Congratulations on deciding to get married! You are in for… okay, we can't lie. While being married is great and wonderful, the act of getting married can be quite stressful. There is the planning of the ceremony itself, the merging of two households (if you don't already live together) and all of the details involved with that. You also have to take the time to apply for your marriage license and then decide whether or not you are going to keep your name or change it.

This is where a lot of people have trouble. Once upon a time, it was just customary for a Bride to take her Groom's last name as her own and abandon her maiden name completely. The act of keeping her own name was considered taboo and people's eyebrows would raise right off their faces when they found out that the Bride was even considering something so radical. Over time, though, more and more women are deciding to keep their names.

There are a lot of reasons to want to keep your own name. Hopefully you have a supportive Groom who understands why this idea is the most appealing to you. A lot of times, though, the act of keeping your name is still something that causes concern… even if your Groom is fine with it, his family (or your own) might not be so understanding.

There are a couple of ways to compromise on the whole "you wanting to keep your name and your Groom hating the idea" problem. You could choose an entirely new last name for the two of you to share. This way neither of you gets "your" way and you both have to deal with the legalities of going through a name change. Most of the time, though, the most popular compromise is to hyphenate your last name and the last name of your Groom.

For example, if your Groom's name is John Smith and your name is Kate Jones, you would name yourself Kate Jones-Smith or Kate Smith-Jones.

This allows you to keep going by your own last name while legally adopting your husband's surname at the same time.

Why Is Hyphenation a Good Thing?

The compromise is the biggest reason that so many women choose to hyphenate their last names. It is a way of you keeping your own identity while also keeping your future husband happy

It allows you to stay connected to accomplishments that you achieved before you got married. For example, many women who choose to hyphenate do so partially because they have earned higher educational degrees and certifications under their maiden names. They might have also had things published or publicized and want to stay connected to that identity.

It helps you stay obviously connected to your children whose names might not be hyphenated and who have been given your husband's surname.

It can help you bridge the gap between your personal and professional life. Many women who opt to simply keep their own names do so because they don't want to give up all that they have accomplished professionally. Unfortunately this makes it hard for them to claim ownership of these accomplishments personally because they happened under their "other" name.

Nobody wants to think about the negative stuff but, with the divorce statistics being what they are, you might want a contingency plan. Changing your name to his last name and then back to your own if things go south will be a major hassle.

While tradition is one thing, there isn't any logical reason—at least one that isn't rooted in "because that's how it has always been done" to completely change your name. Keeping your name and joining it to your husband's through hyphenation is as legal as simply adopting his name or as simply keeping your own and leaving his out of the picture entirely.

Probably the most important reason to consider hyphenation is your identity. You've spent your whole life building your identity under a certain name. Obviously you will still be you even if you've taken on your husband's last name and omitted yours entirely. At the same time, your name is associated with the identity you've built up and hyphenation allows you to respect that while also respecting tradition and your husband's family's identity at the same time.

Why Might Hyphenation Be a Bad Thing?

Hyphenated names are more difficult for computers to handle. When you type in your personal information, the hyphen often isn't recognized by the computer's code. This means that you have to eliminate the hyphen and that can cause problems later on.

If you care about outside opinions on your name, you should know that a large portion of today's society is annoyed by the hyphenated name. Some people find it "snobby" and others simply find it irritating because they have a hard time remembering which last name they are supposed to say first. Some people even believe that not simply adopting your husband's last name is a huge sign of disrespect and a lack of commitment.

It is possible that your future husband will find this choice offensive. Some men, regardless of how you might feel about such things, are traditionalists and feel that it is simply "right" for the woman to take the man's last name as her own. Whether or not your future husband insisting on your adopting his last name is a red flag to you or not, it is still something that you should take under consideration.

Some people worry that having a hyphenated name—if you do not plan on passing the hyphenation down to your children and are planning on giving them only your husband's surname—can be confusing for a child. Even when the child is given a hyphenated last name, they might be confused when they get older when they start making friends whose names aren't hyphenated.

Interesting Statistics and Hyphenation Stories

Instances of today's generation of women hyphenating their names has gotten significantly smaller since the baby-boomers' generation started making the practice more popular.

The Knot website says that less than 10% of women today hyphenate their names. Some simply choose to have two last names or two middle names when they want to keep their own last names after they get married.

Same-sex couples sometimes have a difficult time trying to hyphenate or change their surnames after they are married. Even when they are married legally, there are some states in which the judges who hear these petitions will deny the peoples' request to have the same last name. In some cases, applicants sometimes fib about the reason they are seeking the name change.

What It All Boils Down To

There are all sorts of reasons to hyphenate your name and not to hyphenate your name. The basis for each of these things, however, is whether or not you are willing to make a compromise when it comes to changing your name (or whether you are willing to compromise on your future spouse adopting your name as their own). The hyphenation is the epitome of a compromise. One spouse wants a complete name change. The other spouse wants no name change. Hyphenating the two names is a way for each person to, at least a little bit, "win" the argument.

Of course this isn't the actual end of the argument. Why would you ever think that anything having to do with getting married would be that easy? Once the decision to hyphenate one person's name is made, you have to decide whether both of you are going to hyphenate your surname.

After all, why should the bride be the only one to go through the name change process? Equal partners and opportunities and all that, right?

Many men, when they acquiesce to a bride's compromise on hyphenating her surname are happy to do the hyphenation as well. There are always going to be a few exceptions to the rule but we're willing to bet that most men will say "okay, if you will, I will too." From here, then, you need to decide which name is going to come first in the hyphenation.

The decisions and compromises just don't ever end, do they?

And don't forget the legal stuff! Making the decision is just part of the process. From there you are going to have to legally change your name all over the place. You'll need to change your name at the bank, with social security, with your credit cards, on your driver's license, at the gym… everywhere. It's easy to get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

The good news here, however, is that there are tools you can use to help you make the process a little bit less scary and intricate.

What matters of course, is that the two of you are going to be happily married—hopefully for the rest of your lives. At the end of the day, whether you each keep your names, whether you come up with an entirely new name for the two of you to share or whether you hyphenate your current surnames, what matters is that you love each other and are going to be joining your lives together. Try to remember that as you are staring at the application for your marriage license and filling out the portion that reads "name after you get married" (or whatever the legalese for that might be).

That's what matters most of all, right?

197 Comments

  1. Heather

    If I hyp my maiden name and my husbands name, he has to do it too?

    Reply
    • Valera

      No. Both of you do not have to hyphenate together. It's a decision you must make separately.

      Reply
  2. Camelia

    Hi, I recently got married and have two young kids. Can I hyphenate my last name with my husbands AND do the same for my children, so we all have the same name? My ex is not consenting to just change the kids' last name to their new dads even tho he (ex) is not at all involved/ only sees the kids once a year for a weekend…

    Reply
    • Valera

      Camelia, in all likelihood you'll need to acquire written, notarized consent from your kids' biological father to change their names.

      Reply
  3. Ryan

    Ok this is coming from a Guy's perspective and a Single mans perspective, so go easy on me.

    To me the whole hyphenating a last name seems to me as if the girl is expecting things to go wrong and they will eventually get divorced and by hyphenating the name it's easier to get changed later on. To me it shows no commitment at all and that you just want an easy out.

    On the flip side, a guy wanting a girl to take his last name makes it seem as if she is his property or something, which back in the traditional days, a bride was deemed his property. So why even bother hyphenating at all? Why not just keep your last name instead of taking his or even hyphenating at all? If you are willing to break tradition by hyphenating, then don't bother, just keep your last name. If a guy or his family has a problem with you not taking his last name, then perhaps him or his family is not the one for you. I would have no problem with the girl of my dreams keeping her last name if that was what she wanted. Why complicate things? But then again, I am a single guy….go figure. Maybe I should do some chest thumping and just drag a girl back to my cave…..LOL!!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Thanks for chiming in Ryan. That's an interesting perspective. And one, I suspect, is mulled over across the spectrum—men and women. Changing a name is a pretty personal decision. You can hyphenate. You can choose to do nothing and leave it as is. There was an article posted a few days ago that discussed a sort of middle ground of changing the maiden to middle name. That option is gaining prevalence among folks who don't like the idea of hyphenation, while wanting to acknowledge one's spouse, while not casting off one's family identity.

      Whatever someone chooses, they should be happy with it. Do it because you want to do it and not because you feel obligated to. And if there's uncertainty, perhaps the best decision to make is to not make a decision. Think it over, as long as necessary.

      Reply
    • Thea

      Hi Ryan, thanks for sharing your view. Personally for me it becomes an issue now that I'm pregnant. I originally don't want to change my last name, but I definitely want to have the same last name as my kids. with all the work of carrying them around for nine months and birthing them and then being their main source of food etc would kind of make me feel ripped off without any sort of name-link. But then I'm pretty sure my husband would want them to have his last name too.

      Reply
      • Rocio

        Hi Thea,

        I'm getting married soon, I already have 2 last names, my father's first then my mom's. Since I am not close to my father I have decided to drop his last name and add my husband's last name instead followed by my mom's. My husband and I have decided that our children will have that same last name. It is very important to me that my kids also have my last name from my family's side too. Like you I strongly feel like children should have their mother's last name as well, especially after all that work we do to have them! lol Being from Central America, you get your father's and mother's last name which I've always believed was the right way to do it. They are both of your children, not just the father's.

