Why we changed our names

It was our first argument, sitting in my little yellow Toyota Starlett. I can remember it vividly. We were outside my university, we had happened upon the topic unexpectedly and I was already late for class. I always had to park on a hill facing down as the engine of my beloved piece-of-crap would only fire with a push-start and as I stared glumly out the window I imagined rolling it out of the space without Tim around to egg it on. The engine really responded to a bit of verbal encouragement. (It was a well rubbish car – once I left it parked in the middle of the city while I went out for dinner. I came back to find I’d left the door unlocked. And wide open. And with the keys in the ignition. It was so rubbish it couldn’t even get pinched.)

We’d only known each other for five months but we were already engaged and planning a shotgun wedding. We barely knew each other; it shouldn’t have been a shock that we didn’t know where each other stood on hugely important matters like whether I’d take his name.

I rushed off to class with firey words pinging around my head. There was no WAY I was giving up my name and taking another! But Tim had made it clear he could never marry someone who didn’t.

It was an agonising few days. We’d thrown everything to the wind, committing to spend our lives with each other forever. It was a wild and delirious kind of love but we were now stuck on this most mundane detail.

But for us, it was a big thing. I was new to ideas of feminism – that not only are women still not equal in all things and that must be fought for, but that there were some serious structural and systemic reasons for this inequality- and it was clear to me that women taking their husband’s name was not a liberated thing to do. Would the suffragettes change their name? Hell no. So I wasn’t going to let these historical heroes of mine down.

Tim is from a pretty traditional background, and already people who knew me had warned him about my, er, ah, robustness. He was worried that people would think I wore the trousers, that he was subject to my whims when many in his Christian circle were adamant it should be the other way round. (*counts to ten* Don’t even get me started on how wrong religious teaching on female subjugation can be!)

We talked for hours over several evenings and spent each day wondering how we’d reconcile our views.  It was with an enormous sense of relief that a few evenings after our initial barney Tim told me that he now understood my position and agreed that it was unfair that women give up their names and unjust that this was the general expectation. I was elated! WHAT A GUY!

It still took hours to work out what to do. We worried about having two different names- what would we do with our kids? We worried about double barreling- when would it stop? (Would our GreatGreat Grandkids be called Aitken-Read-Smith-Jones-Langley?) Could Tim just take Read? (No.) Could we mesh them? (Hey, Readken doesn’t sound too crackerjacks!) Or maybe just take the name of someone we admire, like Thatcher? (HAHAHA JOKES!!!!)  In the end we felt that boshing them together and BOTH taking it was the only way to respond.: AitkenRead it was!

A few peculiar things happened that first year of marriage.  Tim’s school (he was a teacher) originally tried to tell him he couldn’t change his name and it took some serious persistence to make it happen, which really confirmed just how sexist the world of names can be. We also have different versions on our passport as the NZ one didn’t accept AitkenRead- they insisted on a dash in the middle.

7 years later and many a A-I-T-K-E-N-R-E-A-D conversation later and it just seems utterly natural.  I still get a strange sense of pride when I discuss our name. It is simplistic but I am stoked that people must know how strongly I stand for gender equality and I love that my husband shrugged off convention and opinion to embrace something that was right for us.


I looked like quite a normal bride, but my mum did walk me down the aisle
A recent Facebook report suggests that a third of young women are keeping their name. Although I know that women who take their husband’s name can be feminist too, I reckon this is a BRILLIANT thing for equality.

I am surprised at how little the name-changing tradition is challenged in my generation. I literally know ONE person who has kept their name and NONE who went for a shared new name with their husband. It’s interesting as the majority of my friends and family are ALL strong women and feministy men.

Loads of people think the married name thing is trivial. Sure, equal pay, rape and the rights of women in developing countries probably should take precedence but I’m not one to think that issues need prioritising all the time.  It’s not like we can to tick them off before we move onto the next one – it’s all tangled up.

Names are important and symbolic. Most women have their father’s and will take another man’s name upon marriage. What is this apart from a nod to barbaric historical bonds where a women was the only ever the property of a man? Is it possible that by continuing the tradition we are honouring that oppressive practice?

A few months ago I asked Twitter why strong, feminist women change their name. About 30 women responded. Around a third said they were young at the time and would do differently now, a third said they couldn’t see a good enough reason not to and a third had deeply personal reasons for doing so.

I’m going gently here, because so many of the women I admire and love have taken their husband’s name, and it is clearly (as my Twitter survey, a most scientific measure backs up) an intimate decision that chiefly concerns the bewedded, loved up pair.

But I don’t think it ONLY concerns them. I wonder if there are wider implications. Might it be a leettle bit like walking into the office block of a chocolate company and the door being made out of licorice? (*croons* “Chocolate’s always on my mind… it is always on my mind”) The company SAY they love chocolate but, even though it might not matter that much, their facade gives another impression? Society says “Women are equal! We expect to be treated as such!” but a peep at our envelopes and online accounts show something different. When it requires breaking from tradition perhaps women feel less confident about their equal status?

I think the Facebook research (nearly as scientific as my Twitter study) shows that at least this is s a question being asked. People are discussing it, yeah, most still going with tradition, but that conversation is happening. People will have great and wise reasons for going with their husband’s name and so of course, that is PERFECT, but reasons ARE needed. Rather than just walking down the aisle with the status quo.

Finally, I reckon men could get more involved here. I want to see more of the progressive, liberal Kingdom of Bloke NOT expecting to bestow their name upon women. Imagine if men had to add in their reasoning (much like I do, sticking up for our name-crash upon questioning) for why they both have his name. “Well, I know it’s Old Skool but neither of us fancied being Scrumbledingers…”

What do you reckon? Does it matter? What did you do?

