One of the first things asked of a new bride is usually ‘so will you take his name?’ This simple question can bring on a whole range of sometimes unexpected emptions. The excitement of becoming a new person – a bride, a wife. Resentment that you have to be the one to change names, why can’t men be the ones that have to go through this pain! Loss that a part of your identity is gone, after all, you have been known by your maiden name your whole life and now it’s being disconnected from you. Perhaps even curious about making a new name, if you have to change names, why not inconvenience your partner to change names too and both more forward with your own name that is uniquely the both of you.
While modern women can freely choose to do whatever they want with their name, there is also a whole range of guilt and justification that goes on in the background. If you don’t change names will people judge your commitment to the relationship? Or will you be considered stubborn? Does your career really justify the necessity to keep your name? On the other hand if you change names are you letting go of your past too easily? Will you still have a strong connection to your reputation? You can be darned if you do and darned if you don’t!
It may feel like everyone has their own opinions about what you should or shouldn’t do, but ultimately the decision is yours, or mostly yours to make. Your husband may have particularly strong views to be considered too. Ultimately you can do what you feel is best for you and don’t feel you need to justify your reason for changing or not changing names to anyone else.
Many people are surprised that tradition is back with more women choosing to take their husband’s name now that in the 80’s or 90’s. Some researchers say this marks a stronger belief in marriage and family values. It is also believed that women feel less of a need to make a statement by retaining her name. Gen X and Y brides who are now walking down the aisle have always grown up as equals. They have never known discrimination in the workplace, no career is out of bounds, and there is less of a need to make a statement about equality. While the population is less likely to get married, those that walk down the aisle have stronger views about marriage and the level of commitment required, particularly as young couples are more likely to be from broken families themselves. Instead of asserting individuality by refusing to take their husband’s name, young brides may be more likely to take his name as a sign of commitment to their new family.
For the few that decide to stick by their current name after marriage, there tends to be a practical reason for this, as opposed to making a statement for statement’s sake. The disconnect to referrals, a career or a body of work that has been established under a bride’s maiden name could potentially cost thousands of dollars in lost opportunity. Academics, lawyers, business owners and entertainment personalities all stand to lose more than their name if they make the switch. For some, changing names is a risk in rebranding.
Occasionally women who cite professional reasons for changing names often hold onto their maiden name for just a few more years. The arrival of a new family often prompts a rethink of what a name means. Some women who take a few years off work decide not to go back into the same career, or their career may seem secondary to their new family, so holding onto a name from a previous life seems less important that defining their role in the children’s life. Many women feel the frustration at the school gates when it’s observed that she has a different name from her children. Is she a partner, a friend, a relative? A name change later in the relationship can put all those questions to aside. Sharing the same name clearly defines her position in the family unit.
Having a double-barrelled surname or hyphenated surname was once seen as the best of both worlds and was particularly popular in the 80’s and 90’s. The popularity of joint names has been on a steady slide since the 90’s as it’s now seen as neither committed nor individual. Children would usually only take the husband’s name, leaving mum’s long winded name out there on its own. The double barrelled name would not be carried on so its significance is questionable. If a woman really needs to keep an association with her maiden name it’s acceptable just to keep using it, there’s no great advantage in tacking on another name. It also makes it difficult to know how to address a couple.
Ultimately every bride will have a few nerves in the great name change debate and strong opinions of her own. Most will go onto take their husband’s name and stop using their maiden name and it may feel strange for a few weeks or months as you get used to the sound of a new moniker. At some point after the wedding you will probably make the realization that it’s really just a name. The commitment you make to a future together is so much more important that how you decide to label yourselves.
When the time comes to change names it’s up to you to notify all the organisations where you hold an account or membership of your new name. The typical bride will have around 15 organisations to notify and it can be a time consuming and tedious task. The NameSwitch name change service can save you hours of ringing around, getting forms and writing letters as they provide ready to send name change notifications in your name. If after your wedding you can’t be bothered with any more research, list making or time consuming tasks sign up for a NameSwitch name change package and let them do all the hard work for you.
Find more great advice on our Wedding Planning pages!