Husbands taking their wives' names: A poll

The background: I hate my last name. Suffice it to say that it’s a German name which contains a common slang word for sexual intercourse. So I look forward to the day I can change it, and since I’m lazy (and my dad said he’d disown me if I changed it for no good reason) I’m waiting for marriage to change it (chick, btw).

But the thought occurred to me when I started dating, what if I don’t like my future husband’s last name? What if it’s Aslicker or something equally awful like Hornschlonger?

Well, I says to myself, I won’t take it. We’ll have to pick a different name and both change our names to that. When I expressed this to some male friends in conversation one day, they freaked out a little. The comments were along the lines of “That’s been his name his whole life, why should he have to change it if you don’t like it” and things like that.

So my response it, why should I have to change my name? What if I really liked it? Why can’t I keep my own identity instead of taking on my husband’s (don’t get me started about Mrs. John Smith)?*

The question, finally: How wrong is it for me to ask my (future) fiance to change his name to one we both agree upon? Why should I get stuck with yet another crappy, embarassing, hard to spell/pronounce last name? If a name is so important to a man, why shouldn’t it be for a woman? Why should I just accept his name regardless of my feelings about it?**

  • I’m a big fan of tradition generally speaking, being a history major and all, except when it comes to certain things. Namely, my desire to be seen as my own person instead of someone else’s wife (I recently stopped talking to a friend who, in the course of an argument with my BF, referred to me as “your stupid girlfriend.” I’m not really pissed he called me stupid, rather that he reduced me to nothing more than someone’s girlfriend.

** I know in the past I’ve hesitated to call myself a feminist, but shit, I am a feminist. And a hippy to boot. :smack:

My ex took my name and now I wish she never did. People trying to find me call her because she stayed in town and I moved away. So I get continual unwanted updates about her in the process.

As to both taking the same name, why bother? Do you realize there’s a better than even chance you will split? My sister didn’t change her name and now people who google can find all her work background (she’s a medical doctor) before and after marriage.

I think your options are keep your name, take his name, or suggest the mutually agreeable 3rd name option and see if he goes for it. I think it would be crossing a line to insist he change his name, though. It would be crossing at least as much of a line as him insisting you take his name, and possibly more of a line since there is quite a bit of baggage on some men to carry on the family name. Maybe you can combine the least objectionable parts of both of your names.

There’s no good universal answer to that; it depends entirely upon the man and your relationship.

My personal preference, if you don’t want to take his name, would be to just keep your own, as much as you hate it. Mainly for practical reasons; you’d be talking about changing two names rather than one, and, while I don’t know the legal specifics, it seems that it is easier for a woman to change her name with various agencies than for a man (at least, when she’s taking her husband’s name). My wife basically had to show her marriage certificate to prove that she was married, and she was issued new ID. I suspect that the mechanism for a man changing his name (even in marriage) would be more complicated; it would probably involve probate. I suspect also that a woman changing her name to something other than her husband’s would be equally complicated. That is my entirely inexpert, citeless WAG.

Anecdotally, I do know one couple that did both change their names. Another option (which probably wouldn’t work in your case) is what my sister and her husband did; she took his name, changed her middle name to her maiden name, and he also changed his middle name to her maiden name. In your scenario, of course, you’d just have two names you hate.

If both of you can agree on an option, then that’s fine.

I know a couple of men who have taken their wives names. Doesn’t seem to have been a bigger deal than the other way around.

As for me: I can’t even imagine take someone else’s name (I’m a girl BTW).


I thought I recalled somewhere, probably here on the Dope, that as long as you don’t intend to commit fraud, all you have to do is go get a new ID with your new name on it. I’ll have to go looking around for it, but I remember specifically because I’m still considering changing my name now, despite my dad’s annoyance.

As for insisting my potential husband take a different name, I’m just curious as to how it’s crossing a line. I understand some families are concerned with passing on the family name and all that, but to me it implies that a woman’s family and identity are less important than a man’s, which I have a gigantic problem with.

