Relationships

What Last Name Will Your Kids Have?

Hallie Bateman

Illustrator Hallie Bateman isn’t sure about changing her name when she gets married — but then what? And what will her kids be called? Here, she talks to seven couples about the different choices they made…


When Jack and I started dating, I’d drop occasional comments about us having kids together, pretending to be totally chill while secretly thinking about it all the time.

A couple years later, we began talking about it with more comfort and seriousness. It was exciting to imagine having a family, but we kept getting hung up on a particular question: What would our child’s last name be? It was, and continues to be, a stymying question. While giving our kids Jack’s last name would be the easiest route as far as society is concerned, I’m not comfortable with it.

“The burden of naming rests unfairly on women,” says Elizabeth Aura McClintock in Psychology Today. “Moreover, women’s desire to pass their own name onto their children is often criticized as selfish and a sign of poor commitment to their spouse — while the same desire in men is expected and accepted.”

I feel this. In my conversations with Jack, a loving and progressive man, it still feels like I must decide how much to ask for in breaking a thousand-year patrilineal naming tradition in English-speaking countries.

It originated in England in the Middle Ages with the law of coverture, which essentially made a man’s wife and children his property. Coverture ended in the 1800s as women gained rights, but most U.S. families still embrace the tradition of patrilineal naming.

Curious about other ways to do things, I reached out to seven couples who went in different directions:

Hallie Bateman

Strike a deal.
“I got to pick my son’s first name since he was getting my partner’s last name,” says Lucy, a Chicago-based cartoonist. “We agreed that if we had a girl, her middle name would be my middle name, Louise; and if we had a boy, his middle name would be John’s middle name, Karl. But when we found out we were having a boy, it didn’t sit well with my husband that two-thirds of our child’s name would come from him. So, John came up with the idea that I would have the lion’s share of picking the first name — John would still have input, of course, but I’d be the ringleader.”

Hallie Bateman

Hyphenate.
“We have two last names, first the father’s and then the mother’s,” says Rebeca, who lives in Costa Rica. “Having two last names doesn’t complicate things in our country because you retain them for all your life.”

Hallie Bateman

Alternate last names.
Rachel, an Australian with feminist parents, had a different last name than her siblings. Stick with me here: They were each given both their parents’ surnames, but the order was swapped. Rachel got her dad’s name first, then her mom’s. For her brothers, it was reversed. Rachel says they were met with some puzzlement at school, but they got through it. “If anything, it has made me proud to be my parents’ daughter and taught me not to care about the reactions of others,” she says. “I can draw on the experience whenever I catch myself caring what others think.”

Hallie Bateman

Combine your names into a new one.
“When my husband Tanner and I were getting married,” says Jaime Greenring, a Brooklyn-based writer, “I wanted to keep my last name, but Tanner wanted us to have the same last name, for the sake of possible future kids. I was Green, he was Ringerud — Greenring was the only feasible combo.” So, how did it go? “Our families were very chill about it. Maybe a bit of ‘Huh, that’s interesting!’ but no pushback.”

Hallie Bateman

Adopt a favorite literary figure’s name.
Ofra and Aryeh Amihay considered keeping their names, or hyphenating, but ultimately decided to each take the name of a poet they both loved. “When we first met, we were attending an event in Jerusalem commemorating Yehuda Amichai, a poet we both admire,” she says, “I sang his songs, and Aryeh read one of his poems. Later, when we were choosing a new last name for ourselves, we immediately knew this would be it. We went with the different English spelling, but in Hebrew the name is the same.” This solution has worked well for them. “It’s about realizing that becoming a couple is starting something new,” says Ofra.

Hallie Bateman

Take your wife’s name.
When Kit and Andrew Parker in Spokane, Washington, decided to get married, Andrew insisted he wanted to take Kit’s name. “You have to be the change you want to see,” Andrew says. “Inevitably, our kids will realize that many American women take their husband’s last name, but they’ll also know that there are alternatives to social norms and expectations.”

“Ultimately, we have zero regrets,” says Kit. “Many times, it leads to really good conversations. Sometimes the conversations aren’t good, but those are important, too. It’s our little rebellion, something we’re proud of and connected through.”

Hallie Bateman

Choose the name that sounds best.
“Oddly enough, we talked about our baby’s last name way more than we talked about his first name,” says Wynn Rankin James, who lives with his husband Ryan in California with their son, Benjamin. “We were both against hyphenation from the get-go. For us, it just felt like we were passing on our indecision to our kid to figure out. But I wanted to have the same name as my kid — and for the family to have the same name. To me, it just felt weird for one dad and the kid to have the same last name, and the other guy to have his own name. Finally, we landed on Ryan’s last name — James — as the last name for ‘the family,’ pretty much only because Wynn James sounds kinda cool, and Ryan Rankin sounds like a weatherman. Oh, and Ben James! Good, sturdy name right there.”

Hallie Bateman

What inspires me about all these couples is their willingness to create a meaningful identity for their new families. When their children are old enough, they’ll learn the origin of their name, and how and why each parent had a say. Jack and I still aren’t sure what we’ll do, but we agree it’s a decision that belongs to both of us equally.


Hallie Bateman is a Los Angeles-based illustrator and writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, the Awl, and elsewhere. Her second book, What To Do When I’m Gone, came out this past April.

I’m so curious to hear about other people’s names, as well. Did you decide to change yours? Did you keep it? What about your kids’? xoxo

P.S. Our kids’ looooong last name, and a secret to a happy marriage.

(Illustrations by Hallie Bateman for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Dianne says...

    I’ve been married for more than five years and I’m still not sure if we made the right choice. My first choice would have been to hyphenate our last names or combine them into a new name, but my husband and I both had long last names (10+ letters) from different language families, and there was no hybrid that worked. We thought a last name with 22 letters (the hyphenate choice) would be too much. My husband offered to take my last name (YAY!) and give that to our children. We considered that for a long time, but in the end felt it could damage his military career (sad but probably true). Plus, my maiden name is very, very difficult to spell and pronounce. So, in the end, we BOTH took my maiden name for our middle names and use his last name as our “family” last name. I still use both last names professionally, but I’m not sure if that was the right choice because people just pick one or the other depending on when they met me (I was already an established academic when we got married). Finally, our daughter has my husband’s (and now my) last name. I do think the hyphenate option wouldn’t have been right for us, as we can barely get people to spell our actual name correctly as it is, but sometimes I wish we had come up with a different option. I keep thinking as time passes I will just get used to it, but when I hear and see my “new” name I’m still not quite sure about it.

  2. Kate says...

    There’s a park in my city with a beautiful rose garden and there are plaques all around it with the names of the women who helped raise money for it (in the 40’s and 50’s) and 90% of them are listed as “Mrs. Jonathan Fisher” and “Mrs. Stephen Nelson” – not even their own names!! My mom’s yearbook from the 60’s even lists teachers as “Mrs. Tom Harper” instead of Mrs. Janet Harper. I get irrationally angry about generations of women whose identities are missing from the narrative in lieu of their husbands names. As for the “I want the same last name as my kids” argument, my mom and I don’t have the same last name and it has never made one iota of difference, which is what I always tell people when they get worked up over my last name not matching my hypothetical child’s last name, and a lot of people have very strong opinions!
    After I got married, a coworker noticed I hadn’t changed my name, and she said, “I wish I’d realized that was an option! I hate my married name, and I loved my maiden name!!” She literally didn’t even know it was a possibility. Ladies, it is an option!

    • Emily L says...

      I HATE when someone refers to me as Mrs. (husband’s first name) (husband’s last name). I agreed to change to his last name, not his entire name!

  3. Amanda says...

    I didn’t take my husbands name when we married. I was 31 and it just didn’t feel necessary to change my name just because I was supposed to. If you think about it, your name is one of the only identifying things you have that is all yours… In Ohio, the children automatically are given the father’s last name if he’s on the birth certificate. I didn’t feel strongly enough about it to fight it in court to have it hyphenated or changed – it’s still our family name (it’s harder to buck tradition in the Midwest. Refusing to change my name has come with some backlash from older family members). When my daughter gets married, I hope her partner respects her decision either way and that they both know that marriage and love are more than a name at the end of the day.

    • Laura says...

      Interesting to read your comment. I don’t know how long ago your daughter was born. I also live in Ohio and kept my name after marriage. My daughter was born last year and while we were called by the state for “clarification” and questioned at the hospital (they thought we had made a mistake on the paperwork) , we gave her my last name and have my husband on her birth certificate. T

  4. Madhura says...

    My husband and I both kept our last names post marriage. 5 years later when we had a babe (now 10 month old) there was never a doubt she would get both our last names, mine as her middle name and my husband’s as her last name. While people already use only her last name (if, at all) I love the fact that my husband and I never blinked an eye to agree on this, and we love it! Now only if the airline industry gets on with the program and doesn’t get all bewildered when I book a flight with my daughter, but state different last names!!! Phew!!

  5. I am getting married in two weeks and this has been an ongoing conversation! My mom never took my dad’s last name and that always made me proud– I could never imagine taking my husband’s last name. My partner loves his last name and doesn’t want to give it up. I don’t have a great relationship with my father…and our last name is Johnson. My partner and I have both decided to take my mom’s last name, Mackler, and add the other name as a middle name. I will be Titus Mackler and he will be Mackler Titus.

    • Erin says...

      I love this!

  6. My parents went through an ugly divorce when I was in college and due to my anger with my dad I came very close to changing my last name to my mom’s maiden name. Things have been patched up now and I’m proud of my dad’s unique Polish last name (literally we’re the only ones in the country, possibly the world). I’m getting married in two weeks and keeping my name. As for kids, my fiancé and I have decided to cross that bridge when we come to it. But I have a feeling I’ll be pushing for my mom’s name to be in the picture somewhere!

  7. Lola says...

    Keeping ones maiden name doesn’t seem like a feminist move since it is only your father’s name and lineage. Only if its both your mother’s and father’s name as your maiden name is it truly keeping your heritage. I know who I am and who I came from; regardless of my last name. And in all honestly, most people only know me by my first name.

    • Dee says...

      This is exactly how I feel! Thank you, Lola!

    • Michelle says...

      This argument is a red herring. The name you live with is YOUR name, regardless of where it came from, and it shouldn’t be the default to give up your name when you get married. Today, women can take whatever name they want, but the feminist implications of keeping your name — or your husband changing his name — are (1) pushing back against the pervasive expectation that the woman will take her husband’s name, which is still by far the default choice (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-so-many-women-still-take-their-husbands-last-name-2017-11-30) and (2) as noted here, pushing back against the expectation that it’s the woman’s dilemma to work out, while the man will simply keep his name.

    • Michelle says...

      ps. This argument is also an endless regress, because your mother’s maiden name is HER father’s name. If you want to change the patriarchal tradition, the natural place to start is by keeping your own name.

      Women take their husband’s names for all kinds of valid reasons, and it doesn’t revoke their feminist card. :) But keeping your name is still a feminist move that bucks convention. One day, when it’s no longer a small minority choice, and no longer by default the woman’s dilemma, it will lose its feminist implications — and that will be wonderful!!

    • Lynda says...

      Not for everyone. Some cultures/families pass along last names matrilineally, which has always made sense to me that you always know who the mother is, but paternity can always be called into question!

      Regardless, I think that this mindset misses the point. The point being that women spend decades with a last name that forms her identity, whether it is passed patrinlineally or matrilineally, and is then expected to change that name once she is married, when it’s not even a question asked of men.

      For the record, I think the feminist move is to make the decision that you are most comfortable with, whether that be taking a partner’s last name, hyphenating, creating a new name, etc.

  8. Danielle says...

    Love, love this topic. I love that women (and men!) are changing the tradition. My boyfriend doesn’t have an attachment to his last name and doesn’t get along with a lot of his family, so he always jokes he wants to take my last name. I loooove the idea of combining, or making a new last name. What a wonderful way to start your new life together. Not sure yet about kids, but if we choose to, I’d definitely want them to have the same name. Fun topic – thanks for sharing!

  9. Lynn says...

    I was adamant that I didn’t want to hyphenate! I kept my name, and suggested the baby get her dad’s surname and my surname as a middle name. That was 18 years ago, and what I find interesting is how flexible the arrangement is. In some contexts, our child uses her middle name and is clearly part of that lineage. In others, she uses her surname and is a unit with her dad. When my sister divorced, she took back our family surname. So my kid gets to experience a lot of flexibility, agency, and choice around naming.

    I think context and individual circumstances are important in naming. I knew our kid would look like me (powerful genes) and live near my extended family and far from her dad’s. So giving her the far-away family’s surname was easy and seemed fair.

    • Kim says...

      This is what my husband and I are planning to do, and exactly why! I hope our future children feel they can choose which names they want to use and identify with as they grow up and introduce themselves to people. We both come from multicultural/racial backgrounds and I foresee people being curious about our kids’ backgrounds (no one can “tell” where my half African/Middle Eastern husband is from as it is), so I really hope they feel this flexibility and pride in the different heritage options (as I have with mixed American/French names). Fingers crossed :)

  10. Amanda says...

    I’ve thought a decent amount about last names. My last name is not particularly pretty, hard to spell and pronounce, AND it is the last name of my very estranged father. My partner’s last name, on the other hand, is Harper. Pretty, simple. I think I’ll take his last name if we get married, but it’s still something I struggle with. Down with the patriarchy! Why shouldn’t he take my last name?! I guess this choice will come down to recognizing that choosing to do what I want (choosing the prettier last name) is the feminist, progressive option.

