Did you change your name when you got married?

A piece was just published in the NY Times asking the question “did you change your name when you got married”?  They are looking for answers, obviously for interesting data.  The other questions are “Who made the decision, and what factors went into it?” and “How do you feel about the decision, and has your view on it changed?”  They should also ask “what is your age”.   It will be interesting to see the trends.  For awhile people would put both last names together with a hyphen for their children.  Unless your name was Jones and Smith it just seemed like a lot.  The big question is at what point and if any will this age old practice end.

I clearly remember when I changed my name.  It didn’t happen at first.  It happened when I made a career move.  I had left Macy’s to go work for a company in the garment center.  The owner was about to introduce me to everyone and right before he did I pulled him aside and said I want to use my married name, Joanne Wilson vs Joanne Solomon.  That evening I told Fred that I changed my name to Joanne Wilson.  He couldn’t believe it.  He thought that Solomon might have been better in the industry that I was in.  I mean Joanne Solomon in schmata…I get it but I had made the turn in the road and wasn’t going back.

Why did I do it?  I did it because I knew our children would be Wilson’s and that I wanted to be connected to them thru name.  I know women who have kept their last name.  Total hats off to them but sometimes I can’t remember their children’s last name because I don’t know their husband’s last name.  I am not so good on name recall.  It is funny how brains work.

We did use the name Solomon for our son’s middle name.  Middle names seem to disappear over time particularly for women who take on their husbands name.  What I’d really like to know is what is the origin of the middle name and does anyone even use it anymore?

Comments (Archived):

  1. Vanessa Alexandra Pestritto

    I changed my last name because I always thought I would do it so my kids and I would have the same last name. I would joke and say it was my DBA and that I would be producing under that name 🙂 All the little Pestrittos. The other issue was my name was already quite long. My first and middle name is 16 characters. Plus my family name I was at 22. If I tact on Pestritto with hyphen it would have been a 32 character name. I liked the DBA concept and went with it.On middle names, I went by my middle name for about 15 years. Everyone knew me as Alex. Senior year of college I was so busy that I did not tell the professors to call me Alex and my first job out of school was in a consulting firm where emails were assigned as first.lastname@ Correcting people to call me Alex when I did not have a dedicated team seemed like a pain. Then I met my husband at a corporate event, he met me as Vanessa and that was that. Friends still call me Alex and I call myself Alex too. It’s a funny thing. Maybe we can bring it back.

    1. Sante Losio

      I saw and appreciated your comments about your name: you call yourself Alex. My daughter’s name is Alexandra and I call her Alexa. I hope we can connect and possibly speak about it further plan I feel could be interesting. I really like your thought regarding East vs West Coast investors. Ciao, Sante Losio

  2. Rohan

    My wife didn’t. It felt like too much trouble – passport, etc., etc.I’d love to understand the middle name question as well. I think this whole system could do with some work.

  3. Erin

    As the admin assistant at an elementary school, I find this interesting to observe too. A surprising amount of moms keep their own names while the child gets their dad’s name, which always makes me think the mom is more like a step-mom who plays less of a role in their lives, which is not the case. As for my own boyfriend, he’s from Africa and he confessed that he wasn’t totally sure how to pronounce his own last name because his parents died when he was young, and the tribes are so small over there, it’s not like Campbell or something. When he went back to Africa this summer, his aunt pronounced it for him and he recorded it, so if I adopt his last name, I’ll forever be trying to remember how it sounds in that recording.

    1. Rohan

      We’re doing that. It’s been a bit of a confusing process. I’m not a big fan of the dad name convention but, that said, I chickened out of changing it. So, maybe I shouldn’t complain. 🙁

      1. Erin

        Lol. I knew one guy who changed his name to his wife’s back in college.

        1. Gotham Gal

          that’s pretty cool.

        2. Rohan


    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      As someone with a name that people find hard to pronounce, I FEEL you.

    3. Mariah Lichtenstern

      Lol. My husband’s surname is African, but it is pretty phonetic. With my maiden name, my mother and grandparents always said it the “Americanized” way: “Lich-en-stern.” When I got to college, German sticklers convinced me to put a little more authenticity in it, so I now say “Lick-ten-stern.” Most strangers will say “Lick-ten-stein,” I guess because that is more common, but they never say it the way my mom / grandparents watered it down. I don’t blame them, though. My grandfather fought in WWII and Japanese people were interned in the area my mother grew up in, so they probably weren’t keen on bringing attention to the Germanic aspect of the name – especially in the wild-wild west.

