Though some researchers estimate that up to 92 percent of American women change their last names when they get married, there's been a lot of discussion (and some controversy) over the tradition in recent years. Polls have examined why the practice endures, and think pieces have tried to tease apart what it means when you choose to take your partner's name after marriage in our modern era. Does taking a husband's name automatically mean that you're conservative? Are women who change their name trying to make a statement to society? Can you change your name and still consider yourself a feminist?
The very act of changing or keeping your name after marriage has been painted by many an op-ed as taking a stance in some greater culture war. But when Bustle talked to over 50 different married women about why they changed their surnames after they got married, we found that the real-life reasons that women change their names are far more complex and diverse than anything you'd read in a trend piece — much like the reasons that the women we spoke to who didn't change their names when they got married offered. Women's reasons for taking their husband's names fell all over the map — from being unattached to their original surname, to feeling that it made them more connected to their children and spouse, to using it as a way to signal a new life phase.
Based on this survey, it seems that there's no single, unifying reason why women do or don't change their names — and that their decisions are usually as unique and personal as their marriage itself. Read on and find out why 27 different women embraced married life with a new name.
1. Kacey, 32
"I'm pretty traditional and liked becoming a new person once I got married. It was like shedding my old skin and leaving that self behind. It gave me a fresh start."
2. Rachel, 26
"It took me a lot of time to decide but honestly, I liked the idea of being a little team with the same last name. It's so sweet. I was afraid it would hurt my career, but the Internet makes it so much easier to just add you maiden name to things, too."
3. Emma, 28
"Because it was important to my husband-to-be, and because my mother changed her name when she got married, yet still retained her maiden-name pride. It was a hard decision for me — if my name was shorter, I would probably have hyphenated."
4. Anne, 59
"My maiden name was too long and difficult to spell."
5. Ana, 27
"I changed it for tradition. I think it shows unity for us as a new couple. I also see it making our relationship clear if we ever have children."
6. Pamela, 29
"I changed my name to show I was serious about the marriage (since I had previously been divorced), and in recognition of the fact that my now-husband was assuming a bunch of responsibility for me."
7. Katie, 32
"My husband didn't feel strongly about whether I should change my name, and I was on the fence, too. But I realized that once I had kids, I would want our family unit to share a name.
Plus, we are an interracial couple and somehow, it seemed like having a family name that we all shared would be important, just to show that we belong to each other (especially if my kids look nothing like me). Our last names would have been ridiculous hyphenated, so I went for it and took my husband's Ethiopian last name. Except for getting used to having to spell my name carefully for people over the phone, it's been a super easy adjustment."
8. Robin, 56
"It was the thing to do in the '80s."
9. Olivia, 28
"To symbolize the shedding of my family name I grew up with, and creating a new family with my husband. When we have children, they will take on this last name too; we will be a family unit under the same name (just as I grew up). I'm not fundamentally different just because I changed my name — any more than I would be if I went blonde."
10. Jessica, 25
"We both changed it as a compromise. His last name was meaningless to him, seeing as he had really been taken care of by unrelated parents; we thought about taking my name, but deciding meeting in the middle was the best option. We both changed our name to the name of his 'adoptive' parents, though he wasn't technically adopted."
11. Kirsta, 30
"There's something so special about becoming a wife and taking your husband's last name. I didn't feel as though it changed my identity, or I gave up being the same woman I always was. It solidified that we are starting off together as a family and beginning this next chapter. There's an empowering feeling to be that tied to someone and the love you share."
12. Lea, 48
"I did it so that when we had children, we'd all have the same name."
13. Karia, 31
"I struggled with this a lot, which surprised me. In the end, I decided to change it because I wanted to feel like we were a family and the name seemed a real symbol of that."
14. Lisa, 30
"Tradition; so I would share a name with my kids; simplicity. I'm glad I changed my name, but the process sucked (DMVs are staffed by morons)."
15. Melissa, 27
"It was never even a question about whether or not I'd change my name when I got married... I loved the idea of taking his! My parents did it, his parents did it — I liked the tradition and wanted to follow suit. There was something so romantic about taking his name and really, truly becoming family in that big way.
Honestly, it's the only thing that REALLY changed since getting married... and it has been the hardest to get used to. Like all the work I did under my maiden name is just gone and I'm having to reinvent myself. Totally dramatic, but I can't get used to it yet!"
16. Megan, 28
"My husband's last name is from his stepfather, who he considers to 100 percent be his dad. My husband chose to take his stepdad's name when he was legally adopted, so the name means a lot to him."
17. Megan, 33
"I didn't change it until I got pregnant after a year, and wanted to have the same last name as my son."
18. JJ, 32
"I'm traditional and conservative. I am proud to share and carry his last name. I do not believe that it strips me of my identity. I planned on starting a family with my husband, and having separate or hyphenated last names is confusing. And full disclosure, his last name was way better than mine."
19. Anna, 32
"It meant more to our families than it did to us, but it was a nod to tradition that I was willing to give and I don't mind the symbolism it carries (that we have officially become a family)."
20. Shira, 29
"To make my husband happy. Plus, I felt no connection to my maiden name, due to hatred of my father."
21. Elizabeth, 29
"For our future children (but I still haven't changed it in the office)."
22. Hartley, 29
"I'm not super traditional in most aspects of my life, but I felt like this was an important step, personally. My husband was happy when I told him I was going to do it, but never put any pressure on me, as his mother kept her maiden name when his parents got married — I think both options seemed 'normal' in his mind. My identity comes from so much more than just my name, so I didn't feel I was taking away from who I am as a person by taking his name. I also just liked the idea of our lives merging, and beginning this next part of my life with our shared last name."
23. Kelly, 32
"I felt I had to, because I wanted to share a name with my children."
24. Bianca, 33
"Because I hate my last name — it's a homophone of a word that means 'disgusting.' Other kids made fun of it in grade school. This seemed like a good time to get rid of it."
25. Marie, 31
"I did it for my husband, actually. I could have gone either way, but it meant a lot to him that we share a family name, so I went for it. I ended up making my maiden name into my middle name and then taking the new last name, which was a really good choice for me. I like that my maiden name is still a part of my identity but that I have a last name that matches my husband (and the baby we now have)."
26. Alice, 27
"I changed my name because I liked the idea of being an obvious family unit with my husband, and (in the future) our kids. I like the notion of being 'The Walkers.' We'd been together for years before we got married, so it also helped make being actually married more real."
27. Erin, 33
"My maiden name was long, hard to spell, and hard to pronounce; my married name is much simpler. My husband also pointed out that it would be much easier once we had kids to all have the same last name. I was moving cities and switching jobs, and if I was going to change my name, it was a good time to do so. I am an attorney and, professionally, use my full name (maiden name included) on all pleadings, letters, e-mail signatures, etc."
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