Google+I Do or I Don’t :: Changing Your Name - Southern Weddings

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Since I wasn’t a traditional bride when it came to planning my wedding, it’s no surprise that, in many ways, I didn’t turn into a traditional wife once I got married. The truth is, I didn’t revel in picking flowers, choosing centerpieces or designing our invitation suite. I wanted to get married, and to have a memorable wedding, of course, but I wasn’t head-over-heels in love with planning. (And this is why they called me the “Anti-Bride!”)

The centerpieces from our wedding. I may not have enjoyed planning, but I sure did love the final product!


Perhaps the most unconventional thing I did (or didn’t do) after my “I dos” involved my name. Quite simply, I kept it. For me, the choice to change or stay the same was easy: there was never a single day in my entire life when I thought I might change my name. Fact. Those of you who’ve read our new About Me pages know that when I was six-years-old, my father sat me down and, quite rationally, explained to me that Watermans did not change their name. “If the guy’s good enough,” Dad offered, “We might let him take our name.” True story. To my kindergarten self, my father’s reasoning made perfect sense. Why would I think about changing my name, anyway? My name was mine, and always would be. (Plus, I thought – and almost twenty years later now am convinced – my father walked on water, so why would I willingly give up his name?)


One of my all-time favorite pictures of me + my father. I love his bowties!

When SW reader and bride-to-be Jenna wrote about her recent moniker dilemma, I knew I’d finally found a soapbox to share my own experiences. Like engagement rings, last names are something I love talking about. The choice to change or to keep one’s name is a very personal decision, and one that not everyone might understand, agree with or even support. And naturally, there are countless theories on why you should or shouldn’t change your name once you’ve tied the knot.

Traditionalists, for one, argue that becoming a Mrs. is the greatest honor you can give your new husband. For many, the act of giving up a piece of your identity to share that of the man you love is powerful and intensely meaningful. Feminists, on the other hand, rally around the idea that a woman never should change who she is, even – and especially – when she becomes someone’s wife. And then there are those who want to honor their husbands like their name-changing counterparts, and who have no deeply-rooted feminist notions, but simply cannot imagine changing their name because it is so much a part of who they are.

Me, throughout the years.

I was one of the latter. The choice to not change my name was something that was so much a part of ME that everyone, from my family and close friends to boyfriends and, later, even casual acquaintances, knew I would never be dropping Waterman. For me, the decision to keep my father’s name was as basic and important a detail as where I went to school and what I studied, how many siblings I had or what kind of food I liked. It was me. And people seemed to get that and, fortunately, to accept it.

I was lucky to have supportive family + friends who understood my decision to keep my maiden name. Above: Kyle, my handsome husband, and Molly, my best friend and Maid of Honor.

Kyle, like almost all my friends, knew about this quirk within the first few weeks of meeting me. By the time we were dating and many years before we got engaged or ever started talking about marriage, Kyle knew I would always be Katharine Waterman. And that was just fine by him. Sure, maybe the alpha-male part of him would have liked to have a Mrs. Kyle Gibler one day, but as he so aptly put it: he met, fell in love with and chose to spend the rest of his like with Katharine Waterman, and he liked that I would always be that same girl. “I love you, not Katharine Giber,” he had said. (That’s when I knew – for sure – he was a keeper!)

Last week, Jenna asked how I handled life post-wedding after not changing my name. “What did your in-laws think?” She asked. (Apparently, hers hadn’t taken too kindly to her decision to not take their name.) “What do you do when friends or acquaintances call you by the wrong name, especially if you were announced as “Mr. and Mrs.” at your wedding?”


My new brothers- and sister-in-law. From left to right: Justin, Nicole, me, Kyle and Walter.

