Can I Keep My Last Name After Marriage?

As you prepare for that special day when you’ll walk down the aisle to take vows with your beloved, you might have some questions about the process. One such question many women have is, “Can I keep my last name after marriage?” The majority of women throughout history and in modern society take their husbands’ surnames, a centuries-old tradition.

However, recent years have seen an increasing trend in brides retaining their maiden names or choosing alternatives. Despite the legal benefits of marriage, some newlyweds gawk at the hassle a name change creates. City Hall Wedding breaks down the prevailing tradition and helps you choose the best route for you and your spouse below.

A photo of a certificate of live birth.

The History of Challenging Tradition

Women giving up their maiden surnames has deep traditional roots. In more archaic societies, name changes demonstrated ownership shifts. The woman once belonged to her father. Following marriage, she belonged to her husband, replacing her father’s surname with her new spouse’s.

In more recent history, women took their husbands’ surnames to secure various rights, including voter registration, credit card ownership, and the ability to take their children home from school. One woman challenged the status quo in the mid-1800s.

Lucy Stone insisted she retain her maiden surname, resulting in nullified voting rights in the following elections. In the early 1900s, Frances Perkins became the first woman to occupy a cabinet seat. She, too, kept her widely-known maiden name due to her career.

Women historically receive backlash from the public and family members when they choose their original last names over their husbands’. However, modern culture has increasingly encouraged women to keep their identities despite exterior resistance. Moreover, a growing number of marriages between same-sex couples has brought the outdated tradition further into question.

How Women Make Surname Decisions

You don’t have to limit your surname choices in marriage to your maiden name or your partner’s last name. Many couples choose married name options that help them reach a compromise by blending both parties’ identities. Some examples of this include:

  • Hyphenating both last names
  • Blending each name into a single surname
  • Rare instances where a husband takes his wife’s last name

Other couples have creative ways to represent both sides of their families. You can explore these to find an approach that fits you and your spouse.

Can I Keep My Last Name After Marriage?

You can keep your last name after marriage. Some individuals even encourage others to do so. The changing surname choice rests squarely on your and your spouse’s shoulders.

Other parties might provide input. However, you should discuss it with your partner first. Then, determine what makes you feel comfortable and seen in the long term.

Remember, retaining your maiden name offers the easiest option. If you get married in San Francisco, you just need a recognized marriage license and an officiated ceremony. A recognized marriage does not require a last name change after the wedding.

Reasons To Keep Your Last Name After the Wedding

“For what reasons can I keep my last name after marriage?”

Many spouses-to-be have questions like this. While you don’t necessarily need a reason beyond your sense of comfort and identity, you may prefer to have one on hand to squash curious or even judgmental inquiries. Find reasons that suit you below.

Maintain Your Family’s Name

Maybe you want to keep your family’s name going, especially if you have children. The status quo favors husbands over their wives when assigning surnames to their kids, especially when the wife has taken her spouse’s name. However, you might want your children to have your name.

A Career Based on Your Name

Perhaps you’ve built a flourishing career long before marriage. You might have the following pertinent milestones under your maiden name:

  • Degrees and diplomas
  • Published works
  • A personal brand
  • Certifications

Changing your last name might confuse others within your industry., which means you may prefer to keep it.

It Costs to Change Names

Your post-marriage name decision might cost money, time, and energy if you change your surname. Every identification document must reflect your new identity, including:

  • Social security cards
  • Licenses
  • Financial accounts
  • Service accounts
  • Employment information
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Voter registration
  • Digital assets like email addresses and social media profiles

Name changes can require a significant amount of money and several tedious hours.

Other Surname Options

Maybe you’d prefer to connect your and your spouse’s identity in a way that honors each person. After all, a marriage should reflect two individuals becoming whole together. Finding a satisfactory way to combine your names may honor your personal histories and loving union.


Many couples opt for a hyphenated surname. They combine each last name into one, separating it with a hyphen. For example, Mr. Silvers marries Ms. Hackney.

They might choose between Silvers-Hackney or Hackney-Silvers. They honor both full surnames while demonstrating their marital unity.

Name Blending

Not every potential hyphenation will be as snappy or natural as Mr. and Mrs. Hackney-Silvers. If you or your spouse-to-be have long surnames, you might struggle to keep your hyphenated surname within a document’s allotted signature space. Name-blending might work best in such situations.

For example, Ms. Espinoza and Ms. Michelangelo want to represent their last names equally. However, a hyphenation between a four-syllable and a five-syllable last name just doesn’t roll off the tongue. Instead, they opt for a blend of the two: Michelanza or Espinolo.

The Choice Is Yours and Your Partner’s

“Can I keep my last name after marriage?”

Ultimately, the final decision rests with you and your fiance. You may prefer the traditional approach and take your spouse’s last name to honor their wishes. Alternatively, you might insist they share yours, or you each retain your surnames.

Regardless of your choice, you can turn to City Hall Wedding for information about premarital counseling and other resources that help you build a strong foundation for your marriage. Comment or contact us about topics you’d like our team to cover.

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