Whether it’s before or after you tie the knot, the question of changing your name will likely come up at some point.
A potential name change can be a touchy subject to discuss with friends, family, and your spouse. In fact, some wedding gifts and well wishes may be made out to you with the assumption you’ll change your name. But ultimately, the decision is up to you.
There are plenty of options for you to consider when changing your name. It’s no longer the cut-and-dry case of a bride changing her given name to match the groom. Instead, many couples embrace new and unique alternatives.
Before you make a decision, reflect on the different name change options and how a name change affects your life going forward.
Related documents: Estate and Healthcare Planning
What are my options for a legal name change after marriage?
Keep your surname. This option continues to grow in popularity. It’s also the least complicated choice. If you’re both keeping your last names, there’s no need to stress about updating personal, legal, and financial documents.
- Pros: You don’t have to go through the name change process and it won’t affect you professionally. In fact, if you’ve already established your career, keeping your name supports your well-known reputation.
- Cons: Certain situations may require you to prove your marriage is legitimate. For example, you may need to present your marriage certificate if your partner becomes ill and you want to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.
Keep your surname professionally. You may have built your career or business around your name. If so, keeping your professional identity separate from your married identity may be the way to go. You might change your name legally, but continue to use your given name professionally.
- Pros: It won’t affect your professional life, but you’ll have the same last name as any children that you have with your partner.
- Cons: Having two names may be difficult to keep track of. Explaining this to employers, clients, and business acquaintances may become tedious.
Make your surname your middle name. If you want the best of both worlds, make your last name your middle name and take your partner’s name as your last.
For example, Jesse Miller marries Steve MacDonald and changes her name to Jesse Miller MacDonald.
- Pros: It’s an easy way to add your partner’s name to yours without giving up a part of your identity.
- Cons: Some last names just don’t make nice middle names. This option may also give you quite a long moniker.
Use each other’s last names as middle names. This romantic gesture doesn’t affect your professional name. You both keep your surnames but take on a part of the other person’s name as well.
- Pros: It’s a nice way to include your spouse’s name without dramatically changing your personal or professional identity.
- Cons: Again, some last names make for unpleasant middle names and lengthy signatures.
Hyphenate both names. This is a common solution to the name change issue. Either one partner or both hyphenates their last name with their partner’s.
- Pros: It’s an easy solution that often pleases both parties and their families. If you have a professional reputation, people will still be able to find you.
- Cons: Hyphenating your names could result in a long, awkward, and complicated last name. If you have children, they may not keep both names.
Combine your names. This a creative and interesting approach that adds a new level of unity to your relationship.
Example: If your last names are Miller and MacDonald, MacMiller might be the surname for you and your spouse.
- Pros: It adds to the feeling of having a family unit, and it keeps one of you from feeling bitter about changing your name. It represents the merging of your families together.
- Cons: It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone in your life. Not only will you have to change it legally, but you’ll also have to explain it to everyone you know.
Create a last name. Make up a last name that works for both of you. Base it on shared interests, a mix of the letters in your current surnames, or take the name of an influential ancestor from long ago.
- Pros: If you’re both willing, it’s a creative and individualistic way to set your family apart in its own group.
- Cons: Friends and family will either love it or hate it. People will be confused and may not approve.
Change your name to your match your spouse. This is the most traditional option. Usually, a bride takes her husband’s last name. However, some adventurous grooms take the last names of their wives. Plus, same-sex couples are making their own traditions.
- Pros: Most people expect this type of name change. It also makes it easier if you have children, travel together, or have any medical issues.
- Cons: If you’ve built yourself a professional reputation using your surname, changing it may cause confusion and a loss of reputation and profit.
How would a name change affect my child?
The name you choose to keep or take has an effect on your family, including any future children that you may have. What works for you as a couple may not work as well for your family. Though it might seem cute and clever to you, it may cause your kids embarrassment or your family to feel disrespected.
If you keep your last name, whose name will you give to your children? If you hyphenate, they may not keep it that way when they decide to get married or have children. The same goes for any other creations or combinations of surnames you take.
On the other hand, having a different last name from your children can make travel, hospital visits, and school pick-ups more of a hassle than if you had the same surname.
If you end up getting a divorce or separation, think about if you would keep the name that you chose when you got married. Remember that even though you may no longer want to keep it, any children that you have might.
Changing a minor child’s name typically requires the consent of both parents. In many states, you’ll have to file a petition in court, attend a hearing, and provide a valid reason for the change. If your spouse objects to the change, you may both need to testify before a judge makes a decision. Depending on your child’s age, they might also have to sign a consent form.
Legal processes vary by state, but it’s best to perform a name change according to the law so that you avoid problems later.
How much does it cost to change your name?
A legal name change can cost hundreds of dollars, but the price varies depending on where you live and the type of name change. In the United States, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $400.
For example, typical fees for a less traditional name change include:
- Filing a petition in court
- Publishing a notice of the change in a newspaper
- Hiring an attorney (which you may need if someone contests the change)
- Changing the name on official documents, such as a birth certificate or license
If the name change involves a wife taking the last name of her husband, you’ll likely be able to avoid a lengthy court process. In this case, simply provide your marriage certificate to the institutions responsible for changing names on official documents (such as your bank or local registry).
What documents do I need to update after a name change?
You should update all official documents and accounts after a legal name change, including your:
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license
- Health cards
- Banking information
- Insurance, bills, utilities
- Social media and email address
Importantly, remember to update your estate planning documents. Marriage is a major life event that affects several legal and financial aspects of your life. As such, you must ensure that documents such as a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Directive, and Power of Attorney reflect your current status and wishes.
Don’t forget to inform your doctor, landlord, employer, and post service as well.
Changing your name after marriage
Remember that the name change process isn’t always cheap or easy, and it may affect future generations of your family too. But, ultimately, the name that you choose is one that you’ll have to live with. The name should suit both your personality and your beliefs.