Assuming your husband didn’t offer your family a goat in exchange for your hand, there is no hard and fast rule that says that you have to change your last name.
This tradition originated during the days of Charlemagne and Alfred the Great (AKA: so long ago that people were referred to as “the Great”) when women lacked an independent identity from their husbands. Back in those days when a woman got married, their fathers – who “owned them”, I guess – were literally giving them away as property to their new husbands.. (It actually says that if you dive into the history of all of this – women were considered “property”.)
My oh my, how times have changed.
But even in today’s society where women are not only at the table, but head of the table, several of them have still chosen to take their husband’s last name. Myself included.
(Mostly because it felt weird not to take his last name. “We’re married”, I thought to myself. “That’s what married people do.”)
I’d never imagined not changing my last name once I got married. When I was in seventh grade, I was one of those kids who would doodle “Mrs. So-and-so” all over her notebooks. I wanted to be a Mrs. So-and-so.
And then I got married (like, a hundred years later). And co-workers were asking me what my “new name” was going to be.
My “new name”. Any other name, except for the one I’d been carrying around with me for the past twenty-nine years, felt weird. I don’t want to say it felt “wrong” – because it didn’t, it’s not like this was some random last name I’d picked up on the street. This was my husband’s last name. Someone I love and respect and am committed to.
But it’s not like my husband was feeling the societal pressure to change his name now, was he?
I’d made myself a career where people knew me by the name on my business cards (which wasn’t “Mrs. So-and-so.”) I liked my name. It was one that my colleagues treated with respect. I’d given it reverence.
What the heck had Mrs. So-and-so done? Got married? Cool.
I realize how silly that sounds. Certainly my colleagues are smart enough to realize that it’s not a new person doing my job – same person, new last name.
“Are you going to change your name on Facebook?” Kyle asked me a few days after the wedding.
Already? Some girls change their Facebook name in the car on way to the reception.
The funny thing about Facebook is that it makes everything seem “official”. I don’t know why that is. It’s the same place where people post stupid memes from The Office and pictures of their cat..
Also – did you know that if you try to change your name on Facebook, it pops up with a warning? Like, one of those “are you sure you want to do this?” warnings.
“Erm….” I mumbled hesitantly as I clicked through the ‘are you sure?’, ‘are you REALLY sure?’ boxes. “This says that once I change it, I can’t change it back.” I told him. ‘For sixty days.”
“Sixty days? That’s a long time!”
Kyle looked at me with a blank stare. “Why would you want to change it back?” He asked me. “Are you planning to divorce me sometime within the next sixty days?”
I mean, no.
“It’s just so…” I couldn’t think of the right word. “Official.”
“More official than the twenty-five thousand dollar wedding we just had?”
And also, in a weird way, kind of.
Before you get the wrong impression and believe that my husband was pressuring me into taking his last name – he wasn’t. I was the one who told him I wanted to take his last name, months before we even got married.
And before you think that I was hesitant to take my husband’s last name –
I mean, it’s not like he has a weird last name. It’s not like his last name is “Schnicklefritz” or “Hitler”. Or “Butt”.
It’s just something new. Even now, months after the wedding, if someone calls me “Mrs. So and so” – I’m like, “Who’s that? Is Kyle’s mom here? Oh, right. That’s me.”
If you’re hesitating to change your last name — first of all, you don’t have to. You really don’t. Will it make things “easier” when/if you have kids? Probably. Are people going to call you “Mrs. so and so” anyway? Probably.
But you don’t “have” to change it legally. You can always –
#1 – Hyphenate. Some people choose to go by OldName-SoAndSo. Which is perfectly acceptable. It’s on their debit cards and everything.
#2 – Change it legally, but not professionally. Some people keep their original last name as a professional name, especially doctors or those with established degrees. Mrs So-And-So isn’t the name on your law degree, Miss OldName is.
#3 – Use your original last name as a middle name. And if you already have a middle name, I guess you’ll just have two middle names now. Fun!
#4 – Just don’t change it. Seriously. This is YOUR call.