REAL LIFE ISSUES | After the Wedding: “A Case of Name Change Hysteria…” by Knotty Bloggista Libby, of Follow the Wife

Hi everyone!

A big thanks to Alison for having me back. I’m so excited. In fact, I’m still reeling from the excitement of my last visit. I had no idea that so many of you would relate to my pre-wedding stomach bug and leave such sweet comments. Alison is right about you guys. You’re all rad.

Today I have another story for you. This time it does not involve any bodily malfunctions, but instead takes place at the ever-so-efficient Department of Motor Vehicles. So if you’re reading this on your lunch break—or maybe during dinner if you’re that hard core—read on.

When it came to taking my husband’s last name, I never thought twice. While we were engaged, people asked all the time if I would and I was always caught off guard. For one, I was generally surprised that they weren’t asking me what colors I had settled on or how many bridesmaids I was having. Many of these women told me that they were not planning to change their names. For some, their reasons were professional and others just liked their names. Like I said before, I had never thought twice about changing my name, but I suddenly became very aware that the switch wasn’t for everyone.

My reason for changing my name is simple: I just can’t imagine having a different last name than the rest of my family. I was proud to unite with my husband, and taking his last name made me feel like I was letting the whole world know how I felt. Plus, I really liked his last name. Short aside: His last name is the same as my grandmother’s maiden name. (I know what you’re thinking—we’re not related.) I felt proud to connect our two families through this one name.

I was eager to begin the process and when an envelope from Social Security arrived I was exhilarated—it was the first time I saw my new name officially. But as I waited in line at the DMV a few days later, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I felt the same amount of pride towards my maiden name that I did towards my husband’s and I got a sinking feeling that I was leaving my old self behind.

I was also sad that I was giving up an entire Friday afternoon to stand around in a smelly old building, but that’s neither here nor there. As I walked out of the office (hours later) I felt like I had left Libby behind and was starting a new path. “I really liked Libby,” I thought as I drove away. “I don’t want to be someone else.” Then I started thinking irrational thoughts: I was afraid people would forget me, or be unable to find me in a Google search, a phone book or Facebook. And would anyone know me at my high school reunion? I started to worry about how my life would play out if no one was able to correctly identify me. I didn’t even know myself anymore? Who was this girl with split ends and blue eyes in my new driver’s license photo? She’s an organ donor. But why can’t the new me at least blow dry her hair?

The obsessing continued. Changing my name was going to complicate my online correspondence big time. My next thought, “Will I stop being invited to parties because no one has my new address?” Then, “What about my work e-mail? I use my name A LOT at work. Will people think they hired someone new?”

Yes, I was over-thinking this name change. I over-think most things, so it is only natural that I stress over an e-mail address. But I realized soon enough that it was also a complete waste of my time and it was a good thing I was only saying those things inside my head because I was starting to sound a little crazy. A few months into the hysteria I spoke with a friend who had gone through the process already. She kindly confirmed that the confusion is normal, and that in a year I’d be used to my new name. I thanked her, figured out how to link my old e-mail address to a new account and notified my employer. Everyone remembered me at my high school reunion.

And that was that. I re-embraced my new name all over again. Excuse me for sounding like a youth soccer coach but all good things come with a little work, right? After some deep breathing I realized that the person I am is still here. (She, too, has split ends and should look into fixing that.) And I’m not losing the family history I’m so proud of. By changing my name I’m not leaving my old self behind, I’m just enhancing it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you planning to take your husband’s name?

xoxo!  - Libby, Follow the Wife

Images from The Notebook

Label(s): Girl Talk, Ryan Gosling, The Bloggistas

Love all of this...


  1. Loe on November 16, 2011

    I’m having the same thoughts, as I love my last name and my family, but I also love my fiance and his family.

    I’m thinking about hyphening.

  2. Mindy on November 16, 2011

    Great post! I am super-duper conflicted over the last name thing. I have had my last name for 32 years – 32 YEARS! – and have established a career and online presence with it. My initial instinct is to not change it. Even my FH is okay with it; he declared that if someone ever told him he had to change his name he would tell them to eff off.