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80 Responses to Why we changed our names

  1. Steph says:

    This is really interesting reading! You’ve reminded me how adamant I was about keeping my name. For years I argued with my OH about it, I was certain that my surname was such a significant part of my identity that I had to keep it. OH eventually dropped the topic and decided not to resist (!) and then a few months before our wedding I completely changed my mind. My situations a bit unusual in that my maiden name was my step fathers name, and all of a sudden I realised I was clinging onto an identity that wasn’t really mine at all. I haven’t spoken to my step father in almost a year now & he has no part in my immediate family. I’m so relieved I allowed myself to consider taking my husbands name. It’s not for everyone, and I completely understand why a woman would feel it necessary to hold onto her surname. But I guess it comes down to how significant the name is to your identity.
    Steph recently posted…The Week That Was: InstagrammedMy Profile

  2. Julie says:

    I love that you combined your last names. I proudly took my husbands last name. I think the sad thing, is that so many of us don’t think twice about the meaning behind taking the husbands name. In marriage and starting a new family, it is that – new! And a new start as family should be an equal combination of both husband and wife. AitkenRead is perfect!

  3. Molly says:

    BRILLIANT blog post! As a woman who did take her husband’s name, it really got me thinking. It wasn’t an immediate decision of mine to change my name to his, we did discuss it at length and I fretted over the right thing to do. For me, the ultimate reason I took his name was that it was already our daughter’s (we were engaged to be married, I didn’t want her to have a double-barrelled name, so I thought it best at the time to go with his name). Me taking his name was my way of us all joining together and having the same name, sounds old-fashioned but it was important to me. That said, I still use my maiden name for work. “Forbes” is on my portfolio, on my showreels and on my Twitter. In fact, I like to keep my married name fairly private, as it gives me a sense of separateness from my “public” self and helps protect my daughter’s identity a little. (That said, I use my married name for Facebook – my main reason for not changing it is that I can’t be bothered with everyone thinking we’ve split up!!) Would I be disappointed if my daughter changed her name down the line? I don’t think I would. But I’d certainly support her to the end if she felt strongly enough about it. x
    Molly recently posted…Birthday presents for a three year oldMy Profile

  4. nina gora says:

    i remember us ranting about this on a train journey back to london from oxford :)

  5. I’ve thought about this a lot, even though I’ve never got to the point of marriage being on the cards. I love my surname – it’s unusual, people notice it and I’ve built my current career reputation while having it. Having a different surname just wouldn’t be ‘me’! I’ve thought about double-barrelling, but it’s such a long surname that it would be tricky to do well, though I’m on the lookout for a Smyth, as Clutterbuck-Smyth has quite the ring to it!

  6. Jem says:

    See I’ve gone one better and just not married my other half. The whole bloody thing is about transferring property from one man to another and that’s not my bag. That’s not to say I wouldn’t marry my other half after all of these years together, but it would have to be something quirkier than your average wedding to pass my feminist standards ;)
    Jem recently posted…5 reasons to go self-hosted with your blogMy Profile

  7. Bridget says:

    Your post flash-backed me straight to the late 70s when I first met the wife of one of my Mum’s teaching colleagues- who had kept her own name. This was an audacious, unprecedentedly radical act for the Home Counties, and it absolutely BLEW MY MIND. I told my friends about her, kept mithering my Mum to invite them over again- just so that I could check. It really was the coolest thing ever. Her surname was particularly lyrical- and his wasn’t- so I got with it on a purely aesthetic level, but I know now that I got something else. As an eight year old I saw the possibility of a world that could set up the very markers of a relationship on a more even keel than the burdensome conventions I saw all around me (and my Dad was pretty ‘good’ for the 70s- his choc ice and chip suppers are the stuff of legend) and that I could/should push for something bigger than becoming Mrs Peter Powell. You’re right: names are important and symbolic; as are rituals and ceremonies- which is probably why I’ve never got round to actually marrying the lovely chap: trying to fashion a service that didn’t bring us both up in hives proved too much despite 13 years to research! I like your solution- it’s the one that both my sisters and a lot of mates have adopted.

  8. Natalie HP says:

    I ended up double barrelling my surname whilst my husband has kept his. I love my surname but I still wanted the “family” feeling of sharing a name. Any kids we have will have his name as I don’t want to inflict a double barrel on them! I already have a fairly non-traditional relationship as I do all the DIY and fixing of things whilst hubs does the cooking and washing up. Our strengths aren’t in the traditional gender roles and that’s fine with us!

  9. JessieD says:

    I spent an age thinking all this through. I come from a ‘complex’ family and frankly retaining the name wasn’t something that I found I cared about, despite my feminist principles. What I wanted was a stable, solid family. One name shared by all of us, a calm ground for my children to grow up on. My husband’s family had a record of putting the ‘right’ thing first, where mine tended to do whatever felt good at the time. It is only in writing this that I realise how liberating it has been to get rid of that old name and start my family anew. Of course I love my old clan, however smashed up they might be, but i don’t need to be identified with them. I think this is a bigger issue than just feminism for those of us from tricky families.