        Reply
    • Anne

      Well that all depends on why she's hanging on…an only child whose dad passed on to glory, and no uncles to carry on the name (to me) is sentimental & trying to keep her dad part of the families heritage. However it did feel good, no great when my fiancĂ© said that he really wants me to just take his last name. Like he's proud and anxious to share with me an intimate piece of himself, for the world to see. He has no problem with me adding my maiden name to my middle name, so everybody's happy! :-)

      Reply
  4. Anita Bakke

    I at age 71 recently remarried, and have taken my husband's name. I own a lake cabin, and need to redo the sign on the road. My new name is Bakke, my old name was Thomas. I would like to use both names on the road sign, since my kids love the place and come there. Should I hyphenate (Bakke – Thomas) or use the slanted slash (Bakke/Thomas). I don't know if there is significance either way. Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Anita. Well, it would depend on what type of sign it is. If this is an official city street sign, then you'll have to get info from your local public works office about what is or isn't allowed, in terms of formatting.

      But, if you're just looking to put up a sign in an informal sense, so you can pretty much do what you want. Since you've already decided that you do want to use both names, you have to choose a format. Or, specifically, what symbol to put in between the names. I don't see any significance either way, be it hyphen, slash, star, or plus. Do whatever makes you happy. If you're really having trouble deciding, you could always have your kids serve as tiebreaker or have a family vote.

      Whatever you decide, please come back and share what the final verdict came out to be. Good luck.

      Reply
  5. Rachel

    I recently got married and am going through the name change process. I know for sure that I would like to keep my maiden name in some form, but will also be taking my husband's name. I am going back and forth between using my maiden name as a second middle name, or just having two last names (without the hyphen in between since my maiden name is fairly long). I would probably just go by his last name in everyday use for simplicity (I am a teacher so long names can be tricky on the kiddos). Either way I guess I would be Rachel MiddleName MaidenName Husband's. Any thoughts? Thank you for your help!!

    Reply
    • Valera

      So your criteria is you want to take your husband's name, while keeping your maiden name in some form, but without hyphenating? I think you answered your own question by narrowing down your options so thoroughly.

      The one thing I'd caution about doubling the names like you're considering is that it can be confusing for some folks to understand which name belongs to which slot. Also, how will it look on paper? Think filling out forms. I'm not suggesting it's a better or worse option. It just comes with its own quirks.

      Another approach is to swap out the middle name with the maiden name, and just go with Rachel [Maiden Name] [Husband's Name].

      Reply
      • Rachel

        Thanks Valera! The thing is my middle name was my Grandma's name, so I would really like to keep it. I think the reason I am hesitant to have the hyphen in there is because it is confusing for my students who are pretty young. I was thinking if I have my maiden name as a second middle name though, it wouldn't be as prominent as a second last name (for example, it wouldn't be on ID's at all, etc.).

        Reply
        • Valera

          You could go with that as well. I think you're whittling down your options quite nicely.

          A little further below, Sandra mentioned a similar thing about her young students having potential difficulty pronouncing her hyphenated name. If she hyphenated her name she wondered if they could continue to call her by a single last name, for the sake of simplicity. That does make sense, assuming the school doesn't have an issue with it. Perhaps it could apply to your situation as well.

          Reply
    • MJ

      Hi Rachel…I realize you got married awhile ago so this may be a moot point, but I too am a teacher and have a hyphenated name. The students don't/won't get confused by it. Kids are pretty flexible and understanding of whatever you explain. I go by my maiden name because that is what my teacher name was before I was teaching and it is a cute teacher name, "example…Mrs. Doll."

      My emails and formal letters have both names but other than that I sign, "Mrs. Doll"-not actual name.

      I would not base your decision on what your students may think. Go with what works for you, your husband and your career. By the way, I chose to name my baby after my husband (last name wise) as I want him to be able to carry on his last name and this is only baby. I have three kids from my first marriage and they have the last name of their dad (and that is not my maiden name) so we have 3 different family names in our blended family so we just end up signing our first names on our Christmas Cards.

      Best wishes in your new marriage!
      MJ

      Reply
  6. Mary

    I got married last year and hyphenated my last name. It's been tough because like you mentioned, people at work don't know what to call me. When I first filled out the forms, I wanted my maiden name to become part of my middle name but the lady wouldn't allow it. Now, I want to drop my middle name and use my maiden name as my middle name and my husbands last name for mine. How do I begin this process in California? Do I have to go through the courts? Can I just go through social security? When I do get it changed, will I have to fill out a new marriage certificate? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Valera

      How do I begin this process in California? Do I have to go through the courts? Can I just go through social security?

      Pretty much. As you already underwent a name change following your marriage, changing it a second time for non-marriage related reasons likely requires a court petition process.

      When I do get it changed, will I have to fill out a new marriage certificate? Thanks.

      At this point in time, your marriage certificate is immaterial. It's just a historical record of your marriage event.

      Reply
  7. Ingrid

    I was married for 7 years and after the divorce I did't changed back to my maiden name not until I decided to get remarried in the state of texas, where is required to have maiden name restored after a divorce in oder to get remarried. Well I did the change only in in the documents need it to get married like license and social security card and didn't bother to change the rest like credit cards,bank accounts or passport because I will be changing it again soon anyways. After going to this change again I'm not so sure if to keep my maiden name some how or use both. I know for sure I want to take his last name not only because of tradition but he knows I took my previous husbands name with no problem and he will definitely feel offended or some type of way if I don't . Now here is my question, I'm a little confuse of how it can work when he already has a hyphenated last name which is his dad's and mom's family name do I have to use both or I get to choose and how about if I decide to keep my maiden name this time and hyphenate with his that is already hyphenated name?

    Reply
    • Valera

      If you decide not to maintain your maiden name, then you can just take your husband's last name as is. If you want to incorporate your maiden name, you'll have to decide how. If you hyphenate it with your husband's already hyphenated name, then you'll have a double hyphenated last name. If you don't like the idea of that, another option is to take your husband's hyphenated name, then use your maiden name as your middle name.

      Reply
  8. Eric

    My partner and I are considering tying the knot, but we're still unsure about the name change. Can we both simply keep our last names? Or is hyphenation a better option – and continuing to use our "current" last names in our professional roles?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Eric. Yes, you can keep your last names. Hyphenation is optional. Whether it's better or not really depends on the person. Some folks prefer hyphenation, some dislike it, while the rest are unsure or indifferent. So, it's not so much a matter of better or worse, but what you're comfortable with and can live with. As for using your current last names in your professional, business roles, many people do that. Just be certain that you use it in the proper context. As a general rule of thumb, the legal name is applied to things such as legal/licensing documents.

      Reply
  9. sandra douglas-russell

    I recently got married at 42. My kids have my X's last name. I changed mine back to my maiden-married. I wanted my own identity back. I completely support the hyphenated last name. My question… Do I have my students call me by my maiden name or married name (just to make it easier on those cute little 2nd graders) as my combined names are a mouth full.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Do I have my students call me by my maiden name or married name (just to make it easier on those cute little 2nd graders) as my combined names are a mouth full.

      Not unless there's a school policy that says so. It's an interesting scenario. One thing to keep in mind, that if the kids know you by one name, then the parents will likely know you by that as well. The name will sort of bubble up.

      Reply
  10. Kimberly Renee Bishop

    It's amazing how many people are having the same dilemma that I'm having.

    I was Divorced 3 years ago, and changed my married name back to my Maiden name. Little did I know that Mr. right was waiting right around the corner for me. We got married a year later, and I'm trying to avoid too much confusion with another name change.

    I've been able to put it off for 2 years now, but my Driver's License is set to expire next month, so it's time to make a move.

    I'm tending to lean toward the two Middle Name deal because if I have two last names, it's always a hassle as to what my name or account is listed under. (It's alrealdy a hassle after the last name change.) My Husband's name is O'Steen, so there's already an apostrophe there, which is confusing enough when somebody's trying to look up his name. (Picture finding K-Mart in the phone book.)

    My question is this…..I read somebody else's question above saying that there were limitations on whether or not she could have two middle names. (Mary, August 12th, the lady wouldn't allow it.)

    Do you know how that works, before I make my decision, get there and find out I can't proceed as planned? I hate having to make that type of decision on the spot.

    Thank you so much! I'm in Florida if that makes a difference.

    Kim
    As of now, Kimberly Renee Bishop O'Steen : )
    That's the dilemma I'm trying to avoid….."Is that filed under B of O?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Kimberly. Mary, above, likely had trouble changing her middle name because she's in California. It's one of a few states where a maiden to middle name change is a little more complicated.

      Reply
  11. Rachel D

    This has been so helpful! I just have a clarifying question. I want to have my name be Rachel (middle) (maiden) (married). I'd like to still use my last name professionally, but understand the longer name would be my new legal name. So, would that be what appears on my drivers license & then, subsequently, what I'd need to use when I travel?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Rachel. Your legal, married name is what goes on your driver's license. In your case, it's the long name. It can also go on your passport, if you choose to update your passport. Just make sure your plane tickets match what's on your passport to avoid travel delays.

