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Lessons in Wedding Planning: changing your name

21 Nov 2016

Bride-to-be Jessica Phillipson ponders her impending name change...

Hi brides-to-be,

For this blog entry, I want to tackle the tricky topic of changing your name. My fiancé has always said it’s up to me, which meant making another decision (I have already made so many while wedding planning!). Ultimately I have decided to take my future husband’s last name – but with a compromise.

Like many women, I had always assumed I would change my name once I got married without question. But faced with the reality of actually doing it, I started to question.

Isn’t it a bit old fashioned?

Since I understood what it meant, I have considered myself a feminist. Of course women should be treated as men’s equals. But marriage is older than feminism (which seems to have appeared in the 1830s) and includes a lot of archaic rituals. It used to be the passing of a woman as property from one man to another, hence your father traditionally ‘gives you away’ (which would have been with a dowry in the past) and you take a new name. Seems a bit weird for 2016, no? Nowadays, marriage is seen as a way of solidifying your commitment to each other, but it has kept these old-fashioned rituals.

My name makes me, me

A colleague recently became interested in deep DNA analysis and how it shows you’re actually from far flung corners of the world, even if your granny’s granny’s granny was British. Your identity is maybe not what you think. But your name is part of your identity, too.

I have never known any other name. As a young teenager, I thought it was overly long, but I have grown to love the symmetry of it (three-syllable first name, two-syllable middle name, three-syllable last name). It’s the name I clumsily learnt to write at school. It’s the name I was so proud to hear read out at my graduation. It fits me like my oldest, most worn-in jeans.

Part of my attachment is because my surname is a bit unusual. Phillipson. I have never met another I am not immediately related to. Smith, Jones, Williams, Taylor – these are the most popular UK surnames. I have never had to clarify which Phillipson someone is looking for. It’s me. A Facebook people search tells me there are others, but I feel protective of this name.

But doesn’t a shared surname make you a family?

I am a second marriage baby and my parents didn’t have the same surname until I was four. I don’t think this affected me in any way and I don’t think I even thought about it until I was older. Sharing a surname as a family unit ties you together. That name is your emblem, your team colours, your coat of arms. You are one of several and you are supported.

However, I'm excited to join Tom's 'team'. The fact people will know from just my name that the greatest man on the planet (biased? Me?) wants me to be his wife makes me so happy and proud. 

Reaching a compromise

So, as you can see, I’ve spent some time thinking about the whole changing my name thing, and I’ve found a compromise. I’m going to keep my surname, but as a middle name. Just as my husband-to-be has been/is/will be a life-changing enhancement to my life, his surname will be a name-changing enhancement to my own. And our children will also have my surname as a middle name, meaning if they ever get curious, as my colleague did, about where they came from, they don’t have to look too far.

Tips on changing your name:

  • To change your name on official documents, a marriage certificate is sometimes enough proof, but you may need a deed poll to prove change of name.
  • Don’t change your passport right away – it could mess up your honeymoon! Book your ticket using your unmarried name and take your current passport – the name on your ticket must match the name on your passport.
  • Remember to cover all bases – there are lots of online checklists of official people to inform of a name change as you can be fined for having the incorrect name on official documents.
  • Get several copies of your marriage certificate on the day of your marriage – they are cheaper on the day and you may need to send several away to change your name.

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