Maiden Vs. Married Name: To Change Or Not To Change



Many people don’t know that my last name hasn’t always been Mahady. I’ve never had a close relationship with my father and an even less close one with his name. It was a bad one. German, hard to pronounce, and easily confused with something you wouldn’t want to be taunted with as a kindergartner.

So, when I was 18, in homage to my mother and her parents – the people who actually raised me – I changed my last name to theirs. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am proud to be a Mahady and am grateful for the even stronger connection it has given me to my maternal parentage.

Since then, I’ve always known that it would have to take a name infinitely more awesome than mine to get me to change it again (in the event that I get married to an equally awesome man, of course).

Despite my clear preference for my own, there actually are other names out there that would fit the bill. For example, most of the Irish surnames are pretty good or those really cool British or Scottish names. I work with a woman whose married name is Lovely. You can’t get much better than that.

Hyphenating could be an option, but honestly, I have a long enough name as it is. And keeping my maiden name as my middle name? Come on. How often do we even use our middle names? That would be a demotion of the highest order.

Suffice it to say, I’m a name snob and I must admit that in a dating situation, I probably spend too much time thinking about what my first name would sound like with his last name.

A guy’s preference

Now don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t not date a person if he had a horrible last name, but should our relationship get serious, it could create an obstacle. Because even in these modern times, most of them men I’ve met have set a pretty clear expectation that when it comes to getting married, they expect their wife to take their name.

Most people agree that the whole idea of brides relinquishing their maiden name for their husbands’ is really a product of one’s culture, not religion. (Muslims are a notable exception. Women are forbidden from taking their husbands’ names since it could convey some notion of a husband owning his wife, an idea frowned upon in the mainstream Muslim world).

There aren’t even many hard statistics on how many women decide to keep their maiden names (the figures seem to hover somewhere around the 15 percent mark) and there is no real data out there to suggest how many Catholic women do so.

But these days, so much of our culture is tied to a particular religion, even in the U.S. The Western European-Puritanical structure upon which our nation was founded – and in which it was standard for the wife to take the husband’s name — is still present. We may not be Puritans, but we still live largely in the culture they created.

But it’s not all societal. There is scripture that, depending on the context in which you choose to read it, could support the idea that a wife changing her name to her husband’s is in accordance to the will of God.

Wives, submit to your husbands as the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

Again, context is everything (or nothing, depending on your views) when reading that passage, and I think, dear readers, you can guess my thoughts. But it is interesting that a lot of my married friends changed their names with passages like that in mind, doing so in order that they could feel closer or more connected with their spouses (with the secondary, never-mentioned-until-after-the-honeymoon reason being that their husbands wanted them to).

Sure. I guess that’s a fair. But if you need to change your name in order to feel connected to your spouse (or them to you) – even if it’s just to emphasize, not create, that connection – I think that still says something.

Give and take

Granted, someone could switch that statement around on me, too: Why am I so stubborn about giving up my name? What if I was about to marry the love of my life and he just couldn’t live with me keeping my name?

Well, first of all, the love of my life would never let something like that get in the way of our relationship (he’s awesome, remember). He could share his opinion, but in the end, he would understand that it’s my name and my choice, and he’d be OK with whatever I decided.

I also think that a marriage should be a partnership, an equal give-and-take. And if my husband-to-be wouldn’t want to give up his name, then why should I?

I love my name. And I think anyone who will love me enough to marry me (opinions and all) will love that I love my name and understand my reasons why — because I love the family that gave me that name, I love the life I lead with that name, and because the love that we will share should and will transcend any name.



  1. Lindsay K. October 15, 2016 Reply

    As a fellow writer who has written about this same topic, I completely connect with you on all levels, including dealing with the asinine comments from others. When my piece went viral, I was thrilled to connect with many like-minded men and women around the globe but it also attracted many readers and comments as you have had. I’m glad there are people like you writing about this. Keep up the good work.

  2. Mel-398726 April 9, 2014 Reply

    In regards to the argument about leaving one family to join another…I think it’s antiquated. It stems from a time when a woman lived with her family until she married. Then she would leave her childhood home, and move in with her husband’s family — this included his parents, siblings, and any extended family living there as well. It would make sense, for continuity, that the woman take his name. However, in today’s world, a newly married couple typically lives on their own, and most likely had been living away from their parents for some time.

    This tradition also stems from a time when you simply assumed a name. In today’s world, you go to the courts to file for a new name, then the social security office, and then you can get a new drivers license and passport. After that happens, you start updating credit cards, loans, property documents, work information, utilities, other bills, etc. It gets to be an administrative nightmare sometimes. The nightmare worsens for those of us who have been on our own a while, and have a number of official documents to update.