  11. Jess says...

    Love this post! I’m from Quebec where women don’t change their last names upon marriage and children frequently get both names of their parents.

    I’ve made it very clear to all suitors from the get-go that I won’t change my name and might even go wild and give my kid my mother’s last name. Most don’t seem to mind and those that do probably can’t handle me in the long run!

    I love hearing these kinds of stories :)

  12. laura says...

    i took my husband’s name and that is our family’s last name, but all six of my children have my maiden name as their middle name. my middle name is my mother’s maiden name, also. i love the way it ties my children to my side of the family, but we are also tied to my husband’s side and share a last name as a family.

  13. Linsey says...

    My biological father was absent from most of my life and although I am close with the rest of my paternal family, I had no qualms about dropping my maiden name entirely. I was thrilled to take my husbands’ last name and equally happy to give it to our baby when he was born this past February.

  14. I love this topic! We named our girls with their dad’s last name and I have my own last name. I usually still add their last name on the end whenever I’m doing school stuff to make it easier for everyone else. With family and friends, we go by a combination of our two last names when they address us as a family unit. In hindsight, I wish we had used our combined name when naming our kids.

  15. SFord says...

    Sometimes in the UK a married couple will take the man’s surname, but the child’s (male or female) middle name will be the wife’s maiden name.

  16. Maria says...

    My son was here in theUS but we are Spanish. He doesn’t have a middle name but has each of our last names as his. I love it. I would never change my last name to my husband’s, I think it is an old fashion tradition

  17. Kati says...

    I have three children with my partner and our kids have my last name. This was non-negotiable for me.

    I survived the nine months of pregnancy, including all-day sickness in the first four months of each pregnancy, I birthed them, I fed them the first six months of their lives. All the risks and long-term side effects were on me (e.g. I got a diastasis recti after the second one, not even talking about stretch marks and saggy boobs here).

    Of course I was to one to have the last say concerning the child’s name.

  18. Rachel says...

    My husband and I have different last names and our son has mine. He’s 11 and so far it hasn’t been an issue. My husband occasionally gets called Mr. Mylastname which cracks us all up, but it’s worked well for us. We moved from a very progressive part of the country to a much less progressive part two years ago and I wondered how it would go, but it’s really no different. It’s working for us!

  19. Sarah says...

    I might be doxxing myself, but it’s for a good reason :)

    My godmother kept her surname when she married my godfather and their children all took her name as their middle name and his name as their surname. I LOVED receiving cards and packages from them, always signed off as “The Hendersons and the Swietch!”. I LOVED how their family embraced this and my godmother was able to keep (and celebrate!) her identity in this way. It also introduced me to the idea, from a very young age, that you don’t always have to do things the expected way!

  20. B says...

    I’m keeping my last name with marriage, but am marrying a “III”, so it’s not only the last name in question but the full name of my hypothetical future son. I actually like the name, but am struggling with the principal of the matter. I also know my father-in-law wouldn’t accept any alternatives to a “III” for my partner’s name, which sours the whole thing a bit for me. My partner is open to putting a stop to this tradition and not going for “IV”, so we’ll continue to discuss options and how best to deal with the impending wrath of his dynasty parents (fun)!

  21. Meghan R Baumann says...

    My husband and I have been married for 7.5 years and have two kiddos – I am very grateful that we all have the same last name (Baumann) but I do miss my maiden name (O’Malley) – I love my Irish heritage and feel sad that I don’t have that tangible link to it anymore. Also, I do not have close relationships with my in-laws or my husband’s extended family, while I am very close to my parents, and I do wish that my last name reflected these family dynamics. Hopefully my husband and I can be the “first generation” of our last name to make it a name to be proud of, so that our children, grandchildren, etc. are proud to be Baumanns.

  22. Meg says...

    We aren’t married so discussion of a last name was right up there with a first name. My family is very proud of their last name and my partner just feels sort of “meh” about his. We decided that our son would have two middle names, my partner’s last name being one of them. My last name is the official last name.

    The biggest concern I heard from folks, that I’ve seen others mention here, is about being confused or making things complicated, especially at school. I’ve been a teacher for 14 years and have seen every kind of combination of last names. None of the kids were confused. I think knowing this made more confident in making a decision. I knew whatever we decided would be fine so it had to be something we felt good about.

    In the end, I’m very happy with our son having our last name. And most people just call us by both our last names, not realizing my partner’s last name is actually a middle name. Which also doesn’t bother us.

  23. C says...

    Keeping my last name was never a big deal to me. I grew up with my dad’s last name, who grew up with his dad’s last name even though he was raised by his maternal grandmother because his dad was an abusive alcoholic and his mom was only 16 when she had him. Even though it seems like I made the conventional choice to take my husband’s name, I really saw it more as breaking the lineage of a name that didn’t really deserve to be in my family in the first place. I don’t explain this to people and I don’t really resent people for seeing me as less progressive or less feminist because of it, but I think it does go to show that a person’s reasons for a decision are not always obvious.

  24. PAOLA says...

    In Italy women usually keep their name. And kids take their father’s name.
    I never ever thought of giving up my name and take my husband’s, I would always think “why should I?” “am I getting someone else with marriage?” No way!
    I tried to ask my husband if we could give my family name to our children, but the look of horror in his eyes made me laugh so much! I was joking, I didn’t really care… but it seems that italian men do really care about their name being given to their children!

  25. M says...

    I kept my last name, and wanted to give our kids my last name, but we ultimately decided to give them my husband’s last name and use my name as their middle name because his family name would otherwise die out, whereas I come from a huge family.

  26. Mallory says...

    I am so glad someone else agrees with me about hyphenated last names! I grew up with a hyphenated last name in the 90s when it wasn’t very common and it has always been a burden. My situation probably wasn’t helped by the fact that my father’s surname is a somewhat difficult to pronounce Italian name. I am now married and, although I hated my hyphenated name as a child, I have kept it since it was so integral to my identity. My issue is now what to do about our children: they can’t have three surnames. If we were to hyphenate, we would likely drop my mother’s name but then what was the point of my parents hyphenating my name? And again our children will have to make the same decision down the line. My husband is also very traditional and I am certain I will not be able to convince him to do something other than give our children his surname. I am amenable to this only if I get more say over the first name. He has also suggested that our kids each get a form of my last name as their middle. I think this is a nice idea though I may not take him up on it since there are so many other names I love and I would rather use my children’s middle names for my more outlandish name preferences.

    Another thing to flag in this discussion is the how your surname choice can affect travel. Not everyone realizes this, but if you don’t have the same name as your children you can be stopped at the border and forced to prove you are their parent. I think this can be proven with a marriage license but not everyone remembers to pack a marriage license along with their passport!

    • Tis says...

      Consider using four names!
      I gave our kids their dad’s last name, which I was not entirely happy about. (We’re too long to hyphenate.) But we agreed that decision meant I got to choose their middle names, which I used to honour my family history. BUT six months into parenting, it just felt really annoying to not have my last name on my children! So we added my last name as a second middle name. It works I guess…I believe any name solution is a compromise for women anyway because most of us start with our dad’s surname. But “my” two middle names equals “his” one last name…?

  27. Laura says...

    My husband and I have different surnames (and weren’t married when our kids were born!). We couldn’t decide what to do so we let out first born’s gender pick their surname for them and any siblings! We picked a girls name we liked which sounded better with my surname, and a boys name we liked which sounded better with his. And then we waited for the birth….. Now we have two boys and they both have my husbands surname. I am happy with the way we decided but a little bit sad that it looks like we just went with the patrilineal model without considering what was right for us. I want to tell everyone that they are only Davies’ because of how the chromosomes turned out, not societal expectations!

  28. Aileen says...

    This is really something I never thought of. I am quite a strong feminist and believe in equality for all. However when I got married, I was quite happy to take my husbands name (I loved my maiden name but there were quite a lot of complications that went with it so when I needed a passport etc it was a pain!) and I love being Mr and Mrs Johnston. When our daughter was born we both picked her first name and she was also a Johnston. No harm no fuss. When she is older if she wants to stay a Johnston thats her choice but if she wants to take her husbands (or her wifes) name then I am absolutely fine with that as well. It’s only a name and it doesn’t affect who we are, who I am or who she is. Saying that I resepect that others feel far more strongly about this and mean absolutely no disrespect. xx

    • megs283 says...

      Same here. I took my husband’s last name – growing up, I always knew and wanted to take my future husband’s last name. I did make my maiden name my middle name to retain some of my familial history, but I’m sure part of that is that I’ve never loved my middle name and I was happy to drop it.

      That said, I feel far more connection to my mother’s maiden name – Kelley – than my own maiden name. My mom is the oldest of 7, and there are 5 boys, so there are a lot of Kelleys in my extended family, and that’s how people refer to all of us as a group.

      I’ve been married 7 years – and my mom still has me in her phone under my maiden name. For our moms, some things will never change. :-)

  29. Vanessa says...

    I am from Austria where the tradition of patrilineal naming is still pretty strong. So back in the eighties it was kind of a sensation that my dad took my mum’s name (basically due to the fact that i was already born and they all wanted the same family name).
    Also i loved sharing the same name as my maternal granddad who was -and always will be- the hero of my childhood.
    Given all that, i think it’s understandable how precious my original family name has always been to me.

    Back to the here and now:
    We are a happy, loving, blended family. My bonus son always had my spouse’s name, our three daughters had mine.
    Last year my husband and i married and the discussion of the family name was respectful, but huge and long.
    In the end we decided that the guys kept their name and we gals would hyphenate with my family name first and his second. I loved both that we were honoring and including our son’s name as “common ground” and also that the girls kept the maternal name.
    With the Austrian law they will be able to decide -if that topic arises- wether they take their future spouse’s name or pass on one or both of our names. Some might see that as undecided, i see it as a gift of choice.

  30. Niles Calder says...

    Here in Scotland it’s something of a tradition to give a first child their mother’s maiden name as a middle name. Back in the day my late grandfather was something of a celebrity and chose to hyphenate his middle name and surname to become his professional surname. However all his children had the old unhyphened surname.
    When I was born my parents decided to give me my grandfather’s surname but not the hyphen, giving me two middle names. My parents figured that I could choose whatever names I wanted when I was old enough.
    After my grandfather’s passing a lot of my cousins changed their surnames to his. I didn’t because I was still too young. I also felt like I hadn’t done anything to deserve it, yet.

    When I got married I chose to support my wife’s decision. I didn’t want to change my name, as that was what had brought us together. (last I checked I’m the only real person in the world with my first and last names, although I share them with two fictional characters.) My wife chose to replace her middle name with her maiden name and take my surname.

    Our children have a first name, three middle names and my surname. The first middle name is a beloved name shared by both families (in the case of daughter my mother’s middle name and my wife’s aunt’s first name). The second middle name is my wife’s maiden name and the last two names form the unhyphened parts of the surname. We did this so that they’d have options later in life. And we’d honour both sides of the family.

    Recently I changed my first middle name as it no longer applied to me and took the opportunity to finally add the hyphen. My wife and children remain unhyphened. Ironically my “professional name” remains unchanged.

  31. Seams says...

    The Spanish rule is that the every person has one (or more) first name, and TWO last names. They are born with those names, and die with those names, regardless of marital status.

    Example with english-sounding names: Anna Johnson Smith marries Peter Parker Kent, they have a child: Mary Parker Johnson. Anna Johnson Smith has a brother, Andrew. Andrew Johnson Smith marries Claire Murray Michaels. They have a girl, Jenny. Mary’s cousin Jenny is Jenny Johnson Murray. They share a Johnson in different positions, so you can tell that they are cousins and know if it’s on dad’s or mom’s side. You know that Anna and Andrew are siblings, since they share identical last names, and Peter and Claire married into their family.

  32. Veronika says...

    wow, such an eye opener article – thank you! I have a British husband, but we live and got married in Budapest(Hungary) we have our local ways of changing the wife’s name: The old fashion way (I think nobody does this anymore, but was pretty standard 10 years ago)fully take his name with adding “né” to his last name.
    When we got married I didn’t change my name, I kept mine and I still have mixed feelings about it. Because I also got some comments that this way I’m not fully committed (what a stupid thing). But also I wanted to keep mine as our family name is unique and we are only 6 with this name in our country…and probably there won’t be anyone (male family member) who could bring this name on. The ideal solution would had been to keep mine and also take my husband’s but beeing Veronika with one already long surname + adding my husband’s long surname wouldn’t make sense. Although sometimes I feel that I wish I’d just took his name only! :-) so I couldn’t find my best option its always chaning in my head.
    Its a comforting feeling that there is no only one good solution reading all these stories now.

  33. Aideen says...

    Both our surnames, mine first, then my partner’s. No hyphenation so that our kids can use one or the other or both – they can drop one if they want to (ouch!)
    Surprisingly to us, I really want our daughter to use mine, and he really wants our son to use his! We don’t worry too much about the opposite gender. Is narcissism the right description here??

