The Great Name-Changing Debate: Part I

One of the most annoying trends I’ve noticed as I scour the Pinterest universe procrastinating looking for inspiration is the proliferation of wedding paraphernalia advertising the bride’s future name. Things like wedding dress hangers spelling out “Mrs. [his last name]” in hand-fitted wire, or hoodies with the words “Future Mrs …” bedazzled on the back. I can’t help but cringe every time I see them.


And apparently I’m not the only one. Earlier this year, cultural observers and feminists from around the Internet chimed in when Jill Filipovic of The Guardian asked, “why, in 2013, does getting married mean giving up the most basic marker of your identity?”

It’s a valid question, and one that I’ve been asking since I was a child. At the same time, it’s hard for me (with my limited and very skewed network of friends) to get a real sense of broad societal trends like this one. What’s the status on name-taking these days? Are the custom hoodies telling us something?

Yes, according to The Daily Beast and Facebook.

In a recent study, the two organizations “zeroed in on 14 million married females, ranging in age from 20 to 79, who are currently active on Facebook and wed in the United States. From this pool, Facebook determined that 65 percent of women in their 20s and 30s changed their name in marriage. The percentage continues to rise for women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—to 68 percent, 75 percent, and then 80 percent.”

At the same time, the number of people who judge women for not taking their husband’s last names is also increasing.

I’m planning to write more about the criticisms of name-changing (and about my own plans not to) later, but today I want to take a look at a few of the reasons women do choose to adopt their husband’s moniker.

For some, the idea of taking a new name is a given. Like Meghan Leimenstoll , who told The Daily Beast, “I always knew I wanted to change my last name when I got married. To me it’s part of the transition from ‘me’ to ‘we’ … I was proud to take my husband’s last name.”

For other women, it represents a new beginning, a turning point in their life, or an opportunity to rid themselves of a maiden names that represents a fathers who wasn’t there for them or mistreated them in some way. Totally understandable.

But there are those who just find it convenient. Because keeping your own name is a burden, apparently.

The Daily Beast reports: “Prof. Donna L. Lillian, who teaches a class at Appalachian State College on the topic, has been studying the trend since the 1980s. While Lillian believes a confluence of factors have contributed to the change, she sees the increasing number of young brides taking their husband’s last name as a product of watching their mothers’ struggle with hyphens and dual identities.”

For one bride, the hassle of keeping her own name just seemed to be too much: “I know people who are married and have two different last names, or a hyphenated one, and I think it’s weird,” she says. “I think it would be annoying to constantly correct people if for some reason I decided not to take my husband’s name.”

For some reason, this last reason really upsets me. Maybe it’s because my mother kept her name and I was raised with a hyphen and I think I turned out just fine. But maybe it’s because I have a problem with the argument that since women have to struggle to justify their independent identities after marriage, it’s easiest just to give them up completely. What does it say about a society that makes it so hard for women to justify a choice to stay who they’ve been since birth?

More on that to come.



6 thoughts on “The Great Name-Changing Debate: Part I

  1. I’m hyphenated, and it’s always been a hassle. I didn’t want to just keep my name or lose it, however. I told my husband he should hyphenate. He would not… Oh well.

  2. How about people who are really excited to get upgraded in alphabetical order? This girl is stoked about the possibility of not being called last at her next graduation ceremony.

    (All of my reasons aren’t that trivial, but every woman has the right to choose, right? Don’t judge!)

    • Haha. Totally legitimate. I don’t judge the people that change their names. Everyone can have their own reasons. I just hate the expectation that I’ll change mine just because I’m getting married.

    • Not gonna lie, the possibility of going from “W” to “B” is one of the main reasons I’d even consider changing my name.

  3. I took my wife’s last name too. I feel like it’s actually more subversive than keeping our own as a lesbian couple, and also, I didn’t want my dad’s last name. We wanted the same last name and chose hers out of the two, but we were both open to either last name. Still, I feel judged by some about the decision. Still happy about it though.

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