I was in the middle of an article about Lauren Bush Lauren —  the niece and granddaughter of two of our presidents, as well as the daughter-in-law of Ralph Lauren — when I stopped reading and wondered if she ever had second thoughts about taking her husband’s surname. Lauren Lauren? There must have been a conversation or two, don’t you think?

It reminded me of that scene in The Wedding Singer, where Adam Sandler’s character giggles about what Drew Barrymore’s new name would be after her wedding: Julia Gulia! I got lucky in the surname department with Ben Blair (all of the letters in Blair are found in Gabrielle, and I think they sound nice together), but I confess, I identified so strongly as a “Stanley” that I really went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to change my name at all.

How about you? Did you change your name? If yes, did you hesitate at all, whether it was an odd one or because you simply loved your own? Or had you been doodling your new moniker from the minute you met your mate? I know you have amazing stories — and the funniest new married name you’ve ever heard — to share!

P.S. — Courthouse wedding via Wedding Lovers Anonymous.

228 thoughts on “Surnames”

  1. After my husband and I had been on our first date, I called my mom up and talked about the last-name situation. One guy I liked and had been on a few dates with had the last name of Soulier (pronounced soo-lee-eh) which I thought sounded so romantic. But my husband’s last name is Moench (with a silent “e”). And my first name is Malissa. When I told my mom his last name there was a quiet pause and then we both bust up laughing. Malissa Moench?? Are you kidding?? MM? Alas… here I am Malissa Moench. That’s the main reason I throw in my maiden name initial, B., to break up the unfortunate alliteration.
    At least it’s a funny story to tell now.

  2. All I can think is, “Why of course she wants both names – they are both so legendary!” :) Being born a “Bush” and then to marry a “Lauren”…I wouldn’t want to choose. Yes to both, please!

  3. My last name is Brown, hubby’s last name is Pugh. Many times people mistakingly pronounce his name as Poo. Call me crazy, but I wasnt really too keen on the name Katie Brown-Poo!

  4. Growing up I had always thought I was eager to get rid of my difficult to spell, impossible to pronounce Czech last name, even though EVERYONE called me “first name-last name” exclusively… since it was so unusual sounding, but my first name is very common, I was always always called both names as if it were all one name.

    After I got married last year, I took my husband’s last name with little thought. However, my original middle name is my mother’s maiden name (which happens to also be a somewhat common female first name). I live in the South where it is very common to keep your maiden as the new middle, but I didn’t want my hard to spell maiden surname in the middle, and I felt connected to my mom’s maiden name, so I dropped my dad’s last name and kept my original middle.

    Like I said, I did it with little thought… until my friends continued to call me “first name-maiden name” as they always had, and I got a little sad realizing I had officially lost that identity. My dad does not know that I dropped his name, and my mom and I just aren’t going to tell him unless he asks.

    I also didn’t realize that my pretty common married name still has two equally common spellings, so I STILL have to spell my last name every time. But at least I don’t have to explain how to pronounce it… with my maiden name it was always “the v sounds like a w” and then we had a military-style way of spelling it. Say it was Brown… we always said “B as in bravo, R as in Romeo, O, W as in Whiskey, N”

  5. I, despite graduating with a BA in Women’s Studies, could not WAIT to change my name when I got married. “Topp” is so much easier/nicer-sounding than “Honsberger,” IMHO.

    Funniest last name I’ve ever heard (and was glad it wasn’t mine): Topping. The woman’s first name was–I kid you not–Cherry.

  6. I’m not sure if this has been brought up yet, but the term “maiden name” has some sexist connotations. It implies that women are helpless little girls. For women who change their name the “maiden name” should just be referred to as their former name, their name of origin, or their birth name. I personally think whatever a woman wants to do with her name is fine, but when I got married I kept my name!

  7. I love this article. I kept my maiden names as a middle name but when I moved to Sweden, I wrote it in the wrong position in my official documents and my maiden name often gets confused with my married last name because I wrote two last names. It’s fine with me because I feel such a connection to my maiden name ; the line of life; and like having my maiden name as something I take forward with me.