    I get the argument others have made about forming a new family…but if a new family is truly being formed, why does the man get to keep his name? Shouldn’t he be willing to change his name, as a way to show that he’s forsaking all others, and putting his wife above even his parents? A friend of mine and her husband did just that. They’re both only children, born to only children, born to only children. With their marriage, one of their names would essentially end, and neither one wanted that to happen. So they became HisnameHername, I loved the symbolism of it — they both made a conscious decision to form a completely new family unit, without anyone sacrificing their past.

    For me, personally, I won’t be changing my name. Mel is actually a nickname, blending my first and middle names. It flows incredibly well with my last name, and I’m well-established in my career, and professionally recognized with my maiden name. If I drop my middle name, and make my last name my middle name, my nickname won’t make sense. I think it also would disrespect my parents, who named me after a deceased family member. I could hyphenate, but with a 10 letter maiden name, that’s a bit ridiculous. I’d be very happy to go by my hypothetical married last name socially. I’m certainly not the type to icily bark, “it’s MIZ MaidenName to you!” if someone calls me Mrs MarriedName.

    If I were serious with a guy, and he demanded I change my name to his after we’re married, I’d think twice about getting involved with him. If he’s that demanding about administrative actions, what else would he demand I change for him?

  3. Paul S. February 3, 2014 Reply

    These comments are mostly ridiculous and judgmental. I get the points about two becoming one and sharing a name — but why is it automatically assumed that that name is the husbands name? The person who commented about who are you closer to, your husband or your dad, I’ve got a question for you: who are you closer to, your wife or your dad? The logic here is just doesn’t work if you think about it for more than 30 seconds. In some catholic cultures, women don’t take the name of their husbands (Italy, for example). This judgmental crap about other people’s marriages and decisions about their names is outrageous and is shameful on a site dedicated to Roman Catholicism. Grow up, people.

    • Darby P. February 5, 2014 Reply

      ^Completely agree, I couldn’t believe the comments when reading through them. According to some commenters, if I were to hyphenate or keep my birth name I am pro-choice and not willing to die for my husband (as that was his reason for why the wife should take his name), both of which are wrong assumptions or insinuations. Thank you for your light at the end of a string of judgmental comments!

    • Meg-1295012 May 27, 2016 Reply

      We are just talking about the name subject, nothing here judgmental – not in my book. What about if the man does not want YOU (women) to take his name. No mention at all of that at all!!

  4. Lynn-189934 June 17, 2013 Reply

    Not taking my surname is a deal breaker for me. If you want to marry me and sleep with me, you can be identified as my wife so that there isn’t this bogus 70’s liberation confusion garbage (i.e. Ann Romano being the mother of Julie and Barbara Cooper) and being “Ms.” When a woman is known in certain professions (i.e. journalist, newscaster, author, actress) by a maiden name, she could use it professionally. I personally like the example of Laura Ingalls—she used her maiden name as a middle name. I really don’t care for women who keep their own name other than in professional circles. . .

  5. Zhi-16063 November 20, 2010 Reply

    My name which, like my chromosomes,I didn’t choose, identifies me. It’s my identity.I may not like my identity, but changing it would mean loosing years of my life, visibility, contact with people… I am not that ashamed of my past…

    The name formatting is cultural.
    -In Iceland few people have a family name. Since 1925 it’s forbidden to create a new one. It’s normally “own name” followed by “son/daughter” of “father own name”/”mother own name”. It’s forbidden to change.
    -In China where I am now it’s “family surname” (Very difficult to change) followed by “given name”. Wedding doesn’t change name and children have no problem bearing father family name(Or sometimes mother family name)
    -I was born in France were the form is “given name(s)” followed by “family surname”. Relating to this article preference to one side mother or father: Provided family names exist, are the rule in my country, I would prefer (Provided it’s now allowed in France, I would like to use it if I had children) a reference to both sides (Like chromosomes), a double family name, like Spain or Portugal systems. It relates to father and mother origin but at the same time is different from them (Not annexed on one side or the other… I know how complicated, even “confusing” can be some “families”. Sharing a not widespread same family surname in case of “polygamist tendancies”, can be painful for children “to be one”). I don’t relate at all to the concept “one name to be one” (But which one? 😉 ). When we say “Our Father” we don’t say “Give us our bread for once in a lifetime” we say “Give us THIS day our DAILY bread”. As christians we don’t leave in the past, neither in the future, we live in the present moment. As christians more than to HAVE, more than to OWN, we must BE. “To be one” is not something we have, it might be something we want to tend to be at every moment of our life… It’s not “won”, it’s to win, again and again… until death tear us apart….