      Reply
  12. pris

    Hello

    I'm confused because my fiance and i are getting married In las Vegas but are nyc resident. By default, because he is foreign, he gets both his parents last name hyphenated. It's been such a mess for him. We want to simply take one of the last names and finally drop the other. I have one name nand want one of his last names. No hyphens just clear cut. Will we be able to both just take the one last name when getting married or do we both have to do a separate legal change of name ? I'm so confused and want to get it right the first time. Hopefully only one legal process had to get done. Thank you

    Reply
    • Valera

      New York is one of the more lenient states when it comes to name change options. You both can choose a new last name. When the time comes, just specify the new name on your marriage license.

      Reply
  13. Jane D-T

    When I married I chose to hyphenate my last name for many reasons. First, I am the last in my line, so I hated the idea of just throwing away my maiden name (we are not going to have kids, so the last name will die with me, but I didn't want to let go of it any earlier than necessary). Second, I share a middle name with my sister and I couldn't image giving that up to use my maiden name as a middle name. Third, I have advanced degrees and lots of research in my maiden name and wanted to maintain a connection to that as my career progresses post-marriage. And last, my husband hated the idea of me not taking his name at all (even though he is one of three boys so there's no worry of his last name not being passed to the next generation) and this was an acceptable compromise. There was no malice intended toward my husband or my in-laws and there was NEVER a thought in my mind about not wanting to make a full commitment to my marriage and using the hyphen as an "out" down the road. And, although it was a MAJOR hassle to hyphenate (far more difficult than just taking his last name because it had to go through the court because I was, in essence, creating an entirely new last name), I do not regret the decision. I love the link with my husband and I also love that I still feel like me.

    For anyone considering hyphenating, however, I would caution that society can be cruel at the worst and inconsiderate at the best about hyphenated last names. At least once a week people tell me, flat-out, that my name is too long and confusing and that I should shorten it. I have had previous employers completely disregard my hyphen and create all work-related names (badges, email addresses, business cards, etc) with me husband's last name only. At another job I had to choose between my last names because both wouldn't fit as my business email address. Most people are too lazy to write it all out so they either use one or the other or just abbreviate it (these same people would go crazy if I even thought of abbreviating their names). Almost all relatives from both families refuse to ever use my hyphenated name. Even the pastor who married us threatened not to go forward with the service because I wasn't taking my husband's name outright. So, don't take the decision to hyphenate lightly because you will constantly be fighting society over it.

    That said, my main reason for leaving a comment is to ask a professional question. On my resume and CV, should I use my married, hyphenated name, and also put my maiden name? For years after getting married I only put my hyphenated name, since my maiden name is IN that name. I thought that it would be obvious that Jane Doe was the same as Jane Doe-Thomas. But, since my degrees are in my maiden name and most of my research and publications are in my maiden name, I wonder if employers/colleagues/etc have a hard time connecting the dots. I am especially concerned because of some upcoming applications in which I have to submit my transcripts (in the maiden name) and application (under the hyphenated name) and I want to make sure there is no question that those transcripts are mine. I've found rules for this kind of thing when taking your husband's name outright: Jane (Doe) Thomas or Jane Thomas (formerly Jane Doe). But, I have not been able to find any concrete rules about this when dealing with a hyphenated name. Again, I thought it was logical to only use my hyphenated name since it contains my maiden name, but perhaps I am giving people too much credit about figuring it out?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Valera

      So, don't take the decision to hyphenate lightly…

      Thanks for sharing your experience. This is an interesting comment, as you're coming from the perspective of someone who's gone through a hyphenated name change and all the ups and downs that entails.

      On my resume and CV, should I use my married, hyphenated name, and also put my maiden name?

      I think it would make a good deal of sense to put both. As you've compiled an academic history throughout the years, you'll want to be certain that your resume and CV reflect what you've accomplished in your maiden name. You'll want to be sure that you've clearly bridged the before and after of your name change.

      For years after getting married I only put my hyphenated name … [snip] … I wonder if employers/colleagues/etc have a hard time connecting the dots.

      It's possible those dots aren't being connected. I don't think it's worth the risk of assuming folks will link these things on their own. There's nothing wrong with detailing your name transition/history.

      I am especially concerned because of some upcoming applications in which I have to submit my transcripts (in the maiden name) and application (under the hyphenated name) and I want to make sure there is no question that those transcripts are mine.

      I think you laid out a pretty clear justification for including details about your name, prior to hyphenation, on matters related to your professional life. If there's a downside to doing so, I fail to see what it could be.

      I have not been able to find any concrete rules about this when dealing with a hyphenated name.

      There are no concrete rules. What works for one person, is a non-starter for another. What's an easily manageable solution for one, is a titanic struggle to maintain for another. You can take solace in the fact that you're not alone in trying to figure out how to maneuver a name change while maintaining your personal and professional identity.

      Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

      Following your own line of thinking seems to be the best course of action. Be cautious and include references to both names.

      Reply
  14. Bean

    My question is, if I did not hyphenate my last name and took his when we got married, but now want to hyphenate, can I just make the change myself when I update my documents or do I have to legally change it.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Are you saying you had already undergone a formal name change by taking your husband's last name and now want to undergo a second name change? If so, since you had already went through a name change, you're looking at the court petition route. If you've never actually changed your name in the first place (by just using your husband's informally) then you can go through the regular marriage name change process.

      If I'm misinterpreting your situation, please clarify.

      Reply
  15. Grecia

    I just got married. i haven't changed my SS or DL, we dont have the money now but i have doctors appointments and ask to put down all my information do i have to now start usig my hyphenated name? or do i still use my maiden name?

    Reply
    • Valera

      It would make sense to continue using your maiden name until you formally changed it.

      Reply
  16. Doug

    So….if the children of the marriage also have hyphenated names (and I assume they would), and then marry spouses with hyphenated names…..then what?? Utter chaos!! It's a genealogists nightmare. This is just the latest ridiculous notion in today's modern thinking about marriage. Some women won't be happy until the man is beaten to the ground of humiliation and completely emasculated.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hyphenation isn't a vastly common choice. Maiden to middle appears to be gaining more traction over time. In the cases where folks do choose to hyphenate, how they do it can vary. Some folks tend to have their children's name hyphenated, while others prefer to have one spouse's surname serve as the child's last name.

      As for the double-hyphenated (or even triple-hyphenated) last name, I imagine that's a tough one to manage for the couple themselves. That's a lot of dashes to maneuver. Those cases are rare, but folks often choose to get around that by choosing a new last name.

      One common theme in this thread is that there's no one choice that's right for everybody. What works for one, is no good for another. When someone has to undergo a name change, they'll have to factor in the pros and cons and decide if hyphenation, or any name change alternative, make sense.

      Reply
    • Greg

      I am (somewhat) with you Doug. My wife kept her surname and I kept mine when we were married (no problem there). We are now trying to decide on the kids names and I raise this point with my wife when she suggests hyphenating. I would rather use her name for the kids than go the double barrel. Think of the possible result in only 3 generations if this pattern of hyphenation continues… John and Jane Abbbot-Monk-Friar-Nun-Priest-Pastor-Father-Mother-Sister-Brother-Vicar-Cardinal-Bishop-Dean-Pope-Padre. Please stop the hyphenation before it is too late!

      Reply
  17. dano

    Unless you make 250K, then you can hyphenate it.. Some women go above and beyond to make it clear that they have two last names.. And to be honest, it really really sounds like an upper class snob.. Remember women, you can't buy wine with beer money.

    Reply
  18. Shane

    Here is another comment from a man's point of view. Personally, I think hyphenating is pretty cool, especially if the name flows. I recently got re-married and my wife has chosen to hyphenate her maiden/married name. She was married before and has two kids by her previous marriage. She reverted back to her maiden name after her divorce. The kids biological father chose to stop being in his kids life and the kids wanted to drop their legal last name and to change it to their moms middle name. When Amanda and I were discussing the name change, she mentioned that if she decided to hyphenate, part of the reason would be for the kids, because the last name is important and has some significance where we live. When it came time, Amanda Barton legally became Amanda Barton-Smith. It is on all her business cards, her nameplate on her desk, her name badge, and on her SS and DL. I personally think its cool and the name definitely flows. I have no problem with her hyphenating her name. Just my two cents on this. Thanks for letting me give my opinion.

    Reply
  19. Judy

    I was married in the state of NY this month. I decided after much consideration and debate to change my last name to my husband's name. I have not gone to Social Security or DMV to make any of the changes on my documents but I am already having separation anxiety over "losing" my last name. My marriage license has already been filed and stamped but I was wondering if it was too late to hyphenate and add my maiden name back? And would that be a charge if I decided to do so? I wanted to do the two middle names thing but it isn't allowed in the state of New York. Any advice?