While I think Kyle’s family probably would have preferred I take his name, they never gave me any trouble. Like Kyle (and just about everyone else who had ever met me), they knew who I was and who I would be after tying the knot. Kyle and I even found a tactful way to share this detail with family and friends pre-wedding on our wedding website, which really helped head off any questions or awkward discussions from the get-go. In my case, at least, the name change just wasn’t an issue. (What we’ll name our children, though, is another beast entirely!)


Shared last name or not, we are definitely family now! My father and in-laws with me + Kyle at our wedding.

What could have potentially complicated matters, though, was that Kyle and I were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Gibler at our wedding. It was important to him, and I wanted my husband and our wedding congregation to know that even though I wasn’t taking his name, I was making just as significant a commitment to him and to his family as if I were becoming a Gibler in name as well as in vow. But since our friends and family knew my longstanding position on name-changing so well, no one ever called me Katharine Gibler. In fact, I don’t think I’ve yet been called Katharine Gibler by someone I know. (But you’re welcome to start!)

My (humble) suggestion to all ladies considering keeping their name would be to be honest and upfront about your decision – and to do so as early as possible. I firmly believe it’s the fact that so many people knew my stance so early on that made my name virtually a non-issue before and after our wedding. Deciding on the proper monogramming for our wedding gifts, however, was not half so easy.

Weigh-in: Did you take your new husband’s last name or did you keep your own, and why? What about our hyphenated brides out there? Any memorable stories or advice for brides currently in a war of names? Leave your comment below or email me!

Written with love by Katharine
26 Comments
  1. avatar Katie reply

    Great Post Ms Waterman :)

    It’s a mere 4 months until our wedding and I still don’t know where I stand on changing my last name. On the one hand, I know that my FI thinks it is very important for me to take his last name, but he won’t love me any less if I don’t. I love the idea of being Mr & Mrs. Hislastname. Yet, I’ve been Katie mylastname my whole life, and giving that up feels like I am giving up who I am.

    I can only hope that my heart will show me what it really wants as we get closer to the wedding. Like you said, the sooner that everyone knows, the better!

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Katie, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Luckily, there is no one right – or even one – answer to the name game. I know women who have changed their names, kept their maiden name, hyphenated and even used both depending on the circumstances. Great to be a woman of the twenty-first century, right?!

  2. avatar Erin reply

    Long story short (I just typed up this whole big thing and accidentally deleted it!), I’m going to make my current last name into a second middle name (not a hyphenated last name) and take my soon-to-be husband’s last name. So on any legal documents, it will be my first name, my middle initial, and his last name, but I’ll have a “little secret” of a second middle name. It may sound silly, but as long as I know I didn’t lose my own identity, I’ll be more than happy to have his last name :)

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Hi Erin! I know a lot of new brides that have gone this route, and they’re very happy with their decision. Many seem to see it as a way to blend their pre-married identity with their husband’s. Plus, maiden names make for THE BEST children’s names… at least in the South :) That way you can still pass along your family’s identity to little ones.

  3. avatar Charity reply

    Hello! I loved reading this posts because I constantly yo-yo between changing my name. At first I thought yes! Then I thought no! My reasons are a little more practical because I’m a Notary Public and also have my school credentials, etc. to think of so I want my name to stay the name with all my accomplishments. I’ve thought of hyphenating as a sort of compromise but I may follow in Katharine’s footsteps. The older I get, the more of a neo-traditionalist I become!

  4. avatar Reama reply

    Katharine,
    For me it was quite the opposite. My entire life I have been looking forward to changing my name. Reama Roman (not my real last name but similar) is very sing-songy and has been an issue or topic of uncomfortable conversation for me my whole life. When I introduce myself at business or political gatherings, people sometimes react awkwardly. So, I am really looking forward to the new name part of getting married.