  10. Helen says:

    Interesting one – thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    For us/me, I think it was mainly the pragmatic point about wanting us all to share a name – so something had to change. My now-husband wouldn’t have countenanced changing his – not, I don’t think, on ideological grounds, but just because it would have been too much hassle. And, to be honest, I just don’t feel that my identity’s all that tied up with my name. I changed it for work too – sure, it gives me a bit more reputational challenge, but I’m not a name, and I just don’t feel it carries that much meaning, for me. I never felt owned by my father just because I had his name before (and of course, men also have their father’s names, so this isn’t unique to male ownership of women).
    Still impressed by your version too – and your wedding pictures are lush…
    Helen recently posted…I have doubtsMy Profile

  11. Katy Beale says:

    Interesting reading – particularly the comments it’s inspired!

    I, too, have been shocked (insert shocked face emoticon) at how all my ‘feminist’ friends have taken their husbands names when they married because mostly (a) it’s easier and (b) they want their children to have the same names as them. It’s baffling.

    So many friends (married or otherwise) having children seem to give the child the dad’s surname and the mum’s surname gets slotted in as the middle name (read: no one will ever know about this name unless you are reading their passport).

    I was very fist pumpingly proud of a friend who had a baby recently and the child has her surname and the dad’s surname as a middle name (they are not married).

    My kids have double barrelled for their two different surnames from different fathers. So in fact, we all have different surnames in this house (never really pondered on that one). Go us radicals.
    Katy Beale recently posted…Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening – a moving public art…My Profile

  12. Libs says:

    Yes Yes Yes! Spot on as always

    I haven’t changed my name and my boy never even batted an eyelid. I once asked if he would like to take my name and he responded – “Hell no! -I like my name, it’s mine. Why would either of us want to change our names?”

    Stupidly we thought that was the end of the matter. I’ve been shocked at how grumpy people get at me for being so thoughtless. It really enrages people (mostly my aunts! who insist on sending mail to a fictional Mrs Jamieson) Apparently it’s confusing for people – not my problem. Will upset my fictional kids teachers – not my problem. And is so simple I’m being selfish for not doing it – actual bollocks. its expensive and confusing to change your name on your passport, bank accounts, and whole professional and personal life. Why are only women expected to go through that hassle?

    I honestly think the rage that people show on finding out I had the front to keep my own name shows how sexist the whole system is. If it was equally expected or accepted for men to change their name then it wouldn’t be sexist. As it is it shows clearly the way marriage was linked to ownership of women by men. I choose not to be part of that particular tradition thanks.

  13. Katie says:

    What lovely photos of your wedding day! When I get married I’ll be taking my boyfriend’s surname. I don’t feel particularly attached to mine, and I think it would be nice to be fully part of my new family (in-laws etc.) by having the same name; after all, I’ll always be a part of my current family no matter what.

    Two friends of mine are marrying next year, and choosing a completely new surname. They don’t even care about having the same one! She’s a Dr, he’s a Mr, so I’ve been suggesting classic pairings such as Sherlock and Holmes, or Jekyl and Hyde. I can’t wait to hear what they choose! xx
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  14. Louise says:

    Great post!! I remember being asked at our local toddler group what my new name would be (we were already rather ‘odd’ as our wedding was just us). I replied “oh, I haven’t decided yet”. Talk about a conversation stopper!! I’d never realised that women didn’t spend hours wondering whose name to take :-) In the end I did take my husbands name, mostly for practical reasons (confusing for school, the children, constantly being asked the question) though rather than anything else :-)
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  15. Justin says:

    Given you guys got married sooooo many years before me, I had plenty of time to think about this before meeting Jo. And I came to the decision that it was a really good idea. However, Jo wasn’t keen. I can’t really remember why. But I also think the name change thing is certainly something that can be revisited -even after the wedding. I’ve always wanted to change my Arabic last name to the one my grandfather had before he was made to convert to Islam by his foster parents.

  16. Thanks for this, Lucy! I do love hearing people’s surname stories, especially when they make awesome feminist decisions.

    Ours is a very similar story, partly told here:
    http://sacraparental.com/2013/03/22/the-surname-problem/

    We managed to get to the wedding with no solution, but being married helped, and we figured it out between the vows and the reception :)

    We have gone double-barrelled but without the hyphen (we often have to use a hyphen for medical databases – otherwise it’s hard to find prescriptions!) to just offer a little flexibility for future generations.

    They’re two odd surnames, so it meant we chose a very simple first name for our boy so he won’t have to spell ALL of his names to people (as I do, clearly), but otherwise it has gone very smoothly and we are all very happy with the decision.
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  17. K says:

    Great post. I was always sure that I wouldn’t change my name. It was my name after all, one I’d had for a long time, so why should I change it? But when it came down to it, I did. I realised, after a lot of thought, that my name was not mine, but my father’s. And if it was a choice between having the name of someone I don’t particularly get along with (my father) and my husband’s name, then it was going to be my husband’s. Now, I know that in reality those weren’t the only options, but I realised that I didn’t actually want my father’s name at all (now that i thought about it), so double-barelling wasn’t an option for me. So my husband’s name it is, and I’m glad that my family is now called that.

  18. amy says:

    Well, as I went around from office to office (social security, DMV) changing my name, I wished we’d changed to something completely new just so he could experience the hassle too. I definitely didn’t want to keep my maiden name, for many reasons, including (1) I don’t like what it stands for (dysfunctional childhood), (2) It’s rather generic (Portuguese version of Smith, basically, and (3) I am more of Italian heritage than Portuguese anyway, and my last name didn’t reflect who I felt I was to begin with. Not to mention, it wasn’t my grandfather’s full surname anyway–they chopped it at Ellis Island. So what, really, was the connection to who I am or where I came from?

