Once you’ve said yes to the proposal, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is: ‘Should I change my name when I get married?’ And whilst, in the past, brides mostly took their husband’s name as a matter of course, modern brides (in both heterosexual and same-sex marriages) have more freedom to side-step the tradition, if they so choose, in favour of other options. It’s a big decision that comes wrapped up in both practical and emotional considerations – plus it’s the one ‘wedmin’ decision that will affect your whole life, not just your wedding day – so before you make your choice, here’s what you need to know…
First up, the emotional stuff
Our names are a huge part of our identity, so this isn’t a decision to take lightly – and it’s no surprise that it can be an emotional minefield. After all, even if you’re 100% sure you want to take your partner’s name, deciding to jettison the name that’s always been you can feel a little bit strange. And if you don’t want to change? That can bring up feelings of guilt towards your partner, or confusion and rejection on their part.
Which is where the next bit comes in…
Have the conversation
Whilst, ultimately, this decision is yours to make, it’s important that you and your partner talk openly about your feelings on the subject. If you both want the same thing, then – happy days! – that’s one thing ticked off the to-do list. But don’t just assume you’re both on the same page. There are so many emotional aspects at play here that it’s easy for misunderstandings to creep in – so if you don’t want to change your name, or you want them to change theirs, be honest and clear about why you feel that way. For example, maybe you’re an only child and want to keep your family name alive, or maybe you feel strongly that you’d like a more modern, equal solution of blending your names into a double-barrelled one (remember, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing case of taking their name or keeping your own: there are plenty of ‘compromise’ options, too).
Know your options
Keeping your maiden name: You’re absolutely entitled to do this – you can be legally married without changing a thing, or keep your maiden name but change your title, eg from Ms to Mrs.
Taking your partner’s name: This is the most traditional route and still a popular one with brides.
Your partner taking your name. Well, why not?
Going double-barrelled: A good compromise if neither of you wants to ‘lose’ your name – simply use both (and have fun playing around with the order they sound best in!).
Merging your names: This is a modern idea that helps you to create a completely new surname for yourselves, by fusing your names together. Think: Chris O’Dowd and Dawn Porter, who rebranded themselves as the O’Porters. Just be sure that anything you come up with is a name that you (and any future children) can live with long-term, not just something that sounds like a good idea after a few glasses of Prosecco at your engagement party!
Changing your name (but not for everything): Lots of brides choose to change their name formally for passports etc, but carry on using their maiden name for things such as work (after all, if you’ve made a name for yourself in your chosen career, you might not want to ditch it for a new one!). You’ll still need to alert your HR department that your name has officially changed.
The legal stuff
Here’s what you’ll need to do, depending on which option you go for…
Keeping your maiden name: You don’t need to make any legal changes – even if you want to keep your name but change your title, eg from Miss to Mrs, you won’t need to sign a deed poll or change your passport.
Taking your partner’s name: As long as your marriage certificate features your maiden name and your partner’s name, you don’t need a deed poll to make the change.
Your partner taking your name: The details above also apply for a man taking a woman’s name, and for same-sex marriages.
Going double-barrelled: If it is clear from your marriage certificate where the new name is derived from (ie your two separate names), then you won’t need a deed poll.
Merging your names: If you are creating a whole new name for yourselves, you will need to do this by deed poll.
Changing your name (but not for everything): The same rules apply as if you were changing your name for all aspects of your life. When you renew your passport in your new name, you will need to make a statement to say that you use your maiden name professionally, but use your married one for all other purposes.
What about your passport if you’re heading straight off on honeymoon after the wedding?
If you are travelling abroad on honeymoon, the name on your passport needs to match the name you booked the holiday under. You can change your details on your passport up to three months before the wedding, and receive a ‘post-dated’ passport valid from the date of your ceremony, but if you don’t need a deed poll for your chosen name change, the Deed Poll Office recommends travelling under your old name, corresponding with your passport, and beginning the process of changing your passport after your return from honeymoon. Likewise, if you do need a deed poll, you can either order it in advance to sign on your wedding day, keep it at home until you return from honeymoon and then start the process of changing your passport, or order it after your trip abroad. See deedpolloffice.com for more information.
Who to notify of your new name: a handy check list
- The passport office
- Your employer
- Your bank and mortgage provider
- The DVLA
- Your local authority (for council tax etc)
- HM Revenue and Customs
- Utility and phone providers
- Pension providers
- Your GP and dentist
- Insurance providers
- Credit card/loan companies
- Gyms/clubs/store cards
What I did and why I (slightly) regret it
I changed my name when I married purely because I didn’t have any strong objections to doing so, and at the time I didn’t see any tempting alternatives. My husband didn’t fancy the idea of double-barrelling, and I knew I wanted us to share his name, so it was a decision I sort of sleepwalked into. But changing your name at the age of 38 is downright weird – if you’ve had one identity for nearly 40 years, it’s not an easy change to get your head around, however much you’re on board with the idea in theory!
It was only when I created a new email account using both our names (LauraJohnsonEddy) that I realised how much better that option sounded! It had never occurred to me that I could go double-barrelled even if my husband didn’t, but I’ve since heard of couples who take that route and I think it makes a lot of sense. Now, three years after my wedding, I’m in a sort of name limbo, where neither my new name nor my old one sound quite right to me, and where I sometimes start signing Johnson instead of Eddy… while my Instagram and Gmail accounts (both of which I barely use) have a pretty cool name that I wish I’d taken for myself! It’s not something I deeply regret, or something that keeps me awake at night, but in hindsight I probably would have made a different decision had I known it was an option.