The Maiden Name Debate

A soon-to-be-married woman has difficulties with the idea of changing her last name. Or perhaps, her soon-to-be husband has difficulties, or maybe his mother has problems (often because she doesn't like any daughter-in-law taking the same name she changed her own to). Hilarity Ensues. This tropes usually starts with the woman in question writing out her maiden name along with her married time to try it out, or try saying it in front of a mirror for practice. Usually, the lady is an established career woman (or wants to be). Less often, there is the issue of the aesthetics of the name: should Rhea Mills have to be saddled with ridicule for the rest of her life for having married Robert Peer? (As a general rule, since you never know who she might marry, it would be wise to avoid naming your daughter "Anita.") Truth in Television, obviously, and a potentially contentious issue.

A traditional solution was for a married woman to take her maiden name as a middle name (ie: Laura Ingals Wilder). It's still done today, as in the case of Robin Wright Penn. Note that this is different from the more modern solution of a hyphenated name. Robin Wright Penn is not the same as Robin Wright-Penn, and this can cause quite a bit of annoyance as hyphenated names gain more prominence over time, while the "maiden name as middle name" falls out of favor.

Particularly applies if you're a media personality. This is partly due to working in an industry where your name is your brand, and partly due to the typical brevity of celebrity marriages.

Not a completely Universal Trope, as many cultures do not expect a woman to change her name (Korea, Vietnam, China, Quebec, Muslim countries, Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries), and some do not use surnames at all (Iceland, Indonesia). In the former Soviet Union, the choice to change one's name is part of the (civil and very bureaucratic) ceremony, and the man changing his name is not unheard-of, though less common than the woman changing her name or there being no name change at all. In Japan, husband and wife are required by law to be listed on the same family register, and thus to have the same surname. While it's almost always the woman who changes her registration and surname, it's legally equivalent for the man to do so and is considered a decent compromise if the woman is from a particularly high-status family (especially if they have a large Family Business) and/or is the last of her name.

Note that keeping the maiden name is extremely common among female scientists and other academics, as their professional reputation is built upon their peers being able to track their body of work through published studies, most of which only show the last name and first initial of the contributor. Female authors, likewise, and especially their publishers, tend to prefer it if their readers aren't confused by their books appearing with two different names on the covers. Women who do change their legal names when they marry may also continue to use their maiden names socially or professionally, especially in fields like acting where stage names are common.

If a person with Only One Name marries a Two-Named person, regardless of gender, they will almost always take the Two-Named person's last name.

Whether a married woman reverts to her maiden name after marriage usually depends on how it ends. If she's widowed, she'll usually keep the married name unless and until she remarries. If not, she's likely to go back to her maiden name unless her married name is socially or professionally advantageous.

With gay marriage becoming legal in many parts of the world these days, the problem with applying this practice to a same-sex couple is obvious. Since there is no traditional protocol to follow, it's up to each couple to choose a solution that works for them. The most common solutions are for the spouses to simply keep their original names or to hyphenate. It's not unheard of for one partner to take the other's name, but it may lead to unwanted implications that the one who changes their name is the "passive" one in the relationship.

See also Meaningful Rename.

