A tradition that grows stronger: brides taking their husbands’ names | ET REALITY


When Irene Evran, formerly Irene Yuan, married Colin Evran three years ago, in a civil ceremony on Zoom during the depths of the pandemic, the decision to take his name seemed natural.

His mother had kept her maiden name, as is traditional in China, where they are from. But Mrs. Evran thought it would be easier to share a name with her husband and her future children. It was important to him, he said, and he liked the way her name sounded with hers.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” said Evran, 35, of San Francisco. “There may have been a deep-seated traditional influence, but it seemed quite simple and straightforward.”

The wedding tradition of taking the husband’s surname is still strong. Among women in opposite-sex marriages in the United States, four in five changed their names, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Fourteen percent kept their last name, according to the survey. Younger women were more likely to have done so: a quarter of respondents aged 18 to 34 kept their name.

Hyphenated last names were less common (about 5 percent of couples across all age groups took that approach) and less than 1 percent said they did something different, such as creating a new last name. Among men in opposite-sex marriages, 5 percent took his wife’s last name.

The marital name has become another way in which Americans’ lives diverge in terms of politics and education. Among conservative Republican women, 90 percent took their husbands’ names, compared with 66 percent of liberal Democrats, Pew found. 83 percent of women without a college degree changed their name, while 68 percent of those with a graduate degree did so.

Women who keep their names are likely to be older when they marry, studies show, and have established careers and high incomes. They have invested in “making a name” professionally, said Claudia Goldin, an economist who studies gender at Harvard and co-wrote a paper with that title with Maria Shim.

As Taylor Swift sang about an ex-boyfriend in “Midnight Rain”: “He wanted a girlfriend, I was making my own name.” Still, Jennifer Lopez represented a much more common experience when she became Mrs. Affleck last year, long after she had made her own name.

People are marry later than in previous generations, and highly educated people are more likely to get married. That would suggest that more women would keep their names, said Sharon Sassler, a Cornell sociologist who studies young people’s transitions to adulthood.

“However, we adapt to the gender norms of our time, which, ‘Barbie’ notwithstanding, is not a very pro-feminist time,” she said.

Plus, she said, weddings are a time of gendered traditions: “I don’t think many women want to talk about ‘How is marriage a patriarchal institution?’ especially because they are making the decision to get married.”

Some younger women say the decision has become more practical than political: They find it easier to have the same name as their future children and to simplify dinner reservations or utility bills.

Immigrants to the United States and black and Hispanic women are less likely to adopt their spouse’s last name. Pew found that eighty-six percent of white women did so, compared to 73 percent of black women and 60 percent of Hispanic women. (Is used to keep the name in many Spanish-speaking countries). There were not enough Asian American women in the sample to analyze.

When Olivia Castor, 28, a corporate lawyer in Chicago, got married three weeks ago, she decided to take both routes. She is in the process of legally changing her last name to that of her husband, Austin McNair, but she will continue to use Castor professionally.

She is the daughter of Haitian immigrants and wanted to retain her Haitian last name and honor her family’s role in her education and professional success.

“It meant a lot to me to have that last name, a legacy of achievement in America, and I didn’t want to let it go,” he said. “But I also wanted to embrace the new life and family I am starting with my husband.”

Pew’s findings, from a survey of 2,740 married people conducted in April, are consistent with other data showing that about 20 percent of women have kept their names since the practice took hold in the 1970s. But it is It is difficult to know how it has changed over time because very little research has been done on it. (It is considered a “women’s issue” and therefore “is not considered valuable by the people who fund the research,” said Laurie Scheuble, a professor emeritus at Penn State who co-wrote an article about the name change in 2012.)

The Pew survey did not include enough same-sex couples to draw conclusions. Some said that due to the lack of tradition, same-sex couples felt freer in their choice.

For Rosemary and Christena Kalonaros-Pyle, who work in marketing in New York and celebrated their July wedding with 115 family and friends in Mexico, the solution was hyphenation.

“We wanted them both to have the same last name that our children would have, simply because legally it is much more prudent, especially as a same-sex couple, where in certain states and certain countries things are recognized differently,” Rosemary Kalonaros-Pyle said.

They also wanted to keep their Greek surname and honor the surname of Christena Kalonaros-Pyle’s father, who died before his wife could meet him.

“It was a little bit of legal logistics,” he said, “and a little bit of emotions.”

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