will blending my name with my fiance’s hurt my career, breaking bad news to someone who’s helped me, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Will combining my and my fiance’s last names into a single, blended name hurt my career?

I’m going to marry this year. I know you have written in the past about professional women changing their names, and I’m very new in my career so I don’t think I will be impacted by a name change, but my fiance and I are thinking about combining our names into a new, single word name (like if Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister became Tyrion and Sansa Starrister). Does this have any more potential to backfire than a normal name change– especially in more conservative circles where it might seem silly or feminist? (It is feminist, but I don’t want that to hurt my career.)

It might feel like an exotic choice to some people, but as long as you’re matter of fact about it, people aren’t likely to dwell on it terribly long. If anyone hassles you about it, you can respond with a bland “It felt like the best choice to us” and then move the conversation along. And even if you encounter a few pearl-clutchers, it’s unlikely to impact your career.

2. How can I tell someone who’s helped me that I’m taking a job with a competitor?

I recently moved back to my hometown, which is relatively small (50,000 people) with my partner to save money towards our own business. There’s a big company here with many different shareholders who all have different stakes in restaurants and bars. I was offered casual work by one shareholder until something else came up; at the time, I didn’t realize that despite being under the same umbrella company, all of these people are fiercely competitive.

I’ve since been offered a full-time position with this shareholder but I turned it down as I didn’t enjoy my trial there. Despite this, the shareholder is still very keen to keep me on board at her three businesses and wants to find somewhere for me to slot in. Nothing in her portofolio is that suitable for me, however.

I’ve since been offered a position that I really want at one of her competitors who still works for the same umbrella company, who I’m meeting with next week. How on earth do I break it to this woman who’s given me casual work to tide me over and offered me full time work since that I don’t want, that I’ve chosen to go and work for a competing business?

To quote the Godfather, It’s business, not personal. (This is where I admit that my knowledge that that came from the Godfather actually comes from You’ve Got Mail.) You’re not abandoning a boyfriend for his best friend; you’re taking a job that you judge is best aligned with your interests.

So just be straightforward: “Jane, I really appreciate the help you’ve given me and your interest in finding me another role that might be a good fit. After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve accepted a job with X doing Y. I think that’s better aligned with what I want to do long-term, but I’m really grateful for how generous you’ve been to me.”

3. Can I ask my company’s external recruiter about other jobs?

I have developed a good relationship with a recruiter. I am this person’s client – she has filled many positions for me when I have openings on my team. She also has developed relationships with a couple other people in my company – and those people are senior to me.

I’m interested in potentially seeking out new career opportunities. I assume it would be a conflict of interest, potentially stupid, and wildly inappropriate to ask her about potential opportunities elsewhere. Am I correct in that assumption? Is there ever a time when something like this would be ok?

Would it be ok after I left the company I currently work for (be it the company’s choice, assuming it was on good terms, or my choice, again assuming it was on good terms)? Would it be ok if the recruiter did not have relationships with anyone else in my company?

Some companies have arrangements with their external recruiters that the recruiters won’t work to place any of their current employees somewhere else. Other companies don’t. But one thing that’s nearly universally true is that recruiters understand the importance of discretion, and that you could ask your recruiter about this directly. I’d say something like, “If I’m ever beginning to think about my next steps, would it be inappropriate for me to talk to you about that? I don’t want to create a conflict for you with Warbucks Corp., but you’re such a good recruiter that I’d love to work with you when that time comes.”

4. When to contact a helpful employer after a rejection

If you’ve had a couple interviews but did not go further in the selection process or were one of the final candidates but were not chosen, sometimes you get an especially nice email back from the employer and sometimes you don’t. But recently there were two instances where I was told I was a very good candidate or the employer stated they were “really impressed” with my skills. One employer gave me a personal cell number if I ever needed to call him to inquire about jobs.

I said I indeed would be interested in any new openings and thanked them both for the opportunity. One person said they’d contact me and another said I should contact them, but I’m unsure what the correct amount of time is in regards to getting in touch with the second person. Would it seem desperate to contact them just a week afterwards? There are tons of openings there, but I’m thinking maybe I should wait until the “right” one pops up so I don’t appear to be willing to do any job, that way I seem especially enthusiastic for the next one I interview for. What are your thoughts?

A week is waaaayyyy too soon, unless coincidentally there’s already another position that’s truly the perfect match for you. But it sounds like that’s not the case, so wait until something really is a strong match for you and contact them then.

5. A story of post-rejection feedback success

I’m a regular Ask a Manager reader and find it a very helpful resource in general, but I want to especially say thanks for the posts you’ve written on how to react to a job rejection.

I was turned down recently after a final interview for a position that I’d been very excited about. After moping around for a couple hours, I took your advice to reply and nicely ask for feedback. I used your past examples as a general guide (but just a guide! I wrote my own email, I promise!) and my interviewer replied with some very helpful, constructive feedback that clarified for me how I was coming across and how I could improve. She even shared books that had helped her when she was starting out in her career, which was just really, really nice of her. Not to mention useful–the books seem spot-on in terms of what I want to improve on.

Even though I knew I’d made a good impression/gotten along well with the team in the interviews, I don’t think I’d have felt confident enough to ask for feedback without seeing your posts and examples of how it can work out. Which I can now see would have been a wasted opportunity. So, like I said, thanks!

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    #4, one thing to consider is that if those jobs were just posted, it’s likely the interviewer knew about them when they rejected you. Since you were fresh in their mind at the time, it seems.pretty likely that none of those jobs appeared to be a for for you. That does depend, of course, on the size of the company and whether they were in a different department.

    1. Andrea

      Thanks! Yes, I eventually decided not to respond so quickly and I’m glad I did. I’m going to wait until something new pops up that I really know I would be right for. I got a little excited at the prospect but I’m trying to keep that excitement in check.

            1. KimH

              Yes – great book, great movie.

              I find myself going to movie quotes when the youngsters dont get it.

          1. fposte

            Not only was it a book, there was a sex scene on an early page (27?) that was famous among teen readers in the days before internet porn.

            1. doreen

              Probably haven’t read it in in over 20 ears- but I’m guessing you mean Sonny and the bridesmaid

          2. hermit crab

            Yes! I actually got the book out of the library, but didn’t read it before it was due back. I’m gonna read it one of these days!

  2. Natalie

    #1, it might also help to remember that most people you’ll meet in your career won’t even know that your last name is blended. Even if it seems obviously blended to you, they’ll be meeting you blind and it will just be a last name among hundreds to them.

    1. MK

      True. People you work with during the name-change will likely know (though only if you tell them, otherwise they will think it’s just your husband’s name); people you will meet later will only find out if they happen to know/learn your husband’s original name.

    2. Kate

      That was what I was going to say. As long as the name is somewhat conceivable as a last night no one will think twice about (not Bananahammocks) especially once you switch jobs. People might ask the originals if it sounds particularly regional but it shouldn’t be a big deal.

    3. Artemesia

      It is the hyphenated name that signals feminist or child of feminist; a blended name won’t be noticeable except at the moment you do it. Five years out noone will know. I say that as a mother of hyphenated children both of whose now adult children have kept the hyphenate (one created a new hyphenated name with her husband.)

      1. Erin

        Interesting! I kept my last name and my kids have hyphens. I wonder sometimes what they will do if and when they marry.

        1. Artemesia

          This is my son in laws rule for the next generation: You take the husband’s paternal last name and combine it with the wife’s maternal last name to form the new hyphenated name. In the case where either husband or wife had a single name before, you just use that one in the new hyphenate for the family.

          So Ellen Rogers-Smith marries Cleo Dunworth-Gomez and their new name is Rogers-Gomez (assuming the names were in mother’s name/father’s name order which seems to be the norm.)

          1. Toto in Kansas

            In my Father’s family they would give the mother’s maiden name to the first born son as his middle name. Glad my parents stopped that tradition or my brother’s middle name would have been Bossie.

      2. Vera

        That’s very interesting, as I hyphenate the two words in my last name, which according to the Spanish tradition is Dad’s-First-Lastname Mom’s-First-Lastname (one lastname made of two words). I do it mainly to avoid problems, because if for any reason I am given a document in the US calling me Vera Mom’s-First-Lastname and I need to process it in my home country, they are not going to accept it, as the “accepted” (but not recommended) short version of my name is Vera Dad’s-First-Lastname. My first name doesn’t sound very Latin, so I wonder if people get the vibe I’m feminist from my full name (which I am, but that’s not the point =^.^=).

        1. Wacky Teapots

          So when Daniel Keegan-Caro marries Alicia Smith-Cruz, what’s the new last name? Seriously, I have this situation in my family. It intrigues me.

          1. A

            If I remember correctly, in Spanish tradition Daniel would still be Daniel Keegan Caro, and Alicia would become Alicia Smith Caro, but the short form of her name would still be Alicia Smith.