    open/close all folders 

  • Yui Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion kept her maiden name when she married, which is highly unusual in Japan (generally only done if the woman comes from a prominent family whose name holds power). Her husband, Gendo Rokubungi, became Gendo Ikari when he took Yui's last name, though the reasons why aren't explicitly made clear. If the ambiguously canon information that Yui is the daughter of a SEELE member is to be believed, it may have been to gain a foothold in the organization. Within the show itself, though, it seems Gendo did it because he really did love Yui, and wanted to prove that he was utterly devoted to her. Note that even Fuyutsuki found his name change odd. It's possible he just wanted to lose the 'Rokubungi.' There's some implication that Gendo had a dark past he wanted to get away from, or a bad relationship with his own family.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion changes this: in this continuity, Gendo's name was always Ikari, and Yui's maiden name was Ayanami.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: Fate Testarossa became Fate Testarossa-Harlaown (or T. Harlaown) after being adopted by Lindy Harlaown in order to respect both. She is later integrated into the "Takamachi Family" but just keeps her previous hyphenated last name. Both because it would be too obvious and a tad wordynote . In the second Megami Sound Stage, she apologizes for how long "Testarossa-Harlaown" is, noting that "both Testarossa and Harlaown are (her) real last names".
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Itoshiki Rin looks forward to the day she can get married and change her Unfortunate Namenote . Sadly, the Itoshiki family is very high-ranking, so she has trouble finding an acceptably prominent suitor. In fact, her brother's friend who is in love with all things old tries to marry her in order to acquire an old name (that is, the right to sign letters "Itoshiki [First Name], Old name Ikkyu," though the age of the Itoshiki name does make it more attractive).
  • When Kaoru and Aoi finally get together in Ai Yori Aoshi, Aoi takes Kaoru's family name, but his mother's maiden name "Honjo" instead of "Hanabishi," as Kaoru has left the Hanabishi family (due to the abuse from his grandfather) and has taken to using that name.
  • In some Ronin Warriors side-materials, Shin Mouri (Cye of the Torrent) is troubled because his Ronin duties conflict with him becoming the heir of his family's traditional pottery business. To solve this, his older sister and her boyfriend agree on him marrying into the Mouri family and taking up the surname.
  • Kimagure Orange Road: Kyousuke and the twins's Kasuga surname is actually their mother Akemi's maiden name. Their dad Takashi married into the Kasuga clan since Akemi was the only daughter... which certainly explains why he's the only Kasuga without Psychic Powers.
  • If there's a rich Big Screwed-Up Family in Detective Conan, it's almost a sure thing that one of the daughters will be married to a man who has taken up the family name. Said man is very, very likely to become either a murder victim or a suspect.
  • Bleach: Isshin Shiba became Isshin Kurosaki after marrying Masaki Kurosaki. Their three children and his clinic all bear the Kurosaki name. Flashbacks reveal that Isshin set up his clinic just after meeting Masaki but before their relationship officially began and five years before they married. He named it the Kurosaki Clinic from the very beginning, however.
    • The "Everything but the Rain" arc shows that are very, very powerful reasons for Isshin's surname change. First, Masaki was the Sole Survivor of the Kurosaki clan, therefore the name would've been completely lost if Isshin didn't take it up and pass it to their kids. Second, Isshin is a Shinigami who now lives in Karakura and, by marrying the Quincy girl he adores and staying by her side, is beginning to build a new "human" life from scratch.
  • In Kotoura-san, Zenzou Kotoura is Haruka Kotoura's maternal grandfather. This implies her nameless father married into the Kotouras, likely a rural landed gentry household.
  • Naruto: The Third Hokage gave Naruto his mother's surname to hide that his father was the fourth Hokage. At the end of the manga, Sai becomes Sai Yamanaka considering he didn't have a last name.
  • Shaman King: When Hao and Yoh's dad Mikihisa married their mom Keiko, a.k.a. the only daughter of the Asakura family. Even more so, this is a case of Uptown Girl since he was a hobo-like street musician whereas her family was a very traditional shaman clan.
  • Shokugeki no Soma:
    • Saiba Jouichiro took his wife's family name when he married, becoming Yukihira Jouichiro. The reasons have not yet been explored, but we know he loved his wife dearly, and there is enough of a whiff of scandal in his past that he may have seen it as a convenient way to change his name and drop off the radar.
      • As a corollary to the above, Protagonist Yukihira Soma also inherited his mothers name, which (for good and ill) makes people not immedately realize who his father is.
    • Nakamura Azami became Nakiri Azami after marriage. In this case, his wife's family is extremely wealthy and powerful, and even if he wasn't the type who would want to brag about marrying a Nakiri (which he definitely is), the rest of the family would probably have had strong opinions about her changing her name and "leaving the family behind", so to speak.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman comics, Lois Lane changes it to Lois Lane-Kent and keeps her maiden name as a pen name. Daily Planet staff occasionally sarcastically call Clark "Mr. Lane."
    • Pre-Crisis, the Earth-Two Lois Lane changed her married name to "Lois Kent," but kept her maiden name for professional purposes like her post-Crisis counterpart.
  • Similarly in Spider-Man, Mary Jane changes to "Watson-Parker," but continues to use "Watson" for her job. (At one point Peter gets depressed when they're separated and he tries to call her, only to hear a recording calling her by her maiden name.)
  • Supporting X-Men character Moira MacTaggert (formerly Moira Kinross) kept her late husband's name. Strange, considering the fact that he was horribly abusive and that Moira's son Proteus was implied to be the result of marital rape. Partially justified seeing as her husband refused to divorce her, leading to her running away and pretending she was widowed... but when he actually died, there was no reason to keep using the name.
    • Although, academics and scientists have a tendency to retain the name under which they first published. Moira MacTaggert would also have achieved fame and peer recognition (e.g., her Nobel Prize) under the name MacTaggert, so she could not get entirely rid of it without causing confusion. At best, she could have called herself Kinross-MacTaggert.
  • Spoofed in one New Avengers issue where Luke Cage (a.k.a. "Power Man") tries to convince his wife to go by "Power Woman."

    Fan Fiction 
  • A Little Angel On My Shoulder: In The Sohryus segments, when Asuka and Shinji got married he changed his surname to Sohryu. Asuka mentions it here.
  • The Ikaris: After Shinji and Asuka got accidentally married Asuka tells there is no way that she is taking Shinji's name... but she already changed her name legally when they got married. So people calls her Asuka Ikari, and in NERV they had changed her name everywhere to Asuka Langley Ikari.
    • The lawyer handling their case jokes about it by mixing his and her surname.
    • In one scene, Asuka got confused due to Rei calling "Ikari" but ignoring Shinji when he answered. Then she realized that Rei was addressing to HER. And then she got angry.
  • In the Red Jewel Diaries chapter "For Better or Worse" of MGLN Crisis, Fate wonders where "Scrya" and "Takamachi" would fit into her already long name when she marries Nanoha and Yuuno.
    Fate: If I took both your names, would that make me Fate Testarossa Harlaown Scrya Takamachi? Or perhaps Fate Testarossa Harlaown Takamachi Scrya? Fate Scrya Takamachi? Fate Takamachi Scrya? Hmm, I need to think about this...
  • For the same reason, this trope also comes up for Fate in Relationships Series.
  • This is constantly a question for writers of The X-Files fanfiction that feature Mulder and Scully as a married couple. While a large question is whether or not Scully would change her name, the larger question is: since they're on a Last Name Basis and they got married, would he still call her Scully?
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry and Hermione have one of these... then realize they're having it.
  • Hermione in Harry Potter fic gets this a lot in general, as you'd expect. Even Emma Watson thinks she'd keep her name. If you accept Pottermore as canon, she does.

  • It's A Wonderful Life shows George getting a phone call (on his wedding day) from "Mrs. Bailey." "I don't want to talk to Mrs. Bailey! I want to talk to my wife!". Apparently it takes him some time to get used to the idea, too.
    • Earlier, when Harry Bailey introduces his new wife Ruth Dakin to George and Uncle Billy, she corrects him; "Ruth Dakin Bailey if you don't mind."
  • In Woman Of The Year, career woman Tess Harding ruins her marriage to Sam Craig by neglecting her personal life in favor of her public life and then fails when she tries to make up for it by playing the traditional domestic wife. In the end, Sam suggests she doesn't have to pick one role or the other: she can be Tess Harding Craig.
  • Parodied in Meet the Parents, Pamela chooses to take Greg's surname and keep her middle name the same. This results in her new name being Pamela Martha Focker.
  • In The Wedding Singer, Julia Sullivan bursts into tears when she realizes that after she marries Glenn she'll be "Mrs. Julia Guglia".
  • Inverted in the film Whipped. The main character, a hen-pecked boyfriend, briefly considers changing his last name to his fiance's. They split up before the marriage.
  • In the sequel to the remake of Father Of The Bride, Annie Banks ponders this question, and she and her husband discuss which surname their upcoming child should use at the same time that they're discussing first names. They even discuss the possibility of making up a third surname just for the child; father George dreads the possibility of having a granddaughter named "Chloe Zankman".
  • A different take of this happens in A History of Violence. Edie Stall has been happily married for years, until she discovers her husband is a former Professional Killer living under a false identity. She's furious that the name she now has is literally meaningless when her husband admits he chose the name Stall simply "because it was available".
  • In It's Pat!, Pat and Chris are asked at their engagement party if one of them will change their last name (in the hopes of finding out which one's male and which one's female, which they both considered not doing.
  • Variation in Die Hard. At the beginning of the movie John McLane and his wife Holly are separated, she living and working in Los Angeles under her maiden name Gennaro. At the movie's end they reconcile, she reverts to using his surname, and he moves to L.A. to be with her.