    Reply
  20. Lorri

    I think I have read these correctly, if you do hyphenate (maiden-married), you DO have to change all your legal documents starting with your SS card (I'm in Florida). Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Sarah

    I just changed my name to my married name (two days ago), but only added my middle initial of my maiden name. I really want to add my complete maiden name. Can I still change it? Will there be a charge? In state of texas

    Reply
    • Valera

      Sarah, if you've already changed your name with the SSA, then changing it again may not be possible without having to petition the court. If you haven't actually changed your name all the way, and you're just referencing the name on your marriage certificate, then that's less of an issue.

      Reply
  22. Vikki

    I just got remarried last week and am debating how to change my name. I kept my ex-husband's last name after my divorce because I have two young children and I wanted to have the same name as them. Now that I am remarried, I'd like to keep my current last name in the mix so I am still associated with my children and not just my step-children. My current name is (first name) (given middle name) (ex-husband last name). I was thinking I would drop my given middle name and replace it with my maiden name and maybe hyphenate my current last name and new last name. I'd only use the hyphenated name for legal reasons and for things at the school (paperwork, etc) for the kids. So, I'd be Vikki (maiden name for middle name) (current last name – new last name). My husband is fine with that because he knows it's important for me to be associated with my children. Is there other name combination options?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Is there other name combination options?

      Vikki, you're opting for a fairly common combo. Other options are two middle names or two last name (space, not hyphen). That option isn't as common though. If you opt for either of those rare sequences be sure to check your state's statutes about which combination is allowed.

      Reply
  23. Jamie-Rae Alde

    Hello…I got married abou 2 years ago anr i hyphenatd my last name. Now i am totally regretting it becuase i now have 2 hyphens in my name. I want to remove the hyphen but it will cost me about $435 jus to remove it. My question is if i decide to keep my last name as hyphenated do i have to always use both names ot can i just use my husbanda last name? I kno i have to have both on my ss and dl and passport but im asking if i have to use it for the bank or credit cards and other things like that. Thank u.

    Reply
    • Valera

      It depends on your bank or credit card. For your bank, you can request that they allow your checks to be deposited/processed in your preferred name. For your credit card, if you don't use your legal name there can be a mismatch with the name on your credit report. That can be a problem.

      Reply
  24. Crystal

    How common is it to keep your maiden name legally but use your husband's last name for everyday use? or work use, etc? Is that weird? Jane Doe is your legal name on your drivers license and passport, and legal documents, but everyone knows you by Jane Smith. That's what you sign your future kids school forms, or christmas cards, or have a work email with your name and your married last name…

    Reply
    • Valera

      How common is it to keep your maiden name legally but use your husband's last name for everyday use?

      Well, it's not a common practice, but as as long as you're making sure to sign your legal name to legal documents, then you can informally continue using your name as you choose.

      Reply
  25. Mary Rand

    Hi there,
    I was married once, divorced and I've kept my ex husbands last name because we had a child together and I wanted to keep that connection for her. Now I'm preparing to marry again for the 2nd time. I wanted to keep my first married name because of the connection to my daughter. Also her father passed away recently and she doesn't have any siblings so I felt it would be easier on her.
    So what I'm thinking about doing is keeping my ex husbands last name out of respect to my daughter and then adopting my new husbands name as well. So I'd be hyphenating the ex husband's and the new husband's name. Have you ever heard of anyone else doing this? I don't want to go back to my maiden name, so that's out of the equation all together. Should I put my new husband's name first and ex's last? I actually like the way it sounds with new husband's first and ex's second. Y
    Your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Valera

      So I'd be hyphenating the ex husband's and the new husband's name. Have you ever heard of anyone else doing this?

      Yes, you're proposing a typical hyphenated name change. Nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that it's your ex-husband's last name instead of your maiden name doesn't make a difference.

      Should I put my new husband's name first and ex's last?

      Typically, new husband's name goes last, but you can choose differently if you'd prefer.

      Reply
  26. Erika roxana gutierrez

    okay, I just got married and I am very confused. I am a legal permanent resident of the USA. I had just applied to become a US citizen, had my biometric appt last 09/22 for finger prints. but now I am waiting for the actual appt. to get interview by USCIS. immigration. and all of my papers are under my father lastname and mother last name. Erika middlename. gut-san my husbands last name is Rod and I was thinking of not using my middle name and do Erika Rod-Gut any ideas????

    Reply
    • Valera

      You can change your name during the naturalization process. What you should change it to is a personal preference. When you say you're considering not using your middle name, are you saying you want to eliminate it?

      Reply
  27. Mee

    So I just went to DMV for my permit but my social security card name didn't match because they put my last name as my middle but my last name is two different names . The lady at the DMV asked me if I wanted to hyphenated or put together and wasn't thinkig that time I said hyphenated but I thought she was suppose to follow the way my birth certificate goes and it doesn't have a hyphenation. Would it be a problem now when I go change the name on my social security? Or can they just simply edit it on their computer without the hyphenation?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Would it be a problem now when I go change the name on my social security? Or can they just simply edit it on their computer without the hyphenation?

      You can return to the DMV with your corrected social security card and birth certificate and have them issue you a new permit. Explain that the name on your existing permit has a typo and request a correction be made.

      Reply
  28. Cassie

    the future hubby and i are getting married. i have always known that i would always give my kids MY last name whatever that may be so they wouldnt have daddys last name unless i had already changed my last name to his (lesson learned in childhood my mom married 7 times) Now this is mine and his first marrige however i have two children from a previous relationship and he has one from a prefious relationship. and we have 1 together. we had at one point thought we would make a whole new name. then change the kids names acordingly but that wont be an option..and his daughter has his last name he doesnt want to change it. so my three are momslastname and his oldest is hislastname so when we got to talking about our old idea of making a new family surname he kinda shyed away and so i said ok how about i take both keep mine and take yours…he said thatd be ok…i asked if he would do the same he just thought for a second and then i reminded him that he already has a child with my maiden-last name so as soon as he thought of it that way brightend up so the question here is which one is less of a hasstle…two last names same as hyphen but just a space instead (NOT LAST TO MIDDLE)…or the traditional name combo with hyphen. now i am in florida.. will hyphenating my name or including both with just a space be something i can do with a normal marrige change or would that require court order name change?…if thats the case will we both have to do a court order change???

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Cassie. You can do a normal marriage name change, but, since you're in Florida, your future husband will have to petition the court to accomplish the same.

      Reply
  29. Kayla

    I'm in the process of my second divorce and need to decide if I'm going to change my name. I currently have my 2nd husband's last name but was considering going back to my 1st husband's last name and hyphenating with my soon to be ex's last name. The reason I would be doing this is because I have two sons with my 1st husband and daughters with my 2nd. Would this be considered okay to do?

    Reply
    • Valera

      I currently have my 2nd husband's last name but was considering going back to my 1st husband's last name and hyphenating with my soon to be ex's last name … [snip] … Would this be considered okay to do?

      Certainly, you can change your name as you see fit.

      Reply
  30. Kelly

    I, like many others want to keep my full birth name while also taking my husbands. Several have suggested I drop my middle name, but, for me that's not an option. I want the full thing. But, I am curious what should go to what spot. I want his last name to be my last name so if I get more comfortable with the name change I could always drop my Birth surname. So should I move my middle name to my first name? I like my middle name written out fully rather than abbr. I usually do it that way on my cards. Then my middle name would be my birth name. If i wanted to drop my birth name I can either abbr. or not write unless it is on legal documents. I guess my question is should I have 2 first names or 2 middle names? I have narrowed it down this far because I am thinking about what it would look like on attendance lists, paper work, etc. What letter do I write down if there is only one box for my middle name…? Those are a few of the many questions bouncing through my head :)

    Reply
    • Valera

      So should I move my middle name to my first name? … [snip] … I guess my question is should I have 2 first names or 2 middle names?

      If you're opting for a double first or middle name, you'll have to petition the court to achieve that. I know you're asking this in the context of marriage, but it's not really applicable.

      As for which you should choose, that's up to you. There is no right or wrong. It's just a matter of which is the one you're most comfortable living with.

      Reply
  31. Amanda

    I was always told if you hyphenate your names, whatever debt you have stills falls onto you and wont effect your husband and your new commitment. How true is this?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hyphenation has no relevance to this matter. If your state observes "community property" rules then certain debts incurred "during" the marriage by one spouse can become a shared debt for both.

      Reply
  32. Thomas

    My wife and I got married earlier this year and she hyphenated her name and now she regrets it. How had would it be for her to drop her maiden name and just use mine? We live in Colorado.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Thomas. She'll have to petition the court to return to her maiden name. It's not really hard, but the process is more involved than when she originally just hyphenated.

      Reply
      • Thomas

        Ok thank you. She don't want to return to her maiden name she wants to drop it from her name and just use my last name.

        Reply
        • Valera

          Whoops. I misread that last part of your sentence. Unfortunately, the answer is still the same. She'll have to go through the courts.

          Reply
          • Thomas

            Ok thank you very much. Do you know how long it takes by chance?

          • Valera

            Do you know how long it takes by chance?

            It could be a month, maybe two. It's difficult to say. There are too many factors in the mix, such as how busy the court is, to say for sure how long it'll take for you.

