Facebook has gotten a bit confusing since wedding season started among my friends. “Who is this person?” I wonder almost daily while scrolling down my newsfeed. “Oh, yeah, she got married.” Despite modern trends toward longer careers, later marriages, and fewer children, one tradition still stands. In the last fifteen years, some women have actually become more likely to take the man’s name, according to a study last year.
Columnist Jill Filipovic recently sounded off in the Guardian to let women know it’s all right not to change their last names and to detail why men usually don’t.
“Men rarely define themselves relationally,” Filipovic writes. “And men don't tend to change their names, or even let the thought cross their mind. Men, too, seem to realize that changing one's name has personal and professional consequences.”
While taking on the woman’s name was the last on a Huffington Post blogger’s list of married last name options, some men decide to do it. The nontraditional name change probably can’t be called a trend yet, but it’s less unusual than you think.
Here are three celebrities who took their wives’ last names — “personal and professional consequences” be damned.
The rapper and producer is legally Shawn Carter-Knowles; he took on wife Beyonce’s last name because her parents didn’t have any sons. The couple were recently included in the TIME magazine 100 Most Influential list.
2. John Lennon
Lennon took Yoko Ono’s maiden name for his middle name in a 1969 ceremony. Fascinated with the number nine, Lennon noted that his taking “Ono” would give the couple a lucky nine “o’s” between them. But because of a U.K. law, Lennon was unable to revoke his birth name, leaving him with John Winston Ono Lennon and the dreaded 10 “o’s” he had earlier called bad luck.
3. Jack White
Formerly of The White Stripes, the musician took wife and drummer Meg White’s last name, perhaps because it was a better name for a band (Gillis just wouldn’t have worked as well). Despite their 2000 divorce, White sang about taking his ex-wife’s name in his most recent album. The eccentric couple sometimes presented themselves as brother and sister.
Celebrities almost seem to have an easier time of it. Business Insider recently compiled a list of nine men who took their wives’ last names and were met with everything from disbelief to fraud accusations. Their reasons varied as well: Some wanted to make a statement, while one simply liked her name better. One husband even fought the state of Mississippi to make the name change.
Winnipeg resident Josiah Neufield received puzzled censure from his relations and detailed it in a 2009 column for the Globe and Mail.
“So far the name change hasn't cost me more than a few hours of paperwork, some explanations to public officials and a few strained conversations with brittle relatives who think I've joined a matrilineal cult,” he writes. “I still feel like myself. My identity remains intact.”