Coin Flip for Big Decision
According to a recent study, only around 3% of men take their wife's name when they wed.

Some modern couples are re-evaluating a major decision most heterosexual couples make: taking the man’s last name as their wedded name. Couple Jeff Conley and Darcy Ward couldn’t decide which last name to take, so they left up to fate. The couple decided to toss a coin to decide whose last name the couple would take.

The Florida newlyweds eventually flipped the coin at the altar. Darcy Ward won the coin toss. But her husband sees things differently.

“You could say I won,” explained Mr. Jeff Ward, a graduate student in economics who first thought up the creative compromise. “I was the one who received something new." And the idea of leaving such an important decision to chance also suited Mrs. Darcy Ward just fine. “Being with someone who was willing to start the marriage from a creative and teamwork and fair place felt like a really good first step toward an equal partnership.”

And while it is becoming increasingly common for married women to keep their last names (or hyphenate), the Ward family is still firmly in the minority.

What’s in a Name

Only roughly 20 percent of women married in recent years keep their own names, while an additional 10 percent or so will choose a third option, such as hyphenating. This number is increasing - in the 1990s, only 18% of women kept their maiden name after marriage in some form. Many view it as a feminist cause. Suffragist Lucy Stone kept her last name when she married her husband, believing that women taking their husband’s last name was part of the cultural erosion of women's’ identities.

Of course, not every woman who keeps her original name after marriage is doing it for the sake of advancing the cause of feminism. Some simply don’t want the hassle of changing their name at the dozen-or-so places they’d have to. Some are just used to their name, and like their name. And others may be financially motivated. A 2010 study at the University of Tilburg in Holland found that professional women who keep their maiden name might make over half-a-million dollars more than women who take their husband’s last name over the course of their career.

But instances of a man taking his wife’s name remain incredibly rare: less than three percent, according to one recent survey of 877 heterosexual married men. Why might that be? Well, another 2017 study published in the journal Sex Roles found that women who keep their maiden name are generally perceived as having more authority in the relationship. Their husbands, meanwhile, are more likely to be viewed as "submissive”, “caring”, “understanding” and “timid”.

It wasn't always this way.

Patriarchy at Work?

Men in medieval England lucky enough to marry women from wealthier and more prestigious families would be more than happy to take their wife’s last name, particularly when there was a flashy castle or lofty lordship involved. In other words, money talks.

In the great majority of modern cases, however, the notion of taking the man's last name is simply the expectation in American society. And that certainly doesn’t mean that women who adopt their husband’s last name are any less feminist than those that don’t, the practice is “fundamentally rooted in patriarchal marital traditions”, says Psychology Today. And even hyphenating the names can lead to an imbalance, with one partner’s name being listed first.

As professor Brian Powell explains it, creating an entirely new last name can go a long way in reinforcing a couple's commitment to true family cohesion. “The idea that one person with one name, and another person with another name, come together to jointly create a new one ... symbolically, it can be very powerful.”

So whether you decide to flip a coin for it, hyphenate, start rearranging the letters until you come to something perfectly unique, or stick to tradition, naming conventions matter. And it seems likely that as Millennials and Gen-Z get married, they’ll continue to buck the trend.

What do you think? Is this a tradition we should retire, because, as some critics believe, it is rooted in patriarchal norms of men 'owning' women? Or is this a harmless custom that is best left up to each couple to decide?

11 comments

  1. Tom's Avatar Tom

    Everyone should make his or her own decision...Peace...Tom B

  1. Carol A siebert's Avatar Carol A siebert

    What ever makes you comfortable. Some Woman want to take their Husbands name is a feeling of belonging. Some decide not to because of Professional Licenses. Some are creating their own names by using half of each other's names. I haven't had a Husband take a his Wife's name yet but have Hyphen it. Traditionaly the Woman takes the Husbands name. It also depends on what the last name is such as my name is Carroll if my Husband's last name was Carroll I would be Carroll Carroll.

    1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      Many funny combinations out there! If entertainers Lady Gaga and David Gogo married would she become Lady Gaga-Gogo? Sounds a bit awkward, but funny too.

  1. Wen's Avatar Wen

    The first time I married, I took my husbands name, When we divorced, I was living in a small town when my prominent ex also lived. We worked in the same field. I became tired of being asked if I was related to him so, I went through the hassle of reclaiming my original name. The second time I got married ...relax...there is no third,,,,:) I decided to keep my name and love my husband unconditionally. Often he is called by my name and I am called by his. We don’t mind.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    Why is this an issue? Why is it even here? Nothing more important or pressing to discuss than last names - wouldn't that be great?

    Rapidly losing faith in the utility of themonastery.org.

  1. Annie Macleod's Avatar Annie Macleod

    In many places in the world, it is against the law for a woman to take her husband's surname. My brother and his wife (French Canadian) have different surnames and their children have a hyphenated combination of both their surnames. It isn't a big deal - people just make it one.

    https://time.com/3940094/maiden-married-names-countries/

    As Minister Mike said... this is really a non-issue.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I'm also obsessed with the internet, and am almost always going back and forth between four sites: this blog, QLIXAR News, CNN, and Amazon where I'm constantly revising my shopping list (mostly groceries for the following month). I get paid once a month, so I shop once a month, without having to run into wierdos at the store (or along the way), and without having to lug my groceries and other stuff home on my bicycle. They've also got a better selection of products to choose from than any store I've ever been too, and I can never look around for a whole month in a store, while I fine tune everything inmy cart. It looks like I've got next month's order ready now, with 79 items in my cart. And this is far more important to me than deciding on choosing a last name for my spouse and I.

  1. Vincent's Avatar Vincent

    In today's government regulations and society it is more than extremely difficult to change one's name, even in marriage. I changed my name legally in 2013. It was extremely difficult, easy to make the actual name change, but then there is Social Security, License, passport, all of the credit reporting agencies were the absolute worst; banks, loans, student loans, etc. It took me 5 years to get everything in order. I carried two driver's licenses, old and new, for several years as I had to use them both often.

    I still have a few legal matters I am dealing with that have to still use my prior name.

    Changing one's name can be a complete nightmare. If I had known I would have never done it. It is no wonder marriage partners want to keep their birth name.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Perhaps there could be a more interesting topic as to whether first names that used to be called "Christian names" should be reinstated to their former status, or am I inciting a riot by fellow secularists even suggesting this? 🤪

  1. Gwendolyn Elders's Avatar Gwendolyn Elders

    No man should own no women. They married for love and to share there lives to become one.

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

    My husband and I married in 1975. He took my family name and I took his, thus a hyphenated last name for both of us. Some men do take their wife's family name. We are not property of each other, but are equals in our loving marriage. The tradition in this country among Anglos has been for the woman to take on her husband's family name as his property. Pretty outdated mentality.

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