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He Said, She Said: Bride-To-Be Won’t Change Her Last Name

In a question posed for our female readers, would you take your husband-to-be’s last name or keep your own? For our male readers, how would you feel if your future bride decided to keep her own name? A whopping 63% of male readers for Men’s Health magazine said they would be upset if their wives kept their maiden names. So is it really that big of a deal?

Image Credit: Image Source/Corbis

Image Credit: Image Source/Corbis

What’s in a name? A lot, actually. Your name is an integral part of your identity and a placeholder that situates you in the great big world. Asking your bride-to-be to change her last name to yours is a highly personal question. For many women, it means something more to them than just a name. Times have changed and with progression has come many freedoms and independence. Women nowadays can be their own individual-self without the dependence of a significant other.

Wedding Days, did a survey and discovered that more than one in four brides want to keep or at least hyphenate their last names. Granted, the UK wedding directory had only polled 200 brides-to-be from overseas but it’s completely different on this other side of the pond. In March of 2011, TheKnot surveyed nearly 19,000 women who got married the previous year and found out that 86% of them took their husband’s name.

The business of women keeping their last names was first introduced in the United States in the late 1850s by American orator and suffragette Lucy Stone. It was then adopted by members of the Lucy Stone League in the 1920s and later popularized during the Women’s Rights Movement of the early 1970s; which peaked in the 1990s at 23%. It was then by the eary 2000s that only 18% of women were keeping their names in accordance to a 2009 study published in the Social Behavior and Personality journal. However today? Today’s those numbers have changed significantly. According to TheKnot, it’s at just 8% who will keep their own now.

In a conversation with The Huffington Post, Diana Boxer, professor of linguistics at the University of Florida who studies gender and language, believes today’s feminists aren’t too concerned by many of the issues that aggravated feminists in the past. She tells The Huffington Post how it’s not so much anymore of, “I am woman hear me roar.” Instead, she feels the women of this generation are roaring enough and argues that the number of women changing their names today can in part be explained by a minuscule increase in the cultural emphasis of romance. “They’re into the whole idea of, ‘I’ve always waited for my Mr. Perfect, and now that I’m going to get married, I want to do everything the romantic way,'” she says.

In 2009, researchers at Indiana University conducted a survey that showed 71% of respondents believed a woman should change her name, while half of those participants went so far as to say the custom should be legally required. These numbers may help to explain why those who keep their names are sometimes criticized for their choice. But considering most women are willing to change their names doesn’t mean the decision is an easy one. Making such a choice can bring up all sorts of emotions and reasons only the couple can truly understand.

This week we hear from Aiden of Manchester, New Hampshire who wonders why his fiancee isn’t keen on changing her last name to his. Is he being foolish by dwelling on the last name or is he being just as stubborn as the bride-to-be? Our writers help the groom out.

He Said She Said - Aiden October 23 2013

Karen says…

Aiden, first of all, HUGE congratulations to you and your fiancee on your engagement! You both seem like you are very much in love and are pretty much soul-mates. I’m very happy to hear that you found someone who makes you happy and that you’ll be spending the rest of your life with the lady you love.

I’ve actually been thinking here and there about what I do with my last name if I ever got married. When I was younger, I hated how everyone would mispronounce my last name and was actually forward to marrying a man with a very simple last name just so I could take on his last name! But now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate how unique my last name is–and all–and have thought about keeping it or hyphenating it if I do become a wife. I think nowadays, women have become more empowered to make that type of decision in marriage. I work in email-based customer service and have done door-to-door canvassing, and I’ve been seeing a lot of the differences in last names among married couples. It’s not uncommon anymore. It’s a personal decision and I’m not sure what exactly your fiancee’s reasoning would be, but I wouldn’t judge her for whatever that reason is. I know you’re a bit hurt and that you consider yourself traditional, but she’s still going to be your wife regardless of what her last name is. The marriage certificate, the vows you say to each other at the wedding, and the love you’ll share over time will justify that. Who knows, maybe one day she will make the decision to change her last name to yours, and perhaps she is actually mulling it over as we speak. It could happen in a few years after you’re married, a few months before you’re married, or even tomorrow! Some people make strong statements and decisions and stick with them, but sometimes, they come to the realization that maybe it’s not what they wanted after all. I think there’s still even a small possibility that she could change her mind.

For now, I would say not to dwell too much on it, Aiden. Instead, bask in the joy that you’ll be marrying your one true love. I wish you and your fiancee all the best and a long and happy marriage!

Kathleen says…

Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming wedding, Aiden! How incredibly exciting!

I can understand your disappointment in your fiancee’s decision not to change her last name. However, I don’t fault your bride-to-be for keeping her last name. Her last name is a huge part of her identity. It is a tie to her parents and siblings, so I can see why it would be difficult to part with that. Additionally, it’s quite expensive and time-consuming to change one’s name. You have to pay fees and fill out forms for everything from your passport and credit cards to your social security card and magazine subscriptions. Plus, it also means a dreaded trip to the DMV…and most people will do anything to avoid that!

While it may feel weird to have different surnames, you should focus on the fact that she has chosen to marry you and loves you, Aiden. Not that she won’t take your last name. Best of luck!

Chris says…

Congratulations, Aiden! I think that your situation is similar to that of many engaged couples these days. I myself went through a similar situation last year before I got married.

I think it’s the tradition that really gets to us guys. Everyone in my family has taken the last name of their husband, so I naturally grew up with that ingrained expectation too. I didn’t know the reasons, I just grew up wanting the same.

My wife and I talked about this a good bit before we got married. Ultimately, she made her own decision to change her last name, and I would suggest that you let your lady have that same courtesy. Kathleen is right, it is a process and there are a ton of hoops to jump through.

The truth is, the scenario really has no right or wrong way to play out, unless it becomes a big fight. You never want to fight about something like this while trying to start a new life together – it just isn’t worth it.

I’ve been married for over a year now and I can say that I would love my wife just as much regardless of which name she used.

Congrats again, Aiden.

Drew says…

I got married last year, and so I do get what you are going through. My wife considered keeping her own name for a while, and I didn’t like the idea. I think that you need to try your best not to get hung up on it. The important thing is that you are both in love and want to spend the rest of your lives together. If your fiancee keeps her name, she’ll still be your wife. Take a moment to think about that. I think if there’s a secret to a happy marriage, it’s learning not to hold onto a grudge, so whichever way it ends up going; you need to not hold it over each other for years to come.

Good luck.

If you seek advice from our writers, email us at thehudsuckerblog@gmail.com! Perhaps your question will be featured in our next installment.

While our team of writers have given their advice with the best of intentions, they nor anyone of this site assume responsibility for your actions or the results of them.
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One Comment on “He Said, She Said: Bride-To-Be Won’t Change Her Last Name”

  1. Corey September 11, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    If your wife decides not to change her name and you have children, what surname do the kids take?

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