Mr. and Mrs. White sign.
The Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Last Name
01 Sep 2021 •8 min read
It’s a conversation as old as feminism itself: do you change your last name when you get married? For years, people have been thinking of new and creative ways to deal with name changes and the inevitable emotional and logistical consequences of either choice.
We may not be able to help you pick what path is best for you, but we are here to outline some pros and cons of keeping your last name when you get married.
Pros of Keeping Your Last Name:
It keeps your professional identity consistent
In the age of the Internet, a lot of our accomplishments and our digital footprint make up who we are, and unfortunately, it can be a little tricky to track that after a name change.
Now, it’s by no means insurmountable, but if you feel proud of what you have built up under one name and feel that your name is firmly secured in your field, it may be easier to keep your last name and keep growing your business and your brand under the same title.
You can continue a family legacy
While lots of wedding traditions are about creating a new legacy, you still might feel a loyalty to the one you have had since birth. Some families have names that are dying out, as fewer people have babies to carry on the family name, and it can be challenging to know that one of your parents is the last of their kind and that you’re choosing to change your name despite that fact. If you feel a strong heritage bond to your family name, don’t ignore that feeling! It can be incredibly compelling to know you are bringing a name with personal meaning to you into the next generation.
It doesn't designate a “man” of the relationship
One of the biggest arguments against changing your name is because it feels like you are giving up part of your identity and surrendering your autonomy to your husband. (Which in ye olden times was most definitely the case.) That argument definitely still applies, but it also isn’t comprehensive enough to fit into our 2020 acceptance of all different kinds of couples.
LGBTQ+ couples may feel that by having one person change their name to the other’s establishes an unfair hierarchy, and trans couples may feel uncomfortable following any kind of gendered pattern whatsoever. I think we’ve established by now that asking “who wears the pants in the relationship” is incredibly offensive and outdated, so expecting or even pressuring a couple to follow a “traditional” name change definitely as well.
It allows for personal autonomy
To continue on the same line of thinking, it’s not just LGBTQ+ couples that might not want to buy into this tradition. Women for years have been deciding not to change their name to preserve some personal autonomy. After all, you were born with a certain last name, have lived years with that same last name, and you shouldn’t be expected to give it up just because you want to get married. You're still the same person!
A name is an incredibly personal part of your identity, and it’s okay if you don’t think you want to change it. You don’t even necessarily have to agree that it’s a sexist practice; it’s enough if you just want to stay yourself and still be in love.
You won't have to change your things
Now, this is probably the lowest stakes reason on this list, but it’s still worth mentioning that not only has your name been part of you for, well, your entire life, it’s also been a part of your stuff.
Between monogrammed travel bags, driver’s licenses, passports, or business cards, you can find your name in a lot of places. Keeping your own last name might just be a simpler practical solution, even just for the ease of knowing that your name can stay yours and you won’t have to navigate the weird in-between period where half of your business cards have one name and half have another. Not to mention the cost of this irritating process. It can cost over $100 just to file the paperwork to have your name legally changed for any reason — yes, even after marriage!
Cons of Keeping Your Last Name:
People are bound to get it wrong
Okay, let’s just acknowledge this now. Society still very much expects women or other femme presenting people to change their names. Even if you don't change your name, people are bound to still call you by your partner’s last name sometimes, especially if you are in a straight relationship.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to change your name for the sake of convenience, but it can get a little clumsy when you have a partnership where the members have two different last names. If we could bring up the ease of not changing your stuff as one of the pros, we have to acknowledge the ease of sharing a name with your partner after you’re married.
You don’t get to share your new family name
Even though a wedding is about you starting a new family with your partner, there is something to be said about your partner’s family as well, especially if you have a good relationship with them. For some people, their family name isn’t something they want to treasure, be it because of family trauma or just estrangement from their blood relatives. But for others, taking a partner’s name can feel like a new way to start fresh and to be immediately a part of something bigger than just you and the person you’re marrying. For those of us looking to potentially escape something that our name ties us to, taking your partner’s name will give you a built-in connection to a new family.
The inevitable debate about children
Again, this is by no means an insurmountable issue, but if you do decide to keep your name, you should be prepared for an inevitable debate about what name your children will have, should you choose to have any.
While hyphenating is always an option, it doesn’t come without its own set of issues (whose name goes first is probably the biggest). Naming children is also a very permanent thing — at least until they go and get married and make their own decisions about their name — and so if feelings get hurt, they will stay that way for a very long time. So talk to your partner well in advance and recognize that you’re not just making a name decision for you but for anyone else you might help bring into the world.
You’ll miss out on the reception announcement
Okay, okay, we know it’s a little silly, but this is Loverly after all, and we have to focus on the wedding at least a little bit. And you can’t deny the sweet, simple romance of being introduced to the world “for the first time ever” with your partner joined by the same name.
It’s a crowd-pleaser in any context and a great way to announce your legal bond to the rest of the reception. While some people think that the kiss at the altar is the beginning of your married life together, others think it’s the announcement at the reception that really makes it feel real.
There's nothing quite like a shared name with a partner
And that reception announcement brings us to our final con of keeping your last name. Regardless of how you feel about the tradition itself, you can’t deny that there is something special about sharing a name with your partner and the person you love. That doesn’t discount anyone’s feelings on the issue itself, but as we stated in the pros section, names do have power. They hold identity, they hold emotion, and all of that power still applies even when you change your name, as long as you are changing it for the right reasons. With a shared name, you create a tangible connection between you and your partner, a family bond that truly says “till death do us part.”
To Sum Up the Great Last Name Debate...
Whatever you choose, make sure you're doing what you want to do, and now what you think you "have" to do. It's your name after all! Whether you change it or not.