You’re Married—Should You Change Your Name?

Brittany Foster | June 12, 2014

Wedding Aisle

It’s wedding season again, and that means beautiful flowers, dashing couples, and snow-white gowns. So much time goes into a planning a wedding, from invitation design to seating arrangements. But how much thought goes into what happens after?

As a couple, the question of changing a name may not come up before you say ‘I do”, but it will likely come up afterwards. You may even receive checks as wedding gifts that are made out to you based on the assumption that you have changed your name already. Discussing your potential name change with friends, family, and even your spouse can be touchy, but ultimately, the decision to change your name is your own.

If you are willing to explore the option of changing your name, there are a variety of choices for you to look into. It’s no longer the cut-and-dry case of the bride changing her given name to the groom’s. Now many couples are embracing new and unique alternatives.

In this post, we’ll talk about some of the popular choices for name changes, how each will affect your life, what you should think about before you decide on a definite change, and what you need to remember after you have made your decision.

Name Change Options

Keep your surname. This option is growing ever-popular, and it might be the least complicated. If you both know that you are keeping your own last names, there is no reason to stress over what you should do.

  • Pros: You don’t have to go through the name change process and it won’t affect you professionally.
  • Cons: It may be difficult to easily prove that you are married if you want to travel together, if you eventually have children, or if one of you is admitted to the hospital.

Change your name to your spouse’s. This is the most traditional option, and usually a bride would change her name to that of her husband’s, but that’s no longer always the case. Some adventurous grooms are taking on the last names of their wives, and same-sex couples are making their own traditions.

  • Pros: It’s romantic, common, and generally what one partner is expected to do. It makes it easier if you have children, travel together, or have any medical issues.
  • Cons: If you have built yourself a professional reputation using your surname, changing it may cause confusion and loss of reputation and/or profit.

Hyphenate both names. This is a common solution to the name change issue. Either one partner, or both, can choose to hyphenate their last name with their partner’s.

  • Pros: It’s an easy solution that can please both parties and their families. If you have a professional reputation, people will still be able to find you.
  • Cons: Hyphenating your names could result in a long, awkward, and complicated last name. It is likely that if you have children, they may not keep both names for themselves or for their children.

Combine your names. This a creative and interesting approach that adds a new level of unity to you and your spouse’s relationship.

Example: If you have A. Miller and S. MacDonald, MacMiller might be the surname for you and your spouse.

  • Pros: It adds to the feeling of having a “family unit”, and it keeps one of you from feeling bitter about having to change your name. It literally and symbolically represents that you have merged your families together.
  • Cons: It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone in your life. Not only will you have to change it legally, you will also have to explain it to everyone you know.

Keep your surname professionally. Sometimes, the only reason for keeping your surname is that you have built your career or business around it. If you want to have a professional identity that is separate from your married identity, this may be the way to go.

  • Pros: It won’t affect your professional life, and it will be an easy adjustment to make in your family life. You will have the same last name as any children that you have with your partner.
  • Cons: You will have two names and it might be difficult to keep track of. Legally, you will have a married name, and professionally you will have your original name. Explaining this to employers, clients, and business acquaintances may become tedious.

Make your surname your middle name. If you want the best of both worlds, make your last name your middle name and take your partner’s name as your last.

Example: A. Jesse Miller marries S. MacDonald. A. Jesse Miller would become A. Miller MacDonald or A. Jesse Miller MacDonald, either replacing their middle name or adding another.

  • Pros: It’s an easy way to add your partner’s name to yours without changing your professional or personal names.
  • Cons: Some last names just don’t make nice middle names, and it can end up giving you quite a long moniker.

Use each other’s last names as middle names. This is quite romantic and it doesn’t change your professional name. You would both keep your own surnames, but take on a part of the other person’s name as well.

Example: A. Jesse Miller marries S. Darcy MacDonald. A. Jesse Miller would become either A. MacDonald Miller or A. Jesse MacDonald Miller. S. Darcy MacDonald would become either S. Miller MacDonald or S. Darcy Miller MacDonald.

  • Pros: It’s a nice way to include your spouse’s name without changing too many aspects of your personal identity or professional life.
  • Cons: Again, some last names make for unpleasant middle names and lengthy signatures.

Create a last name. Make up a last name that works for both of you. Base it on shared interests, a mix of the letters in your current surnames, or even take one from an influential ancestor from long ago.

  • Pros: If you’re both willing, it’s a creative and individualistic way to set your family apart in its own group.
  • Cons: Friends and family will either love it or hate it. People will be confused and may not approve.
What If We Have Kids?

No matter what name you choose to keep or to take, you need to be aware of what effect that name will have on your family, including any future children that you may have. What might work for you as a couple may not work as well for a family.

If you keep your last name, whose name will you give to your children? If you hyphenate, they may not keep it that way when they decide to get married and/or have children. The same goes for any other creations or combinations.

On the other hand, if you have a different last name from your children, that can make travel, any hospital visits, and even school pick-ups more of a hassle than they would be if you had the same surname.

You need to weigh the options and think about your decision seriously. What you change your name to can affect not only yourself, but future generations of your family. Though it might seem cute and clever to you may cause your kids to feel embarrassed or your family to feel that you are being disrespectful.

If you do end up getting a divorce or separation, think about if you would want to keep the name that you chose when you got married. Remember that even though you may no longer want to keep it, any children that you have might need to.

How Much Will It Cost?

What you change your name to can also affect the cost of going through the name change process. In some places, all you will need to change your name is your marriage certificate. In others, and depending on what you are changing it to, one or both of you may need to actually go through the entire legal name change process—which can be a lot longer and sometimes more expensive than just changing your surname to that of your spouse.

The fees for changing your name will vary depending on where you live.

What Do I Need To Change?
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License
  • Health Cards
  • Passport
  • Banking Information
  • Insurance, Bills, Utilities
  • Social Media, Email, Blog

And don’t forget to inform your doctor, landlord, employer, and the post-service.

No matter what you decide to do, remember to choose something that is right for you and your spouse. Ultimately, the name that you choose is one that you will have to live with and it needs to suit both your personality and your beliefs.

If you are curious about how your impending nuptials will affect your legal and financial status, take a look at this guide for more information.

Are you considering a name change after your wedding? Are you going to be traditional or are you going to be unique? Tell us your story in the comments!

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Brittany Foster

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Brittany is an ardent reader, writer, and blogger.
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  1. Pingback: How Marriage Affects Your Legal and Financial Status | LawDepot Blog

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