To Be Safe, Call the Bride by Her First Name By ANNA JANE GROSSMAN The New York Times - December 2, 2007 Field Notes WHEN Jill Van Camp decided to play catcher in a softball game on the September morning of her wedding, her mother worried that the bride might lose a tooth. Ms. Van Camp, 31, was more concerned about losing her good name. Literally. She and Darren Bloch, 33, knew they wanted to spend their lives together, but were unsure how to monogram their towels. So they arranged the game between their respective families and friends, and proclaimed that the winning team would determine which of them would take the others name. Thanks to hyphens, a vogue toward creative morphing of names, and legislation in some states that has eased the process for a man to take his wifes surname, there have never been more surname options. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, and Maria Shim, then a Harvard student, studied various Massachusetts birth records, wedding announcements published in The New York Times and Harvard alumni records for a paper they published in 2004 in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. They found that fewer than 4 percent of college-educated brides did not take their husbands last name in 1975, compared with about 20 percent in 2000. But brides, and bridegrooms as well, are learning that with choice comes complication. They are turning what was once an intimate conversation into an interactive dialogue with relatives, friends and even professional consultants. When the former Katharine Newberry-Gillin, 25, a manager at a Trader Joes food store in Osseo, Minn., was engaged last year to Kyle Sommers, also 25, there were many name-change options. I was coming face to face with something that Id always known would be a major issue, she said. When I was in school, people always joked about what kids with hyphenated names would do when they got married. She decided to take the name-change question to the polls. At an online voting page she built at SurveyMonkey.com, several dozen friends and family members weighed in on whether she should become just Kate Sommers or Katie Sommerberry-Gillin. Or Katharine Elizabeth Gilnewsom. She took the advice of many of her survey-takers and added her new husbands name to her own name, after subtracting the hyphen. Her legal name is now Katharine Newberry Gillin Sommers Kate N.G. Sommers, for short. The issue of men who want to change their names made news recently when a California man found himself caught in red tape trying to take his wifes name; he sued the state, claiming gender discrimination. The case was the impetus for legislation, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, that will give married spouses and domestic partners equal rights to change their names beginning January 2009. Seven states already recognized a husbands right to take his wifes last name upon marriage. They are New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts and North Dakota. Kate Talbert, 29, a medical student in Los Angeles, went to Indiebride.com two years ago for input about what new name she and her future husband, Brian Denny, 31, should call themselves after their wedding. They had already decided to create a new name, and she needed to figure it out quickly to order the engraved chocolate bars for their wedding guests. It was nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of, she said. As for her proposed names, Emerson made one fellow bride think of the bald doctor on M*A*S*H. Sarana, said another, would be difficult to pronounce if someones calling you which might be good, because you can tell which ones are the telemarketers. In the end, Ms. Talbert and Mr. Denny decided on E.E. Cummingss middle name, Estlin. I wasnt hugely attached to my last name, said the former Mr. Denny, a computer programmer, and she just couldnt really see herself as Kate Denny. And taking her name didnt feel right, either. So we decided to take a new name instead. My dad mightve been a little sad, but not really, he added. My family is pretty open-minded. Some choose to seek professional assistance when changing their name. Danielle Tate of Potomac, Md., runs the Web site MissNowMrs.com, which can help women go through the legal steps to change their surnames. For $29.95, brides can print out all the necessary papers online and get Ms. Tates candid thoughts on their best options. Women who are only children or who work in a family business usually dont want to change their name completely, she said. Its a personal choice, but people are hungry for advice, and theres just not a lot of reference out there. Maryanna Korwitts, a professional name consultant in Naperville, Ill., takes a more academic approach. Ms. Korwitts is a self-described name-ologist who has studied calligraphic design; she helps people name businesses and babies and rethink their names before marriage, or after divorce. All of us recognize that our name is more than just a word or a label, but weve never really been educated to understand the energy behind it, she said. When the wedding-day softball game at a resort in Mount Tremper, in upstate New York, finally began, Ms. Van Camp, a social worker in New York City, ended up feeling less in control of the outcome than she thought she would. We both felt a fair amount of hubris about our softball abilities, said Mr. Bloch, a vice president for external relations at the Empire State Development Corporation in New York City. The bride ended up having to leave halfway through so that she could get her hair done. While she was gone, the Bloch team won. So I had to take his name, said the former Ms. Van Camp now Mrs. Bloch. But Im a good player. I think if Id been able to play the whole game, hed be a Van Camp. But the game had the same effect as a shared last name. It brought our families together, Mr. Bloch said. Questions: 1) When you had your commitment ceremony, civil ceremony, or wedding did you change your last name? If so, why? 2) Were your parents or other family members hurt that you changed your name? 3) If you changed your name, did you hyphenate it, or did you make up a new name which was the combination of both your names? 4) Do you think it is archaic for either party to change their last name, and think everybody should keep the name they were born with?