“I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. … ” It’s a line you’ll often hear the officiant say at the end of a wedding ceremony, assuming that one of the newlyweds is taking on the last name of their partner. Although it was a very common practice over the past several centuries, that isn’t always the case anymore. More and more newlyweds are opting out of last name changes or are deciding to put a new twist on their surname altogether. Others choose to stick with tradition, and that’s cool, too!
To help you decide whether you should change your last name after the wedding, we reached out to two wedding industry experts for their insights. Below, Lindsay Jones, founder and editor of WomanGettingMarried.com, and Jacquelyn Aleece, founder of The Wedding Plan & Company, share their best advice on the subject.
How to Decide Whether to Change Your Last Name
Changing your last name is like changing a little part of your identity, and it’s not an easy decision. “I always tell couples to think about what feels right,” Jones said. “For me, I really wanted to keep my maiden name (Goldenberg) in my full name. It felt like a big part of my identity, not just personally and professionally but culturally as well since my husband is not Jewish and I grew up in a Jewish family.” So Jones opted to get rid of her middle name, which she admits she “never really liked,” and replace it with her maiden name instead.
Another thing to consider? Changing your surname can be a chore. “The pain of the paperwork, the lines at the social security office, and the confusion around taking a new last name can feel daunting,” Aleece said. If you do opt to change your last name, she recommended an easier way. Newly Named is a name-change service that some of her most recent couples have used. “An entire name-changing kit is shipped right to your door. Planner approved!”
Odds are that by the time you walk down the aisle, you’ve accomplished quite a bit either professionally, personally, or both. Up until now, everyone has only known you by your original full name, and any diplomas, certifications, and accolades have been issued under that name. It can be a bit of a pain to change them all over, and in certain industries, changing your last name can cause a brief, albeit difficult disruption to your growing network.
If children are in your future, it’s also important to think about whether you want your kids to share your last name. If you’re indifferent, it makes your decision a little easier. Remember that you can always get creative with your children’s names, too. Some mothers opt to pass their maiden names onto their children, whether through first or middle names, which can be a nice way to hold onto your original surname.
You should also know that name changes take time, so don’t delay! “My advice is to change your name as soon as you get back from your honeymoon,” Jones said. The process can take a while, and you don’t want to get into a sticky situation where your passport, license, and other documents don’t match, she explained. Afterward, go through all your accounts to make sure they’re consistent with your new name as well.
Your Last Name Change Options, Explained
If you do decide to change your last name, taking on your partner’s name directly isn’t the only option. Here are some others to consider:
Hyphenating your last name (adding a hyphen that combines your maiden and married name) is a common option, though not quite as popular as it used to be. “We haven’t seen this as much over the last five years,” Aleece said. “It seems to be most important to the brides whose family name stops with them, and they use it as a sweet tribute to her family line.”
If you do opt to hyphenate, be consistent! Make sure to use your hyphenated name on all important paperwork, financial documents, accounts, and bookings to avoid confusion. Otherwise, you might find yourself correcting others often.
Middle Name Change
Legally changing your middle name to your maiden name is a great option if you, like Jones, consider it an important part of your identity. Many couples see this as a fair compromise and a more streamlined alternative to hyphenation. For those who don’t have middle names, it’s even easier to simply add one instead of amending it.
Not completely sold on taking your partner’s last name but still want to have the same one? Make a new one! (Yep, you totally can.) “We’ve had many couples combine their last names to make a whole new last name,” Aleece said. “For example, Excler and Vidola become Vixler. We love the idea of starting a new legacy together that’s all theirs!”
And it’s not usually like that Friends episode where Phoebe changes her name. “We haven’t seen too many Princess Consuela Banana-Hammocks or creating new last names out of thin air,” Aleece said. “Usually, there is some kind of meaning to a word or a place that leads to a couple selecting it as their new name.”
Aleece pointed out that it’s easy to assume that all couples come from families they are happy to share a last name with, but that isn’t always the case. “It seems to be extra special to our couples who are building a new marriage together and creating a new lineage. We love breaking negative cycles, and if this helps, we say: GO FOR IT!”
Changing your name is so personal, and the decision is yours. “Don’t let anyone pressure you into the decision, be it friends or parents or spouses,” Jones advised. “Go with the option that feels right to you, and only you!”