How to Combine Last Names in Marriage


After the wedding ceremony and honeymoon, couples have many options for how they will be known to family and friends. Today, women need not part with their maiden name. Instead they have the option to keep their name, to take their husband's name or to settle on a combination of the two. However, the latter option is not without complications. When deciding to combine last names in a marriage keep in mind that the choice is not only a matter of personal taste, but also could be restricted by the laws of the state where you have contracted your marriage.

  • Check state or municipal laws regarding modifications to a last name. Local jurisdictions have regulations regarding how to make a name change request upon marriage; for example, New York City provides four options for name changes. Check the website of the city or state for applicable laws.

  • Consider the ways to combine the name. Generally, names can be combined by either hyphenating the two names (Smith-Johnson), by combining the two names without a hyphen (Smith Johnson), or by creating an entirely new name that conserves elements of both name (Smitson).

  • Review long-term ramifications. Be mindful that if you choose to create a new surname, it may have implications for future generations attempting to conduct genealogical research based on the old family name, which will disappear with the new name.

  • Take steps to make the name legal. Names are subject to laws and changes to names must also be legally acknowledged. Go to the appropriate city or state authority and have your name changed for legal purposes. Make those same changes on identification documents (driver's license), bank and credit cards.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not attempt to transact business in the new name until it is properly recognized by the appropriate municipal or state authority.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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