The Name Change Debate

24 Apr

When I knew that I was going to marry Jordan (before we even got engaged), I just assumed I’d take his name. I was one of those girls — I started using his name when making dinner reservations, a long time ago. I kind of liked knowing that his name would one day be mine — that we would be a family. It just seemed like a natural step to me.

But now that the big day is getting closer, I’m not so sure anymore.

I’ve had my name for nearly 24 years. Changing it overnight seems a little unreal to me. To make my decision even more difficult, I don’t have any brothers, so no one in my immediate family will be carrying on my last name. And I find that kind of sad.

So what do I do? I know that I want to at least have Jordan’s last name as a part of my name, for the sake of our future children. I’ve worked with a lot of children, and I do know some families that decide to keep two different last names — it can get a little confusing, even just for school records. So, I have three options:

1. First, there’s the hyphenated version. My full, legal name would be hyphenated, but in conversation, I would use Jordan’s last name. No one would really know the difference except for me. Plus, if I’m a famous writer one day ;), I’d like to have part of my original name in the byline. I know that sounds strange, but it’s the name I started writing with, and part of who I am.

2. Then there’s the two middle names option. I believe Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers did this. Instead of having one middle name, I would now have two. I’d still get to keep my last name, but I’d also be taking on Jordan’s name as my own. This option seems a little simpler, as the only place I’d really use my current last name is on my driver’s license and social security card. At the same time, I would know that my last name is still there, and I find that comforting.

3. And then there’s the last option. Change my name completely, and my current last name would just become my maiden name. I’m feeling less enthused about this option.

Though I have my own opinions on the issue, it’s important to remember that Jordan’s feelings matter too. When I first told him my thoughts, I could tell he was hurt. We’re both a little old fashioned, and I think we both assumed we’d never even be having this conversation. After talking about it and explaining how I feel, Jordan is now more understanding. I was never going to not take his name at all, and keeping my maiden name as a middle name does not mean that I love him less — I just want to keep part of my current identity.

Remember when we were in junior high, and used to scribble the last name of our crush all over our notebooks (or was that just me?)… well, real life is much more complicated, isn’t it ;)? My last name is part of who I am. It’s what I identify with. And to get rid of it in a matter of minutes? I’m not sure I want to.

I’m still debating what to do. A debate that I never thought I’d be having with myself. I know I’ll make my decision and feel confident about it… in time.

If you’re married, how did you decide what to do with your name?

If you’re single, what do you think you’ll do in the future?



36 Responses to “The Name Change Debate”

  1. peaceloveandoats April 24, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Wait, isn’t the traditional way to make your last name your middle name? That’s what all the women I know have done, like my mom. Her maiden name is her middle name and she dropped her middle name. Either way, I kind of like the 2 middle name idea, haha mostly because I love my middle name! But I feel you on losing your last name completely, it’s a part of me!

    • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy April 24, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      No, I think dropping the name altogether is the traditional thing to do, but that’s cool that your mom kept her name!

    • Caitlin April 24, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      I actually think that the traditional thing is to make your last name your middle name too!! My mom did that!

  2. notsodomesticated April 24, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    I changed my last name completely and dropped my old last name. So my first and middle name are the same as they always were, and then I got a new last name. It was a pretty easy decision for me. But I do understand where you’re coming from. If you really feel strongly about it, I think the 2 middle names idea is a good one. Personally, I would only do the last name hypenated thing if I was a professor or something, who publishes research articles. I know several women from grad school who didn’t want to lose their last name because they had articles published with that last name … so they went the hypenated route. But that’s just my two cents. You and your future husband need to decide what’s best for you!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Laura @ LauraLikesDesign April 24, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    This is super interesting! I was on the opposite end of the spectrum as you because I always hated my last name. It was really common and plain jane–paired with a plain name like “Laura”….bleh.

    Luckily, my new last name is completely unique and I don’t know anyone else except my new extended family that has this name. I dropped my old one completely and haven’t looked back!

    I totally understand about keeping yours though. I had a friend that had seriously considered hyphenating her name for the longest time before she got married because her new last name rhymed with her first name…haha!

    • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy April 24, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      My mom told me she felt you when she got ready to get rid of her old last name. So, I understand! Haha, that’s funny, but it could be kinda cute! Did she end up keeping her name?

