Do I Take My Husband’s Surname?

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually. Now that the H1B and I are an official couple (lovely ceremony, thanks), the next step is to decide whether I should keep my maiden name or take his.

My initial thoughts are to take his name on a personal basis, for family reasons – and, probably more importantly, given our impending visit to the US Consulate, for smoother visa applications – but keep my maiden name on a professional basis.

But what are the real knock-on effects to taking one name or keeping the other?

A recent news story claimed that women who change their name can lose a potential $500,000 in earnings. Scrreeeech; what the..? On that basis alone, I’d be very happy to stay with the name I was born with. But we don’t really believe that, do we? I mean, they only asked 90 women, in Holland.

While we’re on the subject of money, how much does it cost to change your name anyway? Well, I’ve got a marriage certificate, so legally I’m a Mrs, but to change my name on my passport costs between £77.50 and £129.50, for a fast-track service.

To change my UK drivers license is free but I need my updated passport to change my photo – I have an unfortunate fringed bob from my 2nd year university days so might as well get that eradicated. That, and a few phone calls to the bank, mobile phone company and credit card companies, and it doesn’t seem too steep.

What about the emotional issues? Is it unfeminist to take your husband’s name? Personally I don’t think so – but then I’ve never worked out why doing something ‘feminine’ is seen as anti-feminist (if you do something because it is a reaction against male supremacy/control, doesn’t the root of that action make it inherently male-orientated?). Plus, that whole argument about being someone’s “property” feels to me about 150 years out of date.

One of the comments on this Guardian feature about whether it’s all worth the hassle calls women who change their name “spineless”. Ouch.

I feel there is something traditional, ceremonial and inherently romantic about taking your husband’s name. But I can see why women don’t – and I think that is cool too; although slightly confusing from a paperwork perspective, and most seem to change their names once they have kids anyway.

I won’t lie by saying that I’d mourn the sense of identity that is connected to my maiden name – name tapes neatly sewn in school uniforms, teenage poems in Valentine cards, first pay check, my byline. The H1B has called me by a derivative of my surname as a nickname since we got together, and I was surprisingly relieved that didn’t change after the wedding night. So maybe the name change would affect me more than I realise.

Will have to make my mind up soon.


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