Playing the Married Name Game

With all of these high profile women dealing with name change turmoil, what is a newlywed to do? Follow this 5 steps to ensure that playing the married name game results in your perfect name.
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After saying "I do," there's a whirlwind of well wishes, honeymoon travel and settling into newlywed life. Typically as soon as the wedding ring is on her finger, a bride is inundated with questions about changing her name from everyone including well meaning relatives (ahem Mother-in-Laws), TSA, friends, and colleagues. You may be thinking "Why all the name change drama in 2014?" The truth of the matter is that name change has been and still is a highly charged topic.

Amal Alamuddin made major waves after she changed her name to Amal Clooney last month. Many feminists were outraged that a high profile international lawyer would take her spouse's last name, while other women applauded what they saw as a romantic gesture. Regardless of what side they were on, the general public had an opinion on what should be a newlywed woman's private decision on her name change.

Similarly, Michelle Nunn is facing controversy around keeping her maiden name after marriage. As a Democratic Senate candidate, her competitors were voicing concerns that she kept her maiden name to cash in on the political goodwill associated with her father. There's also speculation that Hillary didn't take Clinton as a last name until her lack of name change was implicated as part of the reason Bill Clinton was not re-elected as Governor back in 1980.

With all of these high profile women dealing with name change turmoil, what is a newlywed to do? Follow these five steps to ensure that playing the married name game results in your perfect name:

  1. Know Your Options: Today's brides can opt to hyphenate their maiden name with their spouse's, take two last names sans hyphen, take their maiden name as a middle name, take their spouse's last name or keep their maiden name post-marriage. The multitude of choices allow women to find the options that best suit them and their lifestyle.

  • Understand State Laws: The state you live in dictates what name change options are available to you, so it is important to research your state's laws. For example, brides living in CA, WA, NJ and OH cannot take their maiden names as a middle name and brides living in NY and PA have to file their government forms in a specific sequence in order to do so.
  • Consult Your Spouse: Knowing your spouse's thoughts on name change is a must. They may be adamant that you take their family name or they might offer to take yours. Starting newlywed life with open communication and compromise is the key to a happy marriage.
  • Consider the Future: Do you plan to have children and/or build a business off of your current name or career? Is it important that you have the same name as your family or to be recognized under your maiden name? Thinking about future plans can lend clarity to your name change choice and prevent years of regret.
  • Be True to You: At the end of the day, your name change is your choice. While it is wise to consider the various aspects of your life and relationship that may influence that choice, you need to make the decision that you feel most comfortable with. Remember you're the person who will use that name for the rest of your life!
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