  33. Raquel

    I was married 7 years ago and I never changed my name. Five kids later I feel its about time. I love my last name and want to keep it. I want to have 2 last names instead of a hyphen. So it will be Raquel Middle name given name husband name. How do I go about doing that? This name changing is very confusing!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Get a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Contact your local vital records office to acquire one. Begin with the SSA, then DMV, then the other institutions and organizations that need updating. You'll just have to knock them down one-by-one.

      Reply
  34. Sharon

    I just got married 1 month ago and hyphened my last name with my husbands last name… now im in the process of changing all the legal documents. Can I drop my last name and just use his last name or I must use what I put on the marriage license?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Can I drop my last name and just use his last name…

      Yes. You don't have to hyphenate.

      Reply
  35. Angie Davis

    I was previously married (in the state of Texas) and returned to Alabama to live for a period of time, after a divorce, I returned to Texas and eventually remarried. After my first marriage, I took my husband's last name and continued to keep this name even when we split, due to having two children with him and wanting to keep everything the same. I never did anything when I remarried to change to my current husband's last name and honestly, I'm not really sure how to go about doing this if I choose to take his last name. I have continued to use my first husband's last name and have not changed anything legally. Am I setting my family up for major confusion if I were to die and my estate needs to be settled along with other financial matters?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Am I setting my family up for major confusion if I were to die and my estate needs to be settled along with other financial matters?

      Your situation is fine. You are and have been using your actual legal name, so there should be no confusion.

      Reply
  36. Lori

    Hello. I am in the process of getting a divorce. I took my husbands name an I currently use first name, middle initial and married name as my legal name. I am considering taking back my maiden name. I want to continue to use my first name, middle initial. I am trying to decide between hypenating ( maiden/married) or no hypen, maiden name married name. I want to be referred to at school with my maiden name. Bottom line, I want to choose whatever has the least amt of potential for legal hang ups. Any thoughts? Thank you

    Reply
    • Valera

      I am considering taking back my maiden name.

      A quick note… If you're looking to potentially return to just your maiden name as your last name be sure to have the judge put in an order to restore your maiden name.

      I am trying to decide between hypenating ( maiden/married) or no hypen, maiden name married name.

      If your maiden name is restored following the divorce, the name change process is fairly simple. You'll need a certified copy of your divorce decree to facilitate the change.

      If you're looking to hyphenate or implement a double-last name, you'll need to petition the court.

      Bottom line, I want to choose whatever has the least amt of potential for legal hang ups. Any thoughts?

      Any of your choices shouldn't present any legal issues as long as you formally change it to whatever you choose. Restoring just your maiden name is the most straightforward. Constructing a new hyphenated name is more procedurally complicated.

      Reply
      • Lori

        Thank for the info. If I choose two last names, not hyphenating, maiden name / married name, may I use only maiden for informal signature?

        Reply
  37. Roxy Logan

    Great piece on all the various concerns involved!
    It's also worth noting that many women from well-known families kept or added to theirs through the ~18th-19th centuries to keep their ties to their prominent, accomplished families; they didn't just lose that social stature and identity on marriage. Many Hispanic cultures, not known for radical feminism or for taking marriage lightly, have been combining and/or adding the last names to long names for generations. Bringing families together forever brings in both sides, right? Numerous other cultures, and western cultures in different periods, varied a lot. So, it's nowhere near as traditional or as consistent as people assume when they act like you're suspect for not following what everyone everywhere has always done to show they were really in love.

    I opted to hyphenate mine socially for a lot of reasons. I believe in modern equality but also love some of the 1950′s ideals of love, so I was a bit conflicted when people (including the love of my life and his sweet, progressive-traditional family) assumed I was going to change it. It never occurred to me that I would be expected to relinquish all of my old identity, my ties to father (who was an amazing man and my role model, but not in my life because of my crazy mom), and my Scottish clan's proud heritage. It would have been terribly disorienting, and my husband got to keep the link to his professional and family ties! So, his friends sometimes sweetly call me by his last name, I keep mine, everybody's happy. I haven't hyphenated legally, but if anyone objects, they can volunteer to spend an entire day waiting in slow government offices for me…

    It's wonderful that women (or couples) get to evaluate all of the history and concerns and just *choose* what taking the name means for them now–like love, or embracing the nicer parts of tradition. It's a choice. If people think people mine means I'm snobby or non-committal, that's their problem. Like my daddy, who grew up on a struggling farm during the Depression and lived his life with the tenacity of a working-class, proud Scotsman, I'm no snob; but I am true to myself and my family history.

    Reply
  38. Roxy Logan

    Also, while it's traditional, it traditionally signified the merger of the woman's identity completely into the man's (not a union of two into each other as equals). Judges and others explicitly stated this and used it to dismiss domestic violence (essentially, "you can't bring this claim about hurting yourself, and she's the same legal person: the husband's person"); it was used to justify denying property and custody rights on divorce, no matter how abusive the man had been, since married women were less-than their own legal people. This full merger might (not sure) be why it was common until mid-to late 20th century to be called Mrs. his first and last name. So, tradition isn't always something we want to repeat blindly–create new traditions, change the old ones, or take it and give it your own meaning.

    Reply
  39. Melisa Solorzano

    Ok kind of a confusing question. My son is only a couple of months old and his name is Mike Alexander Smith, Smith being his dads last name. I want to add my last name to his legally while still keeping his middle name. (I wish I would've done it from birth but oh well) Anyways me and his dad are no longer together and were goin through court to get it added. I don't know how I shoul add my name, if it should be Solorzano-Smith or Solorzano Smith no hyphen or Smith Solorzano. I would like my last name to be the primary last name he uses. I just don't know the difference with the hyphen or without. And for example school documents when it is last name, first name how do I make it so that it is filed under S for Solorzano… last name (Solorzano), first (Mike). While still keeping Smith because his dad will not agree to drop it for obvious reasons haha. I know that legal documents I will have to use the full last name whether hyphenated or not.

    Reply
    • Valera

      I would like my last name to be the primary last name he uses. I just don't know the difference with the hyphen or without.

      It's just stylistic. Choose whichever you prefer.

      And for example school documents when it is last name, first name how do I make it so that it is filed under S for Solorzano

      Whether the last name is hyphenated or spaced, Solorzano would have to come first in order to file it the way you're seeking. You also couldn't omit Smith, if that's what you're suggesting in your example.

      Reply
      • Melissa

        I know I can't omit Smith for legal documents but will my child have to spell out both last names for everyday things?
        Also just to make sure I understand, there really is no difference whether the names are hyphenated or not?

        Reply
        • Valera

          …will my child have to spell out both last names for everyday things?

          Yes.

          …there really is no difference whether the names are hyphenated or not?

          No. It's a matter of personal preference.

          Reply
  40. BRA

    Hi there. We got married in NYC back in 2011, but I elected to keep my maiden name when we went in to the City Clerk's Office to obtain our license. I've been going by a a hyphenated name socially since then but have decided I'm ready to change it legally. What's the process for this? I've called the Civil Court and County Clerk and still not clear on exactly how to have my maiden last name officially changed to my married one. The County Clerk said I have 2 options: (1) Have the marriage ceremony again or get "remarried" so that I can tick the box that indicates what my new surname will be, thereby having it show up with my married name on a new Marriage Certificate (apparently this does not change our original married date and somehow just reissues the marriage certificate, still unclear on that one), (2) Go the the NY Civil Court and have a petition filed for a "Petition for Individual Adult Change of Name" although this will change my name everywhere but my marriage certificate. I'm also wondering if none of that is necessary and just going to the Social Security Office with my current Marriage Certificate/License is sufficient, even though it only shows my maiden name. I just want to change it legally so that everything from my taxes to my passport is updated but it's impossible to get a straight answer in this city and its all so confusing!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi BRA. I'd advise you to heed their recommendations. If it was a mistake on your certificate, you could have it corrected in your marriage registration record, although it's unlikely they'd consider a chosen surname a mistake.

      Reply
  41. Cristina

    Hello. I live in CA and got married about a month and a half ago. When we applied for our marriage license, I was told that I could combine both our last names (which I did) and that I could choose to sign with which ever last name and keep my current accounts (eg bank/professional licence) with my maiden name. But now I am a bit confused. From your previous posts, I am understanding that I would need to submit my new name to SS, Drivers Lic, and sign with BOTH last names on legal documents. Does this mean I would need to change my name on my professional license?

    Reply
    • Valera

      I was told that I could combine both our last names (which I did)

      Hyphen, space, or merged surnames? No matter which it is, the end result is still just one last name.

      I am understanding that I would need to submit my new name to SS, Drivers Lic…

      Correct.

      …and sign with BOTH last names on legal documents

      As mentioned above, even though your last name is comprised of two names, it still only counts as one, single last name. So your only option is to sign your complete last name to legal documents.

      Does this mean I would need to change my name on my professional license?

      You can check your state's requirements, but you'll most likely need it updated and reissued.

