The Name Game: Did You Say “I Do” to a Name Change?

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A recent article in the Globe and Mail has me considering a moral quandary. In it, Wency Leung reports on a new study that suggests women who take their husband’s last name are regarded as less competent and less ambitious. The study, which was broken into four parts, shows that women who decide to change their name tend to be older, have more children, and possess conservative family values. These women appeared to possess a stronger work ethic, yet tended to work fewer hours per week and earn a lower salary than those women who decide to keep their maiden name.

Now, I’m a bride-to-be (June 26th here I come!) and I’m also a business woman. I launched my business in my maiden name and have included it on every by line I’ve ever had. Google “Chantielle MacFarlane” and you’ll discover my various social media profiles, my company website (CIK Marketing), press releases from past employment positions, tons of blog posts and articles, old figure skating results, and a few track and field time sheets. I’ve got a pretty unique name, so it’s easy to find me online… but what happens when my name is no longer mine?

Essentially, I’ll disappear.

Google “Chantielle Kennedy” next week and you’ll find nothing. All of my previous accomplishments still apply to me… just not according to Google. I’d never really considered the consequences associated with changing my last name until reading Leung’s article. I’d realized it might be a little confusing for some of my clients, but nothing a quick phone call or email couldn’t clear up.

So, do I change my name and risk being thought of as an uneducated slacker, or stick with my maiden name in order to appear professional and career-oriented?

For me, the answer is easy. I had always intended to take my husband’s name, whether it was Smith, Jackson, or Shirazamobad (thank goodness it’s Kennedy). It just seems natural to me; a new name for a new chapter in my life. Sure, it will make things a little difficult for me businesswise. I’ll need to change my networking accounts, publish a few articles as the hybrid Chantielle (MacFarlane) Kennedy, and include some links on my company website to important past accomplishments so they aren’t lost forever. I’ll also continue to work long hours and strive for financial security. Because regardless of what some study says, I know my last name doesn’t define my earning potential or professional value. My determination and drive will remain regardless of what my nameplate says.

What are your thoughts on changing your last name? Have you done it? Will you do it?

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20 thoughts on “The Name Game: Did You Say “I Do” to a Name Change?

  1. I’m able to do both because I separate my everyday life and my work life. I’m a writer and so my byline is what I live and die by. “P.S. Jones” is who I am to writing community and I still use it without any qualms. But on my checks, my lease and my cable bill, it says Princess Curtis (as much as I hate it) because I married a Curtis. It’s like joining the Yankees and refusing to wear the jersey. I wouldn’t do that to Jeter and I wouldn’t do that to my husband, either.
    .-= P.S. Jones´s last blog ..Four Ways to Socialize with Other Freelancers =-.

  2. I’m married and kept my maiden name even though my husband wasn’t thrilled about it. It is a new chapter for both of you so what symbolic act is your husband going to do to celebrate it? Why do you feel you have to change your name other than it is expected of you?

  3. I knew my husband for 10 years before we got married. We once worked together, so that brought us close together friendship wise. I’ll have to admit that I dreamed of one day winning his heart. I’m glad he felt the same way too. I always thought that if we actually got married we would be a “power couple”. Together we could conquer anything.

    In 2008, we finally got our chance to test the waters. It was a very low point in both of our lives financially. He being laid off for at least 6 months and I had just gotten out of a relationship and literally walked away with nothing but clothes and my daughter’s bed and I only had a part time job.

    We struggled, but we somehow got through it all without losing anything. He still owns the same home and he didn’t fall victim to the economy like so many others did that he worked with. I truely believe this is because we shared the same determination and drive to succeed and make the best out of the worst situation.

    He finally got called back to his job in May 2009, after being off for 17 months. Unemployment only paid 36 weeks. From that May on, nothing but great things has happened to us. And I know it’s because we made them happen. It’s not good luck. It’s the power of seeing the positive in everything. To succeed you need someone that shares the same desires. That is what makes us a “power couple”.

    My take on things is this. I am truely honoured to “assume” my husband’s last name. You can’t be a power couple with different last names in my eyes. Together we will conquer the world. People will say “did you see what Mr. & Mrs. Positive have accomplished now”? It doesn’t make me less competent. In fact, my husband would say the opposite. We’ve been able to grow his personal business so much since 2008, that we have successfully opened a second location in another city.

    So in closing, one doesn’t actually change their name. We assume our husbands, but we are still welcome to use our maiden where we see fit. Our birth certificate remains the same. And really you have to wait 12 weeks before you can even make this change so that will give you even more time to think about it.

