This article in the NYTimes about the dilemma of hyphenated last names really rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't provide any real solutions about how to balance conflicting perspectives and needs.
For example, figuring out the last name dilemma was easy when I got married. I kept my last name and Matt kept his. However, the struggle came when our son, Henry, joined our family. I really didn't want to hyphenate because of the logistical hardship of having a cumbersome last name, but I also wanted his name to embody the idea that he came from both of us. I wasn't comfortable relegating my last name to his middle name, since middle names are rarely ever shared (for aesthetic reasons, it sounds better when my name comes first, which is why we didn't even consider using Matt's last name for Henry's middle name).
For us, we really had no other choice but to hyphenate. We didn't know how Henry was going to deal with his hyphenated last name when (and if) he got married, but we went with the hyphenation anyway.
But then I read a brilliant solution on A Practical Wedding. Here's how it works. Both Matt and I would combine our names with a hyphen. I'm Sara Cotner; he's Matt Bradford, so we would become Sara Cotner-Bradford and Matt Cotner-Bradford (or whichever order sounds better). All our children would also be Cotner-Bradford's. Then if Henry gets married to a woman with a hyphenated last name (let's pretend her name is Ellie Pearson-Becker), they would each drop one of their last names to combine only two names with a hyphen. Since Henry is male, he would drop his mom's family name. Since Ellie is female, she would drop her dad's family name. They would both become Bradford-Becker. (There would be slight variations for gay families.)
In my mind, it's such an elegant and simple solution! Parents and their children all have the same last names, there are only ever two names hyphenated at one time, males pass along the male family name, and females pass along the female family name.
So what this means for Matt and me is that we might legally change our last names to Cotner-Bradford. It's not something we worried about during the wedding planning process because we already had enough stuff to figure out and focus on. It's been great to have time to sort through all of these questions and issues together.