  34. Charley says...

    I have a very uncommon last name (less than 3,000 here in the UK, and that’s the total of four different spellings), my boyfriend has a very common last name, so he knows that should we get married I will keep my name, AND any children will take my name. He is fine with this, he prefers my name, and has said he would probably take it himself!

  35. Ricky says...

    A few months after my husband and I had started dating, he told me he was going to change his last name (which came form his father) to his mothers maiden name. The reasons were that otherwise no-one in his mother’s side wold pass the name on, and also that his mother’s maiden name was a lot easier to use internationally (we live abroad).

    For me the name change was kind of a jackpot, since I had always hoped to change my very common last name to something more unique, and I really like the sound of my husband’s new last name. (On a darker side: I don’t particularly like my in-laws, and could never have taken their last name, so without my husband’s name change I would not have been able to change mine either…)

    Now that we have a a child (and one on the way), it oddly feels really nice to have a last name different from anyone in my family or on my husband’s side – it kind of makes OUR family feel like our own little team <3

  36. Maja says...

    When we got married 9 years ago, my husband took my name. We wanted go have the same name. My name was far less common than his (we’re the only family that have it in our country) and I found it hard to give it up. Eventually we settled it with a coin toss :) We were the second couple among our friends to do that. But it seems to be more and more common, a fair amount of my younger colleagues have done it too, who married like a few years ago. (The name change, not the coin toss.)

    Our laws also changed a while back, so now both spouses can have both names (like, I’m Mary Anderson Johnson and be is Bill Anderson Johnson,or you can use the names in whichever order you want).

    The idea that women automatically would take their husbands names is just bizarre to me. It’s 2018!! The adult thing is to have an open discussion about it. There are, as this article points out, a lot of great options.

  37. Laurel Cyr says...

    My boys have my husband’s last name and it really doesn’t bother me, actually just the opposite. It was really important to me to keep my surname when we were married because of my complicated family. Mom was in and out of the picture and I was raised by my step-dad, but I’ve never called him that. He married my mom when I was 3, and through all of her drama, he was the calm, stable force in my life. He could’ve easily walked away as he had no obligation to me other than love. And stuck around he did, protecting me from what would’ve been a very toxic environment in my youth. I changed my last name to his when I was adopted by him, so it wasn’t something I was willing to part with. And to that end, my boys having their father’s last name feels right. Hard to explain I guess, but coming from a gal who never had many ties to blood relatives, I love that they do.

  38. Tolly says...

    When we got married, I kept my name and he kept his. I like my last name and I saw no reason to change it – so he could keep his or take mine.
    We‘ve been a couple for 10 years before we got married and I didn’t see the need to have the same name.

    Initially we wanted our child to „decide“ its name, i.e. a girl would mean my name, a boy his name.
    But when I finally got pregnant, he told me, that it should be my last name as I had to bear a lot to get pregnant.
    Later we found out, that it was a girl, so even with the initially plan it would habe been my name. He still has his name.

  39. jules says...

    Never married but happily gave my son his father’s last name despite my fierce feminism. Mine is one of those unpronounceable “ethnic” (read: eastern european) names. I’m making a career switch and want to change it. It’s hard to say, impossible to spell, thus not google-friendly. I wish I could go back in time and change it at 21 – but then I had too much pride in where I came from and how hard it was to get to where I was. Unthinkable! Now DEEP into my career, everyone knows me by my first name and last initial. It just occurred to me this year that I could just change it. But how to pick a good name that starts with “K” and isn’t either totally generic or sounds like yet another ethnicity that isn’t even mine.

  40. diana k. says...

    Last names are so interesting to me! My last name is super Polish and contains sounds that are legitimately hard for Americans to pronounce. I work in an artistic field in NYC though, and I’m surrounded by multilingual people who take the time to learn my name and celebrate it and ask me about it, so I kind of love it. My dad however, works in a male-dominated Irish Catholic institution in the Bronx and he gets so much resistance and teasing and stereotyping about his name to the point that he filled out all the paperwork to change it to something completely basic.

  41. Sue says...

    This is such an interesting read! I get married next year & I love my surname. I’ve had it for 30 years & am proud of everything I’ve accomplished during that time with my own name. My dad passed away when I was younger & although I have a brother to ‘carry on the name’ I would love to keep my own name to keep that piece of him with me. Unfortunately, my fiancé comes from a very traditional family & he wants to do the traditional thing. I’m happy for our children to have his name but I would love to keep my own.

    I guess we have lots of debating to do :)

    • Tis says...

      Please keep your name!
      The debate must be: The kids can have your last name or my last name.
      He says “They must have my last name!” You say, “Well, if they have to have your name, then I must keep my last name.” Marriage is about compromise, and you’ll be compromising by giving your children his name and he’s “compromising” by having a wife who doesn’t have his name.
      You have many valid reasons to keep your name, and they are worthy. I wish you well!

  42. This topic has been repeatedly discussed in Cup of Jo, and people really seem to think a lot about it. It fascinates me as I am from Indonesia, where many people do not have family names (except for some few tribes). So mom, dad, and the kids can have all different names without any connection whatsoever. Of course, it is entirely different culture, and everyone is called by their first name anyway. My western and middle eastern friends are really confused with my name situation, but it hasn’t been any issue in my country.

  43. Marisa says...

    This is not something I go around saying to people IRL, but I’m just going to say it here on the internet. I am so sick of hearing feminist women say “I just don’t love my last name, so I took my husband’s!” or “It was so much more important to my husband than it was to me that our kids have his last name!” The only fair (and least complicated, un-hyphenated) solution we could come up with was to both change our names to a made-up combined last name, which our kids have, too. (And we’re not married.)

    • K says...

      My mothers’ family names going back several generations, on both my grandmother’s and grandfather’s side, were changed at Ellis Island (apparently Anderson was not a sufficiently American name in the late 1800s). My dad’s family name, which is my maiden name, means something like “barkeep on a mountain” and carried heavy associations of my dad’s unstable family. (The spelling had also been changed from the original over time.) I did not feel strongly about either. I was happy to take my husband’s last name—it’s unique, shorter and easier to spell and pronounce than my maiden name, sounds good with my first and middle name, and comes from the same language background as my maiden name. It also would have created a massive issue with his family to change to a neutral name—we still considered it, but honestly we couldn’t think of anything we preferred to his. You may think those reasons are cop outs, but we considered the issue very carefully and that was what worked for us. I don’t think that makes me (or my husband) less of a feminist. As is obvious from this thread, women think about naming decisions very carefully, and the fact that others may make a different decision than you did does not make the decision less valid or worthy of respect.

    • Tis says...

      I don’t get it either…but feminism is about helping our sisters make the choices they want to make, whether we agree or not.

    • Megan says...

      I think that any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice if she is able to make it freely. That’s the point of feminisim, right? The ability to decide?

  44. My husband and I met and married a year after my first husband passed away. For eight years following, my four kids kept their biological fathers last name….all while calling my new husband dad. It wasnt until my girls were getting ready for high school that they were wanting to change it. They wished to do a hyphen to honor both of the fathers. My son, who wasn’t even born yet when his biological father died, just preferred at the time to take his adoptive father’s name. Now that he is almost grown I think he wished he would have hyphenated it….and still may change it some day. I never had a desire to keep or go back to my maiden name. Personally, my family was so dysfunctional I was glad to be rid of it!

  45. I kept my last name when we married. We waited to start a family and I remember thinking that a solution would come to mind in the in between years. I often half-jokingly tossed around the idea of coming up with a new last name. How modern and equitable, right? I loved the idea but I was often met with eye rolls or laughs, more so from older family members. My husband didn’t take me seriously. Eleven years in I was pregnant and campaigned in earnest for a combined last name. It helped when I came up with some actual suggestions and my hubby eventually came around. Now our son has a last name that is a combination of both of ours and we plan to change our last names to match his in the near future. (The drawback is the name changing process for us as adults. It’s lengthy!) I think it’s beautiful that we each have our own last names listed on his birth certificate.

  46. Jojo says...

    I absolutely wanted to share the same last name as my children. That was my top priority. I ended up just using both last names because I also wanted to keep my name.

  47. Clare says...

    When we got married I kept my last name. As an attorney it is a huge part of my professional identity and my husband didn’t care if I changed it. When we had our daughter Lucille we gave her my last name, as his family had lots of males to carry on their name and mine (Moss) we just liked more. Not issue for anyone except initially my mum (weirdly) who thought we should all have same name. Has yet to be an issue for anything at all! So many de facto couples now think people feel more freedom to make right decision for them!

  48. Julie says...

    Since I live in Quebec, changing my name when I get married is not an option (it’s illegal), and I’m really happy with that since it avoids the whole conversation and I don’t have to justify wanting to keep my name. However, the issue of the children’s last name remains, since it’s either the mom’s or the dad’s. Of course, historically it’s always been the dad’s, but I do sometimes wish that it would be different. I love my last name and his is, in my opinion, not so great… but whenever I bring it up he is totally against it. And he’s usually super progressive! So I do think there’s a stigma around this issue… Ultimately, it’s not a crazy big deal, but I would like to pass on my name to my children… His parents once told me that when they were starting their family, they had decided that if the first child was a girl, the children’s last names would be the mom’s and vice versa. Maybe I’ll convince him to keep that family tradition going… That way it’s fair and we would leave the decision to destiny.

    • Jess says...

      Fellow Quebecer here who would have loved to have had her mother’s last name! My mom was always so sad that she didn’t have the same last name as us, but I secretly find it so empowering for women to keep their names (if they want to).

    • Ros says...

      I’m also in Quebec, and my parents gave me a hypenated last name (I’m Jane Mom-Dad). I got married (for the sake of illustration: to John Husband), and our children have hypenated last names: Mom-Husband.

      My dad got kind of annoyed, but I felt that if the father was handing down the name from the male line, it would be fair if the mother handed down the name from the female line.

      (Plus, honestly, before my brother was born, my paternal grandmother made SUCH a fuss about my father and his brother not having any sons to pass their name down to, because ‘daughters didn’t count’, and she hated my mother and still does, so yeah, rubbing her face in it kind of weighed the scales. No shame. )

  49. Daynna says...

    I love the story of how our last name came to be.

    I never liked my surname growing up. It just sounded so wrong on a girl. And I was just dying to get married so I could have the name of my dreams! Seriously. I thought about it far more than one sanely should. And I of course assumed the universe would smile upon me after hating my surname for so long, and bestow unto me man who had a perfect sounding last name. Right? Easy as that.

    Nope.

    I fell in love and got engaged to a man whose surname was Stump. STUMP. Adding insult to injury, we are both quite short. So I told him I couldn’t do it. I simply could not become Mrs. Stump. It’d be my worst nightmare realized. Thankfully, he didn’t care for his last name either, both the way it sounded and because he wasn’t close with the man from which the surname came.

    So we start looking through family names and his moms name? Little. Nearly as bad as Stump, considering our small stature. Unfortunately both he and I don’t have much extended family and the ones we did, we weren’t very close to, so we ended up using his middle name, Shannon, as our new last name. Both of us love being The Shannon’s, it’s personal to us and still his name (my middle wouldn’t have worked as a last name).

    So now, we have this perfect little four person family and we all love being the Shannon’s.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that’s such a good story, daynna! thank you so much for sharing it. p.s. i LOVE the last name shannon.

  50. R says...

    I kept my name and my daughter has both of our last names (no hyphen), his first and then mine. I was hoping everyone would just be lazy and refer to her by my name only but it turns out that everyone still just assumes her last name just his – and this is liberal California! The problem is compounded by his work in the clergy – he is referred to there by his last name and as her preschool is in the building he works in, his name sticks. I want to switch the order if our next child is a boy and see what happens. We had originally wanted to do what another reader grew up with – boys with one name, girls with the other – but chose not to. I wish now we had gone that route – but then what if you only have kids of one gender and one partner misses out? It is always complicated no matter what you decision you make. And short of picking an entirely new name for our family, a decision in either direction still wouldn’t address the fact that the name I grew up with and chose to keep is my father’s only, a continuance of the western patriarchal tradition that erased my mother’s name at marriage.

  51. Cate says...

    I’m not married and don’t want children, but my partner and I have been together for 6 years and have started discussing the last name game. I love my Italian last name, it’s goes well with my first, and it’s more memorable than his Norweigen one in Minnesota, where it seems everyone is a something-“son”. He would like to hyphenate, but mine would be his-mine, and his would be mine-his. I don’t mind this, and the both of us will most likely use our given names professionally. His mother is horrified, but that makes it more fun ;)

    • diana k. says...

      Haha, somehow there is always a mom around to be a horrified.

  52. Matilda says...

    I don’t know if anyone has already answered this because I haven’t read all of the comments, but what last name would your child have if wanted to hyphenate theirs and yours is already hyphenated? Say you’re Johnson-Miller and your partner is Jones. Do you have Johnson-Miller-Jones? Choose just one of yours?

    My husband and I didn’t hyphenate our last names because they’re both long German last names. We would’ve had an 18 letter last name, which is just too much. I was happy to change my name because while both of ours were unique, his is very uncommon, which I thought was neat. I am definitely the only person in the country with my name combination.

    • Rina says...

