Changing your name after marriage is a big decision that involves a lot of thought and an equally large amount of paperwork. Before you dive down the rabbit hole of government documents, weigh your options. Do you want to take your husband or wife-to-be’s last name, keep your own, hyphenate your name or come up with something completely different?

Taking your spouse’s surname, hyphenating your last name or coming up with a brand new name for the two of you lands you with a family name - bonding the two of you in more ways than just a marriage certificate. It also means that if or when you have kids, they’ll take on that name too (no debating who’s sounds better).

Maybe you don’t care about those things? Keeping your own surname is just fine (and in Quebec, it's the law). Don’t feel pressured by friends or family to change your name after marriage unless you really want to – it’s a big deal.

Here are all your options when it comes to changing your name after marriage.

Take your partner’s last name

It used to be typical for women to take on their spouse’s last name – but times they are a changin’. While many women still take on their partner’s surnames, many men are choosing to do it, too. There are a lot of reasons that go into taking a partner’s name. Perhaps you like the sound of their surname better than your own? Maybe theirs is easier to spell? Or it could be that you just like the tradition of it? If it feels right, go for it. (Pro tip: here's how to legally change your name in Canada after marriage.)

Keep your own last name

Like the way your own name sounds? There’s no need to give it up! Plenty of couples have different surnames, so don’t feel pressure to change your last name if you don’t want to. Just be prepared to receive a few emails or letters that state your spouse’s surname instead of your own - everybody makes mistakes.

Use one name professionally, but another legally and socially

If you’ve built a career using your last name you may not be so keen on letting it go. Still want to take your spouse’s surname? You can always reserve your own for professional use but legally change your name after marriage to match your partner’s.

Hyphenate your last names

Adding a hyphen is a win-win. Simply place a dash between your two last names, and – voila! – you’ve got a brand new family name that benefits both parties equally.

Take your partner’s last name, but keep yours as a middle name

Follow Kim Kardashian West’s lead and keep your own surname as a middle name. Using this option means that you and your spouse will have the same last name but your birth name with remain the same on your official records.

Pick a new surname altogether

This option is the least popular of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. If you and your spouse aren’t fans of either of your last names, ditch them altogether and come up with something completely new. You could merge your names together or try something off the beaten trail. If you use this option, learn from Phoebe Buffay’s mistakes and skip sampling Bananahammock as a last name.

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