    But I will change it. Why? Money. I realize this is hardly romantic but it’s true. I know down the line our life as a married couple will be easier if we both legally have the same last name. And going through a name change at any time down the line will cost mucho dinero.

    I don’t plan on changing my email, my Facebook name, my twitter handle, or my work email. I’ll still be “me” as I become accustomed to being “us.”

  3. Meg on November 16, 2011

    I took my husband’s last name. I always thought I would take his last name (plus now my initial are also my first name: M.E.G. – cool, right?). I always wanted to have a shared name as a way to unite our new family. And I personally think the act of changing my name is a neat way to signify my change from single woman to wife. But once we got engaged, I found this decision a lot more difficult. I consider myself a strong, feminist woman – was changing my name anti-feminist? Was I ok with that? Was I leaving a piece of myself behind? I like his last name and it has a lot of family history (my family doesn’t know much about our surname). Plus I am in academia and all of my written work up until now has my maiden name. Ultimately, I decided to legally change my name and keep my maiden name professionally. However, after the wedding and finishing most (no I’m not done yet) of the name change stuff, I didn’t like having two identities and decided to change my name all around. But I can’t seem to let go of my old email address with my maiden name, I guess I’ll hold on to that little piece of the “old” me. :)

  4. Shannon on November 16, 2011

    I’m going through the EXACT same thing right now! I love my last name and my family greatly – and changing my name to HIS family’s last name is so unsettling. I eventually want to have the same name as my children – but when do I take this big step?!?! I don’t want to lose who I am.

  5. Ilana on November 16, 2011

    Thank you for discussing this. It’s really refreshing that other people have gone through (and are going through) the thoughts that are running around in my head. I plan to change my name. My maiden name is already hyphenated and 15 characters long, so there’s no way I’ll have *three* hyphenated last names. People ask me if I will and I honestly think they’re joking.

    I am literally days from finishing my masters degree and planning to publish my research, so the (one of the many) question I’ve been asking myself myself is: do I publish my maiden name or my married name? Also, do I keep my old email address or create a new one? I do like the idea of linking the old to the new.

    My dilemma is not as much one of feeling like I’m leaving my family behind, but more the logistics of the name-change. When to link our accounts since I’ll have to get new bank cards, changing email addresses, changing Facebook, will people know me? I’m really grateful others are struggling with this like I am. I thought it was just my own craziness.

    Thanks again

  6. Jenna on November 16, 2011

    omg this is my story! I never thought twice about changing my name and then I found myself at the social security office in San Francisco fighting back tears as I talked to the nice Irish lady at the window about my name change. I left and completely freaked out. It felt like the only part of my wedding that was assuming my husband’s identity/family and leaving mine behind. I’ve always considered myself a feminist and felt really upset and lost. After some time I felt ok about it, but it was a really rocky first few days.

  7. Jessica (Poole) Hardy on November 16, 2011

    I completely feel your pain on this! Before we were married, I knew I wanted to switch to his last name, pretty much exactly for the same reasons as you. He even made sure thats what I wanted, and wanted to ensure I knew, he was ok, if I ended up not wanting to.

    Cut to present day, also a 2 1/2 months post wedding. I still have my maiden name, not exactly sure where to start with the whole name switch, & whats more, a plane ticket to London booked for Jessica Hardy! Passport, reads Poole. Eek now what?! The hubby was so excited about it all, that he booked my ticket for NYE in my new name.

    At the time I thought it was super sweet. Problem is this time of the year is crazy busy for me work wise, and standing in line at the DMV/Courthouse is not really doable! Not to sound a tad whiny, but I wish it was a bit less labor intensive if you will! Haha

    As for emails, pen names, etc, my personal opinion is that once something of that nature is established, there is no need to over reach the whole name change, & switch all of that too. They are established avenues of contact & if not updated to your new name, dont have any reflection on your willingness or desire for your new name.

    Plenty of ppl have their work name if you will, and their personal one. Nothing wrong with riding the line a bit where applicable. So maybe this way you wont totally lose ‘Libby’ :)

  8. Justine on November 16, 2011

    I had always planned to take the last name of whomever I married. I was just never that attached to my maiden name. And when I met my now-husband, I, like you, never questioned that I would take his last name.

