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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Hyphenated Surnames One Generation Later

Caroline writes:
I have a Naming Issue question I hope you and your readers might be able to discuss.

My fiancé’s last name is hyphenated. His parents chose to keep their respective surnames (they are still married) but hyphenated their names together to form their children’s surname, MaternalSurname-PaternalSurname. I see why they made this choice, but now it is complicating my future naming plans and I am getting a little frustrated.

I like my full name and its flow and always just assumed I would tack on my partner’s name to the end of my name, First Middle Maiden Married. Adding in the extra name because of the hyphen makes keeping my original surname seem impractical. If you are still following me on this one, my name would then become First Middle Maiden Married-Married. My own surname is short but has two syllables and sounds like a common female first name but is spelled in a non-traditional way. I would consider dropping my middle name and putting my surname in the middle name slot, but then I would feel like my maiden name would become an embarrassing middle name rather than my surname. This would also imply that my husband and I hyphenated our surnames together and I don’t really want to add that implication (not that I don’t approve of that idea).

I feel like the simple solution is to keep my name and he will keep his, but I would really like to share a surname with any future children. I would like for the whole family to share a surname as our “family name.” He would prefer the same but is by no means insistent that I take his name at all. I’m also worried about any future children’s names having to match with this hyphenated name created by his parents. I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on.

We have discussed my fiancé dropping his middle name to become First MaternalSurname PaternalSurname and then my name becoming First Middle Maiden HisPaternalSurname, but his mother seems to be annoyed by this idea. I don’t want to exclude my future mother-in-law or make it seem like I am starting our marriage by taking her further away from her son. I think that him changing his name makes it seem as though I do not like her and do not want her to be a part of my newly created family when that is certainly not the case. I’m currently at a loss of what do to, but the wedding is May 28 (!) and I would very much like to decide on a surname for myself and future children BEFORE that date!

I think in every conversation I've ever heard on the topic of hyphenating names, someone has always said, "Yes, but what about when their children get married?" Which seems so far off, and always seems like more of a jokey remark ("They'll be Harrington-Smith-Mortons-Jones, har har har!"), and the feeling is usually "Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof": when it comes to that point, the children will tackle their own naming problems. But here we are, in that future, and here we have one of the possible outcomes to tackle.

Especially riveting to me is your mother-in-law's reaction and this statement of yours: "I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on." Yes. This is the problem. I wonder if your husband could present the problem to his mother in that way: explain it exactly the way you did, and ask if she has any ideas for resolving this very tricky name situation. My guess is that she will be stymied---but that she may come away with a better understanding of the situation and more sympathy for whatever you decide.

I agree with each point you brought up: if you take his name, it implies that the one of the two hyphenated names is your original surname; if he drops his mother's surname, that sounds like it's going to create political problems in his family.

I suggest another option: he could drop his father's surname. That seems so much more shocking than dropping his mother's, and yet it's exactly the same: he drops one of his two parental names. He would be First Middle Maternal, and you would be First Middle Maiden Maternal, and your family surname would be Maternal.

This, of course, puts you right back into the patriarchal naming system, but it spares your mother-in-law's feelings. It does lend a certain futility to the whole endeavor: why go through all these complicated naming situations if the entire effect is to change the paternal surname to a different parental surname? Well, indeed.

Another possibility is for your husband to take your surname, dropping both his parents' names. This has the appeal of simplicity.

Another possibility is to hyphenate your surname with his mother's, and both of you take that name. First Middle Maiden-Maternal.

Another option is to create a new surname, either by combining parts of all three surnames (or four, if you want to add your mother's maiden name for balance), or by choosing another name from the family tree (wouldn't it be nice if you both had the same surname somewhere in your trees?), or by choosing something entirely new.

But you said that what you wanted was First Middle Maiden Married, so ALL of these options thwart what YOU wanted for your name, which is indeed frustrating: we make a big deal about each woman getting to choose things her own way, but then we get one of these situations where it's not going to work out that way. I go around in circles: just now I thought, "Wait! She CAN be First Middle Maiden Married-Married! It's just that it will be a VERY BULKY name, and that's okay!"---and then I remembered the problem of it looking, then, as if your hyphenated name includes your original surname, which to me would be significant: if I'm going to go through the hassles of hyphenation for me and for my children, I want it to be because my own surname is in there, not because our family now has TWO patriarchal surnames to carry.

Well. I think we need a lot of input on this. Commenters, help us with this difficult situation!