    Also, I wanted everyone in the family to have the same last name, and we do. I would never revert to my maiden name, if my marital situation should change. I don’t feel my choice of surname makes me any more or less interested in women’s issues.

  19. mrs_scholes says:

    Double barrelled (Scholes-Hughes or Hughes-Scholes) would just be stupid, and I LOVE my husband’s family, so I wanted to show commitment to them but ‘joining’ them as it were, since my own family knew they were special to me already. We all get on so well.

    I mused on persuading hubbie to go for a whole new name, but he was totally unconvinced. How on earth do you choose?!

  20. Tim pop says:

    A rugby friend of mine, also by chance an oscar award winner changed his name from Unwin to Ellis Unwin. I immediately thought he was amazing. I imagine it is something about recognising that we are equals, both bringing what we have to the relationship. Could there be a better statement to begin a life together?

  21. JD says:

    Good post, and good solution! We did discuss using both names (like they do in Denmark and Spain), but we felt it didn’t really work. I don’t think we considered coming up with a completely new name, so we kept things as they were: I’ve kept mine and he kept his. My kids are a bit older than yours, 4 and 6 now and they are aware that our last names are different (they have their dad’s name). Lately they’ve started to ask why (not in a nasty way, just as an observation, one of the endless line of why-questions…) and it’s turning out to be quite a good opportunity to talk to them about it all, the reasoning and the history aspect, etc. For the kids, their name is completely fixed: they can’t imagine that they could ever have been called anything other than what they are, so they completely understand where I’m coming from. :o)
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  22. Sammy says:

    THIS IS MY FAV BLOG OF YOURS YET!!! I remember your lil’ car, I remember your wedding, and I remember thinking you were a wee bit crazy for merging your names … sheesh what was the big deal? If only I knew!!! Shoulda talked about it more with you then … If I was getting married again I’d either keep my maiden name or merge.

  23. Annaliese says:

    Fascinating topic!
    I took my husbands name, but not without very small debate. My husband already had a double-barrel name and I was scared of the stigma attached to that for my kids, believing that others will ridicule them for coming from a “divorced” household.

    Can I say I was a bit of an idiot then and realised it was me judging other families. I never knew the blessing that different family circumstances can be.

    I have now enjoyed taking my husbands name in the name of tradition, which I do not believe is a bad thing. It really signified that I was no longer in need of my parents and that I have my own family now. I had lost my identity as a single woman, not as a person, and for me that is fine.

  24. Hannah says:

    My husband and I were both double barrelled (what are the chances), and talked
    for months about what we should do with our surname. He didn’t want me to take his just because it was the done thing, and I wasn’t keen on giving up a family name that has a lot of history to it. In the end we picked one surname each, and made a new double barrelled surname. I love that we are the first Dudley-Peirson’s, and have a totally unique surname that is meaningful to us.

  25. Lilybett says:

    I ummed and aahed about changing names for quite a while. My husband assumed I wouldn’t, never expected me to or asked me to. And for two years after we married I didn’t. It actually felt quite strange to me to not have any recognition of my married state – no Mrs, no nothing. All of the women in my family had also changed their names, quite a few first and second generation feminists among them. I love my father and didn’t hate my “maiden” name but was never particularly attached to it.

    Then we were moving to a new place and I thought it’d be a good time to change if ever I was going to do it. I’d been Miss, I’d been Ms and in five months I was going to be Doctor, and I wanted to try Mrs on for size. I didn’t like it that much, to be honest, especially when people tried to substitute my first name for his as well – Mr and Mrs Husband’s First and Last Name. But now we get letters addressed to Dr and Mr Husband’s Last Name, which cracks me up and feels more like home.
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  26. Jess Radovanovich says:

    Family. Family was why I did it. I wanted everyone in my family to have the same name. I was joining a team and so it was one person vs 4! Also I had already had inherited a name from my patrilineage. Is it less feminist or more that I “chose” rather than remaining a passive recipient? Our daughters both have mateilineal (is that even a word?!) middle names as whakapapa is important to us.

    • Jess Radovanovich says:

      And it doesnt bother me that its only on official docs that this is clear. Not everything needs to be shouted loudly in pu b lic to have status :)

  27. Yvonne says:

    For me it was a bit different. I was born under my fathers name and some years after my parents divorce my mother wanted her maiden name back. So we both changed our names. For me it seemed to be natural, because I had a much closer relationship to my maternal grandparents than I ever had to my father or his family. And her maiden name is a beautiful italian name – which made the decision even. Some years later my mother married again and took the name of her new husband. I was seventeen back then and I never understood why she took his (ugly) name. After all we did to get her name back. I was sure I will never change my name again.
    Four years ago I married and for my husband ( because he is awesome!) it was no big deal at all to take my name from now on. Some of his friends made jokes about it, but he never cared at all. It is sad to see how women are expected to gave up their names. And still most of the men would never do so, maybe caused by a stupid fear of loosing their “manhood”.
    Sadly when my son was just a baby both of my grandparents died. My son is the only child with their name now. And I sometimes tell him how lovely and funny his great-grandparents were.

  28. Angela says:

    When I considered this well before getting married it was always most important to me that I have the same name as my children. To me it symbolised/represented the togetherness and belonging of a family. When I met my husband-to-be I realised I wanted the same name as my husband for the same reasons. Combining names in some way was never going to work with our particular names (there has been much hilarity in my wider family over the possibility of combining “King” with all kinds of surnames) and I happily took his name. To me the whole topic doesn’t represent the empowerment of women, and I’m uncomfortable with the idea that choosing to take my husband’s name makes me less passionate about it. My husband and I knew when we were married that we were equal partners in the marriage, and felt no desire to state this to the rest of the world via our choice of surname. I do realise though, that for some the symbolism that I have mentioned above is important here, it’s just that it’s not important for me.