    Changing my name was a hassle, but it felt symbolic. We were officially one unit (not that you need to have the same last name to be family, but you get the idea of symbolism…).

    I think it’s an extremely personal choice. For me, being a wife is a stronger part of my identity than a name I didn’t choose.

  9. Elle on November 16, 2011

    I got married a couple weeks ago and I have been going through all the name change paperwork.

    I am extremely proud of my family, and our name and what it means – for a while I was reluctant to let it go because it’s been something I have identified with for 27 years on this planet. To me, my name has always served as a reminder as the respectable, successful family I come from. Our names solidify our connection as a family and part of me felt like I was removing myself from that.

    When Paul’s father spoke at our rehearsal dinner about how he felt blessed to gain a daughter in me – I was reassured in my decision. I realized that I was lucky enough to be joining a family that has amazing values and traditions, that loved and supported me and raised the most perfect husband for me.

    I miss having the same name as my dad, but I love having the same name as Paul more.

  10. Kristine {In Love, Engaged} on November 16, 2011

    Oh girl, your timing is impeccable. Thank you for shedding light on such a well-known, but not as well-discussed, topic. I loved that you shared your inner dialogue after leaving the DMV too. It may sound crazy but it’s normal all the same.

    I keep giving the excuse that I just don’t have time to change my name but the real reason is that I’m not ready. Hearing people call me by my married name seems fake, almost alien-like. It’s important to me that our family (that is, us plus kids) share the same name but I also struggle with wanting my kids to know my heritage and history too. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that I have to completely change my identity–even though it’s completely my choice. Isn’t it such an odd phenomenon?

    PS. I totally teared up reading this! Talk about hitting a nerve! :)

  11. Koru Kate ⎨Koru Wedding⎬ on November 16, 2011

    As always, great post Libby! Posts like this & the wonderful reader comments give me faith that I will decide what to do about my name. Hopefully soon! I wrote about the difficulty that I’m having with the name change process on my blog yesterday. I want to take my husband’s last name but I don’t want to drop my middle name that I share with my Mom or my last name that I share with my deceased Dad. I’m not a big fan of any of the other options either. My name change has been an emotional struggle for the past (almost) year & I’m no closer to a decision. Kudos to all of you that have made your decision & hugs to those who are struggling to make your decision~

  12. Libby on November 16, 2011

    These comments mean so much. I really had no idea that so many others were feeling the same way. At the time, I felt a little foolish. I hope this post and these comments help people who are undecided, or struggling with the decision. I know it’s not for everyone and every circumstance is different. I have a much greater respect for all women, no matter what their name is, after this!

  13. Lena on November 16, 2011

    My parents might have screwed me with the spelling of my first name (“Leeeena? Layyyna? Lana?”) but they did give me a badass first name-last name combo. And frankly, as much as I love my sweetheart, I don’t love my first name with his last. It’s not just aesthetics, though-I think I’d have a really hard time saying goodbye to “old me”, even if she only lives in my mind.

    But I probably won’t be a rockstar like my cousin Maria, whose children both share HER last name instead of her husbands; they bet whatever gender child was born first would determine their last name!

  14. Elspeth @ paper armour on November 16, 2011

    Oh boy, yes. My stresses have been different, but still stress. I, like you, had no question in my mind that I’d change my name. I, on the other hand, have been hassled to the point of tears from post office employees and social security websites. The bureaucracy, ugh!

    Also I just don’t see the logic in changing my Massachusetts license to an Illinois one if I’m going to be moving in less than a year (apartments, ya know?) But MA’s “new license” costs more than IL’s does. Maybe I’ll just change my banks and my SSC (already did that one) and keep the license until it expires? Or get an IL state ID. But that costs money too and doesn’t solve the “I might be moving in May” thing.


  15. Libby on November 16, 2011

    Lena that’s amazing!

  16. kaity on November 16, 2011

    i got married in may. since we got engaged i knew i would change my name – but a lot of people did ask. i was fine w/the question and just told them my decision.

    cut to nearly 6 months later and i haven’t done it yet. i just don’t want to give up a day at the DMV and SSO! it’s changed on my email address, at work and on facebook. aren’t those the big things?

    hubs keeps asking me when i’ll do it and i keep telling him next year (when i get more vacation time). i think he’s annoyed and that i’m backing out. but i’m not – i’m just lazy!

    also, if i wanted to back out, i totally could. it’s my name. so him being annoyed just annoys me. fun stuff!

