Changing Your Name Upon Marriage

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Introduction

When 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 surname.

A Woman’s Legal Rights Upon Marriage

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.

The Traditional Option

Changing 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.

After your 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.

Continuing To Use Your Maiden Name

If 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.

Unrelated 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.

Changing The Man’s Name

There 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 below).

Hyphenated (Double Barrelled) Names

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.

Using Your Maiden Name As A Middle Name

If 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.

Who To Advise When You Change Your Name

Whatever 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.

Changing Your Name In Your Passport

Changing 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.

Footnote

Although 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]

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