            1. Vera

              Not at all. In the Spanish tradition we don’t change names after marriage. In some countries, like mine, it is next to impossible to change your name unless you prove it is ridiculous and you are bullied because of it. Having said that, a long time ago many wives used something like, in this example, Alicia Smith de Keegan (Smith “of” Keegan?). My grandmother used to sign like this. But it is not a legal name.

              Now, if Daniel and Alicia have children, they will be Isobel, Alfredo and Susana Keegan Smith. Daniel and Alicia’s names won’t change. Truth is, I don’t think we have the concept of “family name”.

              At this point I feel very strongly that my name is mine. Obviously the main reason is that my culture hasn’t prepared me to see it as normal, but I can’t conceive giving up my name, even less taking my husband’s. I love the fact that I carry my grandfathers (last)names, as I loved them very much.

          2. Office Mercenary

            In Mexico, Daniel Keegan Caro would stay Daniel Keegan Caro and Alicia Smith Cruz would either stay Alicia Smith Cruz, or become Alicia Smith Cruz de Keegan. If they were to have children, their names would be [First Name} Smith Keegan. I can’t speak for other Spanish-speaking countries though.

  3. Agile Phalanges

    #1 My now – ex-husband and I did exactly that with our names. Granted, we both also changed jobs around the time we married, but no one ever gave us flak over it. Most people thought it was kinda cool. These days, on the the rare occasion I mention it, people are far more amused that my ex is now on his third last name–“maiden” name, then the combo name when we married, then he and his new wife both changed theirs to his mother’s maiden name.

  4. Marzipan

    #1 – If I’m reading this correctly and you’re a woman, it’s quite likely that many people will just assume that your new surname is your spouse’s surname anyway – unless they actually personally know that his name is Lannister they’ll probably just assume he was always Tyrion Starrister and that you’re taking his name on marriage as many women will choose (or, in some viewpoints, be expected) to adopt their husband’s surname. Even if people do know your fiancé’s current name (or you choose to explain in detail), it would take an odd mindset to effectively go ‘dammit, that woman changed her name when she got married, but not to the one I wanted her to! No promotion for her!’ or whatever. I mean, you know if you work/live in a place like that, but I’m guessing not.

    If you’re a man, you might get slightly more raised eyebrows purely because people don’t have that ingrained cultural expectation that a man’s name is likely to change upon marriage, but I still can’t imagine this having any major career consequences. I would think the logistics may take a little longer (as in, anyone whose name changes need to reach out to current contacts, and to referees with previous employers, to ensure they know about the change, but ‘just letting you know, I got married and my last name is now Starrister’ will probably be a two-minute conversion for a woman, but require more explanation coming from a man, because Weird Cultural Expectations) but aren’t insurmountable. And, whenever you moved on, you’d immediately stop being a guy who changed his name and just be a guy with a name, so unless you work in a very small and closely connected industry any weirdness other people throw at you is probably fairly time-limited.

    And, yay and congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I wish you every happiness.

    1. MK

      Well, both men and women can even go with “just letting you know, I changed my name to Starrister”. People do change their names for reasons other than marriage and many bussiness associates may be too discreet/not care enough to ask why.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Women’s names in business are a free for all. I say this as someone who has a house file of about 75,000 customer companies with many contacts at each. The bigger surprise is when names stay stable. There’s everything from a simple last name change to hyphens that pop up and then drop off to, the way I do it – Jane Smith Jones, no hyphen, 3 names. Women also use different names on different weeks. I’m a wee guilty of this myself. Our reps just ask their customer what name they’d like to us to use now and we combine ’em all up. (It’s only annoying when people don’t flag you to the change, please flag people to the change.)

      A man changing his name? Rare. But it’s just a name change. It can’t be that big a deal when 1/2 the rest of the world has their last names sliding all over the place and back again.

      1. Tenley

        Men changing their last names is really a pretty recent phenomenon as gay marriage continues to become legal in more states — and they’re doing it in all the different approaches described by you (and by the OP).

        Anymore, it’s often those careers where a person’s name is already visible and associated with past successful work (a reporter, possibly a lawmaker, etc) where people keep their names, at least professionally on that work.

        1. fposte

          It happens when men married women, too, though–in fact it wasn’t hugely uncommon in the British aristocracy/landed gentry when the property was coming from the wife, which is the origin of many of those double-barreled and sometimes even triple-barreled names.

        2. C Average

          I have a colleague who took his wife’s last name when they married because it was a cooler last name than his and, when combined with his first name, gave him a REALLY cool name. It’s the kind of name that should belong to a hero in a vintage detective story. He was totally up-front with the fact that his decision had nothing to do with principle; he just had the opportunity to gain a cool-sounding name and wanted to take it.

          1. MK

            People also change their names for the opposite reason; a family I know (relatives by marriage) had a last name that sounded horrible and had an unfortunate meaning and their sons, once they reached the legal age had their names changed into something less “colorful”.

            1. Kelly L.

              Yeah, and I know a guy whose father did something horrible, and later this guy changed his name to his mom’s new husband’s last name, even though he’d been grown when they married.

          2. Kelly L.

            I’m glad I’m not the only one who would do this! If I marry current guy, I want to take his name, because it’s awesome. It’s a literary-geek thing, almost on the same level as if he were named Shakespeare. And I’m pretty feminist and probably wouldn’t do it if his name were Smith. I’ve told him as much, too. :D

            1. neverjaunty

              I realize I shouldn’t find it funny to imagine a fight where he hurls “you only married me for my last name!” at you, but I do.

          3. Graciosa

            I love this story – and what a great (secure) guy!

            I’m kind of in the “Who cares?” camp about names. Just tell me what I’m supposed to call you and we’re fine.

            Normally I would say that I don’t need the reasons or the back story, but I would be sorry to have missed this one. :-)

            1. Graciosa

              I think for (secure) I should have put in (cool, fun) or a better modifier, but I’m still grinning / befuddled by the thought of acquiring a vintage hero name.

              I can’t think of any last name that would work with my first to elevate the combination to that status, but I’ll be looking for one –

              1. C Average

                He’s very cool and very secure. He’s unfortunately left my company for greener pastures, and he’s someone I honestly expect to be reading about in Fast Company in the next decade. He’s one of those people who doesn’t seem at all concerned with other people’s idea of what is and isn’t possible or appropriate. Super fun guy to work with, especially for brainstorming. I miss him a lot.

                On another note, yesterday I was on a cc list with a guy who had the last name Schwing. I had to share this fact with my colleagues. There was much merriment and much discussion of what names the Schwing offspring should have.

      2. Felicia

        It’s only weird when a man legally changes his last name to Awesome or anything similar (real last name change that i’ve encountered)

        1. Lynn Whitehat

          I knew a guy who had his name legally changed to the name of his Dungeons and Dragons character. That was my first clue that the dude was a bit off.

          1. Felicia

            I feel like the guy who changed his last name to Awesome would get along well with the guy who changed his last name to a Dungeons and Dragons character.

    3. Mostly Lurker

      One example of a man who successfully changed his surname is Jack White; he took Meg’s last name when they married.

  5. beckythetechie

    OP #2– If it helps your feelings about the situation, I think this might be the right occasion for a nice bottle of wine or box of chocolate along with your thanks. If she’s really been that invaluable, a small gift isn’t always amiss.

  6. Jenn S

    I’m original poster #2

    Thanks so much for the advice, and you’re right, it’s all about business and it’s easy to forget that at times so it’s nice to have someone tell me that so I can look at it all from a different perspective.

    And the gift suggestion from becky, that’s a wonderful idea, thank you!

    1. Lamb

      Exactly; it’s business. If anyone tries to make you feel guilty or indebted to her, remind yourself: She hired you for casual work *which you did*. You did that work *so well* she wanted to hire you full time. She clearly got her money’s worth for the casual work she paid you for. You do not owe it to her to continue doing casual work for her until she has a full time position that works for you.
      Still being told you ought to stick it out with her? That would be like saying anyone who took an interim retail job needs to stay with that company and only look for advancement internally even if that company doesn’t have positions doing what they want to do for a career.

  7. BRR

    #4 It sounds like you’re looking to take any job (which I completely get, I have been there) but you should focus on the right job. Sometime that is interesting to you, that matches up with your skills, and will help with where you want your career to go.

    1. Andrea

      Hi, I’m the letter writer! It’s a matter of it being the same type of job and I had the skills for all of them technically but I’m not sure I’d be as good a fit as for the other position I previously applied for, and considering I didn’t get that one, I’m waiting for one that’s even better fit. I guess it was more the company, which is awesome and really matches up with my values and ideas about the direction my industry should go in, that made me want to contact them so soon. My desperation is more about a concern that employers will consider the skill I’m trying to get hired for to be well, eroded, since my current full time job is in another area, even though it’s adjacent to that skill set and I’m doing outside work to make up for what I’m no longer doing.

      1. BRR

        Hmm that’s a very valid concern. The other thing to consider is I’ve known people who really want to work at a specific organization and take a job they’re overqualified for so they are not making as much as they should.

