Professional Do or Don't? Changing Your Name

Today is our one year wedding anniversary. For many reasons (which I'll explain very soon), I feel more like a newlywed now than I did back in 2016.

This article, which I didn't have enough courage to post until five months following our wedding, shocked me when it became one of the most popular on the site. My original hesitation in posting was my concern that it was too personal. Would anyone want to read a story about my feelings when I'd promised to share professional advice? Yet, through being vulnerable here, I realized that I could create new connections and show up in a new way, so here it goes for round two, because year one is complete :)


Last May, this dapper guy and I were married in a low-key, intimate celebration in Mykonos, Greece.

For as long as we've been in this five-to-six year relationship (depending on who you ask), it's been crucial to me that I maintain my independence - whether through keeping up "man" chores around the apartment like taking out the trash - or through more serious life matters, like intense dedication to my career. After all, I've been single for a greater part of my life than I've been devoted to someone else, so dependence has historically felt like a four letter word (not that I condone that mindset - I'm working on it!).

Dave and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to our views on traditionalism. Even when it came to our wedding, it felt like he'd been reading back issues of Martha Stewart Weddings, while I begged to wear a colored dress, skip the cake, and elope at city hall. And although my anti-traditionalism often sends his linear-engineer brain into a confused spiral, he respects that part of me and allows me to march to the beat of my own drum (most of the time).

I have been career-inclined, shall we say, since the day we met. And that too is an area where he could not be more supportive. This Facebook post reveals all my feelings about his support for this side of my personality, and he continues to do more and more that makes my home life easier so that I can devote precious energy to my ambitions. For example, when I'd arrive home from intense bursts of business school, he would pick me up from the train station, the fridge would be stocked with food, and on my laptop would appear a color-coded Excel file of movies for a brainless weekend at home (I never said that we were cool).

You get the picture: traditional guy who's adapted to the 21st century woman. 


So leading up to our marriage, we'd occasionally asked about the other's expectations for our future last names. I told him that Dave Walsh (my maiden name) had a nice ring to it. BTW, if you want to see an unflappable guy, um... flapped, call him "Dave Walsh" the next time you see him.

However, in all seriousness, he told me that he'd love it if I took his last name for my personal life but had no expectations that I'd adapt a new name professionally. He understood that I'd already spent 10 years building my personal brand as a Walsh. 

But then one day the perfect wedding gift dawned on me: I'd become a Sellers in my personal and professional life. It's the type of tradition I typically loathe. But then again, this guy has gone against every traditional bone in his body to support my career.

Am I slightly worried about my personal brand? Yes. Am I concerned that it's an excuse for an employer to think: "Hmm.. Woman. Marriage. Woman. Kids soon?" Yes. Am I dreading all the legal and logistical work associated with a name change? Yes.

But do I regret my decision, after seeing this guy's face when he opened his wedding gift from me: a business card that read Julie L. Sellers? 

Sometimes personal wins over business.


PS - Megan Cahn received 1,000 responses when she posed this question to the Cup of Jo audience!

PPS - If you live in the US, here's a great infographic that I'm using to get through the endless name change paperwork.


Photos from the beautiful and talented Anna Pumer Photography

Posted on May 19, 2017 and filed under Family Life, Personal.