Popping the Question: What’s in a Name? Part II

Welcome to our new series here at A Bicycle Built for Two: Popping the Question! Based on the interests you expressed in our survey this summer, we’ll be tackling some questions unique to wedding planning as a queer couple.

Our first question had to do with last names:

After your wedding, did you (or do you plan to) keep your last name? Take your partner’s? If so, how do you pick which name to keep?

We asked, and you answered! After taking a week to collect your responses to the great last name question, we’re back with an update and some personal stories that may help those of you who are still deciding how to proceed. We couldn’t fit every answer here, but many thanks to all who got in touch. We love to hear from you!

The Name-Changers

alex-erica-081Erica & Alex in what ended up being the third of three wedding photo opportunities!

“My feminist child self decided long ago I wasn’t going to take anyone’s last name. I also really like my full name, my initials, and my dad is really proud of ‘being a Gillingham’. I’ve been hearing stories about great-great-Gillingham so-and-so for years! At the same time, I really love the idea of a family name.

When my wife and I had our civil partnership ceremony, we talked very loosely about her taking my name as in ‘it would be nice when we have kids’ kind of thing. When we converted our civil partnership to a marriage last summer, we’d been married 5 years at that point and with the passing of time, she felt even more strongly about taking my last name–and I started to feel weird about it! ‘What kind of feminist was I to have someone else take my name?!’ I asked myself. ‘The kind of feminist who lets her wife make up her own damn mind, that’s who,’ my head replied.

When Alex gave a speech at the party last summer, she announced that she’d be taking my name and we would be ‘Ms. and Ms. Gillingham’–and now I love it.” —Erica

The Name-Keepers

“No matter the gender of whoever I ended up with, I always planned on keeping my last name—just a personal preference.”—Elana

“I was in a heterosexual marriage prior to falling in love with Maya so I was clear to us that I needed to let that name go. I also felt strongly that I didn’t want to take another person’s name ever again. I wanted to reclaim myself and hang on. At 43, she was very attached to her name and didn’t want to give it up, so the decision was easy. I never liked my maiden name but had been using my middle name for years as a nickname—so Tingle for me and Stein for her and now just for fun, all our friends call us the TingleSteins, which we both love without having to legally adopt it!” –Amy

The Hyphenaters


“After endless back and forth, we decided to hyphenate our names. The order was simply based on which we decided sounded better, but hyphenation was a really hard call. This may sound ridiculous, but if I was straight, I wouldn’t have hesitated to have each of us keep our last names. As a lesbian, however, having our family share the same last name felt like an important step in being recognized as a family unit… particularly as we want to have children and both of us having been raised in smaller, more traditional communities.

A combination of our feminist sensibilities, the (very different) heritages that our last names carry, and simple inability to ‘just pick one’ resulted in the hyphenated last name. While this is what worked best for our family, I’ve got to acknowledge the challenges that come with hyphenating. We’ve gotten every combination and pronunciation out there on mail and when asked my last name, without thinking I begin with, ‘It’s hyphenated. The first part is…’ to ease confusion and misspelling.” —Dana

And then there are those of us taking things a step beyond hyphenation:

“Things aren’t official yet, but they will be in a month’s time. Neither of us have personal attachment to our last names, both of which are pretty common, and neither of our families cared either. We definitely wanted a joint identity, a ‘Teamname.’ I was ready for a hyphen, she thought they were unruly. So we anagrammed our names into something that seemed like a surname, yet isn’t as far as we could Google. That’s where we are at now, informing banks and being a team with our lovely semi-germanic franken-name.”—Stacy

That’s not all! In fact, there are almost as many considerations as we got responses—family traditions and relationships, future kid names, and combinations that just sound funny… Claire wrote to us about how she and her partner hyphenated their names in order to balance personal and professional goals: having a shared last name for the ease of their future kids while also staying recognizable in their fields of employment. Then, there’s the logistical stuff: Annie and Sandy, who also chose hyphenation, chimed in to note that in certain states, there are legal requirements that make some options easier than others—and Lynette, who shares a last name with her partner, pointed out that taking one wife’s existing last name means filling out only one set of name-change paperwork!

View More: http://tarabethphotography.pass.us/bethaimeeengagementshoot

And then, in case you missed it, there’s always Beth and Aimee’s creative solution: play a game of Yahtzee and take the winner’s last name—an approach that another couple played out with their families on the soccer field! However you approach the question of last names, we’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments on this post to keep the conversation going!

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3 Comments

  1. Molly Thomason
    Posted Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I love this post. We are teamnamers. One Thompson, one Thomas and now we are The Thomason’s 🙂 -Molly

    • Maggie
      Posted Wed, Oct 05, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      That is so perfect!

  2. Michelle
    Posted Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    My wife and I smooshed our names together. My maiden name was Esquillo, hers was Rogers. We are now Mrs. & Mrs. Rosquillo. 🙂

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