Why women take their husbands’ name after marriage

To legally change your name, you must notify the appropriate government agencies. PHOTO/www.tripsavvy.com

What you need to know:

There is no legal agreement that the woman should take on the man’s name. So, where the wife may have a problem with it, then it becomes a point of discussion between the couple.

The tradition of name-changing is longstanding in many cultures. While this practice has evolved, it remains prevalent today. To understand why women choose to adopt their husbands’ names, we spoke to experts, couples and individuals who have made this decision. Their insights reveal a blend of tradition, personal preference, and societal influences.

Justice Mike Chibita, notes that it is more cultural that women have to take on their husbands’ names after marriage. He adds that although some women may prefer to maintain their names, the main aim for those who embrace the change is usually to have unity between wife and husband.

“And I think culture also borrows from the Bible because the Bible says, “And the two shall become one.” And one way of expressing that oneness is the two having one name,” Justice Chibita says, emphasising the fact that couples must talk about this and agree on what works for them.

 “There is no legal agreement that the woman should take on the man’s name. It is a cultural tradition that has been passed on over time. So, where the wife may have a problem with it, then it becomes a point of discussion between the couple,” Justice Chibita explains.

Personal identity and unity

For some, the decision is deeply personal and tied to their sense of identity and belonging. Emmanuela Kibirige, a newlywed, says taking her husband’s name felt like the beginning of a new chapter. To her, it also symbolised their commitment to each other.

Professional considerations

The decision is not without its complexities. Women who have established careers may face the dilemma of changing the professional identity they have worked hard to build. Sarah Brown, an accountant, chose to hyphenate her last name.

“I wanted to honour my professional achievements while also embracing my new marital status. Hyphenating was a perfect compromise,” she says.

Psychological ownership

Adopting a husband’s surname can give a woman a sense of ownership and belonging in her new family, reinforcing the psychological bond of marriage. John Balinda and Lisa Mbabazi discussed extensively the issue of changing names before marriage.

“Lisa thought taking my last name would be a nice way to signal our unity to the world, especially when we have children, “ Balinda recalls while Mabazi says she felt a sense of growth; she was no longer single but part of Balinda’s life.

Equally, not all women feel compelled to follow this tradition. Maria Kafuko, who chose to keep her maiden name, says, “My name is a core part of my identity and heritage. My husband was supportive of my decision, and it has not affected our relationship in any way.”

To her, some practical considerations and challenges come with changing a name. For example, the legal process may be cumbersome, involving numerous updates to identification documents, financial accounts, and professional records.

Sociologist Emily Kababiito notes a shift in societal norms, “More women are choosing to keep their maiden names or find alternative solutions, such as hyphenation or creating a new surname. This reflects a broader move towards gender equality and individual autonomy in marital decisions.

Social influences

For others, changing one’s surname is a way to honour tradition and family heritage. It represents a seamless continuity of cultural norms passed down through generations.

“Sharing a surname often symbolises the unity and cohesion of the new family unit. It can create a sense of belonging and shared identity, not only for the couple but also for any future children, offering a uniform family identity,” Kababiito says, adding that societal expectations and norms still exert considerable influence.

In some communities. There is an implicit assumption that a married woman will take her husband’s name, and deviating from this can sometimes invite questions or criticism.

Symbol of commitment

For some women, taking their husband’s surname is a deeply personal decision that symbolises their commitment to the marriage and partnership. It can be seen as a gesture of love and unity.

“Changing one’s surname can also be a way for women to gain social recognition and acceptance, particularly in communities where the practice is the norm,” says Kababiito.

Mathew Kalembe, a psychologist, says changing one’s name gives a sense of a new beginning. Because marriage often signifies a new chapter in life, adopting a new surname can symbolise a fresh start.

“This can be particularly meaningful for those who associate their maiden name with past experiences they wish to forget,” Kalembe observes.

Legacy and heritage

Kababiito says taking a husband’s surname is a way for women to participate in the legacy of their spouse’s family. This can be particularly significant in families with a strong sense of heritage and history.  The decision to change one’s surname, she says, can impact both public and private identity, influencing how a woman perceives herself and how she is perceived by others.

Digital presence

Kenneth Mugabi, a digital marketer, says in the digital age, changing a surname can involve updating social media profiles, email addresses, and other online identities, which can be a significant undertaking but also an opportunity for a fresh digital start.

Mugabi notes that in some cases, taking a husband’s surname can enhance personal security and privacy by making a woman’s new identity less recognisable, which can be particularly relevant for those in high-profile or sensitive professions.


Mugabi tips that a unified family surname can streamline numerous administrative tasks, from travel bookings to healthcare arrangements, reducing the potential for confusion and errors.

Whether women choose to adopt, retain, or modify their surnames, the underlying reasons highlight the diverse ways in which individuals navigate their identities within the institution of marriage.

As society progresses, the variety of naming choices reflects a broader acceptance of individual autonomy and the dynamic nature of personal identity.  This evolution underscores the importance of respecting each couple’s unique decision-making process and recognising the personal significance behind the names they choose to carry.


If the idea of taking your husband’s last name does not feel right, here are a few alternatives:

Hyphenate last name: This can be a great compromise, as it represents a literal fusion of your two families. Choose whichever order you think works best.

Create a new last name: Maybe you cannot decide whose last name to take, or maybe you both have never been fond of your respective given names. Your marriage is an opportunity to start anew, together, and an entirely new last name is a fitting way to symbolise the beginning of the journey. Just know the steps involved to make things legal will be a bit more extensive.