When deciding what name to go by post-wedding day, there are a few questions you should ask yourself, says relationship expert Maggie Reyes. First, ask yourself why you want to change your name. Are you doing it to please someone else? Do you like the reasons for switching? Does the idea of changing your name make you excited or anxiety-ridden? "What are you making [your name] mean?" Reyes poses. When you discover the answers to those questions, you can then move forward. Here are a few options to consider.
Go by both last names.
"You can change your name legally so you can sign credit cards and file tax returns with your married name," Reyes says. "But keep your maiden name at work if you have built up a professional reputation and want to keep the name you've built brand equity for. " The benefit here is that you can "honor both sides of yourself," Reyes adds. "A great question to ask is, 'Do I crave independence or belonging?' If you crave belonging, changing your name on all your documents could be a ritual that resembles the joining of families and feels more integrated ... If you crave independence, then having two names can be a way to honor that need, while also using a married name for practical purposes."
Another option is to hyphenate your last name—like Hillary Rodham-Clinton—or add your husband's last name to yours without the hyphen, which is a common practice in most of South America, Reyes suggests. "This can be a simple way to integrate your identity as an [independent] woman and a married woman," she adds. "You can also write all the different combinations of name choices on a piece of paper and see which one feels good, and which ones feel out of place."
Go by a brand-new name.
It's possible that you can come up with something completely original to honor both of your last names, Reyes says. She recalls one couple who decided to change both of their last names to honor one of their grandparents. "Sometimes creating new rituals as a couple can make you feel closer and more connected as a team facing the world together," Reyes says. "Choosing what to do about your last name can be a great way to have a deep conversation about what's meaningful to you and what isn't about the conditions and rituals surrounding weddings and marriage."
Switch to your spouse's last name.
If you're not attached to your maiden name, "changing your name to a name that evokes positive emotions every time you hear it can be a great option. The important thing to remember is to make the decision based on your most important priorities—including how you want to feel about your identity and your name as you begin your married life," Reyes says.
Change your mind.
Always remember that you can switch your name, no matter what you decide to do immediately after you tie the knot, Reyes says. She recalls the situation of one of her friends, who kept her maiden name for the first 10 years of marriage, then one day decided to go by her husband's name, and felt great about it. "There is no one right or wrong way to decide upon your name once you get married," Reyes adds. "There is simply what feels best and most authentic to you."