A woman’s name change rights and options upon marriage
This article explains your change of name rights and options upon marriage. Although you can use the links below to go directly to the different sections in this article, we suggest you take the time to read the whole article so you have a full understanding of all your options.
Contrary to popular belief, a woman’s surname does not automatically change to her husband’s surname upon marriage. Neither will your marriage certificate indicate in any way what surname you will be using following your marriage. A marriage certificate simply records the names of the couple who are marrying.
After your marriage, it is your own personal choice what you want your surname to be. Your options, which are explained in detail in this article, are:
- Continue using your maiden name.
- Take your husband’s surname.
- Change to a double-barrelled surname.
- Take your husband’s surname and make your maiden name a middle name.
- “Mesh” your surnames to make a new surname.
2. Options that do not need a Deed Poll
The following options do not require you to change your name by Deed Poll:
2.1 Continue using your maiden name
If you decide to continue using your maiden name, you do not need to do anything following your marriage because you are not changing your legal name. However, if you wish to change your title to Mrs, please click on this link
2.2 Take your husband’s surname
If you decide to follow tradition and take your husband’s surname, your marriage certificate provides you with the necessary documentary evidence that you have changed your surname to your husband’s (as his surname appears on your marriage certificate). By sending a copy of your marriage certificate to record holders, with a covering letter, your documents and records will be changed to show your new surname. Please note, for important documents like your passport and driving licence, you will need to send your original marriage certificate – so buy a few extra marriage certificates from your registrar or minister after your marriage ceremony.
Please note, if your marriage certificate is not in English because you have married in a non English speaking country, you will need to provide record holders with either an official translation of your marriage certificate into English or a Deed Poll, which is usually less expensive than paying for an official translation.
3. Options that may need, or will need, a Deed Poll
Many brides today are deciding against following the tradition of giving up their surname for their husband’s surname because they wish to maintain a link to their family name by including their family name in their new married surname. Options that accommodate this are:
3.1 Double-barrelling your surnames
A double-barrelled surname uses both the couples’ surnames. The two elements of the new surname can be linked by a hyphen or kept separate e.g. Smith-Jones or Smith Jones. It is personal choice whether a hyphen is used and which order the names are placed – although there is a tradition in some social circles to place the man’s surname last. Most couples however decide the order by what sounds better when the new double-barrelled surname is spoken.
If you decide to have a double-barrelled surname, a Deed Poll is often required. Although government departments and many companies and organisations will change their records to show a double-barrelled surname upon presentation of the marriage certificate, many will not, particularly the financial institutions. A Deed Poll will guarantee that your double-barrelled surname will be accepted by everyone without question. The only way to find out if you need a Deed Poll to get your non-government documents and records changed is to contact, for example, your bank, building society, credit card company and mortgage company etc and ask what their policy is for changing your surname to a double-barrelled surname upon marriage.
3.2 A further option if you plan to double-barrel your surnames
If you will both be double-barrelling your surnames by Deed Poll, the cost of a second Deed Poll can be avoided if your husband-to-be changes his surname by Deed Poll before you marry. Consequently, upon marriage, you can take your husband’s double-barrelled surname, in the traditional way, by using your marriage certificate as documentary evidence of your change of surname (because your husband’s double-barrelled surname will be on your marriage certificate). Please note, your husband-to-be should only follow the above advice if he has sufficient time to get all the documents he will be taking with him on your honeymoon changed to his new double-barrelled surname, for example, his passport, travel documents, driving licence, credit cards etc. We suggest he should apply for his Deed Poll at least two months before your wedding to allow sufficient time to get everything changed before you travel on your honeymoon (he is strongly advised not to travel overseas carrying documents in different names). Your husband-to-be will also need to notify your minister or registrar that he has changed his surname by Deed Poll so your marriage notice can be amended to his new double-barrelled surname. Please note, before your marriage notice is amended, your husband-to-be may be asked to prove he has changed his name “for all purposes” by producing supporting documents such as his passport and driving licence showing his new double-barrelled surname. Therefore, it is advisable to get these documents changed first so they can be taken, with his Deed Poll, to your registrar or minister.
