I know you absolutely meant no offense. But you made the assumption that your niece was changing her name. That might've been a safe assumption prior to the 1970s or so, but even where it is less common to keep your own (I don't like the term "maiden"; it's inaccurate) it's not so unheard of as to justify the opposite assumption. So I always ask.
It's still a very safe assumption. I just read some research that said only about 8% of women keep their names. It peaked in the 90's at 23%. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/14/changing-your-last-name_n_3073125.html
That said, it's much better if everyone communicate their intentions, but if someone doesn't communicate, changing is still a safe assumption.
That survey is really flawed. The questions were: (all italics mine)
a woman take her husband's name? (Should is loaded. The options for this question were for you to say that a woman should or should not or you weren't sure. There was no option to say that you thought she should do whatever she wants, including hyphenation.)
(2) Should a man be allowed
to take his wife's name? (That's a bonkers question. A man can change his name to Mr. Johnny Tightpants if he wants to. There's no reason he can't change his last name to anything he wants, even if it is his wife's name.)
(3) How do you feel about couples
who hyphenate their last names? (Not women, or men, but couples who both hyphenate.)
I'd like to see actual numbers on women who changed their names to their husband's last names, versus kept their married name or hyphenated. Because every study I've ever seen on the subject asked simply whether the woman changed her name after marriage or not. And, the number is very high (around 80% in Canada). But I changed my name after marriage. But not to my husband's name. I hyphenated. And, I would be included in that 80%. But most people reading it assume that 80% took their husband's name and 20% didn't. When in reality 20% kept their own name and 80% either hyphenated or took a different name (maybe their husband's or maybe a combination or maybe something completely new). And people use these stats in order to justify saying things like, "Well 80% of woman are Mrs. John Smith so it's a perfectly valid assumption to make."
(PS - Not that I think that Art was saying that at all
. It's just something that I run into a lot and it's a huge sore spot for me.)