Marriage Mayhem: Do I Change My Name?


One couple, Sofia Jonsson and Karl Andersson, both of whom had common Swedish names, changed to Wetterlund, which was her grandmother's maiden name. Others adopt English-sounding names like Swedenrose or Flowerland.

"The reason for most changes is you want to stand out, be individual," said Jan Ekengren, director of the Patent and Registration Office, according to the newspaper. "Olla Andersson meets Eric Svensson — they want to start something together."

Of the 100 most popular Swedish names, 42 end in "son," because of an old Nordic practice of using the father's first name, and the suffix "-son" for a son, or "-dotter" for a daughter.

"From the time of the Protestant Reformation, Scandinavians without titles and lands were given their father's names -- for example, Jansson means 'child of Jan,'" said Kathleen Osgood, 59, who teaches comparative literature at the University of the Arctic. "In Iceland, this tradition continues to this day, with the refined twist of 'dottir' for girls; for instance, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the daughter of Finnbog, was Iceland's fourth president from 1980 to 1986."

Osgood, who lives in Northfield, Vt., is of Anglo-Nordic descent and was never given a middle name. When she married, she took on her husband's family name and became Kathleen Osgood Dana.

"In my family, women did not have middle names, so it was easy to keep my father's name when I got married, and easy to return to it when I was not," she said.

After her divorce, she kept her husband's name because she had published under the name. But in the end, she legally returned to Osgood.

"It felt like the right choice in the end," she said. "Professionally and personally, I like having my own name back."

Divorce can present other name dilemmas.

One 26-year-old law student, who did not want to be identified, dropped her middle name and took on her birth name and husband's name, with no hyphenation, when they married in 2005. She always made a point of signing all three names.

The couple divorced in 2008, but she kept his surname because she shared it with their 2-year-old son. Now, she is engaged again and will take on her new husband's name.

"It was tough to decide since it is such a hassle to change names," she told "However, I don't very well want to go around married to a man I love and adore, with the last name of my ex-husband."

"My fiance is very traditional and wants me to change my name," she added. "He is also planning to adopt my son once we're married, partly so he will have the same last name as well."

As for the Whelan-Wuest family, the three sisters have had different minds about giving up their wonderful, but problematic name.

Ellen Whelan-Wuest's older sister Catherine -- the one whose nurse started the craziness at her birth -- gave up the double-barreled name to be just Catherine Merritt.

"She didn't think she had to apologize for being traditional if a Renaissance woman like Michelle Obama could do it," said her sister, Ellen.

"But I don't know what I'll do," she said. "By the time I get married I'll have been Ellen Whelan-Wuest for at least 30 years, so how do I reasonably switch?"

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