Name update! Caroline writes:
I have obviously thought long and hard about what to do with our naming situation. I’ve been weighing all of the options listed in the comments and by Swistle over and over. I don’t think my husband quite realized how serious this whole thing was to me until I presented him with the Excel spreadsheet I had made of all the various name combination options we had to work with. Like many people mention when naming babies, I wanted to find a solution that both my husband and I felt strongly about, not one that I really liked and he was only kind of okay with. We sat down with the spreadsheet and we agreed on the options that we liked best. This weekend we had a family dinner with his parents and mine and my sweet fiancé spoke with his mother about my dilemma. She warmed to the situation (she has Asperger’s syndrome and can be quite socially awkward) and understood our dilemma. I don’t think that she minds that I don’t plan to take both names; apparently her misgivings were about him dropping the hyphen and theoretically dropping her name with it.

Our official decision is for him to drop his hyphen and become First Middle Maternal Paternal and for me to take his paternal surname, becoming First Middle Maiden Paternal. He doesn’t feel that making her surname one of two middle names will really change anything about the way his friends and family feel about him, his identity, or his name. They will still call him by this name, he will still use it, he will still feel attached to it. We both really like the idea of giving our future hypothetical children either his mother’s or my surname as a second middle name but we will be keeping any baby names a secret until the child is born and named (awesome suggestion, readers/commenters!).

My husband has suggested we give any future children hyphenated double first names (i.e. Anna-Claire or John-Michael) as an homage to his mother and father… I’m glad the man has a sense of humor! Can’t wait to marry him this weekend and to see what name people chose to write on cards/monogrammed items!

49 comments:

Nikki said...

If this was my problem, I think I would keep my maiden name. For the children I would hyphenate my maiden with one of my husband's last names. Just one. I would leave it up to him and his family to choose, but they'd have to choose just one. I know your MIL might not like it but you, husband, and your children are YOUR family and you have the right to choose how you want the last name to go. They'll get over it. To me it's the same as picking first names. This is my baby and I get to choose what he/she goes by...and that's that!

Snoopyfan said...

Is it possible that if you drop one of his last names you could use that as the middle name for one or more of your future, hypothetical children?

When my sister and her husband got married (mid 90's) she kept her maiden name and hyphenated it. As the years went on, it became cumbersome to deal with her first name maiden name-his name (it was 8 syllables and a LOT of letters!) and she dropped her maiden name. She now goes by first name his last name and their children go by his last name. Their first born (a girl) has our maiden name as her middle name. It is not a first namey sounding name at all, but since my parents had two daughters, the family name goes on through my niece.

If you employed this idea, would his mother be appeased by the idea that a grandchild would have her last name as a middle name?

Susan said...

I think the simplest solution would be for you to use First Middle PaternalSurname (no maiden name, no MaternalSurname), and for your husband do the same (that is, drop the MaternalSurname with hyphen). Then when you have children, use the same surname for them.

1. Your mother-in-law will be appeased when she sees that you aren't replacing her name with yours (which I suspect is the annoyance) but are in fact reverting to paternal surname, period.

2. Your husband, you, and all your children would share the same name.

3. You will spare your children a naming dilemma when they get married. Or at least they'll have a less-complicated dilemma!

4. You would have your own nice middle name and eliminate the problem of your maiden name not being ideal as a middle name.

That wouldn't give you everything you want, but it would give you a lot.

Joanne said...

I want to comment as someone who didn't take her husband's (incredibly short and therefore not helpful to you) last name. I have a different last name as my kids and my husband but I still feel like we are all in the same family. I have brothers who have kids with our last name, so it's not like my name won't go on through me, but it probably wouldn't anyway. So I would either keep my maiden name and let the others have your husband's long name or I'd make up a new name. My neighbor and her husband made up a new last name and then gave their kids their old surnames, girls got hers and boys got his. It is complicated, though, I wish you luck!

Alayne said...

This is definitely complicated and the main reason why my husband and I will not be hyphenating our children's surnames even though I've kept my surname. I think you need to sit down with your husband and MIL and explain your feelings and concerns about the surname issue. That being said though, you and your husband are creating a family together and need to decide what is best for you. Naming is so complex and I feel like the patriarchal rules need to change in order to reflect modern society. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I think if it were me, I would have a discussion with my husband about which name he might be willing to drop, because I would have a real problem with not being allowed to carry on my name if that's what I wanted to do. I would compromise, I think, and ensure the parent whose name was dropped that you plan to use their surname for one of your children's name slots. Overall, though, I think hurt feelings are a bit unavoidable here, and it's a situation in which someone will just have to put their foot down.

