Photo by Megan Daas
After you get engaged, it’s common to get questions from curious friends and family members. But there’s one question I didn’t expect to get so soon—the name change.
The first time someone asked if I would change my last name to Dorsey, my gut reaction was to say no. I love my last name. I’ve had it for 31 years. It connects me to my Norwegian heritage. It’s the name my grandfather wore on his jersey as a player for the Boston Celtics. Coaches and teammates called me “Eli” (a family nickname for Eliason) in sports growing up. My last name is a huge part of my personal identity.
It’s also part of my professional identity. Bylines are a big deal for writers. I’ll never forget seeing “By Kara Eliason” in print for the first time 11 years ago. I’ve used that byline in dozens of published articles since then. The thought of switching it now makes my heart sink. I think about female writers who had to use male pen names to get published in centuries past. I love living in an era when women publish work under their own names.
One night at home, I casually told Sean that I planned to keep my last name when we got married. This was not a good approach. Unsurprisingly, Sean wasn’t very receptive to the idea. I asked him why he wanted me to take his name. His initial response was, “It’s just what people do.” Not good enough. I dug deeper, and his second response was much more convincing. By taking the last name Dorsey, I would symbolically become part of his family, who he’s very close with. If we end up having children, he likes the idea of us all being connected by one family name. Dang. Now those are reasons I can get behind.
After a long discussion, we landed on a compromise: Kara Eliason Dorsey. Eliason will be my legal middle name, and Dorsey will be my new last name. It connects me to my old and new families, which I love. And "Eliason” will still be part of my byline.
My advice: If someone asks if you’re changing your name when you get married, don’t feel pressured to respond right away. Talk it over with your fiancé and decide what’s right for you. It’s too big of a decision to be rushed.