    Combining names doesn’t always work even for those who may want it to, and choosing a new surname for each generation who wants to doesn’t sit comfortably with me at all. I feel these solutions work well for those who choose them, but can’t really be sustained for more than one generation. I don’t want to make you sigh or bang your head on your desk and say “cop-out” but there is a massive practicality problem here (eg. Aitken-Read-Smith-Jones-Langley).
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  29. Sian says:

    Great post : ) I think you ended up with the most romantic solution!
    Not being married but being with my partner for 23 years (we did get together in our teens!) it hasn’t been an issue for us – our son has a double barrel surname and occasionally people get us all mixed up, but that’s their problem not ours, we couldn’t give a monkeys!
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  30. Eeh Bah Mum says:

    Oh Lordy! I’m always interested in other people’s takes on this subject. We are not married and the children have my surname – we have never managed to find a happy medium on this subject.

  31. Alex says:

    I changed my name because I liked his better, to be honest, and – and I know this is a crappy argument – it ‘felt right’ (though I did do a Deed Poll to keep my old name as a middle name, cos I never had a middle name and it still felt like it belonged to me as well).

    To be honest, you’re right – decisions AREN’T made in a vacuum, and taking my husband’s name probably does mean that I’ve made a not very feminist and public decision. I can live with that.

    To draw a parallel, I know a few vegetarians who’ve given up meat for ideological reasons, but struggle with the fact that they still support the dairy industry because they’re not ready to be vegan yet. Making many positive decisions to support your beliefs is not completely undermined by making one that doesn’t. Making many positive feminist decisions (to be a work-out-of-home mum because I want to be, to share childcare and housework evenly, to make joint decisions on expenditure, where we live, where our kid goes to school, what she eats, etc etc) is, in my book, not undermined by making one decision that is probably more patriarchal than not.

    People might disagree, and I respect them for that; everyone places different emphasis on these things, and to some what I’ve done might seem shocking. Sorry folks – humans are disappointing sometimes. ;)
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  32. I agonised over whether to take my husband’s name or not, initially because my mum passed away and I wanted “something” of her. Eventually I came to realise that I associate my family more on my mum’s maiden side. Whilst my father is still alive I don’t have a great deal to do with him and count my Uncle (mum’s brother) as more of a father figure.

    We did consider double-barreling briefly but my maiden name was already long; I didn’t particularly want to make it longer!
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  33. Hannah says:

    I took my husband’s name. My preferred choice would have been to use both names but the two names sounded absolutely ridiculous together, to the point that people laugh when I tell them what my name would have been. At the end of the day it was not a dealbreaker for me, even though I am a very strident feminist. Overall equality in the marriage and in childrearing is more important to me.

    I got married when I was young and I don’t think he would have been comfortable with me not taking his name in any shape or form. Furthermore, when we got engaged there was a bit of family conflict because his very conservative Christian parents felt that I was not the sort of woman they had envisaged their son marrying – I did not match up with their ideal of traditional gender roles. Surname drama would have exacerbated this and made everything much worse, I think. My relationship with them is now much improved btw!

  34. Tessa Stuart says:

    I got married a LONG time ago (BandAid concert day) and I kept my name. My first name has lots of Sssss and I didn’t want my second married name to rhyme, as it would have done, with my first. My mother and mother-in-law found it hard to accept – muttering that I would render my husband “unable to perform” – though how a name could cause that to happen is beyond me. the only time we have had a problem with different names and the kids have his surname but my surname in there too as a middle name, was on SwissAir, where the notion of different names IN THE SAME FAMILY was beyond them.

  35. Andy says:

    What Hannah (Dudley-Peirson – love that by the way!) said rings true for me/us…

    When we got married, my wife kept her maiden name and added mine. Our children have her surname, Leonard Hill (no hyphen, it’s their identity so it’s every bit as important as capitals in the middle of your name!) which was a decision we made before having a family, thinking they should have it but it’s up to them how they use it, but with two boys and one half of the surname being Leonard this causes huge confusion when registering them for things. Our eldest goes to school in September and I’ve already lost count of the number of times I’ve had to correct it there.

    For V, my wife, it was important to preserve her name and identity as she and her sister are the last of those Leonards. I, initially, immediately disliked the idea. I guess I foolishly saw it as a challenge to my authority, though I know this to be a ridiculous notion on which to base a partnership. Weirdly, before reading this I’d thought again only yesterday, for the first time in ages, about changing mine to Leonard Hill. We talked about it at the time of getting married, my wife said she didn’t mind if I didn’t want to change it, but in a way it kinda feels right, now, I think. We’re a partnership, the two of us, and with our children are our own family (though very proud to be part of both families), and we have our own identity and her family has made me as much a Leonard as mine have her a Hill.

    I’ll think on it some more but it’s fascinating to read other people’s comments. For what it’s worth, too, I’m delighted to see so many other men at least thinking about this issue. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean we always do…

    • Lucy says:

      Thanks for your comment, so good to hear.
      From the other comments it really seem like the husbands are often so much more bothered about their nmes than the women.