  4. Meaghan April 24, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    I’ve always planned to change my last name when I get married, but my plan to carry on my current last name is to use it as my future son’s (if I have one) middle name. Luckily my last name is one that can easily do that, and I like using parents or grandparents names as middle names but my dad’s name just would sound awful as a middle name haha.

  5. kitkat1126 April 24, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    I always thought I would change my name and not really feel anything about it. I was wrong!

    I am definitely changing my last name but it is such a strange feeling to think about it. I have spent 5 years at my current work and the place knows me by name — all the sudden I have started thinking what happens when I have a completely different name. It feels like all my hard work has been deleted or something.

    Little things – work, facebook, graduate school, etc all knew me by one name. And now, it’s like I’m going to be a new person and all that I accomplished becomes invisible.

    Not really, but that’s how it feels!

    But when it comes down to it I know it is really important to my fiancรฉ, and to our kids that we have the same last name. I also know it would mean a lot to his family, where as mine really doesn’t care about our last name. So I’m changing my name and I’m yes I lose part of an identity, but I am also creating a new one with my soon to be husband and our family and the next 60+ years with this new last name. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • kitkat1126 April 24, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      *when I said “our kids” I mean our future kids one day!

  6. Caitlin April 24, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    For me personally (though I am not in a long term relationship right now so this could obviously change), I’d take my husband’s last name and make my old last name my middle name. I’d want to take my husband’s last name because I think I’d just be so excited to use it, and it’d be a reminder that we are married, and that’d just make me *squee* inside, ha! I’m a cheeseball. I wouldn’t want to do the whole hyphen last name thing. It just seems like too much of a mouthful to me. And two middle names would bother me but that’s just because I am very particular about things – one middle name is good with me!

    One thing though I’d never thought of is the fact that I LOOVE my middle name (Morgan) and often have wished it was actually my first name! So I’d lose it completely if I took the route I just mentioned. Hmm..

    • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy April 24, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Yeah, I don’t want to lose the middle name that my parents give me, so if I do that, I’ll just have two middle names. Even if that makes me “weird” haha.

      • Caitlin April 24, 2012 at 10:55 am #

        I don’t think it’ll make you weird! It’d just bother me for my own self because well..because I’m weird!

  7. Dana April 24, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    I am going through this same dilemma right now! I know exactly what you are feeling. One option that I’ve been leaning towards is legally keeping my name the exact same, but going by my fiance’s last name socially. Though that is likely to be very confusing. I might end up hyphenating, but it just seems like too much name. I’ve been reading all kinds of blog posts about name changes. The best quote I’ve seen is someone saying “a name does not make the family.”

    I feel stupid because I’m 22, unemployed, and have no real reason to keep my name in the sense of “avoiding confusion” with publications or networking. But it’s my name! As soon as I got engaged, I took note of exactly how many times I use my name and it’s everywhere!

  8. terranleigh April 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I feel your dilemma! I am getting married in August and am one of 3 daughters where there is no son to carry on our last name. However my current last name and future last name are both too long to hyphenate so I am stuck. I know I want my fiances’ last name and am leaning towards dropping mine altogether, thankfully I have a few months still to decide!

  9. eatpraytri April 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    I always kind of thought it was fun to get a whole new name when I got older and got married. The idea was appealing to me. So that part wasn’t that huge of a problem for me I guess, however, when I finally did get married last summer I decided that since I wasn’t a huge fan of my middle name anyway, I just dropped my old middle name and made my ‘maiden’ name my middle name. That way I still kept it just in a different form. It is weird though to have a different name and even now, 10 months later I still catch myself signing or saying my “old” name just out of habit. But at the same time, I can’t imagine in another 10-15 years that will be a problem. You will know what to do when the time comes!

  10. Meg April 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m single, but assume I’ll take my husband’s name. I also don’t have any males in my family to carry on my last name, but can’t do much about that and my last name is a pain because, while simple, people always misspell it or make it plural, which drives me crazy.

    Anyway, the bitter, single girl in me wants to scream every time I hear a newly married woman complaining about the name change because all I hear is “poor me, I found true love and now I have to stand in a line or mail something, boo hoo.”

