Kate Winslet is marrying again and has announced that she will not be taking on her new husband’s last name. With a name as famous as hers, this seems like a no-brainer. Yet the question is vastly complicated. Should you, would you, or did you, change your name upon marrying?
A recent survey of Facebook users showed that women are again taking on their husbands surname after a long decline in the practice. In partnership with The Daily Beast, Facebook looked at the names of 14 million married females, ranging in age from 20 to 79. Facebook found that 65 percent of the survey group in their 20s and 30s changed their names. Even more women in their their 40s, 50s, and 60s changed their names — 68 percent, 75 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
Will you go with the flow or break tradition? Only you can decide. Discussing these questions with your future spouse can help you find a happy and satisfying solution. Be sure to brush up on your skills for collaborative dialogue and communication before you begin.
Where has your name been and where is it going?
A few days after announcing her engagement, a friend of mine posted an interesting request on Facebook. She wanted input on how and when she should go about changing her last name. She has built up an online career over the past three years under her maiden name and is just about to launch an internet start-up company. Although she and her fiance don’t plan to marry for a while, she figured it would be best to change her last name as soon as possible so that she can begin to build up her career under her future name.
Like my friend, many women now have built up careers and professional accomplishments with their given names attached. These names connote pride, accomplishment and individuality. If you already have a long public career attached to your name, or if it could even be considered a “brand” like Kate Winslet’s, it might be a good idea not to change your name for practical purposes as well as emotional attachment. If you still want to change your name, consider talking to a lawyer about the intricacies of name change in terms of investments, publications, and patents currently held in your name. And, like my friend, invest early in changing your name (if you decide to do so) if any big projects are coming up soon that will put your name on record.
Tally the work required of changing your name
Changing a name is cumbersome and has surely caused problems for women in the past. Yet our names are spread so much more widely now. Even women who don’t have celebrity or long public career today open many more accounts than women in the 50s did. Women’s and men’s names are everywhere. The internet, for better and for worse, means that our lives leave a permanent comet trail throughout the cyber world. Our names are attached to articles, blog accounts, social media accounts, RSVPs, etc. etc. And, since women marry later than they used to, these names have even more time to spread.
Take into account how much work it will be to change your name on all the records that will matter going forward. Make a list of every online and physical account that will need to be updated, and if this is possible in every case. Be especially alert to the necessary steps for changing tax, social security and insurance information.
This work is likely not going to be what prevents you from changing your name. Still, it’s a good idea to be realistic about the task in store for you.
How much do you like your names?
When choosing whether or not to change your name, you and your spouse should take into account how much you like both of your last names. It’s not just women that change their names….
My last name, Grunditz, is probably German in origin but my father’s family is Swedish. Really, we should have been the Johanssons. My father’s father’s family were the Johanssons. Yet when still a young man, my grandfather decided to change his name. Johansson is the Swedish equivalent of “Smith” – one of the most common last names in the entire country. My Grandfather did not want to be a plain ‘ole Johansson. So instead he took the maiden name of his mother, Grunditz.
It’s perfectly fine to change either or both of your last names to something that is uniquely “you two” such as a combination of your current names or a maiden name from far back in your ancestry.
What will you call the children?
Even if you don’t plan on having kids for a good long while, it’s worth considering what last name they will take when the time comes. Hyphenated names are very common yet some names lend themselves better to hyphenation and others may be bulky and awkward for your child to carry around for the rest of his or her life. It’s a good idea at least for future children’s last names to reflect one of yours to prevent confusion and slip ups.
Deciding whether or not to change your name isn’t necessarily a vote for or against tradition. Name change demands the consideration of many practical matters. Have a honest conversation about your desires and preferences with your future spouse and be open to creative solutions!