I’ve always thought patrilineal societies were ridiculous, because it’s only been a few decades now that you’ve been able to prove a man’s child was really his. Not so with the mother, hence my confusion as to why it’s always been done that way in Western society.

Anyhoo, I guess I look at it like I don’t really feel the need to perpetuate what was once a misogynistic practice, even if it’s lost most of the misogynistic overtones. Honestly, the only reason I would take my husband’s name would be to get rid of the one I already had, and even then I still feel a bit… not ok with it.

My first wife kept her own name and we were both OK with that.

My second/current/final wife :slight_smile: took mine, partially because she’s a little more traditional in general, partially because she didn’t like her maiden name, and partially because if we had hyphenated our names we would have ended up with something that sounded like a urological disorder.

Patrilinear or matrilinear are fine / equal AFAIC - I’m not arguing the previous poster’s point at all. But people who take brand new last names drive us genealogists crazy. :rolleyes:

I took my husband’s name for personal reasons, though he is generally uncomfortable with the idea of the female taking the husband’s name (patriarchy and all that.) Eventually we agreed there really was no other good option. I’m glad I did–I love being a part of his family, and my name, when I hear it, reminds me of that sense of unity we share.

I think it is perfectly okay for you to not take your husband’s name.
I think it is perfectly okay for you to take your husband’s name.
I think it is perfectly okay for him to take yours, or for you to agree on something else, or whatever.

But what I don’t think is okay is for anybody, including your future spouse, to be expected or pressured into changing his name. That’s his name, his decision, just as your name is yours. If he doesn’t want to change his, then maybe you will just change yours. There are any number of viable options.

However, at least in my state, doing anything other than the standard marriage/wife’s name change is rather inconvenient. They make it as difficult as possible for you to not follow tradition. But if it’s worth the added time and expense, go for it.

Does anyone else think the stupid OP should lighten up and realize that being called by a descriptor other than her name isn’t necessarily an insult? :wink:

You were hesitant to call yourself a feminist, but proud of being a damn hippy? What’s wrong with you?

What’s that? I have to provide actual content along with my my snark?


My father’s father’s last name was Schmookler. My father, understandably, was eager to change it, but my grandfather forbade it. (My father’s older brother had already changed both his fist and last names, and more or less estranged himself from the family. His new, TV-inspired name was Michael Anthony. I never met my uncle, but did this guy want to pass, or what?) Apparently, my grandfather also hated the name, and had, himself, wanted to change it as a young man, but had been forbidden by his father. And if he couldn’t do it, no son of his (well, except my uncle) was going to do it either!

My mother, however, refused unconditionally to be Mrs. Schmookler, and my dad couldn’t really argue. He actually offered to take her last name (It was the '70s.) but my mother, who later realized she had married him mostly to get away from her own family, was less than thrilled with this idea. Hyphenated names wouldn’t have solved anybody’s problem, and neither wanted to have a different name from their future children. So as an alternative, and to partly appease my grandfather, they chose to both change their name at the wedding to my father’s father’s mother’s maiden name.

My parents have long since divorced. My father kept the new name socially, and hyphenated his old and new last names in professional publications. My mother kept the new name for about 15 years after the divorce (so as to be the same as her children) until she finally remarried, and took my stepfather’s last name.

My younger sister, around her early 20’s, changed her name, choosing to go by her middle name (which was the same as our father’s mother’s first name) and our father’s mother’s maiden name (influenced, we all felt, by the fact that that side of the family is now wealthier than ours). That our mother now had to call her daughter by the full name of her late former mother-in-law was a source of some not-too-bitter humor from our mom! It wasn’t too long afterwards that she married her husband and took his last name.

I’ve always been single, and don’t expect to marry any time soon, but ever since I was a child, I always thought I would most likely change my own name when I got married. I’m lukewarm on the last name my parents chose, and after all–it’s family tradition!

A high school friend had a two-syllable surname. His wife had a three-syllable surname. When they were married they changed their surnames to a 3-2 hyphenated version. Then she decided to change her surname to something more suited to her Wiccan leanings (Raven). Then she changed it to one of Welsh origin and her husband adopted the same name.

