Changing Your Name After Marriage

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The Woman Formerly Known As...

As I was leaving work on the Friday before my wedding weekend back in 1992 one of my co-workers said "Dawn Rosenberg is leaving the building for the last time." While I was ecstatic about my upcoming wedding, those words made me very sad. I had always been Dawn Rosenberg. When there were two other girls named Dawn in my first grade class, I was Dawn R. I couldn't be Dawn M.

— that was someone else! Throughout my years in school I was Dawn Rosenberg. My various diplomas were imprinted with that name. Articles I wrote for my college newspaper were authored by Dawn Rosenberg. I established a successful career as Dawn Rosenberg. Suddenly I was feeling a loss of identity. Where would Dawn Rosenberg go when Dawn McKay arrived?

When a woman gets married she is inevitably faced with having to decide whether to change her name. When women married younger this wasn't as big an issue. Even if a woman were to have a career, which in itself was very unusual, she was just getting started. Now women are marrying later, after establishing careers.

Changing your name is a very personal decision. Some women are very comfortable doing so while others, like myself, are not so comfortable. There are several alternatives available. Now we'll examine each of those alternatives and the effect each has on our professional lives.

Following this discussion are some resources I think you'll find useful should you decide to change your name.

Option 1: Taking Your Husband's Name

My friend Nancy took her husband's name when she got married. She said she never thought of not doing it. Nancy said that she worked in a small office where everyone knew she was getting married.

Since it was relatively early in her career, she wasn't very well-known to those outside her organization so her career didn't really play a role in her decision. Those whose career would be impacted by such a change should take measures to inform colleagues and other business contacts of an impending name change. An email or a typed memo should suffice.

Option 2: Keeping Your Own Name

Many of my contemporaries have chosen to keep their own names. A variation of this is to keep one's own name professionally and to use the spouse's last name the rest of the time. This eliminates the problem of giving up an established identity professionally while establishing a new identity as someone's marital partner. Many who have done this, though, say they feel like they have a split personality — Mary Smith at work, Mary Jones at home.

Option 3: Hyphenating

Others choose to hyphenate. Mary Smith who has married John Jones would become Mary Smith-Jones. Many women feel this gives them a sense of balance.

Option 4: Adding Your Husband's Name to Your Own

This is what I chose to do. I simply kept my birth name, Dawn Rosenberg, and added my husband's last name, McKay, becoming Dawn Rosenberg McKay. Professionally and personally I was able to keep my identity, while paying tribute to my marriage.

My husband, by the way, took Rosenberg as his middle name. If you choose this option or Option 3, you should follow the advice I gave in Option 1 for notifying contacts.

If you want to learn more about name changes, whether you are thinking about changing your name because you are getting married, getting divorced or for some other reason, take a look at these resources for more information.

Changing Your Name After Marriage FAQ Help from Nolo's Legal Encyclopedia.

Name Change FAQ

Whether you're changing your name because of marriage or for another reason, answers some common questions.

Social Security Card Application This form can be used to register a name change with the U.S. Social Security Administration.

What You Need to Know This article includes a name change tool kit that links to information on registering your name change with various U.S. government agencies.