Chinese Weddings

Donna Chang(stein)

I'm having a dilemma about changing my last name, and I have 10 days to decide...

I am "plain white" (a mix of various eastern European countries), and FI is Chinese. I have no particular attachment to my last name, especially as it was not the one my dad was born with,  but something he chose as an adult because he wanted something easier to pronounce/spell, so picked the closest-sounding English name. My last name is very ordinary - think something like Johnson or Martin.

I always wanted to keep my last name in some way, partly because of work (I've built some degree of professional reputation that I don't want to lose), and partly because with my blond-ish hair and blue eyes, I'm clearly not Chinese. I always think of the Seinfeld episode with Donna Chang... and in general, making your life resemble a Seinfeld episode just doesn't sound like a good idea! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chinese_Woman) Maybe amusing at first, but not when I have to live with it for the rest of my life.

However, it means a lot to FI and his family that I take his last name, as he's the last male on his dad's side so it's up to us to "carry the name," and apparently it's "not the same" if I don't share the name too. So I was planning on hyphenating...

Although I think the hyphenated name sounds fine as we both have short last names, all of a sudden this week I realized that I would have to sign this new hyphenated name every single time I used my credit card (I put *everything* on my credit card, for the points, but pay it off every month) or sign my name, and I'd have to spell it out all the time. No it's not the end of the world, but for some reason now I'm really bothered by the idea. So now I don't know what to do...

Do I risk the Donna Chang syndrome and go with the all-out Chinese last name? (But keep my maiden name at work.) Or will it result in a lifetime of annoying encounters? (Yes, my name is "Chang." No, I'm not Chinese. Yes, it's my husband's name....) And isn't it complicated to live with a work name and a social/legal name?
Or, do I just live with the hyphenation?
I would love to hear what other non-Chinese brides have done, or from anyone else who would like to weigh in...

Thank you!
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Re: Donna Chang(stein)

  • edited December 2011
    I'm on the other side. I'm Chinese and I assumed my husband's Italian-sounding name. To make it even more confusing... he's Indian. Not Italian.

    I prepared myself to deal with it, but I found that I haven't had to explain myself nearly as much as I thought I would. I think it's pretty self-explanatory. I've met people after corresponding with them on the phone or over email and for the most part, they haven't batted an eye. Even if they were surprised, it was only for a second; big deal. It hasn't really been an issue. My life is not a Seinfeld episode.

    Now, keep in mind that I happen to live in the city with a LOT of interracial couples. I read an article calling my city the "interracial marriage capital of Canada". So I guess it's more common here than in most places. But it's definitely becoming more common, and you get used to it over time anyway.

    It's a big adjustment whether you take on a new name that "matches" your ethnicity or not.

    FWIW I didn't change my signature. But it was, and still is, an illegible scribble.

    If you plan to keep your maiden name at work, I would advise against changing your name legally. Doesn't HR need your legal name for payroll and tax purposes? If you need to keep your maiden name for professional purposes, keep everything under that name and introduce yourself as your married name only in social settings.

    By the way... you know what's funny about your FI's argument that you need to change your name? Chinese women don't change their names when they marry.
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  • LanaJadeLanaJade
    100 Comments
    member
    edited December 2011
    I'll agree with ring_pop that Chinese women don't change their names when they marry. If they do change, they usually add their husband's last name rather than changing their last name so their name is in Chinese (Husband's last name) (Her last name) (Her given name).

    Adding his Chinese last name to yours shouldn't be too many characters, most last names are 3-5 letters, hehe! Not in your boat so can't give any advise, good luck with your decision.
  • will47will47
    10 Comments
    member
    edited December 2011
    My cousin (white) is married to a Chinese guy, and took his name. I believe she may still publish under her maiden name, but either way, she hasn't complained a lot (that I've heard of) about any confusion pertaining to her new surname.

    That said, I agree with the other posters that in Chinese culture it's normal for the bride to keep her own family name, so not quite sure what the pressure is about from your future in-laws' side (especially assuming you don't mind if any children you might have take the dad's family name). I would do what you want to do.

    My fiancée jokes that I want to take her name to get more Asian cred.
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  • edited December 2011
    Thanks for your responses.

    I didn't know that Chinese women don't typically take their husbands last names! In FI's family they seem to use the husband's names at least socially, judging from the guest list that FI's mom gave me. Every single one of the aunts and female cousins shares a last name with her husband.

    I think that maybe I was overly worried about this because my parents made it sound like the most massive inconvenience that they had to spell out their "ethnic" last name to everyone before they changed it, and how no one could ever pronounce it. But how often do you really have to spell your name to someone? Not nearly as often as before in the days of internet/email. And my name will still be easy to pronounce.

    Okay, I've now realized that I've been over-thinking this. Maybe my stress about having the wedding coming up next week and still having a million things to do all came out in a small freak-out about the name change. Like ring-pop, I also live in "interracial marriage capital of Canada" (I read more on the Toronto/Canada boards than I post), so I'm hardly the first. And Seinfeld re-runs won't be on the air forever, so eventually people will no longer remember Donna Chang when we're introduced as Mr & Mrs "Chang."

    So hyphenation it is. (or space? hmmmm...) Although FI's friends were joking that the hyphenated last name kind of sounds like an injury law firm, but hopefully those jokes too will pass. :)

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  • LanaJadeLanaJade
    100 Comments
    member
    edited December 2011
    Oh I think we should have clarified. Socially, Chinese women do use their husband's last name, and I always call my mom's friend's Mrs. Husband-last-name. Officially though, like on their documents, they don't change their last name. Good luck on the wedding ;)
  • rbtrumpetrbtrumpet
    500 Comments
    member
    edited December 2011
    I'm your typical "white mutt" - FI is Chinese.  I am taking his name.

    I don't think it's the same as the "Donna Chang" syndrom (which I was just talking to some friends about yesterday - haha!) because I will actually BE married to a Chinese man, and therefore have a reason (in the Seinfeld episode, she had no association with anything asian, except her obsession, which made it funny).

    Most of my Chinese friends who have gotten married usually move their maiden name to their middle name (ie. Jane Smith Lee).  I know some who completely took their husbands last names and some who didn't take it at all, so really I think it's up to you and whatever you feel comfortable with.
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  • mica178mica178
    5000 Comments Fourth Anniversary
    member
    edited December 2011
    I used to work with a Dr. Green who was Chinese and a Dr. Wang who was white.  The patients would blink a bit on introduction, then they'd get over it.

    I'm Chinese, and I plan on keeping my maiden name as a middle name and having FI's (Hispanic) last name as my new last name.  I don't speak any Chinese dialects but I do speak some Spanish, so maybe my new name will work out better for me professionally.  ;)

    If nothing else, taking your FI's name will be another topic for small talk with new people.  There are worse things in the world than talking about things other than the weather.
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