    -RR

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Reama, I hear ya, girl! My husband’s mother’s maiden name is Busam (yes, pronounced like “bosom”), and Kyle’s female cousins on that side couldn’t drop their name fast enough. :)

  5. avatar Lara reply

    OK, you already know I kept mine too. I did this for many reasons: in my job, changing my name would mean buying a whole slew of new domain names, changing email accounts, and far too many printed items that already have my name on them. More than cyber convenience, the biggest thing for me was keeping my family identity. My middle name is Austin which is my mom’s maiden name. I didn’t want to lose my dad’s side, Casey, either. Lara Austin Casey Isaacson just didn’t have a ring to it. I’ve attempted to sway Ari into Ari Casey, but 2 Dr. Casey’s in the family might get confusing. KTW, we need to find some really good bribe bait for these guys.

  6. avatar annette reply

    I was torn at first, but always thought I would change my name. It seemed to solidify the deal for me. I especially think it makes a big difference one the couple has children. I my opinion it would be confusing to the child to have their parents with 2 different last names. I think all in all it’s a personal decision and can be quite different depending on the couple.

  7. avatar Gayle reply

    Regardless of anyone’s personal choice in the end, isn’t it wonderful we live in an age where we can express ourselves however we want? By the way, for someone that doesn’t like planning, your wedding certainly looked absolutely stunning and I think I’m coveting your veil a little too much! LOL!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Gayle! Katharine’s be-a-utiful view was a custom piece from Annette at Chaviano Couture (annettethurmon.com). We all died a little inside (in a very good way!) when we saw it!

  8. avatar Ingrid reply

    I used to be in the camp that I would never change my last name for a man (that feisty feminist coming out in me…) but in the past year or so I’ve changed my mind. My boyfriend brought up the conversation once and told me I don’t have to change my name if we get married. I was surprised, because I definitely thought he would want me to take his. I have a coworker who has children with two different guys and neither child has her last name. I hear her making phone calls to the doctor and school and it seems so confusing to identify which children are hers. I cannot imagine having a different last name than my child(ren.) It would seem as if they belong only to their father, and I don’t like hyphenated names, at all. I have no personal attachment to my birth name. I love my family, but they gave me my first and middle names which are special to me, so my last name can be easily discarded. If all goes according to plans, I’ll have had my birth last name for 25-26 years, but plan on having my married last name for 50+!

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Ingrid, I agree that having children absolutely complicates the name issue exponentially! (Men have it so easy!) I fully anticipate being “Mrs. Gibler” to the vast majority of our personal acquaintances once we have children – and part of me really looks forward to having that second, special identity. Also, I have to say I love your view on keeping your married name for 50+ years :)

  9. avatar Jenna reply

    Thanks so much for finally covering this issue! A lot of holiday cards showed up this year addressed to mr. and mrs. so and so, but part of the “compromise” between my husband and I is that I don’t stand on a soap box and shout to the world that I kept my last name. People may get the idea from my facebook page or my email and if it came up in conversation I would explain, however I didn’t send a note back to everyone who sent us cards saying “oh by the way that is not my last name” or the second I am introduced to someone clarify that I am actually not “Mrs. so and so.” As of right now it works for us and who knows, maybe one day I will feel differently but right now I am very happy that I stood up for what is right for me. As for the in laws, I do think they are a bit hurt that I didn’t change my last name but hopefully by doing other things I am showing them I am happy to be a part of their family.

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Jenna, I love your + your husband’s decision to to keep your name decision somewhat private. I think it’s a great gesture, both to your husband and to your in-laws, while still allowing you to keep your own name. Kyle and I have decided that we will not correct people, especially once we have children and I inevitably become “Mrs. Gibler.” That way, I can have my name professionally and also my husband’s :)

    • avatar Tierra reply

      I AM that jerk who sends back responses correcting people who call me “Mrs.” Changing my last name was so far from an option that he didn’t dare think about asking. As such, I expect my family and friends should know better, and that I despise being addressed as a Mrs. under every circumstance. Why? It’d be like calling me Tiana – it’s not my name.