  36. Corinne says:

    I love that you felt strongly about it and came to a decision as a couple. I’ve never changed my name, my first husband and I happened to share a surname so we never had to have the discussion (though I had lots of people talking to me slowly as if I didn’t understand what maiden name meant when I said it was the same!). When Gareth and I got together and had kids I didn’t want to change my name and I wanted all my children to share a surname (I have a son from my first marriage). Gareth’s own father had not been around much when he was growing up and he never felt attached to his father’s surname so he decided to take my name. He changed his surname before we were even married, it was just before our son was born and we wanted our names to match on his birth certificate! It felt like a real commitment to me and our family.
    Corinne recently posted…Yorkshire DayMy Profile

  37. Becca says:

    Excellent Post Lucy,

    I did change my name, and actually never really thought about it. I’d been engaged before and had a proper strop at the idea of changing my name to his, and had planned to keep mine. However when I met Matt I loved the idea of becoming a ‘Williams.’ Certainly Webb-Williams wasnt going to work, and I liked the idea that Matt and I had the same surname as we were starting our own family. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have been just as happy if we’d BOTH changed our names to something else, but we didnt have anything we felt strongly about, so sticking with the tradition felt right for us.

    I dont believe that in changing my name I have somehow lost my identity. It’s just that being a wife is a part of that identity and I feel pretty proud of that.

  38. Chloe says:

    I HATED having to decide my son’s surname before I’d had the opportunity/chance to decide what I’d do with my surname if I got married. It felt like if I gave him my surname then I was effectively making all the decisions about our child (my partner and I weren’t living together when I fell pregnant and babies were the LAST thing on his mind), double barrelling felt silly and unnecessary, so I opted for the ‘easy’ option and gave our son his dad’s surname – I so desperately wanted him to feel involved with the whole ‘having a child’ thing, and at the time I thought sharing a surname might help.

    In hindsight I sometimes wonder whether we SHOULD have double barrelled, so that if/when our marriage happens in the future, I still feel like I have a choice about what to do with my name – we could all double barrel, or we could all change names. Because of the choice we made with our childrens’ surnames, it currently feels like my choice is either to join them with my partner’s surname, or forever be the odd one out.

    I’m not particularly attached to my own name, but I HATE the automatic assumption from family and friends that I would take his name. Stubbornly, I quite like the idea of surprising people and making a point by keeping my name. For me, I’m not sure if there is a perfect answer to the surname debate, but at least marriage is not on our minds at the moment…so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of years to decide, haha.
    Chloe recently posted…Me and Mine – JuneMy Profile

  39. We’re not married yet, but we already know we won’t change our names for various reasons: one, he’s Spanish and they don’t change their names. Children take one surname from the father and another from the mother, so everyone has two surnames anyway.
    And also, we’re both in different fields of science so we’ve both published under our current names. Strange as it may sound, this is super important for scientists! I even know one person who keeps her ex-husband’s name as a pen name for her scientific papers so people continue to recognise her.
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  40. Sophie says:

    God, didn’t I wrestle with this for months. I have no idea why – my husband wasn’t bothered whether I took his name or not, and even offered to take my name during one of my (random and ridiculous) crying fits about it.

    In the end, we chose a new name for both of us. We both wanted a fresh start and it’s exciting to think we’ve started a new family tree!

  41. Mary says:

    It’s crazy how many different options there are out there once you get people talking! We did discuss it and I agonised for quite a while but there were various reasons why I ended up taking his name: firstly, my family are quite clannish and his are less, erm, possessive, so I felt I owed it to them to prove I was committed to joining their family. Also I realised how much it would have hurt my mum (ironic really, considering she wasn’t born into that name!) if my sister-in-law hadn’t taken my brother’s name (it was never discussed as far as I know but it was a useful counterpoint) and didn’t want to do that to my husband’s family. And finally, my cousin had already done this when marrying his wife, and they all had a completely new, totally hippy name, and I didn’t want my decision to lump me in the same category as them, much as I admire them. I knew I couldn’t bear my decision becoming a sort of joke in my family like theirs had. Since then I’m glad I took his name as I did need to prove a breaking away from my family and a cleaving to his, but I do wish the decision hadn’t come with such anti-feminist tags.

  42. Alison says:

    Interesting post and comments. I didn’t change mine when we married 13 years ago, didn’t even consider changing it, it just wasn’t going to happen. The children have my husband’s surname in a nod to tradition, but I am quite happy to have kept my own name. I never use the title Mrs either.

    No one in either my own or my husband’s family has ever said anything to indicate they are unhappy with me not changing name, it has never been discussed (unless it’s behind my back).

  43. Leoni-fay says:

    This i really intresting reading , I love that you mashed the names. I wish I had done something like that! We got married when I was young, nieave and had never heard of feminism! If my girls choose to get married I will be encouraging them to keep their own name.

  44. Fiona Remnant says:

    It was an easy one for me, I never really thought about changing my name – why on earth would I? In hindsight I am surprised it was so easy, I didn’t really consider what anyone else would think which was slightly naive. Luckily for me my husband’s Sri Lankan family also didn’t bat an eyelid when I said I was keeping my name. Woo hoo for the matriarchal Sri Lankan society where it is quite normal to do so – especially for those women who want to retail a ‘work persona’ that is not linked to all the social conventions associated with family responsibilities. The long Sinhalese surname plus my unusual surname made double-barrelling out of the question. I did accept that my sons have my husband’s name which rankles a bit, but hey, it was 50/50 and I reckon I have won my fair share of battles to concede a few! It also means they get to retain some Sri Lankan heritage in their names which is important. It does make things a little tricky at school though – I find myself constantly dropping into conversation that I am their MOTHER, as if I need to prove it!