      Hi there! I grew up in a family where we all had the same hyphenated last name (Dad’s “maiden” name-Mom’s maiden name). When my brother got married he and his wife combined their last names as a hyphenated last name for their new family (Our dad’s “maiden” name-His wife’s maiden name. When I got married my husband and I combined our last names for our family (My husband’s “maiden” name-My mom’s maiden name). I hope this makes sense!

      To me, this option is a great solution! It honors the history of our families but also allows us to create new identities as family units.

    • Viv says...

      I’m hyphenated, my husband is not, and we just gave our child my husband’s last name because here in Germany, people take one look at my name and give it up as unpronounceable. (It absolutely does not mesh with standard German pronunciation, it’s true–in waiting rooms, etc., I always have to pipe up that it’s me when someone calls out, “Frau…uhh…Frau…?” People literally don’t even try to say it, it’s hilarious.) So it ended up being decided by practicality, not tradition or sentiment.

    • Ros says...

      I commented this on someone else’s comment, but, since you asked: I’ve got a hypenated last name (Jane Mom-Dad, for sake of illustration). My kids are the Mom-Husbands.

      I felt that since my husband was handing down the name from the male line, it would be fair if their mother handed down a name from the female line *shrugs*.

      … And bonus: we’re raising a bilingual family in Quebec, and one of the names is Very French and the other name is Very English.

  53. Karin says...

    I like the idea of giving the child the mom’s surname as a middle name (for some reason, I never thought of this)!

    When I got married 20-plus years ago I
    1) hyphenated my name and my husband’s name on official documents only (SSN, passport, loan docs, medical, etc).
    2) use my maiden name in business and 90% of the time
    3) Use my husband’s name in situations where our son (who has that same last name) is involved (it’s just easier).

    At the time, it seemed like hyphenation was going to be the wave of the future, but 20-plus years later I am the only person I know who has stuck with the hyphenation. All of my married friends long ago dropped back to their spouse’s last name. It makes me mad that American society doesn’t recognize the mother’s last name as equally important to include.

    I hated my last name growing up (no one could ever spell or say it properly) but it took me so long to learn to appreciate and be proud of the name that when I got married, I didn’t want to give it up. (My husband’s name is even worse, which I didn’t think was possible). Having 3 alternate last names has caused a lot of problems (constantly get alphabetized under the wrong name) but I still think it’s important to not just give up your identity. That said, our son has my husband’s name because I didn’t want to saddle him with a mouthful of a name that never fits on forms….

  54. Laura says...

    Neither my husband nor myself were fond of our last names but my husband would never agree to come up with a new last name. He said it was because he didn’t like anything we thought of but I think he just didn’t want the hassle of changing names. When our son was born we flipped a coin and he got my last name (a long and obscure French Canadian name). When I was pregnant with my second I decided to change our names to my mothers maiden name (Nichol) so at least my children and I would have a more manageable name. I’m still hoping my husband will come around and change his name too.

  55. Kate says...

    I decided to keep my last name, but thought that even if people called me Mrs. His Last Name, I wouldn’t mind. It turns out that I do mind! Whenever mail is addressed to me with his name, I get irrationally annoyed by it.

    When we have kids, he’s said that he will be happy to let them have my last name as he has three brothers and I’m an only. It would be nice to all have the same last name, but he really really doesn’t want to change his gmail account ;)

    • Jen says...

      This is what we did! My husband has three older brothers and five nephews – the name is preserved already! I kept my name and our son has my name – thus far he is the only child on my side (I have a brother and sister).

      People assume my husband’s last name – and thus ours – is that of whomever they meet first. My work thinks he’s Mr. My name. Our neighbours think I’m Mrs. His name (because he introduced himself over the fence first), sigh…

    • “but he really really doesn’t want to change his gmail account ;)” hahaha

    • Leah says...

      Me, too. I kept my last name and thought i wouldn’t mind if people called me Mrs. His Last Name but I do! This typically happens when we get things like wedding invitations – which means our friends don’t care enough to respect that I kept my own last name. -_-

  56. Christina Copp says...

    My husband and I kept our surnames when we married. I’m the last of my last name, with no cousins to pass it down, so it’s really important to me that my name is passed to my child’s. My husband has a nephew with his surname, so it’s less important. We lost our only baby a few weeks ago, but we still named him, and he was James [husband’s surname]-[my surname] and I saw his name on a screen for an International Pregnancy and Infant Loss ceremony and felt pride (and sadness of course) seeing his name, because we won’t see it much unfortunately. We definitely hope to have another child soon, which will have the same surnames and order.

    • Julie says...

      Christina, I am so sorry for your loss. Best of luck to you and your husband.

    • Karen says...

      Christina, I hope with all my heart that you and your husband will soon hold your healthy baby in your arms. James is a beautiful name. I’m so sorry for your loss!
      Hugs from Switzerland.

  57. Caroline says...

    My son has my partner’s family name, but his middle name is his full Chinese name, which uses my family name rather than my partner’s. We use both his English and Chinese names equally, so he will (perhaps?) identify himself as both?

  58. Eden says...

    Interesting that the option of giving the children the woman’s last name (in a hetero couple) hasn’t been mentioned yet (or maybe I missed a comment). That is what my husband and I chose.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh yes, that’s in the post! the couple named kit and andrew parker.

    • Katrin says...

      We did this. We both kept our names when we got married (where I live, you can’t combine names into a new one, and it’s not possible for both spouses to hyphenate their names – although even if it had been possible, I wouldn’t have wanted this, I just wanted to keep my name as it was), and our children got my last name. It was really important to me to pass my name on to my kids for several reasons and I just pretty much insisted on this;-). My husband could still have changed his last name to my/our kids’ name, but he wanted to keep his name, too. So now he has a different name than the three of us, which my dad found less than ideal, as he told me – but I think this is the only negative feedback we got.

  59. Natalie says...

    As someone who had a foreign maiden name that was always butchered by others, I happily relinquished it when I married my husband and took on his very generic and easy to pronounce last name.
    I am a bona fide mutt, and even though I’m proud of my German heritage from my Dad’s side, I identify (and resemble) more with my Mom’s Latin side of the family. This, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t pressured to by my husband AND I had my parents blessing, is why I didn’t mind taking on my husband’s last name (which is also German, and the only common heritage that we both share). I didn’t really feel like I was losing anything or giving anything away that was sacred to me. I’m still an auburn-haired Latina with a German last name, only now I don’t have to constantly correct people on how to pronounce it. ;)
    With our kids, we gave our firstborn a very strong German first and middle name and it fits him well since he has my husband’s fair coloring. For our second child, we came up with his unusual (somewhat country sounding) first and middle name together, and it cracks us up that he looks SO Spaniard and his skin tone is even darker than mine. I do wish in that instance that I had given him my deceased Mexican grandfather’s name as his middle name instead. Definitely a missed opportunity! For our third child’s name we picked an extremely sentimental first and middle name so there wouldn’t be any regrets, regardless of how genetics would play out!

  60. Anna says...

    I had a very Slavic last name that contains three “i”s and starts “I” “L”. As a kid, I was constantly having my last name misspelled (Il) looks the same in a lot of fonts and no one could pronounce it! This has continued on in university and professionally (I miss a lot of emails and have never started a job with my email or username correct). I changed my last name to my husbands for simplicity! Otherwise I would have never changed it – his is German/Austrian and simpler to say/spell.

    We’re not sure if we are having kids, but if they do they will have Carson’s last name, even if I never changed mine! As much as I love ethnic last names that reflect your heritage, mine is so annoying that I wouldn’t subject anyone to that!

    • diana k. says...

      Fellow Slav here with three “k’s” and a “z”. Hiiiii!

  61. Kate says...

    My mom kept her last name, which is also my middle name. She’s one of four sisters, and the name hasn’t been passed on to any children but me, so my plan is to give my future child her last name (my middle name) as their first name.

    No life partner yet, but it’s fun to bring up on an early date as a litmus test for their reaction. :)

    • Amanda says...

      Very early on in our relationship my husband told me about a family naming tradition which resulted in him having the middle name Louis and said his future child would have the first name Louis in line with this tradition. At the time, it was just getting-to-know you conversation. Ten years later, there’s our little Louis. So really you never know how those early conversations will turn out. :)

      Side note: when we found out we were having a boy neither of us were really sold on Louis. My husband wasn’t that insistent on the tradition, despite having told me about it very early on. But, we found it really hard to pick a boy name so we settled on Louis because we had no other ideas! It turns out though our son is such a Louie, I can’t imagine him as anything else!

  62. Taylor says...

    My family has a recent tradition of giving the mom’s maiden/last name as the middle name (and the dad’s last name as the last name). Growing up, both my sister and I had my mother’s last name as our middle names and now both of my kids have my maiden name as their middle name. I like this approach because it carries both family names into the next generation.

    • Em says...

      I think yours is a sweet tradition and don’t mean to make you question it, Taylor.

      However, from the perspective of a 30-something woman in an exhausting patriarchal society, it saddened me greatly when my once radical sister, whose own principles meant she refused to marry, gave her children her partner’s last name so that they would “have nice-sounding names” and be “less confusing” for passport agents.

      I have my mother’s maiden name as a middle name and, I can tell you, while I adore my father, I would prefer to bear the flag of the women from whence I came, and it would not have been cumbersome or “too confusing” in 1980 for society to accept that I was named for my mother. And it is certainly not that way today.

  63. Bran says...

    I kept my maiden name as a second middle name and took my husband’s name as my last name. I want our kids to have his name because he’s Taiwanese Anerican and they’re going to grow up in the U.S. with a white mom. To me it’s a way to honor and keep part of their heritage and culture even though they’ll grow up even more western than my husband did.

    • Anna says...

      This is something my husband and I have spoken about too as he is Vietnamese American. I really wanted to pass on my name as a woman and he really wanted them to have a connection to their Vietnamese heritage so we are hyphenating my last-his last.

    • Bran says...

      That’s a good way to do it! I have to spell and pronounce my Taiwanese last name every time I’m on the phone or at the doctor’s office but I don’t mind. Having the same last name will be a way to be connected to my kids since they may not look much like me. I think if I was more attached to my maiden I would have considered hyphenating it. It’s a great Welsh name with a unique spelling but the great-grandfather and grandfather it came from weren’t great men and their woundings/choices negatively affected all generations in my family (until now—as I’ve pursued as much inner healing as I can!) If the name was tied to my amazing paternal grandmother I would have been more inclined to keep it. That side of our family has a Swedish heritage and my niece’s middle name is Sweden because of it. I’ll likely give my kids a Swedish name or a family name from that side to pass on part of my heritage.

  64. Megan says...

    While we were traditional with our choice (both for myself and our children—we all have my husband’s last name), we have a ton of friends who represent almost every one of the options in this piece! One family in particular has 3 kids—2 girls and 1 boy. The girls both have their mother’s last name and the boy has his father’s, but the parents have the hyphenated combination of both of their last names!

  65. Nadja says...

    I always loved Miranda’s solution in Sex and the City. Her last name, but the father’s last name as a birth name. It won’t work as well for everyone as it did for Brady Hobbes, but it’s a cool idea!

    • diana k. says...

      But she had Brady while her and Steve were not together and THEN they got married. Of course, they had no reason to change the kids name afterwards, but Brady could have ended up as Brady Brady, or Brady Hobbes Brady.

  66. Cassidy says...

    My siblings and I all have my mother’s maiden name as our middle name and my mother goes by “[First] [Maiden] [Husband’s]”. Some of us use the whole thing as our name and some of us choose to treat it like a middle name, seldom used.

    My wife and I did the same thing with our children. It feels right to us.

  67. Rachael says...

    Love reading these comments! When we were married fifteen years ago I took my husband’s last name but griped SO much about it—I hated his last name and loved mine (his is Bailey and I just feel like it’s such a “wimpy” name with the y ending PLUS i swear half the people I know have a dog named Bailey). Legally, my name is now my first name, maiden name, and husband’s name, but I still loathe his name and wish he’d just taken mine—but that was never even something i thought about! I go by my full name professionally but still regularly complain about it—as recently as last weekend when a cashier asked for a name for an order, he gave our last name, and then the cashier said “Is that your name or her name?” If only we didn’t have six kids I would go change it now, but I feel like that would be pretty disruptive for them! 😂

    • Bonnie says...

      Rachel…I have always LOVED the name Bailey…thinking of the positive vibes from It’s A Wonderful Life and George Bailey. I had a last name that was unique…literally the only one in the U.S. due to an error on my dad’s birth certificate and never the money to get it fixed years ago. Note I’m married and took my husband’s oh-so-common last name. But…I’m still me 😉… ahh…Bailey, that name warms my heart.

    • Bailey says...

      I hated my name as a kid–it was uncommon as a first name and I thought it seemed goofy, so I get it!

      But if you were were inclined to move towards embracing it…I’ll offer up that I’ve shifted as an adult to view it instead as a “friendly” name. Think Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail asking, “don’t you think that daisies are the friendliest flower?”. Maybe Bailey is the name equivalent of daisies. And yes, it’s everyone’s dog’s name which gets old, but to that I’ll argue that at least it has an unconditional love association! Best of luck on your Bailey journey.

  68. Anne says...

    This is so timely. I got married a little over a year ago, and I kept meaning to change my name, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. We can’t hyphenate (two Polish names, it would be cruel), and I’m not super attached to my last name while he is. I’d like to share a last name, so it makes total sense to just change mine. So why can’t I get myself to the social security office?? I should have just done it last year when I was all hyped up for the wedding.

