Whether to take your husband’s name or not is not something we’re going to advise on today, thank goodness! Instead, our question comes from a reader who has already decided to take her fiancé’s name, but is unsure what to do about the rest of her moniker. Read on… we’d love to hear your thoughts!
I am getting married next May, and while I have never questioned taking my fiancé’s name, I’m torn over what to do about my middle name.
I know tradition holds that a lady drops her middle name upon marriage and replaces it with her maiden name. I’m not usually one to go against tradition, but I’ve never liked the sound of my maiden name. However, I do really like my middle name (it’s a lot prettier than my last name, and it’s the name my dad gave me). How big of a faux pas would it be for me to keep my middle name and just drop my maiden name all together?
Thank you in advance for the advice!
An excellent question! Growing up, I always thought it was so peculiar that my mom never had a middle name – she was Beth Bogart until she married my dad, at which point she became Beth Bogart Ayer. My grandmother specifically didn’t give her daughter a middle name even though her two sons had them, because she assumed my mom would just drop it when she married. I’m glad times have changed and that there’s more flexibility these days, especially since I love my middle name! In fact, I love my middle name so much that post-marriage I kept it and dropped my maiden name. That’s right, I’m Emily Armstrong Thomas (despite what my Twitter handle would lead you to believe…).
But back to the question: Though most ladies do choose to drop their middle name in favor of their maiden name when they marry, I wasn’t aware of a tradition that said it was incorrect to do the reverse* — I thought both were equally acceptable options. I double-checked with Emily Post to see whether she had anything to say on the subject, but I couldn’t find a definitive ruling either way. So, to answer M.G.’s question, I don’t think it would be a faux pas at all, and the only reason I would think twice about it would be if your family had strong feelings either way!
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why I chose one over the other, but the best way I can summarize it is this: to me, it was obvious that “Ayer” would always be a part of my identity, because of my family and connections to people and places. “Armstrong” was something my parents had specifically chosen for me and only me, so to me, it seemed like a more innate part of who I am. It was a tough decision, though!
Ladies, I would love to hear: If you are taking or have taken your husband’s name, what did you do? Did you keep your middle name and drop your maiden name? Or vice versa? Did you keep both? Or, like my mom, did you never have a middle name? I would love to hear in the comments!
*After I wrote this post, Marissa chimed in with a little info of her own! She says: I’m not sure why, but in my experience it’s a very Southern tradition to keep your maiden name and drop your middle name. This was a topic for big discussion when I got married, as my entire in-law family was insistent that I keep my maiden name instead of my middle. Apparently it has to do with how names are passed down, and how to extend family names when couples did not have boys. If you go down old family trees (like BDK’s), maiden names were used not only as middle names for married women, but also as first and middle names for children to ensure the family names did not end. In the end, I legally kept my middle name (I felt my maiden name was a bit too German), but I now wish I’d done the reverse because I don’t ever use my middle name. However, no one knows that, because I go by my maiden name on everything, including my monograms!
P.S. Have your own etiquette challenge? Feel free to email me!