        1. Andrea

          Yes, I hate to say it but I’d be willing to take a salary cut if necessary and downsize if it meant pursuing something that challenges me.

  8. Ollie

    #1 – My fiance and I want to combine our names as well! Unfortunately, my coworkers have already found out (after asking extremely nosy questions) that I won’t be simply changing my name to his. For some reason, my coworkers believe I don’t love my fiance enough. But that’s just how some people are–if you don’t follow tradition, there’s always going to be someone who’s judgmental. Just be firm with your answers; when my coworkers started insisting I didn’t love my fiance, I asked, “Why would you think that?” pointedly with an “omg you did NOT just say that” face and just turned back to my computer and ignored them. They got the point.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      What year is this? I got some social push back 25 years ago when my late first husband and I married and I didn’t change my name at all. (Any modifications came After Kids. ) I was pretty shocked then but 25 years later? I just don’t follow.

      I do follow, after raising kids, that having a unifying family name is nice. It seems so much more nice for the couple to create the name together (as long as it isn’t BananaHammock). Blaze the trail! (Didn’t old time wealthy families do this a lot? Isn’t this Not A New Thing? I’m too lazy to look it up.)

      I cannot see the thought process behind “don’t love the other person enough”. Bizarre. But not uncommon to hear. How do they get there? Rhetorical question.

      1. Alter_ego

        I had several coworkers tell me that they wouldn’t have married their wives if their wives hadn’t been willing to change their names. These are all marriages that occurred within the past 5 years. I suppose people find each other, I sure as hell wouldn’t marry someone whose love was conditional on my changing my name. If he wants us to have the same last name, he can take mine.

        1. CherryScary

          The BF and I have has this discussion recently. I’m not sure what I’d like to do with my name post-marriage, but he wants to keep his last name. I suggested possibly hyphenating (i.e. Cherry Weasley-Potter) which he would be cool with me doing. He doesn’t particularly care what I decide on.

          For all I know, I could do what my co-worker did and just wait 2 years after my wedding to decide.

        2. Lizzie

          This was the situation for a former coworker of mine who got married a little over a year ago. I was pretty appalled when she told me that her husband “insisted” that she change her name.

          1. Blue_eyes

            I worked with a guy who got married the same weekend I did (1.5 years ago) whose wife considered not changing her name and he “insisted” that she take his name.

            1. Zillah

              I once dated a guy who flipped out when I mentioned offhandedly that I didn’t understand why many women still change their names at marriage, and that I never would. He said that it was emasculating and a lot of other adjectives that were pretty bad.

              Dodged that bullet.

          2. EvilQueenRegina

            My second cousin and her husband had an argument about this on Day 2 of the honeymoon. He insisted on her changing her name to his and he got his way.

            1. Cordelia Naismith

              Um, wow. Not only for him “insisting,” but also because how do you wait until your honeymoon to have the last name conversation? Surely that’s something you should talk about beforehand, right?

        3. Geena

          Where did anyone say love was “conditional” on changing names? It sounds like the men who are refusing to even consider changing their names are the ones whose love is so changing. It’s a decision every couple arrives at with some serious discussion. Some people don’t care that much because they don’t feel a strong connection to their last names and some people want to keep their family history or feel it should be a joint name. No one but you is saying that marriage or love is “conditional” on that decision, and I’m sure plenty of people still marry after that disagreement no matter what decision hey come to but if someone at least won’t have the conversation or says you aren’t worth a supposed affront on their manhood, they probably were a misogynist jerk you shouldn’t marry anyway.

          1. Geena

            Ah, never mind, I misread your comment. I should know better than to comment so early in the morning.

        4. the gold digger

          I changed my surname when I got married – I have no philosophical objections – but after getting to know my husband’s parents better, I realized I wanted nothing to do with them. I also missed my own name. So last year, I changed back to my maiden name.

          My husband’s parents, who claim to be super liberal, which I think generally encompasses being feminist, are about to explode. I guess they are liberal about everything they like but take the 10th century feudal “you better get your wife in line” attitude to my husband when said wife isn’t doing what they want.

          1. cuppa

            It amazes me the strong feelings people have with last names. My sister in law is someone who I really would have expected to keep her maiden name, but she took our family name with no hesitation. I have friends that I wouldn’t have expected to care keep their maiden names. I had always planned on taking my husband’s name and using it both personally and professionally, but I think if I had kept my maiden name, there would have been some serious rumbling from both my family and my husband. People really have strong feelings about this.

            1. JMegan

              That’s the part that really surprises me. I have strong feelings about my *own* last name, and whether or not I would change/hyphenate/merge it with my husband’s when I get married, but that’s because it’s my name. Husband-to-be would get a certain amount of input, but the final decision would be mine alone.

              But other people’s last names? Makes no difference to me. As in really, no difference at all. I wouldn’t consider anyone else’s name change to be my business, any more than I would consider my name change to be their business. I just don’t understand why people would get so worked up about something like that, unless it’s their name that is (or is not) being changed.

              1. Soharaz

                That’s the reason I kept mine when I got married. I don’t have any strong ties to my father’s family name, but I do have strong ties to MY name. My husband didn’t care what I did with my name, but wanted our kids to have his last name (which means a lot to him). Since I don’t care about the name, I’m fine with that. I can be Ms Scarlett O’Hara and he can be Mr Rhett Butler and our kids will be Bonnie and Wade Butler.
                My mother got really weird about this for some reason though, she thought I was pissing on her life choices because she did change her name. She also got quite snarky like ‘you know people are going to think you’re Mrs Butler and you’re just going to have to accept that right?’ Names cause some strange feelings in people…

          2. Blue_eyes

            A friend’s mom who got married in the early 80s did this, but after only a few days! She initially changed to her husband’s last name, and then immediately regretted it and changed it back to her birth name less than a month after the wedding.

            1. Melissa

              I wouldn’t say that I regret changing my last name, but I kind of wish I hadn’t. I had originally decided to keep my own last name and then at the last minute – literally the day before filing the paperwork – I decided to change it. It’s been a hassle honestly. I never liked my own last name but it’s mine, and honestly, I don’t really like my married last name either lol.

        5. blackcat

          While I’m generally a “What works for you works for you and it’s none of my business” kind of person, hearing this from people gets my hackles up. I really don’t think a decision like that should be coerced. While I would never think about a name change or lack there of other than “oh, ok, information filed in my brain,” if a coworker told me their husband coerced them into changing their name, I’d have a hard time not judging. So if that really *IS* the case for them, they probably shouldn’t go around telling folks at work.

        6. jhhj

          I dated someone who said, if we married, he thought it would be very important for us to share a last name. I was entirely happy to offer my last name, and suddenly he thought maybe it was less important. (We didn’t marry; his wife did take his name, in the end.)

          1. Jessica

            Yeah, I heard this a lot when I was refusing to take my husband’s last name. He wasn’t super adamant, but he thought it was important to him — but couldn’t quite explain why my last name wasn’t the one we should take together. I’m the logical type, so I said if he could give me a logical reason (not based on emotion or “it’s always been this way”/tradition) to change my name to his then I would certainly change my name. He finally realized that what was important to him was that we have the same last name, and not necessarily that it was his last name. We eventually compromised and we both took both last names — and it was his idea to do this. I now work at a small organization, and I have three other coworkers who also did this years before I knew them. It’s nice to have other people around who get it. Those coworkers all have children (we don’t and aren’t), and their children have both last names as well. We did discuss combining our names to a new name, but the defeated my original desire to keep my last name, which I had very specific reasons for wanting.

            We are unhyphenated, though, and we just have “MyLast His Last” as our legal last name (so we both have four names).

            He heard it from his friends (“Why would you marry her if she won’t take your name and doesn’t want an engagement ring?”) and I heard it from some of my family and a couple of my friends’ husbands (“I wouldn’t have married you if you didn’t take my last name, so why does she need to be so ridiculous about this name change thing? I certainly wouldn’t marry her if she wouldn’t take an engagement ring.”)

            To this day, I don’t understand why the lack of engagement ring was a hang-up for so many men in both of our circles. I mean, I was refusing to let him spend way too much money on something I would never wear, so why did that make me the bad person? The name thing was so personal that I just told them that their views of what should happen had no bearing on my life.

            1. Melissa

              I tried to opt out of an engagement ring too – I’m not huge on jewelry, and I just wanted a sparkly wedding ring. My husband insisted on giving me an engagement ring.

              1. Jessica (the celt)

                I’m curious about whether you ended up wearing your engagement ring before and/or after the wedding. I know one other person in a similar situation, but she went out and got her future husband an engagement ring after he gave her one she didn’t want. He was perplexed and said he didn’t want one, and she said, “Neither did I, but if I have to have one, then you do as well.” Neither one have worn the engagement ring after the wedding.