    In terms of growing into new names, while my husband’s Swedish last name is beautiful in Swedish, it’s pronounced differently in both English and French and turns into familiar words that I wouldn’t normally think of as last names (we’re all three nationalities) and it has lightly plagued me. When we were dating, he said in passing that we could take his mother’s maiden name which in combination with my first name sounded like a romantic perfume … once in a while I dream of the perfume of that combination but, in the end, I’ve chosen tradition…

  8. After adoption by my step-father (because of an absent biological father) I changed my last name at 16.

    At 27, I changed my middle name to Marlow because it sounds like a last name, and added my husband’s last name two years after our wedding.

    When we divorced three years later I dropped his last name, and now I’m just Amber Marlow, and so shall I remain.

    Four legal names in a lifetime is quite enough! (I’m 31.)

  9. I have just been writing about this very subject in my book draft! I kept my maiden name because my mother had kept hers and because a lot of academics do and I always hate seeing the record of people’s love lives in their bibliography (article under maiden name, book under hyphenated married name, second book under maiden name again after the divorce). In any case, for different reasons we gave the children a hyphenated last name. My husband and his father are estranged, but he has a very unusual surname and has always identified with it. Now that we have three children with the hyphenated last name, and as I make my piece with my mother’s terminal illness (she has early-onset Alzheimer’s) I am thinking about changing my name to the hyphenated name (Stager-Radavich) that our children have. I am still thinking it over, but it feels like turning in towards our family unit in a way. Thanks for bringing this topic up!

  10. When my husband and I first met (and weren’t immediately fond of each other…at all), he found out my last name and came rushing over to me to say “Your name is Amelie Trufant? That’s such a wonderful name! When we get married, you should definitely keep your name!” I completely balked- who did this guy think he was? How presumptuous! How cocky! Not even ‘if’ but ‘when’?! Months later, I was head over heels in love with him, and years later I was signing our marriage certificate, and even though I had planned on keeping my name, as I signed the last “fant”, I had a vision of having kids in the future and all of a sudden I just wanted to know that we’d all share a family name and hastily added “Dawson” to my signature and there it is.

  11. This is interesting. I’m from Chile where you have your parent’s last name. First Name + middle name + father’s last name + mother’s last name. We never use our middle name and some cases like mine is long and strange for others. My middle name is “del Pilar”. We, like a family with two boys, moved to Canada and can change our names but decided kept it. Sometimes is difficult have a different last name, sometimes changed my boys last name with mine and used my husband’s last name like middle name. I don’t care explain to people our names. I want my kids have both last name like us. When I was a girl I was so proud about my mother’s last name (CID) and never will change it. Now, we have a daughter, she is Canadian and can’t use my middle name (my heart breaks, my mother have it too) with her because sound strange but she uses both last name.

  12. When I got married, I went from a very Irish name to a very English one. I don’t mind my married name, but I do sometimes miss my very curly signature from my single days.

  13. I was Sarah Brown before I got married, which I was always happy with, and it was very easy for other people to spell which is always nice, but as I got older I thought it might be nice to have a more unique last name, especially because I’ve always dreamed of being a “famous singer” (ha, ha) and Sarah Brown seemed to plain for someone famous. :) Well, after marrying my husband I am now a Wiedmaier (prounounced Weed-meyer) which is so unique/strange, and I always have to spell it for people. I felt almost embarrassed at first, and I would say things like “I know, it’s such a weird name, I married into it”. But now I don’t mind it at all.

  14. I have a very common first name and my maiden name is also very common. There were always other girls with my exact same name in elementary school and again in college. I hated that, but was really on the fence about taking my husband’s surname.
    Then, one fateful day after we had been married about a month, a large package arrived on our doorstep. Wedding presents were still tricking in at this point, so I didn’t think too much about it. I opening the box to find another box labeled, “Breast Enhancement System”. I was horrified! I cautiously opened that box to search for an invoice/receipt/phone number and found two additional boxes — one labeled “medium” and the other labeled “large”. (!!!)
    There was no invoice, no receipt, nothing but an instruction guide with a single phone number. The phone number would only connect me to a computer, which wanted me to enter my account number, which I of course didn’t have and which was not included in the box! I *finally* got a live person on the phone by tricking the computer into thinking I was a “healthcare professional.”
    I told the woman on the other end, “I received your product today, but I didn’t order it and I don’t want it and please send a UPS driver to pick it up immediately.” When I told her my name, she gasped, “The missing box!” and put me on hold. Apparently, someone else in my apartment complex had the exact same name as me and had ordered a breast enhancement system. UPS had just stuck the wrong label on the front of the box.
    The very next morning I was at the social security office changing my last name.