Jenny Grace said...

I know two different families where the wife and kids have the dad's hyphenated last name (from his parents). In both cases, I always my whole life assumed that the one of the hyphenated parts of the name was the mom's maiden name, and was SHOCKED to find out otherwise.
I don't really have any advice, I just wanted to confirm that.

MelissaInk Designs said...

Your MIL had to be aware that this day would come. Asking a DIL to take the hyphenated name she and her husband chose is putting you in the exact position she did not want for herself (having to take her husband's last name exclusively). It's unfair for her to expect you to just "take it." I suspect it might ANNOY her, but it doesn't mean she doesn't understand. You and your husband have to make a choice for YOUR family - whether that is him paring down his surname or taking your name. Ultimately, though, it's YOUR name.

Your fiance sounds pretty flexible, so you can do what you want here. Hopefully, tensions are eased by the time naming children come along. Does he have any brothers or sisters? What they did they do?

LoriD said...

Caroline wrote that she wanted First Middle Maiden Married. Why not just pick one half of your fiance's surname that will be your "Married". He can keep his name hyphenated if he wants and then the kids can either be your "Married" selection, or Maiden-Married if that's the route you choose to go. I don't think Caroline should have to take on both of her fiance's names, sacrificing what she really wants.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

This is a tricky situation, but whatever you do, try to communicate the reasons why with your MIL. Family relationships are so hard to navigate so make sure you and your fiance are on the same side and then try to bring the MIL on board.

Anonymous said...

This is very similar to what happened in my case. In my case, we each kept our own names and I took his paternal last name as a hyphen, but our boys were my last name in the middle, his last names in the surname, and the girls were his mom's last name in the middle, and my last name hyphenated with his paternal last name. So Jane Janeslastname and Mark maternalsurname-paternalsurname had 4 children, Benjamin and William Janeslastname maternalsurname-paternalsurname, and Grace and Julia maternalsurname janeslastname-paternal surname. We all share his paternal name, though our first half of our hyphen names are different.

Rachel C said...

It's really interesting to hear everyone's ideas on this one! My sister-in-law kept her maiden name (she has a PhD and is published in journals under her maiden). She and her husband we talking about hyphenating and I was crossing my fingers that they would not. They ended up just giving their kids the father's surname. But together they are "the Father'sLastName family". She just uses her maiden professionally.

If it was me in the submitter's situation I'd take only one of the husband's last names. I'd go with whatever comes second. For example, if his last names are Smith-Jones and your maiden name is Parker, you'd be First Middle Parker Jones. And I would ask my husband to un-hyphenate his last names to be First Middle Smith Jones. So together you would be "the Jones family" (shared last name like you wanted, he still has his mother's maiden included). This might give the mother-in-law some time to get used to the name change...and by the time you have kids you can name them just "Jones" (and/or give your maiden name as a second middle).

Please update us on what you decide to do and how it goes with your mother-in law!!

Caroline said...

A few points I did not mention originally but may be helpful:
1. My fiancé seems to be more personally attached to his mother’s surname than his father’s. It seems as though a hyphenated surname causes a wide array of problems, one of them being that people want to call you by only ONE of these names and count it as your “real” last name. If shortening his name, he chooses the maternal surname almost every time. (This is only unfortunate for me because I happen to really like his father’s surname and am less keen on his mother’s, but that is really just a stylistic problem and beggars cannot be choosers!)
2. I am fully willing to give future children any dropped or not dropped names as middle names in the future.
3. His sister is not yet married but is very excited about the prospect of getting rid of her entire hyphenated name and becoming First Middle Married.
4. He is being Very Agreeable, but the problems with his mother are hard for both of us because she has a behavioral disorder and is likely to be more socially awkward than is really necessary in these situations.

Nicole Trager said...

I really like Rachel's comment about un-hyphening the name and both of you going to have 2 middle names. Everyone seems to get what he/or she wants and in the end you will just have one family last name for the kids sake!

I will say from a child's perspective.. I grew up having a different last name than my family.. all of my siblings and I have different last names because we have different dads, not only that, but because we had different dads we looked nothing alike and no one thought we were family.. but we all lived under the same roof with my mom. There was nothing that seemed to tie us all together.. and I didnt like it as a child, I would have rather had one family name..
even to this day when I send stuff home, I put " The Crazy Family" because everyone has different last names still and its hard to fit all 5 last names on one envelope.