                I told my husband if he did get me an engagement ring against my wishes, I would refuse to marry him, because it would show that he didn’t know me well enough to truly want to marry me. All of his friends told him that I was just saying that, supposedly all women say that (according to them), and that I would be mad if he didn’t get me one, so he still debated it. I am pretty outspoken and value thrift a LOT, so if he didn’t realize that (1) I don’t say things that I don’t mean and (2) I would be very angry to have a lot of money spent on something that would sit around in a box my entire life, then there was no reason for me to believe that he’d ever listen to me once we got married. It was one of those situations that if the ring had actually meant a lot to him, we would have discussed it (for both of us to get one), but he just thought he should do it because all women want a ring when they get married. Heck, my own mother was telling him to buy me a diamond “something” (necklace or bracelet or whatever), because she said all women want a diamond. I have very strong feelings about diamonds in particular, and owning them is not something that is on my list of to-dos. That, above all, would have told me a lot about how little he understood me.

                (This is where I reiterate that my opinions are my own, and I don’t put my values onto other people or expect them to live by the same beliefs. If someone has a diamond and loves it, then I’m happy for them that they got one. If someone wants an engagement ring, then I hope they get one. And so on… I get a lot of people who did something different who have yelled at me for not doing whatever they did, but I’ve determined that it’s because they think I’m judging them for doing what I didn’t want for myself. In reality, I don’t care what anyone else does, and I only need to worry that my husband understands me and my desires enough to follow them. He’s the only one I expect to care about what I did or want to do.)

                1. blackcat

                  Yeesh.

                  On the opposite side of that, I have an engagement ring with a pretty big diamond–which is an heirloom from my mom’s family. I love wearing something that’s been a part of my family for 100+ years. My mom and her sister wear the other diamonds that were a part of the original set, which I also like (the three stones have seen various incarnations, originally being together on a men’s ring that my great, great aunt gave her husband).

                  At the time of our engagement, several guys made comments to him about how it was great he went “all out” for the ring, given that he wasn’t making a ton of money. They asked him how he saved. His response was something like “I’m marrying into an old money family. They money is gone, but some old stuff is still around.” *Shrug* Several women at work made comments to me, too, about the size of the stone that I found odd and uncomfortable. And they would get uncomfortable when I pointed out that it’s an heirloom–at least 2 people made a comment about being able to get a new stone at some point when we have more money. My art teacher friend LOVED the ring because of the hand crafted setting of my design.

                  People have *lots* of weird expectations about rings. I’ve even heard of women in certain professions feeling like they need a stone that’s either really big (showing off wealth) or small/alternative (showing that they care about working conditions/the environment/etc).

                2. Zillah

                  I agree re: diamonds. I’ve always said that I’d never marry a man who got me a diamond engagement ring or asked my father for permission.

                3. beckythetechie

                  My engagement ring is shaped like a key that wraps around my finger,referencing an old European tradition where the wife is given the husband’s keys at the wedding. The oval in the handle of the key holds a created opal, which is both my and my husband’s birth stone. Besides using reclaimed gold, there’s nary a diamond in sight. :) I love it (or will, once we pay it off.)

            2. simonthegrey

              Your note on names is what my husband and I did, only I changed my last name to my middle name (kept my original middle name) and he added my last name as a second middle name. I was surprised that even with that, his parents were taken aback.

          2. eee

            I have a hyphenated last name (my parents both kept their last names), and as a kid my dad always presented it as a decision both my parents made equally. After they divorced a few years ago I found out that apparently my mom had to fight tooth and nail for a hyphenated name! She was fine with either a hyphenated name, a blended name, or an entirely new name–the only thing she didn’t want was for everything to change to my dad’s last name. She also sort of wanted them to change their last names to the same last name as their kids, so if we were Stannister they were Stannister too, as opposed to being Stark and Lannister (but again, she didn’t want my dad to stay Stark and for her to change to Stannister). Not an unreasonable position at all, except to my dad, who (hilariously) argued that since he was in academia, a name change for him would be unthinkable, and it would negatively impact his career. Apparently my mom’s being in academia, and the negative impact on her career, had simply not occurred to him. After a great deal of fruitless arguing, he finally resigned to him being Stark, her being Lannister, and us being Stark Lannister.
            His mother insisted for the rest of her life on addressing letters to Mr. and Mrs. Ned Stark though.

          3. Probably a different Jess

            I’ve dated a few guys like this too. My current guy was initially interested in me taking his name, though he didn’t care once I said it was important to me not to.

            He is VERY insistent that any children we have have his last name, but that is because he is adopted and feels that since he is not passing on family genes he wants to have something tangible to tie the children to his (awesome, supportive) family. I don’t care that much about what name the kids take, and that’s an actual reason (instead of just tradition OMG), so I’m fine with this.

        7. MK

          30 years ago the then goverment of mu country (with whose politics I disagree and whose policies proved disastrous) changed the law from “it’s compulsory for all women to take their husbands’ name on marriage” to “no woman is allowed to take her husband’s name on marriage, though she can use it socially”. I am thankful for that law, because even the most reactionary men know it’s not going to happen, so it’s not an issue; also, everybody knows that husbands and wives has different surnames, so no one has to deal with backchat from strangers.

            1. Andrea

              That’s a decision every couple arrives at as a joint decision, but why should it be ASSUMED to be the man’s last name? That’s my question.

        8. Dynamic Beige

          A friend of mine was marrying. She was keeping her name. I got into a huge fight with a friend of her’s or her husbands in the bar that night over his objection to her not taking his name. No, I was not drunk, but he might have been. This guy literally threw out how any woman who wouldn’t take his name — when it had been good enough for his Momma — wasn’t good enough for him. He later called me a dyke and said I was going to die alone/no man would ever want me because I didn’t agree with him that a woman he wasn’t marrying didn’t have to take a name she didn’t want. The kicker was: it turned out he was gay and this was in the mid-90’s before he even had the option to marry (it came a few years later here). If he ever found a man who wanted to marry him, I hope that guy made him take *his* name.

          A few years after this, there was a court challenge in Ontario where a man wanted to take his wife’s name. He had some name with too many consonants that people were always spelling or pronouncing incorrectly and she had a common name like Smith. He had taken his marriage licence into the bank to get his accounts changed and was told he wouldn’t be allowed to do that, he would have to legally change his name. Same thing everywhere else. So, they did a discrimination suit against the government because why was it that any woman could go into an institution with a marriage licence and they would just change it, no questions asked? I never heard how that went, but somehow I doubt they won.

        9. Melissa

          I’d like to believe that if my husband told me he wouldn’t marry me because I wouldn’t change my name, I’d be like “Okay then, guess we’re not getting married.” (I did change my name legally & socially, but I use my original name professionally.)

      2. Lizzie

        “I do follow, after raising kids, that having a unifying family name is nice.”

        +1 for this (from someone with long-standing plans to not change her name). My mom had to basically tell her life story to every single doctor and school administrator when we were growing up. “I’m Catelyn Tully, Sansa’s mother…no, my last name isn’t Stark, the kids and their father have one last name and I have a different last name…that’s T-U-L-L-Y.” It annoyed me when my classmates asked if she was my stepmom (here I was, thinking that having a different last name than your mom was normal!), but she told me years later that she got that question from the aforementioned medical and school personnel from time to time! How rude!

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          This is exactly why I changed my name to his without hesitation – administrative convenience. Being slowed down by details is not my thing.

          1. blackcat

            Part of why I didn’t was the paperwork… all the records, a few licenses, passport, payroll, etc…

            It’s also a regional issue–where I live now, no one has batted an eye at the different last names. In fact, I’ve been directly asked questions several times that do not assume my husband the same name. (eg “What is your husband’s full name?”). Where I lived before, my renter’s insurance company initially refused to add him to the policy because I told them that my name didn’t change. (A supervisor fixed that for me).

            I’m also now in academia, where the default is that women don’t change their names, at least professionally. I do think that name changing either way can be more contentious in different industries, as well as regions.

          2. doreen

            I didn’t change my name partly for administrative convenience – I’m a civil servant, and if I had changed my name , I would have had to show my marriage certificate every time I applied for a job because the name on my transcript wouldn’t have matched the name on everything else. I never had a problem with the different names, but that was probably because I didn’t really care what the staff at the school or doctor’s office called me. My actual name was on the paperwork but when they called me Mrs Chen , I didn’t correct them. Of course, there was always some confusion with new staff when they called for Mr or Mrs Chen and a obviously non-Asian woman stood up.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I’m widowed from my first marriage and my current (now long time) husband adopted our children, BUT

          We were together about five years before we married and he legally adopted the children. He was every bit their father, but we all had different last names.

          Smith -me
          Jones – him
          Cook – kids

          Parent teacher conferences were hysterical. It was our little suburban rebellion because people couldn’t process the different names and we never explained.

          Teacher: “Hello, Mr and Mrs Cook”
          Me: “Great to meet you, I’m Billy’s mother, I’m Jane Smith.”
          Him: “Hello! Nice to be here. I’m Billy’s dad, Joe Jones”

          We never broke,until we got out into the car laughing. It was so priceless.

          That said, by the time they were 10 or so, the kids were like “okay can we please all have the same last name like a normal family? this is getting old.”

