Congratulations! You’ve tied the knot and are now ready to start a new chapter of your life.
For many women, one of the first things they may consider after marriage is whether they should adopt their husband’s last name.
Regardless of your citizenship and personal beliefs, there are pros and cons to keeping your maiden name and changing your surname to your husband’s.
However, if you are on the fence about this, here are some pros and cons to consider before making this significant change.
First, where did the tradition of women adopting their husbands’ surnames come from?
Marriage is one of the oldest institutions in society, spanning cultures, religions, and generations worldwide.
While there are some wedding traditions that some still practice, some have since been rendered obsolete to make new waves for a more modern society.
One such practice that tradition has become optional instead of required is the wife adopting her husband’s surname.
Dating around Europe in the Dark Ages (at least 500 to 1,000 A.D.), codified practices were necessary to help organize the growing population through the Middle Ages. Some of these practices involved laws that adopted the concept of coverture. Coverture refers to a married woman’s legal status, who is protected under her husband’s protection and authority.
In these patriarchal societies, no female person had a legal identity. As a child, she was covered by her father’s identity, and after marriage, that cover was under her husband’s protection. Under coverture, husband and wife became one under marriage. However, she is considered more of her husband’s “property” than an individual.
These customs carried over to America during the establishment of multiple colonies, where there were obstacles along the way despite opportunities for coverture to be abolished.
However, in 1923, when the Equal Rights Amendment passed, women achieved greater equality through legal victories that help continued the effort to gain equal rights. While imperfect, it was considered the first significant step in which women were officially deemed as individuals under the eyes of the law instead of properties by their husbands.
Since then, enough time has passed, and women can keep their maiden name or adopt their husbands’. With the feminist movement focusing on women’s choices, there are still some arguments on whether it’s “empowering” if a woman does choose to change her surname to match her husband’s out of her free will.
Nevertheless, the option of having a choice is possible. Regardless of whether you find it empowering to keep your name or adopt your husband’s, the freedom to choose is what is most important.
What are the benefits of keeping your maiden name?
1. It honors your family tree.
Surnames are often a marker of who you are and your family roots. Many women who feel connected with their family ties often wish to keep their names as a symbolic gesture of honoring their ancestors. This gesture goes hand in hand with women who feel taking on a new surname is a way of “starting a new chapter” in their lives.
2. It honors your independence.
It’s important to remember that this is purely symbolic, as plenty of women who have adopted their husband’s surnames also consider themselves independent. Nevertheless, many people may wish to defy adopting their husbands’ last names as a gesture to showcase their independence.
3. It offers less paperwork.
Marriage is legal in many jurisdictions, and adopting your husband’s surname requires you to update many government files. While newly-wedded women also need to update their civil status, undergoing this task involves less paperwork compared to the one where you must update your new surname into the database.
What are the cons of keeping your maiden name?
While there are pros to keeping your maiden name after marriage, there are also some setbacks if you choose this option. Here are some instances to consider:
1. It may be challenging to do certain business transactions.
Couples with the same surname have fewer obstacles than those who do not share the same surname. For instance, if you’re conducting business on behalf of your spouse but have chosen to keep your surname, you may need to prove your relation with them to avoid fraudulent activities. For some, this can be time-consuming and stressful.
2. You may not feel connected with your husband.
Adopting your husband’s surname symbolizes that you are a unit. Couples who share names, homes, and the like feel closer to their partner since they are ready to start this new chapter. However, the feeling of not being “one” with their husbands is possible for women who keep their maiden name.
3. You may not be able to share your children’s surnames.
Having children with your spouse results in them taking your husband’s surname. Women who keep their maiden names after marriage may have different surnames from their children, making it somewhat different from the norm.
In a nutshell, there is nothing wrong with keeping or changing your surname after marriage. Considering we live in a modern era where women are free to make decisions for themselves, many have the power to choose to keep or change their surnames according to their perceptions and values.
Nevertheless, there is a middle ground. One is hyphenating your name and combining them with your husband’s. Many women who don’t want to get rid of their maiden name but don’t want to adopt their husband’s surname may find this solution the best choice.
Another option that is on the rise is husbands taking their wives’ surnames instead. While not common, it’s valid and can be a tremendous symbolic gesture.
The Bottomline: Changing your name after marriage is a deeply personal choice. Fortunately, countless options are available to make this change seamless and practical.
However, before jumping into such change, it helps to weigh the pros and cons first. It also helps to discuss things with your partner to make informed decisions. Good luck!