Me? I like my name well enough. If I were to be married I’d keep it. But there’s no way I’d insist my wife take it if she wants to keep hers.

When I got married to my (same sex) partner, I changed my name to his… My family has refused to talk to me in more than 15 years, and I found out when I was 20 that my father had actually changed his name to the one I grew up with - so I didn’t feel alot of connection to my old one…

Changing it was easy when we moved here to Ontario - I showed my marriage certificate at the Ministry of Transportation, they sent me a new license with my new name… At this point, everything is in the new name…

Of course, the U.S. doesn’t recognize our marriage, so my American passport and all my credit cards from there are in my old name… I figure when I go back to the U.S. to visit, I’m Mr. Daffd; when I’m home in Canada, I’m Mr. NewName.

It’s a little strange being Mr. and Mr. NewName though… But it’s sort of fun screwing with people’s heads… We get calls asking for Mrs. NewName, and I always say, “speaking”… The silence on the other end of the line is usually deafening! :smiley:

I have written on some of that here. It is true. You can just change your name or even have multiple names if you want and just start using them. The hitch is that businesses, banks, and the government may have their own requirements for what they want to see to acknowledge you under that name. For much of the government to start issuing legal documents under a new name, you probably need a legal name change by the courts but that is usually just a rubber stamp anyway. Still, that doesn’t stop you from identifying yourself under the new name to all the people you choose. Marriages offer a free, government sanctioned name change usually to anything for the female and often the male as well.

I am far from a misogynist but I couldn’t marry someone that would force an arbitrary name change on me. It is too hippiish and signals bad things to come. My wife uses her maiden name for business purposes and that is fine by me but I like genealogy and know a lot about the interesting history in terms of my surname. I would honestly be embarrassed if friends, family, and coworkers found out how and why I came to take a new, arbitrary name. At the very least, it is universally understood why females do it when they get married.

Where I used to work, a guy named Brown said he was going to take his fiance’s name when they wed. “There’s enough Browns in the world,” and hers was a more unusual, though perfectly pronounceable, surname. I left there before the nuptials so I don’t know if he carried through or not.

When DesertWife and I wed we were both quite active in the Libertarian party and at that time and place (California) it was less than even odds for the wife to take her husband’s surname among us. There were enough exceptions that we were asked though, usually for me in form “So, is she taking your name?”

I’d answer, “Yes,” <beat> “And I’m taking hers. None of the namby-pamby hyphenation stuff for us!”

Alan Smithee, I’m not proud of being a hippy- that’s the whole point. I’ve always refused to acknowledge my hippiness, but then yesterday as I was drinking a glass of green tea, sorting through my recyclables, I finally conceded that yes, I am a damn hippy. (Although I don’t dress or smell like a hippy- I hate patchouli)

Shagnasty, I understand why you wouldn’t want to marry someone who tried to force you to do something against your will, but… why would you be so attached to your current name that you wouldn’t consider it? Just out of curiosity.

For me, the option I’d always considered the most agreeable to both parties (if he was willing to change his name) would be to go back a generation or two in either one of our families to pick a name. That way, it would still be a family name with some connection to the past, but would mean I wouldn’t get stuck being Mrs. Schmookler (sorry, it’s a good one). And it wouldn’t be so terribly confusing to genealogists.

I just don’t want to be a Julia Gulia or something like that, and I would hope that if this situation did arise he’d see why I wouldn’t want to walk around with a name that caused people to snicker. Especially if he was indifferent or disliked his own name. Just because a lot of the responses I got from my male friends were more along the lines of it was rude to even consider asking him to do that, like his last name was sacred or something.

My estranged husband had an absoulte fit when we got married and I wanted to take his last name. I compromised with hypenated last name. Gah what an ugly mess, one very British Isles surname and one unpronouncable (not to me, but to some) Scandanavian surname. He was even uncomfortable when he had to sign my son’s birth certificate. I dont really understand to this day. I know he had unpaid jail fines, and bad credit but Im not sure what the whole thing about his name was.

