Is Chelsea a keeper or a changer?
That's what researchers call the newly married once they figure out what to do, if anything, about their names. Now that the big Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is a wrap the question remains on Chelsea's choice.
There are loads of options, from making up brand new names and hybrids (Clevinsky) to hyphenates and add-ons like mom (Hillary Rodham Clinton). Research suggests more women than you might think -- 77 percent to 95 percent -- legally change their names when they marry, including those who take the time to make a switch but incorporate their maiden names informally to preserve their identities on the job.
Jo-Anne Stayner, who provides name-change assistance at ImaMrs.com, said the decision today for many first-time brides is all about the value of a woman's digital footprint, along with her educational and professional oomph. We're not all Clintons, but we care about the name game.
"With most women establishing a career before marriage (the average new bride is about 27 years old), it makes sense to want to protect the personal brand they have worked 14-hour days to create," Stayner said.
Ask.com fields more than a million queries every day on a variety of subjects. In the last 30 days, three of its top 25 questions covered marital alphabet soup.
How long before a wedding do you start planning for a name change?
Once engaged, Ask's experts recommend. Legal steps must usually wait until after the ceremony because a marriage certificate is required as proof of a name change. Gathering forms and researching requirements can take time, so getting a prenuptial jump on the chore will help. Government agencies, banks, credit card companies and employers have their own procedures.
Whose last name goes first in hyphenation?
The decision is usually based on sound, alphabetical order or personal preference.
What percentage of brides takes their husband's name?
Though recent research indicates a range spanning well over half, Ask cited one study done at Indiana University last year estimating 80 percent, with 70 percent of Americans surveyed saying brides SHOULD take their husband's last name. A recent study out of the Netherlands indicates women who use their husbands' surnames earn an average of about $1,150 less a month than those who keep their maiden names. Name-changers were generally older and had less education.
Presidential daughters over the last four decades have either left their names alone or pushed them to the middle.
At 30 with an advanced college degree and some work experience (as an investment analyst), Chelsea's a pretty average bride, other than her dad being a former president, her mom secretary of state and her pricey nuptials dubbed the latest wedding of the century. There's been no name announcement yet.
But consider Samantha Saephan, 29, of the San Francisco Bay Area. She's a public relations manager for a large communications firm and will soon dive in to a name change after getting hitched to Sean Thai on May 22.
"I already knew that I wanted to change my last name so I would have my husband's last name," she said. "It's a little bit of being old fashioned and traditional, and also further down the line when we do have children I'd like to have the same last name as my kids."
Business law professor David Ryan Polgar, 31, in West Hartford, Conn., married Leslie Doane.
Doane legally took her hubby's last name, informally preserving Doane as a second middle name for her work as a real estate agent.
"I want to come up in searches if people look me up under Doane, but the whole process is frustrating," she said.
And the male perspective?
"I could never imagine changing my name," her husband said.
Lauren Rotchford, 34, in Atlanta needs time to make the leap after marrying Randy Holmes on May 8. She wants to change her name, but is having trouble letting go.
"I think it's important. We're married. He's my husband and I want to show that I'm committed to him," she said. "It's just that I feel like I waited a while to get married and I have experience in my career and I'm known as Lauren Rotchford. It's a little bit harder than I thought it would be."