Why I'm Keeping My Name After I Get Married
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
My identity: I’ve been Maggie Germano for my entire life, and I love my name. I would be giving up a big part of myself if I gave it up for a new one. (Even one as good as “Rader”.)
My connection with my family: This reason is slightly hypocritical because one of my arguments against changing my name is that everyone in a family doesn’t have to have the same name to be considered a family. But I do identify strongly as a “Germano” and want to stay that way.
My principles: My main issue with the name change question is that men don’t have to answer it. Women have to spend a lot of time and emotional energy thinking about the decision and talking about it with people who ask. Men just don’t have that same burden. It’s a given that they will have their name forever and their family will also bear that name. Women should have that same expectation.
My business name and recognition: When I started my business, I decided to name it after myself. I didn’t want to come up with a cutesy business name and then change it later when I grew out of it. I also knew I would never change my name, so my business name is evergreen. If I changed my name now, I would have to change my business name, all of my materials, and my domain name.
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.
Social security card: This is the first step you should take, since you’ll need an updated social security card in order to update other items. You’ll need to provide your birth certificate, marriage license, and other identification in order to go through this process. This step costs nothing, but you will have to go to the Social Security Administration to do it.
State-issued identification: Once you update your social security card, you have to go to the DMV to update your license or other ID. In Maryland, where I live, you have to alert the DMV within 30 days of the change. This can cost nothing or you may have to pay the renewal fee. To see how the process works in your state, Google “how to change my name on my [state name] license”.
Passport: If you’re changing your name and you also enjoy to travel, you’ll need to get a new passport. This process can cost between $0 and $165, depending on your situation and needs. You’ll need to provide proof of citizenship, your marriage license, and possibly another form of photo ID. Be careful! If you’ve already booked a flight in your maiden name, wait to legally change your name until after the trip, or else TSA and Customs will give you a really hard time!
Bank accounts: You’ll have to show your marriage license and proof of your name change in order to update your name in your banking and other financial accounts. You’ll want to do that soon if you’ve received any wedding gift checks in your married name.
Email address: This probably doesn’t cost anything, but it may be annoying. If your email address includes your name at all, you’ll probably want to change it to avoid any confusion. You would create a new email address, and then hopefully have your old email address forward any messages to your new one so you don’t miss any emails.
All online accounts: Another free step, but if you change your name, you’ll probably want to change it on all your social media accounts, especially if you’re well-known.
Website domain: If you have your own business or have a blog or other website that is under your name, you’ll likely want to update it. This means buying a new domain name and forwarding visitors to your old site to your new one.
Voter registration: Don’t forget to do this! Especially if you changed your name this year. Go to the website for your state or local election office. You may be able to change information on your registration, or you may have to re-register all together.
Insurance: If you have health insurance, car insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or anything else, you’ll have to update them and let them know your name has changed.
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.
How do you feel about the name change debate? What did you do in your own life? Share in the comments!