  • In Going Postal, Moist's initial impression of Saccharissa Cripslock (who was last seen in a sort-of-relationship with William de Worde) is "Wedding ring, but still 'Miss'. Probably has Views. Do not attempt to kiss hand."
    • In Lancre meanwhile, there's a sort of tradition of matrilinearity, at least amongst witches. So when Miss Gytha Ogg got married, she became Mrs Gytha Ogg and her husband became Mr. Ogg (as did her subsequent husbands — well, the ones that were actually hers). Her married sons, however, are still Oggs, because none of her daughters-in-law are brave enough to explain to Nanny that they shouldn't be.
  • A Love for All Time by Bertrice Small begins in Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth commands one of her courtiers, Conn O'Malley, who is a troublesome Irishman, to marry Aidan St. Michael, who is a titled Englishwoman, and to take her name along with the title that went with it. He agreed, mainly because of the title. One of the queen's advisors pointed out that this would effectively make Conn an Englishman.
  • The Bruce Coville book Monster of the Year has Michael McGraw, whose mother (Elsa Adams) changed her name to her husband's when she got married, changed back after they divorced, and said she'd stay with her maiden name for the rest of her life. Michael, on the other hand, had his name changed to match his stepfather's. As he puts it, "This confuses outsiders, since they can't figure out who I really belong to, but it suits the three of us just fine."
  • In Harry Potter, it's never said if Nymphadora Tonks changes her last name after marrying Remus Lupin, but the other characters continue to call her "Tonks" (except for Lupin, who just calls her "Dora"). Their son, meanwhile, is Teddy Remus Lupin.
    • According to Pottermore, Professor McGonagall was actually married for a short period in the 1980s, but kept her last name as "she had always been a bit of a feminist."
    • Also on Pottermore, post-series Ginny writes Quidditch articles using Harry's last name. In Rita Skeeter's gossip column, however, all of the other women (Hermione, Luna, Angelina) are referred to by their maiden names.
    • Pottermore also reveals that Professor Trelawney's marriage ended "when she refused to adopt the surname 'Higglebottom.'" Aside from the silliness, she's also very proud of her descent from a famous Seer with the "Trelawney" name.
  • In the Aunt Dimity series, Lori retains her maiden name (Shepherd) after she marries, and is often found correcting people who call her "Mrs. Willis". That said, she is characteristically upbeat about the matter, and will ask people to call her "Lori".
  • In The Sharing Knife, farmers have the wife take the husband's name and Lakewalkers have the husband take the wife's name. This causes a minor issue for interracial couple Dag Redwing and Fawn Bluefield. While they briefly consider splicing their surnames (Redfield, Bluewing) or merging them (Purple-something), Dag eventually takes Fawn's surname.
  • In E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels, the recurring character Olga Braceley has kept her maiden name. Upon first meeting Olga's husband, Lucia commits a faux pas by mistakenly addressing him as Mr Braceley (his actual surname is Shuttleworth). The general thrust of the incident is that Olga to a large extent represents a more glamorous and more bohemian world to which Lucia aspires, but about which she is so naive that it would never even occur to her that a wife might not take her husband's name.
  • Susan Silverman of the Spenser novels uses her ex-husband's surname. Brad Silverman, however, changed his name after the divorce to the less Jewish-sounding "Sterling."
  • Comes up in the Lord Peter Wimsey book Thrones, Dominations when Lord Peter's new wife, Harriet Vane (properly addressed as "Lady Peter" in the previous book, Busman's Honeymoon), informs her publisher that "You'd better just keep on calling me Miss Vane, it's so much easier" to the great consternation of Peter's aristocratic family. Lord Peter himself remarks that, when consulted, he agreed to the idea with alacrity, as "It gives one the illusion of having both a wife and a mistress, which is obviously gratifying."
  • Inverted in Star Carrier books, where a woman taking her husband's last name is considered an archaic holdover from a primitive past, like the "perverted" concept of monogamy. Lieutenant Shea Ashton (née Ryan) constantly has to correct people to call her by her new name.
  • Inverted in Arrivals from the Dark series, where a commodore whose last name is Trevelyan-Krasnogortsev explains that an ancestor of his was a Tsarist Russian officer named Krasnogortsev who has escaped to France during the Romanovs And Revolutions period and married into the wealthy and respected Trevelyan family, choosing to hyphenate his name in order to be considered one of them. Several generations later, the commodore's descendants choose to drop the Overly Long Name (for bonus points, the commodore's names were Olaf Peter Carlos) and stick with the French surname.
  • Apparently "bride changes name" is common in Valdemar. In the Collegium Chronicles, Lena points out that now that she's married to Bear, when she gets Scarlets she'll be "Bard Tyrall" instead of "Bard Marchand" (her maiden name). note 
  • Lieutenant Eve Dallas in the In Death series keeps her maiden name after marriage to the multi-billionaire Roarke, a decision which is never really discussed but seems to be illustrative of the fact that she married Roarke in spite of, rather than because of, his wealth and has no intention of assimilating any of his high-class lifestyle. It doesn't keep the clueless from calling her "Lt. Roarke" (or worse, "Mrs. Roarke") and being quickly shut down. Roarke himself has Only One Name, but does not adopt "Dallas" as a surname after marrying Eve.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Queen Cersei keeps her maiden name Lannister despite marrying King Robert Baratheon, and gives her children a double-barreled last name of "Baratheon and Lannister." Westeros tradition established by the Targaryens prevents the consort of the King from taking his name, in part because the Targaryens were very weird about blood purity and didn't want "outsiders" being brought into the Targaryen line. For every other position, such as Lord of one of the Seven Kingdoms, the wife takes her husband's name.
  • In Fifty Shades Freed, Ana, after marrying Christian, insists that she wants to keep using her maiden name at work. Christian... doesn't take it well.
  • In the short story Bis zum Nullpunkt des Seins (1871) by Kurd Laßwitz, which is set in the year 2371, gender equality has resulted in a formalized system: Everybody has two (hyphenated) surnames, one inherited from the mother, the other from the father. When they marry, women drop the paternal name and men the maternal one and replace it with the surname of their spouse.
  • In Provost's Dog, Beka Cooper not only keeps her own name, but her husband decides to take on her last name, citing that his mage name of Farmer Cape is nothing special. When asked what his birth name was, he reveals that it was Pincas Huckleburr.

