, we’re making a new family together and it makes sense to me that everyone in a family should have the same surname. And I don’t want to go into marriage marking out all the things I *refuse* to give up or compromise on.” “I am reluctant to give up my current surname, especially at work where people know me as that. However, I like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and for any kids to have parents with the same name (it feels more like a family). So … I’m thinking of doing the Hollywood thing and retaining my surname but adding his surname, like Joanne Whalley Kilmer.”

“I changed my name because I wanted to seal our union, I wanted to prove not only to him but to everyone that I am 100% devoted to him and that we share everything. I knew that it was a big thing for his dad though, not that he is old fashioned or anything like that, but I know that it means a lot to him that I would choose to have their name and really make myself a part of their family. But I did not come to this decision lightly. I did want to keep my own name because it is the last thing I have of my dad. My father passed away when I was 5. I never knew my dad and the only thing left was my last name. So for me, this was a huge and significant decision. I felt sad and in some ways I felt that I was ‘letting the team down’ so to speak…but I am sure my dad understands that I finally have a man in my life and I want to devote everything to him and our lives together.”

“After years of swearing that “I’d never change my surname, I built my career on my name, it’s my trade mark, etc etc”…. within 6 months I changed it to my husband’s surname. And it was a personal choice, not my husband’s, or most of his family. My hubby was happy with whatever I wanted to do, it was MY choice. and he respected me & my decisions. (One of the reasons why I married him – awwww). Funny thing though, my brother in law insisted that his (now) wife change her last name to his when they got married.”

“I am the youngest of 5 kids. 4 women, and 1 (gay) son, who is evidently not going to get married and have children. Therefore I feel some sort of obligation to retain my surname and pass it on to my children; the likelihood of our family name carrying on further than us is very slim.”

“I would like to take my husbands name, and be called Mrs. I think it’s just another (traditional) way to show your commitment to the world. (and there’s nothing wrong with tradition) Mainly I’d like to take his name so the WHOLE family has the same last name. Yes I did accomplish and experience things with my current name. . . but just because I change my surname. . . it doesn’t erase those things. It just adds something else to my history. In addition, I have some “ideas” and family traditions that I would like upheld from my side of the family, and are essentially non negotiable. . . it’s sort of like a compromise.”

And what do Grooms think about all of this?

“A friend of my wife was told that changing her name was “not negotiable”. A shame, as she did have a lovely surname. I wasn’t fussed whether my wife changed her name or not. I saw it from my point of view…how I would feel to change my identity all of a sudden. It would be weird! .So I never bought it up as it wasn’t an issue. I was surprised that within a month or so of getting married she decided to change her drivers license and open joint bank accounts. She really enjoyed it. But, she is still her “old self” at work. And everything is working just fine for her. Funny thing is when I call her at her office and I speak to her secretaries, I still ask for her using her old name. Three years of habit is hard to break!”

“When I get married, I would want my wife to keep her surname. Personally, I don’t see any reason why she should have to change her surname to mine when we get married anyway. It’s not like I’d own her or anything.”

“If my future wife insists on keeping her last name, then I’d have to suck it in and take hers because I just like a bit of identity with families.”

Anne Mihelakos is the owner of True Bride, a wedding site and your ‘Ultimate Wedding Partner’, providing Australian couples with fantastic wedding planning tools. This wedding web site has one of the most comprehensive wedding directories of wedding suppliers across Australia. For more information, visit the website