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As your wedding date draws closer you may toy with the idea of a few new names in your head. Mrs New-Name? Mrs Old-New-Name? Mrs New-Old-Name? Mrs Pitt, Mrs Clooney…?

No doubt you’re already comfortable and happy with being Miss Old-Name and you have thought about keeping it, but practicality and tradition usually win in the name change debate.

Still, don’t feel you must settle with tradition and practicality as I will go through what your legal options are when changing names after marriage.

The most straightforward and popular name change choice with modern brides is the traditional approach where a bride drops her maiden name and is only known by her husband’s surname.  Other options with varying degrees of popularity are the double barrelled or hyphenated names, or retaining your original maiden name.


Taking your husband’s name

Four in five UK brides will go on to change names, with most dropping their maiden name altogether. Not since the 70’s have brides been so overwhelmingly in support of traditional married names and there are a number of theories about this. The most popular is that in these days of decreasing nuptials, women who make it down the aisle have a stronger belief in marriage. Modern brides have grown up in the era of record divorces and shifting attitudes to marriage. Embracing the husband’s name reflects their stronger commitment and belief in family unity. Often brides who decide not to initially change names, perhaps due to their career or perceived effort to change names, will make the change with the arrival of children.

To take your husband’s name simply present your marriage certificate as evidence of your entitlement to be known by your husband’s name. Update photo ID first as other organisations may request to see updated photo ID in place of your marriage certificate.

Keeping your maiden name

Keeping a maiden name either due to attachment or to make a statement still occurs, but is less popular than ever. Today’s bride typically only knows equality and is less likely to feel the need to make a statement by retaining her name, and society isn’t fussed or shocked by whatever surname a bride may use.  If a bride doesn’t change names, it’s often just as likely due to the amount of effort perceived to be involved in making the change.

While fewer women retain their maiden name, there are strong reasons why some should keep their life long name. Women now more than ever a likely to be in a business that depends on their name. Journalists, academics and writers lose a link to their lifetime of work. Lawyers, entertainers and entrepreneurs have a brand in their name and a disconnect could be damaging for business and cause loss of referrals.  The good news is that if you want to keep your maiden name, it requires zero effort and paperwork on your behalf.

Double-barrelled or hyphenated names

A double barrelled surname is where the wife adds the husband’s name to her own, and a hyphenated name is simply where a hyphen is placed between the two. Traditionally the husband’s name appears last but they can be arranged in any order. These names were popularized in the 70’s and 80’s when the name change debate and feminist movement was at its peak. It was once seen as the best of both worlds, but is increasingly seen as a compromise that benefits no one.  The wife’s maiden name is not passed on, and the husband still has a different name (and is often annoyed when also referred to by the same double barrelled name). A generation ago as many as 20% of brides would go down this path, but in recent years only around 5% of brides take this option. If you want a double-barrelled or hyphenated name, simply present your marriage certificate to get government ID and records updated then notify any other necessary organisations.

Using both married and maiden names

For brides not ready to take on their husband’s name, or who have a reason to retain a link to their maiden name, an increasingly popular option is to use both names. She can use either her maiden name or married name wherever she chooses. Most commonly she will retain her maiden name at work – no need for new business cards, notifications to clients or changes to business records. In her personal life, she may be known by her husband’s name and have all her accounts and records updated accordingly. When a bride takes on her husband’s surname after marriage, it is known as an assumed name.  She never gives up her right to be known by her prior name and can change her records back at any time, so it’s perfectly legal.

It’s the best of both worlds, but can be a lot more practical than double-barrelling.  It’s always advisable to have all records consistently under the one name, particularly government and bank records.