Why do so many women like changing their names when they marry like Jennifer Lopez?

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·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·9-min read
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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck married in an intimate Las Vegas ceremony over the weekend. (Getty Images)
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck married in an intimate Las Vegas ceremony over the weekend. (Getty Images)

Jennifer Lopez has revealed she has changed her name after marrying Ben Affleck in an intimate Las Vegas ceremony over the weekend.

The singer and actor will now be known as Jennifer Affleck.

Confirming the news in a heartfelt edition of her personal fan newsletter, On The JLo, the newlywed revealed her new legal name, signing the letter, "Mrs. Jennifer Lynn Affleck."

Turns out the name change has been in the plans for almost 20 years, when the couple were engaged first time around.

Bennifer initially got engaged in 2002 before calling off their engagement in 2004. They rekindled their relationship in 2021 before getting engaged for the second time in April this year.

In a resurfaced interview from 2003, Lopez said she had planned to take Affleck’s name when they wed.

On Ben & Jen: A Dateline Special, which aired in 2003, Lopez was asked by host Pat O’Brien about what her name would be after the nuptials.

“I think I’m going to stay with Jennifer Lopez, but my name will be Jennifer Affleck, obviously,” the singer replied.

The Jenny From The Block singer and O’Brien went on to joke that “JLo” would turn into “JAf”.

“It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but you’ve gotta make sacrifices!” the star added.

Lopez, or Mrs Affleck as she is now known, joins a band of brides opting to stick with tradition and take their husband's surname when they tie the knot.

Last year, it was reported that Carrie Symonds would become known as Mrs Carrie Johnson after marrying the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson last May.

Carrie Johnson took her husband, Boris Johnson's name after they wed in an intimate ceremony in 2021. (Getty Images)
Carrie Johnson took her husband Boris Johnson's name after they wed in an intimate ceremony in 2021. (Getty Images)

Sophie Jonas, Hayley Bieber and Amal Clooney are also fully paid up members of the newlywed name switch crew.

And it is a trend reflective of mere mortals too.

According to a 2016 survey, almost 90% of British women opt to take their new husband's surname.

Further surprising stats from the same poll revealed that even the younger cohort are on board with the traditional practice, with nearly three-quarters of those aged between 18 and 30 revealing they'd also opted for a surname change.

Read more: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck wedding: Couple's most romantic quotes

Although these figures are lower than they were in 1995, when 94% changed their surname, according to a Eurobarometer survey, the practice remains something of a social norm.

The authors of a paper exploring the marital name change in Britain and Norway explain that the practice of taking a husband's name is steeped in patriarchal history.

Amal Clooney, Sophie Jonas and Hailey Bieber have all taken their husband's names after marriage. (Getty Images)
Amal Clooney, Sophie Jonas and Hailey Bieber have all taken their husband's names after marriage. (Getty Images)

"Under the medieval legal doctrine of coverture a wife, her children, and her property, became the husband’s possession," the authors explain.

"When hereditary surnames emerged, married women were left with no surname at all and lost named identity, except ‘wife of X'."

Interestingly, the fact that wives were considered to be under her husband's protection and authority in English common law right up to the late nineteenth century, when the Married Woman’s Property Acts from 1870 to 1893 allowed wives control over their own property.

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Despite so much progress in terms of equality of the sexes, why then have newlyweds remained keen on the tradition of the name change?

There are, of course, numerous personal reasons a woman might want to ditch her maiden name, but the authors of the paper have identified two main driving forces which seem to be leading the trend.

The first, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the desire to stick to tradition, the second is that having the same name as your partner, and any potential children, is seen as a strong symbol of commitment.

Changing your surname after marriage can be seen by some as strengthening the bond between husband and wife. (Getty Images)
Changing your surname after marriage can be seen by some as strengthening the bond between husband and wife. (Getty Images)

“Changing your name after marriage is a common tradition in many cultures worldwide," explains Mario Anghinolfi, clinical psychologist at Therapethical.

"It can be seen as a sign of love or commitment to your partner and a way of showing respect for your spouse's family.

