Should You Change Your Last Name? (This Bride Did—kind of)

Etiquette
Wedding Sari - Anna Maltby Wedding by Oh, Darling! Photography

Photo: Oh, Darling! Photography

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? In the weeks leading up to her wedding, guest blogger Anna Maltby gave us the inside scoop on planning an interfaith wedding ceremony, nailing your engagement photo shoot, and more. With the big, beautiful day behind her, Anna gives us a sneak peek of her gorgeous wedding photos and a few pieces of invaluable bridal advice.

When you get engaged, you get a lot of the same questions over and over again. It's kind of like when you break your arm and people see the cast—"What did you do?!" "How long do you have to wear that thing for?" "How do you... uh... shower?!" If people get wind of the fact that a wedding is on the horizon, they instantly want to know how he proposed, where and when you'll have it, and, inevitably, whether you're going to change your name. It kind of blows my mind that they care, but they do, so let me state here for the record why I am indeed changing my last name—for the most part, anyway.

Let's start with the fact that I'm a feminist. We're in a funny time to get married, feminism-wise, and nowhere is it more apparent than the name change issue. We're—thankfully!—way past the days when there was absolutely no question that wives would submit to husbands and completely shed their identities for the sake of joining his family. We're also past the days when feminist women felt they had no choice but to keep their maiden names for the sake of maintaining their identities and their autonomy (feminism equals choices!). But weirdly enough, I think we're also past the time when a feminist woman, who actually wanted to adopt part of her husband's identity, felt that the best way to go was simply to hyphenate their last names and use both. Why?

Uh, honestly, hyphenating kind of sucks.

Friends with hyphenated last names, believe me, I think they are very pretty! But I find that you're generally the first people to admit that hyphenation is clunky and awkward and annoying as heck, especially when you have to spell your name over the phone to the Time Warner Cable people. (One of my colleagues recently told me that opting to hyphenate was the worst decision she's ever made—and her husband did it, too!) As a proud, independent woman who also really loves her husband's family, but really doesn't want to deal with that kind of crap (or make her kids do it, either), I just knew that wasn't going to be the right road for me.

Brooklyn engagement photo shoot - Oh, Darling! Photography

Photo: Oh, Darling! Photography

So what I ended up with is this: I'm taking my husband's name legally and, I guess, personally (meet Anna Patil!) but not professionally (after all, my byline has been Anna Maltby for years). I know it's not going to be foolproof, but I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.

Anyway, a thing you will find when you're approaching this issue is that—just like how everyone wants to know whether you're changing your name—they also all have pretty strong opinions about it, too. Some of them will tell you they really regret changing their names and urge you not to; others will insist that you do it or you're a terrible person and you don't really love your husband. In fact, a 2011 study in the journal Gender and Society found that up to 50 percent of Americans might actually support a law requiring women to take their husband's name upon marriage! (No word on what they think same-sex couples should do—though I'm just guessing that 50 percent probably isn't all that into gay marriage in the first place.)

All I can say is, this is a decision that's likely going to take a while to make—so don't let it fall too far toward the back burner during your planning process. I have to admit that I scoffed when Kim Kardashian acted so shocked and confused when her marriage license application required her to state whether she was changing her name (OK, yes, I also admit that I watched the Kim Kardashian wedding special—I was on a plane! Give me a break!), but when it comes to filling in that box, it's a pretty big moment. You'll want to be ready.

Though if you think there's a pretty good chance your marriage will last 72 days or less, I might suggest you lean toward sticking with your maiden name.

—Anna Maltby

Read more about Anna's wedding planning and inspiration here.

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