Changing your name: what you need to do
Once all the stress of the big day has passed, you sort of expect you might be able to just slide effortlessly into normal, married life. But in normal, married life there are decisions to be made. And perhaps near the top of the list is a question of identity.
A rose by any other name…
Traditionally, it’s the bride that goes on to take the groom’s family name. Of course, in the 21st century, we’re anything but traditional. Nowadays, there are more options available to you. Double-barrelled names have become a popular choice (and they’re not just for posh folk). Alternatively, there are more creative choices emerging, such as blending letters of your family names into one, or picking something completely different that might mean something to you.
The last option is perhaps one of the rarest – where the groom takes the bride’s family name. There are many reasons why a groom might want to do this – sometimes, let’s face it, you just don’t have a good last name. (One of my mother’s friends, named Tina, married an Adan Bambina.) Sometimes, you’re not proud of your family name. And sometimes you have a stubborn wife.
But how do you change your name?
Changing your name is simple. You just do it. You can do it right this second if you want. You just start having a new name. However, the problem arises when you want to start using your new name. With official documents, you are going to have to jump through some hoops, whether that is with the aid of a marriage certificate, or if you write yourself a deed poll.
If you’re doing things traditionally, this is surprisingly painless. The first thing you should do is make a list of the authorities you want to inform about your name change. These are most likely to include the DVLA, the passport office, banks, doctors, service providers (water, electric, internet and the like), your employer and of course, the HMRC.
With the majority of these, a photocopy of your marriage certificate will suffice. Getting a few marriage certificates can make this process even simpler – especially when it comes to changing documents like passports and driver’s licenses.
Changing your driving license is free. All you need to do is send the DVLA your marriage certificate and a letter telling them you wish to change your name. Unfortunately, changing your passport isn’t free. You’ll have to renew your passport after your marriage if you wish to change your name (as a consolation prize, you’ll receive up to nine months on your passport, to make up for the early renewal). Also, if you’re planning on using your new name for your honeymoon, it might be worth noting you can change your passport to your new name three months before the ceremony. But remember – you won’t be allowed to travel with a passport that has a different name to your boarding pass.
This might not be quite as simple for you. Traditionally, you could only change your name through deed poll. But don’t worry too much. Changing your name by deed poll is relatively simple. And, if you know what you’re doing, free (save for the price of a stamp). In its most basic form, a deed poll is a contract that claims you wish to start being known by a new name and you’ll stop using your old name. To make this contract legitimate, you must sign it and date it in front of two witnesses, and then send the original document (make several, it’s easier) to whoever needs to know (see above). Of course, if writing your own contract seems like too much trouble, there are plenty of people out there willing to lighten your pocket.
Don’t fall at the first hurdle, don’t settle on a name you don’t like just because it might be a little more effort, or a little bit of money. You need to make the choice that’s right for you as a couple. Once you’ve chosen a name, you can slip right into that normal, married lifestyle. We promise.
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