  45. I have no intention of ever giving up my name – I just don’t see the point. We aren’t married – I guess that makes it more straightforward – but if we were (and to be honest I don’t see the point of that either) – I wouldn’t.
    Our son has my surname.
    It’s me that takes him to the GP most, it’s me that takes him on more trips just us two – what was a fairly quick decision now seems perfect. It would seem odd if we didn’t share the same surname.
    helloitsgemma recently posted…Silent SundayMy Profile

  46. Rach says:

    I’ve spent a while thinking about this.

    I’m an only child, and my mum repeatedly told me I was a disappointment to my Grandpop (I don’t think I was, she just couldn’t find a better word) for not being a boy, as my surname stops with me. What I find more interesting is that his mother, my great-grandmother, gave him her maiden name – Busby (freaking cool right?) – as a middle name.

    My parents spent a long time deciding on Rachel, so long in fact, they couldn’t be arsed with picking a middle name too. I frequently get asked what my middle name is and have started using Busby. I like it, it’s cool and in some way a little bit feminist – I also have a love of weird and androgynous names for girls (why do names have genders?).

    Since I moved to London there have been many Rach’s that I’ve come across and so most people now refer to me by my surname, or a version of it. I like that. And it is a part of my identity… so I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up.

    N.B. If I find a man with the surnames Rocks/Rox there is no question about it. Rach Rocks/Rox, what better affirmation do you need in a day?!
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  47. I struggled with this when I got married. The problem was that as a feminist I had always wanted to either keep my name (and groom change his) or merge them so we would all have the same surname, but I wouldn’t be the one doing the big sacrifice. In practise, my husband has the same first name as my dad (so him taking my surname was out of the question) and our surnames were very different, so wouldn’t merge or double barrel (without us sounding like a country & western singer). I also preferred his surname to mine – I know this shouldn’t matter, but my name sounded better with his foreign-sounding syllables on the end. In the end, my husband said that it would mean a lot to him for me to take his name, but he would never expect me to stop being a Ms and I decided that had to be enough.

    The first time I had to fill in a form with my new name I cried. Seven and a half years on I’m happy in my identity, but challenging the ‘of course you change your name’ mentality has become my way of moving it forward.

    On a related note – I’m always shocked by how many of my friends’ husbands asked their dad’s permission before proposing.
    CommonsenseMum recently posted…Pink for a GirlMy Profile

  48. Danny says:

    This is a complex subject. When my wife and I married she decided to stay with her maiden name professionally as she had qualifications and reputation and use a hyphenated name socially. It causes quite a lot of confusion, not least in providing proof of ID as you so often need to do.

    Typically now she has largely reverted to her maiden name, except with the school where despite being a seat of learning they struggle with her having a different name to our daughter.

  49. Janine says:

    My mom kept her maiden name and I always thought it was so cool. I didn’t know anyone else whose mother had a different last name. We all had my dad’s last name (Not sure why – I’ll have to remember to ask!). It’s interesting because my mother moved all the way from upstate NY to Portland, in part to get away from her family, yet chose to keep that family name. (But then, she admits they only got married to make things simpler as they were planning to have a child. They had 3 and have now been married 26 years.)

    I haven’t taken my husband’s last name legally yet but I use it everywhere. I just need to stop being lazy and get it formally switched! My maiden name is Wilson. My husband is the slightly-less-common Fowler. Maybe because my mom kept her name, and my husband wouldn’t care if I had kept mine, I didn’t feel the need to keep mine. Although really, I mainly like the inclusion of us all (me, husband, kids) sharing a last name, which you accomplished in your own way. My FIL would probably throw a fit but if I could do it again, I might have pushed to come up with a unique last name for us.
    Janine recently posted…Ezekiel Jin’s birth storyMy Profile

  50. Jenna says:

    I admire couples who break the old sexist tradition of taking the mans name with marriage, when it matters to them
    I took my husbands name, it wasnt a matter of sexism, i just like his name a little more than my birth name, and changing my name didnt bother me enough to give the old tradition any more thought than that.
    I think for most people now its just a ‘what you do’ thing to do, we are not intentionally being sexist, but maybe we are guilty of mindlessly following a no longer relevant tradition?
    I once had i car the same, except it was the greatest car i had, it never locked me out, and my keys in (broken locks) it was kind to me when regularly losing my keys (would start with any ol bruce of a key) and it made sure i got out and walked every now and then (by not starting on a regular basis) trusty starlet

  51. Charlotte says:

    I didn’t change my name when I got married, I have always known I’d keep it. I *love* my surname a lot and me and my sisters are the last of the Coneybeers and I didn’t want to lose that (although one of my sisters couldn’t wait to change her surname to her husbands and the other changed it because her husband was the last in line for his name). For me when we got married our options were either we keep our own names or we double barrel, but Coneybeer-Garwood sounds ridiculous and so we kept our names. We gave our daughter a brand new awesome name and is a Coneywood. I find myself being called Mrs G a lot though rather than by my proper name (usually by relatives) because they can’t quite get their head round the fact I kept my name. I remember people asking me when we were engaged what they should write on letters addressed to us and I would reply with something along the lines of “what ever you’re writing now”. It seems weird that things like that have to change even if I’ve been living with the man for three years beforehand. I tend to shrug off being called Mrs G now, although maybe I shouldn’t, maybe I should be a bit more assertive about who I am. My daughter does get called by her father’s surname quite a bit, which really riles me and seems slightly disrespectful but we correct that quite quickly with whoever’s calling her that.