    I won’t give up my identity and don’t expect it from another human being.

    Don’t get me wrong. If I get married I would be very demanding about some domains (Communication, values, plenty of commitments…) because we are worth it… But the name has nothing to do with it. I couldn’t think, in the depths of my mind, of my wife otherwise than with her own identity because I would feel closer to this identity of her own. This said, she does what she wants…

  6. Brian-391948 November 19, 2010 Reply

    I tell all my female students to keep their unmarried names professionally, whatever they do socially. If half your publications are listed under one name and half under another, people won’t see the full record of your achievements. You have to think about that even if you are already married when you start your career, since you may be widowed at any time. (My mother, by the way, was always Eve Maidenname in her professional life as a journalist and Mrs. Adam Marriedname in her social life.)

  7. Oliver-532538 November 18, 2010 Reply

    personally, I feel you are out of touch with the union of man and wife. When changing your last name, becomes an issue. Who you choose as your husband, should represent a union of the two of you, which is represented by one name. There should be no reason why you should want to keep your maiden name. Your union should be the priority here, not holding on to your past. You are no longer belonging to your past family. You now by your own commitment belong to a new family, you, yourself and God. Let go of your past! If you feel that strong for your present family, then stay there, enjoy them and your life with your families last name, but don’t marry your not ready to let go and start your own. Just my opinion.

  8. MariaIsabel-374991 November 18, 2010 Reply


  9. Gerard-478574 November 18, 2010 Reply

    To me it’s quite simple and most women have not really thought about it from this persepctive. Once you get married, to whom are you more loyal and connected, your husband, or your father?

  10. Rosanna-606967 November 17, 2010 Reply

    What do you mean that in the Muslim world women do not take their husbands’ names? My sister took her husband’s last name and he is Muslim.

    Also, in Spain women do not take their husbands’ last names. Everyone there has two last names. The first last name from their father and the second last name from their mother.

  11. Maureen-606966 November 17, 2010 Reply

    Personally, I don’t plan on keeping my maiden name. When, Lord willing, I meet the right guy, I will take his name.
    However, I don’t judge those who do keep their maiden name. Why is it somehow selfish and a red flag for a woman to keep her own name? Why can’t a man take a woman’s name to become one?

  12. Lindsey-598427 November 16, 2010 Reply

    Wow, I too, Tanya, thought that this MUST have been a joke, it was just that absurd. I completely agree with Andrew and Michael. This keeping your own name mentality is completely a product of the feminism that is taking over our culture; this same culture that gave birth to contraception, divorce and abortion. I’m sure you’re thinking that keeping your own name is such a little thing in comparison, but it is the same mentality of keeping your “identity” that leads to the more serious things I mentioned. How can you truly become one, like the Bible says, if you aren’t even able to make the small sacrifice of giving up your name to show in a small way that you are committed to the covenant you make with your spouse and God? Like Michael said, your husband will give you his all, even protecting you to the point of dying for you, and you can’t even give up your name for him in return? And not only give up your family name, but take on a new family name that shows your acceptance and commitment to your new vocation in life: that of starting a family of your own. No matter if my future husband has a horrible last name, I will take his name, because it is the least I can do to show him, and God, that I am completely committed to my marriage. “The two shall become one” not, “The two shall become two closer individuals.”

  13. Andrea-368827 November 16, 2010 Reply

    I believe women should keep their maiden name – it is the connection to their family history. I think it is terrible, how I could run into a older female cousin and have no idea I am related to them. A woman’s maiden name should be on their tombstone and it should be kept in some form while they are alive. Women should not be asked to give up their family history and identity. Two become one, really happens when a couple has a child. I would choose to give a child my maiden name as a middle name. Culturally, I think this would be unsettling for some at first, but I think it is like – how Mrs. John Doe has faded – we wouldn’t really know if John was married to Jennifer or Christina – and from the way it sounds would it even matter – cause John Doe is all that matters.

  14. Michael-13731 November 15, 2010 Reply

    I’d agree with Jennifer comments. Your previous family isn’t less important, but you are starting a new life when you become married to someone.

    I don’t ask much from a would-be wife. But, I would ask her to take my name. I’m willing to give her everything of me, and I’d be will to die for her. I just ask she be faithful to our vows, and take my name.

    In the Bible, ‘two, become one’. When you get married, you become ‘one’. How else do you become one when you don’t even have the same family name? Then, it is just two individuals, instead of one.