          So we hitched, the kids were adopted and they changed their last names. I never changed my legal name but I do use the family name socially, and it is nice. (Made a little nicer though by our stories out and memories of the Great Name Rebellion.)

          1. the gold digger

            My sister is a nurse practitioner. She married last year. She uses her husband’s name socially, but will not change her legal name because it’s too much hassle to change her name on all of her licensing documents.

            1. Melissa

              True dat…I still haven’t changed my name at my old bank because they keep demanding to see my marriage license (instead of just my new driver’s license); I can only imagine that getting licensing changed with the state is even worse!

          2. cuppa

            I grew up in a blended family, and it always amazed me how much confusion there was over names. It didn’t seem THAT out of the ordinary to me, and maybe today it is less so, but so many people just could not seem to handle the concept that my mom and stepdad had a different name from the kids.

          3. Lizzie

            In spite of the annoyances that resulted from my mom not changing her name, it never even occurred to me to think of keeping my own name as a nonviable option. Even back when I still thought I might want kids, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t change my name, and now that I’m certain that I don’t, there’s no compelling reason for me to change it. (Also: if I end up marrying my current boyfriend, a name change would mean that I’d have the same name [first and last] as his brother’s wife.)

            1. Phyllis

              This is what happened to me, Lizzie. (SL & I having the same exact name.) We live in a small city where both of us were fairly well-known and it caused all kinds of confusion for a while. She would order pizza and they would deliver to me. She worked at our local military base and I would get phone calls for her. (We kept a sense of humor about it.) To make matters worse, my husband had a friend whose last name was the same as my maiden name (no relation.) I told her there was no way she could date/marry him because then the whole town would REALLY get confused. Luckily, she married finally and took her husband’s name so everything settled down.

              1. Lizzie

                Right now it’s just one of those things we all laugh politely about when older relatives/family friends bring it up. (Both brothers picked a girl named Lizzie! How hilarious! Just like it was last time someone pointed it out!) But I could definitely see it causing some confusion in the future like you described! Luckily my boyfriend’s parents are supportive of the idea of women keeping their own names. (Well, mom is – dad is indifferent.)

          4. Jubilance

            Thank you for this story :-) I’m getting married next month and I don’t plan to change my name legally but I’m totally fine being Jubilance HisLastName socially. He doesn’t care either way but I’m sure some folks will lose their minds over it.

            1. LJL

              That’s exactly I did six months ago. So far, no heads exploding, and I even stated a new job! His family and our church tend to call me by his last name, and I take it as a compliment. Best wishes on your upcoming marriage!

        3. C Average

          Yeah, this can get awkward.

          My husband’s first wife kept her name, and the kids have his last name. When we married, I took his last name. So their mother always has to explain who she is, while their stepmother (me) is assumed to be their mother!

        4. Tomato Frog

          I’m always surprised by these stories. My mom raised 3 of us with a different last name and it never caused a problem and almost never occasioned comment, even when we dealt with intransigent and complex bureaucracies. Do you look very different from her?

          1. Lizzie

            I look more like my mom than either of my siblings look like her, and none of us really resemble our dad at all. I had a close friend in high school who was practically a clone of her mother, but like me had a different last name than mom; they got questions about the relationship all the time, too. I guess people really found it that unusual, which is kind of baffling. I mean, it strikes me that it was (and still is) more uncommon for women to keep their own name than it is for them to change their name (at least in the parts of the U.S. I’ve lived in), but it’s not unheard of. So…IDK.

            1. Tomato Frog

              IIRC the statistics are like 90% of American women change their name when they get married. So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that people are surprised when they don’t. :/

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            I look more like my step-mom than I do my mom or my dad. Mom and step mom became friends (eventually . . . ) and I was always assumed to be step-mom’s daughter when they were both out together with all the kids.

            And now, as an adult, I am assumed to be my mother in law’s daughter, and my husband’s sister is assumed to be his wife, because when were all out together, I’m the one who most resembles his mom, not his sister.

          3. fposte

            Yeah, I remember a friend’s father opining with grave concern if women didn’t share their husband’s name, how would a school even know who their kids’ parents were? Aside from the general idiocy of that, every place I lived had tons of people on subsequent marriages with kids from various litters, with names from prior spouses and kids from current and vice versa, and nobody ever seemed to pearl-clutch about a parent not having the same name as a kid in that situation. And schools seemed to manage just fine by reading the forms and meeting the parents.

            1. Zillah

              I would have been so tempted to say, “the same way they know that Janet Smith’s mother is not Jacqueline Smith, so they really shouldn’t release Janet to her.”

              I mean, seriously, people. I would be deeply concerned about a school that was incapable of reading paperwork and instead took same last name to be proof of parenthood.

              1. Lizzie

                Now that I’m a teacher, I’m all “Wait, how were my schools growing up confused about the last name issue?” So many of my students live in blended or multi-generational households that it’s almost more common for me to be communicating with an adult who doesn’t share the child’s last name than one who does.

        5. A K Climpson

          My parents dealt with the same thing the other way around. My mom didn’t change her name and they decided that I would get my dad’s name if I was a boy but her name if I was a girl (only child, so siblings never became an issue). I, a girl, ended up with FirstName Dad’sLast Mom’sLast, though I use Dad’sLast only as a middle name. NO ONE understood it growing up. I was in a very liberal area with lots of friends whose moms kept their names, but to give the kid the mom’s name was super weird. People who’d known my family forever would still think my name was hyphenated or actually my dad’s last name; people who just met my family thought my dad was my stepdad.

          I actually came to like my name, despite the confusion. When I’m in the right mood, it can even be fun to explain to people who have very strict notions of how families and names should work. (“But why isn’t my matrilineal history as important?”).

          Also, due to family size, gender, and procreative decisions, I am the only one in my generation with either Dad’sLast or Mom’sLast, so my spouse’s name would have to be awesome for me to change. (Though not literally “Awesome” like another poster mentioned). If I have kids, finding a way to use either name will definitely be in the conversation.

        6. neverjaunty

          Eh, it doesn’t really seem to be an issue anymore what with blended families. I’ve never had anyone grill me about why we don’t all share a last name.

        7. Blue_eyes

          My husband’s mother is in the same situation (she has a different last name than her husband and children). It was often as hassle when they were kids. They used to go to summer camp in Canada (they lived in the US) and their mother would need a signed letter from their father to take them across the border because she didn’t have the same last name.

        8. Jessica

          I’ve met many families where the husband and wife kept their own names when they married. They decided that when they had children, the girls would receive the mother’s name and the boys would receive the father’s name. I work at a school, and it’s never been a problem for us with any of those families. I assumed this was becoming more and more common, because we’ve had so many families that did that. We also have many mothers who have a different last name than their children, but I’ve never assumed they were step-parents. Why would the assumption be that a step-mother’s last name be different than her step-children anyway? It seems more likely that the mother’s last name would be different because of re-marriage than the step-mother’s name would be different if she married their dad, with whom they share a last name…

          We were lucky when we got married that children weren’t a consideration for us, as we were also choosing to not be parents. (Yeah, we got flack for all of those things: I refused an engagement ring, we both took both last names when we married, and we are non-parents by choice. I guess we were just asking for it. ;) )

          1. JMegan

            Ha, I didn’t even see your answer before posting mine below! I’ve actually never known another family to do this, but I’m glad to hear it might be catching on a bit.

        9. JMegan

          My kids have different last names. They’re full siblings – same biological mother and father – but my eldest has her father’s last name, and my youngest has mine. The reason for this is that their father and I each wanted to have a child with our own last names, and neither of us wanted to change our names when we got married. So this seemed like a pretty reasonable way to solve the problem. The kids are now 7 and 4, and no one has questioned us yet. (Of course, it helps that they look like twins, apart from the age difference, so it’s pretty clear that they’re related!)

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m another who might have changed my name if I’d liked the way the new one sounded with my first name and/or if I’d gotten married before establishing myself professionally under my original name.

        My husband — who in most issues is staunchly feminist, and was raised in a family with lots of strong women, etc. — was upset that I didn’t take his name and wasn’t convinced the tradition was rooted in sexism (!). I think it still bothers him a little. I think it’s just so ingrained in our culture for some people (it wasn’t for me, but clearly it is for many people) and it’s part of how they think of marriage and the process of becoming a family unit, and that holds powerful sway still.

        1. Jessica

          This! My husband, when asked why he would assume I would take his last name said, “I don’t know. It’s always been done that way, so I just assumed you’d do it.”

          I responded, “That doesn’t make sense. You know I don’t think tradition for tradition’s sake is reasonable, so why would you assume that?”

          We probably had a similar discussion about the reason that was a “tradition.” I also threw in there a lot of research I’d done (years before) about traditional last names for other cultures and countries, which really did help him understand that not every tradition is (or should be) steadfast, because they grow out of culture and sometimes have patriarchal overtones that aren’t consistent with how our relationship actually was. The response from many friends and family members was a study in how ingrained tradition can be — so much so that people are offended if you deviate from their preferred tradition or if you chose another one.