  4. I never intended to take my husband’s last name. In fact, I am a Muslim woman, and it is customary in Islam for a woman to retain her last name (along with ownership of her property, business, and money) when she gets married.

    However, two years before I was married, my twin brother married a woman named Laura, who took his last name. As a result, we were both “Laura Martin.” This quickly became very confusing in our family.

    So, when I got married, I took my husband’s last name in part to differentiate me from my sister-in-law. Fortunately, my new name is more unusual than my maiden name, which works well for my online marketing efforts.

  5. Amanda,
    I don’t plan to take his name just because it’s expected of me – I agree with Shannon. By Taking my fiancees name we become a united entity. It’s like when we went shopping for our wedding bands, he wanted to buy a cheap band because he’s a guy and it didn’t really matter to him. There was no way I was going to let that slide though. He had purchased a platinum engagement ring and wedding band for me – his needed to be of the same material. And trust me, I could have spared spending that much on the ring as well, but to me, it was more than a piece of jewellery. That ring symbolizes our marriage and if they weren’t the same, it wouldn’t be right, at least in my mind. By taking his name, I solidify the bond that we’ve made to become a family. That symbolic gesture in my personal life supersedes any business-related issues, as family is comes first.

    I see your point though, there is no grand symbolic gesture that he has to undertake in order to solidify that bond. That’s why I think it’s up to the individual to make that choice. I think the act of changing your name means something different to everyone.
    .-= Chantielle Mac-Kennedy´s last blog ..You’ve Got Mail – Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts =-.

  6. good article, and well written.
    I agree, I’m glad your taking your husband’s last name.

    It seems like the people who don’t take their husbands last name, or do the hyphenated thing, like jessica smith-john, it just seems like those people have a higher divorce/separation rate, and just aren’t as happily married as those who do take their husbands last name. Of course this is just my observation, so, Chantielle Kennedy to be, I wish you nothing but the best. 🙂

  7. I always figured I’d take my husband’s name. I started my freelance career a couple months after getting engaged and knew I didn’t want to start branding myself with my maiden name. So, luckily, I was able to incorporate my husband’s name (Smith) into my brand – I work with museum collections and develop exhibits so I became Exhibitsmith. So far it’s working well (okay so I JUST got married and haven’t even officially changed my name yet) – people are starting to know me by my brand and not just by my name.

    Good luck to you all!
    .-= Lindsey MacAllister Smith´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  8. I am not marrying my partner of 7 years and if I did, I would never change my last name, unless it was to a new last name that we created that he changed to as well. Why should women always be the ones changing last names? It dates back to not too many years ago when under the laws of coverture, women lost their legal identity completely at marriage. I’m in my 20s and it’s been within my lifetime that men were still legally able to rape their wives in some states because they were considered the same legal being in that sense and the idea was you can’t rape yourself. That is so upsetting to me.

    And when I encounter (very rare) a woman who has kept her last name, I do have more respect for her because it makes me feel like she has more respect for herself and hasn’t given into the patriarchal idea that women today still must give up some part of their identity at marriage.

    And for those who argue it’s romantic to change their last name at marriage, then why do nearly no husbands show that same kind of romance and give up their last name? Or, like I said in the opening, why don’t both change it to a completely new last name? That would be truly romantic and unifying and EQUAL. (and on the topic of equal, if I were to change my mind about marriage, I would never accept an engagement ring unless I also gave one because that’s equality. And otherwise, it would be too reminiscent of the days when fathers sold their daughters to husbands-to-be through a dowry only now husbands-to-be do the transaction directly with their fiancee. I cannot be bought.)

  9. I applaud you for your choice. If you are a confident person you are not defined by your name but by your actions and your abilities. Your business contacts and clients will see that. Your business if you are good at what you do will flourish regardless of your name. Taking your husbands name is a sign that you have joined with him in a lifetime committment that you have not taken lightly and it shows him a deep respect for your marriage. It does not change who you are as an individual but it helps solidify you and your husband as being united as one. Two unique and capable individuals who will retain their individuality but in marriage experience the miracle of becoming one in a way that goes beyond just the physical. After 30+ years of marriage and having the same last name as my husband I wouldn’t change a thing.

  10. My husband and I actually had a protracted debate over this issue. A year after our marriage, I still hadn’t changed my name – I would get busy, lose the paperwork, etc. It wasn’t important to me, so I didn’t prioritize it. He finally told me how much it meant to him to have me change my name. To him, it was a symbolic gesture that whatever we do in life, we do together. It was an expression of unity. To me, it’s a tradition based in European patriarchy that did not value women’s independent identities.

