In between booking a caterer, finding a florist, and mini roadtrips to visit venues—you might lose sight of what happens after the wedding. No, we don’t mean opening all those presents or taking a honeymoon. If you’ve thought about changing your last name, most of the heavy lifting takes place after you say, “I do.” You can certainly plan ahead by requesting certified copies of your marriage license, and making a list of all the services and companies that have your maiden name on file. But you can’t update your name until your marriage is official.
If you’re on the fence about changing your last name—you’re in good company! About 20% of women married in recent years kept their maiden name, and another 10% compromised with a blended or hyphenated surname. Those numbers are on the rise, which isn’t surprising considering the history of women’s rights. Not that long ago in 1970, a husband’s last name was required to register to vote or conduct banking. But thankfully, changing your last name doesn’t hold the same legal power it did just a few decades ago. In present day, the decision has largely become a personal one.
There are valid reasons for changing your last name—and for keeping it the same. The good news is that you can always change your mind down the road; it might just cost a little more time and money. Here are some compelling pros and cons of changing your last name.
Pros of Changing Your Last Name
Cohesive Family Unit
There’s something comforting and a little romantic about taking your soon-to-be’s last name. Historically speaking, it didn’t always mean that. Women took their husband’s surname to symbolize transfer of ownership from father to husband. But you, a modern-day spouse, have complete freedom to choose for yourself. Using that freedom to change your last name demonstrates your commitment in an official way, and symbolizes a new beginning.
Monogramming Made Easy
For reasons a little less romantic, having the same last name makes monogramming and personalization easier. A front door sign that says “Welcome to the Jones’s” doesn’t make much sense if only one person has Jones for a last name. Plus, wedding guests will assume someone is changing their name, and you may receive monogrammed gifts for the big day. These may be awkward—or impossible—to return, especially if they’re not part of your registry. Changing your last name opens the door for all kinds of home decorations!
Easier for Children
While it might not directly bother your children that you have different last names, it could bother your spouse. Without changing your last name, you will have to decide whose surname your children will have. This conversation may be uncomfortable and emotional if one of you feels strongly about it. And once the kids come, you (or your spouse!) may feel like the odd one out with a mismatching last name. So changing your last name avoids any awkward conversations or regrets down the road.
Verification Is Less Complicated
Practically speaking, it’s easier to confirm that the two of you are, in fact, married. If you travel regularly as a couple, changing your last name will make all those details easier—especially over the phone and for international travel. Medical care shouldn’t be an issue, especially if you’re visiting your regular doctor. But having different last names could cause a delay in a healthcare professional providing medical information to you in an emergency situation.
Cons of Changing Your Last Name
Time Is Money
And money is money, too. Changing your last name can cost a few hundred dollars and hours of paperwork. Many states charge to process the request, and then you pay the DMV to update your license, and the post office to change your passport. Most of your name-change requests will be free, like credit card companies or utility bills. But they will require proof—like a valid driver’s license or passport. So you can’t go and change everything in one afternoon. You have to start with the government IDs before you can update your less-official accounts.
Lose Your Identity
You might think your last name is boring, or get sick of everyone mispronouncing it. But it’s still a part of your identity, and it can be hard to part with that. We all know you don’t change as a person when you’re married, but changing a name you’ve had your whole life can feel significant. Consider keeping your last name if you have strong ties or nicknames associated with your last name.
Stops the Family Line
Again, there isn’t as much emphasis on last names anymore. Previously, having a son meant a continued family tree because it was assumed the woman would take the name. While there are legal documents that determine ownership (and not last names!), our culture still has a strong sense of familial pride. Changing your last name might feel like an insult to your maiden family lineage if there aren’t other children to carry on the name.
Professional Name Changes
If you’re well-established in your career, changing your professional name might be confusing and complicated. Especially if your business name includes your actual name. Any bylines you have will remain in your maiden name, but future publications will use your married name.
But, of course, there’s always room for compromise—especially in marriage! If you want to hold on to your maiden name, use it for your middle name. (Or a second middle name, if you’re attached to your current one.) That way, it’s still part of you, and it will make you easier to identify for professional purposes.
You can also hyphenate your last names, or combine them in a totally new third name. Couples who do this create their own new family equally, so both parties end up changing their last name. And there’s always the option to legally change your last name for convenience—but ask that friends and colleagues still refer to you by your maiden name.
Changing your last name is a decision only you can make. It’s costly and time-consuming—but you create a special union with your new spouse. The good news is you can change your mind at any time, and you can even create a whole new name if you’d like. (Just be sure to talk that one over with your fiancé first!)
What stories have you heard about couples changing their last names? We’d love to hear them!