I already have 2 given middle names, so when I married I went the traditional route and dropped my last name and took his, as I desperately wanted a family name and already had 2 middles.. no remorse here!

So save your family some trouble and come up with a solution that ends in you being "the Jones family" and not " the Smith-Roberts-Jones family"

Sabrina said...

I am in the same situation. I decided to add my maiden name as a middle name and then my husband's hyphenated name (although i swore I would never go by anything other than my maiden name!) But i just wanted a cohesive family name in the end. We just had our first son and he has my husband's name. Which is fine, but not because I feel like his parent's names are reflected in our son, but what about my family name? I'm learning to deal with it but it still bugs me every now and then. Glad to know that i'm not the only one.

M.Amanda said...

Taking the paternal name and making the maternal name makes most sense to me. Then you would be First, Middle, Maiden, Paternal; hubby could be First Middle Paternal or First Maternal Paternal, using his mother's name as a middle name; and the kid's could be First, Middle, Maternal, Paternal, like having two middle names. Then MIL's name will be used in future generations, even if not as a surname.

Whatever you decide, MIL will just have to accept it. You clearly are taking her feelings into consideration, so it's not like she's being snubbed, but in the end you and your husband (and children) will be the ones living with the decision. You can't be expected to make life decisions to please her when another way might save you a decades of aggravation.

StephLove said...

I haven't read all the comments so maybe someone already suggested this but how about he changes his last name to yours? Then everyone (you, husband and future kids) has a single surname and his mom might not mind her name being dropped if the whole thing goes.

AirLand said...

Your husband should be navigating this issue with his mother. Your M-I-L is trying to force something on you, your husband, and your future children that she didn't want for herself. He needs to stand up for your choice, whatever it is, and be really supportive of it.

I think you should pick one of your husband's names to add onto your maiden name, preferably whatever name he uses second. So you would be First Middle Maiden HisLastName#2 and he would be First Middle HisLastName#1 HisLastName#2. It would seem clearer to me that you are married. Also maybe your M-I-L will appreciate that he is keeping his whole last name intact. Then, maybe your children could just go by HisLastName#2. You could use HisLastName#1 and your maiden name as 2 middle names for a child.

Last, don't tell your M-I-L your decision before your wedding. Just enjoy your day! Change the subject if she brings it up.

Slim said...

Is there any chance that genealogical research would reveal a common last name somewhere in both your family trees? Or something else you could use a common last name (Hey, we both had family that lived in Richmond!)? No?

I kept my name and my husband kept his, and our kids have his name, which made me wonder if I was being a sellout. But then one of my kids came home from school and said a hyphenated-last-name-kid had made fun of him for wearing nail polish, because boys don't do that, so -- and I know this is obvious, but still -- know that if you're concerned about equality, the name this is neither where it begins nor where it ends. And I would go with blithe indifference on the MIL front. She, too, must realize that a name is an important symbol but not a determining factor in the values your kids absorb.

Christine said...

Given what you mentioned above, if I were in your personal situation and I wanted (like you did) to go by First Middle Maiden Married ...I would choose to go by First Middle Maiden MaternalMaiden. You indicated that's the name that feels more "him." Then, he could either change it to your Maiden-MaternalMaiden; OR keep his name as is. And you could choose to go with either his current last name for the kids, or your Maiden-MaternalMaiden. Not a perfect system, but at least you would all have the one name in common. Your MIL would be appeased, but more importantly you're picking the name that your husband seems to identify with.

Patricia said...

What a conundrum! I agree with those who suggest that your husband chose whichever surname he wants to keep (it sounds like it's his mother's surname) and then you decide whether you want to keep your entire name as is or add his as a fourth name. Either way, your children would have your husband's chosen surname only.

I can see why your husband may have a stronger attachment to his first (mother's) surname. In English that surname would seem to predominate because the hyphenated surname becomes like one word and is alphabetized accordingly. Thus, John Smith-Bradford would seem more a Smith than a Bradford.

We have a SIL from Mexico where traditionally children have both parents' surnames, not hyphenated, as their surname. When our daughter married L___ PaternalSurname MaternalSurname, she preferred the second surname. He agreed, so now they and their children go by that name, although his brothers' families who live in the US go by the paternal surname. Whatever works!

Patricia said...

