Choosing to Change Your Name

Most American brides choose to change their last name after marriage.

I recently stumbled upon some surprising facts about how American brides view the common custom of changing their surname. Nearly 90 percent choose to adopt their husband’s name, and a 2011 study found that half believe the practice should be a legal requirement.

Even though I am the only one in my circle of friends to hang on to my maiden name, I must admit I find these facts astonishing. Despite the vast social sways enacted by the feminist revolution this past century, the tradition is not only surviving but also thriving in the U.S. According to several sources, the practice reached an all-time low in 1990 as 23 percent of brides opted not to alter their name. Interestingly, though, only 17 percent of college-educated brides in their 30s skipped the tradition in 2000.

Obviously, the issue stirs up intense opinions for brides, who stand ready to deliver a long list of pros and cons to changing your name when you get married. I use my maiden name professionally – after all, my byline means everything as a writer – but socially, I go by my married name. Legally, it is hyphenated. Complicated, yes, and the decision wasn’t easy, especially once I talked to Jamie about it, but it was the right option for me. My surname is also an important connection to my Cajun culture. And since my dad, who passed away years before my wedding, didn’t have a son, I felt a sense of duty to carry on the family name even if it ended with me.

Although grooms – and both sides of the family – are likely to also have strong opinions on the matter, in the end, changing your name is a deeply personal decision. If you have clear reasons for keeping your maiden name, don’t let anyone guilt you into following an old-school tradition that doesn’t make sense for you. Just don’t wait until two weeks before the wedding to drop what could be an emotional bomb. Talk about it with your fiancé and your family to ensure everyone understands it is not a rejection but rather an embracement of your own heritage.


Share your wedding tips and traditions!

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