When my husband and I got married, I decided to follow tradition and, like nearly 80 percent of married women, took his last name. For me, it was more a pragmatic decision than a romantic one. My maiden name was long, complicated, and difficult to pronounce. His was easy, and I knew I wanted our future kids to have his name. For some couples, however, the choice of what last name to carry into married life isn't as straightforward, leading some men to opt to change their names instead.
While there have been some high-profile examples of husbands taking their wives' names (actress Zoe Saldana's partner, for example), men changing their names after marriage is still so rare that it is difficult to find hard numbers on how many men are opting to hyphenate, create a new last name, or fully adopt their bride's last name as their own.
So, what does motivate those rare guys to make the unconventional decision, and what happens after they give up their "maiden" names?
For Kevin Park, of San Francisco, California, the decision to take his wife's last name came out of a desire to honor the couple's ethnic heritage. "I was born in South Korea but adopted by a family in the United States and grew up with a very 'white' last name. My wife is also Korean and we just felt like it would be odd to someday raise Korean kids with a totally non-Korean name. Sharing her last name makes me feel like we are being intentional about raising our kids in our heritage."
Sometimes opting to create a new last name comes out of a sense of wanting to go against tradition and to create a modern twist on the family name, according to Dan Stryker of Cloverdale, California. He explains, "Honestly, it started out as a bit of a joke. I thought it was funny and interesting that the letters of our last names combined so nearly into a new name. Eventually, though, it seemed like a great idea. The medieval transfer-of-property connotations of a woman taking her husband's last name were always kind of weird to me. And we were creating and formalizing a new family, so it seemed like the thing to do."
Given the rarity of guys who change their names, it isn't surprising that men who do might encounter some interesting reactions. Park notes, "We live in a pretty liberal area, but I still have to explain it a lot more than I thought I would. I also had to work hard to make sure my parents didn't think I was trying to reject them."
Dan Stryker found that the "response has generally been neutral-to-positive, though it took my parents a little while to come around. The only really negative response was from my grandmother, which was -- hoo boy, that's a long story."
Grandmothers aside, it is awesome that both Kevin and Dan have had positive experiences. Also happy about Kevin's decision? His wife, Min, who keeps it real when she says, "I was just happy that it was him and NOT me who had to go through all the paperwork and trips to the Social Security office to get his name change. What a hassle. I'm happy to keep my last name if I can skip paperwork!"