Are you, your husband or your wife wondering if you’re going to change your surname after the wedding? For generations, the norm has been for women to change their names to their husband’s. But in recent decades, women have kept their maiden names after marriage, and in many countries and provinces, it’s the custom and even the law, for women not to change their names. But in between keeping the surname you were born with and changing it to your spouse’s there are many possibilities.

1. Take the man’s surname, if you’re a heterosexual couple getting married

Generations of girls were brought up to dream of become “Mrs… “ and taking the surname of their husband. Ella Fitzgerald sings “I’d like to add his initials to my monogram”, and many women still feel they love the sound of being “Mrs. Husband” and to take on his name is well worth giving up their own. If you’re a same sex-couple, you might have to toss or negotiate about what surname/s you will use after you’re married.

2. Each keep your own surname after marriage: over a few generations this has become the norm

Yet the strange thing is 90 times out of a 100, any children of the marriage take the husband’s surname. Sometimes the mother’s surname is added as a middle name, or the name is double-barrelled for the children but not for the wife and mother, and never, for the husband – heaven forbid he should change his name! This can quite soon lead to absurdities for the children such as Anabelle Fitzwilliam-McClintock-Bellwood-Jones.

name change after wedding

3. Double-barrel your surnames after the wedding

I briefly considered doing so but thought that Catherine Kentridge-Brockhouse would be too much of a mouthful, so stuck to my maiden name, and gave our daughter her father’s surname and her great grandmother’s’ first names. And among so many women, even those who choose to keep their own surnames, they concede without a struggle or even much thought, as I did, that the children’s surname should be their husband’s. And in all too many cases, the dynastic urge in the men is so strong that the first-born boy has to have the same name as his father. In the US it is common to be called “Eustace Johnson III”. Somehow the dynastic thinking does not seem to apply to daughters!

4. Create a completely new surname after getting married

When my neighbours John Maclean and Jennifer Rogers got married, they both changed their names to McRogers, and gave each of their 5 children a name that began with J.

5. The husband takes his wife’s surname after marriage

For some reason this option is regarded as totally bizarre and controversial – only about 3% of men change their names to their wive’s compared with about 80% of women who take their husband’s surname. It seems that almost all men, and even some women, regard it as absolutely fine and normal if the woman changes her name, but somehow unmanly and extraordinary if the man changes his name. As if his surname were somehow worth more than hers!

So, what’s your preference – yours, his, hers, double-barrel of both, or something completely new? And what about the children – will some have one surname and some another?

Make sure your celebrant knows what you’ve decided so she or he can introduce you as Mr. & Mrs., Mr. & Mr., Mrs. & Mrs., Ms. & Ms., the Knewbowrth-Levins, the Levnebs or just Partners for Life. Just remember, when you officially sign the marriage documents, you need to use the name that’s on all your ID documents at the time – the name changes, if any, come afterwards.

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