    Live Action TV 
  • Turk and Carla in Scrubs faced this problem. Turk's classic response to Carla wanting to keep her name: "Okay baby, I guess we'll be one of those New Age couples that don't love each other!" They eventually compromise: Carla keeps her name, and Turk keeps his mole.
    • She does use it for "official" things. Including letting him call her "Mrs. Turk" in the bedroom.
    • Off-camera, J.D. and Elliot apparently also went through this. She still goes by "Dr. Reid."
  • On Lois and Clark, Perry gives Lois a new nameplate for her desk that says "Lois Kent." She is later seen sliding her previous plate and new one together to see how she likes "Lois Lane Kent". In the end she's still not sure.
    • Earlier, there was also a Tear Jerker scene just before Lois was to be married to Lex Luthor, where she stands in front of a mirror in her wedding dress, trying out names: "Lois Luthor. Lois Lane Luthor. Lois Luthor Lane... Lois Lane... Kent..."
  • Star Trek:
    • In Voyager, B'Elanna and Tom debate about whether she'll be B'Elanna Paris or if he'll be Tom Torres. Neither one undergoes a name change.
    • In Nemesis, Captain Picard jokingly calls the newlywed Riker "Mr. Troi."
      • This is likely a reference to an earlier episode where it was implied that Betazoid women own their men, even though that would imply slavery, which is illegal in the Federation.
    • In the Next Generation novel "Greater Than The Sum", Jean-Luc Picard greeted his newlywed wife Dr. Beverly Crusher with "Good morning, Dr. Picard." She answered back, "Good morning, Captain Crusher. Or is that Howard?" note  Picard simply replied, "I'd be proud either way."
    • In the possible future shown in the TNG Grand Finale, Picard and Crusher are divorced, but Crusher has chosen to keep Picard's name instead of going back to Crusher or Howard, which results in an awkward moment when a bridge crewman calls out for "Captain Picard", meaning Beverly.
    • The episode "Sub Rosa" has a particularly bizarre case, with its references to Beverly's ancestors as "the Howard women," implying that she was the first of the line in several centuries to not keep her maiden name, despite the practice going back to a time where this would be completely unheard of.
  • On Friends, Monica didn't change her last name when she got married, feeling that Bing was a weird name. At first Chandler agreed and suggested that they "name the kids Geller and let Bing die with me," but in the end they stick with Bing. At one point, Phoebe refers to her as "Monica Geller Hyphen Bing."
    • After Phoebe got married, she had a similar dilemma. After marrying Mike (Paul Rudd), Phoebe does change her name but instead of changing her last name to her husband's, she instead has her full name legally changed to Princess Consuela Bananahammock (not realizing that "Bananahammock" is actually a pseudonym for the skintight appearance a Speedo gives to a man's, er... private area, until Mike tells her later on in the episode); in retaliation, Mike chooses to change his name to of all things... Crap Bag ("just think of a bag of crap"). Luckily, both change their names back by the end of the episode.
    • Also, when Courteney Cox married David Arquette and became Courteney Cox Arquette, the first episode after that happened all the other actors took the second surname Arquette for the opening credits: Jennifer Aniston Arquette, David Schwimmer Arquette, etc.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Lily keeps her last name after marrying Marshall, though they do consider both adopting a brand new last name (with candidates "Skywalker," "Hasselhoff," and "Awesome").
    "Have you met the Awesomes, Marshall and Lily, their son Totally, and their daughter Frickin'?"
  • On Murphy Brown, Corky Sherwood marries Will Forrest. She chooses to keep her maiden name as a middle name, until she realizes that she will then be Corky Sherwood Forrest.note 
  • On My Hero when George and Janet finally married:
    George: Arnie says you can have my name now. How'd you like to be "George"?
  • A variant from My Family, with the parents going into a therapy session:
    Susan: I'd like to be known as Susan Ryman.
    Ben: Your maiden name was Riggs!
    Susan: Maiden name? (To shrink) Harper is my husband's name, Riggs was my father's name, but Ryman was my grandmother's name. She chose it herself, no men involved.
    Ben: She was reared by wolves.
  • On The Office (US), Pam almost marries Roy Anderson and indicates that she would have begrudgingly taken his name if they had gone through with it.
    Pam: That's as close as I ever want to get to being Pamela Anderson.
    • On the flipside, she's more than excited to change it when marrying Jim. Squeeing Ensues when Kevin hands her a check made out to "Mrs. Pam Halpert."
  • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie's jealousy spirals when she finds Ben flirting with Shauna Malwae-Tweep in End of The World.
    Leslie: I know how Shauna operates. She smiles, and then they fall in love and then they get married, and then she changes her name to Shauna Malwae-Wyatt. Or he's going to be really progressive and changes his name to Ben Wyatt-Malwae-Tweep. God, I am so annoyed that he would hypothetically do that.
    • Also, in Leslie and Ben, as a joke, Ben insists that Leslie take his last name so that "Leslie Knope disappears and becomes Leslie Wyatt. Or Councilwoman Mrs. Ben Wyatt."
  • On A Different World: Whitley and Dwayne argue about this because Whitley wanted her name to be Whitley Gilbert-Wayne as opposed to just Whitley Wayne.
  • Inverted in Mork and Mindy: Mork takes Mindy's last name (McConnell). This is because Mork has no last name.
  • Sara Sidle in CSI has not changed her surname despite marrying Gil Grissom.
  • Lindsay from CSI: New York switched her name from Monroe to Messer on marrying Danny.
  • Given a nod in The Closer, when one of the first things Brenda says when Fritz proposes to her is that she's keeping her maiden name, which he immediately agrees to.
  • On Wings, Fay goes by the last name Cochran, the name of her third husband. When the others find out that her name was previously Dumbley, after her first husband, the others express surprise. (Brian: "You married a man named Dumbley and took his name?") Of course, her maiden name was Schlob, so she wasn't exactly trading down.
    • Her second husband's name was De Vay, leading to the pun "Old soldiers never die, they just Fay De Vay."
    • She kept them all, her legal name in the series is Fay Evelyn Schlob Dumbly DeVay Cochran.
  • Doctor Who: When Rory Williams and Amy Pond get married.
    The Doctor: Amelia, from now on I shall be leaving the kissing duties to the brand new Mr Pond.
    Rory: No, I'm not Mr Pond. that's not how it works.
    The Doctor: Yes. It is.
    Rory: ...yeah it is.
    • And then, after the birth of their daughter:
    The Doctor: Hello. Hello...ehh... baby.
    Amy: Melody.
    The Doctor: Melody! Hello Melody Pond.
    Rory: Melody Williams...
    Amy: a geography teacher. Melody Pond is a superhero!
    • According to the Doctor, this even goes up a generation for Rory:
      The Doctor: Brian Pond, you are delicious.
      Brian Williams: I'm not a Pond.
      The Doctor: Of course you are.
    • While it is never revealed how (if at all) their legal names change, they call each other "Mrs. Williams" and "Mr. Pond" as terms of endearment, shown respectively in "A Good Man Goes to War" and "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe."
    • Amy goes by "Amy Williams" when signing divorce papers (don't worry, they get better) and ends up using "Amelia Williams" on her gravestone. She also used Amelia Williams as a pen name when she wrote Summer Falls.
    • Although not seen on screen, when Martha and Mickey tie the knot, the former becomes Martha Smith-Jones. And when Donna gets engaged to Shaun Temple, the Doctor gets worried because "Donna Noble-Temple" would sound stupid. Wilfred assures him she's going for "Temple-Noble" instead.
  • Gwen Cooper kept her name when marrying Rhys Williams in Torchwood, at the request of Gwen's actress Eve Myles.
  • In That '70s Show, when Eric and Donna get engaged, he says that "some day, you're going to be Mrs. Forman". Donna doesn't like it, and squicks Eric out, reminding him that Mrs. Forman is his mother. "Mrs. Forman is feeling dirty..."
  • In Saved by the Bell, the core six do a pretend-marriage project in which the following pairs occur: Zack-Kelly, Jessie-Slater and Screech-Lisa. Jessie insists on hyphenating her new last name for feminist reasons and Kelly takes the old-fashioned approach and Zach's name. Screech? Takes Lisa's last name.
  • On Cougar Town, Grayson asks Jules why she hasn't taken his name, especially since she is still using her ex-husband's name.
  • JAG: Following her marriage with Bud Roberts, Harriet continues to be referred to by her maiden name, Sims. It’s likely done for convenience (because there would otherwise be two lieutenants Roberts in the same workplace) and it’s unknown if she changed her legal name.
  • The X-Files: While working on a case in Florida ("Agua Mala"), Mulder suffers the wrath of a Hispanic woman after calling her by her husband's surname.
  • On Charmed, the Halliwell women seem to have kept their name for several generations and passed it onto their children. When Leo seemed mildly bummed that his and Piper's child wouldn't have his surname, Wyatt, Piper decided to name him Wyatt Halliwell.
  • Michaela Quinn and Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman faced this dilemma when they decided to get married. In the end, they agreed that she didn't have to change her last name.
  • On the Israeli sitcom Shemesh, the eponymous character finds out Eti, his employee-turned-wife, is credited by her maiden name on the telenovela she stars on, she explains to him that she got the job before they got married and she can’t change it anymore for professional reasons. He’s irked by it, but accepts it anyway.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In the comic strip Stone Soup, when the soon-to-be-hubby asked the soon-to-be-wife why she had any reservations about changing her name, she responded, "Why don't you change your name?" He began listing all the legal, financial and professional hassles that would entail for someone as established in life as he was (it was the second marriage for both), then stopped and said, "Oh, yeah."
  • In Peanuts, Sally decides to write to Mrs. Claus instead of Santa. At one point Charlie Brown mentions that he had heard she was called "Mary Christmas," and Sally congratulates her on deciding to keep her own name.
  • In Safe Havens, Samantha keeps her name because her career was established as Samantha Argus. When asked if any future children would take her name or her husband's last name of Hamper, she and Dave refused to answer.