  69. jessie says...

    During our engagement, I recall that my husband and I went on so many long walks discussing what to do about a last name… should we hyphenate, pick a new name, chose one or the other. We ultimately decided to each keep our own names. We both already had multiple degrees, e-mail accounts, and identities with our given names, plus what a paperwork task to switch everything. Sometimes I feel embarrassed that beyond all the philosophical reasons, the decision came down to logistics. When I have moments of feeling judged, I am so reassured that the measure of our love is well beyond the boundaries of a common name. Indeed our marriage allows both of us live out our individual identities with more compassion and purpose. We are hyphenating our baby’s name :)

  70. Mrs. Pearl says...

    I took my husband’s last name, partially because I didn’t feel like I was losing my identity just because I got a new name, and honestly his (now mine for 19 years) last name is cool and lovely and goes perfectly with my first name. And now my kids have that awesome last name too.

  71. Ashley says...

    These are all so interesting to read. I’m not married yet but knew from a young age I would never change my last name (which is unheard of in my family). At first I was excited because so many of these responses talked about women keeping their names, etc (wooooo strong feminists!) but as I kept reading I realized it’s still mostly women compromising (like making their birth surname their middle name, or keeping their birth name but their kids pretty much always taking the fathers). Speaking of kids, it’s very strange to me that if a woman keeps her last name the kids still pretty much automatically take the father’s name? I never gave that much thought until now. Why is that….. (and I guarantee if women suggested the kids have her last name most men would not be having it).
    That’s always the first criticism I get when I say I’m not changing my name. “But don’t you want to have the same last name as your kids”.

    • Tis says...

      The kids take the father’s name because both partners have to view it as a compromise. The woman says, “At least I kept my name” and the man says, “At least the kids have my name.”
      She’s already asked him to “compromise” by her not taking his name. She has to show her gratitude by giving the kids his name. (And sure, logistics, traditions, bla bla blah.)
      I think this is a jaded view, but I also think it represents where we are in the evolution of feminism. At a societal level, and also within the intimacy of couples, most men are still not at all ok with women not taking their name. Heck, most women are not ok with it!

  72. I’m sure someone’s said this already, but an option not mentioned in the article: instead of hyphenating, give your kid a last name as a middle name. Our kids have two middle names, technically. A “regular” one and my last name. (I didn’t change my last name.) We figure they now have LOTS of name options when they grow up. Ha. And honestly, we use a combination of them depending on the situation. It was a good solution for us.

  73. Heather says...

    I took my husbands name when we got married but after three years of being married we are unfortunately going through a separation. I have decided that I want to go back to my name but I don’t know what to do about our daughter. She is only a year old now and has his last name but I’m thinking of hyphenating it and adding my last name to the end. The reason for this is because he lives far away and has sadly chosen not to be a part of her life. I don’t want to change her name completely since it’s the name she was given at birth but I’m still not sure about hyphenating it. Will it just make things complicated for her? Has anyone else been through something similar?

    • Katie says...

      Just change her name to yours. She is only one and will never know the difference. You two are your own family now and she deserves your name.

  74. SKK says...

    This is so timely….I was name shamed this weekend. First for not taking my husband’s last name and then for not having the same last name as my son. So, basically this woman assumed that I ruined two men’s lives. ;) I am the only daughter of an only son and I felt strongly that I wanted to keep my last name when I married. My husband was always and is still fine with it. When I was pregnant with my son we decided that we would give him a non-family first name, that my last name would be his middle name, and he would take my husband’s last name. Now at five years old, he goes by an abbreviated version of my last name as his nickname so we are all represented! Our son, Kick, identifies so strongly with his name and the combination of family names that created him. That’s the real beauty of our particular story and for any modern combination of names…our son has a great name and it is uniquely his. No one should be shamed for how they identify in life or what they choose their name to be.

  75. Radhika says...

    We gave our son and daughter my last name as their middle name and my husband’s last name as their last name. We are Indian and have really long last names so the end result is really long and it made us question the sanity of doing so till our 5 year old explained it to a friend saying “I have a mommy and daddy with different names so I have both their names”. Mission accomplished.

    • Marnie says...

      Yes! Same! My kids LOVE the fact that they have my last name as their middle — it connects us all. (We didn’t bother getting married, so changing my name was never an issue). Unofficially, we refer to ourselves as a blended version of our two last names, which is fun, too!

  76. joy says...

    I love hearing that there are some others out there with kids with different last names. When I was pregnant with our first child (who I was pretty sure would be our only child, since I’d been pretty ambivalent about kids at all), we decided to leave it up to chance. If we had a girl, she would have our designated girl name and my husband’s last name, and if we had a boy, he would have our designated boy name and my last name. We had a boy, and I was thrilled, because I very much wanted my child to have my name. Then we decided to have a second child, and my husband said he definitely wanted this child to have his last name, and I wished that I had initially said simply that any and all children should have my last name. Let this be a lesson: if you want to insist that your husband help take on the patriarchy, go big and don’t bother with compromises! That said, perhaps our particular arrangement was meant to be. Our boy with my name looks so very much like me, and our girl with his name looks so very much like him, and it’s kind of funny how much their looks match their names.

  77. Yen says...

    In the Philippines, children can have many given names, middle name will be their mother’s last name and their surnames will be their father’s.
    Ex. Maria Beatrice Elaine Soriano Santos. Given name: Maria Beatrice Elaine; Middle name: Soriano and last name: Santos

    It used to be that only the legitimate children can take the father’s surname so if the parents are not married, the child’s name will be Maria Beatrice Elaine Soriano. But now, for as long as the father will sign at the back of the birth certificate the child can take the father’s surname.

    As for the women, once they get married they would automatically assume their spouse’s last name and their middle name will be their maiden name. Ex. Annie Reyes Soriano- single
    Annie Soriano Santos-once married

    With this being the norm and the law, it’s easy to distinguish if the parents are married or not. If none of these will be followed, the child’s friends, school and among others will be confused and might assume that he/she is not actually their child but rather a child of someone that they decided to raise as their own. You can just imagine how many times the family has to explain to people who asked.

  78. Carolyn says...

    When I married my husband, I didn’t change my name. When we had children, they received his last name but my surname was used as one of their middle names. It seemed like a lovely way to carry on my family name.

  79. Lindsey says...

    I just got married on July 28th, and my husband decided to take my last name. We talked about it for a long time, and we both loved the idea of having a name for our future family unit, but I just couldn’t give up my last name. My older brother passed away when he was 24, so wouldn’t be having children and carrying on my last name, so my husband (who wasn’t particularly attached to his dad’s family) decided a week before the wedding that he would take my last name! It felt like a really amazing, feminist, thing for him to do! :)

  80. Carly says...

    When I got married I took my husband’s last name and have been happy with that decision. I didn’t feel particularly attached to my last name, and I loved how his family has a lot of pride in their last name. Now that we have two kids, I like having the same last name as them. It probably helps that I was married relatively young and right before switching jobs, so it wasn’t a hassle career-wise to change it!

  81. Trish O says...

    I love you do you…or your family. No right way. I took my husband name…but many of my friends did not. They have many ways of doing kid names, too. I personally like choose the name you both like best.

  82. Emma says...

    Where I live, in Quebec, women legally cannot change their name when they get married. However, you are allowed to give your children the last name of your choice. Many people choose to give both parents last names, but one of the names is the child’s middle name. In our case, we gave our daughter two first names that originate from my family and she kept her father’s last name.

  83. Abigail Phoenix says...

    I’ll also note that, as someone who always peeks in on last-name discussions — I get that no one wants to feel judged for their choice, and on an individual level, I agree.

    But in general, it is frustrating that, as the article notes, so much of the burden falls on the woman, and that so many of these decisions end up with propagating the man’s surname as the default. I have lots of female friends who’ve decided to take their husbands’ names for a variety of reasons, and while individually, each of those decisions is their right… on the whole, it does seem like a significant continuation of a patriarchal tradition for reasons that don’t add up to that much.

    • joy says...

      Yep, I agree with you 100%.

    • Ker says...

      Me as well Abigail!

  84. Mac says...

    So many great options! Funny, my husband and I were just talking about this—he said if he could do it over, he would have encouraged me to keep my name. I waited a few months after marriage to make the change and went through a lot of back and forth. If I could talk to my newlywed self though, I would have said, go for it! I don’t regret changing my name at all. I feel like a different person since I married 10 years ago, we’ve built a family together and it feels right to have a family name.
    After considering hyphenating, we decided that could get outrageous fast—it makes things easier for us, but what about when our own children marry? They’ll become quadrupled last named? And our grandkids? 8 last names? Haha. It doesn’t make sense long term.

    • Emma says...

      I have to say comments like this are so frustrating and honestly hurtful for those of us who have hyphenated last names and/or give our children hyphenated last names. To start with “we’ve built a family together it feels right to have a family name” please at a minimum just throw an I statement in there. I have also built a family with my partner and it isn’t any less of a family just because we don’t share a last name. And with hyphenated names getting “outrageous” and “not making any sense long term.” My child is a second generation hyphenated last name and I don’t think their name is “outrageous.” Names are able to change over generations and everyone is able to make their own choice to come up with something that works for them and their family. This topic is always so charged on whatever website raises it, try not to laugh at people’s names and choices.

    • Mac says...

      I mean, by using the word feel I think it was implied that I’m talking personal experience, but sure, it feels right *for us* to have a shared family name.
      I was contributing to this conversation about options around naming—this has been my experience and I’m happy with the choice we’ve made. My choice doesn’t minimize yours, nor yours mine. It sounds like everyone here has been thoughtful around their naming choices and there isn’t one answer for every pairing or family.

  85. Callie says...

    This isn’t exactly the same, but anyone else out there married to a Junior? I didn’t keep my maiden name, but I never liked the idea of having “the Third”. My husband has a perfectly nice first and middle name, but my heart never could commit to not having a choice in ANY of my son’s three names. He would be a part of ME, too. Sometimes, my husband was intent on having a III, and sometimes he waivered. Secretly for years before I was pregnant with my son, I wished that he could have MY maiden name as a first or middle name, because it was so much a part of my identity, but I didn’t ever want to mention it since I never got behind his excitement about a III. But THEN, when I was pregnant, my husband out of the blue suggested using my maiden name. I think I blacked out with excitement while I blurted out something about him having such a great idea.

  86. Abigail Phoenix says...

    It’s interesting — my husband and I married in 2006 and made a decision that we knew was a little wild back then, but apparently is *still* a little wild now, since these conversations come up all the time and I don’t see our choice reflected that often.

    We both changed our surnames to a new one.

    Completely new, it doesn’t relate in any way to either of our old surnames. Once we went through the legal channels, it made all the other decisions easy. Our two children have our same shared surname.

    And yes, that means that we joke all the time that we really hope that both our kids like their names, since we chose literally every part of them: first, middle, and last. So far, so good! The only comment either of them get on their names is that people really like it and that they sound like superheroes or movie stars.

  87. Jessica says...

    I believe everyone should have a choice to do what they want and no one wants to be judged for the decision they make. I personally like the idea of a family unit all having the same name, but I don’t care if others do differently, as it’s not me. Sharing a family name sort of publically identifies a group as a unit. I’ve known people to do this differently over the years. One friend, her and her husband combined names to create a new last name. Another friend, her husband (and now her child) took her last name. For me personally, I had a very common last name growing up. My husband has a very uncommon last name. His father immigrated to the US and literally everyone with our last name is directly related to “us”. I like that and had no issue changing my last name.

  88. Anonymous says...

    In many Scandinavian countries, when a couple gets married they choose a new last name from within the family. When my cousin got married, they chose her grandmother’s maiden name, but names from her husband’s lineage were also considered. When she explained the tradition to me she said that when a couple gets married they are starting a new family, so why wouldn’t they choose a new name. I love the tradition, which strikes me as very egalitarian.

    • Adrienne says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I thought of this very thing when I got married, but ultimately we went with the “keep our original last names” route.
      But when our children came along, and they only have their father’s last name… like,
      “I literally molded them from my blood and bones, but they’re only named after you!?”
      Hmm.
      Some regrets there, clearly…

  89. Belinda King says...

    I never wanted to change my name when i got married, and my husband once romantically said, ” i fell in love with Belinda King, not Belinda Woods”, so he was happy for me to keep my surname too.
    I want my kids to remember they have come from two families, the King and the Woods clan, both powerful houses, so neither my husband or I can relinquish our title. I hold onto my surname to keep the King side of things in the fore.
    On the other hand, I’m happy for my kids to take Woods, my husband’s surname, that’s my way of confirming that they’re his ;)

    • JR says...

      Love this line of thinking (your husband sounds like a keeper), and we’re planning to do much the same. Also, the Kings and the Woods sound like excellent medieval “houses,” like something out of Game of Thrones.

    • Eva says...

      Belinda, your partner’s comment is so sweet <3

  90. Capucine says...

    So, hyphens are a real hassle to live with.