      1. Erin

        Did your kids take your husband’s name?

        1. Mariah Lichtenstern

          Yes, our daughter has his surname (long-winded version above).

  4. Kirsten Lambertsen

    “What I’d really like to know is what is the origin of the middle name and does anyone even use it anymore?” Are you encountering people who haven’t given their children middle names?My husband comes from a long line of Bruce’s, and the middle name is really important when there are three or four Bruce’s in the family :-)I didn’t want to name our son Bruce, but I also didn’t want to be the person who broken the tradition. So we used the same solution that my paternal grandmother used in the same situation. My dad was Walter Keith, but he went by Keith (his dad was Walt). We named my son Bruce Rorden. But we call him Rorden. When I pick up prescriptions, it’s very important to know which is for Bruce A and which is for Bruce R – so middle name is critical there.Similar situation with my daughter. We didn’t want to name her after any one particular woman in the family because truly we have too many wonderful women to choose from! So we named her something unique (to the family), Sylvie, and carried on the tradition of keeping my and my mother’s middle name, Elizabeth.I didn’t take my husband’s name, but it was kind of an accident. Our minister made a mistake back in 1994 and we were never issued our certificate, so I couldn’t change my name, legally. After a few years of being too lazy to fix the situation, I felt changing my name would be confusing for my professional life. Now I’m kind of glad, really. I’m good with the message it sends my kids, which is that it’s a *choice*.

    1. Erin

      I couldn’t do Bruce either. That’s a tough one, although fine for previous generations. Something like John you can be flexible with. There’s a family at my school that has to pass on the name Crawford to the boys. Another tough one.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I mean, I probably could have lived with Bruce if my husband hadn’t been willing to go with what we did. But naming is SUCH a thing with me! I insist on naming all our pets, too. I LIVE to find names for people and things. I have no idea where that drive comes from.

        1. Erin

          Hmm, you like helping people find their identities?

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            It feels like a creative process to me. Like finding just the right picture to hang in a certain spot, or getting just the right spin on a phrase in a piece of writing, painting a room just the right color, etc. But I’m no Martha Stewart — it’s not about perfection in that sense 🙂 It’s about the feel of it. The fit. The harmony?Something that’s going to figure that big in a person’s life seems like it’s worth finding a fit, something that will feel right rolling off the tongue forever.

          2. Erin

            Totally worth it.

    2. Mariah Lichtenstern

      “Lee” is a significant name in my family. It is my father’s name and my mother’s middle name. Most of my siblings have it as one of their middle names (the first-born male is a Jr.). I got away without it, but I was given the Chinese surname “Li” in college Mandarin class, since it is the sensible transliteration of my surname. ;)I see naming as very significant as well and have been known to look up the etymology of names when researching people.

  5. Jeremy Campbell

    I just got married in late August, and my wife won’t be changing her name anytime soon for a few reasons such as she still has a passport that’s good for 9 more years, her email addresses have her last name in them and so do her social profiles. Plus there’s tons of things to change names on such as gov’t stuff and financial accounts. I think once we have kids then she will get more serious about making the efforts, kind of like you did Joanne.

    1. Gotham Gal


  6. Kirbycuke

    I think the obvious is being left out of the conversation. The institution of marriage is rooted in a patriarchal system. The tradition of taking one’s husband’s surname is a byproduct of that system and so taking ones husband’s name is on some level accepting of this sexist tradition. This is why many feminists chose to keep their own last names. I have been surprised by many young women (especially progressives in cities) and friends of mine in their 30s, 40’s and 50’s who I viewed to be feminist and progressive yet still changed their namesThat said, women must always be able to make their own choices and each person must decide what is best for him or her. However, I’d like to point out that one way to share a name with your offspring is for husbands to take their WIVES’ last names. That rarely happens so we must take note that the patriarchy is still alive and well (President Trump is a good reminder of this). Of course creative folks can combine their names to make a new family name. Just my thoughts.