    Video Games 
  • In Escape from Monkey Island, Elaine is far better known than her new husband Guybrush so everyone keeps calling him "Mr. Marley". Officially they're both "Threepwood" now. Guybrush occasionally introduces himself as Marley-Threepwood.
  • In The Sims 2, the couple takes the name of whomever initiates the marriage action. A lot of player challenges place restrictions on this (legacy heirs must keep the legacy family name and such) and there are mods to choose the name or to enforce a "traditional" marriage. So, quite a few male Sims end up taking their wives' last names.
    • In the third game, the two adopt the surname of the house. Sims can also go to City Hall and pay for a name change.
  • A variant of this becomes a matter of international politics in Crusader Kings. While the persons marrying keep their dynasty (and thus their last name), what dynasty the children will belong to is critical. Normally children will belong to their father's dynasty, but there are special matrilineal marriages where the children are of the mother's dynasty.
  • In the backstory of Corpse Party, the Shinozaki family maintained its spiritual power by having the women in the family marry men willing to discard their family names for the sake of love. Unfortunately, the men who marry into the family have a tendency to die within a few years of their children (almost all female) being born.
  • According to the lead writer of Morrowind, the ancient hero Nerevar took his wife, Ayem's (later the goddess Almalexia) House name, Indoril, upon marrying her. She was a high priestess belonging to one of the Great Houses, whereas he was formerly a caravan guard born to an irrelevant minor house.
  • In the backstory of Umineko: When They Cry, Eva Ushiromiya, having been passed over to be the family heir, proposed to her husband Hideoyoshi in the hopes of producing a child when her older brother and his wife had trouble conceiving. For Hideyoshi, who didn't have any remaining family of his own, it was an easy decision to take Eva's last name.

