The Name Game


Back when this happy couple got married, there wasn’t a lot of question about how they would be addressed socially or professionally in the aftermath. The bride would take the groom’s name, period.

Sure a few famous women – mostly movie stars and novelists – might continue to use their birth names professionally, but for most women marriage spelled the end of any professional life that might require continuity of address. She might get a job, particularly once the children were in school, but she wouldn’t have a profession. And even if she did have a profession, her professional identity would change to suit her social one.

Today, though, there are a lot more options. You can follow the traditional form. You can hyphenate. You can simply go by the names you used before you got married. You can both change to something completely new. You can go socially by your husband’s name and professionally by your birth name. I even knew one woman who kept her own name socially but used her husband’s professionally. She was a kindergarten teacher and the kids found his last name easier to pronounce than hers.

The decision, as I have said many times before, is entirely up to the two people getting married. Whether you’re a traditionalist or a same-sex couple that can’t abide the idea of one of you being the ‘bride’ and one the ‘groom’ no matter your gender and feelings about your names, though, one thing is for sure: today you cannot assume that everyone will know what choice you have made.

So how do you get the information across to your entire social circle?

Word of mouth is always appropriate, of course. Tell your immediate family and wedding party what your decision is. If someone thinks to ask, tell them without defensiveness or timidity. This is a statement of fact. How they choose to react to it is not your responsibility. If they want to argue, simply assure them you’ve made your decision and that’s the end of the matter. Then pointedly change the subject. I have found ‘How about that local sports franchise?’ to be an excellent signal that it’s time to move on.

But I think there’s an even better way to handle the announcement and it’s surprisingly old fashioned: the at home card.


(Illustration via Spark Love Notes)

Once upon a time, these clever little cards were used to inform potential visitors of the ‘at home’ days and times of the lady of the house. These were the times when she would make herself available to callers. But they were also used by newlyweds to let their friends know where they were setting up home as well as those times when they could be visited.

Today most of us don’t lead the sort of lives that are conducive to sitting in the parlor waiting to see who wants to come see us. We’re too busy actually going places, doing things, and arranging specific times and places to see the people we want to see.

All the same, they can be useful in letting people know: your new address (if that is changing), how you wish to be addressed, and when you’ll be back from your honeymoon in one fell swoop.

So drop one of these business card sized cards into your invitations, and everyone will know how you wish to be addressed in future!

3 Responses to “The Name Game”

  1. Amber April 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I think it might be better to drop the name cards in the thank you notes. Prior to the wedding might not be obvious about what the post-wedding names will be. Thoughts?

  2. Twistie April 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    @Amber: I would tend to think that most couples would have discussed the name question by the time they’re sending out wedding invitations. Also, I think it’s a handier way to do it because then the word goes out to everyone at once before guests start writing checks as wedding gifts.

    Still, I say do it in whatever way works for you as a couple.

  3. Katie April 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    My husband and I had both of our full names printed on the front of the cards that we used for thank you notes, which I think communicated that neither of our names had changed.