You’re getting married! YAY! You now have to make a million decisions in prep for the big day. Band or DJ? Buffet or seated dinner? Cake or doughnuts? Are you going to keep your name or change it?
That last one can be a doozy. An easy question for some, and a more challenging question for others. For me, I fell in the latter group. I’m an over-thinker at heart. :) I tell my story below- but before that- have a read of the list of questions I compiled to help you get clear on what decision is right for you!
Questions for reflection
I believe there is not a right or wrong answer on whether changing your name is a good decision, it’s different for every person. If you are struggling with making the decision here are some questions to help you get clear on your feelings on the matter.
Do you like your current surname?
Do you like your spouse's surname?
Do you like your middle name?
Does your name have meaning to you?
Do you feel your identity is tied to your name?
Does having the same surname as your spouse matter to you?
Does having the same surname as your children (if that is in your plan) matter to you?
Would you be open to hyphenating? Would your spouse?
Would you like your childrens’ surname's to be hyphenated?
Would your spouse be open to taking your name?
Are you open to taking their’s?
What will you accomplish by changing your name?
Do you or your spouse have surnames that are difficult to pronounce? Do you care?
Have you always thought you would take your spouse's name?
Do you feel politically motivated by changing your name or lack thereof?
If you don’t change your name are you ready to be inconvenienced at times because your name differs from the rest of your family?
Imagine how it would feel to have any iteration of names you are considering. What feels right or wrong about them?
Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. In the end, it's YOUR name, YOUR life, and you are the one who will live with it. Make sure it's a name that feels like you!
Changing my name was a tough decision for me: 1) because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change it and 2) because if I did, I wasn’t sure what to change it to! My name, as it was, was a pretty badass, strong name. I was (and still am) attached to it. Here are some of the reasons I liked it:
It just has good flow! [Alexandra Marie Hayden - in case you were wondering!]
I'm my dad's only child, so “Hayden” is at the end of the road with me.
Marie was my grandmother's name, and I was very close with her.
On the alternative side of things, I grew up in a household where we all operated with different names. My brother has a different last name than I do. My mom went back to her maiden name professionally after she remarried, and has different names on all of her IDs/ credit cards (side note: I still don't know what her legal name is). She did this for me, so I wouldn't be the only one in the family with a different name (shouts to my Ma- appreciate ya). But regardless, it was confusing when we traveled, and it was confusing for my friends. They never knew what to call her. It was always nice to be with my dad and stepmom and to just be, "The Haydens."
Beyond that, the concept of just taking your husband's name is antiquated. It stems from a time when women were treated as property: originally owned by our fathers then ownership transferred to our husbands. And TBH, I'm not into it. While that is not the case today, it still just annoys me that we perpetuate the tradition without question. My name is very much a part of what I consider to be my identity and I did not take the decision of changing it lightly.
That being said, I love my husband a whole lot, and I wanted to feel apart of his "clan," if you will. For me getting married was not a loss of my current self but gaining a new aspect of my identity as wife, and (hopefully, eventually[!]) as a mother. I also have the coolest in-laws ever (yes, I know I'm very lucky!) and I did not have any pressure to change my name.
Conor (my hubs lol) and I could've hyphenated our names, but that wasn't something either of us was really into for the whole (future) family. Mostly because I know from my own experience how confusing and annoying long names like that can be for kids (side note: you have no idea, to this day how many people are incapable of saying or spelling my FIRST name correctly). Conor also could have taken my name, but if I didn't want to lose my name for loss of identity, I did not want him to have to do that either.
I eventually decided I wanted to add "Shea" into the mix. So when it came time to finally make the change, (and yes I actually waited 3 years to do it!), I got to the social security office, and I didn't know how to fill out the form. Would I be Alexandra Marie Shea? Alexandra Hayden Shea? Alexandra Marie Hayden-Shea?
When my name was called, I had the sweetest Mexican-American (this detail is important for one reason, coming below) woman helping me. She saw the confusion in my eyes, and asked me what I was struggling with, and I told her the story above. She looked at me and she said, "You cannot lose your grandmother's name. And you cannot lose your father's name either. Why not keep them all?" And then I started crying. Yep. I started crying. In the social security office. But I was crying because she was right. It was so obvious, why had I not come to that conclusion on my own? It felt so right. I was not losing any aspect of my identity, I was just adding to it.
I'm so lucky that I was called to her booth, because in Mexican culture (so said the woman), you just add on a name, not replace it. It makes sense because in the villages people would know who your family was on both sides. If she hadn't helped me, I hope I would've come to the same decision, but I don't know if I would have realized it was an option.
In the end, my name is now Alexandra Marie Hayden Shea, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It is reflective of who I've been and who I choose to be. And at the end of the day it feels like me. Just don’t ask me what my monogram is– I have no idea! What can I say I like to have my cake and eat it too. In the end I’m glad I took my time to figure out what was right for me. I hope sharing my story helps you figure out what is right for you, too! - AHS
I used this service to help me with to file all of my documents (I left forms blank with what my name would be since I wasn’t sure) but it was very helpful to know where to start.
Still struggling? Want to talk about it? Send me a DM on Instagram or Messenger me from Facebook. I’m always happy to go deep with you on these things! <3