What’s in a Name: Should You Change, Keep or Hyphenate Your Last Name After Marriage?

July 6, 2013  |  


Earlier this week,  I attempted to send an email to a co-worker. His last name is “Snyder,” so like I do with most of my co-workers that I email frequently, I start typing “S-N-Y…” in the “to” field of the email waiting for his name to auto-populate.


I type in his first name, and the only name that comes up has the last name “Lovelace.”

I have no idea who that is, so I decide to look up “Snyder” in the employee directory.


This is all very strange to me as I have probably emailed him a thousand times, so I start asking around to see if he’s left the company and maybe I just didn’t know about it.

Colleagues respond, “Nope, he’s here today…I just saw him.”

I explain that his email isn’t coming up and that he’s no longer listed in the company directory.

“Oh, you have to look him up under ‘Lovelace’ now…he got married.”


Sensing my confusion, the colleague explained that because his wife was an only child and the last in her family to carry the name “Lovelace,” he agreed to change  his last name after they got married so that their son could carry on her family name. They had their son before they got married and the son carried the mother’s last name, not his.

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked. I don’t know too many men who would have gone for that. Unless he hates his family and everything associated with it, I can’t imagine why a man would change his name to his wife’s family name instead of keeping the tradition of his own. I thought that was a selfless thing to do.

But how many of men would do that, and how many women would make that request?

I mean, it’s one thing for a wife to hold on to her maiden name, but for a man to allow his child – especially his son – to take on a different last name when he is clearly in his life? I don’t know one man who would go for that unless he was a deadbeat and simply didn’t care.

But I have to admit, I’ve thought about this very issue a few times in my life prior to getting engaged. My father and his brothers all had daughters.  As far as I know, I’m the last “Dean” child in my family. My female cousins either never carried the “Dean” name because they were born to Dean women who were married or took on their father’s last name or they’ve all gotten married. My sister took on her husband’s last name completely – no hyphen. And now that I’m engaged, I wonder if the “Dean” name will end with me.

I can’t imagine it being easy to give up your name – a name you’ve known all your life. I mean, after all, “Brooke Dean” just sounds so good together – at least to me it does. I always thought my name sounded professional, sharp, smart…or just plain cool. But it’s my name, so of course I’d be a little biased. Sure, when I had boyfriends, I’d put their last name after my first name to see how it would sound. I’ve dated guys with interesting last names, boring last names, long last names, short last names, etc. I even dated a guy whose last name was “Brooker” – you can imagine my misgivings about EVER marrying him. I would sign my name over and over again, hyphenated and “un-hyphenated,” just to see if another last name “worked” but none of the last names sounded as good to me as “Dean.”

Brooke Dean…the end of my family line.  This is the name I say over and over again at work, in introductions, that I sign my checks with, my emails with, sign for packages with, sign in at the doctor’s office with, that I see in credits…who I see in the mirror.

Brooke Dean is who I am. How do I give that away?

After hearing that my co-worker sacrificed his last name, it got me thinking if my fiancé would be willing to do the same thing. When I asked him, he said he would do it if it meant that much to me, especially since his ex-wife still carries his last name. He said he would change it just to make me happy. I thought that was sweet, but I don’t think I’d ever ask someone to give up their last name simply because of any insecurities I might have about giving up my own or because some other woman won’t let it go. So I asked him if he’d be offended if I kept my last name after we married. He said no and figured I’d keep it for professional reasons anyway. At the end of the day, he said he’d like it if I hyphenated it – this way keeping the best of both worlds. Something to think about.

I know most men would argue that their name should be taken so that the family will be a unit, and I get that. Some say it’s tradition, and the “family” aspect that attracts me. I don’t know about that tradition part; I’d argue that I’m not as much into that.

Are we placing too much importance on a name or does it carry weight that we should take more seriously? Maybe in the case of Mr. Lovelace, we can start our own traditions.

What say you?

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