Taking the Man’s Name: Do I? or Don’t I?

I consider myself to be a flexible, tolerant and open- minded person, but when it comes to the taking of names upon marriage I am a traditionalist.  I wanted to take my husband’s name.  Not only because I love him, but because I wanted people to know that we were in fact married.  There are lots of other options, let’s take a look at some.

1. The man taking the woman’s name.  Not too common, and most states do not allow this to happen freely.  The woman can change her name with the signing of the marriage license, but the man needs to go through the court system like anyone else wanting a legal name change.  There have been numerous lawsuits to try and get this law changed, and according to Wikipedia, only California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota allow men to change their name at the time of marriage.

2. Hyphenating by one or both people.  This is more popular, but I find it very confusing.  Inconsistent use of a hyphenated name can cause lots of legal problems.  And what happens to the name of any future kids?  If you have a daughter who then gets married, will her new name now need 2 hyphens?

3.  Choosing a brand new name.  Some people forego both current last names, and choose something entirely different.  This choice seems kind of hollow to me.  A random name has no history or connection to either of the people, and you will forever be referring to the man as, “You know… John Brown.  He used to called be John Jones.”

4.  The woman keeps her maiden name.  I support this option, especially for women in the medical field or those with very public careers.  But again, there is confusion on the naming of the kids.  And does the woman want to be the only one in the family with a different last name?  In Italy, the woman keeps her maiden name according to all legal records.  But it is still common to be referred to by the husband’s name.  .

Is taking the man’s name an increasingly outdated social tradition?  What have you chosen to do, and why?

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2 responses to “Taking the Man’s Name: Do I? or Don’t I?

  1. Jenn

    Yeah- this was a quandry for me as I held a couple of licenses in the medical field as you noted. The easiest thing would have been for me to keep my maiden name and for a moment I almost did. Then Chris mentioned the hyphenation of both our names and the legal issue with men changing names turned out to be a pain in the butt in Colorado and again with licenses.
    My ex-husband was going to take my name previously, but being a teacher it would have raised flags for state licensure.
    WTH? I don’t get why it matters one way or another with the government except it’s yet another claw in a still male dominated planet that pays us girls 80 cents to the buck.
    In the end, like Coreen, it mattered to my hubby and in turn my love was great enough to share his name. Although oddly it’s not really his geneal family’s last name either. That’s a whole other story..

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