I want to add that although your fiancé's parents may not have intended this, they really established the maternal surname as the predominating one by putting it first. In the hypothetical case of John Smith-Bradford, who sees himself as more Smith than Bradford, had the parents chosen to put the paternal surname first as Bradford-Smith, Bradford would feel like more his name, with Smith just the last syllable of his name.

shhh said...

I had a similar problem. My mother kept her name, and my brother and I have both names, hyphenated. At some point my brother decided he was going to go by Paternallastname, and I chose to go by Maternallastname. It seemed fair to do it that way, esp since my mom worked hard for women's equality and that was part of her intention in giving us both surnames.
When I got married I didn't add my husband's name- I decided my last name was confusing enough already! But I'm afraid we ended up passing on the tradition and the problem: our kids are First Middle Mymaternallastname Husband'slastname. (No hyphen, though.. we thought it would be easier to switch the 1st surname to a middle one day if they want to).

Anonymous said...

Here's an article -- "The disappearing hyphen: Surnames getting simpler" -- that speaks to what what "shhh" posted above, as well Caroline's surname dilemma: "No longer as powerful a feminist statement as it was a generation ago, the hyphenated surname is often seen as a bureaucratic inconvenience."

And, "As women saddled with hyphenates face their own naming decisions, the hyphen is revealing itself to be an impractical, one-generation solution." http://greatreporter.com/content/disappearing-hyphen-surnames-getting-simpler

Claire said...

I knew a couple that had a similar situation (her last name was singular, his was hyphenated because his mother had been married twice, and their solution to making the children from both marriages feel bonded was to combine the two last names with a hyphen and change everybody's name) - when they got married, he was more than willing to take the wife's last name to go back down to something singular. Her parents were thrilled, as they only had daughters, so it was a way to keep their family name alive, and it cut out the "picking one parent's last name over another" dilemma.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. Converting him to your last name seems the simplest solution, and from what I've read, not completely uncommon these days.

Phancy said...

One note of caution. I would not, at this point, promise or even suggest that you plan to use a specific name as your future child's middle name. Even if it is a great idea, you don't want to get locked into it.

My other thought is that just because one half of the couple has more names than the other, that person shouldn't get more name slots allocated to them.

Also, what about mashing his last name? From jones-smith, create Jonith. ? Good luck! We'll all be interested in how this turns out.

Brenda said...

I spent a semster living in Mexico. Here is how everyone there did it. (everyone was hypenated)

Child was named Mary Marie Paternalsurname Maternalsurname. When she got married she kept her Paternalsurname and took her husband's paternal surname.


Example: John Paul Smith-Jones married Mary Marie Johnson-Carter. When they marry she becomes Mary Marie Carter-Jones. The children are named Carter-Jones.

It worked there!

Patricia said...

I've noticed many hyphenated -- aka double-barreled [DB] -- surnames in the London Times birth announcements. (http://swistlebabynames.blogspot.com) A quick search using Smith came up with these examples on the first 2 pages:

FitzGeorge-Balfour
On 17th April 2011, to Tania (née Smith) and George, a daughter, Jemima.

[Entire family using Dad's DB surname.]

HARVARD-WALLS
On January 27th 2011, at St.Mary's Hospital Paddington, to Spencer Harvard-Walls and Tabitha Aldrich-Smith, a beautiful daughter, Tatiana Skye

[Both parents with DB surnames; wife kept her own name; child has Dad's DB surname.]

STUART-BUTTLE
On January 8th 2011, to Sophie (nee Ridley-Smith) and Peter, a daughter, Daisy Monica Jeanne.

[Mom with maiden DB surname took husband's DB surname; thus, entire family has dad's DB surname.]

HAMILTON-SMITH
On 5th January 2011, to Louise (née Barney) and the Hon. Craig Hamilton-Smith, a daughter, Celia Jane Vanessa, a sister for Dougal.

[Another wife who took husband's DB surname, which became the surname for their family.]

GRAFFTEY-SMITH
On December 2nd 2010, to Chantal (née Field) and Alexander, a daughter, Isla, a sister for Cicely....

[Again wife assumed her husband's DB surname, which became their family name.)

The double-barreled surname practice seems to be more prevalent in the UK and goes back for generations in some families. Thus, there may be the assumption that that surname is carried on as is.

