Disclaimer: This article is going to be super heteronormative. I’m speaking about my own experience and the research that has been conducted so far. Unfortunately, much of the research has only focused on heterosexual couples, and I couldn’t find any data on how same sex couples land on this issue. I’d love to hear your experience as someone in a same-sex marriage (or otherwise), so please do share in the comments!

I’m getting married next weekend. That means that the topic of a name change has come up a lot in conversation and has also been on my mind. I’ve known for years that I’m not changing my name (I’m pretty sure I told Dan that on our third date), but it is still something that has been somewhat stressing me out. So, of course, I decided to write about it!

Eighty to ninety percent of heterosexual American women take their husband’s last name after they get married. In contrast, only three percent of men take their wife’s last name. In a 2011 study, seventy-two percent of respondents said they believe women should take their husband’s last name. Half of those people said they think it should be legally required for women to do so!

I would love to say that I don’t hold any judgment when women do change their names, but I am still a human. I believe that women should make whatever choice they feel best about, and if that means changing their name, go for it! But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t bristle a little bit every time a friend changes their name on Facebook the day after their wedding. This is not because I’m against the idea of having one name for a family, it’s because women are the only ones who are expected to do so. Yes, there are some guys out there who will take their wife’s name, but that’s still incredibly uncommon. I would feel so much better if it was more of a real conversation, but we aren’t there yet.

The History of a Woman Taking Her Husband’s Name

Women began taking their husbands’ last name in England in the 9th century. This was because women were considered “one” with their husbands after marriage. That might sound romantic, but what it really meant was that women had no legal identity apart from their husband. (This actually applied to being given your father’s name at birth, as well.) Being one with your husband meant that you couldn’t own property, inherit money, participate in business, and more. Everything you had automatically belonged to your husband after marriage.

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that women were able to own and inherit property in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. At that time, some women began to keep their maiden names, as they held more value and recognition, now that they could own property and participate in business.

What I Feel Like I’d Be Losing

But, What About the Kids?

I honestly don’t know what we’ll do with our kids’ names. We’ve been talking about that a lot lately, and haven’t come to a real agreement. In fact, it’s been a point of contention, because we both have the same arguments for our kids having either of our last names. I do think it’s unfair that a woman is not often present in her children’s legal identity. We give birth, we are still considered the primary caregiver, we are just as much an influential parent as a father may be. Why can’t our children carry our names?

I’m not keen on a hyphenated name (Germano-Rader or Rader-Germano). The idea of using our couple name (Radermano) seems perfect and adorable but also isn’t actually a name (but what’s in a name? Aren’t they all made up?). Dan has suggested that we use my last name as our kids’ middle names but that isn’t super appealing to me either. For me, it’s important to be having the conversation, rather than just accepting it as a given that our kids will have his name. So we’ll see what we end up choosing.

The Cost and Inconvenience of Changing Your Name

A piece of this puzzle that isn’t always talked about is the literal cost of changing your name. There are a lot of documents to change and processes to go through to make that happen. Most of those things cost time and money, and women are the ones paying for it.

If you want to change your name and don’t want to deal with the hassle of all these changes yourself, there are actually companies out there that will do it for you for a fee, like MissNowMrs. However! They just fill out the forms for you, they can’t do the actual filing. If you hate filling out paperwork, it might be useful, but otherwise, there’s still legwork that you need to do.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual whether or not they want to change their name. And I’m trying to be less reactionary when I see my friends change their names on Facebook. However, I do hope that one day men and women change their names at an equal rate, rather than it being a given that women will do it.

(Read this compelling article by Meg Keane of A Practical Wedding if you’re interested in reading more about the emotional labor of the name change.)

How do you feel about the name change debate? What did you do in your own life? Share in the comments!