Will You Change Your Name When You Get Married?

by Danielle Tate

Amid the thousands of decisions that those who are about to get married face — from picking out caterers to deciding on seating arrangements— there is one decision that is often not discussed: will you be changing your name? The question of whether you will take your husband's last name or keep your own after you get married is a big one, with long-term ramifications for your personal and professional life. It’s a socially loaded question, as well, but sadly this does not mean you won’t be bombarded with questions about your future title from your gossipy Great Aunt Suzy or your well-meaning mother-in-law. They're not trying to be rude — sure, they may be prying, but they may also simply be trying to determine if you will have new initials during your honeymoon.

When you're trying to make a decision about whether or not you change your name, you should take some time to explore your feelings about the idea as well as your fiancés, so you are prepared with a joint answer should either (or both) of you be cornered on the topic. A united front on the issue of name changes will close the door to “helpful suggestions” and mass family speculation — whereas avoiding the topic completely may lead to your first newlywed argument ( as well as a slew of incorrectly monogrammed wedding gifts).

Will you take your spouse’s name or some combination of your names after you say “I do”? The choice is only yours to make, of course, but the name change website has analyzed data from over 300,000 brides, and determined that there are five key factors that heavily influence the choice.

1. Your Age

A bride’s age at the time of her marriage is often a key factor in her name change decision. According to a 2009 study, older brides are 20 percent more likely to keep their maiden names in some capacity after marriage, compared to their younger counterparts.

2. Your Siblings

Women who have at least one brother may be less likely to carry on their family name. They report that knowing that their male sibling will pass his last name on to his children makes them more likely to consider changing their names after marriage.

3. Your Job

Jobs that involve name recognition and customer or patient referrals typically influence women to keep their maiden names in some way, according to a 1985 study on marital surname choice. Whether they opt to not change their name at all, hyphenate, take two last names or transform their maiden name to their middle name, doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and journalists usually don’t drop their maiden names completely after marrying.

4. Your Level Of Education

The more formal education a woman has received prior to her marriage, the more likely she is to keep her maiden name. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense — the time, effort and money required to pursue an advanced degree serves as a strong motivation for holding onto the name that you earned your degrees under. The amount of time and hassle it would take to change the name on the degree(s) and professional licenses is also a factor.

5. Your Future Children

Whether or not your plans for the future include adding some munchkins to the family can make a big impact on name change decisions. In her essay "The Maiden Name Debate," author Katie Roiphe writes that women who plan on becoming mothers after marriage have more reasons to change their names. Many want to share the same name with their future family, and wish to avoid the problems that have different last names can create at schools and daycare facilities.

The deciding factor in your name change decision, of course, is your personal style and mindset. You can be a card-carrying feminist and still want to change your last name for the romance factor or because you’re tired of spelling it every time you make a restaurant reservation; similarly, you can want to keep your last name for totally non-political reasons. And today, we have many more options than women had in the past — today's brides can keep their maiden name, hyphenating both their and their spouse's last names, take two last names without the hyphen, use their maiden name as a middle name, or take their spouse’s last name.

But the real important factor to consider is what name choice makes you happy. Your identity is yours to create and refine as you see fit. Just remember that name changes are legal and binding (and a pain to change back), so be sure that you’re sure before making the switch to Mrs.

Images: John Waire; by_Ricky/Flickr; Giphy (5)