  17. Marcela on November 16, 2011

    Changing your name is something that usually doesn’t hit you until you do it, changes are always scary especially with something that you have lived all your life with, like your name!

  18. Kristen on November 17, 2011

    Thanks for this topic! I’ve had multiple people ask me if I am going to change my last name. EVERYONE calls me by my last name (Cook, Cookster, Cookie Monster, and Cookie), including my co-workers and even customers. Some people don’t even know my first name.

    I love my fiance but his last name paired with my first name doesn’t have the same ring. Recently someone suggested that I do the two last name deal:
    Kristen Cook-Stanley.

    I’m not so sure about the double last name.

  19. Laura on November 17, 2011

    Such timing! Today was the first time in my entire life that I felt a twinge of regret that I will be changing my name when I get married next year. I have always planned on changing my name, as my dad was adopted by and got his name from his stepdad, who was a not nice man, and I felt little connection to my last name. When I was little (like, 6 or 7) I planned on changing my name to my grandma’s name or mom’s maiden name when I turned 18, but as I grew up I figured I would just wait to get married. No second thoughts. But then, today I looked at my name written on the board (I’m a teacher), and thought how many students I’ve had that only know me as Ms. MaidenName, and I got a twinge of sadness that it would be gone. Who is this teacher named Ms. MarriedName? Is she any good? I’m still excited to change my name, but it made me pause today.

  20. Megan on November 17, 2011

    I will not be changing my name. I love my family name and it representsme and my connection tomy family. I am one of 4 women in my family with this name, and i would like my children to carry my name as well s his.
    If he really wanted familyunity with our last name, he is more than welcome to take mine!

  21. Katie on November 17, 2011

    I can so relate!!! I never thought about keeping my name before, I guess I’m just a little traditional in that sense. But I definitely still have a little anxiety about it! I was legally married this year in Brazil (my Sweetheart is Brazilian) and here you get 2 options: keep your name the same or add your husbands name to your name (no hyphens). You can’t cut anything off! This system is good and bad. Good because you never lose your name but it’s bad because names star to get really long! Especially because people her often give there kids both last names. Which I love the idea in theory but being the American that I am, having things neat, clean and mostly simple trumps trying to include both names for kids.

    This def made the transition easier since I didn’t have to lose my name so to speak. I was also relieved for immigration reasons as well…having two different names in two different countries? Sounds like an immigration nightmare!

    I still need to go back to the US and change my name officially there, I guess? I didn’t have any documents here in Brazil at the time, so that was easy. I can definitely see where one could get lazy, I tempted to do the same since I don’t live in the US currently. But I have a little paranoia about having some documents with one name and some with my new “enhanced” (I love that, btw!) name. I feel like it’s going to bite me in the butt sooner or later. Especially in my situation. Yes, I must change everything, I’m starting imagine myself living in an airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal! I’ll belong to nowhere because no one will know who I am! Yikes!

    Great topic! Now I’m wondering if our moms and grandmas had similar feelings or is it just us??

  22. Keri on November 17, 2011

    Well , thanks a lot! I wasn’t stressed out about changing my name…but now I am! :) I’m considering making my maiden name my middle name…

  23. Maire on November 18, 2011

    What great post! I have always been a fan of the Hispanic culture where you get to have two last names. I think it’s a great way to identify yourself and really show who you are. Well, I’m not any kind of Hispanic and neither is my fiance so I’m out of luck on that one. For a long time I thought I would always keep my last name because it’s mine. Why should I have to change last names and the man get to keep his? For a long time I felt that taking my husband’s last name would make me fee like property. But the more I have thought about it, the more I remember that I have NEVER liked my real last name. It isn’t even my biological last name, thanks to the cover up of an affair by my great grandparents. It sounds goofy and even goofier with my first name. I also realized that my dad’s side of the family isn’t something I want to be obviously connected with. I know that sounds terrible but in all honesty they are not the nicest bunch of people. And besides, my fiance has a great last name and I’m CHOOSING it. My choice. For me.

