Not every bride is the type of woman who spends time practicing her new signature. If you've made a name for yourself in your profession, want to continue honoring your family, or simply don't feel the need to take your husband's surname after the wedding, read on. We spoke to a swath of experts, including licensed marriage and family therapist Vienna Pharaoh, author and gender studies professor Gina Barreca, and Dr. Heidi R. Lewis, a feminist and gender studies professor, to get advice on handling this sensitive subject with confidence.
Understand your motivation.
First and foremost, Lewis says there are so many reasons someone may choose to change or keep their name after marriage—and they are all valid. Whether it's politically, socially, or morally driven, the more clearly you understand why keeping your name is important to you, the better you'll be at communicating your needs to your partner.
Make it a conversation.
Once you identify your talking points, Pharaon recommends setting up a designated time that's good for the two of you to connect, and being open to conversation. "Try, 'I've been thinking about keeping my last name after the wedding and why it's so important to me. But I also want to know how you feel about it? My intention is not to reject you but rather honor myself in this way.'" Don't feel dejected if your partner initially reacts less positively than you had hoped. Remember, you've been thinking about this for a while, he hasn't. However, if things get very heated, even after a few days, there may be more at play, warn Barreca. "If you're arguing fiercely over names, you're not arguing over names: you are arguing over power, territory, possession and politics,"
Remember that the decision to keep or change a name does not need to be an all or nothing endeavor. "It's okay to have caveats," says Lewis. Be open to arrangements that both you and your future spouse can feel good about. Maybe you'll change your name legally, but not professionally. Think about hyphenating (hey, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter does it), or plan to keep your name until you have kids, then change it. Above all, Lewis urges brides to remember this: "You never need to settle, but you're about to spend the rest of your life compromising."
Feel good about the decision.
"Love is shown through actions rather than through labels," says Barreca. "Not changing my surname after I married is one of the best decisions I ever made—and my husband of 25 years agrees. One of the reasons we have strong, loving, happy and energetic relationship after a quarter of a century is because we have nurtured our individual identities as well as our marriage."