Once upon a time, women were expected to take their husband’s surname after getting married. It’s a romantic gesture that’s worked for centuries. But is this practice now becoming a little outdated? In order to explore this topic further, we asked 9 women why they kept their maiden names after marriage.
As Juliet famously proposed in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “Oh, what’s in a name?” It’s probably a lot less significant than you think. The truth is that sharing the same surname as your spouse isn’t a guarantee for a happy and successful marriage. In today’s modern world, marriages are more diverse and personalised than ever before. This can only be a good thing. Instead of navigating your marriage according to what society expects, newlyweds are customising their relationships to suit their own lives and needs. There’s no longer a stigma around men taking their wife’s name and women get to decide when and where they wish to use their marital name – if at all!
We’re not building a case for why you should ditch your spouse’s surname in favour of keeping your maiden name. However, if you’re concerned about the impact of changing your surname then rest assured that while you don’t need a specific reason, there are plenty out there if you’re looking! Perhaps you’re well known by your maiden name and don’t want to risk changing your surname and causing confusion in your professional life? If you and your spouse are from different countries, their surname might be difficult to pronounce or spell. On the other hand, you might just like your maiden name and want to keep it! That’s fine!
Now more than ever, women are creating their own brands and identities. We’re seeing an increasing number of women running their own businesses, many of whom are the main earners in their household. When you’ve worked hard to make a name for yourself in your industry, changing your surname after getting married could cause a lot of confusion in your professional life. Unless your business contacts know you personally and keep in touch regularly, it can be difficult to update people if and when you change your name. Although nobody wants to consider the idea of divorce upon marrying, it isn’t an impossibility.
Remember when former Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy married footballer Ashley Cole? Cheryl publicly refashioned herself as Cheryl Cole, sadly unaware that the marriage wasn’t to last. Upon remarrying a few years later, the singer changed her name once again to Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. When that marriage broke down, she reclaimed her maiden name but even now, some still know her by her marital names.
Interestingly, Elizabeth Taylor was married 8 times during her lifetime and yet, she’s only ever been recognised by her maiden name. Taylor never changed her surname publicly after any of her marriages however, while married to Richard Burton, she did use his surname in her personal life. The Cleopatra star was known publicly as Elizabeth Taylor but away from the cameras, she would sign forms under ‘Elizabeth Burton’. Liz Taylor wasn’t the only female star to have her cake and eat it too. Dolly Parton might have been married husband, Carl Dean, for 55 years but Parton is in fact her maiden name. Yet, when the wig and heels come off and she’s just Dolly at home (not that she could ever be ‘Just Dolly’) the singer uses her husband’s surname as her own, signing off as Dolly Dean.
Author, Donna Alicia Young @AliciaWriter
My name is Donna Alicia Young, and I kept my maiden name (and I use my middle name). My husband’s last name is Cocker, and I’d always loved the name Myles for a boy: But Myles Cocker?? The poor darling would have been in therapy before he was ten! Good thing we don’t have kids (we forgot).
Actually, growing up, there was simply never a question I’d keep my name. Older sisters had taken their husbands’ names, but mine was my identity. It also helped to be easily pronounced on air (as a journalist and author).
My father was mortified and started to call me “Mrs. Cocker.” I had to gently tell him my name was easy to remember: it was the same as his.
I kept my maiden name because I like my name, it grew on me as I grew up
My name wasn’t on the list of things I was willing to give up on or sacrifice when I got married.
Also didn’t expect my husband to change his name, so that worked out well .. hehe!
I married in September last year and felt strong in the decision to keep my maiden name. I have built my business around my name and published a book, and mostly felt that it is an outdated tradition that speaks more to ownership and dowries and archiac perspectives on man/wife roles.
My husband is totally supportive of this and we often refer to ourselves and “the Rhodes and Jones show”. We have our own identities within a very strong partnership.
I like the idea of this story, if nothing else, it might help a few women avoid the mountain of paperwork that comes with changing their name!