It seems that Caroline and her fiancé may be deciding not only what their children's surname will be but that of their grandchildren and future descendants as well. Now is the time to commit to the double-barreled surname, maybe for generations to come, or perhaps make things a bit easier for their children and grandchildren by choosing just one of the husband's surnames.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a) using just the maternal surname (since husband prefers that one); b) using your surname, if he's open to taking that; or c) looking for another name that would be unique to your family---something blended, something from your history, or something otherwise meaningful. I know several couples that have done this (one to get rid of a really unfortunate last name, the others just because they wanted to) and it strikes me as a really meaningful way to approach it. You start a new family with a new name.

The one thing I would avoid is using just the paternal surname---I suspect that would upset your MIL far more than using your name + paternal surname, or changing it all together. That seems completely counter to both your own concerns and to the spirit of your in-laws hyphenating in the first place. I suspect you'd find her far more open to replacing her name with yours, or something like that.

On another note, though, I have to say that now that we're actually at the point of child naming, having both parents sharing the child's surname is feeling far less critical to me. Weird, as it seemed really important pre-baby, but I've started asking the many friends I have who don't share a surname or whose surname is the child's second middle, and across the board they say they don't think about it on a day-to-day basis. They are the PaternalName-MaternalName families, but within the families, different people have different names, and that seems to work fine. So that might be something to think about, too---you don't necessarily have to resolve this all now.

Karen L said...

Hm. A pickle indeed.

I was already going to suggest that your fiance drop the paternal half of his surname; so, I was glad to see in your comment that that would be his preference. I think then the options and family politics become simpler. Everybody could just have his now single surname OR everybody could have his now single surname hyphenated with your "maiden."

Another perfectly reasonable option for getting the whole family the same surname is for your fiance to drop both his surnames (or make them middles) and take yours. Though I'm not convinced that dropping both would feel much better to his mother than dropping just hers.

I agree with Phancy, though, do not reveal your plans for the children's middles OR surnames (if you and your fiance don't have identical surnames when you're done deciding.) Your plans may change.

I also agree with AirLand that it is VERY important that whatever you and your fiance decide that HE take enthusiastic ownership of that decision when discussing it with his family. If his explanation is half-hearted, then that is WORSE than you inform them yourself. You don't want to be charged with both being sneaky (by not telling them yourself) and with manipulating your fiance into something that he does not want.

Good luck! And please do send an update!

Jodi said...

As someone already pointed out, this is a much more common "problem" in the UK, and they just seem to deal with it somehow. We had a family at church whose surname was A-M, and I believe it was just his original surname that she married into. Their kids all had it, and after a while it just sounded like a normal, if long, surname. I was going to say I think that's what I'd do in your sitaution, but as I think about it, that really just postpones the inevitable for a generation, doesn't it? You'd be passing on the same legacy of complicatedness to your children that you've inherited, and that doesn't seem like the best plan to me.

Although this would usually not be my style at all, I think your dilemma calls for a smooshing of names. Does his hyphenated surname at all lend itself to smooshing, ie Miller-Coswell becomes Milwell? I feel like that would appease his mom and give your whole family the simplicity you're looking for, but it probably wouldn't work with just any names (my hubby's would've been Munnung, not so good) but I'm sure with a bit of creativity you could come up with something wearable. Is your fiance up for something like that? It would obviously be the biggest adjustment for him, after all, people will be expecting a new surname from you when you marry.

It's a tricky one, I hope you figure something out everyone can be happy with.

Karen L said...

So another option. Probably not one that you want, but not one that you said you considered.

You wrote: "I feel like the simple solution is to keep my name and he will keep his, but I would really like to share a surname with any future children."

You CAN both keep your names and you can share your surname with your children, if they take _your_ surname. You mentioned sharing a name with your children first. So that seems more important to you than the whole family having the same surname. Is sharing a surname with his children important to your fiance or maybe important but less important than keeping peace with his parents?

I doubt you'd like this option because you don't want people to misunderstand your names. (Not that I agree with it but ...) when children have the same name as their father, but not their mother, people "just" assume that the mother kept her maiden name ... but ... when children have the same name as their mother, but not the father, people assume that they are children of a previous marriage. The first assumption would at least be a correct in your case but the latter would not. Maybe you could live with that assumption to keep peace with the inlaws.

Janet said...

This is precisely the problem with hyphenated surnames, even if parents are well-meaning when they do this to their children.

I personally think it's none of MIL's business :) When you get married you are your own family and get to make your own decisions (respectfully). So do what you and your DH want to do, and MIL needs to just deal with it. She got to name her kids what she wanted, now they are adults and get to make their own choices.

The Mrs. said...