    My parents were feminist and my mother came from a family of all girls, so those two forces resulted in my last name being hyphenated. They didn’t stop there, but also hyphenated the boys’ first names in our family with the dad name first, and the girls had my mom’s name hyphenated onto the front. So picture: “Kate-Amanda Reever-Fox”. (Then when I was three, they switched to a name their guru gave me, but that is another story!)

    In practice, I used just a single first and last name out of the bunch, but when I tried to make that legal it turned out to be really expensive involving the courts. Unfairly, it is free when you marry. So, when I got married, I could not WAIT to ditch three out of the four names I had been trying to fit into too-short computerized forms for a decade. Case in point: I served jury duty six times in that first decade of adult life, because all the ways my name was chopped up and recombined by computers made me appear to be many different people. I married a French guy and it was an holy headache trying to provide a paper trail for getting my French citizenship with the different permutations of my name, and I’m still not done with that hassle ten years in.

    What’s in a name? I’ve been focusing on genealogy and it’s so many hours with the names of ancestors hunting the internet for records. I resent the way many, many of my female ancestors simply have their husband’s name in records and you cannot find your way to their maiden name for love or money, as if their family of origin just didn’t exist. All things being equal, I think: keep they name you’re born with. Don’t become invisible.

    (I didn’t do it. It was healing for me to step out of my family identity and into my husband’s much healthier family tree. But all those nameless women ancestors have made me change my mind.)

  91. Sasha L says...

    I love figuring it out, each individual family.

    For us, sigh, we just couldn’t figure it out, 23 years ago. I felt like hyphenating would complicate our children’s lives (would they then hyphenate?? And what if the person they married had hyphenated names already? 4 names!!?). I felt like my last name was just my dad’s, or my mom’s maiden name, but it was just her father’s (I tend to be an over thinker!!). And combining didn’t work because our names just don’t fit together. So I swapped my very common Norwegian name for his very common Swedish one. I don’t regret it, I love that we all share a name. But if I had it to do over, I would suggest we just make up a name, all of our own.

    Just for fun, I changed my FIRST name from my given name, 18 years ago. My first name has always had much more meaning to me and changing it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m sure others have as well, it would be fun to see a post on naming yourself.

    • Katherine says...

      I also changed my first name, when I was 22. I had gone by a short form of my birth name for most of my life, but neither that short form nor my full birth name felt like me. My progressive parents gave me my mother’s maiden name as my middle name–and although I appreciate the feminist sentiment, it did not give me an easy alternative name like many people have.

      In the state where I was living at the time, the name change was surprisingly easy and inexpensive. (The process varies by state but there are a number of great guides available online.) After an initial meltdown, my parents were very respectful of the decision; it helped, I think, that I chose for my elected name a family name that had been high on their list of possible names for me. (A good friend of my mom’s had, hilariously in retrospect, advised her against the name I was ultimately given, saying then-in-utero me seemed much more like my elected name than my birth name.) My now-husband’s family, my school, my employer, and my friends thought it was odd, but everyone ultimately recovered.

      Like the above commenter, changing my name was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I still remember the first time I signed my new name and the first time I introduced myself with my elected name; it made me almost weep to finally be able to call myself by a name that felt like mine.

    • Sasha L says...

      Katherine, so many similar sentiments to my own experience. I thought it would be so strange for everyone to call me something different, but truly it wasn’t. People thought it was fun, or wonderful, most were truly happy for me. Many were relieved because they didn’t like my given name! People actually told me that! Even my husband who initially was lukewarm came around so quickly. It was so much easier than I had imagined, my only regret is not doing it sooner. When you have a name that for whatever reason just isn’t you (I have several: I was named by my father after a former girlfriend; and my name had previously been given to an older sister who died as a newborn), you can’t even imagine the joy you experience when you choose a new name for yourself, one that you love. My chosen name makes me happy every single day.

  92. Ceci says...

    I’m from Uruguay (south América) and we all have 2 last names, one from dad and one from mom, you can choose which goes first. Single moms can give the baby both of her last names or the goverment can chose one of the most popular. Last names are forever here, it is a long and expensive process to be able to change it. And once you get married nothing happens, your last names will remain the same, so basically you die with the exact name you were born. No big deal.

  93. Nicola says...

    My children will be biracial, but (assuming that our genes stick to what we know about dominant genetics) will likely look at lot more like my husband and his family than me.

    I know that shouldn’t matter, but it does matter to me somehow- as if they have his name and his ‘looks’ I feel that they miss something of my family’s heritage. This is probably compounded by the fact that my dad died young, so won’t physically be around for my children to know him and his family history (this is one of my biggest sadnesses).

    It’s a bit of a conundrum…My partner has always assumed I would keep my name (he was very close to my dad, and devastated when my dad died) but also hopes to have children with his surname. So now we’re in a pickle! The happy-medium seems to be his surname, and my name as a middle-name, but even that doesn’t feel very practical or fair.. any ideas?

  94. Julia says...

    Love this. I wish there were less judgment surrounding name-changes (or the lack thereof) on all ends of the spectrum. When I got married, I knew I wanted to start a family. I knew I wanted the same last name as my kids– and now I do. But what to do was not straightforward because my husband’s name was hyphenated. What happens to a hyphenated name in the next generation? We considered it all: an entirely new last name; his hyphenated last name; only my last name; substituting my last name on one end of his hyphen. Ultimately, we both changed our names. I took one of my husband’s names– as it turns out, his father’s, but not out of some patriarchal fealty but because it’s the prettiest– and we both moved our the other surnames to our middle names. Despite the fact that his change was less dramatic, he still had to walk through the same name-change hurdles as me: new social security card, new driver’s license, changing all accounts, etc. Making a deliberate choice about our family name, and both doing the work to make it happen, felt like a good way to set the stage for the 50-50 marriage we aim for.

  95. Megan says...

    My husband and Ingot married and I kept my own last name (he didn’t mind at all).
    We now have 2 kids together and we gave them my husband’s last name. I wanted my name in there but didn’t want to hyphenate so they got 2 middle names each. My last name is the second middle name for each.

  96. allison says...

    So glad Cup of Jo brought this up, and I’m loving reading about all of these examples! My husband and I have been married a year and a half and our in our 30s – we’re still a couple of years away from trying to have a kid but it’s something we think about a lot (esp. because there are a lot of babies in our life right now!). I kept my last name, but it’s a name that is super easy for kids (and adults) to make fun of, and I don’t have a connection to my father’s side of the family. I feel connected to it because it’s “me” but do not want to pass it along to anyone. My husband has his father’s last name, but has been out of touch with his father since he was 10 so has no desire to pass down that name either. It’s odd when neither of us feels strongly about our last names – not something we’ve encountered with friends. We’re thinking about changing both of our last names to one of our middle names, in large part so we have a name that feels like “ours” and that we feel proud of passing down. But I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around changing my name — even if I don’t have a strong connection to it. Hopefully we’ll figure it out by the time said potential child comes into our lives!

  97. Kirsten says...

    I didn’t take my husband’s name when we got married. It felt weird to give up the name I’d had forever and also I don’t like the sound of his name with mine. When we had our daughter last year we didn’t know what to do, but we ended up hyphenating. We both have shortish names and liked that both sides were reflected. Casually, we both go by the hyphenated name too, though we didn’t legally change our names. Annoyingly, however, most of his family (even his mom!) still calls both me and my daughter by my husband’s last name, even though we’ve corrected them lots of times.

  98. Vero says...

    My last name is hyphenated so I don’t know what to do!

  99. I’m a woman who kept her last name when married. Our daughter has both of our last names: mine first, then my husband’s. We wanted her last name to be hyphenated, but we were told in the hospital after delivering her that the state of Tennessee doesn’t allow this at birth; she’d have to go to court to change it, if she wanted to. What timing to find this out!

    Side note: I LOVED Hallie’s book, What To Do When I’m Gone. Like, loved it so much. How wonderful to see her again on COJ!

  100. Sarah says...

    We like family names, and our agreement is that the kids get my husbands last name, but first and middle names will come from the three other branches of the family (husbands mom’s, my mom’s, my dad’s). Our son (our only child so far!) has a name represents 3 of the 4 branches, and we love it. It’s still not even, but it feels like a good balance between honoring all family and also not making things too complicated for our son.

  101. Joselle says...

    Our children have my last name. I’m Latina and it is common to have both parents’ last names, as do I. However, since my father abandoned me when I was a child, I decided to drop his last name and only use my mom’s.

    When my husband and I decided to have kids, it just made sense to use my last name. We are a mixed race/cultural family–my husband is white–and we wanted our kids to be connected to their Hispanic heritage even if they “looked” white. Also, my last name is awesome! My husband likes it more than his. ;) Alas, I couldn’t convince him to take my last name and his mom didn’t like our decision but, ultimately, it’s what felt right for our family. There is just no good reason to not give kids’ their mom’s last name. None at all. And, ultimately, everyone’s last name is some dude’s last name anyway.

    PS: As someone with a very long, hyphenated name on my birth certificate, I can’t tell you how annoying I have always found it–my name never fit into forms! I do NOT like hyphenated names and definitely didn’t want my kids too have one.

    • Nicola says...

      Glad to see another comment on how this kind of thing can play out in a biracial family. My partner is Chinese, so our kids will likely ‘look’ a asian, and have a Chinese name. I have a very Jewish name, and feel I want my (future) kids to keep that heritage too… without having an impossibly long name!

    • Liz says...

      We did this too! I didn’t change my last name when we married, and both kids have my last name (with my husband’s as a middle). As a mixed race/ culture family, especially one that lives far from my family of origin, it was important to both of us that our kids’ names reflect their (my) heritage.

  102. Jemma says...

    I was tickled pink to read about the couple who chose to go with Amichai… he’s my favorite poet. And I have always loved that last name, it would make for a beautiful first or middle name for a Jewish child too. The fitting part about them choosing Amichai is that Yehuda chose it for himself too, a self-made name for a self-made individual (or couple!).

    My mom has a different last name than my sister and I, so the idea of keeping our last name was never that odd to me growing up. Even when all my friends moms shared the same last name. Plus, my mom was a teacher, and our very polish-sounding last name would have been a bit tricky for kids to say! That was always one of her reasons for not taking my dads name when they married. Makes sense to me. I like to think that if I ever do get married myself, that I will do the same and keep my last name. Its always been my name, and I think it sounds pretty, I’m not sure I want to change it (unless its hyphenated).

  103. Marie says...

    All the best to you Hallie and partner and all future offspring, whatever they are called! If you’re already planning to watch Mr. Rogers with your little ones, you’re not likely to go far wrong. By the way, he wrote a parenting book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  104. Amanda says...

    As a feminist, I still chose to take my husband’s name. My father was/is abusive, and as a teenager especially I grew to despise my (his) last name. As I got older and got away from him and began to heal, my feelings of hatred toward my last name lessoned, but I was still ready to shed his name when I married. And I married the best man I’ve ever met–the complete opposite of my father–and so replacing my last name with my husband’s was perfect and symbolic. I’ve read several pieces highlighting how feminists should keep their last names, but I just wanted to speak up for those who might have a similar story to mine. I have always been a strong feminist, and I feel that the act of discarding my maiden name was my own feminist act, because I shed the name of an abusive man and took on the name of the most kind, gentle, loving and supportive person I’ve ever met.

    • Amy says...

      Yes, Amanda! I have a similar story to yours. My parents were abusive and negligent. I felt very empowered to get rid of that name. My husband loves me unconditionally, and cheers me on; something I never had before. I was more than happy to take his name. I wonder what I would have chosen to do if I came from a loving home sometimes, do you?

    • Maya says...

      This is beautiful. How wonderfully symbolic that you were able to shed the name that represented something negative and were able to gain a name that holds so much positivity. I believe that as a fierce feminist myself, women should have the right to chose whether they want to keep their name, take someone else’s name, hyphenate, combine names, or come up with a new name completely. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Mary says...

      I have a similar background and understand completely the desire to start a new and beautiful family line. Funny thing is, my first name combined with my husband’s last name would give me the name of well-known child murderer! Yeah. Lovely. So basically, it was automatically a non-option even though the idea of becoming wholly new appealed to me. In addition, my name and surname somehow seems mine anyway, and distinct from my family if that makes sense. Maybe it helps that I am estranged from my blood family and living in another country…I don’t know. And there’s also the fact that my surname links me to my country of origin and reflects my desire to be part of the nation I was born in but not family. The real challenge for us is regarding kids…we have different surnames and perhaps that’ll be where I let my surname drift away into the ether…the dysfunction stopped with me and to mark it my children will have the surname of my husband, a man i love to the ends of the earth, who adores me and treats me with respect and will be a wonderfully loving father to our children. This situation is so nuanced isn’t it. I love that we are aware of options however and are choosing what suits us not what everyone is else was doing blindly for centuries. Here’s to doing what works for us.

  105. Megan says...

    You know what’s complicated?

    Marrying someone with a hyphenated name!

    Argh.. such indecision, so many choices. Ultimately, I took both of his names and let mine go… but that wasn’t easy!

  106. Marney says...

    I knew a couple who gave their daughter (firstborn) mom’s last name, and then when their son came along, he got dad’s last name.

  107. Emily M says...

    My mother kept her last name when her and my father married – she wasn’t sold on taking his last name in general, and also his last name was Finger! When I was born, my mom gave me her last name, and my brother got my dad’s. I think it’s fine, though growing up, lots of people didn’t realize that my brother and I were related! I am not sure what I’ll do when I marry, though I lean towards a united family last name.

