One of the big topics couples tackle when planning their wedding and preparing for marriage is what to do about their last name. Back in the day, it was a no brainer that the wife would adopt the husband’s last name (and sometimes even his first name, being known as Mrs. John Doe).
But these days, there’s not such a simple answer. Some brides don’t want to take their husband’s last name. And sometimes, there isn’t a bride at all or there are two brides! So what’s the answer for modern couples when it comes to the last name question?
Turns out, there isn’t one easy answer. You’ve got options.
Keep your own last name
Many modern couples are choosing to forgo all the fuss and paperwork of changing their last names by simply not. Both members of the couple will keep their given last names and go on like that. Of course, you don’t need a common last name to be properly married to someone; it’s not mandatory to change to one last name. So with this option you save time on paperwork and changing all of your ID, and you don’t have to decide on one last name over the other.
However, one question that comes up when a couple goes this route is what to do when they have children. If you’re planning to both keep your last names and welcome children in the future, you will have to decide what to do with their last names. So when it comes to the kids, you’ll have to pick from one of the last name options below. Of course, if you’re not planning on children, this is an easy one!
Adopt one partner’s last name
The most common option is to adopt one person’s last name as the shared last name for both of you. And no, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the man’s last name if you’re in a hetero couple.
The feminist and equal opportunity choice would be to consider both partners’ last names equally. Both last names should be on the table and a discussion should be had between the partners. If you’re in a hetero couple, it shouldn’t be assumed that the man will keep his last name and the woman can choose to take it or not. The choice should be between both last names and both partners possibly making the switch.
Perhaps one partner is more connected to their last name. Maybe they have deep family ties, a strong connection to their heritage or can trace their name back over many generations. It’s a tough conversation to have, but an important one. Both partners should be happy with the last name they settle on. And for the person who does make the switch, they can still preserve their given last name by adding it to their middle name or even using it as their child’s name.
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One way to include both last names is to hyphenate. Yes, it makes both of your names longer, but it also ensures you’re both equally represented. It’s a good compromise and a nice way to bring both of your identities into your married names.
Hyphenating is a more modern choice. When it first came around, it seemed to be an option that only the wife (in hetero marriages) and possibly the children would adopt – the wife would hyphenate but her husband would not. But these days, we’re liking that both members of the couple are considering and adopting a hyphenated last name.
The only problem we can foresee? What happens if someone with a hyphenated given name marries someone else with a hyphenated given name? Do they hyphenate again and have four last names? When does the madness end!?! (We’re kidding, of course. After four last names, we believe you should look into some other options.)
Find a new last name
This is a very cool and new option for couples. Instead of picking one person’s last name, keeping their own or hyphenating, they just decide on a brand new last name! It’s actually a fun bonding experience to come up with a new name to start your married life together.
Some ways to find a good last name include going through both of your family trees and finding a last name common to both of you. You could also choose to honour a deceased family member by adopting their name. Or you could choose to go with a maternal last name in your family, as those often die off when women take their husbands’ names. A fun option? Morphing your names together! For example, Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley could be the Pottleys!
Remember: the only right answer to the last name question is what works for you two. We love that we live in a time and a place where there are options when it comes to changing or not changing your last name. But of course, more options also makes choosing the right one more difficult. But just like your ceremony, your last name should represent the two of you and feel true to who you are.
What are you thinking of doing with your last name?
written by Riana Ang-Canning
feature image by Erica Miller Photography