I wish I hadnt put my son as Boy (my maiden name) Hub’s last name. I want to change it back to (my maiden name) esp since he’s starting school and getting curious about why we don’t match. (Iwent back to maiden name immediately after separating from him.)
(But sigh you need a SIGNATURE of both parents on the birth certificate to change a name, and this guy remains among the missing)

I think choosing an entirely new last name is a handy compromise, actually. I hate my last name and always have, so if I get married, I will cheerfully change my name unless that of my new spouse is even worse than what I have already. It’s not hard to spell or pronounce; I just don’t like it.

I just love how apparently it’s a horrible emasculating thing to want your husband to take your name, though. Sexism just shows up in the darnedest places.

I also like the idea of choosing a name from farther back in the family line, but you have to go way back in mine to find a surname that, frankly, isn’t dorky.

Hyphenation only works, IMO, if you both have shortish names that don’t sound goofy together.

For my first marriage my now ex-husband had one of those horrid names. He wouldn’t take mine, I wasn’t taking his, so we picked a third. I went through a legal name change and he changed his to my NEW last name when we married. We thought it important to have the same last name and this was the compromise.

Older and wiser for my second wedding, I kept my maiden name (which I returned to after the wedding - my ex-husband still has “my” new last name - as does his new wife). My maiden name isn’t a fantastic one, but its fine.

My mother’s last name was I suspect the same German bad last name as yours (or a similar one). The whole family changed it 50 years ago.

That was something that also caught my attention. Had he called you someone’s “fucking daughter” or “fucking sister” would that have also been as insulting? Maybe the guy was trying to be condescending, but I can think of a lot of other words that would convey that thought much more clearly.

As for the rest of the content of this thread, I’m boggled. I have no clear idea of what in the hell is going on, or even how I feel about the various options that people consider. It seems that all of the name changing options have at least some merit, and the reasoning against most of them is just based on tradition.

There is one situation that I can think of where neither party should change their surnames. If the wife’s career (I’m thinking established actress or something similar) depends on her last name being recognizable, she shouldn’t change it. The husband could change his last name to hers, but he might as well keep his. If they have kids, well, I’m stymied again. This is a complex issue to say the least.

If ever there were a subject where people should be left alone to make whatever decision works for them, this is it. It is no one else’s business besides the marrying couple’s what they decide to do with respect to their names.

Having said that, I don’t understand AT ALL why women take their husband’s names. When I got married in 1982, it was getting fairly common for women to keep their own names, and I would have predicted that by now, it would be standard. Silly me.

One of the best comments I ever heard on the subject was during an NPR show. Unfortunately I do not recall the speaker’s name, but her observation on taking a man’s name when you get married was unforgettable:

"Why would you take your husband’s name? You’re getting married, not entering a witness protection program!"

It was obvious to anyone who knew me that I would keep my own name upon marriage, so it really didn’t even come up for discussion when I was engaged. However, it did occur to me to ask my husband-to-be what he thought. His response? “In a way, it doesn’t matter to me whether you take my name or not. But … I can’t imagine myself falling in love with someone who wouldn’t want to keep her own name.”

If it were possible, I fell more in love with my husband at that moment for saying such a great thing. Damn. It’s been over 25 years, and I’m STILL crazy about the guy.

Maybe the moral is: marry someone who feels exactly the way you do about the name issue.

To the OP: i completely understand your annoyance at the gender double-standard regarding names. My wife and i never even discussed the idea of her taking my name; the possibility never even crossed our minds. She’s perfectly happy with her name, and i’m happy with mine, and the fact that we don’t share a surname doesn’t change the way we feel about each other at all.

Admittedly, this is made easier for us by the fact that we don’t intend to have kids. Working out what to call the kids can be difficult, and any change to the age-old tradition of naming them after the father can lead to confusion. Of course, the more people who adopt non-traditional naming practices, the more we will get used to it, and hopefully it won’t seem strange at all after a while. Also, the plethora of divorced couples in modern society means that kids and parents often don’t share the same name.

As for the question of the man taking his wife’s name, i know one couple who did that. The guy’s last name was “Arbuthnot,” and he didn’t like it much so he took his wife’s name.