          Even though my husband and I weren’t from completely different cultures, at times the wedding/marriage process really made it seem like we were. :(

      4. Ollie

        Hi, sorry it took me so long to respond! This was literally just a week ago; my fiance and I just got engaged in December.

    2. MK

      This is idiotic, both because women who changed their last names for marriage did not do so out of love (and looking at the comments below still don’t do so out of love, the main reason seems to be convenience) and because it;s incredibly shalow to conclude that someone who plans to legally bind herself to a man doesn’t love him. I mean, giving someone legal rights in your life is not proof of commitment, a name-change is? Not to mention that it’s crossing a line to say something like this to a coworker or anyone about whose private life you know little.

    3. BA

      I got married 5 years ago, and had people ask me questions about why I didn’t take my husband’s name. (Most were more out of curiosity than being openly hostile, though.) Now that it’s not new news, no one ever asks. The same will probably and hopefully be true of you in 5 years! I don’t have the same job I did when I got married, and many of my coworkers don’t know or remember that I have a different name from my husband in the first place.

      I would have wanted to combine last names with my husband, but we both have ridiculous last names to begin with, so it would have been comical. Sometimes if someone asks me why I didn’t change my name, I joke, “His last name wasn’t any better!” Not the reason why, but not going to get into a conversation about the patriarchy with colleagues :).

      1. Blue_eyes

        When I got married, my boss at the time asked what my new name would be. When I told him I wasn’t changing it, he asked “But what would it be?”. Huh? Why does it matter what my name might have been when I’m not changing it. He asked me this on at least two separate occasions.

    4. Artemesia

      I kept my own name nearly 45 years ago when I married. I got lots of odd flak over the years including a state senator in my southern state who actually said ‘I have read about people like you and Mr. Husbandname in magazines, but I haven’t ever met any’ all in major southern drawl. I got the ‘I think if you love your husband you would want to take his name’ nonsense to which I replied ‘oh I am sure he loves me even though he didn’t want to take my name.’

      FWIW in my and my husband’s families we have 8 siblings. About half of the wives who married his brothers and both of his sisters took the husband’s names and about half didn’t and my brother’s wife took his name. So far, none of the 4 who kept their names have divorced and all of the 5 who took their husband’s name have divorced. This is of course of no real significance but it amuses me in light of this nonsense about ‘not loving enough’ if you don’t change your name.

    5. Jessica

      This is the comment I hated most. “I have to love him enough to respect his desires, but he doesn’t have to love me enough to respect mine? How does that work in your relationship?” That usually made them think it through a bit more.

    6. beckythetechie

      I had a couple discussions with my husband about this, and I laid it out logically. I’ve got professional credits for my design etc., the paper work to change my name on everything I’d need to change is a pain in the arse, and to put it bluntly, he doesn’t even like being a part of his family 90% of the time. So why is it mandated that I have to become another Mrs. Georges.

      He says it’s important to him that he and I match, at least socially.

      Okay. So I’m Becky Georges or Becky TheTechie Georges… to people who were at the wedding and know both last names. All the applications etc. going out now are going out as Becky TheTechie. The idea that I’d need to carry a copy of my marriage license just to prove that I’m still me kind of ticks me off.

      I didn’t marry him to erase who I am; I married him for the tax break. ;)

    7. Hlyssande

      Some friends of mine picked an entirely new last name when they got married…and legally changed their first names as well to suit themselves better. Apparently they had to drive all over the area to find a registrar who allowed him to change his name.

  9. Henrietta Gondorf

    I didn’t change my name when I got married and I’m always a bit surprised when someone reacts oddly to that. My most bizarre experience involved a co worker taking down a list of spouses’ names for an office social function.

    Co-worker: Can I get your husband’s name for the office party?

    Me: Sure, it’s Jon Hamm.

    CW: Jonhamm? That’s a weird name.

    Me: Jon is a weird name?

    CW: But you called him something else.

    Me: First name Jon, last name Hamm.

    CW: But your last name is Gondorf, not Hamm.

    Me: Right. I didn’t change it when we got married.

    CW: is that even legal?

    Punchline: CW and I are both lawyers.

      1. Henrietta Gondorf

        2008. I work in a conservative field (defense), and this is not the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard on the topic, but it remains the funniest.

    1. Kristinyc

      I got married a few years ago and changed my name. My ten year old niece and I were talking about it (she’s currently the only grandchild with my family name, and could very well end up being the last person with it). She didn’t know that name changing was optional. I told her why I chose it, and she said, “I like my name! I’m only going to change it if my husband has a really really cool one.” (Which is kind of what happened with me.) I’m trying to instill bits of feminism in her whenever I can. :)

      1. Lizzie

        This is pretty much how I’ve always explained it, too! (I’ve been answering the question about changing my name since high school – my mom didn’t change her name, so it actually comes up a lot for me.) My last name is fairly unique, and so I’ve always joked that unless I actually end up marrying Mr. Awesome, I’m sticking with what I have now! (And then I immediately change the subject, because why do I need to explain choices I haven’t even made yet?)

      2. Blue_eyes

        I am the youngest and last family member in my dad’s family to have the family name, which was a major factor in deciding to keep my name when I got married.

      3. voluptuousfire

        ^ I’m essentially in the same boat as your niece. If I ever do get married, I’m keeping my name but if it sounds cool hyphenated, I may do that. Any kids I have though definitely will have a hyphenated name.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Oh, I got asked this earlier this year when I got married. I chose to tack on my husband’s name to the end of mine–a la Laura Ingalls Wilder or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You would not believe the number of people who could not deal with this. “Is that hyphenated?” “No.” “Can you even do that?” “Sure can!” “Is that even legal?” “Yep, it really is.”

      Don’t ask me about the people I know who address things to me as Dietcoke Maidenname only, and when I say “Actually, it’s Dietcoke Maidenname Newlastname,” laugh and say “Oh, I hate it when women change their names, I’ll just stick with your maiden name.” Hilarious! And it’s not up to you, as it’s not your name, so how about if you just address me how I ask, okay?

      1. fposte

        Though the challenge that way is that people aren’t clear if you’re Maidenname Lastname, Dietcoke or Lastname, Dietcoke Maidenname. If you go for the latter, you’ll be mostly good, but the former is going to get the latter with some frequency.

        1. Former Diet Coke Addict

          The latter–and that’s how I introduce myself. But my bigger complaint isn’t with people being confused or needing clarification, but straight-up telling me that they don’t like the way I do it and want to address me in the way they pick. Which is not okay with me.

          1. Artemesia

            Yeah. Not good. I got the same thing with people insisting I use my husband’s name including my own parents. It wasn’t until the little hyphenated grandkids arrived that they finally accepted it and stopped addressing packages to my husband only or to me as Mrs. Hisname Hislastname.

            1. Nashira

              I managed to blow the office busybody’s mind recently by stating that no, I do not use my husband’s name socially. As in the full Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. She could conceive of keeping one’s own name professionally, but the idea of just using your name 100% of the time was just beyond the pale.

              I wonder what she’d think if she found out I use the name Nash socially? I honestly do; it’s normal to have a self-chosen use-name in my main social groups. It might make her head explode…

        2. Elysian

          I actually went with the latter and people keep trying to shoehorn me into the former. I am Elysian Middle Oldlast Newlast (4 names, omg!) and I try to make it easy on everyone by going with Elysian Newlast. Both my old last name and my new one are kind of long, and I didn’t want to deal with the mouthful that it would be if I tried to combine. Even though I try to do things the “easy” way I still get questions all the time – “Is it Elysian Oldlast-Newlast, hyphenated? Or do you do Elysian Oldlast Newlast all together? What do you go by?” I travel in progressive circles though, so I think people are sometimes disappointed that I took the “easy” way out by just going with my husband’s last name socially. Plus for some reason my company is obsessed with middle names, so I actually end up explaining this all a lot more than I expected when I made the change.

      2. Jean

        Because my birthname was too long for hypenating I tried the three-barrelled name format. Unfortunately, every time I said “Hello, I’m Firstname LongMaidenname* Marriedname” people’s eyes glazed over halfway through my self-introduction. The exceptions to this occurred at events connected to our ethnic heritage, because that community has other women who do the same thing with long family names.

        I ended up taking my husband’s name six months after the birth of our child. This worked out well because I also changed cities, jobs, and fields of work during the same general period. Also, I didn’t have a long-established professional reputation under my birth name aside from a few brief publications in esoteric journals.

        Our child enjoys the family identity of all three of us having the same name. (No, I am not saying that family identity falls apart in the presence of different last names!) Occasionally I miss my old name, but not very often. I still use all three names in my full formal signature.

        Now, the only challenge is to persuade all and sundry (including beloved relatives and dear friends) not to mail us letters addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Husband’sFirstName Husband’sLast Name! It’s tough because in theory that form of address makes me livid, but I don’t want to express that much anger to people I hold dear.