    Understanding the differences in our perspective helped so much, and we reached a compromise. I pointed out that if a name change symbolizes unity, it was one-sided if only the woman did it. So, I kept my maiden name as a second middle name and took his last name, and he also added my maiden name as a second middle name. We may overthink things (a lot), but we do it together and now everyone knows it by both of our business cards!

  11. I just got married two weeks ago and people have been asking me the same question of whether I will be changing my name. I decided to change my name because the transition from Sheffer to Schuda were so similar that it didn’t really matter to me. I felt honored to associate myself with his family name and I still get to keep all the monogrammed items that I don’t own. Many people thought I should hyphenate my name (Shauna Sheffer-Schuda; are you kidding me?) In the end, the final decision is up you.

  12. Shauna Sheffer-Schuda!! Haha I love it! Enjoying people’s thoughts on this but don’t believe my husband and I are any less ‘united’ because our surnames are different. No matter how I look at it, changing my name upon marriage feels like sacrificing a part of my identity and adding to my husband’s in the name of stifling tradition. I have two daughters (one from a previous relationship) and I hope that both my girls keep their maiden names if they marry.

  13. I knew this would spark a lot of discussion and wow, did it ever! Personally, I would not want to change my name because I feel I have put a lot of sweat, blood, and tears into building my personal brand. I also don’t want to get married though. I do, however, completely respect the decision made by each woman when faced with whether or not to change her name.

    By the way, @catherinerose I love that you and your husband both changed your names! I think that’s very progressive and sounds fair 🙂

  14. I’ve kept my maiden name professionally (I’m a corporate lawyer) and my married name personally. Just have to remember to tell clients this if we are travelling abroad anywhere as its twice happened now that they’ve booked my airline tickets in my “work name” which doesn’t match my passport…!

  15. I don’t plan to change my name — much to my long-term boyfriend’s chagrin. I have a very unusual and difficult to pronounce last name that’s 10 letters, so it’s not something that could be hyphenated or would make a good middle name. Also, I’m an attorney, so my clients and peers who know my name had to go through some effort to learn and remember it. I feel like it’s part of my reputation now. I do plan to go by my husband’s name in connection with things like my hypothetical future children’s schools, just to lessen confusion about last names, and I have no problem with my children having his name, but that’s about as far as I’ll go. If I’d gotten married earlier in my career, I may have been more amenable to the name change idea, but I feel like it’s just too late for that now.

  16. catherinerose, my husband and I did something similar! So many people make the argument that name changing is about unity, but if only one person makes a change, then it’s not balanced, not something done together as a team. If one person doesn’t make a change toward marking this new (huge!) chapter in life, then they’re just maintaining the status quo. That definitely is not meaningful, no matter what countless women tell themselves when their husbands don’t do anything with their names. Fortunately, my husband agreed with me from the outset that it was only fair if he changed his name, too. We decided to combine our last names, and now share the last name Kaufman-Woods. It’s generated some raised eyebrows from our very traditional grandparents, but most people appreciate it as an elegant AND egalitarian solution. We couldn’t be happier with our decision!

  17. I can see the point about wanting to use your last name to indicate unity and ‘being on the same team’ — but I notice that no-one says that their spouse took their ‘maiden’ name. We even have special language that shows women have ‘maiden’ names (a subtype name) – while men have last names. Our language gives men the default setting. And the author’s point of changing her last name — she all but disappears when she does. Joining the team makes her accomplishmentst invisible. If change to indicate unity was the primary goal, then there would be plenty of men who have taken their wife’s last name. And before you argue your case is different, tell me, did you and your spouse at least discuss doing so? Or was it never even a consideration?

  18. I also decided to take on my husband’s name so we could be a united front – plus, we already had a child (with another on the way) and I knew from his ex-wife’s experience how much of a pain it is when family members have different surnames. Two years after changing my surname, it still feels bizarre calling myself Oley and not Gartelmann. But equally bizarre is how normal it all seems to everyone around me. Further, most women I know who changed their name say it hasn’t affected their career – no more than a change of address would affect anyone’s ability to contact you. The 21st century is bursting with tools that will help people find you, no matter what details have changed!

  19. I’ll be married one year in July and I graciously took my
    husband’s last name. I proudly consider myself a feminist, but I find that a
    lot of my family values tend to be pretty conservative. In addition to that, I
    hadn’t established myself yet – according to my own standards – that I felt it necessary to hyphenate or do away with my husband’s name. Many social media platforms like Linkedin and Facebook allowed me to indicate my maiden name on my profiles as well. Personally, it was a breeze to transition, but for women more established in their careers I can see how this may pose an issue. As for the study, it’s pretty interesting, but I’ll definitely be the exception to those findings!

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