One of the things on your post wedding to-do list will be deciding how and when to legally change your name after the wedding. Whether you’re taking your partner’s name, sticking to your maiden name or using a combination of both surnames, there are a few options to consider when it comes to changing your name after marriage and some legal requirements you must do to officially change your name.
Image credit: JK Photography
From the emotional considerations to the legal practicalities, check out our guide to find out everything you need to know about changing your name.
The Emotional Lowdown
For many couples, the decision over name-changing is emotional above anything else. Some brides can’t wait to switch to their husband’s surname; it’s a statement to the rest of the world as well as a clear sign that you have joined your husband’s family. The groom might see this gesture as traditional and symbolic; some grooms are offended if their new wives don’t wish to change their names, seeing it as a slight against them.
For many brides, though, changing their name doesn’t appeal. Some have built up a successful career or business under their maiden names; others may be only children and don’t want to lose their family name; or maybe the bride just loves her name; and feels that it’s part of her identity. Some women feel strongly that taking a man’s name is unequal and outdated.
Changing your name is a big deal and if you feel strongly that you don’t want to do it, speak to your partner about it well before the wedding. Communicating openly about the issue, and explaining that the name change is nothing against him but, rather, an important part of who you are, is the best course of action if you want to avoid arguments in the run up to the wedding.
For same sex couples, getting married or entering into a civil partnership, there is no name changing convention. But couples may still face a dilemma over name changing: in fact, because there is no legal convention, deciding whose surname to share – or whether to change names at all – may be even more contentious. Again, communication is key: talking calmly about your options well before the ceremony is the best way towards reaching a compromise.
The Name Changing Options
You might take your partner’s surname (and there are men who choose to take their wife’s name), or keep your maiden name – but there are other options that might help if you’re looking for a compromise.
Some men and women decide to adopt a double barrelled surname. This works well if you both have fairly short, easy to pronounce surnames like “Sullivan-Jones” or “Smith-Patel”. Longer, more complicated surnames might be less appealing, but if you wish to “double barrel” your name, you can do so.
Another option is to change your maiden name to a middle name, so it is still part of your legal name – and your partner could adopt your maiden name as a middle name too.
A new idea, growing in popularity, is to combine your surnames – also known as meshing. The most famous example happened when the journalist and TV presenter Dawn Porter married the actor Chris O’Dowd and changed her name to Dawn O’Porter.
Fusing your surnames is a good choice if you want to make a statement – and a totally fresh start – as a new married couple, and it’s seen as a good choice for equality. Do be careful if the new name you create sounds silly or is chosen with tongue in cheek: remember that this is going to be your legal name from now on, and a name you’ll pass on if you have children.
Another, less formal, compromise is to keep using your maiden name unofficially, not changing your name or email address at work, for example. You’ll still need to let your HR and accounts departments know that your name has legally changed (particularly if you’ve changed the name on your bank account), but you can let your colleagues know that you’d like to continue using your maiden name in a professional capacity.
The Legal Basics
Once you have decided what you want to do about your name after you get married, there are a few legal basics you should know:
- Taking your husband’s name after marriage: you don’t need to change your name by deed poll to do this, but you do need to send a copy of your marriage certificate to all relevant authorities, such as the DVLA, and your bank – check if the organisation you are contacting requires the original marriage certificate or will accept a copy. You will also need to apply for a new passport: if you want to book your honeymoon tickets in your new name, you can apply in advance.
- Same sex couples: if a same sex couple decides to share one of their surnames, the partner who is changing their name will be able to use their marriage or civil partnership certificate to update their personal records and will not need a deed poll.
- Keeping your maiden name: if you decide to keep your maiden name you don’t have to do anything as none of your personal records or accounts will need to change.
- Using a maiden name as a middle name: if you choose to do this, you must apply to change your name by deed poll using a specialist agency or a solicitor. You’ll need to supply a copy of your marriage certificate to make this change, and you’ll need to have your deed poll certificate before you can apply for a new passport – so it’s probably safest to book your honeymoon tickets in your maiden name if you’re heading straight off on holiday.
- Using a double barrelled name: If a woman wants to double barrel her surname she will need to change her name via deed poll. If a wife and her husband want to adopt the same double barrelled name, the man could change his name via deed poll before the wedding and then his wife can simply use her marriage certificate to apply for a new passport/change her records after the wedding (saving on the expense of two deed polls). The same applies to a same sex couple if one partner changes his/her name before the wedding/civil partnership.
- Taking your wife’s name after marriage: if a man wants to formerly change his surname to his wife’s, he will need to change his name by deed poll.
- Meshing your names: You can mesh two surnames (e.g. John Smith and Jane Doe become John and Jane Smoe) or create a totally new surname to share. Doing this requires a deed poll and if you want to keep your old surname as a middle name, you can do this at the same time.
Who You Need to Notify
Once you have changed your name there are a number of places you will need to notify so they can update your details. Take a look at some of the key ones right here:
Your Employer — notify your employer of your new married name so they can update your contract and your postal address.
HMRC — send an original copy of your marriage licence as proof of your name change.
Your Bank — visit your bank with an original copy of your marriage certificate to prove you’ve changed your last name.
Credit Card Companies — you may want your new name on your credit card, and they will need to be updated with your new name for payments etc.
Local Authority — send them a copy of your marriage certificate with a cover letter so they can update their records.
Pension Providers — send them your marriage certificate and a covering letter.
Passport Office — they will need the original certificate so you can change your name on your passport.
DVLA — send off an original certificate so you can have your married name on your driving license.
Motoring Organisations — update any breakdown or car insurance organisations you have any cover with to avoid confusion.
Utility Services — your gas, electricity and water providers will need to update their records.
Communication — update your telephone, mobile and internet provider, as they will need to amend their records.
Doctor and Dentist — your medical records will need to be updated and you may need to produce a copy of your marriage certificate here.
As well as changing your name, you might also have a few things to do after your wedding day - don't miss our post-wedding to-do list. If you are finding the time after the wedding a struggle then also don't miss our advice on how to deal with the post wedding blues.