      Reply
  42. Melissa

    Hi! I got married a little over a year ago and have finally decided to change my name. The problem is that I have a middle name and my maiden name is already hyphenated. I would like to add the initials of my maiden name to my middle name. So it would be Melissa [current middle name] [x-x] [married last name]. I'm wondering though, for filling out forms, will that be a problem? I know people who have two middle names and often when filling out forms, they just put the first one, which wouldn't bother me. I'd just like for my maiden name to be in there somewhere officially. Also, would it be easier to keep the hyphen between the initials or put periods or nothing and just make it XX. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Valera

      I'm wondering though, for filling out forms, will that be a problem?

      Doubtful. At worst, you may have to explain it to whomever is entering your data to not misinterpret the divisions in your name.

      Also, would it be easier to keep the hyphen between the initials or put periods or nothing and just make it XX. Thank you!

      It's a tiny variation. The most cautious choice is to write it out as it's formally spelled.

      Reply
  43. Donna Bernardino

    Hi I just got married three months ago I hyphenated my last name. Now I regret it and want to keep only my husbands last name, how do I go about changing it to just his last name? Are there any fees etc I live in California.

    Reply
    • Donna Bernardino

      Also I forgot to mention I haven't changed any of my information yet ( dL, ss, bank etc)

      Reply
      • Valerie

        If you haven't changed your name on any legal documents, you haven't actually changed your legal name. You would have to first change your name with the ssa in order to legally have your husband's name.

        Reply
  44. Melissa Ott

    I have 3 names (family handed down names ) plus my last name and I want to keep all of my names and just add his to the end. I really don't want to hyphenate the 2 last names and I don't wanna use my last name as a middle name cause my names are part of my family traditions. Can I just add his name to the end of mine? Like for example Jane Maria Louise Smith Johnson. My kids would take his name and on documents could I just use either my last name or the 2 last names and just put a space between them?????

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Melissa. You don't have to hyphen, but when you sign your name to legal-type documents, you should use your entire last name.

      Reply
  45. Tamara

    I am getting married next year and concerned about my name change. I was previously married to my son's father and kept his last name and dropped my birth last name. Jane Susie Doe (Doe replaced birth name). Since then I have established a business and attend college under my ex's last name. I would like to reinstate my maiden name somehow. Can I do this when I get married or should it be done before. My fiance wants me to take his name but I believe it best to keep my ex's last name, my reason being is my preteen son and all that I have already established under my ex's last name. I did promise him (my fiance) that I would change my name to his when my son gets out of school, I'm sure this is possible. I was wondering would it be over kill to have two middle names and two last names. Jane (Susie Barker) Doe Smith, No Hyphen. (Barker example of my birth name and Smith example of my fiance's last name). Also can I use these names interchangeably? Like Jane Doe or Jane Smith. I don't want to change any of my documents to reflect this change (both names). I really don't want to even use my fiance's name solely until my son gets out of school or we have kids of our own. I live in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Would this request seem foolish, or complicated?

    Reply
    • Valera

      I would like to reinstate my maiden name somehow. Can I do this when I get married or should it be done before.

      If you want to legally reinstate your maiden name before you get married again, you'll have to petition the court.

      I did promise him (my fiance) that I would change my name to his when my son gets out of school, I'm sure this is possible.

      It is.

      I was wondering would it be over kill to have two middle names and two last names.

      There's no better or worse. It's a matter of personal preference.

      Also can I use these names interchangeably?

      …snip…

      I don't want to change any of my documents to reflect this change (both names).

      You're looking to juggle multiple name combinations, without having actually changed your name from your ex-husband's. That's a pretty complicated proposition. At a minimum, you'll need to continue using the name from your prior marriage for legal circumstances, but exercise caution when deviating from it when applying it to other contexts.

      Reply
  46. Georgette

    I have been married for 22 years and have had my husband's last name for the same length of time. When we were married I really didn't want to take his last name but he really wanted me to so I did. I already had a son when we married and he eventually adopted him and gave him his last name. In the last few years it is really starting to bother me that I go by my married name. I have never liked it and have now begun to hate it. I love my husband, we are happy but I don't want his last name. I have discussed this with him and he doesn't want me to change my last name back to my maiden name. This could probably be solved by hyphenating my last name but I am hesitant because my maiden name has 11 letters and my married name has 8 letter which would make my last name 20 letters if you include the hyphen. Any thoughts on a 20 letter hyphenated last name?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Any thoughts on a 20 letter hyphenated last name?

      It's not a record-breaker. That distinction belongs to Wolfe+585 (as in 585 characters). So, it can be done. Noone can tell you if it's an impractical idea, as you're the one who has to live with it, print it out, and sign it.

      If you haven't already, you may want to take out some pen and paper, write it out and sign it to see how it sits with you. To even experience how long it takes.

      FYI, if you ultimately do choose to hyphenate, you'll have to request the name change through the court, as you've previously changed your name when you got married. For you, this goes for any name change option (hyphenated or not).

      Reply
  47. Rebecca

    I married my husband two months ago in California and have not yet made any formal legal changes with social security and DMV. When we went to fill out our application for a marriage license before the wedding, I indicated on the application that I would change my name so that my maiden name would become my middle name and my husband's last name would become my last name. For professional reasons, I have since decided that I would rather have two last names (my maiden name and his last name), so that my professional last name will still show up on all documents. In order to make this change, will I have to petition the court since the name change I specified on my marriage application is not the same exact one that I want to go through with? Or can I just take a copy of my marriage certificate to the social security office and indicate that I want to two last names instead of changing my middle name? Thanks!

    Reply
  48. ashley

    whenyou say a child can take the surname, does that mean if my son is mine from a previous relationship he can accept my fionces name as his. i dont want to change my last name if it will confuse my son i would love for him to be able to take his but i dont know if he would have to adopt in order to do that i live in NJ

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Ashley. If your son's father maintains legal parental rights, you may have to get written and notarized consent from him to allow any name change to go through. If the father does not possess such rights, you can change your child's name as you please.

      Reply
  49. Kathy

    We are a same gender couple. If we hyphenate our names can we both keep our maiden names as the first last name then add the spouse's last name. Our names would not match identically. Exampl my last name is Jones hers is King. My new name would be Jones-King and hers King-Jones???

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Kathy. You (or actually just one of you) may run into difficulties by not having a single, unified name sequence. You could possibly end up with a situation where it's valid for one, but not the other. It's difficult to say, as this is a pretty rare (yet clever) scenario. Depending on the state, it may be considered as a completely new name instead of a hyphenated variant. Have you contacted your county clerk's office (or whichever office issues marriage licenses) to inquire about this?

      Reply
  50. laura

    I want to know can I hyphenate my name after 12 years I don't feel like my last name and if so how can I do it

    Reply
    • Valera

      If it's a marriage-related name change, you'd go through the same process anyone else normally would.

      Reply
  51. Liz

    I have 2 questions about name changes:
    1) I have very strong feelings about keeping my last name, but my fiance has equally strong feelings about me taking his name. I am trying to find some sort of compromise to make us both happy, but feel that in the 'real world' if I have a hypenated name people will eventually just refer to me by his last name. Since it sounds like I can pretty much change my name to whatever I want, is it possible for me to turn his last name into my middle name, keeping my last name as my maiden name? You talked a lot about the woman turning her maiden name into her middle name but no other changes like that.
    2) If I am keeping my last name and at our wedding (or anytime in the future) we get checks made out to Mr & Mrs John Doe, how to we collect those funds since my last name isn't the same as his?
    Thank you so much for writing this article and for answering back to so many comments on here, it has been very informative.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Since it sounds like I can pretty much change my name to whatever I want, is it possible for me to turn his last name into my middle name, keeping my last name as my maiden name?

      Not without petition the court.

      You talked a lot about the woman turning her maiden name into her middle name but no other changes like that.

      Many states recognize maiden to middle, but not all arbitrary name reconstructions.

      If I am keeping my last name and at our wedding (or anytime in the future) we get checks made out to Mr & Mrs John Doe, how to we collect those funds since my last name isn't the same as his?

      It can be as simple as requesting that your bank allow you to cash checks in that name. Explain the situation. Presenting a copy of your marriage certificate would confirm that you're legally married.

      Reply
      • Liz

        "Many states recognize maiden to middle, but not all arbitrary name reconstructions."

        Is there a way to research what would be recognized in my state? I don't want to plan on changing it a certain way and then find out at the end that I can't change it.

        Thanks for your help.

        Reply
        • Valera

          This information can typically be found on a state's government website. Specifically the section that deals with marriage license issuance and/or vital records management.

          Reply
  52. Dan

    Hi! I am a gay man and I'm about to marry my partner of 17 years. We already have children who have my partner's last name (we had them via surrogacy/egg donor and they're biologicaly his, but I am an equal parent on their birth certificates) Anyway, I want his last name because I want the same last name as my children. My mother has issues with me changing my name, so I told her I would hyphenate my last name as a compromise. She is now threatening to leave me out of her will if I make any changes. So I'm still going to hyphenate my name, but is there any reason I would have to tell her? What if she sends me a check made out to my non-hyphenated name? Can I still cash it? (not that I rely on her for money, but sometimes she'll send a check for me to get our kids a present, that type of thing). My thought is that I can still prove via SSN, birth certificate and marriage certificate that I'm the same person.

    And yes, I realize she's being an irrational control freak who to this day can't stand that I'm gay!