  10. avatar Weekly Round-Up « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] decided to keep her last name instead of taking her husband’s. What are your thoughts? Go to the post to weigh in on the war of […]

  11. avatar Ashleigh reply

    I chose to change my name because I’ve never tied my identity with my last name. In my mind, my last name is my father’s name, not mine. My name is the one I was given by both of my parents – Ashleigh Nicole. I’ve never once regretted changing my name. Plus, in addition to sharing a name with my husband, changing meant getting rid of the extremely popular last name my poor parents had no real choice but to give me, which was definitely a nice little perk.

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Ashleigh, I’ve thought a lot about name changing in the past, but never quite like you have. I love your view that your identity is tied not to your father’s last name but to the first and middle names both your parents gave you. That’s lovely – and makes so much sense! Thanks for the fresh perspective!

  12. avatar Laurel reply

    Well, from a religious standpoint, taking on my husband’s name symbolizes the marriage covenant. If it’s good enough for Abraham, its good enough for me. :o)

  13. avatar Mrs. SE reply

    Personally, I couldn’t wait to change my name after our wedding this past August. My husband and I bought a house during our engagement, so we already lived a pretty “married” life leading up to the wedding. Taking his name was one of the major changes that consistently reminds me that our life is different now- we’re married. Our deacon talked a lot about couples who already live together making obvious changes in their everyday life to remind themselves that life is different now that you’re married. Not that my marriage experience is wrought in time, only 5 months, but changing my name has been one of my favorite parts of this whole process- it was like sealing the deal. I’ve spent 23 years as Garrison, and like a previous commenter noted, I’ll spend 50+ years as Addison. It seems like a silly notion to say it’s inconvenient, seeing as I did my passport/license/social security on day during a 1 hr lunch break. And as a side note, my husband said its a fun reminder to him whenever he gets to call me Mrs. Addison (which he does frequently, with a giddy smile!)

    • avatar Katharine reply

      That’s a great point, Mrs. SE! After five years together, Kyle + I definitely found it challenging, at times, to remind ourselves that we now were married and not just continuing on as boyfriend and girlfriend. I bet changing my name and adjusting to a new “married” identity would have been a big reminder :) We turned to monthly anniversaries dinners with Netflix + sparkling cider, a delayed honeymoon and our very first Christmas card to help keep the excitement!

  14. avatar Elizabeth reply

    I suppose I will be the one to step right up and say a) I’m a feminist b) that does NOT preclude me seeing how romantic and lovely it is to take your husband’s name and c) therefore I see no reason why he should not return the favor! I always felt (and had discussed with a serious beau before) that I would add my husband’s name to mine – and he would add mine to his. Yes, hyphenation is messy, but to me it’s a lot messier to either take one name or not share names at all! I want to have the same last name as my partner, but I think my heritage is just as valuable as his.
    Unfortunately my beloved has a truly awful last name (true, the source of many a childhood taunt). So I will be hanging on to my name. I have zero idea what we will do with the kids!

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Well-said, Elizabeth! Deciding on what to do with your own name once you say “I do” is hard enough… figuring out what to do about the children is downright daunting. Let me know if you come up with a good solution? :)

  15. avatar Natalee reply

    I’m very traditional girl in many ways, but ever since I was little, the idea of having to give up my last name at my wedding literally made my stomach churn. It just felt wrong. When I told my fiance I wanted to keep my last name he said he only wanted to add to my life, not take anything away from it. (Sigh! I LOVE him!) And his sweet mom has been buying little gifts with both S’s and H’s to show her support.

    But… our children’s names… He definitely wants them to have his so no one thinks they belong to someone else. And I know I’m getting greedy, but I really wish they could have my name! Hyphenated last names are so cumbersome. Perhaps we could give them mine as a second middle? That will be a tricky bridge to cross when we get there!

  16. avatar AuburnCathy reply

    I am late to this party but I am curious…Katharine, did your dad think it important for your mom to keep her maiden name? Or is it the “Waterman name change rule” only for those who were born into the Waterman lineage?

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