a woman marries, she is faced with having to make a decision about
her name. That is, should she change her maiden name (her surname
before marriage) and if so, to what. This article explains a woman's
legal options upon marriage and offers alternative solutions to women
who do not wish to follow the tradition of taking their future husband's
There is no legal requirement for a woman to change
her surname when she gets married. It is purely her own personal choice,
although by tradition it is generally expected. Upon marriage, there
are two automatic legal options available to the woman only (a man
has no legal right to change his name): A woman can either continue
to use her maiden name or she can change her maiden name to her husband's
surname. If a woman decides to take her husband's surname, the marriage
certificate provides the necessary documentary evidence that she has
changed her name.
your maiden name to your husband's surname is the traditional and
simplest option. It is still, by far, the most preferred option of
today's brides. With both parties using the same surname, life is
made considerably easier and less confusing to others when making
joint financial, legal and social arrangements. This is particularly
relevant when children are involved.
marriage, you simply send your marriage certificate to all the numerous
government departments, companies and organisations that you deal
with so they can amend your records (see Who To Advise When
You Change Your Name).
If you decide
to keep with tradition, the following example demonstrates the various
forms of address: If your maiden name is Susan Brown and you marry
Michael Smith, you will be formally known as Susan Smith or Mrs.
Michael Smith although in common usage you will find that you will
usually be addressed (incorrectly) as Mrs. Susan Smith - which is
how a divorced woman would address herself as. Together, you will
be formally addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith.
you decide to continue using your maiden name after marriage, the
established convention is to replace the title Miss by Ms. (pronounced
miz). This option has become increasingly popular for business
and professional women, especially if they have an established name
in their business or profession, since continuity of the woman's name
is maintained. However, many women using Ms. for this reason, will
have taken their husband's surname for their legal name for all matters
outside the workplace.
If you decide
to continue using your maiden name and, for example, your name is
Susan Brown and you marry Michael Smith, you will be known as Ms.
Susan Brown. However, any reference to your husband's Christian
or surname when using Ms. should not be used.
to marriage, many women also use the title Ms. if they feel that
information about their marital status is not relevant in their
business or personal life. The use of Ms. in this instance is simply
equivalent to the male title of Mr.
is of course no reason why your husband should not change his name
to your maiden name upon marriage. If you plan on doing this, you
simply continue using your maiden name after marriage. However, your
husband will need to take additional steps to change his name.
Most simply, your husband can just start using his new name after
your marriage. However, if he wishes to get all his records and documents
changed without any problems or delays (for example, his passport
and records such as income tax, national insurance, bank and building
society accounts), he should execute a change of name by Deed Poll (see footnote
It is also becoming increasingly popular for couples
to take each other's surname after marriage. For example, if Michael
Smith marries Susan Brown, they may wish to be know as Michael and
Susan Smith-Brown (or Brown-Smith). Formally, the couple will be addressed
as Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith-Brown (the use of a hyphen between the
combined surnames is optional).
If you decide upon this option and you both wish to have all your
records and documents changed, you should both arrange to have your
names changed by Deed Poll after your marriage. This
will ensure that there are no delays or problems in getting all of
your documents and records changed.
To save on the small additional expense of a combined Deed Poll, your
future husband should change his name to the hyphenated name before
you get married. Consequently, you will then automatically take his
new hyphenated surname upon marriage. You should change your names
in this way if you wish to get your passports changed in advance of
your marriage, enabling you to travel on your overseas honeymoon using
your new hyphenated name. Ideally, your future husband should change
his name by Deed Poll at least two months before your marriage so
that enough time is allowed for the issue of your new passports. Please
read the section below on changing your
name in your passport.
you propose taking your husband's surname upon marriage but still
wish to have your maiden name incorporated in your new name, you could
consider having your maiden name as a middle name. This option is
used in many countries throughout the world and overcomes any feelings
of pretentiousness you may have about using a hyphenated name.
Again, if you wish to have all your records and documents changed,
you need to change you name by Deed Poll after your marriage.
If you are
a non-UK citizen who is getting married in the UK and you are taking
your husband's surname but wish to use your maiden name as your
middle name, you should take legal advice to see if your own country
will accept a Deed Poll as evidence of a change of name.
name you choose to use after your marriage, there are numerous organisations
and companies that need to be advised. Also, if you are setting up
a new home after your marriage, you will also need to advise them
of your new address.
We have a separate article titled Who To Advise When You Change Your Name,
which lists the usual organisations and companies you need to contact
when you change your name. The article also has a specimen letter,
which you may find useful.
your passport to show your new name is worthy of a separate mention
since it is the one document a woman can get changed before getting
married. This is to allow you to travel on your overseas honeymoon
using your new name. However, your new passport will not be valid
until the date of your marriage. Please read our article on changing
your passport for further information.
we refer to Deed Poll, we also mean Statutory Declaration, which is
another method of changing your name. To change your name by Statutory
Declaration, it is usual to have the document drafted and sworn before
a solicitor. Since changing your name by Deed Poll is simpler and
much more convenient (it can be done online from our website) we have
ignored any reference to it. If you require further information about
changing your name by Statutory Declaration, you should speak to a
solicitor or contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureaux. [back]