3.3 Making your maiden name a middle name
Although most women are happy to take their husband’s surname upon marriage, many do not like the idea of totally abandoning their family name and would like a way of keeping a link to their family without having a double-barrelled surname. The solution is to have your current surname added as a middle name. For example, if Sarah Ann WILLIAMS marries Michael JOHNSON, the new name will be Sarah Ann Williams JOHNSON. Furthermore, in recognition of the woman giving up her surname and taking her husband’s surname, the man could add his wife’s surname as a middle name too. Using the example above, the husband would change his name to Michael Williams JOHNSON. Such name changes can be accomplished by Deed Poll.
3.4 “Meshing” your surnames
Meshing surnames is a term used to describe the blending of elements of each of the couple’s surname to create a new surname for both of them. For example, if Sarah WILLIAMS marries Michael JOHNSON, they could mesh their surnames to become Sarah and Michael WILLSON (or JOHNAMS). Because meshing can be accomplished by Deed Poll, you could also consider adding your original surnames as middle names, thereby maintaining a link with your original family name. Using the above example, Sarah WILLIAMS would become Sarah Williams WILLSON.
3.5 If your marriage certificate is not in English
If your marriage certificate is not in English because you have married in a non English speaking country, you will need to provide record holders with either an official translation of your marriage certificate into English or a Deed Poll, which is usually less expensive than paying for an official translation.
4. When to apply for your Deed Poll
If you need to apply for Deed Polls to change your surname, there are two options to consider in respect of the timing of your application:
4.1 Apply in time for signing on your wedding day
If you wish to sign your Deed Poll documents on your wedding day (immediately following your ceremony or later at your reception), you should order your Deed Polls at least three weeks before your wedding (this allows for any delays). When you complete your application forms, please write in the comments box the date of your wedding. We will then date your Deed Polls for your wedding day, which looks so much better than hand writing the date. After you sign your Deed Polls after your ceremony, you will keep them safe at home and upon your return from your honeymoon you will start the process of letting everyone know of your change of name by Deed Poll.
4.2 Apply upon returning from your honeymoon
If you do not wish to sign your Deed Polls on your wedding day, you can order your Deed Polls upon returning from your honeymoon. You can of course still order before your wedding if you wish, particularly if you want your Deed Poll documents to hand for signing upon returning from your honeymoon.
5. Changing your title to Mrs
Regardless of what you decide to do with your surname following your marriage, you will probably want to change your title to Mrs. This section tells you what you need to do for each of the options discussed above.
5.1 If you will be applying for a Deed Poll to change your name
If your proposed name change requires you to apply for a Deed Poll, when you complete your application form, you can request the addition of a change of title declaration on your Deed Poll document. Therefore, both your name and title change appear on your Deed Poll. Your Deed Poll Pack will include an example covering letter to use when you notify everyone of your change of name and title by Deed Poll.
5.2 If you will be taking your husband’s surname
If you choose the traditional option of taking your husband’s surname upon marriage, when you send your marriage certificate to all concerned notifying them that you have taken your husband’s surname following your marriage, you should mention in your covering letter that you have also changed your title to Mrs.
5.3 If you will continue using your maiden name
If you decide to not to change your name following your marriage, but wish to change your title to Mrs, you do not need to apply for a Deed Poll. You simply need to write to all concerned notifying them that following your marriage, you are not changing your surname but have changed your title to Mrs. A copy of your marriage certificate will suffice. Please note, your title does not appear on your passport so there’s no need to get it changed.
6. Making other changes to your name
If you will be applying for a Deed Poll to change your name following your marriage, you can also take the opportunity to make other changes to your name. For example, you may wish to change, add, rearrange or remove forenames.
7. Continuing to use your maiden name for work or professional purposes
With the permission of your employer, it is perfectly acceptable and legal to continue using your maiden name for work or professional purposes. Often, there are clear commercial and career enhancement benefits if you have a good reputation in your profession and are well known to your clients, peers and superiors. In some situations, a change of name at work may be commercially detrimental and your employer will hope you continue using your maiden name.
If you change your name by Deed Poll and continue to use your maiden name, you are not in breach of the declarations you make on your Deed Poll committing yourself to using your new name for all purposes. This is because at work, you are always acting on behalf of your employer and not in your own name.
If you are self-employed, you can continue to trade in your former name. Legally, your will be [New Name] trading as [Former Name].