Advice for a woman getting married

As a woman, your surname doesn’t automatically change to your partner’s when you get married.  If you do nothing, then after marriage, your name will stay the same.

The following advice applies to women who do want to change their name following marriage — whether you’ve got married to a man, or a woman (a same-sex marriage).

What to change your name to

Keep your maiden name, but change your title

If you want to keep your maiden name after marriage, but you want to change your title to Mrs or Ms, for example, you don’t need a deed poll.  Nor do you need to change your passport.  In fact, social titles aren’t listed in U.K. passports.

If upon marriage you acquire a title of nobility, this is considered a part of your name and you’ll need to change your passport, but you don’t need a deed poll.  See the section on how to change your title for more details.

Your partner’s name

If you want to change your surname to your partner’s surname, you don’t need a deed poll.  Provided your marriage certificate records both your maiden name and your partner’s surname, the marriage certificate is sufficient evidence of your change of name.

Note that organisations such as HM Passport Office will only accept either your original marriage certificate, or a certified copy.

Your partner’s name, but still use your maiden name professionally

If you want to change your surname to your partner’s surname, but use your maiden name professionally, you don’t need a deed poll — the same rules apply as though you were changing your surname for all purposes.

When you renew your passport in your new name, you should make a statement to the effect that you’re continuing to use your maiden name professionally, but for all other purposes you’ve changed your name to that of your partner’s.  You can do this in section 8 (“More information”) of the passport application form, or as a separate document.  Your new passport will be issued in your married name and an observation showing your maiden name will be added stating —

THE HOLDER IS ALSO KNOWN AS (your full forenames and maiden name)

Your partner’s name, but keep your maiden name as a middle name

If you want to change your surname to your partner’s surname, but keep your maiden name as a middle name, this is counted as a change of forename and you’ll need a deed poll — a marriage certificate isn’t enough.

For example if your name before getting married is Mary JONES and your partner’s surname is SMITH, then to change your name to Mary Jones SMITH you’ll need a deed poll.

Although some organisations may accept a marriage for this situation; in our experience there are still situations where organisations will insist on a deed poll.  It’s a border-line case, and unfortunately we cannot supply a complete list of organisations that will / won't accept a marriage certificate.  To update your passport in your new name, though, it seems that a deed poll is necessary, from our own experience — despite what has been written in HM Passport Office’s policies in the past.  Therefore, our recommendation is that you have a deed poll as proof of your change of name; otherwise you may not be able to renew your passport in your new name.

On the other hand, you can double-barrel you and your partner’s surnames by using your marriage certificate, for example to produce Mary JONES-SMITH.

A double-barrelled surname

If you and your partner want to take each other’s name as a double-barrelled surname and it’s clear how the name is derived, then your marriage certificate is sufficient evidence of your name change — you don’t need a deed poll.

Note that if it isn’t clear how the double-barrelled surname is derived, then the name will be considered a new surname, and you’ll need a deed poll as evidence of your name change.  So for example, if your surname is Jones and your partner’s name is Smith, then Jones-Smith and Smith Jones would both be clearly derived from your respective surnames, and a deed poll isn’t necessary to change your name.  (It doesn’t matter what order you put the surnames or whether or not you use a hyphen.) However the surname Cox-Jones-Smith isn’t clearly derived because it introduces an extra element.

Although double-barrelled surnames are becoming more popular, you may still have difficulties having your marriage certificate accepted by some independent organisations, such as banks, so it’s a good idea to renew your passport first.  An updated passport is strong proof of your new name, and organisations are legally required to recognise your change of details under the Data Protection Act.

If, on the other hand, you aren’t planning on updating your passport in the near future (it’s an extra cost of £ 72.50, and it’s not a legal requirement to have it updated), then you might consider changing your name by deed poll, to save yourself any possible hassle.

A new surname formed from you and your partner’s surname

If you want to change to a surname that isn’t your partner’s, and isn’t a straightforward double-barrelling of you and your partner’s surnames, then you’ll need a deed poll — a marriage certificate isn’t sufficient evidence of your name change.

When to change your name

Changing your name when getting married has an added difficulty, because many couples want to travel abroad soon after the ceremony.  You should think carefully about when you want to change the name on your passport, because the name on your passport should match the name in which you book your travel.  If the name on your passport doesn’t match the booking —

  • some countries may not let you in
  • some travel companies may not let you board their flights

Your options in this case depend on whether your name change requires a deed poll or the marriage certificate is sufficient (as outlined above).

If your name change requires a deed poll

If you need a deed poll as evidence of your name change, you have two options:

Sign your deed poll documents on the day of the wedding

If you want to sign your deed poll on the day of your wedding, you should order the deed poll well in advance to allow for any delays.  After you’ve signed the deed poll, keep them at home until you return from abroad, at which point you can begin the process of changing the name in your passport.

Sign your deed poll documents after returning from abroad

If you don’t want to sign your deed poll on the day of the ceremony, you can either order it in advance anyway and sign it when you return, or wait until you return from your foreign trip before ordering.

If your marriage certificate is sufficient evidence of your name change

If you don’t need a deed poll, and your marriage certificate is sufficient evidence, then you have three options:

Travel in your old name, and apply for a new passport when you return from abroad

The much easier solution is to travel in your old name, and apply for a new passport when you return from your foreign trip.  In general, unless you have a reason not to travel in your old name, we’d recommend that you book all your travel arrangements in your old name, corresponding with your passport, and begin the process of updating all your records in your new name after you’ve returned home.

Apply for a post-dated passport in your new name before the wedding

HM Passport Office can change the name on your passport up to three months before the ceremony.  They’ll cancel your old passport and issue you with a new one.  The new passport will be post-dated.  This means you cannot use it before the day of the ceremony.

If you want to order a post-dated passport, you’ll need to complete —

  • the standard passport application form
  • the post-date form PD2 ↗ (part of which should be completed by the person who is to perform the ceremony)

You should bear in mind some other difficulties of applying for a post-dated passport:

  • You’ll need to submit your current passport to HM Passport Office
  • This passport will be cancelled, and you’ll no longer be able to use it for travelling
  • Your new post-dated passport will be valid only from the date of your ceremony
  • You won’t be able to use your new passport until your ceremony has taken place
  • The consulates of some countries cannot grant visas on post-dated passports.  If you require a visa to travel you should check with the consulate of the country you’ll be travelling to before booking your holiday.
  • If the ceremony is either cancelled or postponed, the person performing the ceremony should inform HM Passport Office
  • If the ceremony is cancelled, the post-dated passport should be returned to HM Passport Office along with a letter of explanation.  HM Passport Office won’t automatically issue you with a replacement — you’ll need to re-apply for a new passport.
Use your current passport and take your marriage certificate with you when you travel

If you hold a valid passport, you may be able to use it with travel documents in your married name if you take your marriage certificate with you.  However, (as noted above) some countries and some travel companies may insist that the details on your travel documents correspond to those in your passport.  Before booking your holiday, you should check with —

  • the consulate of the country you’ll be travelling to
  • the travel agent you’ve booked your holiday with
  • the travel companies you’ll be travelling with