Did you know you could make your maiden name your middle name after marriage using your marriage certificate, while still taking your spouse's last name as your new last name?
This offers a savvy two-for-one compromise:
- You honor your spouse.
- You honor yourself and your family history.
We shall unpack the pros, cons, and gotchas a maiden to middle name change entails, with an added discussion of a hyphenated middle name or two middle names.
Why holding onto your maiden name matters?
For those unaware, your maiden name is your last name at birth. For men, your maiden name is your birth surname too, although the term "maiden" traditionally applies to women.
Many people choose to adopt a new last name after getting married. Yet dropping your old name may feel like a tremendous loss, met with grief and uncertainty.
A loss of self with far-reaching tentacles:
- A loss for yourself.
- A loss for your brothers and sisters.
- A loss for your parents and family lineage.
How might your siblings react when it falls upon them to decide whether to keep the family name going? The harshest choice and burden left to the last unmarried child.
If you are an only child, you might worry how your parents will feel when your last name is gone. (Who will they expect to carry on the family name now?)
There is an oft overlooked fix to this problem…
Making your maiden name your middle name is a great way to keep it in your life while still following marriage conventions, as far as changing your name goes.
Note: You can use our online name change kit to complete a maiden to middle name change, along with changing your last name after marriage.
How to change your middle name after marriage?
You can use a certified copy of your marriage certificate to replace your middle name with your maiden name or add your maiden name as a second middle name.
For example, if Dana Blair Smith married Cameron Williams, a maiden name to middle name change would be Dana Smith Williams or Dana Blair Smith Williams.
Of course, you can change your last name at the same time.
(An important interjection: Caveats and gray areas exist for changing your middle name, covered in the next section. In the meantime, let us continue…)
When you apply for a marriage license, write in your new middle name if the application offers a spot to do so. If the form did not ask, your marriage certificate will exclude your new name.
Such an omission is not a problem, since you can derive your new name from your and your spouse's current and birth names, as shown on your marriage certificate.
This is how social security name change works; they verify the new name combination you write on their form against internal records and the names on your marriage certificate.
It is a reconstruction of disparate name groups:
- Your birth and current name
- Your spouse's birth and current name
Caveats, gray areas, and gotchas
Discussion of name change sometimes involves (or devolves into) happy talk. Claims that you can do something, while reality paints a different picture.
Maiden to middle name change has two such problems:
- Three U.S. states do not allow them.
- Pursuing two middle names is stepping into uncertainty.
1. A few states make middle name change difficult
Only three states do not allow you to replace your middle name with your maiden name after getting married: New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington State.
In these states, petition the court system to alter your middle name. Once you get the legal name change court order, it will serve as proof of your name change.
A court-petitioned name change takes more time, effort, and expense compared to a marriage name change. In these cases, hyphenation may be a convenient substitute.
2. Procedural hurdles of two middle names
A few states, such as California, Nevada, and North Dakota, have statutes that allow combining one's middle and maiden name after marriage, separated by a space or hyphen.
Yet most states neither approve nor disapprove of two middle names. Success may hinge on how persnickety the government agent is that handles your paperwork.
Success and failure are often anecdotal. You take a risk unless you know for sure two middle names (using your marriage certificate) will work.
It is far more reliable to pursue a straight up replacement of your middle name with your maiden name. (Excluding the three outlier states cited in the prior section.)
With that being said…
Switching your maiden name to your middle name may garner useful, long-term benefits beyond its sentimental value.
Using your new middle name as your first name
You could informally use your maiden name as your first name upon replacing your middle name, while maintaining the veneer of legality. (It is part of your legal name, after all.)
For instance, imagine your maiden name were Avery. You could tell folks, "Call me Avery," leaving them guessing if it was your first, middle, or last name.
This works best for surnames that can be mistaken for first names. To illustrate, Kim or Carey works, but not Lopez or King.
Here you have a flexible way to use your middle name as your first name without undergoing a legal name change by court order. (Such usage is informal, though.)
While using your middle name as your first name is okay around friends, coworkers, etc, you must still use your real legal name for official purposes, such as filing taxes.
Confirming your identity fast (old and new)
What happens when you come across unexpected identity challenges at non-government institutions and need a quick way to prove that you have changed your name?
Should you whip out your marriage certificate?
- That would work.
- But it is too big of a hassle.
Yet having your maiden name as your middle makes it easy to attest you are the same person who just added a name. Further, it shows you have married.
Is this documentary proof? No, but many organizations will accept your reasonable explanation without pushback.
If you were born without a middle name, you have a great opportunity to fill that void by inserting your maiden name. This may help you to decide in favor of the shift.