  108. Lisa says...

    “The burden of naming rests unfairly on women” – yes this rings true to me! I got married a few months ago. My husband didn’t have strong feelings about whether I changed my name or not, but he was not interested in changing his. I hemmed and hawed about whether to change mine, as I saw positive and negatives on both sides. What it came down to was a frustration that this choice was my burden!! Why are women the ones burdened with so many choices like this? Upon that realization, I just decided to unburden myself, keep my name, and that was it. We don’t plan to have children so that’s a burden I won’t face, but I I wish these decisions didn’t so often fall on women’s plates!

  109. Suzanne B says...

    I dated someone pretty seriously a few years ago and HATED their last name – it even rhymed in this annoying, awful way with my first name (an omen, perhaps, that it wasn’t meant to be?). I had never really thought twice about taking my future husband’s last name, but was adamant that I would never take that name, ha! The inner decision made me feel much more open about the possibility of keeping my name after marriage in general.
    Now that I feel like I’ve truly found my other half (someone else), I am considering keeping my last name but I don’t feel as strongly about it. We have a number of other cultural/family barriers to work our way through, so considering I don’t feel so passionate about it this time around, I’ll pick and choose my battles ;)

  110. My daughter has my last name – if we have another child (s)he’ll have my husband’s. The most pushback I got was from my mother and grandmother. My grandma still doesn’t believe that my daughter’s last name is the same as mine.

    I really dislike how uncommon this is. I only know of one other baby in my network that took their mother’s last name.

    My late sister and I had different last names growing up – she was my biological half-sister but we were raised as sisters, she called my dad (her stepdad dad).

    I think many people put too much weight on people within a family having different last names. It really wasn’t a big deal – though I did resent the fact that teachers didn’t automatically know that we were sisters (she was older and a really good student) :)

    Of course – she may have (and probably did) feel differently about this since she was the one in our family of 5 with a different last name.

    • Zara says...

      We did this as well — my first has my last name and my second has my husband’s. They also have the “other” last name as a middle. This was our compromise and so far it’s been fine. I think more people should do it!

  111. Whitney Olson says...

    This might sound ridiculous, but I didn’t know I had the choice to keep my last name when I married. It’s been 8 years and I’ve NEVER considered myself my married name. I don’t care about my kiddos having my husband’s name (it makes geneology easier), but one day I might switch mine back to my maiden name and just not mention it to anyone. It’s for me anyway.

    • Sarah Smith says...

      I also may switch my name back to my maiden name too! I’ve also never considered myself my married name and mostly still introduce myself as my maiden name. It’s been many years and my husband’s much more common last name has made my name so common… Glad to hear others are thinking of switching back!

  112. Katrina says...

    My husband and I wanted our family to have a shared last name, but I felt very strongly about keeping my maiden name somehow. Ultimately, I decided to change my middle name to my maiden name when I was married. When we started our family two years ago, we agreed that our children would have my maiden name (and now middle name) as their middle name. Now my husband would like to change his middle name to my maiden name too at some point. An added bonus is that we never have to generate middle names when naming our children.

  113. t says...

    So glad I am happily married to another women and societal norms/expectations didn’t factor in regarding surnames.

  114. Mer says...

    My husband and I had agreed that boys would have his last name and girls mine. We had a boy first and then when we had a girl I wanted them to have the same last name. So, in the end the kids have middle names from my family, last names from their dad and their “own” first names. They also don’t seem phased by last names at all!

  115. G says...

    I think about this ALL the time. I have a lovely ethnic name that speaks to my heritage, whereas my husband has a lovely very British name (which I really do like, but when combined with my first name sounds so unbelievably posh and not ‘me’ at all.) That fact combined with my recently acquired medical degree made me hesitant to change my last name; I’m glad I decided not to in the end, but I’m still not sure how this will translate to our children’s names. Most likely we will give them first names from my family tree (for religious and cultural reasons), my family name as a middle name, and my husband’s last name. As of right now I don’t mind not sharing a last name with my children, probably because it’s theoretical and seems far away- does anyone out there not share a last name with their kids? If so, how’s it working out for you?

  116. Lauren E. says...

    I say, to each his own! And I think, at least in New York City, people are so open to any and every family name combination. A friend and his husband combined their last names when they adopted twins earlier this year and I think it’s the sweetest thing.

    Personally I made the decision to take my husband’s name when we got married so our kids will have our family name but as far as our future kids’ first names? I want us to both have a say.

  117. Christina says...

    I had been going back and forth and basically surveying everyone I knew for months about whether or not I should keep my last name. One night, when feeling like I had 99% decided to keep my name, my future-husband and I went out to dinner and he parallel parked in front of a street lamp with a giant sticker on it that read, “Change my name? I’m getting married, not adopted.” We both cracked up and that put me at the 100% mark. I’m still really happy I’ve kept my last name, and I’m happy, too, that our daughter has his last name. We didn’t want to hyphenate, and I rationalized the patrilineal thing by realizing that my last name is my dad’s, anyway. I carried her and birthed her, so it’s fine for me that they have the name bond. As a family, we casually go by a joined last name—our holiday cards are with that name, we get mail addressed to us that way, and everyone we know refers to us by that name. It works for us!

    • Sue says...

      I think this is the solution for me too! I get married next year & really want to keep my name. Like you, I’m happy for our kids to have his name & I think that when people call us collectively by his name I won’t be too bothered (I hope)!

  118. Rach says...

    I don’t have kids, but didn’t change my name when I got married earlier this year. I like the idea of giving both names officially, but only using one (probably his) to keep it easy for the kid, as if my surname becomes a second middle name. And then that second middle name can be dropped in future generations if they want to keep doing it that way. Someone might be able to confirm or correct me but I think this happens in some parts of South America? I like that it acknowledges both parents, makes it easy to follow family trees, and avoids kids having insanely long surnames or having to do something entirely different the next generation.

    • Justine says...

      My husband is from Brazil and has two last names, his mothers and fathers. It’s not hyphenated, it’s not a middle name; it is two last names! He had to choose one for his American IDs bc both together are super long and it’s just always confusing here to explain. He chose his mother’s because it is a far less common name in Brazil than his fathers. Our children have his last name (though I do not, although I’m open to someday changing it? It’s just never been important to either of us), and I love that our kids have their grandmother’s last name.

  119. Amy says...

    I think this is all interesting. But going with the women’s last name isn’t necessarily breaking any patriarchal barriers since her last name was likely her father’s… right? And then even if you did decide to use her mother’s maiden name…. well, that’s the grandfather’s… it’s a bit of a pickle and I’m not sure we can do easily escape culture. That said, I do feel very bonded to the name of my fathers and to its Italian heritage. So while my baby will have his/her father’s last name, we have decided to chose a first name that comes from one of my Italian ancestors.

    • There’s no escaping it – but it’s better than nothing and turns the tides going forward…

  120. Laura says...

    I’m engaged and when we marry I won’t take my husband’s last name, but I think our children will- mostly because he’s an E and I’m a Z! Don’t want them to have to wait forever at graduations. Also his is super easy to pronounce and mine is impossible, so I don’t think I’d want to hyphenate either. My mom kept her last name and I have my dad’s, so I guess I’m following in her footsteps

  121. Michaela says...

    Love this!

    But I thought that in Spanish rooted cultures (like Rebeca in Costa Rica), the norm is having two last names that are not hyphenated. Whereas in the US the norm is one last name (which may be a hyphenated word). So, it seems mismatched to call her experience “hyphenate,” although that’s a totally appropriate option to fit the US norm. The other option would be to give your kid “two last names” where one is the middle name and one is their legal surname. Personally I wish our norm was more like Spanish countries.

  122. Meghan says...

    I didn’t take my first husband’s last name so when I remarried I felt strange about taking my husband’s name – I’d always had a different last name then my daughter but I thought it might send a weird message if I changed my name this time around. My compromise was keeping my name legally but using my husband’s socially. Everyone thinks of me as Mrs. C and that’s totally fine – invitations arrive to Mr and Mrs. C, bank statements are addressed Ms. W. At the airport a few years ago, a TSA agent went on and on (and on) about our different last names. I explained three times and the agent said, “I still don’t get it”. My daughter’s response? “You don’t have to, we do and that’s what counts.” And she’s right. I do what feels right to me and works for my family. You do what feels right for you and works for your family. It’s good advice for basically anything, actually.

  123. Chelsea says...

    Great article! My husband and I chose to change both of our last names when we got married. I felt incredibly anxious at the very thought of taking his, and he had no interest in taking mine. At first we thought of just leaving our names be, but then I couldn’t bear the thought of our future child not having my last name (after I carried & birthed them..) OR not sharing a last name with their father.

    Sooo we found a lovely new name we liked that fit well for us both, and went through the courts with a legal name change. Now we have a son and that’s his name. :) This was a solution we loved, that still signified we were a family unit. Our parents didn’t give us any flak about it, but we have had some questioning looks from other folks. I’m happy I get to model a different choice for people to consider, though.

    (Plus not getting stuck with a crappy last name by chance and getting to choose one we loved the sound of was awesome!)

    Only thing that irritates me is being asked for my maiden name and my husband not being asked for his, hah! On our sons birth certificate, it lists my husbands new last name.. and my old one. Oh well. Small stuff. :)

  124. Tori Fritz says...

    I love this and I love Hallie Bateman! I have been following her for awhile and I love her candidness! Thanks for posting

  125. Marcela says...

    As far as I know in all latin american countries people have at least 2 last names without hyphen. In Brazil for example usually your first last name will be your mothers and the second your fathers, but I know people with 3 or 4 last names! In other places I have lived like Peru it’s the opposite logic, the father’s last name comes first ,but regardless people tend to go by their fathers last name. When people get married women tend to drop their mothers last name, keep the father and add the husband’s but you dont have to, my mom has all 3!

  126. Beth says...

    I kept my last name when getting married, and knew this would be a question down the road. I am pregnant now and we still haven’t figured it out! My husband had divorced parents growing up, and a different last name than his half-sisters. He feels strongly that our children, if we are lucky enough to have more than one, all have the same last name as each other, whether that is mine or his. What I didn’t see an example of here was a couple choosing the wife’s last name for the kids when the wife and husband each kept their own. We may go the route of what sounds best once we pick a first name. I think I’d like any children to have my last name – I’m very close to my family – but my husband feels similarly – neither of us super strong on it so here we are! Oh, and his family still addresses all mail to me, or to us, with just his last name so I can see them throwing a fit if we go with my name, but their opinion is not a big concern. My husband thought it was “bad-ass” for me to keep my name, ha! I’m really curious to hear what more couples do as this becomes more common, and I hope it becomes less of a big deal no matter the choice. Thanks for the discussion!

    • V says...

      We have given our children my last name! We both kept our own after marriage – both are foreign names, that we felt connected to. We decided to give our kids mine rather than my husband’s as my dad passed away young (we were very close), and my sisters changed their names on marriage (hubby has a brother that has passed his name to his kids). Plus, we both just liked mine more. We also decided to give our children first names that honoured my husband’s ethnic background. Some of the comments we’ve received from friends and family have been ‘interesting’ – but we’ve been happy with our decision, and I still get a thrill everytime I see our children’s names written down (my name!).

  127. Cooper says...

    I like that choosing the name that sounds best is on this list! I rarely see that acknowledged as a basis for choosing a last name, but it was totally what I did. I always disliked my maiden name, but loved my husband’s last name, so it was an easy choice for me, even though I would have loved to buck tradition. I guess the important thing is that for me it truly was a CHOICE, and I faced no pressure from my spouse. Lots of creative ideas on this list!

    • Kristen says...

      I totally agree! I didn’t even consider changing my last name when I got married — it’s my connection to my father who died when I was young — but I will readily admit that my husband’s last name is just cooler. When we had kids, we discussed most of the options on this list, but finally agreed to give them the names we thought sounded best: my middle name (after my awesome flapper, feminist grandmother) and his last name. There’s no one solution for every family, but it’s important that it’s a choice and not a default.

    • diana k. says...

      Yes! I love my Polish last name, but if I had kids that were less connected to the language it would be very difficult for them to relate to. I met a guy in college whose last name was “Hamburger” and tried desperately to make a love connection, however no dice.

  128. Riley says...

    When we got married we both decided to hyphenate, so now my husband and I both have the last name McCormick-Emond. Our kids will also be McCormick-Emond, and while I do yearn for the clean sound/look of one last name, it was more important to us that our naming of ourselves and our children reflect our values. It doesn’t feel like a perfect solution, but it was the best thing we could land on!

    • Jennifer says...

      “ while I do yearn for the clean sound/look of one last name, it was more important to us that our naming of ourselves and our children reflect our values.” This is exactly how I feel! My husband and I each kept our own last names and we hyphenated our daughters’ names. I do wish there was a neater solution, but it’s more important to me that my daughters see that men’s AND women’s names are both important.

  129. Rachel says...

    I took my husband’s last name when we married (something I slightly regret now, but not enough to change it) so when I became pregnant we spent a lot of time talking about how to make sure our children had pieces of both families in their name (since they’d take his last name). We settled on our children’s middle names being surnames from my family. Our son has my mother’s maiden name as his middle, and if we have more children, one would have my maiden name, and the other would have my mother-in-law’s maiden name. That way, they have a sense of heritage while us all having a “family” name. It works for us, and I always feel proud to tell people my son’s middle name.

