Even people who like the idea of combining last names say, "We could never create a name that sounds any good." That's what we thought--at first. Here are some steps to take in the evolution of a name.

1. Start by brainstorming. Write down all the possible fragments of both names. Try breaking the names in half or thirds, isolating consonant clusters, and identifying prefixes and suffixes. Then combine pieces of each name.

2. Narrow the list. Vote on your favorite combinations to see if you have common ground. We discarded some options immediately--Ruschu, Manschu, Ulzman, Schan, and Ruschan--because we couldn't decide how to pronounce them, thought they'd be misspelled, or because they would mislead people about our heritages. Of the other options, three rose to the top: Schuman, Rusch, and Ulman.

3. Try it out. For a week, pretend you have changed your name to one of the options and imagine what it's like. While we could have gone with any of the three, we eliminated Schuman because it reminded me of a family I used to baby-sit for as a teenager. We scratched Ulman because we thought we'd tire of people asking if we were related to Tracy.

Rusch, we thought, was familiar but not commonplace. It was created from an even balance of letters from our names. We knew it would be occasionally misspelled and mispronounced--we most often hear ROOSH instead of RUSH--but once corrected it would be easy for people to remember.

4. Make it legal. We had to go to court, stand in lines, fill out paperwork, and explain to the judge why we wanted to change our names. We even had to run notice of the change in a major newspaper to alert creditors. Contact your local district court to find out the procedure for a legal change of name.

5. Make it public. Announce your new name at the reception and print it prominently in your wedding program. Send thank-you notes and holiday cards to remind people of what you have done. This approach is novel enough that most people these days have no trouble remembering.

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