POLL: What’s in a name change after marriage?


Amal Alamuddin was already well respected as an international barrister with high profile clients before she married George Clooney in a celebrity studded affair in Italy last month. Today the folks over at Jezzebel pointed out that she has changed her last name to Clooney on her company profile. While this is very much a personal decision that should be left to any new bride, I can’t say I wasn’t surprised. I was. Why would a woman with such an illustrious career under her name for 36 years choose to change her identity after marriage? Only she can answer that, and perhaps she really doesn’t have to because it is after all her name to change.

I think Mrs Clooney’s name change probably stuck out to me because I have known for a very long time that I would want to keep my name. About a decade ago I watched an episode of Oprah with Dr. Phil as a guest, talking to women who had completely lost their identity after marriage. Although the show didn’t include or explore name changing, the women on the show talked about feeling either lost or helpless after their children left home especially for college. Many of them talked about having put off dreams, and careers to raise their families and in so doing they became mother, and wife, and forgot themselves. It is not that they did not work, or have jobs rather it is simply that their individual identities were superseded by their identities as mother and wife. This is one Oprah episode that has stayed the longest in my consciousness, women losing their individual identities. I think it was in that moment that I decided that name changing played a huge part in this and I wasn’t going to give myself the opportunity to ever forget who I was. I love myself and I always want to remind myself of my individual place in the world first and foremost as a human being and then if I become a mother, and a wife those things will be other dimensions of my identity. And to be really honest I believe that my name is a birthright that I don’t feel I should ever have to give up. My name is me.


In my quest to understand why some women do and why some don’t I came across reasons given by experts and women about why one may choose to keep or change their name after marriage.

Here are the top reasons given on Canadian Living to keep your name:

You’re a traditionalist.
“Brides fall in love with the romantic, old-fashioned aspect of a wedding, including the name change,” says Stayner.

There’s something comforting about a custom that has been passed down through the ages. If following the path of billions of women before you is important to you, accepting your husband’s surname might be the right decision for you.

You hate your maiden name.
Do you have a surname that doesn’t gel with your first name? Have you always hated the way it sounds? Getting married is the perfect opportunity to ditch a last name that doesn’t suit you.

You hate explaining your relationship.
When you’re married and sharing the same name, no explanations are necessary. But if you’re hitched with different surnames, prepare for questions from the bank, at the airport immigration desk and even from distant relatives.

“You shouldn’t have to keep explaining yourself,” says Manailescu. Being Mrs. So-and-So solves this problem.

You want the same name as your kids.
Navigating through life with a different surname from your husband can be difficult, but it’s even harder when you have kids. “If you have a different last name from your kids, it makes the situation more complicated,” says Stayner. You’ll need an explanation at school, the doctor’s office and when you travel.

Plus, your kids may question why their surname is different than yours. “Same surnames make it easier for the child,” says Manailescu.

You’re excited about being a Mrs.
“Some women have dreamt of getting married their entire life,” says Stayner. “They get all gooey about becoming a Mrs.”
Getting married is a huge milestone for many — just like landing that first job and buying a home. It feels grown up. Adding Mrs. to your identity is the icing on the wedding cake.

“If your maiden name is hard to pronounce or you were teased as a kid, you might want something else,” says Stayner. And if your hubby has a strong, likable surname, it’s a win-win situation.

In the corner against name changing with me is is @ReflectiveBride who debunked the reasons people give in favor of name changing as follows:

• “It’s tradition”: So was slavery. So was women not being able to vote. Tradition doesn’t make any of them a good thing.

• “You could still keep your name, but add his with a hyphen”: That would still be changing my name and identity, and would not be much of a move for equality unless my groom were doing the same.

• “Well, what if your husband did hyphenate his name, too?”: Great for equality, but then it would be two people changing their identity for marriage.

• “What will your children have as a last name?”: They could have both our last names hyphenated, mine as a middle name, or just take their father’s surname — none of which I have a problem with. I do think it’s unequal that children automatically take their father’s name, but other approaches are not yet as widely accepted as women keeping their surnames — though I think this is will change with time.

• “Won’t you not feel like a family if you have a different last name from your children?”: I’m quite sure that if I birth and/or raise a child, that’s plenty to qualify me for feeling like their family. Whether or not I have the same last name as my child won’t stop me loving them or feeling attached to them. Also, with this logic, would I no longer feel like I’m part of my parents’ family if I take a different surname from theirs? In these days of blended families, the idea that everyone in a family would have the same last name is a touch old-fashioned.

• “Keeping your maiden name is keeping your father’s name; isn’t that also sexist?”: Yes, it is. However, that’s the name I had for the first 29 years of my life before my wedding, and that’s who I see myself as.

• “People will refer to you as ‘Mrs Reflective Groom’ anyway”: Yes, they will. A few decades ago it was common to assume any married woman you met was a housewife; that’s not a good reason for women to stay out of the workplace. People more familiar with my husband indeed call me ‘Mrs. Reflective Groom’ on meeting me for the first time — just as people familiar with me greet him as. ‘Mr Reflective Bride.’ I’m not going to give them a lecture, just as my groom has not made a big show about correcting people.

• “Ah, you’re just afraid of divorce”: That’s not a reason for my decision, but it is something to consider. I love my husband dearly, and hope we are together until we die in each other’s arms at the exact same moment at age 100, but it would be naive not to realize that something like a third of western marriages end in divorce. Would I then change back to my birth name? And if I re-marry, do I change it again to the new husband’s name? What am I, a baseball card? (read the rest here)

I think the most important lesson to learn here is that each GoWoman should decide according to what best suits her identity. However, I don’t think you should change your name just because that is what has been done before you, a true GoWoman questions, reflects, and then she decides.


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Image source: Forbes.com | 365inlove.com

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