  130. Jess says...

    I love seeing all these creative solutions! I hate feeling like there are two options- a woman changing her name, or no one changing it. Ugh!

    I don’t have any children (yet), but my husband and I agreed on a solution that I think works well. My last name has always been a bit of a pain (no one can ever pronounce or spell it), whereas his is pretty simple. At first, I thought I would just take his name and ditch my confusing last name, but over some time, I realized I wasn’t comfortable with parting with my name. Much as I never thought it would, it did feel a bit like who I am. But I also didn’t want to not change my name at all. Like Ofra and Aryeh say, I wanted to share a name to mark our choice to become a unit, a family.

    So, I decided to keep it as a middle name. A pretty common choice, I know, BUT my husband agreed that he would ALSO take my last name as his middle name. So now we share a middle and a last name, and we’re both represented in there. Granted, his name still takes some precedence, since surnames are generally more important, I’m glad my name is still in there too.

  131. I kept my name (that is, my father’s name) after marriage because I’d already published one book. We gave our daughters my husband’s last name and the same middle name, which has echoes of my father’s last name, my mother’s last name, and my husband’s mother’s mother’s name all in one. Kamenetz (Russian for “little stone”) + Crone + Stark = Stone.

  132. Annie says...

    I like the simplicity of the whole family having the same last name. It feels like we are all part of a team :)

    • Carrie says...

      That’s how I felt about taking my husband’s name when we married. I was so excited for the change and wear the name with pride. We are best friends, so hell yeah! We get to share a name!

  133. Cecilia says...

    Love all of the suggestions in this post! I did want to weigh in to say that as a child with a hyphenated name, the only reason I changed my name at all when I got married was to be rid of those 15 characters :P It was so long and cumbersome.

    If you can have both of your last names, but NOT hyphenate (have one as a middle name? Or have two last names without hyphenation like some countries allow), that’s great. Or if both of you have very short last names, cool! Otherwise, would not recommend ;D

  134. Megan says...

    I remember worrying and handwringing about this exact thing. Ultimately we went with my husband’s last name for our child and really it’s not even something I think about anymore. I guess in some ways it feels like because I have such a visceral connection to our son having carried/birthed/nursed him that I don’t need him to have my name to feel like he’ll always be a part of me in a way my husband can’t experience. (Doesn’t hurt that our kid is also my mini-me. Ha)

    • Katie says...

      My husband and I are expecting our first and this is our plan. I kept my last name when we married, but our children will take his last name. It worries me a little that we won’t have a “family name” (e.g. no holiday cards from the Lastnames), but ultimately, I feel confident that I won’t have any loss of connection, considering I am currently carrying the kid. I will be very much a part of the family, and still myself.

    • Meagan says...

      I was just thinking this same thing. I didn’t change my name when I got married, and while I was pregnant this decision felt so huge. We also ended up going with my husbands last name. Now two kids in and I hardly think about it. Who knows if that will change as the kids get older, but I think it will just be their normal. I’m their mother, and I happen to have a different last name from them.

  135. Dana says...

    My husband and I both changed our name to his mother’s maiden name. I knew that I did not want to take his existing last name(because I did not like it and he had no ties to that side of his family) so we decided to go to a new name together. Not only did this feel more equitable but it also allowed us to take on a family name with an amazing history. Since the younger generation in the family is all women, the last name was going to die. Now the name gets to live on and we have a cool story to tell our kids.

    • Vanessa says...

      We did the same thing, for the same reasons! I didn’t particularly like his last name, and his father left the family when he was young so he had no ties to that name; when we were dating, he had mentioned how his maternal grandparents really stepped up when his father left, and those were the kind of people he wanted to emulate (as opposed to his father). Plus I loved the idea of us both changing our names as a symbol of the new little family we were becoming.

  136. edie says...

    All I could think of during this article was that scene in Father of the Bride II where George Banks poses this question: “Are you telling me I might have a granddaughter named Sophie Zankman?”

    • Katie says...

      Yes! I think about that scene all the time, both that line and the one where the little brother says, “Cooper Banks Mackenzie? The kid’s going to sound like a law firm!”

    • Anne says...

      Hahaha yes! Exactly what I thought of when I read this

    • edie says...

      Katie — those films are such gems!
      “Welcome to the 90’s, Mr. Banks!”

  137. alison says...

    My mom never changed her last name because why would she (and in fact doesn’t have a middle name either) so my folks just gave me and my sister my mom’s last name as a middle name and my dad’s last name as our last name. Not hyphenated or anything. It lead to a bit of confusion in elementary and grade school because my mom and I look like polar opposites and I refused to call her “mom” until I was a teenager, instead calling her by her first name. We all survived regardless!

  138. katie says...

    We’re not having kids and legally, I am keeping my last name. When one of my nieces asked if I was changing my name and I said no, she said we should change it to a combined name that consists of:

    His last name (only 4 letters) + the last 6 letters of my last name (it’s 11 letters). Our combined last name is still shorter and easier to pronounce.

    On our wedding day, I had our new name printed and framed with an est. Month, Day, Year underneath. When I post on social media, or send a card, or something, I use the combined name. I like to think that if children were in the cards, I’d strongly advocate for the combined name. I think the husband would be on board.

    We still have our framed last name sitting on our sideboard.

  139. Georgina says...

    My husband and I hyphenated our surname when we got married and if we ever have children they will have this surname. We waited a few months after getting married before changing anything to see how we felt and in the end we decided we wanted to have the same surname but that hyphenation was the fairest way – it didn’t feel right for one surname (didn’t matter whose) to be more important. I’m surprised how much I like it! Both our former surnames are very unusual but now we’ve hyphenated we have a unique last name! It’s been depressing how much pushback we’ve had from people. My family are fine with it but his… not so much. However, in the UK hyphenation I would say has been much more common historically, and it’s seen as fairly posh and old-fashioned rather than progressive. I have several friends whose family surnames are just double-barrelled, so the idea that it’s ridiculous to give a child a double-barrelled surname doesn’t really make sense to me. If we have a child, and they get married, they can do what they want!

  140. Alex says...

    I’ve always been really curious about the long-term “effects” of hyphenating. I’m all about equality and feminism, but I just think that hyphenating will only make things more and more complicated for future generations. What do you do if you’re engaged to someone with a hyphenated last name. You can keep your own, obviously, but what if that’s not what you want, do you then have to take two last names of some else? Or what if you wanted to hyphenate but then you’d have three last name? What if you and your partner both have hyphenated last names… then what do you do? What do you name your children? I feel like the choices aren’t great. So many names!

    Personally I chose to take my husband’s name but keep my maiden name professionally. So far it’s worked out fine and I like having the same name as my two children. But I also could’ve seen keeping my name completely.

    • Olivia says...

      Completely agree. So much easier that my husband and I and our baby on the way will have the same name! It’s hard for most to some degree to change a name (whoever it may be), but it definitely logistically simpler.

      For what it’s worth, I hated my married name and couldn’t wait to change it! It burns me a little bit when people ask me what it was or when I’m forced to write it down. Love you Dad, but not your last name!

    • Dlaine says...

      This is my exact problem. My partner and I both have hyphenated names and the idea of having to decide a last name for any future children we have is so daunting.

  141. Nina Nattiv says...

    I wanted to take my husbands last name, no question. But, 8 years and two girls later, I wish I had taken more time to think about it. His last name is only two generations old. My family’s last name isn’t that much older, but it means ‘gentle’, which describe me and my father and his parents soooo well. And my girls are so gentle.

    Some people in my community go based on the last name most easily pronounced by Americans. Sometimes that means taking the wife’s last name and its just so practical.

    Ultimately, last names are kind of silly. My friend’s last name means “naked in the woods’. Fantastic.

  142. Carrie says...

    I felt so proud to take my husband’s last name! Not one ounce of me grieved for my maiden name. Our future children will one day share our same last name as well, but I love reading about all these amazing alternative ways to do names!

  143. Maryana says...

    I love reading all the different approaches! When I got married, I took my husband’s last name but kept my maiden name as my middle name (I don’t have any other middle name). It was important to us for our family to be under the same last name. However, the plan all along was for our children to follow the suite where they will have my maiden name as their middle name and my husband’s last name. My daughter will learn 75% of the alphabet once she learns to spell her name but that is a different story. Down the line when she gets married it will be all her decision if she wants to keep her name, just portion of her name or get something totally different.

  144. Hillary Baker-Hawkins says...

    This was such a difficult path to navigate! When my husband and I first got engaged, it was assumed that I would take his name. As we got closer to the wedding and I really started thinking about giving up the name I had had for 30 years, I couldn’t do it. I’ve worked really hard on becoming Hillary Hawkins and accepting that woman. My husband was not thrilled when I brought up the idea of hyphenating. We want children and knew we wanted to feel like a team with the same last name so it seemed like the best option. When I asked how he would feel about giving up his last name, he balked. He had literally never thought about what that would mean. A lot of his hesitation was because of his father. He was afraid of letting his dad down because my husband is the last Baker male. After a week of not really speaking, my husband agreed to hyphenate because of how important it was to me. He got to decide what order and went with Baker-Hawkins. He still goes by Baker at work, which is fine with me! I think he’s come around to it. Although, his dad is hoping that if we have kids they will eventually choose to just use Baker. Sigh, the patriarchy is alive and well.

  145. Ruth says...

    I love all these stories!

  146. Caitlin says...

    This is SO well timed for me as I am expecting a baby in a just a few weeks and deciding on the last name has been so much more challenging than deciding the first name! My partner and I are unmarried by choice, but fully committed to each other and our little family. I assumed we’d hyphenate because we both have relatively short last names that I think sound good together, but he doesn’t love the idea. He was actually advocating for the kid to take my last name, and while I love that he would be fine with that, I don’t love that idea. I think hyphenating makes it clear that we are a family unit, while still allowing us to each keep our names. In theory I wouldn’t mind our kid having his last name, and would even consider changing my name for the sake of that cohesiveness, but in practice I feel like no matter how progressive we are it communicates to our child (a boy) that ultimately the man’s name is more important, and I just can’t handle that. But I certainly don’t judge people who go that route – the vast, vast majority of our friends have!

  147. Charli says...

    Bravo to the couple taking the wife’s name. I don’t get why more women don’t push for that. I asked my (ex) husband if he’d be interested in taking my last name and his immediate, gut response was “Why would I do that?” So I told him, “yeah, that’s also how I feel about taking your name.” (For the record, I never intended to take his name and we’re now divorced because I’m gay. We’re great friends though!)

    I also have several female friends who have expressed interest in keeping their last names, but then say “but I want my kids to share my last name” as if the only solution to that is taking their husband’s name. All the examples in this post have clearly shown otherwise!

  148. Jaime says...

    I kept my last name, and I wanted my kids to share a last name. So my proposal to my husband was that the kids would have the last name of who was born first — if it was a boy, they would have his last name, and if it was a girl, they would have my last name. I wouldn’t say that he was completely on board with this plan, and it became moot when my son was born, but he couldn’t argue that it wasn’t fair!

  149. kate says...

    Thanks for this lovely write-up! My husband and I both kept our names at marriage and figured we’d decide the kids’ names later. He was initially a little sensitive about the fact that I didn’t change my name, but quickly got on board and I would hear him proudly tell others what my name was. He surprised me once, about two years after our wedding, by telling friend of our that “of course we will double-barrel our kids’ last names.” It surprised me and made my heart swell. I thought it would be Another Big Conversation, but nope. Maybe it helped that we lived in Latin America at the time, where two surnames is the norm. Either way, we figure that if Mountbatten-Windsor is acceptable, our hyphenated names are, too :)

  150. Natalie says...

    As someone who has lived with two last names their whole life, my one piece of advice is: don’t hyphenate.

    My parents were divorced when I was young and my name always seemed like an eternal tug-of-war (half his, half hers). Growing up I only ever used my first last name, which was my mom’s who I lived with full time. And my family never got it right anyway – each side of the family would only put their name on cards, etc. I started using both names at college because I had to.

    Now as an adult I actually like both names and consider them part of me, but it was hard when I got married because I didn’t want to give up my name totally, but I also couldn’t hyphenate again (though in other countries I might have been able to get away with it). I ended up not changing my last name – a decision I am very happy about – and have accepted that any kids will have my husband’s last name. My Facebook account shows all three, which is slightly ridiculous. But seriously, if you can find a way to give your kids one last name only – yours, his, something new, etc – do it!

    • Cece says...

      I think that’s what double barrelling does – make your two separate last names into a single entity! I don’t see it as two distinct names, our daughter has one double barrelled name, and we hope she goes by the full version as she grows up. But if not I hope we’ll be pretty chilled about it, it’s her choice.

      But as a kid of divorced parents where naming was a HUGE battlefield, I totally hear what you’re saying. My mum registered me at school under my step-dad’s name and I spent my whole childhood with two, very confusing, identities. I wonder if that’s partly why I felt so strongly about my name being part of my daughter’s? As a kid I hated having a totally separate name to my remarried Mum and half-siblings.