  15. Tanya-63933 November 14, 2010 Reply

    This was written as a jokey-fluff piece, right? The tone, language, and sentiments of the first seven paragraphs made me think I was being punk’d. By the time I got to the astounding fact that Americans are still largely living in a Puritanical construct as way of explaining why so many women still take their husbands’ surnames as their own, I was sure of it.

    • Andrew-404607 November 14, 2010 Reply

      To Serve, Not To BE Served. Egocentric. One, two, ZERO.

      Has it come to this? I WANT my name?! As a general rule (to guide my vote), I never vote for someone who has two last names (hyphenated)…because typically, they are ‘pro-choice’ among other things, not to be trusted.They worry themselves about who they are and they don’t what to lose their ‘identity’, as if their name defines who they are. Another excuse being the name-change documentation process is too much of a headache because of career/financial and other worldly track records.

      We will be given a new name in Heaven, “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). Do we refuse it if we don’t like it?! And say, I like my earthly name?! Heaven is a marriage with Christ, and He will give you a new name, He is the bridegroom…do you have the audacity to reject it and demand you keep yours?! LOL!!!

      How did this blasphemous opinion piece slip through the editing process and become a main feature on this site? Have the liberal media taken over CatholicMatch now, too?

  16. John-43975 November 13, 2010 Reply

    If she keeps her name that’s an immediate red flag for me. It’s interesting that as we’ve gotten farther away from our Lord as a culture that we’ve had less unity not only in family surnames, but in language itself. Think of the Lord’s prayer that was given to us by Jesus, “… hallowed be thy name.” Are we not made in the image and likeness of God? Are we not to give significance to unity in family name, just as there is unity in Christ and His Church under the name Christians?

  17. Ana-608593 November 13, 2010 Reply

    In other cultures woman keep their maiden names and I think that is very cool.

  18. Martin-570354 November 13, 2010 Reply

    Taking your husband’s name may be cute for a couple out of high school with no real back-story but as you mature the enormous hassles of changing records, IDs, credit history etc, especially for someone in a profession – just for pure vanity, is just ridiculous. I would discourage my spouse from taking my name (which I like very much), just for practical reasons. For the kids, it’s the least of their worries if Mom and Dad have different last names.

  19. Jorelyn-541365 November 13, 2010 Reply

    thats a facted anyway i love my name and last name as my middle name is MAHUSAY means good names in our language…….and i love my name JORELYN my parents wasn’t the 1 who chose it it was a cathedral spanish priest who given that to my parents and i love that name.

    have you had heard that name around??? But the story goes once we get married its all up to us if we change our status for me its great to be 1ness a strong hold by our husbands name, because once we had, have children the family name begins with your husbands name wither you like it or not.we need to be dedicated to our family of our own

  20. Ryan-514047 November 13, 2010 Reply

    “Now don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t not date a person if he had a horrible last name, but should our relationship get serious, it could create an obstacle.”

    That seems very shallow. Now, if the man’s last name and your first name ended up rhyming – terribly – I’d agree you two could work something out! If my last name was Rotella, and I proposed to a woman named Ella, there’s no way I’d insist she become known as Ella Rotella, unless she wanted to. Also, if the man wanted to change his name to the woman’s, why not?

    If you have children, they’ll eventually ask why your last name is different from their dad’s. It’s one thing if it rhymes very badly, they can probably absorb and understand that (and might not even have to ask at all). On the other hand, if you just didn’t like your husband’s name, and didn’t want it, how do you explain that? “I just didn’t like your father’s name” ? That could mess with a child’s psychology – they might think there’s something wrong with their father…and also that maybe something is wrong with them as well, assuming they have their father’s last name.

  21. Margaret-605271 November 13, 2010 Reply

    I like your story. I have kept my maiden name of Neary, also Irish, because I felt as if this said who I am. I did not feel as another name, even a husbands. I was not his name, so I proudly kept my own and even gave it to 2 of my children as a gift to my DAD.

  22. Alicia-481430 November 12, 2010 Reply

    I’m with Jennifer. It makes no sense to me why some women get married and decide not to take their husband’s name. Hyphenating your maiden name with his last name is one thing, but when you have a completely different last name than your husband, it sends red flags to people. Why get married at all if you’re not willing to take his name? The point if marriage is to be joined as one.

  23. Jennifer-631022 November 12, 2010 Reply

    Except it seems like loving your husband and loving the life you lead with HIM should be enough to transcend any name – your maiden name. When you marry him, you’re starting a new family. Not that that makes your own family less important, but the emphasis is now placed on your new life. I’m interested in knowing what most men think about this.

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