    1. Gotham Gal

      patriarchy is clearly alive….alas.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I think there is more nuance than that. I think that it is obvious who a mother is because she carried the child in her womb and birthed the child. By taking the husband’s name, the husband and wife are insuring the legitimacy of the child. While that doesn’t matter now, it mattered very much not that long ago.

    3. Susan Rubinsky

      Also, I think a lot of women want to have the same last name as their children. I have a friend who is a single Mom who gave her daughter the maternal last name, not the biological father’s.

  7. Matt Kruza

    http://mentalfloss.com/arti… just googled so could be slightly off but makes sense. Parents in middle ages torn between baptisimal / religious name and common family name. So they went common family name first and baptismal / saint name as the middle. sort of saw this multiple places in my exhaustive 90 second search 🙂 so it has to be true right?

    1. Erin

      I looked at the picture of the guy who wrote that article, and he seems like the kind of guy who’d check his references.

  8. Lauren Moores

    My kids both have family middle names. My son has mine and my daughter has my grandmother’s maiden. I changed my name when I got married in 1988 but took it back when I got divorced in 2001. I changed it because I liked the last name and wanted to be part of the clan at that time. I was really happy to take it back but did not mind being referred to as my married name with the kids.

  9. falicon

    I grew up with a different last name than my mother (and not living with my father). Most people who met her through me assumed she was Ms. Marshall and she usually rolled with that; most people who met me through her didn’t have to know/use my last name because I was just a kid.It was routine to say “Her last name is Andolora, mine is Marshall.” (and then go into various levels of details depending on the person and follow up questions they had). I didn’t know anything different, so it wasn’t really a big deal (but it was a little tiresome over the course of my childhood as a whole).Enough so that my questions when getting serious with my (now) wife were: Do you want to try to have children some day and are you willing to change your last name at least personally (I was fine with her keeping her last name in a professional setting)?It sucks that the guys name is what is always put on everything (even if it’s actually the woman’s money that is buying the house/car/etc.)…but it’s a current reality of our society…and at least right now, it’s one of those battles that doesn’t feel worth the time/energy/discomfort to tackle yet (especially when you consider we can’t even get equal pay, respect, or standards for women yet). Of course, I don’t fault those that do take on this particular battle right now…in fact I think if it gives one a sense of pride, or accomplishment, then I say go for it!

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      My Mom had a different last name than me because she remarried when I was a kid. My Dad also remarried. I had step-siblings with all different last names and we all grew up together. Truthfully, none of it mattered to me at all. Sometime people would call my Mom Mrs. Rubinsky when she was really Mrs. Donovan but she didn’t seem to care or bother correcting anyone. Nobody ever questioned me about why I had one brother with the last name Oberg and another with the last name Donovan and why my other brother was a Rubinsky.Strangely enough, my Grandfather Rubinsky was also a step-child so his Mom’s last name was different too (I looked it up on the 1930 census records).

      1. falicon

        My family is full of half siblings and steps…my kids are 10 and 13 and they still have trouble getting it all straight at family functions ?

  10. Mariah Lichtenstern

    My daughter and I both have two middle names as do all but one of my siblings. I went by my first middle name in high school. I did not change my surname legally, but I use my married name socially. This was influenced by the utter confusion of seeing my divorced mother wrangle the use of two names and perhaps because I went by my step-father’s name all throughout elementary school but was not adopted by him and switched to the name on birth certificate had in Junior High. My surname is is also not my biological father’s surname. All of my siblings except my brother and I have his name (there are eight), but my mother, the woman’s lib / empowered woman living in the Bay Area insisted that we carry her surname (she had already divorced once before and was using her maiden name, but later, took my step-father’s surname for personal reasons). My middle names, however, were given by my father. All his five daughters were given at least one androgynous name for career purposes – a practice my eldest sister adopted for her four daughters: Rick(lene), Bobb’ye, Roman, and Alex(is).I like my maiden name, even though it sometimes provokes controversy and often curiosity. With its use came a deeper understanding of my heritage and identity – not only in terms of ancestry, but also as an American (i.e. why people are bothered or curious about “Lichtenstern” whereas they would not bat an eye at “Williams”). I’m glad not to carry my father’s slave name, which is common and tells nothing of our Yoruba / Fulani / indigenous or other heritage. I also like my married name and used to doodle it when my husband and I were dating. Since I use it socially, everyone close to us knows and uses it, and I hyphenate on all of our daughter’s paperwork. Professionally and legally, however, I don’t have to worry about the bothersome “Have you ever gone by any other name,” etc. Since my husband and I have often worked together, it also has served to provide some level of privacy in that regard.Even though our daughter has only her father’s surname, I somewhat like the LatinX convention of using both parent’s surnames in the children’s names. Our daughter has actually asked about our surnames and why she doesn’t have both like me. I believe there is a better way to marry family names without the woman having to lose her identity or the children feeling disconnected or illegitimate. How common is it now for siblings to have different surnames from not only mom, but each other? Maybe we are in a society now where it makes more sense for men to adopt their wives names or for the paternal name to be a middle name so no children suffer the indignity of our legacy class / “legitimacy” standards.For us personally, my husband is very supportive and respectful of me having my own identity, and he is also charmed by my adoption / use of his surname as it relates to our family unit and social circle. I’m quite sure he would have embraced me giving our daughter my surname in addition to his, but it is very important that she carries his name. My father has expressed the same and at one point I looked into having my birth certificate changed, but seeing that it would require my mother’s approval, I decided not to trouble the waters.