  • PvP had some back and forth over Jade changing her name. Lampshading on the issue’s resolution, they deliberately decided to ignore it until the last minute. She eventually becomes Jade Sienna.
  • In Something*Positive, Jason (Pratchett) decides to take Aubrey (Chorde)'s surname, mostly because of issues with his dad.
    • Davan and Vanessa are taken aback when there's a sign at their wedding reception saying "Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Macintire." The guy organising it tries tacking a sign saying "Ms. Cubbins" over the word "Mrs.", but in the end they tear it down and replace it with one saying "Bow before your lizard overlords, lesser meatlings".
  • In The Order of the Stick, Daigo hasn't taken his wife's last name (Kato), but they've used it for the name of their newly-established noble house. Daigo is saving his own last name for an emergency.
  • When Kevin married Kell, he changed his (and his adopted daughter's) last name to his wife's, mainly because he had been disowned by his family. Considering he's a rabbit and Kell's a wolf, the name change was the least of people's concerns.
    • Lindesfarne keeps the name Dewclaw after she marries Fenton, likely because she's already a published scientist. Nothing was really made of it besides an offhand comment from Fiona to the effect of 'huh, she's keeping her name'.
    • According to the FAQ, Kell convinced Rudy to change his surname from Foxglove (his father's last name) to Dewclaw after his father's death.
  • Ki in General Protection Fault ponders the issue as her wedding to Nick nears, but decides to take Wellington as her surname after getting married, since it's easier to spell.
  • Amy Chilton from Scary Go Round is Amy Beckwith-Chilton in the Spin-Off webcomic Bad Machinery, due to her marriage to Ryan Beckwith. (She is quite successful with her antiques shop she has set up back in SGR, so this may probably be for the bussiness-strategical reason of name recognition.)
  • In Precocious, the Oven family's surname came from Sydney. Joseph changed his when they married.
    Joseph Oven: I mean, my last name was Brungster! I couldn't subject my kids to that with a clean conscience.
  • In Shortpacked!, Leslie (Bean) wants to take Robin (DeSanto)'s last name, "like a trophy or a prize I mount on my wall." Robin, on the other hand, suggests a variety of combinations ("Robin an' Leslie DeSantobean!") or anagrams ("like Beans and Toe, or Satan Be Done"), to no avail.
  • John Penn from Leftover Soup was born John Cartwright, and changed it when he married Nicole.

    Western Animation 
  • Marge Simpson's sister, Selma Bouvier-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure-Stu-Simpson-D'Amico from The Simpsons probably should have considered this debate a bit more.note  She eventually used this as a reason not to marry Apu, saying adding "Nahasapeemapetilon" to it would just be too much. By the way, they never showed Selma married to Hutz.
    • Also, Mrs. Krabappel still keeps her husband's surname even after he ran off with their marriage counselor.
    • Referenced in "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", during the production of the Lisa Lionheart doll.
      Lisa: (recording her voice for the doll) "When I get married, I'm keeping my own name." Oh, no, that should probably be "If I choose to get married."
  • On Phineas and Ferb people seem rather confused about the parents' surnames: Linda's has alternatively been called Flynn (like her biological children), Fletcher (like her husband and stepson) or Flynn-Fletcher. Word of God says its the former. Lawrence was also called "Mr. Flynn" on at least one occasion.
    • Isabella's mom seems to have hyphenated (Garcia-Shapiro), unless that's her own maiden name; she's an odd blend of Hispanic and Jewish stereotypes. Meanwhile, Charlene kept her ex-husband's name, Doofenshmirtz, after their divorce.
  • On Total Drama World Tour, the contestants fake getting married for a challenge, with Alejandro and Heather paired up. After he refers to her as "Mrs. Alejandro," she sarcastically calls him "Mr. Heather."
    • Later, when Sierra thinks that she's really trapped Cody in an Accidental Marriage, she tells Chris that her name is now "Sierra-Cody. It's hyphenated." Apparently none of these kids know how last names are supposed to work.
  • South Park had an episode where the Broflovskis moved to San Francisco, where all the couples had different surnames and gave hyphenated names to their kids. In one case the parents both had hyphenated names already and their kid had four strung together.
  • On American Dad! Stan and Francine are about to be stoned to death in Saudi Arabia, and Stan consoles himself with the fact that their son Steve can carry on the family name. Then he finds out that Steve is being put to death for a separate crime, and comments that their daughter Hayley, as a "filthy liberal," will probably hyphenate. (Cue Hayley's "Yeah, I'm here too.")
  • On Pepper Ann, one of the title character's friends comments on the fact that her mother, Lydia, continues to use her ex-husband's surname. Lydia says something about there being a lot of paperwork involved and sheepishly leaves the room.
  • It's more of a fandom reaction than anything in-show, but the fact that The Legend of Korra's Lin Bei Fong inherited her mother's surname has driven some fans nuts. Most characters in the universe only have one name, so it's not surprising that Toph passed on her surname, being from a very wealthy and prominent family in the Earth Kingdom. However, fans are absolutely pissed that it's not clear who Lin's father is, wondering if Toph even got married at all!
    • In the third season we meet Lin's half-sister, Suyin Beifong, who kept the name after she married (it's unclear if her husband or children use it). She indicates that neither she nor Lin knew their fathers, possibly indicating that Toph never married.

