Weddings

Is changing your surname after marriage right for you?

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Weddings

Is changing your surname after marriage right for you?

Getting married means changing your last name to match your husband's. Or does it? Our experts outline five reasons why you should—or shouldn't—change your surname after marriage.

Regardless of wealth, status or age, all brides struggle with the name change dilemma. Should you keep your maiden name or switch to your husband's surname? Three experts lead us through the arguments for and against changing your last name.

5 reasons to keep your maiden name

1. A name change could harm you professionally.
Much of today's business is conducted over the phone, through email and on the Internet. As a result, your name is often better known than your face. Swapping surnames can spark confusion for clients, coworkers and future employers.

"Definitely keep your maiden name if you've got a good workplace reputation," says Tracey Manailescu, cofounder and vice-president of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada. You don't want your new married surname to erase your hard-earned reputation and make people think that you've left your field or the company.

2. You don't like his surname. You adore his smile, his goofy laugh and his taste in chick flicks, but you hate his surname.
"If you don't like it or can't pronounce it, you might prefer your own name," says Roxanne Friedenfels, a sociology professor at New Jersey's Drew University and a board member of the Lucy Stone League, an association devoted to name choice equality.

And if the combination of your given name and his surname is a tongue twister or turns you into a joke, you might also want to stick with what you already have.

3. Paperwork gives you a headache.
Changing a surname involves a time-consuming maze of paperwork. You'll have to change your passport, Social Insurance Number card, driver's licence, vehicle registration, bank accounts, credit cards and your mortgage or lease.

If you want to cover all the bases, don't forget any magazine subscriptions, loyalty shopping cards, favourite charities, alumni organizations and memberships. You'll also need to notify your employer, the Canada Revenue Agency and all your doctors.

"They're all different forms or phone calls," says Jo-Anne Stayner, the founder of I'm a Mrs., an online service that helps brides organize their name changes. If it sounds like too much to handle, keep your name and skip the paperwork.

4. You're proud of your identity.
Being branded since birth with a certain name, it's not surprising that you might be hesitant to let it go.

"Your name is part of who you are," says Friedenfels. If you're particularly proud of your family's heritage, you might want to hang on to the name and all it represents—ethnically, culturally and personally. It's not a knock against your husband or in-laws; you're just devoted to your history.

5. You're a feminist.
"Some brides believe that women have fought so hard to be equal, why should they be the ones to change their names?" says Stayner.

"Shouldn't the men [change theirs]?" ask Friedenfels. "Some women feel that they have a right to their ongoing identity. And one of their rights is the right to keep their name," she says. Taking your husband's name contradicts such beliefs.

5 reasons to take his surname

1. You're a traditionalist.
"Brides fall in love with the romantic, old-fashioned aspect of a wedding, including the name change," says Stayner.

There's something comforting about a custom that has been passed down through the ages. If following the path of billions of women before you is important to you, accepting your husband's surname might be the right decision for you.

2. You hate your maiden name.
Do you have a surname that doesn't gel with your first name? Have you always hated the way it sounds? Getting married is the perfect opportunity to ditch a last name that doesn't suit you.

"If your maiden name is hard to pronounce or you were teased as a kid, you might want something else," says Stayner. And if your hubby has a strong, likable surname, it's a win-win situation.

3. You hate explaining your relationship.
When you're married and sharing the same name, no explanations are necessary. But if you're hitched with different surnames, prepare for questions from the bank, at the airport immigration desk and even from distant relatives.

"You shouldn't have to keep explaining yourself," says Manailescu. Being Mrs. So-and-So solves this problem.

4. You want the same name as your kids.
Navigating through life with a different surname from your husband can be difficult, but it's even harder when you have kids. "If you have a different last name from your kids, it makes the situation more complicated," says Stayner. You'll need an explanation at school, the doctor's office and when you travel.

Plus, your kids may question why their surname is different than yours. "Same surnames make it easier for the child," says Manailescu.

5. You're excited about being a Mrs.
"Some women have dreamt of getting married their entire life," says Stayner. "They get all gooey about becoming a Mrs." Getting married is a huge milestone for many—just like landing that first job and buying a home. It feels grown up. Adding Mrs. to your identity is the icing on the wedding cake.

Not all brides will adopt their hubby's surname, but according to Stayner, the majority will take that leap. "In our 2009 study, 82 per cent of brides in Canada changed their name within the first two years of marriage," she says.

That statistic continues to hold its ground as the years pass by. "It comes down to everyone's personal preference," she continues. Ultimately, your decision should be one that satisfies both you and your husband.

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