    Your reasons for the debate are legit though, I’d say just change it. You can always have a pen name using your maiden name or give your kids your maiden name as a first or middle name, depending how unique it is.

    • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy April 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      Haha, I’m not complaining about the actual name change process, but I know what you mean. I have friends who have whined about standing in line at the social security office and BMV. That part doesn’t bother me!

  11. FitNjess April 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Even though It will be weird for me to loose my last name and kinda sad when I get married..I am so excited to share my boyfriends last name. I am very traditional as well so I always knew I would change my name, but there is still the chance I may keep my last name somehow! I guess we will see! But it is interesting how once you get to the point where you need to make a decision that is is harder than you would have thought!!

  12. Bethany @ Accidental Intentions April 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d take my husband’s last name if I were to get married. No one in our family likes our last name — my dad actually wanted to take my mom’s last name when they got married because even he dislikes it that much, but she’s the definition of traditionalist so that definitely didn’t happen. But beyond that, for me it’s a matter of unity. In my opinion, when you get married you both need to be willing to give up a significant amount of your individual identity for your collective identity. Obviously maintaining your own personhood is important to an extent, but I think if you’re going to get married, you need to recognize that you’re joining yourself to another life, and if you individually are too important to yourself to be all right with that, then maybe you shouldn’t be getting married in the first place. Of course, maybe giving up your name entirely isn’t exactly unity to the extent that, say, both of you combining your names might be, but that’s a different discussion.

  13. savorlifesflavors April 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Personally I am changing my name completely. There are a few reasons why:
    1. I have 2 brothers so the family name is safe.
    2. My fiance’s last name is a very simple and common
    3. It is a perfect “teacher” name ๐Ÿ™‚
    4. I am looking forward to no longer having to spell my last name to people when they write it.
    5. I will finally sound as Irish as I look.

    I also figured, I am about to change my life and create a new one with him, so a new name sounds like a great first step. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Casey April 25, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    I’m single, but I plan on taking my future husband’s name (if I finally find a guy!) mostly because I don’t like my last name. It’s weird. I like your idea of adding your last name to your middle name. I couldn’t do that. Everyone would be like Orr what??

    Just an idea- when Steven and Cyndi got married, they merged their middle names- James and Lauren- to make Lames. That’s both of their middle names now! It’s something unique that they both share. But I think you said you like your middle name so this point is really irrelevant!

    • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy April 25, 2012 at 7:06 am #

      Aw, that’s kind of cool that they did that! Jordan is actually Jordan’s middle name (his first name is Charles — family name), so that wouldn’t work, but I like the idea! And I like your last name, it’s easy!

  15. Danica @ It's Progression April 25, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    As you know, I’m getting married soon too and I’ve definitely given this same topic some thought. I consider myself pretty old-fashioned and as part of that I decided that I am going to take my fiance’s name. Honestly, I think it’s mostly because I don’t even like my last name and, no offense to my crazy family, but in a way I’m looking forward to changing it. I have a brother though too and maybe that makes a difference….Many of my aunts have actually told me that they wish they had kept their last name as some part of their name. I say whatever you want is perfectly fine! It’s your name, and it’s good that you’re discussing it with Jordan too ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. coffeecardiogoddess April 25, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Ive been married 4 years next month and I just changed my name a few months ago!! Im a major procrastinator. My husbands last name is waaay cooler then mine. Bond and mine was Stout. So you would think id do it sooner. Maybe use both your last name and husbands together.

  17. Newly Wife Healthy Life April 25, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    I totally understand what you are going through! I felt the same way with my name change so I went Julie’s route-I have two middle names! This worked perfect for me because I got to keep my old ‘identity’ while also taking my husband’s last name!

  18. Maureen (@OrganicallyMo) April 25, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    I made my maiden name a 2nd middle name and took on the last name of my husband. Getting the DMV to change it was a pain though!

  19. Casey April 26, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    Also, classic John expression in the background of the picture. lol

  20. danielleaw1 May 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Even though my boyfriend (of two years) and I are not engaged, I’ve given this some thought. The reason is that his last name is “Ell” and my first name is “Danielle”. So basically he has the one last name that does not go with my boring first name! If I took his name it would sound like I have a stutter, Danielle Ell.

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