I kept my last name.
1. In my circle–and I was born to a feminist and work in academia–no one bats an eye (in fact, in my life, it’s MORE common for women in academia who DO change their names to to be judged than the other way around). In general, my feeling is that at least in almost all major urban areas (I’ve lived in plenty), this is common enough that people don’t care if a woman keeps her name after marriage.
Keeping my name hasn’t affected anything in my life. At all. Well, it saved me an awful lot of time and paperwork that I would have had to do if I changed it, but that’s not a big deal.
Here’s the bottom line: the decision to keep or change your name is personal. We can go 20 rounds on the virtues and/or sociopolitical overtures regarding doing one or the other, but at the end of the day, every woman has the right to be called whatever she wishes to be called–whether that’s Mary MaidenName, Mary MarriedName, Mary Sisboombahbananarama, or “Madonna 2.” And if anyone questions this basic right, or judges you for whatever you’ve chosen to do, you really have to let that be their problem.
As far as kids go, I’m a feminist so I’m not in favor of giving up naming rights JUST because it happens to be customary for children to take the father’s surname. You should have the same rights as Dad, in my book. Now, it IS customary for kids to have Dad’s last name, so it’s possible that you will run into people who ask you if your kids are from a previous marriage or stuff like that if they don’t have Dad’s name and you’ll have to decide your comfort level on that AND the possible inconvenience for your kids. As far as your argument with Fiance goes, I guess it’s just going to come down to who wants it more and to whom it matters more for the children to have one name or the other–maybe that’s not a fight worth having until you actually have kids.
For posterity, here are some other naming options friends of mine have taken:
-one child has dad’s last name; the other has mom’s (only really works if you ahve 2 kids, though)
-quasi-Icelandic style used–son got the surname “Dad’s first + son” (Jacob Johnsson); daughter go the surname “Mom’s first + dottir” (Mary Annsdottir)
-child has mom’s surname as a first name and dad’s surname as a last name
-children given a beloved grandmother’s maiden name as last name
…Okay, so I know some weird people.