When we get married, we make compromises. Personal space. Laundry habits. Netflix addictions. Takeout preferences.

For these two couples, the compromises went even further. While many women now opt to keep their last names after marriage, these couples did the opposite: They ditched their original surnames to change both of their last names into something completely new. Somerville’s Matt Brown and Sara Bookin-Weiner became Matt and Sara Brookner. And Brookline’s Matt Cohen and Elizabeth Bonney became the Bonney-Cohens; though they didn’t legally change their names, they now use the hyphen in professional and social settings throughout their daily life.

“It was about equity,” says Sara Brookner. “We’re a new primary family now.”

Here’s how each couple made that statement.

Meet the Bonney-Cohens

How they met

 

Three years ago on the first day of Sukkot, at Washington Square Minyan.

It all started with an email address

 

The couple created a fresh account for wedding prep, called “Bonney Cohen Wedding.”

“It flowed very easily,” says Matt. “From the beginning, my wife thought about combining names and didn’t want to change her name, so she floated it.”

Damn the bureaucracy!

 

“My sister got married last year and changed her name, and an officemate got married and changed her name, went through paperwork and it was a bureaucratic nightmare to get it done. I didn’t want to deal with this paperwork and having this whole mess. Elizabeth felt strongly that we think about it,” Matt notes.

Family matters

 

Neither Elizabeth nor Matt’s mom changed her name, but the couple liked the idea of sharing a family name.

“I am a feminist, but I didn’t love the idea of having a different name from the rest of my family. The more I thought about it, even though my mom made that decision, I felt strongly that we have a family name without giving up our identities,” Elizabeth says.

Ask a rabbi

 

The couple met with their rabbi before their wedding and got to the question of names.

 

“Generally, we’re in agreement on everything, but not this,” they told him.

 

“Ultimately we realized there was a way to keep our names legally but to start using a joint hyphenated name socially and professionally. Our marriage license has our birth names on it, but everything else has been hyphenated, and our kids will be legally hyphenated. We satisfied the logistical piece and also got the value of a joint name, ” Matt explains.

 

Everyone’s happy

 

The couple has gotten some questions. “Most come from women,” Matt says. “I changed my email signature, et cetera. People thought it was awesome. Women were appreciative that I changed my name, too!”

 

Elizabeth agrees. “Symbolically, it meant a lot,” she says. “Though we do get some questions about what our kids will do when they get married, having a hyphenated last name. But that’s their decision.”

sara-and-matt-brookner-gretjen-helene-photography
Matt and Sara Brookner (Photo credit: Gretjen Helene Photography)

Meet the Brookners

How they met

Five years ago on OkCupid.

Pioneering parents

Sara grew up in a household with a hyphenated last name already: Her original surname is Bookin-Weiner, and both of her parents took the other’s last name for the combo.

“My mom said to my dad, ‘I think I want to hyphenate.’ He said, ‘Oh, I will, too!’ She promised to remember this whenever she was mad at him,” she says with a chuckle.

A happy compromise

“I felt strongly that it was OK to change my last name, but I didn’t want to be the only one to change it,” Sara says. “Why does only one of us have to change our identity?”

Think of the children!

“I wanted our kids to have the same name as both of us. If we planned never to have kids, keeping our birth names may have stayed on the table,” Matt explains. “I felt strongly that I didn’t want one of us to have a different name than our kids.”

Why Brookner?

“My last name was Brown,” Matt says. “I didn’t want to triple the length of my name. On principle, I didn’t mind, but I like having a shorter name. Then we ran our names through an anagram generator, but there were so many letters!”

Ultimately, they combined letters from all three names: “Bro” from Brown, “ook” from Bookin and “ner” from Weiner.

A slow rollout works best

They shared their choice with friends and family pre-wedding; they notified work in mass emails when they got home from their honeymoon.

People think their name is cool

“There are always a few outliers. The older generation is a bit more confused, but in general, people think it’s cool,” Sara says.

Logistically, it wasn’t so bad

There was no haggling over a name change on their marriage certificate.

“It wasn’t any more difficult to both change our last names to a new last name than it would be for any wife taking a husband’s last name after marriage and changing it legally,” Sara says. “In Massachusetts, when you get your marriage certificate you can both write down what your last name will be after marriage, and it can be whatever you want. This is the only document you need in order to make it official with Social Security.”

“We could have pulled a word out of thin air! We could have played ‘I Spy,'” jokes Matt.
Still, says Sara, people they haven’t been in touch with for a while sometimes see their names on social media and have questions.
“Someone asked, ‘Is Brookner something you did for real?'” she says.

The takeaway

 

“I think part of the reason I felt really positively about the decision is we see it as part of our commitment to stay together. We have talked about how we’re really committed to staying married, and we see [our names] as a testament to that,” says Sara.

“There’s a social norm that men don’t change their names. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m willing to deal with odd looks,” Matt says.