In traditional western culture, when a man and woman get married, the woman takes the man’s last name. But this trend has been challenged over the past decade and it’s no longer considered taboo for a bride to keep her maiden name after tying the knot. And once you start exploring the benefits of not changing your name, you’ll start to understand why so many women are following suit.
The History of Changing Names After Marriage
Women adopting the surname of their husband is a tradition that dates back several centuries. It’s a practice that has its roots firmly entrenched in patriarchal societal structures, which have been common throughout history.
The practice of adopting the husband’s surname is largely rooted in English common law doctrine known as “coverture.” This is where the woman’s legal rights and obligations become overtaken by the husband upon becoming legally married. Taking the man’s name is seen as a symbol of the husband’s promise for protection. As with many things, this tradition was also brought to the United States by English colonists. Over time, it’s become the standard practice in most Western countries.
In many cultures, taking on the name of your husband is seen as a woman’s rite of passage into marriage. It’s a shifting from the father’s surname (and protection) to that of the husband. But as is the case with all societal trends, we’ve started to see some changes over the past few decades.
These changes all began with the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s, where people began questioning many traditional norms, This included the tradition of women changing their names upon marriage.
In the United States, the landmark case of “Dunn v. Palermo” in 1975 ensured that states could not force women to use their husband’s name. Similar legal decisions around the world gradually afforded women the right to choose whether they wished to change their names post marriage.
With changing names now considered optional, today’s brides find themselves at a rare point in history where they have the option to choose whether they want to keep their maiden name or adopt the surname of their new groom. While the majority of women still choose the latter – so as to avoid potential confusion – there are some appealing benefits to the former.
The Benefits of Not Changing Your Name
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re exploring the possibility of not changing your name after marriage, you’re in good company. Here are a few of the biggest benefits:
1. Less Paperwork and Logistical Issues
Practically speaking, it’s a lot easier to keep your maiden name. The actual process of changing your name is super simple. But all of the paperwork can be time-consuming. This includes updating your name for various accounts and documents, including your driver’s license, passport, government cards, bank accounts, credit cards, titles, and other records.
When you choose to keep your maiden name, you can spend less time filling out forms, waiting in lines, and stressing over complex bureaucratic processes. Instead, you can use that time to enjoy your new marriage.
2. Maintain Professional Identity
If you’re a public figure or someone who has carved out a successful career in a particular industry, changing your name can do a lot more harm than good. It fosters confusion and could cause you to lose some of that recognition that you’ve worked so hard for.
Whether you realize it or not, you are your own brand. Changing your name means eroding that brand identity – something you’ll have to work hard to rebuild. This is why many successful women, including the likes of author J.K. Rowling and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, have made conscious decisions to not change their names.
3. Personal and Psychological Benefits
Our names are deeply entwined with our self-identity, representing not just our familial backgrounds but also personal and professional achievements. For some women, changing names could feel like losing a part of yourself. By keeping your maiden name, you can retain an important connection to your individuality and history.
Furthermore, research suggests that there are emotional benefits to keeping one’s maiden name. A study published right around the turn of the millennium found that women who kept their maiden names felt a stronger sense of autonomy and were more likely to perceive their relationship as egalitarian. These women also reported higher marital satisfaction compared to those who changed their names. Interesting, right?
Adding it All Up
There’s no singular answer or decision. For some women, taking on the name of your husband is the best choice. For others, it makes more sense to keep your maiden name. Nobody else can make the decision for you. It’s up to you to consider the pros and cons of each option. Good luck!