I have written a few articles in the past on how to get the documents you need to marry an Italian in Italy, but there is one thing I didn’t mention.
In the United States, many women like to change their last name to their husbands’ when they marry. This has been the tradition for just about as long as people can remember (although there are obviously women who prefer to keep their name or to do a hyphenated combo, which is great too), but in Italy, they have a different tradition.
Today I would very much like to tell you how to change your last name in Italy after you marry your Italian dreamboat… but unfortunately what I am actually going to tell you is that this is not only one of the most problematic things you could try to do, but it is also not even really allowed.
Maiden Name Traditions in Italy
As opposed to in America, Italian women rarely, if ever, change their last name when they get married. Instead, they keep their maiden name for the rest of their lives, while any children they may have with their husband take his last name.
I asked around a bit about why this is, but everyone just seemed to think what I was asking was weird, because that’s just the way it is here. No one really thinks about it. My husband, for example, said that none of the women in his family, all the way back to at least his grandmother’s generation or the one before, have changed their last name when they got married.
Having come from a country where it seems like more women change their names than not, I found it a bit strange, but after finding out how much of a pain in the you-know-what it is to try to change it, maybe I get it now.
Possible Reasons for Not Changing One’s Name
My first hypothesis was that maybe women like to keep their father’s last name so that they stay tied to that side of their family even after they have started one of their own. This is a nice, wholesome reason… but the more I looked into it, the less sure I am that it is the truth (although it surely plays a part in some women’s decisions, I assume).
In reality, I think that the main reason that no one changes their last name is that, in Italy, your identity is very much defined by the ID cards and documents you hold, and what information the government has on file for you. If you go to sign up for a service or to buy a plane ticket (or try to do just about anything bureaucratic), the name on your tessera sanitaria must match the name on your carta d’identita, which must match the name on your carta di soggiorno, etc., which, in turn must match EXACTLY what the government has in its computer files on you.
I have heard horror stories of people who weren’t able to get documents just because their permesso di soggiorno didn’t have their middle name on it when the government identity files on them did. I, for instance, always have to include my middle name on everything, even my signature, here, because it was on my American passport and that’s how Italy recognizes me now, to the point where they’re starting to call me “Jessica Ann,” like I’m Raggedy Ann’s less raggedy sister.
But this is the crux of the issue. The problem with changing your last name is that you would have to change it on EVERYTHING, everywhere. Which, if you’re even somewhat acquainted with Italian bureaucracy, is darn near impossible.
So… Can I Change My Name in Italy or Not?
Sorry to break it to you, but… unless you have an insanely good reason (and maybe even the help from some sort of legal representative or something), the Italian government won’t let you change your name. It’s not like in America where you can apply to change even your first name if you really want to: it is a really huge deal, and it would take months to get everything straightened out.
You could hypothetically change your U.S. documents when you’re there… but then you run into the problem of your American passport not matching the rest of your documents.
So, sadly, there is no easy way (or maybe even hard way) to change your last name after you get married in Italy. Which, to me, is extremely sad because I wanted to be an official Romano!
But luckily I am an author and can make up my own name to write under, so, even if it’s not my legal name, I can always be Jessica Scott Romano online, in my books, and in my heart.
What are your thoughts on name changes after marriage? Let us know in the comments section below.