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Bridal Club Magazine

A Bride's Legal Options for Changing Her Name

If you're soon to get married then you are probably asking yourself the same question that all new brides face at this time: should I take my husband's name? The answer is, it's entirely up to you. There is no law that states that you must - or must not - change your name. All that exists is custom. It's traditional for women to adopt their husband's surname, and the great majority of women still do. However, that's no reason for you to feel obliged, just make sure that you are fully aware of all the choices open to you before you make your decision. And if you won't feel comfortable with a new name staring back at you from the pages of your passport, then don't do it!

Why should I change my name?

No one is saying you "should", its just that historically, women have. In centuries past, it was a way of saying that a woman had passed from the authority of her father to that of her husband. Unsurprisingly, feminists have long taken umbrage at this, objecting that it turns women into possessions. In the radical Sixties and Seventies, in particular, it seemed another injustice enforced on women by a patriarchal system.

Women nowadays, however, seem much more relaxed about the idea, maybe because they're more confident in their own equality and independence. They are more likely to see changing their name as symbolizing their new life as part of a couple and maybe, one day, a family.

It's certainly easy, after the initial paperwork's been completed, to be known by your husband's  name, and will prevent any confusion at drinks parties or outside the school gates.

But everyone knows me by my old name

There might be good reasons, aside from feminist principle, for keeping your maiden name. For example, if you have built a professional identity linked to your name - you've published academic papers, or set up a business, or built a reputation in the creative industries - then you don't want to have to start all over again once you're married.

If it makes more sense to you, then stick with your maiden name - it doesn't mean you love your husband any the less!

Isn't there anything between the two?

Of course there is. You are perfectly entitled to use a combination of your married and maiden names.  You may use your maiden name at work, then your new name at home among friends, family and on official documents.

Alternatively, you can add your partners name to yours and create a double barrelled or hyphenated surname which you then pass on to your children.  Traditionally the husband's name goes last, but your preference may be for your name to appear last, or it may just sound better this way.  It is more common for only the wife to have a double barrelled name, but it is becoming increasingly popular for the husband to also take the same double barrelled name as a show of unity.  With enough persistence the husband may add his wife's name to his own without a legal name change, but it can be simpler for a legal name change to make the new name official.

A more modern approach is to blend your two names together, so that Smith and Bloggs could become Smoggs.  While not very common, it is becoming increasingly popular and puts an end to the my name or his name debate.  The simplest way to adopt this new name is for the husband to legally lodge his legal name change application with Births, Deaths and Marriages at least 12 weeks prior to the wedding.  The husband would use his new blended surname on the wedding licence application.  When the couple are married the wife can then assume the new blended surname without needing a legal name change herself.

I think I want to change my name. What do I have to do?

Once you decide to make any change of name, you then have to inform a whole range of organisations.  This ranges from government offices and banks to clubs and local services. Genevieve Dennis, founder of Easy Name Change NZ, recommends 'keep an eye on the mail for a month or two and you'll surprise yourself with just how many organisations you are associated with. Make a running list of every organisation you need to contact.' Once you have your marriage or legal name change certificate it's up to you contact each organisation and ask their procedure for changing names.

You can manage the process yourself with a bit of online research and calling around.  Name change kits have been around for a few years and are great for the time poor, or those who want to make the process as simple as possible.  Name Change kits usually provide popular forms and step by step instructions to help you through the process.  To find out more just google 'name change kit'.

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