Aside from actually getting married, changing your last name (or not) is one of the only wedding-related decisions you’ll make that will affect you for the rest of your life. For opposite-sex couples, it’s most common for women to take their husbands’ last names, but more men are starting to take their wives’ names—and still other couples are hyphenating their surnames or choosing something completely brand new! For same-sex couples, the onset of nationwide marriage equality has meant that gay and lesbian families can establish their own rules, or stick to the tradition of having one partner take the other’s last name.
Whatever you and your partner decide is best for your family, here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
Changing your name may give you warm feelings of being on a “team” with your significant other, but it also means lots of paperwork. (Pro tip: Try HitchSwitch, a service that legit takes care of all name change paperwork for you.) Not changing your name can feel just as great, but be prepared to get mail with your presumed-married name on it, and know that some of your spouse’s more traditional family members (or your own family members!) might not accept your choice.
The most important thing to remember is that this decision is yours to make—don’t let friends or family members sway you in a direction that makes you feel uncomfortable. Choosing the name you’ll use for the rest of your life is a big deal, so take some time to seriously consider your options (unless, of course, you already know exactly what you want to do!)
A note on kids: Unless you and your spouse end up with the same last name, you will have to have the last-name conversation again if you decide you want children. If you and your future spouse are already planning to have kids, you might want to factor that into your name-change decision now. Ask yourself, is it important to you to have a “family name,” where everyone has the same last name? Do you want to keep your last name but give your kids your partner’s name, or vice versa? Do you want to keep your name and give some of your children your name, while others have your partner’s name? Or perhaps you’d prefer your children have both your and your significant other’s last names, hyphenated. It’s worth thinking through your values and what you want for your family as you’re considering changing your own name—it helps avoid frustration in the future!
Take your spouse's last name.
Today, both women and men have the option to take their spouse’s last name—it’s no longer only a woman’s choice. There are lots of reasons to go this route: Perhaps one of you has a last name you love and the other partner is ready for a change, or maybe one of your surnames is just easier to pronounce or spell so you’d both like to have that name. One of you may be an only child who’d like to carry on the family name, while the other has plenty of siblings to pass on their last name. Or perhaps you simply like the tradition of one partner taking the other’s last name!
Keep your name.
Keeping your name is a great option if you love your name, use it professionally, are an only child or want to honor a parent in some way.
Use one name professionally, but another legally and socially.
If you use your name professionally but want a “family name” with your spouse, you can legally change your last name and go by your spouse’s last name personally and socially, but keep your birth surname professionally.
Hyphenate your names.
Have the best of both worlds! Keep your own name and take your partner’s by hyphenating the two. If your partner is also willing to hyphenate his or her name, this is a good way to have a “family name” without one partner losing their last name in the process.
Take your spouse's last name, but keep yours as a middle name.
Making your last name into a middle name means you and your partner will have the same surname, but your birth surname will still remain on your official records.
Pick a new name.
This is probably the least-common option, but some couples definitely go this route! You can combine your last names into something new, honor one of your grandparents or other family members by taking their name or just pick something totally different—Mr. and Mrs. Awesome, anyone?