7 couples who combined last names and the amazing reasons they did it.

Brangelina. Kimye. "Combined names" are a key step in becoming a celebrity "it" couple. But regular people all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. And making it legal.

I recently read about the phenomenon of married couples legally taking a smushed-together — or otherwise completely invented — version of their last names. Smith and Johnson become the Smithsons, for example. I started asking around: Had anyone else heard of this?

Turns out, a ton of people had. Almost everyone I asked knew a couple who had done it officially, done it unofficially, or at least thought about it.


It might sound kind of odd, but there are a lot of great reasons modern couples choose to do something like this — everything from gender equality (FTW!) to giving the kids a fresh family identity to make their own.

Here are eight forward-thinking, creative, and diverse couples who chose to use a combined name, and why they did it.

1. Carla Cole + Brian Martin = the Latimers

Photo by Carla Latimer, used with permission.

These two turned to an unlikely tool when they decided to combine names: an anagram generator.

"We wanted a family name to share with the kids," Carla says. She says they almost had guests at their wedding vote on their top five favorite names. Instead, they wound up choosing on their own.

"We dropped our middle birth names, moved our maiden names to our middle names, and added the new last name," she says.

And lived happily ever after.

2. Blair Eckenrode + Megan Christensen = the Eckensens

Photo by Shawnee/A Lovely Photo, used with permission

When Eckenrode and Christensen got married, they had some understandably complicated feelings about the institution.

Questioning the long upheld standards of marriage gave the couple a lot of freedom to define their own union how they saw fit. The first thing to go? The historic coverture laws that originated today's commonplace tradition of a woman relinquishing a part of her identity, her name, and assuming her husband's.

"We are a family, and we share every part of our lives with each other, and we also desired to share a name," Blair says. "So we got creative and here we are — a nontraditionally created name for a 'nontraditional' marriage."

3. Sally and Ryan Stauffer = the Elainskas

Photo via Sally Elainska, used with permission

When these two first got married, they did what Sally calls "the normal thing," and went with her husband's last name of Stauffer. A few years later, Ryan had a confession to make — he wished they'd gone another route.

"In the end we decided to combine Gaelic to represent his ancestry and Polish to represent mine," Sally says. They chose words that loosely translated to "people of art," plus a few tweaks to make it easy to spell and pronounce, and suddenly they were the Elainskas.

Their families have had mixed reactions, Sally says, but there's only one thing that really matters: "I couldn't be happier with the decision and with my perfect partner!"

4. Sonia Abrams + Stephen Moss = the Abramoss kids

Photo via Sonia Abrams, used with permission.

When these two tied the knot, they both agreed it'd be best to keep their own last names. The kids? That was a different story.

"We both felt a little weird about not having a little bit of [both] our names in our kid," Sonia says. That's when they got the idea to combine, and Abramoss just felt like a winning combination.

"My dad did not like it at all, but I think he got over it," she says. "It feels neat to have our kid's' names be a combo of ours, since our kids are a perfect combo of the two of us."

5. Sara Kunitake + Jonah Horowitz = the Horotakes

Photo from Jonah Horotake, used with permission.

"Sara has a very strong attachment to her family name. She’s the last Kunitake grandchild, and she hesitated to give the name up," Jonah says. "Also, she has invested a lot in building her brand professionally as Sara Kunitake and didn’t want to have to rebuild as Sara Horowitz."

So they merged to become the Horotakes. "We really like the sound of it and it merges our Japanese and Jewish heritage."

6. Jesse Rauch + Lissa McManus = the McRauchs

Photo via Jesse McRauch, used with permission.

Feminism has been an important thread throughout Jesse and Lissa's relationship.

"As our relationship deepened, I felt it was important to be completely equal in our relationship," Jesse says. "We both wear engagement rings. I didn't get on one knee — so we looked each other in the eye."

Jesse says most people are really supportive, or even jealous they didn't think of it, but his parents keep asking, 'Are you really doing that?"

"They may need more time," he says.

7. Ash Russell + Crystal Fields = the Rocketships

Photo from Ash Rocketship, used with permission

That's right. Meet Mrs. and Mrs. Rocketship.

Ash says the couple talked a lot about "how neither of us were really attached to our family names and how it would be nice to share a name once we were married."

Her alternative? Pick something random, but meaningful. It got the couple talking about their shared love of outer space.

"We joked about Lightyear, after Buzz, and then one of us — probably me because I am nothing if not overjoyed at being obnoxious — said, 'We should just pick something random ... like, rocketship.' And it just stuck."

From there, the paperwork was a breeze, and the Rocketships became the coolest family in the solar system.

Update 8/23/2017: One couple has been removed from this list.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."