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Choosing a legal, married name

The name game

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Every couple must decide if they want to change their names when they get married. Who takes whose name? Should you hyphenate? Or should you invent a whole new name as a couple? The answer, it seems, is as simple as two peoples’ desire to tie the knot — both parties need to mutually decide what decision is right for them.

Eloy Nava of Murray Hill and his fiancé Paul Lemieux, who have been together for three years, plan to keep their own names when they get hitched. “As gay men in a committed relationship, we’re known as non-traditional and unconventi­onal,” explains Nava. “Why then would we share the same last name? Conforming to this tenet would be deliberately obnoxious. The right to marry and equal benefits is what we’re mainly concerned with.”

When couples do decide to take the more traditional route and choose one name over another, the professional and public lives of the individuals in the relationship can come into play. Arianna Sassone of Derry, New Hampshire, who is planning on marrying Faith Wahlen in June 2013, is taking her partner’s name because of her betrothed’s status. “Faith is a teacher and a varsity lacrosse coach,” says Sassone. “She’s known in her community as ‘Miss Wahlen,’ I do not have that same connection. So, at the end of the day, I will become a Wahlen because I know that will make my future wife very happy.”

Hyphenation is an option that creates uniformity while allowing both individuals to maintain their family heritage. Nothing is given up, and both gain. John Wiles and David Johnson of Miami have been together for seven years. They decided to join their names — both becoming Wiles-Johnsons — when they wed. “We are equals in our relationship, therefore our names should reflect that,” says John.

When it comes to hyphenating two names of the same sex, whose name comes first? “Let’s say their last names are Smith and Thomas,” offers Reverend Annie Lawrence of New York City, who has performed numerous gay weddings. “One partner’s hyphenation will read Smith-Thomas and the other partner may actually go by Thomas-Smith. They are choosing each other’s names but flip-flopping them.”

Another option is to create a new name. “I know a couple that created a new last name, ‘Starr,’ from two totally unrelated names,” offers Sassone.

Regardless of what a couple decides, choosing a married last name is very important.

“This is a big decision that you will have to live with for the rest of your life,” says Reverend Lawrence, adding that each couple should take their time and be sure.

Just like the road to the altar.

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