    Real Life 
  • Germany has changed laws multiple times in attempts to figure out the issue. Currently parents have to settle on one "family name" for all their children (which can be either the name of the mother or the father, but not a combination of both to avoid overly long family names), while the parents themselves might (depending on the current ruling at the time of marriage) either stick both to their names, or one of them having to use a combination. In general, the husband taking the family name of the wife has become more common.
  • This an issue for same-sex couples since obviously there either isn't a wife or there isn't a husband in the picture. Therefore, there's no tradition to go by. Some take just one of their names. Some hyphenate. Some even pick out an entirely new name for themselves. Lately, there's also been a discussion brewing about how male couples who change one or both of their names are supposed to refer to their old name(s) since "maiden name" obviously doesn't work.
    • Of course, "maiden name" also makes less sense for women these days, given that they're no longer assumed to be "maidens" before they're married.
    • Official documents in Poland usually circumvent this by using the term nazwisko rodowe (translated as "family name") for the surname one is born with, as opposed to nazwisko ("surname") meaning the bearer's current name.
    • Dan Savage wrote an interesting piece about trying to figure out what last name to give their son when he and his husband (then boyfriend) adopted him. They compromised by giving him his birthmother's last name, which seemed like a sweet gesture at the time, but wound up leading to a lot of trouble later on - it was hard enough to convince workers at airports and national borders that they weren't two strangers kidnapping a baby even without having to explain why the baby didn't share either of their last names.
  • It's not entirely unheard of for a newly married couple create a new last name,[1][2] whether it is original symbolizing the new life as a married couple[3][4] or a portmanteau of the spouses' original family names.[5]
  • Many actresses (at least American ones) actually will legally change their names when they get married, but continue to use their Screen Actors Guild-registered unmarried names professionally. Alyson Hannigan, for instance, changed her name to Alyson Denisof upon marrying Alexis Denisof, but still uses "Hannigan" as her screen name.
  • Some cultures avoid this:
    • In Korea, for instance, the wife never changes her name (the children retain their fathers' names).
    • Something similar happens in Spanish naming customs. Maiden names don't exist and children have two surnames, usually the first surname from the father and the second surname from the mother. The order can be legally swapped if the person wishes.
      • Also, anyone may choose to go by whichever of their surnames they choose, even if they don't change it legally. note  Case in point: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former President of Spain, had a strained relationship with his father and chose to go by his maternal surname Zapatero rather than the more typical Rodríguez. Or Pablo Ruíz Picasso that is known for his mother's surname.
      • It used to be traditional in Hispanic cultures for the wife to take their husband's name with the preposition "de" meaning "of". Thus when María García married Juan Pérez she'd be known as "María de Pérez (María of Pérez). The custom has fallen out of practice due to the rather unfortunate implication that the wife is her husband's property. However, a form of the custom does live on: while no woman would call herself "María de Pérez" but always "María García" if trying to be short, a full introduction (e.g. in an official context) might have her introduce herself as "María García de Pérez". A prime example is the President of Argentina, Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner, who typically goes by "Cristina Fernández" (although she'll often add the "de Kirchner" part to invoke the memory of her late husband, her predecessor Néstor Kirchner).
      • Actually, Spanish people have oficially two last names, one from the father and the other from the mother, but extra-oficially they also inherit the last names of the maternal grandfather and both grandmothers, to the point when they can recite six or eight last names. This is the fact that led to the stereotype that Hispanic people have really long names.
    • In Quebec, it is actually illegal for one spouse to take another's name.
    • In Japan, it's not unheard of for the husband to take the wife's name if she's the last of the family line to bear the name (and it helps if her family is well-off).
      • A notable example of this would be Jiroemon Kimura, primarily known for being the only male verified to have reached 116 years of age. He was born Kinjiro Miyake, and changed his name on marriage, since his wife's family did not have a male heir.
    • There's an interesting variation in traditional Chinese naming. A woman who marries would keep her own surname, and their children would take the father's name. However, they could be referred to in various manners, like Mrs. husband's surname, or husband's personal name plus appropriate address form for stranger, or husband's surname plus her own surname plus the word 氏 shi, which is akin to saying née in English. So a woman whose name is Chen Jiao (陳嬌) who marries a Shi Dachuan (石大川) could be referred to as 陳嬌 (Chen Jiao, the woman own name); 石夫人 Shi Furen (archaic) and 石太太 Shi Taitai (modern) Mrs. Shi; 川嫂/嬸/姨/姑/婆 Chuan Sao/Shen/Yi/Gu/Po (Aunty Chuan, rather than Aunty Jiao); or 石陳氏 Shi Chen Shi (Mrs. Shi née Chen, although it's archaic and mainly restricted to historical fiction). Of course, today Chinese women might follow Anglo-Western naming customs.
  • Real life inversions are discussed in this blog post.
  • Cheryl Cole of pop group Girls Aloud and judge on The X Factor was originally Cheryl Tweedy. When she married Ashley Cole in 2006, she changed her name to Cole for personal and professional use. She kept the name after their divorce in 2009 as she became more known as Cole. When she remarried and changed her name again to Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, she simply bills herself professionally as just Cheryl because it was easier for everyone.
  • By the time Hillary married Bill Clinton, she had already established herself as a successful lawyer and writer as Hillary Rodham. In the early years she kept that name, but when her hubby ran for governor of Arkansas, it was seen as Straw Feminist in the Deep South state for a woman to keep her maiden name and actually hurt his chances of winning the election. She compromised, using "Hillary Rodham Clinton" for publishing and law-practicing purposes and so has she been known ever since. Now that she's become secretary of state, however, she's often called Hillary Clinton, and her 2008 campaign website was
    • It is still a tradition in certain parts of the Deep South to not assign middle names to girls, with the expectation that she will keep her maiden name as a middle name after she marries. Therefore, it wasn't even seen as a compromise in the eyes of many voters, just, well, expected (note that Hillary Rodham, being from Chicago, was given a middle name: Diane).