    Reply
    • Valera

      So I'm still going to hyphenate my name, but is there any reason I would have to tell her? What if she sends me a check made out to my non-hyphenated name? Can I still cash it?

      That really depends on the bank. Some banks are more strict than others. Typically, you can't cash a check if it doesn't match the name on your ID. Depositing is another matter, such as using an ATM. Banks tend to become more prickly the higher the check amount (think $5-10K+).

      If you're clearly the intended recipient, and you can prove that, there's a good chance your bank will provide sufficient flexibility to process the check. If you intend to cash the check or deposit it in person, you can bring your marriage certificate and valid ID to show that you're the valid recipient.

      You can also preemptively explain the situation to your bank and request that they allow checks (regardless of the sender) to be cashed in your prior name.

      Reply
  53. Trace

    Hi! Great info!

    My question: I was married two months ago and have not legally changed my name. When I applied for my marriage certificate I wasn't sure which name I would use so on the certificate it says maiden-husbandsname. I've since decided I don't want to hyphen my last name I want to use my husband's name. Can I simply drop my maiden name and the hyphen since I haven't changed my name ? Or do I need to amend the marriage certificate ?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Can I simply drop my maiden name and the hyphen since I haven't changed my name ?

      Yes.

      Reply
  54. Jalitza

    Hi, I am getting married in a couple of months and never really thought of changing my last name and taking my husband's completely. I am in the state of new york. I was wondering if it were possible to take on my husband's last name as my middle name and use my maiden as my last name (Jalitza Toussaint Poveda)? Or if I just take on 2 last names Poveda Toussaint no hyphen am i forced to sign both last names on trivial things like credit card receipts (not legal stuff, like closing docs)?

    Reply
    • Valera

      I am in the state of new york. I was wondering if it were possible to take on my husband's last name as my middle name and use my maiden as my last name (Jalitza Toussaint Poveda)?

      Not possible in New York without petitioning the court.

      Or if I just take on 2 last names Poveda Toussaint no hyphen…

      In New York, you can do hyphen, but not space.

      …am i forced to sign both last names on trivial things like credit card receipts (not legal stuff, like closing docs)?

      Just use your own discretion. Unless someone's trying to commit fraud, then I'm doubtful the typical chicken scratch signatures on trivial receipts mean much of anything in the grand scheme of things.

      Reply
  55. Cassi

    Hello! I live in Mississippi, and am getting married in June. My fiancé has a hyphenated last name, thanks to his very independent mother. He wants to change it, but it is a drawn out process here. I was wondering two things: 1) can he just drop one of the hyphenated last names when we sign the marriage certificate, and 2) do I have to take both of his names (the whole hyphenated last name) or just his preferred last name? That is what we would both like to do. Thank you for your help!

    Reply
    • Valera

      1) can he just drop one of the hyphenated last names when we sign the marriage certificate

      That wouldn't alter anything. It wouldn't impact his real name.

      2) do I have to take both of his names (the whole hyphenated last name) or just his preferred last name?

      Both names, assuming he'll still have both names when you marry.

      Reply
  56. Mayfair

    I am worried about my fathers estate, he has married a woman that I think is after his estate when he dies, if I hyphen my name to keep my fathers name and my spouse do I then have more right and say to my fathers estate, please help

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Mayfair. It's unlikely that your name composition matters. If you're concerned about this, you can consult with a lawyer who specializes in estates.

      Reply
  57. Tristin Widger

    Soooo I live in Iowa. Its been since the end of august since u got married. We moved like a week after, and we lost or marriage certificate in moving. I just found it yesterday. Is it going to be really difficult for me to change my name at the SS office now?

    Reply
  58. richa shah

    I'm 21 recently m married. Can I used my meiden surname after marriage?? My hubby said me that he has faced problems in some legally documents. Every legal presses he give many documents for confirmation that I m his wife.. he need marriage certificate and all that.. he said to me i adopt his surname and my every old documents change my surname. . Plz help me what I do. I want to stay with my meiden surname. .t

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Richa. Name change is optional. It wouldn't affect your martial status.

      Reply
  59. Christina

    I am married and as my new last name I hyphenated it. Now, that I want to legally change my name on documents, I want to only take my husband's last name instead of the hyphenated last name. Will I be able to put his last name on the documents or will I have to go through the legal name change process? Technically, his last name is on the marriage certificate under my new last name, it's just hyphenated with my maiden name. I cannot find an answer anywhere. HELP!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Christina. Yes, just go through the normal marriage-related name change process as anyone normally would.

      Reply
  60. Kelaila

    Hello,
    My husband has two last names because he is from Puerto Rico, so we got married in California 2 years ago and I just had not gotten around to changing my name. I live in Texas now and I when to try and change my license and name yesterday and they told me that I would have to pick up both his last names Rodriguez Barrios. But on my marriage certificate I choose to be Kelaila Rodriguez because that is the only last name i need to pick I do not need to pick up his mothers last name which is Barrios. Well the girl told me that I do have to because that is some Texas Law or something like that. Is this true? Please advice because I am very irritated with the whole thing. I dont want to pick his mothers last name I dont need to.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Kelaila. It's not surprising. She's basically saying you have to take his full legal last name, which just happens to be two names. If taking on his mother's name is unacceptable, you'll have to go through a general adult name change procedure through the court system, instead of the easier marriage-related name change process. That way you'll get the final name you truly prefer.

      Reply
  61. Bekah

    Do you know someone could go about changing their name twice. I got married a couple months ago and took my husband's last name, however lately I have been wanting to put my last name back in my name, is that possible to do? Would it be a bigger process that it was changing my name the first time? If you don't know, could you possibly direct me somewhere that could answer this question?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Valera

      I got married a couple months ago and took my husband's last name, however lately I have been wanting to put my last name back in my name, is that possible to do?

      Yes.

      Would it be a bigger process that it was changing my name the first time?

      It is more involved, as you'll have to petition the court.

      Reply
  62. Pete Blazejczyk

    Future wife wants to keep her last name when she marries me. I am fine with it. What does she have to do to "legally" keep her last name when we marry ?

    Reply
    • Valera

      What does she have to do to "legally" keep her last name when we marry ?

      Nothing. Taking no action will leave her last name unchanged.

      Reply
  63. KeepThingsSimple

    I'll be concise. Hyphenated names are stupid and pointless! Why introduce complexity unnecessarily???Keep things simple. The bride to be should just keep her surname that way she doesn't have to go through all the hassle of changing all her personal data (financial, legal documents, etc.).

    Reply
  64. Think it or not

    I just had a discussion with my girlfriend about this. I am 26 years old and have always imagined that she would just want to take on my name. she is a little disgruntled after our discussion. she wants to move her last name to her middle name and keep 2 middle names and her husband's( i havent proposed) last name. my mom took on my dads last name. nominclature is important to me i think about often. when she said she wasnt going to drop her name for me it took me off guard. she feels its a family name she wants to keep. I feel that if we are married that she is litterally given to me. not in a you will do what i say always submissive to my will kind of way just that she will be mine, and for no other man and changing her name to mine shows that.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Thanks for sharing your story. The name change process is fairly simple if it's done as a result of marriage. It's more complicated and time-consuming to undo once the change has completed. So, it's smart that it's being thought through before a final decision is made. It's a good way to avoid regret.

      Reply
  65. Mae

    Hi

    I legally had my whole birth name changed ,after my (both,deceased),favorite Aunt & her husband's surname),in my 19th year of marriage and have in on my birth certificate plus on my children's. I am wanting a hyphen marriage name. I was arrested and Judgments has one dismissed and two retired. My husband's doctor wants he to be getting our house in order. We are deciding on grave markers. This would mean a whole lot to me and him to have our married name hyphenated. We are married over 36 years.

    I have read the other helpful posts but nothing like ours. I need to know what steps to do this. Will it be two courts?

    Also, my husband had strokes and writes his name, but not that often, these days. Will he have to write the hyphen name when he has to or do I do it for him?

    We are days away from being debt free. House. Inheritance not settled on other matters but we are doing better after a mighty long hard time. We were both spared from a wreck where the hired driver was using a cell phone and texting!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Mae. You can change your name going through a typical marriage-related name change. Use a certified copy of your marriage certificate as proof of name change. It can be acquired from your vital records office.

      Reply
  66. sarah

    Hi, I got married for 7 years in my marriage certificate I take my husbands last name but i never used. The last month i had my citizenship interview , the official said my current legal name was sarah smith (smith=husbands last name) I didn't know that ! … My certificate has my maiden name hyphen Sarah Lund-Loera

    can I hyphenate later with my husbands last name? lund-smith? do i need to go to court? or just can use my husbands last name as my marriage cerificate? if i decide to change , do i need to go to court? or with marriage cerificate? thanks.

    Reply
    • Valera

      The last month i had my citizenship interview , the official said my current legal name was sarah smith (smith=husbands last name) I didn't know that !

      Is this incorrect? If so, you can look to get it corrected.

      can I hyphenate later with my husbands last name? lund-smith? do i need to go to court?

      If you're taking your husband's last name without the hyphen, a later change would require the court process.

      or just can use my husbands last name as my marriage cerificate?