  24. Dubs on November 18, 2011

    So. Over 30 years ago, when my parents got married, my mom kept her name. When I was born, I got a hyphenated name, as did my siblings who followed. I’ve had the same hyphenated name for 31 years….and I would not dream of changing it when I get married. Having different last names in the household growing up did not make us less of a family. My last name means a lot to me and contains parts of BOTH of my parents, who are equally important to me.

    I do not understand this tradition of women losing their identity. Why don’t more men change their names? Before you scoff, hear me out: at my high school reunion, I ran into a former classmate who had always been the most conservative, prim, proper southern belle. She introduced me to her husband…who seemed to have HER last name. I asked if it was just a coincidence, and they explained: she was the last one bearing her family’s last name; he had plenty of young relatives carrying on his family’s last name. He took his wife’s last name, so their children could keep her last name going. He wasn’t any less of a man for doing it.

    Sorry for the rant, but this is a touchy subject for me. :)

  25. marlene on November 18, 2011

    i just waited in line at the DMV today. and at the hospital where i work — i got my name badge changed and i also changed my last name in the paging system. and tomorrow my name change in the electronic medical record system will be different. my prescriptions will be different and my patients will have to get used to a new name. it’s definitely a strange, strange feeling. but an entirely exciting one as well!!! most women in my field don’t change their surnames, but i really wanted to – my husband and i are family and i want that to be evident to everyone. and that’s an exciting new prospect — a new family!!! hooray for new names and new beginnings!

  26. Kelly on November 29, 2011

    Ugh. Such a topic. I never particularly liked my last name just because people never pronounced it correctly. I always wanted to change it. But by the time I got married when I was 31, I had established myself in my profession with that name. Plus I didn’t really think I liked my husband’s name any better. It had its own set of issues. ;) So I decided to keep my name and didn’t think twice. Then 3 years later we had a son. We gave him 4 names which included my last as sort of a second middle name. But as the years went on and he started going to daycare, then preschool (where they taught them all about family names) it was really weird to have a different name than my son. Not weird in any sentimental way but just logistically weird. Quite frankly it became a hassle. So for our 6th anniversary I surprised my husband by going through all the steps to legally tack his name onto the end of mine.

    For most that would be the end of the story but now I feel worse. I feel like I have lost all my identity. I have a hard time embracing his name as by now, I have had my maiden name for 37 years. Ugh. I didn’t know how to sign anything or refer to myself. In writing I just put my old and last name down (not hyphenated) but it is long and sounds weird. For the last year I have been in some sort of name limbo and it has really sucked. Before I knew who I was and how to introduce myself. Now I am not so sure.

    Any suggestions for getting over this?

  27. Kirsten on November 30, 2011

    I changed my last name to his, and I like it. But I continue to use my maiden name professionally, which is confusing. I like my new last name, but I regret not keeping my maiden name in my legal name. Not hyphenated, but just having four names. First, middle, maiden, and last. Now I am too cheap to change it. But getting married is the best and most affordable time to make the change. Think hard about all the options.

    That said, I struggled with my decision because of what other people would say. They would be taken aback when I’d say I was going to change my name, like it was not like me to do something so traditional. I have my reasons. And It’s not like taking a a man’s last name is anti-feminist. Practically everyone’s last name in America was once a man’s last name that a woman took. So there.

  28. Kristy on January 5, 2012

    I’m getting married in 3 weeks and it has meant the world to me to read everyone’s comments today! I’ve also really struggled with this decision – I love my family and love what my last name represents. However my fiance and I hope to have children, and I would like us all to have the same name.

    I am (still) worried about losing ‘me’ but I’ve decided to take my husband-to-be’s name.

    The reason? While I was still making up my mind, he told me one night that he would be honoured to take my maiden name as his middle name, whether I took his name or not.

    It was very touching and made me realise how lucky I am to have a wonderfully egalitarian man who shares my love of my family.

    I will also keep my maiden name as a middle name, and take his last name very proudly.

  29. erin on May 7, 2012

    Thanks for the post, and to everyone for the thoughtful, sensitive comments. It’s an incredibly personal decision, and so many people have VERY firm opinions on it :) Not just opinions on what they did/will do for their own names, but on what you should do for your own.