Satisfying your relatives (and yourself)
Your parents and relatives might begrudge you for dropping your birth name. Abandoning your legacy. Pride in family and heritage can run deep.
If your family name is famous, prestigious, or admired, making your maiden name into your middle name is a potent way to honor your past, spouse, and future life together.
It shows that you have not forgotten where you came from.
Keeping your ancestry as part of your name is a wonderful gesture and sure to prevent rifts that might develop over adopting a brand new last name.
The decision to change your name is yours alone. But clinching a win-win solution that keeps you, your spouse, your family, and your troublesome in-laws happy is astute and admirable.
And women are not the only ones facing the name change question. Some states allow men to take their wife's name via marriage; even pursue a birth name to middle name switch.
Can you have two middle names?
Caution: This section assumes you have reviewed the caveats of adding your maiden name as a second middle name; if so, please proceed.
Three out of four people have a middle name. Many of whom use it regularly. You face a dilemma upon changing your middle name:
- Do you outright replace your middle name?
- Do you use your maiden name as a second middle name?
The answer depends on what you think of keeping your current middle name and having two middle names after marriage.
You will need to correct people who get confused by your dual (or dueling) middle names, while considering the repercussions of using one or two middle initials.
The clueless might wonder:
- Where does your first name end?
- And where does your last name begin?
For example, if Riley Lou Watts married Dakota Finley, a maiden to middle name change with two middle names would be Riley Lou Watts Finley, or Riley Lou-Watts Finley if hyphenating.
Such a complex name spells trouble to the uninformed.
Possessing a full name with four parts and no hyphens makes it hard to determine if the person has two first names, two middle names, or two last names.
Hyphenating your middle names might mitigate such confusing interactions.
Just remember, two middle names may prove clumsy and limiting, especially with forms that only have space for one middle name or middle initial.
Confusion might ensue no matter what; so, bottom line, choose whichever middle name you want and let the chips fall where they may.
Usually easier than hyphenation
Ousting your middle name for your maiden name may be simpler to manage than hyphenating your name. It keeps your identity obvious and segmented at a glance.
Using your maiden name as a bridge makes it easier to establish your connection to people on both sides of your family. This aids in childcare, such as flying with children.
Before considering a hyphenated name, assess how well it complements your partner's name. Do two names sound harmonious or disjointed?
Sound out your name. Speak, scream, and whisper it.
- Does it flow, or is it an aural catastrophe?
- Can you live with that
The maiden name to middle name path may edge out a jumbled, overlong hyphenated surname. Plus, it means your last name will not be such a mouthful.
Helps ease you through the transition
Changing your name can be a form of paralysis analysis; weighing pros and cons among name sequences and combinations, only to arrive at a still uncertain decision.
A vicious circle of dissatisfying ruminations:
- I should have waited.
- I should have hyphenated.
- I should have kept my maiden name.
- I should have used spaces instead of hyphens.
- I should have replaced my middle name with my maiden.
There is no best or superior path.
Yet choosing to switch out your middle name with your maiden name may lead to the least doubt, regret, and resistance. It is a good choice, on balance.
It keeps your first, middle, and last name clean and compartmentalized: no hyphens, spaces, or disarray. Take your spouse's surname, while reusing your maiden name.
You invite turmoil by picking the wrong name in haste. You should settle on your complete name at the outset instead of backtracking and reversing your name change.
It is not always about keeping your spouse, relatives, and in-laws satisfied. You should inhabit your new name when updating your professional documents and ID cards.
The prospect of name change may appear less daunting if you keep your maiden name visible, since you are not wholesale abandoning what you have known your entire life.
Changing your name should be an act of triumph and celebration. Not of doubt and anguish. Keeping your maiden name alive can help make that a reality.
You get to embrace your new name while keeping the old. This is like having your cake and eating it, too. Sometimes the simplest choice is the best pick.
Accepting your new middle name
If you have a middle name, you may either replace it or feel like one of those people by listing more than one middle name whenever you give your full name.
- Two middle names do not make you a bourgeois so-and-so.
- Choose whichever name makes you happy.
- Ignore the naysayers.
Getting used to having a new middle name is also a process, as you will need to update multiple documents. (Get busy practicing your new signature straightaway.)
Everything from your social security card, driver's license, REAL ID, to passport should match your new middle name. You do not want your legal documents drifting out of sync.
Finding the right balance
Changing your maiden name to your middle name is becoming ever more popular as people try to find a balance between tradition and more practical, modern alternatives.
Whether you lean towards hyphenating, creating a new last name, or keeping your maiden name, consider your middle name as a swappable placeholder.