    1. I have always had (and continue to have) very similar issues with my birth name, even though I’ve been married almost 8 years! My first name is extremely popular for women my age, and my maiden name is one of the most common in the US. Add in the fact that my given middle name is the name most commonly paired with my first name, and you have a very common 3-name combination. I grew up in a small-ish town and there were 2 other people just at my middle school with the same exact (first-middle-last) name as me! I was always referred to as Heather X or Heather Birthname, and not just Heather. It always really bothered me, so I eagerly embraced my husband’s name when we got married. (It also really turned me off to popular first names when naming my own children!)

      But my biggest issue is this: I also happen to be the lucky (unlucky) person who snagged the Gmail email address for my birth name (first.middle.last), and I get emails for the other Heathers all the time. Important emails, about stuff like repaying student loans, travel reservations, and other things! It’s sort of scary to think about.

  15. I had MAJOR reservations about changing my last name because I was so attached to it. I got married 3.5 years ago at age 30. I decided that I needed time to get used to it. My husband was amazingly cool with that. When our 1-year anniversary came around, I was also due to renew my driver’s license. I thought, let’s go for it! Since the first anniversary is paper, I surprised my husband with my new social security card and driver’s license with my married name.

    To my surprise, I actually felt closer to my husband and more like a family by sharing his last name.

  16. I struggled. My dad has 3 sisters, and he’s the last carrying the family name in our branch. My brother died a year and a half before I got married. Which left me as the last one standing in my generation with the last name. My husband was completely fine with whatever I decided. I went back and forth a lot. In the end, I kept my name as it was- but added my husband’s last name at the end. So I have two middle names- my given middle name and my maiden name. I sign everything with two middle initials and my official name on record has 2 middle names- so I have 4 names total. It has worked for me, I am happy this way.

  17. I love this post and all the thoughtful comments. This is very timely for me as I have been feeling confused & struggling about what to do with my last name due to a recent divorce. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis right now! When I got married, I happily changed my name and slid my last name over to my middle name since I didn’t have one. I loved both my birth names and my new married name. It was then and still is important to me for my children and I to share a last name although I would also rather not carry on my ex-spouse’s name. Now after 12 years of marriage, having three children & then heartbreaking infidelity by my husband, I’m trying to convince myself I am no less their mother if my last name doesn’t match my sons. I tried thinking of my married last name as my mamaname and relate it to just me and my children but that seems rather wishful thinking. I changed some documents so that I now have two last names and no middle name while I decide what to do. This way I can use both or one as it seems relevant at work or at my kids’ schools. It doesn’t help that I often get a lot of comments when people hear the name & say “it’s such a great name”.

  18. What a fascinating topic… I’ve enjoyed reading all (yes, ALL!) the responses. Names have intrigued me from the time I was small. I loved collecting all the strange names.. Candy Cain, Candy Barr, Eddie Edward Edwards, then the rhyming names, etc. etc. In my case, I was THRILLED to take my husbands name. Not that it was such a great name, but I was so glad to be rid of a name that not only did I have to spell out slowly and carefully each and every time, but it was a name that rhymed with an embarrassing body reaction to eating beans! For our family, the interesting challenge came when we adopted older children who had their father’s name. In spite of his horrific abuse, they did not want to change their name. So, we did as some here have described, and just added our last name, changing their previous surname to a second middle name. Interestingly, as they reached adulthood, the one most traumatized reverted to the previous name, while the two younger ones did not. This certainly is a subject that is decided by personal preferance, (and legality), not reason! :-) Thanks for addressing the topic!

  19. My husband and I met a man who told us that he had changed his name to his wife’s last name. He said that he did not like his family so he preferred t to take her name when they married. This was at least 15 years ago, and I still remember his name: Randy Cassini.

  20. I would never give up my name and my identity. Bad idea. Why are American women so oblivious to so many years of discrimination and sexism? I don’t get it! I feel sorry for little girls who have mothers who gave up their identity all for the sake of “marriage.” Marriage is really about property, it has nothing to do with love or love of children.

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