      Not sure what you mean here. If you're taking your husband's last name sans hyphen, what would you be changing it to? If you're asking if you have to go through the court to shift from maiden to husband's last name, the answer is no.

      Reply
  67. Lily

    Hello, I been married for 4 Yr. and I decided to keep my maiden name, so on the marriage license I didn't indicate any change to my name. But now I have a daughter and would like to hyphenate my last name with my husbands. What do I need to do exactly to hyphenate my name after I indicated no change on the marriage license?

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Lily. Go through the regular marriage-related name change process using your marriage certificate serves as proof of marriage. Your husband's name is on the document, which is a key part.

      Reply
  68. Veralee

    Hi,
    My question might have already been addressed, (if so .. forgive).
    If I hyphenate my maiden name first, (Jones-Smith), my future husband's last name being Smith, technically wouldn't I been filed under Jones and he under Smith? Maybe not relevant in all situations, but still listing mine under "J" and his under "S" might be confusing at times.
    Seems better to use the middle name/last name scenario.
    Has anyone you know run into this problem?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Valera

      If I hyphenate my maiden name first, (Jones-Smith), my future husband's last name being Smith, technically wouldn't I been filed under Jones and he under Smith?

      That's right.

      but still listing mine under "J" and his under "S" might be confusing at times.

      Perhaps, on the margins, a subset of folks may have to catch themselves before filing it under the correct letter.

      Has anyone you know run into this problem?

      Hyphenation has been around a long while and most folks should know how to deal with it, so it shouldn't be a problem.

      Reply
  69. LIH

    Hello there. As stated previously: I apologize if this has been asked (a million times).

    If I am Jane L Doe & my Husband is John Smith I am struggling with my "options." I am more concerned when it comes to formalities, such as filling out forms for taxes, home buying, etc.

    If I hyphenate, then I have "doe-smith" as my name on forms, license, and my social? I have to legally write the whole thing on paperwork I may fill out? Also, if I go with this option, most things would be filed under the letter D, I assume?

    Another option is to add it to my middle name and it would be "L Doe" (and last name smith) on paperwork?

    Seems so confusing and I would hate to struggle with any issues come for more "official" business and I didn't do something right.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Valera

      I have to legally write the whole thing on paperwork I may fill out? Also, if I go with this option, most things would be filed under the letter D, I assume? …snip… Another option is to add it to my middle name and it would be "L Doe" (and last name smith) on paperwork?

      Correct on all counts.

      Seems so confusing and I would hate to struggle with any issues

      Try not to think of the hyphen as a special character, or divider. Just think of it as another letter. It's a part of your name, so you'd have to use with your full name.

      Reply
  70. Susan

    I have been married for 13 years now. I never changed my name. All my legal documents like passport still uses my maiden name. But for school purposes like when I need to email the teacher or something, I hyphenate my married name so that the teacher knows who I am.

    I had issues with the bank though. Sometimes I would get checks with my maiden name and others with married last name.

    So, having the same last name does make things easier for couples especially when you have children. But I always felt like I didn't want to lose all of me by giving up my name.

    Reply
  71. Steve

    Hey so if my last name is Smithy-Jones and I was to get married to a girl with a different last name would she take Smithy-Jones as her last name or just Smithy or just Jones or what?
    Ps. Thanks for answers in advance.

    Reply
    • Valera

      It can vary by state. Possibilities may include the complete hyphenated version, a segment, a spouse's previous surname from birth, or compound name.

      Reply
  72. ethel

    Hi,
    I am so confused now, i already change all my id's using this name:Ethel, middle name: Lopez, last name: Cruz-Brigino. My last name before i got married was Cruz and my husband last name is Brigino. Am i doing it right? Now i want to change my passport using my recent last name,can i still use Cruz-Brigino as my last name in the new passport or just Brigino? Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Am i doing it right?

      That looks fine.

      can i still use Cruz-Brigino as my last name in the new passport or just Brigino?

      Cruz-Brigino—your hyphenated name.

      Reply
  73. Stacie

    I have been married for a little over a year and when we got married i hyphenated my name and now want to drop my maiden name and just take his name. How do i go about doing this??

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Stacie. You'll have to go through a court-petitioned name change, as you've already changed it once following your marriage.

      Reply
  74. Denee'

    Wondering if I put his last name on the marriage certificate, do I have to immediately change my name with DMV, etc….. For work purpose I don't want to change my name just yet, but of course I want his name reflected on the marriage certificate.

    Reply
    • Valera

      do I have to immediately change my name

      No, you can wait to change it later.

      Reply
  75. Doigger

    The goal of women's lib, is a communist movement to break apart the family. The Facts are to abundant to dismiss. . When a woman takes her Husband's name, it shows respect for the Civil world. It shows that Family-extended family, are of prime importance. Not Self. The goal of keeping one's own name is selfish. The family is a team, with extension through life. By taking the husband's name it shows real commitment, that the man and woman are now joined and together want to work as a team for their family through time. I see women who keep their name and they get mad when people do not get it. It has made a walking on glass situation, it adds only irritation, un-trust-able interaction, and high infidelity. If you want to get married, changing of the woman's name is binding, it forces the man to realize that he now has commitment, it forces the woman to be committed

    Reply
  76. Heidi

    I married 5 years ago at the age of 40 and had decided to keep my maiden name and add my husband's last name because I had built a life prior to our marriage that has lots of documents and accounts with my maiden name on it. I didn't want to go through the hassle of changing the name on the accounts. The DMV stated I had to have the name hyphenated on my drivers license even though I requested adamantly against it. They stated the computer wouldn't accept both last names in the system without it. My passport does not have the hyphen. I feel without the hyphen it's easier for me to go by either my married or maiden name. Rarely, if ever, am I called by both my last names.

    Now with that being said, I travel a lot for both work and vacation. My husband I travel mostly internationally. I am starting to have some problems or I should say confusion about my last name and I am considering dropping my maiden name. Can I do this with my DL and passport without having to do a court petitioned name change?

    And is it still possible to keep all my current accounts in my maiden name even though I might drop it from my hyphenated last name? I'm pretty sure the answer to this is a no but I just want to be sure.

    Reply
    • Heidi

      Also to help with answering my questions, I live in Las Vegas, Clark County. I've lived here for the last 14 years.

      Reply
    • Valera

      Can I do this with my DL and passport without having to do a court petitioned name change?

      No. Since you've formally changed it once, to do it again requires the court petition route.

      And is it still possible to keep all my current accounts in my maiden name even though I might drop it from my hyphenated last name?

      That depends on what type of account it is. For instance, legal and tax documents should match your actual name. Less formal accounts, where a minor name mismatch won't be considered a significant thing, may allow greater flexibility.

      Reply
  77. Bella N.

    Hi Valera! I'm sorry to bother you but I read through most of the comments and saw nothing that helped me. My husband and I got married almost 2 years ago in Nevada, and we still live in Nevada, and we have done no name changes whatsoever. We decided that we want to take on his mother's maiden name as our last name- so it will be a totally new last name as he always had a different last name than her.

    Since the court must be petitioned for a legal name change- I was wondering if you think it is possible for just ONE of use to petition the court and get it changed, and THEN have the other person change it WITHOUT petitioning just like you should be able to change it one you get married (like do a "married" name change, but only after one of us has the new last name). Since the marriage certificate won't list the NEW name, but since one of us will be able to legally prove that we are the same person– could that work? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Bella. It may work for you, if your husband undergoes the name change first. But it wouldn't work the other way around, due your being residents of Nevada.

      Reply
  78. Jason

    Hi,

    Just curious. My partner and I are a same sex couple and we are getting married later this year. We both want to keep our own surnames, but hyphenate the other in, but we cannot agree on whos name should come first.

    Do you think it would be unusual if we were to have the names opposite to each other? IE one as Jones-Smith and the other as Smith-Jones?

    Would be interested in your thoughts.

    Kind regards,
    Jason

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hi Jason. Not unusual at all. It's a flexible and innovative option.

      Reply
  79. Jayson2484

    Hi, my fiance and I are about to be married. Before me, she had another husband who passed away. I'm unsure what to do because she wants to keep his name and have mine. What do you think would be the best option?

    Reply
    • Valera

      I don't think there is a best or worst option. In terms of the technicalities, it doesn't matter. It's ultimately up to your fiance how or if she'll change her name. At best, you can discuss it and come to a point where both are satisfied or at least willing to accept the outcome without feeling slighted.

      Reply
  80. Andi

    I'm a divorced mom with children (which are still in school) and kept my ex last name. I live in the state of TN and will be getting married soon. Out of respect for my children I would like to keep my ex last name and take on my new married last name. I just don't know how to do it. I have my first name, 2 middle names and my ex last name as of right now. Any suggestions on what I should do. I want to make sure when the school or my children's friends call me they will still feel comfortable addressing me by my children's last name and not have to think what my last name is first.

    Reply
    • Valera

      Hyphenation is an option. If that's not the path you want to go in, you can make it understood to the school and your kids' friends that's it's fine to informally refer to you by your ex's last name. It shouldn't be a particularly demanding accommodation to agree to.

      Reply

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