Times change, and the issues that brides-to-be change along with them. Back when your mother got married, there was probably no question at all about whether she would adopt her husband’s name after they tied the knot. These days, however, it is not a given that the woman will automatically change her last name when she becomes a Mrs. This is a look at all of the options, and hopefully it will help you to decide if you should take your husband’s name, keep your own, or invent something totally new.
The original reason for a wife to take her husband’s name was to symbolize that she now belonged to him instead of her father. Before anyone gets too upset at the symbolism of the bride belonging to the patriarch of her family, remember that when the father of the bride takes her down the aisle in her white gown and pearl bridal jewelry to give her away at the wedding, it represents exactly the same thing: a transfer of the bride from his protection to that of her new husband. If you are a traditional sort of gal who loves the classic parts about weddings like the pearl bridal jewelry, the engraved stationery, and plan to keep the words “obey” in your vows, none of this will present a dilemma for you; taking your husband’s name is simply part of the package.
For other women, however, the symbolism of abandoning their maiden name might feel too much like losing a piece of their own identity or of separating from their families. These are the brides who often feel the most torn about whether to take their husband’s name or not. If you are not offended by the traditional roles implied by a name change, yet are upset at the idea of losing your family name, it can be a really tough decision. A possible compromise is to adopt your husband’s surname, but to keep your original maiden name as your middle name. Or you might plan with your fiance that your first born child will be given your maiden name as a first name, if you have the sort of name that would make a good first name.
Brides can also feel stumped about the name change question based on their professional status. Maybe you are amenable to taking your husband’s name but have already established yourself in a demanding career under another name. Women in this situation might opt to keep using their maiden name professionally, but go by their husband’s name socially, especially once kids enter the picture. Speaking of children, wanting to have the same last name as their kids is one of the main reason that some women do ultimately decide to take their husband’s name.
Of course, no woman should feel like she has to change her surname. In fact, there is a very small, but growing, percentage of men who adopt their wife’s last name. Maybe she has a strong professional reason to keep her name, and he is a student who has not yet established a career. Perhaps the bride has a great family that the groom is eager to join and he has no living relations with whom he shares his family name. For that matter, the groom might just have a last name that is embarrassing, and getting married gives him the change to shed it that he has always wanted. He might have to endure some ribbing from his friends at first, but so what?
A final option is for the bride and groom to come to a compromise on a shared last name. One of both of them can hyphenate their surnames or they can combine the two names into a completely new name that they will share. Creating a new name can be a great symbolism of the joining of two into one, although there is the opposing symbolism of leaving both families’ surnames behind. And of course, not every pair of names can be combined into a new single word with a harmonious sound, but for some couples, this is a great solution. Ultimately, it is the bride who is generally expected to change her name, so the decision needs to be the one with which she will feel most comfortable.
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