        * Eleven letters, three syllables.

        1. Artemesia

          I think it is perfectly reasonable to want a ‘family name’ for the whole family. My daughter and her husband created a new hyphenate to do that. I would have been fine if she had chosen to take his name — in this fluid culture, there are lots of options and the grownups who have to live with it get to decide how they do it.

        2. neverjaunty

          To be fair to those people, that form of address is correct. “Mrs. Tyrion Lannister” is basically a title, not a name.

          1. Artemesia

            It is an anachronistic way of showing ownership of women by men. Really. There is no way around the idea that to consider this a ‘title’ is to consider women’s highest achievement capturing a man. It is of course formally correct etiquette of a bygone era. But it does symbolize the disappearance of a woman as an actual person into marriage.

            I didn’t overreact when addressed by my husband’s last name 40 years ago; I figured that when you do something different from the norm, you have to assume goodwill and not punish people who don’t know or are confused. On the other hand, in the southern city I made my career in, a certain type of man went out of their way to make a point on names. One ploy was to use the husband’s name although they knew the person didn’t use that. Another was to make a big fuss about the Mrs. Miss title if you used Ms. I was lucky enough to be able to look them in the eye when they asked ‘oh is that MISS or MISSUS’ as if the Ms was designed to hide some terrible defect and say ‘oh that would be Doctor.’ (only time I ever used that title except professionally was that sort of situation)

            1. fposte

              Sure, but neverjaunty’s point is that it’s still correct etiquette, as are lots of things with dubious gender inequality behind them, so there’s not much point in considering it a personal slight–it’s just the form.

              The retention of the maiden name thing is interesting because most women got them from their fathers; even when their last name is their mother’s birth name, it usually came from the mother’s father. I get that it means something in terms of a personal experience, but it’s not evading the problem of the patronymic.

              1. neverjaunty

                Isn’t it interesting, though, that a man’s last name is “his name”, while a woman’s last name suddenly becomes “her father’s” in conversations about name-changing.

                And yes, you are correct re my point about the title. Of course it’s a sexist tradition reflecting the old idea of coverture, but it is not rude, unless the person using it knows darn well it is not welcome.

                1. Nashira

                  Call me a raging feminist (I’d take it as a compliment) but I’m pretty okay with declaring it rude to perpetuate sexist or racist or other bigoted bits of etiquette.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian

        I took my husband’s last name, but I’m Mallory MaidenName MarriedName for Facebook purposes, which is a very common arrangement in my peer group and region.

    3. Tomato Frog

      The Lucy Stone League was founded in the 1920s to educate women about their right to keep their name if they chose. Apparently they still have a lot of work to do.

      1. fposte

        In fact, “Lucy Stoner” used to be a term for a woman keeping her maiden name.

        I think now it’s a feminist in Colorado :-).

      2. Guy Incognito

        Almost ironically a friend of mine called Lucy got married and changed her last name to Stone.

    4. BeenThere

      I am shocked by the amount of educated women I’ve met who assume it’s the law that you must change your name when married. It usually pops up when they discover I didn’t change my last name. One poor woman highly successful in finance had the sad puppy dog look on her face when she realised she could have kept her old name.

      I just wish everyone was well informed of their options

      1. Tomato Frog

        This is so strange and so sad! I have thought that the percentage of American women who change their name on marriage was surprisingly high. Maybe ignorance accounts for some of it.

        It’s so much work to change your name, too. I can’t imagine going through all those steps without at some point catching wind of the fact that it’s not legally necessary.

    5. Artemesia

      45 years ago when I married my second husband I kept my maiden name; I could not get a passport in my name without it reading Artemesia Husbandname AKA Actualname. Like a bank robber or something. The hospital also refused to put my name on my son’s birth certificate and refused to hyphenate my son’s name; we had made these arrangements in advance but they refused to do it. When my son was a young adult he had to have a legal name change to continue using the hyphenated name he had used all his life and in school. We just didn’t travel abroad until this policy changed as I refused to do the AKA thing.

      But of course given how common it is today, it is weird that your co-worker the lawyer would be surprised or confused.

      1. Henrietta Gondorf

        Hehe. I was trying to pick name that worked in the story and I just didn’t think I could get the same effect if I used Apollo, Wakeen or GoT reference.

    6. Lindrine

      I love this +100. I too got a little flak from family, particularly from my sister-in-law, for not taking my husband’s name. If I had, the name would have been hilarious, trust me. My mom still insists on hyphenating our names together on letters. For our son, we made my last name his middle name and my husband’s his last name. People still try to call me by his last name but 95% of the time they mispronounce it and I have fun with that.
      My feelings are I had my name for over 25 years by the time we married and I was fond of it.

  10. AvonLady Barksdale

    #1: I suggested this to someone the other day! I was meeting with clients and during some down time, we asked the soon-to-be-married team member if she was keeping her name (we are all nosy and relaxed). She’s changing it but expressed some reservations, so I suggested she combine. She said no, but she laughed.

    In all seriousness, it shouldn’t be an issue. It might be slightly more of an issue for your soon-to-be husband just because it’s unusual, but with aplomb and a sense of humor (and a policy of giving jackasses a cold stare), you’ll both be just fine. That is my hope, anyway.

    1. Jessica

      Sadly, it was less of a hassle for my husband to change his name on all of his accounts than it was for me. We both took both last names, and I had to fight several companies to change my name to my LEGAL last name of “MyLast HisLast” when they changed it solely to “HisLast.” My letter requesting change was very clear that my new name was actually “MyLast HisLast,” but several went ahead and changed it just to his anyway, and it took me months to get it changed to my real, new last name. One company even argued with me that they had never received any paperwork about changing my name and tried to say that they had accidentally changed my name to HisLast randomly, somehow picking his uncommon last name out of the air to accidentally change it to, and not because they had received my request. Yes, they argued instead of just updating my last name to my real last name — for six months. I ended up sending the paperwork to them over a dozen times, and they always somehow misplaced or didn’t get it. They never changed my name back to MyLast when I’d call and always kept HisLast — even though they never got any of that paperwork that had his bachelor name on it, supposedly. I finally got a lawyer involved in that situation, as it was for a financial institution.

      My husband? He sent the request, and they all changed it. End of story. No problems.

  11. Brett

    #1 my wife and I hyphenated both our names together. Career wise, it was a great idea. Our names hyphenate well (her last name is an English word that has a direct relationship to the Spanish translation of my name). The new name is both unique and distinctive, making us both memorable to new people we meet in our respective fields. We are literally the only two people in the world (that we kind find at least) with this last name, and it is kinda cool!

    1. Elysian

      I know a couple that did this, and the man was happy with the choice but disappointed at how hard it was to do, legally. Apparently the “system” doesn’t accept that men change their last names with marriage! That will probably be the hardest part, OP #1, but don’t let it stop you!

      1. blackcat

        It depends on the state. In CA, they list “Party A” and “Party B.” No changing of 1st names allowed for either person, but middle/last names can be changed for both to any of each other’s names or a combination (there are rules for the combining of names that I don’t remember). I believe the same is true in many other states with gay marriage.

        1. doreen

          It doesn’t even have to be a state with same-sex marriage. I’m pretty sure NY allowed either or both parties to change their last name when I got married in 1987 but it was definitely before same-sex marriage.

        2. neverjaunty

          It really does depend. A friend of mine living in a conservative state got all kinds of flak at the relevant government offices when he hyphenated his name. He said they acted like his wife was standing around the corner forcing him to do it at gunpoint.

      2. Brett

        We were married in Iowa, where you get a free complete name change to whatever you would like when you get married. Very convenient.

    2. Jessica

      My husband and I did this (without a hyphen, though), and we are also the only two people in the world with our last name. We find it cool, too, and always joke that we are the only two with it and will always be the only two with it, which is fun to think about. :)

      My husband had no issues changing his name on accounts, but I had all of the trouble in the world getting it changed to both and not just his bachelor name. I have a comment above about that in response to AvonLady Barksdale. It was a ridiculous process for me!

    3. De (Germany)

      I was so sad when I found out that option is just not allowed in Germany. Really, it’s forbidden by law for both spouses to hyphenate.

  12. matcha123

    For OP#1, if you both change your names, and it’s a decision you both are on board for, why not? I don’t really understand what’s “feminist” about it. Then again, I don’t really understand why people get so flustered when a women doesn’t drop her name and take on her husband’s name when they marry.

    1. Zillah

      Unfortunately, I think many people still interpret anything other than “wife changing name to husband’s upon marriage” to be omg!crazy feminist.

      1. Artemesia

        The definition of feminist is someone who thinks a woman is an actual human being. Having agency in this situation instead of just following a sexist tradition is thus seen as feminist.

  13. Graciosa

    Regarding #3, when I handled these agreements, recruiters with whom we had a contract were not allowed to poach our employees. This is a huge no-no, and on the rare occasions it came up (usually a foreign office not aware of the relationship poaching from a foreign subsidiary) I had very angry executives demanding immediate lawsuits as a substitute for a well-deserved beheading.

