As part of organising a ceremony understanding if one or both partners are changing their name is something I ask. Pronouncing the couple to the world is a key component and flag to guests that the ceremony has ended. The party is to begin! Of course, there are couples who are unsure, or haven’t thought about it, and I have plenty of alternative pronouncement suggestions.
If you are unsure about changing your last name here are a few things to consider. Remember there is no rush to this decision and it can be done at any time. Keep in mind not wanting to change your name is a valid and strong enough reason.
It Is NOT A Legal Requirement.
The patriarchy is strong with this one and often women, particularly those in hetro relationships, are of the belief that they must change their last name legally. This is not true. Like a lot of things this is a choice and you don’t have to do it.
What Attachment Do You Have to Your Name.
What is your attachment to your name? Have you developed a business or career with your current name and want to keep it? Maybe you dislike your name so much you are happy to get change it. Or your name could have historical or cultural significance and you want to keep it. For me I have lived so long with my last name, hating it throughout school because of bullying to loving it as I got older and now will never change it.
What Is The Cost To Change Your Name?
In some countries it is free to get married and change your name! For most of us there is a cost involved. Typically, in western countries, to encourage name changes, governments allow brides to go by both names as they slowly switch over documents to their new name. I have friends who have carried their marriage certificates with them for a year as proving their name change came up often, and unexpectantly. For men though changing your name is not so easy in these countries. Understanding the costs involved to make these changes is key. There are often multiple IDs that require updating including passports and licenses. Making the mistake of using your married name when that ID is still in your original name can be a costly fix.
Are There Cultural or Family Expectations?
It is not unusual to have cultural or family expectations already in place to change your name. It can be hard wanting to do something different. Traditionally, in western cultures a bride takes her husbands name. However, in Eastern Europe and South America it is common for men to take their new wife’s name. I’ve loved learning about countries where children take both the father and mothers last name. The child’s gender determines the order. For example, female children ultimately have their mum’s last name as the main last name.
What About The Children?
In the past a parent with a different last name was unusual and resulted in children treated negatively by schools and peers. However times have changed and having a different last name to your children is very common. I personally think that children should have the last name of the person who did all the work growing, carrying and birthing them, but I know society isn’t quite there yet!
Ideas On Changing Your Name.
- Keep your last name the same. The easiest and cheapest method. Whilst you can update your new name on many documents there are those that you won’t be able to change eg. school certificates
- Keep your name the same and use Mrs. There is no reason why you can’t just update your prefix from Ms to Mrs. Again this is an easy change on documents forms in the future.
- Your partner changes their last name. I have many hetro couples where the man has taken the wife’s last name for various reasons. Sometimes he doesn’t have a great relationship with his family or the name has negative associations from childhood. It can also be that the wife has a career that is more public and changing her name would be a career speed bump. If the couple wish, I have a lovely paragraph that updates the guests in the ceremony of the name change, which can be detailed or not with the reasons.
- Combine your last name. We are all familiar with the hyphened last name. You can have double last names with or without the hyphen or mix the two last names together to make your own. A bit like celebrity couple names eg Brangelina!
- Choose a completely new last name based on your new families history. This can be very fun coming up with a new name. The place you met, restaurant you went for your first date or a last name of your favourite movie character!
This is a great conversation to have with your partner before engagement. It can open the conversation about gender roles and expectations of each other. Something that should be sorted out before being legally attached to one and other!
Hi, I’m Jessica, an accredited Humanists UK celebrant. Contact me for your wedding and celebration scripts, or to run your reception/party. For more information look here. When I am not writing ceremonies for couples around the world, I make ceramics and help small business with their social media.