Hyphenated Last Name: Should You Change Your Name After Marriage?

hyphenated last name

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Benefits of a Hyphenated Last Name

Changing your name after getting married is a huge decision and should not be taken lightly. Traditionally, women used to change their last names and adopt their husband’s surnames in place of their own.

The change is permanent unless you divorce or petition for a legal change to your name. It’s important to know the ramifications of changing your name entirely or opting instead for a hyphenated last name.

Understanding Hyphenated Last Names

When a bride and groom marry, a hyphenated last name is born when the bride decides to add his name to her name with a hyphen in the middle.

Hyphenating yours and his last name is an excellent compromise if you want to keep your name, and you want to adopt his name, too. The change is permanent and moving forward your legal signature would need to include your new last name written out complete with the hyphen.

Hyphenated names also seem to be an excellent choice for same-sex couples as they don’t follow a traditional path of marriage. Instead of selecting one person’s name to become the same as the other, there are many that will choose to hyphenate to keep their own name and add the name of the one they love.

To Take or Not Take Your Spouse’s Last Name

There are times when it may not be wise to officially take your spouse’s last name. If your professional reputation was established and built prior to getting married, then you may want to keep your own last name.

As a bonus, you don’t have to fill out any extra paperwork because your name isn’t changing at all. Alternatively, you could adopt a hyphenated last name that includes yours and your spouse.

getting married

There is a direct benefit of having a hyphenated last name in terms of others following your professional career. If your last name is Smith and your spouse’s last name is Johnson, then your name easily becomes Smith-Johnson. It’s a change that people can quickly follow and accept as others take note of your continued professional growth.

Something else to think about doing is adding spouse’s last name to your last name. This would mean you have two last names on a legal front. In other words, all legal documentation would require your full name, but socially and professionally, you could present yourself with your maiden name without any issues. You could also show a single last name as the last name to put on record for new accounts that you might open making record keeping much easier.

If you’re still not sold on taking your spouse’s last name, you might be able to come to a compromise and combine both last names together. If your name is Smith and your spouse’s name is Johnson, your new combined name might be Smithson.

Whatever you decide on doing if you were to ever get divorced, changing your name back again can be a significant hassle. Everything from credit cards to email accounts is eventually going to have your new name on them. If you go backward, you’re going to have to go through every account that has your new name on it to change it.

How to Hyphenate Your Last Name

The process is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve gotten married and you’re ready to change your name, you’ll need your marriage license to make it happen.

Keep in mind that if you’re changing your name to a hyphenated last name or a different name altogether, there are some signatures you’ll need to be aware of ahead of time.

When you sign your marriage license, you may or may not have to sign with your new name. That varies by state, so you’ll have to check and see what the law is on that.

You may also want to book post-wedding travels under your new name so that your name change matches what they have on file. Matching names makes identifying you much easier for everyone from the outside looking in.

Things to Think About When You Hyphenate

thinking woman

You may love the idea of hyphenating your last name, but there are some obstacles you’ll need to be ready for if you decide to make that move.

As an example, if you ever have to spell out your last name and both names are long, spelling your last name out over the phone turns into a chore you’ve never had to experience before. While that likely won’t be a deal-breaker, it is guaranteed to be an annoyance when it happens.

Hyphenated names can also cause problems when it comes to the way your name is retrieved in other company systems. If you go to pull plane tickets and you have a hyphenated last name, you may have trouble with the airlines due to having a last name like that.

You may be judged for your decision. It’s not a happy thought, but it is a reality. Women tend to get judged or be judgmental in one way or another. If you change your last name without a second thought, you’re too conservative. If you keep your maiden name, you’re an evil feminist.

Hyphenated names result in similar reactions. People may assume that because you adopted your husband’s last name and added it to yours, you’re still too conservative because you couldn’t stand up for yourself and keep your own name. From the other extreme, people may also think that you’re hyphenating to stick it to the patriarchy.

The sad truth is that it will happen, so your best bet is to be prepared and expect it. There’s nothing you can do about what people think, but you can control your reaction and choose not to care about their opinion because ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

The Positive Side of a Hyphenated Last Name

Perhaps the biggest advantage of hyphenating your last name is to stay connected to your own individual identity and still feel connected to the person you chose to marry.

As mentioned earlier, a hyphenated name also means you don’t have to feel like you must give up your professional identity either.

Hyphenated last names also keep you connected to your future children. Their names may or may not be hyphenated, so having their last name attached to yours is helpful in lots of ways from documentation to doctor visits.

There are plenty of reasons to hyphenate your name with each being a thing of compromise. Do you or don’t you want to have your name attached to your spouse? Do you or don’t you want to have your name attached to your children?

Do you want to hold on to your previous identity before you got married? Do you want to be able to follow your professional career in a more linear manner?

If you decide that you’re going to hyphenate your last name, is it then going to evolve to hyphenate both yours and his last names? If your spouse agrees, whose name is going to be first in the hyphenation?

Some of these questions seem relatively minor, but they may actually cause some strife with the other person depending on their personal perspective.

Making the Decision to Hyphenate

Deciding on a hyphenated last name is probably one of the first things you should discuss with your future spouse. It may not rank as highly as knowing if anyone has any overhanging debt, but it is pretty crucial since your name identifies who you are.

Your spouse may have had it in his head that someday he would have a family that all carried his last name. Men have dreams of families, too, and their hopes should not be wholly dismissed because that wouldn’t be fair.

Likewise, women may have dreams, too, of keeping their last names in some way or another. They should also not be disregarded from the final decision.

The bottom line is a hyphenated last name is the first of many compromises that take part in a marriage, and both of you should have something to say about the final decision.

Talk about it and decide whether or not the advantages or disadvantages of having a hyphenated last name are worth it over the long haul.

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