    Candidly, this generally isn’t an area where it makes sense financially to sue if you’re a big multi-national (yes, it’s expensive to replace a good executive or higher-tier employee in a key role, but not usually lawsuit-worthy) but the better firms are well aware that this behavior just guts the relationship.

    Executives share a lot of sensitive strategy information with recruiters who need to understand as much as possible to find the best candidates for our company. A poaching incident leaves those executives feeling personally betrayed. After we work through the lawsuit decision, the general conclusion is usually that we cut ties with the recruiter and never work with them again.

    To OP#3, if you are dealing with a top tier firm working at the executive level, I want to make sure you understand that you may be effectively asking them to give up any future business with your employer (and any other companies an executive who feels betrayed moves to in the future).

    This is not true with smaller, transactional firms, and it may not be true with larger firms that do irregular business (the negotiated scope of the “hand-off” provision can be much more limited in those cases) but the relationship you’re describing between the recruiter and more senior executives in your company sounds significant enough that any sane recruiter is going to pick them over you.

    This isn’t personal, it’s just smart business – but I wanted you to be prepared to understand why someone you may feel you connect with may not respond to your overture as you hope.

    Good luck.

    1. Another Manager

      #3 here… Thank you so much for the thoughtful response! Much appreciated. I came to the same conclusion myself in between the time that I wrote this letter and when it got published, and did not go that route.

  14. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    My husband and I talked through a lot of options for our names when we got married. We both wanted to have the same last name, but neither of us were comfortable with just taking the other’s name. We tried combining and couldn’t come up with something we liked. Eventually we decided to choose a new name that was meaningful to us, and we spent months considering various choices. Literally on the drive to our wedding venue we decided to choose the name of the place that we met (which has historical significance in our faith tradition)… but then we never got around to actually changing it.

    It’s a big damned hassle when you do something other than take your husband’s name. In our state, we would have had to: 1) Get fingerprinted by the local police, 2) have a background check, 3) file an application with the county court, 4) place advertisements in two newspapers (the major local newspaper and the local legal record), 5) go before a judge, and 6) pay $400 each. We just couldn’t be bothered. If we have kids, we may consider it again… but it’s a little weirder to change your name five years AFTER you get married.

  15. Elizabeth West

    Re the name thing–I don’t think it should matter much, especially early on in your career. I’ve encountered dozens of people at work who changed their names for one reason or another (one was a man who changed his entire name to a sci-fi character’s name–really). It’s your name, so whatever.

    The only thing that could be confusing is if you work under one name but your legal name is another. I write under Elizabeth West, which is a shortened version of my real surname, and I probably won’t change that if I get married. But I probably will change my legal name, assuming my future husband isn’t called something like Smittywermenjaegermanjensen.

  16. knitcrazybooknut

    Almost two years ago, my husband and I both changed our full names, for personal reasons. Even in a mid-sized town where everyone knows everyone, I was able to interview for and get my absolute dream job with my new name. It’s all about how you talk about it. I’m sure some folks thought it was strange, but it’s been nothing but awesome for me. Some awkward moments, but if I run into someone who knows me as Oldname, I just start with, “It’s so great to see you! I’m Newname now.” And usually they’re too busy catching up to comment. Of course I prepped all of my references and made sure my peeps knew what was up. For a while I thought it would be ever-awkward and impossible to make my way back to my career path, but now it’s unfolding as though I’d planned the whole thing. Yes!

  17. Blue_eyes

    I love the idea of combining names! My husband and I would have considered it, but there aren’t any good ways to combine our names. We do have two friends who are getting married though, and my husband came up with an amazing combo name for them. She has a name with two capitals (think: DiMaggio) and he has a double last name as one word with no hyphen (think: SmithJones). The name my husband came up with uses all the letters/sounds from both names, and is still reasonably easy to say. I don’t think either of them will change to the combo name, but they are using it as their wedding website URL and wedding hashtag!

  18. TheExchequer

    All the comments about #1 kinda make me sad about all the issues that come with a name. I’m so tempted to quotw Shakespeare here, but I will refrain. Also, I now would prefer to keep my maiden name should I get married. I blame you for this, Allison. ;)

  19. Just Visiting

    My husband has a “McBlank” surname, and I have a “LongEasternEuropean” one. He said we should have combined it into “McLongEasternEuropean.” Sometimes I wish we would have done that. (We both kept ours.)

  20. Cassie

    #1: the former mayor of Los Angeles and his then-wife combined their names to form a new last name. Kind of made it awkward when the public found out he was having affairs and they ended up getting divorced. He still uses the last name.

    In Chinese-speaking countries and Korea, it’s uncommon for a woman to change her name after she gets married. The children (if there are any) typically take on the father’s last name, but the mother keeps her own name. At most, you might add the husband’s last name to the beginning of the name (since it’s last name first, it would be husband’s last name, last name, first name) but that isn’t very common.

  21. Jules103

    All these stories about name troubles make me so glad I never got married! I have an early childhood memory of being told that women change their names to their husbands’ when they get married and then the kids take his name. My immediate thought was that I liked my name and would want to give it to a child, so, I figured I’d just stay single. (Kid logic.) And that’s how it worked out for me, coincidentally. Unexpectedly, the first time anyone called me “mrs” was the day my daughter was born (by the nurses and other hospital workers.) I think, even among people who would default to “ms” if they didn’t know a woman’s preferred term of address, will think that if you’re a mother, it might be rude to imply you may not be married. All through her childhood, various people would “mrs mylastname” me. I stopped bothering to correct them, even though it was disconcerting to be called by my mother’s name. So in my experience, people default to “mrs kidslastname,” and “mrs” is more the title for someone’s mom than for someone’s wife.
    Professionally, I’ve worked for years in libraries serving a variety of ethnicities. The Latino women (mostly) don’t use the same last name as their children, the Indian women don’t have the same last name as their husbands, the Russians all have different last names, etc. Without any consideration of single/divorced/step family arrangements, there are so many reasons to have different last names in the same family. I am very surprised that there is anywhere in the US these days where any of this would raise an eyebrow. The families with just one last name now seem more unusual than those with a variety.
    Personally, it seems strange to me to change a name upon marriage. Back in library school, one of my professors married and changed her name, despite being very well established under her original name. I was curious and asked her why…she said it was to get a see reference in her authority file. Probably kidding, but best reason ever!
    My daughter is now grown and married, and she made the choice to change her name to his. I’m a little sad, since I like it so well, but she never liked it as much, and it’s her name, her choice. However, she told me in discussing it with fiancé, she worked out an agreement with him that she takes his last name, but then she will get to decide the children’s first names when (if) they come along. So while I will never have a grandchild with my last name (unless one grows up and changes it), I hold out hope that I may someday have one with my first name.
    I think it would be cool to have a culture in which people sometimes change their names after significant life events, not just marriage. Go on a vision quest and when you come back, now you’re Crazy Horse. That would make for even more bureaucratic problems, though. As is, it’s just a little weird that marriage is the only time it happens, and that women are usually the ones changing their identities. With some better systems for “authority control,” people could change their names for whatever reason that had meaning for them. As is, the burden seems to fall heavier on the women. I don’t have a solution, just sympathies for all you marrying kinds.

  22. De Minimis

    My wife didn’t change her name….no real reason other than we just never got around to it. At one point early on she did the hyphenation did at a job she got not longer afterward, but eventually dropped it.

    1. De Minimis

      Whoops, that made no sense…I meant “At one point she did the hyphenation thing at a job she got not long after we married, but eventually dropped it.”

  23. Mander

    re: #1, I seriously don’t get why people get so worked up about other peoples’ names. Not their business at all!

    Anyway I agree that it shouldn’t cause any problems, assuming that you deal with more-or-less rational people most of the time.

    I didn’t change my name when I got married mainly because I just couldn’t deal with the paperwork and the expense. In my case I would have needed a new passport from my home country and a new visa from the country I live in, and I didn’t feel like taking the time or shelling out the money. Not worth the hassle since neither of us actually cared. People often call me Mrs Hisname socially but I don’t mind. If I’m feeling snarky I’ll say “actually, it’s Dr Myname” and that shuts them up. Usually.

  24. Lynne

    #1 – I totally just did this. I got married and my wife and I (same sex couple) both changed our last names to a name that combines our names. Our new last name is super super similar to my previous last name (example is if my last name had been Brooks and her last name was Johnson, and now our last name is Brookson) and a lot of people were just like “wow, what are the chances you married someone with such a similar last name!” A few have figured it out, the rest I’ve told, and the response has universally been something along the lines of “that is SO cool, I wish I’d done that when I got married.” My wife has had generic similar comments, which might be somewhat different since she’s also female (though very masculine, and has a masculine first name, if that matters – most people don’t see her and think “now there’s a woman who will change her name upon marriage” if that is helpful). Anyway, I worried about this a LOT before we did it, and almost didn’t, and it’s been totally fine and I am glad we did it.

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