After 13 years together we got married last November and the discussion about names never came up as we both just knew I would keep mine, we never needed to have the discussion.
I think this is for a couple of reasons, I built my career, and now my small business and really my life with my surname. To have a completely new surname in my 40s just wouldn’t be true to who I am.
My husband has a brother whose wife took his surname. I didn’t want to have the same name as someone else as I see a real identify connected to my surname. Though when I got a phone call and they asked for Mrs (husband’s surname) my first thought was who’s that!
The other main reason is my surname really means something to me. I come from an Armenian background and the last 3 letters of my surname show this heritage. There is a history, a past connected to my surname and I didn’t want to give that up to take a surname that wouldn’t have the same deep meaning to me.
I did have a couple of people ask me if I was going to change my surname, but I think most people just assumed I would keep it, plus our dogs have my surname at the vet so that would make it awkward.
Silvia Mums Delivery
I have kept my maiden name for a few reasons. Here’s my story:
I have always been a ‘networker’. I have always seen the value and importance of getting to know and being known to the ‘right people’. When I got married, my career was gaining momentum and I felt it was important to keep my name as it was how people knew and could find me.
Another reason was that I felt really close to my (late) dad and was keen to maintain our name connection.
My husband (at the time… yes, we got divorced later on) never put any pressure on me – even after having kids – and I am grateful for that. I do have friends who would have happily kept their maiden names but felt a little pressured and ended up changing.
I now run my own business (MumsDelivery) and have re-married and still proudly have my dad’s family name.
I’ve been married 27 years, and have never changed my name.
It was met with some rancour back then, especially being from a small country town. I upset my mother-in-law, and copped anger from my fiance’s friends, but it wasn’t anything to do with my partners family name, and it wasn’t anything to do with keeping my family name going, as I have 2 brothers. My partner supported whatever I chose.
I just followed my gut. It felt right to me. It didn’t make sense to me to have my own name (& identity) and then change it 20 years later to another name.
I gave myself the out, that I would change it if I ran into any problems. Not sure which problems, but that gave me a sense of choice.
My now adult children are divided about it.
My eldest, who is quite traditional, said that she always felt embarrassed that we didn’t share the last name, but my other daughter and son were proud that I was an individual.
Nicola Le Lievre @nicolalelievre
My Husband wanted me to keep my maiden name.
I don’t think it is a big deal and in the 15yrs of being married never had any issues. It certainly makes no difference to our day to day lives. I think couples should be free to do whatever suits them and not feel under pressure from society or family.
When we got married we both worked on cruise ships so with visa’s and passports it was less complicated.
I have built my company around my maiden name (Le Lievre Enterprises Pty Ltd) and since I don’t have any brothers and my father has passed it means so much to carry my family name.
My husband is from The Netherlands and his last name is Zwijneneburg, not only is it difficult to pronounce it also means little pig so he was teased as a child and Zw meant he was always last to everything. This has caused much anxiety during his life and why he also wanted our daughter to have my maiden name.
I got married 9 years ago and didn’t take my husband’s name. It just felt too complicated to change my name, and I didn’t feel like his surname was “my name”. I am also a business owner, and I assume people would be confused if I changed my name, but that honestly wasn’t the motivation. My hubby was totally cool with it though.
Online Personal Stylist Reader
I’ve been able to have the best of both worlds and thankfully the ATO is ok with it! After I was married a second time, I chose to keep my maiden name as is felt a real loss of identity when my first marriage failed and I was stuck with someone else’s name. My second husband was very supportive and understanding until our first child was born. In the hospital we were told that the baby would have their name recorded on the name card as the same surname as their mother – my maiden name. So I arranged for all my personal ID to be in my married name but retained my maiden name for all work related purposes. I’m an OT and run my own private practice so it was really important to maintain that name and the reputation that went with it. My professional registration, linked in, Facebook are all in my maiden name. My passport and drivers license are in me married name. The ATO is on board so no issues at tax time and it’s easier with the kids at school to have the same surname as them.