What It's Really Like To Change Your Name After Marriage

I thought I was prepared for the day my fiancé and I applied for our marriage license. But, when I got to the part of the form that asked me to fill in my new last name, I balked. Pre-wedding cold feet regarding the name change — is that a thing? Because, that’s exactly what it felt like, and it took me by surprise.

I put the papers aside for a couple of weeks while I thought about how it would feel to give up my last name — not in the abstract, but for real.

I had given it some thought before, of course. In college, I learned about the checkered history of marriage, and why women took their husbands’ last names at all. As my friends began swapping wedding vows, I heard every variety of post-marriage name choice under the sun: keeping your old name, using your old name only at work, using both names, having both partners change their names. I’m glad all these options are out there. I consider myself a feminist, and for me, that means giving women more choices in every area of life (and not giving them grief for their personal decisions).

Still, before I met my future husband, I’d already decided to change my last name if I ever got married. My decision can be boiled down to basically one factor: fatigue. I was sick of being a Snoonian.

It’s an unusual last name — one that I constantly had to explain, correct, and spell for people. Over the years, I’ve fielded reactions to my name that range from rude (“Snoonian, that’s SO weird!”) to well-intentioned but clueless (“I haven’t heard of it; is that, like, Irish?”). And yeah, I’ve had some great conversations about my name, too. But, by the time I got engaged in my mid-30s, I was sick of the unwelcome remarks.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Still, the name Snoonian connects me to my family and my Armenian heritage. Growing up, I’d always been close to my father’s extended family — we spent nearly every Sunday eating huge Armenian meals with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. But by my engagement, my father’s parents and his three brothers had all died, and there hadn’t been an epic family meal in years. There I was, about to begin a major new chapter in my life, and none of these Snoonians would be around for it. It felt like losing them all over again. Yet, how lucky was I that my father, literally the oldest Snoonian left on the planet, was still around? A name is only a proxy for family, of course, but suddenly my name felt too precious to let go.

But, the urge to take my husband’s name was still just as strong. I realized the decision wasn’t based just on name fatigue, but on another loss. My parents got divorced after I graduated from college, and my mother had taken back her unmarried name afterward. The split was a long time coming but felt sudden and brutal in its impact: My childhood family had shattered just as I became an adult. And now, years later, I had the chance to form a new family with the man I loved. Obviously, I had proof that taking a man’s name wouldn’t guarantee a happy marriage, but I nevertheless craved the unity and the shared sense of purpose that a common last name implied.

In the end, I split the difference. I made Snoonian a middle name and took Glenn as my last name. Now, I use both names when I write, and increasingly in my personal life, too. It feels like I have the best of both worlds — a name that roots me in the present and links me to my past. Though, ironically, Glenn often gets misspelled as Glen, so I still spend plenty of time correcting people. I still get plenty of questions about Snoonian, too, but I’ve decided I’m okay with that. Feel free to ask me about it.
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