"It's all about the psychology of identity," he continues. "We have an innate need to connect with others and feel like part of a group—and to do that, we often take on new identities.

Read more: Kourtney Kardashian's divisive wedding outfit included a Travis tattoo tribute

"This is particularly true when we marry someone and start raising children together. We want them to feel like they belong in this family unit as much as possible, so we change our names so that they'll know who they are related to and have someone to look up to as an example of what it means to be a member of this family unit."

According to Anghinolfi, there are many perceived benefits of changing your name when you tie the not.

"Changing your name can be a significant part of building a healthy relationship," he explains. "It's a step toward taking ownership of your new family."

Read more: 13 celebrity brides who have worn 'unconventional' outfits on their wedding day

It can also help you feel more connected with your spouse, now you share something in common.

"Changing your name helps you feel like you're truly connected to your partner and ready for life as a married person," he adds. "By changing your name, you're signalling to yourself and others that this is something serious.”

Changing your surname after marriage dates back to trying to keep the male line of the family going, but some feel that its outdated. (Getty Images)
Changing your surname after marriage dates back to trying to keep the male line of the family going, but some feel that its outdated. (Getty Images)

However, some people have mixed feelings about changing their name after marriage because this is an essential part of their identity, which should not be forgotten just because they get married.

"Our name forms a huge part of our identity as a human being, it’s usually been given to us from the beginning of our life and from that moment it’s been who we are known to be – and this defines who we are," explains Dipti Tait, psychotherapist, and author of Planet Grief.

"When we are expected to give that name up because we are getting married for example, this can be a huge challenge for some because it perhaps feels like a tradition that is steeped in inequality and raises questions about where these ideas may have stemmed from."

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Tait says that because the original reason for a name change was to keep the male family line going, many may now believe this is outdated.

"In the past, a female would take on their husbands surname when they got married because it was the done thing," she explains. "It also was something that may not have been questioned in the past as a choice.

"Because this tradition has been so deeply ingrained in society, it has only been a recent (in the last 20 years) where not taking on the husband’s name, or double-barrelling both the names is not seen as such a radicalised idea."

Jennifer's surname change has been 20 years in the making. (Reuters)
Jennifer's surname change has been 20 years in the making. (Reuters)

Interestingly, Tait believes some women may get caught up in the tradition associated with a name change, only stopping to question their choice when the honeymoon period is over.

"A name change may not feel like a problem when the marriage first takes place as it is easy to be swept along with the celebration and novelty of marriage," she explains.

"However, later down the line – when the honeymoon period is definitely over – we may feel a deep grief over giving up a part of our identity that had previously defined us."

Tait describes something known as name change grief, which she says is to do with our own personal questions about our identity, what defines us and how we see ourselves.

Read more: Ben Affleck opens up on his ‘beautiful’ reunion with Jennifer Lopez: 'It's a great story'

"These identity questions come up for us when we experience significant change and loss, and this is part of a wider grieving process," she explains.

"Any change to our identity – even if it’s a welcome change – will always have a grief attached to it.

"Grief does not just strike in death, it also strikes when we give something important up."

There are, of course, some practical complications associated with changing your name.

"Today it is common for women to marry later in life, at a time when they have established a career and an adult identity," explains Hannah Martin, psychotherapist and founder of Talented Ladies Club.

Martin says changing our name can impact how we feel – and our success.

Watch: Ben Affleck shows off suit before getting married to JLo

"For example, as a scientist your career depends on your published research and papers," she says. "However if you change your name when you marry, there is no way for anyone to track your earlier work. This can impact your ability to secure grants and gain tenure."

Changing their name has also impacted the careers of female artists, composers and writers, ever since it became commonplace.

"Rather than establish a trackable body of work, their legacy is disjointed and brand weakened by their changing name. It also left some female artists in history overshadowed by their husband’s name," she adds.

No doubt the new Mrs Affleck will have considered all this when debating whether to take her new husband's surname.

Maybe by taking her husband's surname she wanted to show the world her commitment to her beau or maybe she wanted to redress the power balance?

Whatever her reasons for opting to switch her surname from Lopez to Affleck and JLo to JAf, the star will always be Jenny from the Block to us.

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