    I don’t really mind when women change their name as long as there’s been some thought into it. I once got into a rage at a bridal forum because on one post there was an awful lot of people who were changing their name because “that was what you did”, no reasoning at all. It made me a bit sad.

    God, that comment was a bit long, sorry. I have Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On on the brain now
    Charlotte recently posted…HELLO, BETSY – 20 MONTHSMy Profile

  52. Frankie says:

    I agree, if/when I get married I will keep my surmane, as it means alot to me. When my paremts got married, they took the first 3 letters of my dads name and the last three letters of my mums, this name is truly unique to me and I love it!

  53. Christina says:

    Wow this has brought back memories of the horror on my hubby to be’s face when shortly before getting married I announced that afterwards I was going down the double barrelled route. He was initially quite upset that I wouldn’t just take his name!

    But for me I’d had my surname for 28 years by then and was rather attached to it, plus I seem to come from an extended family of girls, I had already seen my mum’s surname go and my dad was the only boy in his family and with two sisters myself our surname would also go. Plus on a rather irrational point, there was a particular pupil at the school I was then teaching in whom rather irritated me and although he was a boy we both used our shortened first names of Chris and if I had just taken Hubby’s surname we would have had the same name!!

    Our compromise was that I wouldn’t double barrel the children’s names, although I was sorely tempted when registering our eldest. Since then hubby has softened and says he regrets not both taking the combined name or giving it to the children…maybe I should reignite the debate???

    But no one in either family really recognises my surname and address everything to his name!

  54. At birth I was double barrelled (not through a B marrying a P, it just appeared in the family tree one day) and I hated it.
    Although we never discussed name changes (I guess it was assumed I would take his, which although not double barrelled, still has to be spelt) I had known for a long time that I didn’t want to be a B-P forever (and changing it by deed poll never entered my head).
    We married 15 years ago, and at the time I didn’t know any woman who had not taken her husband’s name, whereas now (and it could be that it is more prevalent in an expat situation, different nationalities, cultures etc) I know so many more married families that don’t follow the male line when it comes to surnames.

    I admit, 20 years ago, when I met my husband, I thought it quite odd that my future sister in law had changed her name to her mother’s maiden name, just because she didn’t like her current surname. It blew the mind of this small town girl! ;)

  55. I love this post. Can you believe that we made the decision on a toss of a coin. I didn’t want to lose my surname which was Powlay and Drew really wanted to keep Walshaw. We looked at combinations, variations, double barreled, but they were both just too unusual to manage anything with.

    He was happy to have my name and I decided that we would let the coin decide. I became a Walshaw. I have now almost been one for a long as I was a Powlay.
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  56. Naomi says:

    My brother and sister in law chose a new name together. I think it’s fantastic. They are now Mellis which means Disciple in Old English.

  57. Ian Gainsford says:

    I have often regretted not suggesting to my wife that she keep her name. Double barrel wouldn’t really have worked – King-Gainsford or Gainsford-King just sound silly. And Kainsford? Ging? Hmmm. Regardless, my regret is that I feel like we just automatically followed a social convention we had never really examined, and that in retrospect she deserved to be treated with more respect as a person in her own right. Yes, marriage involves commonality and interdependence, and yes radical individualism is problematic, but…

    I am trying to convince my 9-yr-old daughter that she can retain her own identity in whatever way she chooses. I just worry that this means she’s going to end up being called Princess Sophie Starchild Unicorn or something similar…

  58. San says:

    Hubs and I celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary this year, so back in the good ol’ days I was quite happy to take his name and still stand by that today. Love your melding together of your two names it works beautifully.

    Love your wedding photos especially the one of you and your mum, she totally rocks that red silk suit and shoes!

    San xx
    San recently posted…Gratitude Sunday :: An Unforgetable WeekMy Profile

  59. Ruth says:

    Thank you! Reading this got me really thinking about the issue and I decided that it was a discussion I should be having with my husband to be. Although he loves his name too much to take mine (I can’t lie, his is better) I am proud about how amazingly supportive he has been. We have decided to keep our own names for now and then change them when we have children so that we have a ‘family name’.

    As the first of my girlfriends to get married, telling them of my decision has made them think about what they would do. And that makes me happy :)

    So thank you again! x

  60. You say “women taking their husband’s name was not a liberated thing to do” – but if it was the women’s choice to do so – then how can that not be liberated?? Interesting post x

  61. Mikki says:

    My husband is taking my last name. My dad is happy about it, his dad is not. I think my parents told me when I was little that my dad nearly took my mothers last name when they married. So in my mind that has always been an equally normal action. We also looked at picking a new family name together, but we couldn’t find one we really liked. Anyway, every last name has its own history and family story, I like the idea of picking one of those.
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  62. Allie says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a strong, independent woman, and I always wondered why it was that women were expected to take a man’s name. I’m a self-made individual, and I changed my name to reflect that when I turned 18. I worked hard for my name.

    When I met my partner, I laid it on the line. “I’d like to share a last name for the sake of having a family, but you’re going to have to take mine.”

    He agreed, and we’re now one big happy family with our surname coming from my side. This article made me smile and remember that.

  63. My name was Leslie Kendall and when I married I became Leslie Kendall Dye. I did it because I liked the sound of it, particularly as my stage name as an actress. My husband had no particular concern for it one way or another. My daughter took the last name Kendall Dye, so she has both our names, but my last name. What’s funny is that she calls me “Leslie Kendall Dye” and she calls my husband, “Kerry Douglas Kendall Dye” even though his name is “Kerry Douglas Dye.” So in effect, she has made all our names the same! Ah, the wisdom of children. :)
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