This might be over-simplifying things, but why don't you both just take your fiance's paternal surname?

So what if he's always been John Jacob Smith-Brown? If you both were to pick a new surname together, why not pick his father's name?

It wouldn't be super weird for him at work; everyone knew him as John Smith-Brown anyway. Now, he'd be John Brown. If anyone asked, he could just say, "I actually got married last weekend, and my wife and I decided to simplify things!" It is American tradition to pass along the paternal surname.

As for wanting to keep your maiden name, put it as your second middle name. Your mother-in-law will doubtfully demand to see your driver's license. You, your husband, and your children will all share the same last name.

Just because another woman wanted to make a social-political statement several decades ago, you are not deserving of all this stress! Like other posters mentioned, this is unfair to you and your husband.

I hope you both get to enjoy a wonderful, peaceful, and lovely wedding day! May you have a fantastic life together!

Karen L said...

@The Mrs.
"This might be over-simplifying things, but why don't you both just take your fiance's paternal surname?"
Caroline has said that
1) her fiance feels a stronger connection to his maternal surname.
2) her MIL might be miffed.

Kaity said...

How does future father-in-law feel about all this naming drama? Is he willing to have his name dropped? If he doesn't mind then I think that's your solution.

Honestly, if it were me I'd be trying anything in my power to drop the future mother-in-law's last name just because she's being such a pill about it. Or at least I'd be fantasizing about it!

Anonymous said...

I think it is best if you both came with 1 last name only. If DH wants to use his mother's great. If he wants to use his father's then maybe he can switch his middle name to his mother's maiden name.
You are your own family now and there will probably be plenty of decisions you make that your MIL won't approve of. That's ok!
-ma

Anonymous said...

This is how names traditionally work in Spain. A previous commenter mentioned Mexican traditions, and the Spanish are similar, but not identical. People are given a first name and then two last names- the first from the father, the second from the mother (this can be switched around, and of course there are special cases with more or less last names and such, but this is the standard.)When the child grows up to pass on their name, they use the paternal surname only.

So say Maria Lopez Serra marries Jose Garcia Perez. They have a child and name her Elena Garcia Lopez (first name, dad's first last name, mom's first last name.) Elena grows up and marries Juan Martinez Portillo. They have a child- Pedro Martinez Garcia. Women keep their names upon marriage. It may be a tradition to look to if you want a precedent.

doahleigh said...

Fascinating! My husband and I each kept our own surnames, and we fully intend to hyphenate our children's last names. But we always get the question "what will they do when they get married?" And we always answer just like Swistle said: that's for them to figure out.

I see the complication, but I still stand by that statement. Maybe the difference is that I won't be (at least I hope) offended if eventually my surname gets dropped.

I suggest being respectful of your MIL's opinions, but in the end, do what is best for you, your future spouse and your future family. Personally I like the idea of both of you maintaining one of his surnames and adding it to yours for your own hyphenation. Maybe just choose the one that sounds best with yours so it doesn't appear you're playing favorites?

Tamara said...

Rachel C suggested that you un-hyphenate his surnames, and then you commented that he is more attached to his maternal surname... so could you un-hyphenate and reverse the order... so First Middle Smith-Jones becomes First Middle Jones Smith, then you could be First Middle Maiden Smith, and your kids would be First Middle Smith and you would collectively be 'the Smiths'.

In out household we have 3 different surnames. My son from my first marriage has his fathers surname, I use my mothers maiden name and my 2 daughters and my husband all share a surname. I have often thought it would all be so much easier if it was the norm to take the mothers name rather than the fathers.

Guinevere said...

I wanted to say that consulting with his parents is a good idea -- it could perhaps get them on board with brainstorming ideas and also accepting whatever final decision is reached.

In this situation I would perhaps have him pick one of his two surnames to pass on to his wife and children, in consultation with his parents to help them feel included and spare hurt feelings about one surname being dropped. If he's more attached to the maternal half of his surname, then I think it would be fine and lovely for him to pick that one to pass on to wife and kids!

Brenna said...

I didn't see this mentioned, so I'll throw it out there. I've heard of some families where both parents keep their own 'pre-marriage' names, and when children come along, boys get the father's last name, and girl's get the mother's. I always thought that was brilliant in its simplicity, and also fair because no one decides the sex of their children, it's totally up to chance and therefore completely fair.
You could even change it to suit your preference. You could just alternate. The first child gets one name, the second child gets the other and so on.
It does eliminate the possibility of one shared family name, but at least its not 'dad+kids' with one name, and mom alone with another.

