Monday, February 11, 2008


When my mother got married (1965), the woman took the man's surname in the UK - that happened more or less 100% of the time - give or take the odd film star. When I got married in 1991, again it was more or less just what you did. By 1998, when Amanda and Derek got married I did hear the odd friend question 'are you going to change your name'? And now in 2008, I have several friends sporting different names from their husbands. Some kept their maiden names, some even kept their first married name though they are on their second marriage. I began to wonder what was changing. At first I wondered if it was simply a feminist thing but although I think that does come in to play, I believe hassle and, to a lesser degree, expense are the real reason fewer and fewer women are changing their names.
I decided to change back to my maiden name before I had Anna because I wanted her to be allowed Buchanan as a surname, rather than a meaningless middle name. Firstly that meant paying about £80 for deed poll documents (obviously this isn't an expense you incur if you change your name on marriage) but I then got the list of who all you had to inform of your name change: employer, tax office, HM land registry, electoral register, TV licensing office, Internet service provider, pension company, all your insurance companies, doctor, dentist, bank account, savings accounts, credit card accounts, council tax, anyone you hold a loan with, mortgage lender, DVLA, passport office, EHIC office, and many more - the list is endless! In my case, because I have kids I needed to add child benefit office, schools, etcetc.
After you have written to all 40 or more addresses providing documents to prove your change of name, obviously you can't do this simultaneously as many don't accept copies of documents but want to see your original marriage certificate, deed poll, or divorce certificate so the process drags on months. For 6 months you operate under two names - you have problems getting loans because one of your names doesn't have a credit rating and they aren't yet fully linked and so the hassles go on. Your credit card has one name, your passport another so Ryanair has a nervous breakdown when you turn up to board a weekend flight to Paris or wherever.
You also have personal eaccounts - like my blog, email and flickr are all under the surname Gautier. Sure I can create a new email address in 5 minutes but I then have to tell all 113 people in my contacts list about it, I use my email as my login for Blogger, Flickr, Amazon, Nisbets and 100 other online shops so I need to change all these too. I could create a new flickr and then spend a year moving over all 6000+ photos, I could create a new blog address and everyone would assume I'd just stopped blogging as nothing new would appear on the old one (hence the 3 things I have resigned myself to not changing are my email, flickr and blogger accounts).
The expense factor for me (over and above the deed poll) is the passport. I had a new Gautier one in 2005 which cost me £72, they simply bin it and ask you for another £72 for a Buchanan passport. And if Thomas and I marry when my divorce comes through this year then I need to pay another £72 for a Widmann passport if I change my name - £216 in passport in 3 years - madness.
In my mum's day you married young, before you had a dozen credit cards, a mortgage, a driving license etc. Changing your name was a minor 2 week hassle. Nowadays, I believe we are going to see a rapid increase in women not changing their name on marriage because of the major headache it causes. It will be interesting to see if we then introduce a centralised system as in Denmark where you only inform one address of a name change and they inform everyone else or if the trend continues.


Trine said...

I got married in Denmark back in 2001, and I took my husbands last name, Christiansen. I kept my maiden name as middle name. I got a new social security card (sygesikringsbevis) and that was it. In my drivers license and passport the name will be changed, when they have to be renewed anyway. I just have to remember to book tickets in my maiden name, since that's the one in the passport. It's a lot easier with the Danish system.

Which reminds me, that my passport expired the day before yesterday...

Alex Wilson said...

The Legal Deed Service – What’s In A Name?

We used to grin and bear the name our parents burdened us with, whether that was Carrie Oakey or Jean Poole. It has been possible to change names by deed poll since 1760 but a decade ago, only 15,000 people did so each year. Now, spurred on by separations, pub pranks and thanks to the innovative online deed poll service,, more people than ever are doing so.

As any school-age Hieronymus, Orlando or Guinevere will attest, having an unusual name is not the surest route to popularity in the playground. For example, imagine yourself a young boy growing up in the tough American mid-west and your parents saw fit to name you Marion Morrison. You might be forgiven for wishing that your parents had perhaps chosen a name a little less feminine. However, in 1930 Marion took matters into his own hands, changed his name and became the epitome of ruggedness and masculinity that made him an enduring icon. He became better known as John Wayne.

In the UK it is possible to change your name at anytime and as often as you wish, so long as the desired name isn’t intended to deceive or can be construed to be offensive or blasphemous. You must use a Deed Poll to officially change your legal name you execute it by signing it in the presence of a witness. The witness can be anyone, but not a member of your own family, and once you have executed the Deed, your name is officially changed.

Jamie Jackson, CEO of The Legal Deed Service says: “There are many reasons why people decide to change a name by Deed Poll, for example, a couple may decide to have a double-barrelled surname when they marry, people of foreign extraction living in the UK may wish to anglicise their name to make it easier for others to pronounce, or simply for novelty, some people choose to change their name to a 'fun name' such as James Bond. However, our clients can rest assured safe in the knowledge that all relevant employees deployed within our organisation have undergone extensive training and thus fully understand the law pertaining to a change of name.”

So for anyone who fancies a change of identity, they can simply log on to, and with a couple of clicks they can set the wheels in motion, and if after a few months, the name loses its appeal, change it again.