  • Annie Mae "Tina" Turner kept her married name after divorcing Ike, enduring the bad memories attached to it, for business purposes. It worked, however, as she brought far more good to that name than Ike ever did.
  • In some jurisdictions, while there is no particular administrative fee for changing one's name when being married (the name change being incorporated into the whole marriage bit), there is a separate fee to change one's name when one divorces. Further (in some jurisdictions), for the woman to change her last name and middle name when getting married is trivial, but if she also wants to change her first name, you suddenly need to get a judge's approval, etc. Like that's more likely to have a nefarious plot behind it.
  • There was (and still is, in many places) a significant Double Standard about this. For women to change their names after marriage was a simple procedure, while for the man to take his wife's name required moving hell and earth. The most famous person to do this is probably the NFL's London Fletcher-Baker, who adopted the Baker to honor his father-in-law.
  • J. K. Rowling is actually named Joanne Murray since marrying in late 2001. She just didn't bother to change her pen name (which technically was a pseudonym anyway, since she never had a middle name). All three of her children have "Rowling" as a middle name, however.
  • Similarly, Agatha Christie was Agatha Mallowan from 1930, but she kept Christie (her first husband's surname) as her pen name.
  • An interesting case with Jon Stewart. His birth name was Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, and he chose Jon Stewart as his professional name (mostly because he'd had some really nasty fights with his father). About a year after he married Tracy McShane, they both changed their legal last names to Stewart. Note that even before he got married, Stewart refused to respond to anyone who called him by his birth name except when it was unavoidable (e.g. on official ID documents).
  • Meg and Jack White (i.e. The White Stripes) invert this: John Anthony "Jack" Gillis married Megan Martha White in 1996 and they divorced in 2000. He took, and kept, her last name of White and they remained on good enough terms to keep going in the band together.
  • Cherie Blair, wife of Tony Blair, uses Cherie Booth (she's the daughter of actor Anthony Booth) for her legal work. A confusing situation in that she had already been a barrister for four years when she married Tony Blair, and for the fact that she accepts being called "Cherie Blair" or even "Mrs. Tony Blair" outside of being a barrister.
  • During the 1984 U.S. presidential campaign, Senator Barry Goldwater insisted on referring to vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro as "Mrs. Zacarro."
  • When John Lennon married Yoko Ono, she became Yoko Ono Lennon. And he became John Ono Lennon, legally changing his middle name from Winston to Ono.
  • A contestant on Win Ben Stein's Money told the story of his marriage to a woman surnamed "Wolfe". His own surname was "Dark", so they decided to both change to the hyphenate "Dark-Wolfe."
  • It was and is fairly common for British aristocratic families to adopt a hyphenated 'double-barreled' surname when two of their scions marry. More oddly, the mother's maiden name is sometimes used as the first name of a child from such a unionnote .
    • Another reason for some 'double-barreled' names in European nobility could occur if the wife came from a more famous or wealthy family and had no brothers. The husband would then combine her surname with his own to ensure that her surname did not become "extinct".
  • Polar explorer Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard was born Apsley Cherry, but the terms of his great-aunt's will required his family to take her name in order to inherit her estate.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winner Connie Schultz wrote a column about a reader who consistently criticizes her for not taking her husband's surname and insists on using it in lieu of her chosen maiden name.
  • For some reason, the current Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel still uses the name of her first husband, even though they divorced back in 1982, and she's currently married to Joachim Sauer. (Her birth name is Angela Kasner).
    • Opera singer Angela Giorgheu has a similar pattern (she became famous using the name of her first husband, and carried on using it even after she'd divorced and remarried. Possibly because her birthname sounded rather unglamerous- for that matter it wasn't 'Angela' either.)
  • Averted by BBC Radio 2 newsreader Fenella Haddingham, who has exactly the accent you'd expect a woman with a name like that to have, when she became known as Fenella Fudge after getting married. Listeners are still wondering why.
  • Another inversion: Paul Landers of Rammstein was born Heiko Paul Hiersche (he later dropped his first name), but when he married Nikki Landers, he took her surname and still kept it after they divorced.
  • Kim Deal lampshaded this trope for her first two albums with The Pixies, crediting herself as "Mrs. John Murphy" to mock a woman she'd met who insisted that she wanted to be known by her husband's name.
  • While Elisabeth Sladen, who married fellow actor Brian Miller in 1968, kept her maiden name for her professional career, she was "Lis Miller" at home.
  • Olympic beach volleyball legends Misty May and Kerri Walsh both got married between Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and are now credited as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, illustrating two of the options mentioned above.
  • Carrie Underwood married then Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher in 2009. She elected to keep her original name for presumable multiple reasons.
  • Japanese writer Fuyumi Ohno, author of The Twelve Kingdoms, kept her maiden name as her pen-name after marrying.
  • Since her marriage to David Mitchell in 2012, Victoria Coren has used all three variations of her name note , in both personal and professional capacities, as chronicled in her The Observer column.
  • Go onto any wedding-planning website, forum or blog, and you will see thousands of threads and articles talking about this trope. In every single article or thread where one woman complains that her fiancé is upset about her not wanting to change her name at all, dozens of commenters will swoop in suggesting that she hyphenate or drop her middle name and replace it with her maiden name while tacking on her fiancé's name as a "compromise." Note that these commenters will very rarely suggest that the fiancé do the same.
  • Susan Sarandon, née Tomalin, has always used the surname of first husband Chris Sarandon in her professional life, during and after her common law marriage to Tim Robbins.
  • Science fiction/horror writers Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem chose a new surname on marriage. He still uses his "maiden" name as a middle name because he had published under it when he was single.

Alternative Title(s):

Maiden Name Debate