    My fiance’s Hispanic, and I’m leaning in that direction not only for my name, but for our kids’ names, as well. I love the idea of unity, and it has a very romantic feeling to me–still, the idea of changing my name had never even crossed my mind until our engagement, and I’m not 100% in a comfort zone.

    Good luck and hugs to everyone pondering this decision!

  30. AshleyB on June 11, 2012

    Today I dropped off the packet to mail to Social Security to start the name change process, and I was take aback by the overwhelming feelings that came up. I was married three weeks ago and my husband is so excited to have the same last name now. He keeps calling me Mrs. Brandt and corrected me when I used the wrong name on the honeymoon (not in a mean way, he’s just really happy that we are a family now). I’ve been feeling anxious about changing my name for the last four weeks, but it didn’t really hit me until I dropped the envelope in the mail, and I have been sad all day. I am the last one in my line with my last name, so it will end with me. And I was completely in love with my unique maiden name, and my new name is so common. And my last name wasn’t one that sounded right as a middle name, so I couldn’t go that route. It’s just nice to hear that many women are having the same feelings, and that it will pass. I know it meant so much to my husband for me to take his last name, so I feel that it will just be an adjustment period while I figure out that I haven’t really lost my identity, I’ve just added on a new chapter to my life.

  31. kat on February 6, 2013

    this is me! 100%! i didn’t even think twice about doing it until i actually did it… and then i cried. it was so silly of me to be so upset, but i the whole getting married/honeymooning/immediately changing my name thing was completely overwhelming, and i was so stressed out about planning the whole time and never really had a minute to get used to the idea.

    8 months later, i am getting used to my name – and when people ask me for my last name, i say the new one, not the old, BUT it took a (LONG) while to realize that i wasn’t losing myself… just adding a new part. :)

  32. Libby on February 6, 2013

    I’d just like to say that it’s been a year and I still sort of feel like a double agent! But thanks to Facebook’s People You May Know, I no longer worry that any of my ex-boyfriends won’t be able to find me and find out how fabulously I’m doing without them!!

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  34. Laura on July 3, 2013

    I am marrying my fiancé in October and the name change has always weighed heavy on me. I grew up in a household where my mother had maintained her maiden name and my sisters and I had our father’s last name. I grew up thinking I would keep my maiden name. My fiancé really wants me to change it and is concerned about confusion. He also tells me my identity won’t change because of it. While resolved to change it, I still feel so much unrest when I think about it. I feel as though I am abandonning my family or disowning them. It is a relief to see I am not the only one to struggle with this.

  35. Rebecca on September 19, 2013

    Thank you so much for posting this. I too am having this internal battle. I am so proud to be married to my husband and to be taking his last name, starting ‘our’ life together. However, I am equally as proud of being a “Skerker”. This is my maiden name, it is something that has been apart of my identity for my entire life and has often times defined me (Oh that’s such a “Skerker” thing to do). I know in my heart and in my actions I will always be a “Skerker”. It will continue to define me for the rest of my life. It is just really difficult to part with. My cousin felt the same a replaced her middle name with our maiden name. She did not want to hyphenate her last name (neither do I). I am thinking of doing the same.

  36. Juliana on February 25, 2014

    It feels good to read the comments of so many other women that have struggled with exactly what I am struggling with right now. My father died when I was a child and carrying his last name has always been the last piece of him that has remained a constant in my life. I had no idea saying goodbye to this part of myself would be so hard

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  38. Cara on July 25, 2014

    My whole life I could not wait to change my last name. It is difficult to pronounce and people used to joke that it sounded like a fancy Italian dessert. But I am 30 now and after two years of marriage and being pregnant with my first child, I went to the Social Security office and changed my name to his legally today. I was tearing up a little in the elevator on the way out. The fact that I am so attached to my name really surprises me but like many of the women here, it is part of my personal and professional identity. I think it is normal to feel sad about losing it, especially because my in-laws are a bit difficult to deal with and I now share a name with them. But I love my husband, am so lucky to be married to him, and although he says it is up to me, I know it would mean a lot to him (and make my life easier) for me to give us a common surname. Thanks everyone for posting and allowing me to share!

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