I also like the idea of searching the family trees for a shared ancestral name. That way it's meaningful, it's shared by both families so one is is snubbed (or everyone is, but at least it's fair!), and it eliminates the hyphenated nonsense, at least until one of your kids wants to marry a Mr. or Miss Hyphen-hyphen.

Betty M said...

In the UK the double barrelling of surnames on marriage is pretty new. Most of the double barrelled names have been in families for generations and generations. Maybe way back it was a way of ensuring an inheritance (it tends to be more of a "posh"person thing) or marking two families joining but once the name was created it stuck and women marrying in took the name as a whole surname. When I was a child all the double barrrelleds I knew were of the old variety but 40 years a fair number of the double barrelleds my daughter knows are of the new variety. I didn't double barrel but kept my surname. The kids have their father's surname and my surname as their 2nd middle name so they can chose to double it if they want to. Triple barrelling does happen in the UK but personally I think that is getting ridiculous.

Nil Zed said...

I wish a second middle name were as easy in the U.S. as it is in the UK. That's how we intended to resolve the issue of my having hyphenated and my husband not (he was going to, but with immigration and naturalization and having multiple degrees and publications already, it seemed like a bad plan) So, we were living in the UK when our son was born, and I intended to give him my maiden name as a 2nd middle name as the form had a place for it.

Then I forgot.

I note I'm replying the day after OP's wedding, so am curious how they resolved the dilemma.

Katie Mae said...

Disclaimer: this comment is all about meee. Everyone else already said smart things about the original question.

Arrgh, it's so complicated! This is why I am just going to change my name the old-school patriarchal way, and whatever. I will just DEAL with my EMOTIONS about it and focus on the positive. I like my new name! It will be fun to get a new signature! We and our future hypothetical children will all have the same name with no thinking or constantly explaining! Etc.

However. I have published in academic journals under my current name, and I am worried that these papers will be essentially lost. I am becoming a brand new academic with no degrees or publishing history. Or, I will have to always tell people my previous name and make it explicit on my resume, and then things are all personal and unprofessional. Why are academic journals not set up to link up papers under previous names? They're all online anyways. It would be totally possible. ARGH.

Caroline said...

I have obviously thought long and hard about what to do with our naming situation. I’ve been weighing all of the options listed in the comments and by Swistle over and over. I don’t think my husband quite realized how serious this whole thing was to me until I presented him with the Excel spreadsheet I had made of all the various name combination options we had to work with. Like many people mention when naming babies, I wanted to find a solution that both my husband and I felt strongly about, not one that I really liked and he was only kind of okay with. We sat down with the spreadsheet and we agreed on the options that we liked best. This weekend we had a family dinner with his parents and mine and my sweet fiancé spoke with his mother about my dilemma. She warmed to the situation (she has Asperger’s syndrome and can be quite socially awkward) and understood our dilemma. I don’t think that she minds that I don’t plan to take both names; apparently her misgivings were about him dropping the hyphen and theoretically dropping her name with it.

Our official decision is for him to drop his hyphen and become First Middle Maternal Paternal and for me to take his paternal surname, becoming First Middle Maiden Paternal. He doesn’t feel that making her surname one of two middle names will really change anything about the way his friends and family feel about him, his identity, or his name. They will still call him by this name, he will still use it, he will still feel attached to it. We both really like the idea of giving our future hypothetical children either his mother’s or my surname as a second middle name but we will be keeping any baby names a secret until the child is born and named (awesome suggestion, readers/commenters!).

My husband has suggested we give any future children hyphenated double first names (i.e. Anna-Claire or John-Michael) as an homage to his mother and father… I’m glad the man has a sense of humor! Can’t wait to marry him this weekend and to see what name people chose to write on cards/monogrammed items!

Melanie said...

So pleased you've come to a decision that is workable and have really cared for your families in this ... all the very best for your wedding!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to post that I think you came up with absolutely the most appropriate solution for the situation. Great job, that was a toughie!

emile said...

I realize that this is all resolved, and I'm happy to hear that the original questioner is happy with their answer.

I just wanted to say that I and my wife went with keeping our names, and kids being First Middle Maternal Paternal or First Middle Paternal Maternal based on sex.

The other option that was seriously in the running for us was to make up a new last name.

Ultimately we felt more strongly about a rule that *could* conceivably work over the generations (and would still preserve some history in last names) than we did about all sharing a single last name.