  11. ahoova

    When I got married at 32, I hyphenated my last name. I felt very strongly that I needed to keep my maiden last name. My father is the eldest son of a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family in the war. I am the eldest of my father’s three girls. My dad and uncle didn’t have any biological sons to pass the name onto. Therefore I felt it was my responsibility to keep the name going.My mother wanted to hyphenate her last name but her mom wouldn’t hear of it. So she gave us double middle names – the first was an original name and the second was the initial K to represent her maiden name. However, you cannot use an initial as a name and so, she spelled out the letter – Kay.Now you have to understand, I moved to Israel at the age of 24 and decided to keep the names listed on my birth certificate for my new identification. So I have 5 names listed on my ID and it makes people crazy.

  12. Susan Rubinsky

    I did not change my last name when I got married. It never even crossed my mind that I would do that. My name was my name, why change it? (I was 28 when I got married and it was 1995.)However, my husband was very perturbed that I did not change it even though he said it was my choice. This may be why we are divorced (not directly, but indirectly. My views on the world and in life were not very compatible with my husband’s).One complication that arose was that our son was a preemie and we didn’t have a name selected yet for our son when he was born. Also, we weren’t sure if he was going to live so finding a name seemed like the least of our worries at the time. His name on all the paperwork was Baby Boy Rubinsky since I was the mother. This drove my husband crazy. I think he felt like his manhood was being stolen from him.When we were engaged we used to joke about a hyphenated name or a combined name. His last name is Mongillo and mine is Rubinsky. My favorite was “Rubillo.” Sounded like a disease!

  13. Antonio D'souza

    It’s funny that the assumption about kids getting their dad’s name is never questioned here. Not only did my wife keep her last name, we gave it to our daughter as well, instead of using mine. Now I am regularly amused by people addressing me as Mr. Okamoto on the phone – it hasn’t happened face-to-face yet, presumably because of the enormous cognitive dissonance between that name and my appearance 🙂

  14. Donna Brewington White

    Late to this party — travel, flu, etc.It’s pretty obvious what I did. The name you see here is my legal name, yet I normally shorten it to Donna White. The “Brewington” stays fairly prominent as part of my identity and crops up in enough places that I don’t feel I’ve left it behind. One of my sons also has my maiden name as a middle name.I am the first in my family to use my maiden name as a legal middle name. One sister did not change her name — was married at 40 and already professionally established. She also lives in a town where our Dad was prominent in public housing and she is fairly prominent in the public school system, and is carrying on the family name.I wanted the same last name as my kids and I didn’t want to fight the battle of which parent’s name to use. My husband was already disrupting his very traditional, conservative Southern white family with a biracial marriage and that was enough to deal with (not an issue in my already multiracial family). And I guess there is a traditional side to me that wanted to use my husband’s name and felt that this would honor him — maybe more important to me since I was a few years older and more established in my career and wanted to even things up a bit. However, I did not want to do so at the cost of completely losing my birth name, and I haven’t. Besides the combined three names has a nice ring to it, I think. 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      Makes complete sense. Wonder if 40 vs 25 makes a difference. My gut is that it does.