How to Legally Change Your Name
How to Change Your Last Name (Or Not) Once You're Officially Married
To change your name or not to change your name...that is the real question that pops into most modern brides' heads as they approach married life. For many, the decision is clear from the start: some change to honor tradition, others don't to honor their heritage. Some change their last names simply because their partner's last name "sounds better" than their given surname, other's don't because it doesn't.
Sometimes it's about taking a feminist stand. There is also the small segment of modern marriages that merge their last names in favor of a new last name, hoping to start a new lineage for future generations. Whatever path you currently have at the top of your list, here areBAZAARBridal's top tips to deciding whether to keep, change or hyphenate your surname once married.
CONSIDER THE EASY ROUTE: DO NOTHING AT ALL.
"I didn’t change my name. I had no interest in taking [my husband's] last name—not because I don’t like it, or because I didn't love him enough to make the change (yes, some people actually ask that), but because after 30 years on this planet as Olivia Fleming, I was attached to my own identity," explainsBAZAAR.com's Senior Features Editor. "Changing my last name after carving my own path would have probably led to some sort of identity crisis." This mindset—for the bride looking for a straight-forward answer to the age-old question,"Do I have to change my name when I get married?!"—makes things fairly simple. You don't have to do anything other than be married, to a person who shares a different name than you. No big deal.
That concept gets more complicated when one considers the last name of their future children, if you plan on having children together, but Fleming took that into consideration when sticking with her given name. "My mother did warn me that I might regret it when I have children and they won’t have my last name, but I don’t believe a matching last name is necessary for a maternal bond," she says. "He or she will still be my child, and I’d like them to grow up with the assumption that women don’t lose their identities in marriage."
Adds Fleming, "Honestly, now that I'm thinking about it, in an ideal world I would love my child to have my last name. I mean, why not? Why does tradition get to dictate what last name he or she will have?"
Others, like Kerry Pieri,BAZAAR.com's Fashion/Features Director, made it clear that it was more about a comfort level with her own moniker—and that reasoning is just as key to preserving one's newlywed and married identity. "For me, it wasn't about taking a feminist stand, I had just been Kerry Pieri too long to suddenly become anyone else. As Mariah Carey famously says, 'I don’t know her.'”
Bride-to-be Jenna Rosenstein,BAZAAR.com's Senior Beauty Editor, affirms both Fleming and Pieri's feelings on the matter. "I refuse to legally change my name. Why should I have to take time out of my life to change all my legal documents, while my fiancé can just get married and chill out? Does this mean I am supposed to change my Instagram handle too? No." In the end, for Rosenstein, ease wins the day.
MAKE THE CHANGE.
For those who are looking to air on the side of tradition, share the same last name as their children or simply prefer the surname of their partner—things can get complicated. "It's really smart to wait to change your name until after you do any kind of traveling– such as your honeymoon or your destination wedding travel, simply because if your documents don’t line up with your spouse's–it’s a real headache," explained wedding planner Jes Gordon, Creative Director & Owner of properFUN Events. "Discuss with your partner what your expectations are in terms of a name change well before the wedding: Are you hyphenating? Keeping a professional name? Are you both changing your name? What are your ideals for your children’s names, etc.," advises Gordon.
Another reason a name change could be worth it? Future paperwork. SaysBAZAAR.comSite Director, Joyann King Michael."It gets incredibly complicated financially (insurance, wills, investments, security accounts, mortgages and other assets), and as you build a family, to function seamlessly with different last names. It's possible, but complicated. That said, there is no rush to do it. But when you buy your first house or another milestone pops up, it motivates you [to make the change]."
Says Michael, who professionally still goes by her given name, King, "I kept my maiden name as my middle name for posterity's sake...but my colleagues who changed their names professionally did not suffer awareness; people adjust quickly. They care a hell of a lot less about your last name than you do."
And that seamlessness, so it seems, may be well worth it. Fleming acknowledges that keeping her name is tricky at times, a hindrance that pops up in the most unexpected ways. "I tried to pick up a package for my husband at the post office recently and I couldn’t take it because our last names are different—despite the fact that USPS lets spouses pick up packages for each other."
As for easy ways to change your name, Gordon, King and Marcy Blum, President of Marcy Blum Associates, all recommend the same two, easy-to-use websites: HitchSwitch and MissNowMrs.
Marcy Blum also highly recommends splitting the difference. "I'm never really sure how a woman can just give up her name, particularly if she has had a career before she gets married," she says.
"My most favorite solution/compromise is the hyphenated last name. My best friend did that 38 years ago when she got married, and all their kids have carried it on. It's truly such an homage to a great family."
OPTICS & VANITY RULE–DO WHAT YOU WANT.
Jenna Rosenstein, when considering a name change, realized something else that deterred her from changing her surname. "I knew a girl growing up that had the same name as me–and her last name is the same as my fiancé's. We weren't exactly friends. I was not particularly interested in changing my name to hers as a result of changing my name legally after my wedding," she explains.
Who you'll share a name with (aside from your spouse) when you merge your first name with your married last name, is worth considering. Is the combo of your first name and your partner's last name a moniker you're interested in bearing? Think about it. Perhaps the bride's name is the more appealing sounding name of the two. Why not suggest your partner take yours?
Blum recommends considering the visuals of your new initials as well, especially when you are looking to incorporate them into your wedding. "Many of our couples use monograms on their invites and other paper items–and it's important to note that while they might use their first initials only or both of their first and last initials, you cant use the "married" monogram until after the ceremony. Often we use it on the dinner menu and/or place cards, which is a nice bit of symbolism [should the bride be looking to change her name legally or socially]."
- Consider whether or not you'll change your name far in advance of your wedding day, so as not to cause fighting, indecision and stress in the weeks leading up to your wedding–you already have enough on your plate.
- Change your name after your honeymoon, and feel free to take your time. You don't need to change your name to be legally married, and enjoying married life with your maiden name will give you time to test the waters. Expert tip: Try making a reservation with your married name, or introducing yourself as a party with your would-be surname and see how you like it.
- Do what's right for you. If you never wanted to change your name, love your given name or prefer your spouse take your name–make it happen and have those conversations. Do what's comfortable for you, your spouse and your future family–whether or not it abides by tradition.
Video: The Dreaded Name Change: After Marriage
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