Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Double-Barrelled Surnames
Many couples have a tough time deciding on their married surname as there are so many different options! However, more and more couples are choosing to opt for the double-barrelled surname. So, we spoke to our partners at NameSwitch about everything to do with double-barrelled surnames, as well as with some real-life couples about their choice to have a double-barrelled surname.
What is a double-barrelled surname?
A double-barrelled surname is simply when two different family names are joined together, usually after a marriage. Traditionally, names were closely tied to notions of inheritance. So, creating a double-barrelled surname was a way of preserving a name that would otherwise have died out and it tended to be the wealthier classes who adopted this naming tactic. However, taking two surnames is no longer a class signifier. In fact, over the past two decades, double-barrelled surnames have become a lot more popular in the UK.
Why choose a double-barrelled surname?
The double-barrelled surname is often chosen for a variety of reasons. First, many couples now choose to double-barrel their surnames when one doesn’t want to lose their current surname entirely but wants to acknowledge their new marital status. Double-barrelling allows the couple to retain both surnames. Or, you may want to display your collective identity as a married couple through a double-barrelled surname. It’s also become a popular option for civil partnerships and same-sex marriages.
Let’s hear from real life couples
Still debating whether a double-barrelled surname is for you? We spoke to five couples about their experience of choosing a double-barrelled surname.
Craig Mitchell-Wheadon said: “Part of the reason for moving to a double-barrelled surname was making a joint change with my new wife. It ties both our family names together to form our new family. My wife was also keen to change and make this unique connection. Also, since this was my second marriage, it made it feel different and unique. Friends and family have found this to be a great idea as it really highlights the coming together of two people into a partnership sharing both their histories in one combined way.”
Hannah Swain-Evans said: “To me, completely wiping away and losing the name I have had since birth, and the surname my parents and family have, just didn’t sit comfortably with me. It is a huge part of my identity and I now sit as part of two families which is what my new name represents to me. It also felt a tad old-fashioned! My husband didn’t double-barrell his surname. Although I think he would have considered it, I didn’t push it and was happy for him not to. For many men in a heterosexual relationship, I feel that changing their name is just not something that has ever even crossed their mind. I think it is something quite usual for our generation. My mum wasn’t impressed and thought it was something I was playing around with until I was ready to change my name. Lots of ‘well what will your kids be?’. And the answer is – not sure yet, and that’s fine! Maybe they can take the double-barrel and pick their favourite name when they are older!”
Dami Bakare-Kennett said: “My wife didn’t want to lose her identity and after a little thinking time, I was happy to have a double-barrelled name. So, we both have the name. However, my family didn’t like it as I guess it broke tradition that they grew up with and wouldn’t question.”
Val Stewart Howard said: “I kept my name with my husband’s name – it unites two warring families (from centuries ago!) of the Stewarts and the Howards. Also, I then retain my father’s name in my married name which I did when I was previously married and preferred to do now. I will answer to whatever people call me – providing it’s polite! Mrs Howard is quite common since getting your mouth round a long surname is a bit of a pain, but I don’t mind folk shortening it in daily life as long as I am Mrs Valerie Eleanor Stewart Howard legally! My partner was quite willing to take my name as well but we decided that for family and business reasons, he wouldn’t do that. I’m just about to retire and he probably never will so he will stay plain Mr Alvin Howard.”
Penny Browning Perry said: “Having finally married very late, I have had my much loved maiden name a very long time. However, I still think I would have changed to my husband’s if it had been different. The problem is I would have been Penny Perry which is a bit of a tongue twister! Hence, Penny Browning Perry. Kevin did offer to change too, but it would have been quite a lot to do due to his business. I still needed the brilliant service of NameSwitch to tell all! All friends and families agreed it was the best idea and sounded lovely. It took a while to decide whether to have a hyphen or not but in the end we decided not to. I’m still getting used to it as a bit of a mouthful but I’m very happy with my married name.”
What are the difficulties with double-barrelled surnames?
There are some difficulties with double-barrelled surnames that you should be aware of when considering this option for your married surname. They can create some practical issues in terms of how the names are passed down through the family line. For example, the Passport Office will accept double, even triple barrelled surnames as long as it’s within 30 characters (including space/hyphen). Also, a long surname takes a lot of time to write out by hand when signing documents! And long, cumbersome last names can be hard to remember and confusing in certain contexts. However, these are only a few minor drawbacks to consider.
What are the options when deciding on your double-barrelled surname?
Simply, a double-barrelled surname involves the joining of the couple’s surnames. However, there are several different ways to construct a double-barrelled surname. First, you must decide which surname will come first. Traditionally, it was the man’s family name that would be placed last. However, most couples now simply decide upon which of the two options sound better when spoken aloud.
Double-barrelled surnames do not have to be hyphenated, so that is something else for you to consider. It is also possible that one of you may decide to create a double-barrelled surname while the other retains their original surname and makes no changes. The way you create your double-barrelled surname is personal and entirely up to you.
Is there an alternative to a double-barrelled surname?
If you wish to create a new collective identity with your spouse but don’t think your surnames work well together as a double-barrelled surname, you could consider ‘meshing’. This is a more recent alternative that involves splicing your two surnames together to form one new one. You can choose which elements of your surnames to weave together, creating a truly unique, blended identity for your new family.
However, if you wish to go down the ‘meshing’ route, you will need to create your new name via deed poll. A deed poll is a legal document through which you formally promise to give up an old name in order to use a new name in all areas of your life. It may be an idea for one of you to change your name via deed poll before the wedding, so the name then appears on your marriage certificate.
How do you legally get a double-barrelled surname?
If you decide to take your partner’s name after you marry, your wedding certificate becomes proof of your right to adopt a new name and can be used to apply for a new passport, etc. This is the same for double-barrelled surnames. 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.
You can do this process on your own or go through a specialist agency. For example, NameSwitch ensures the process is as easy as possible for you by saving you hours researching processes, writing letters and filling out forms. NameSwitch uses smart, secure automation to populate the forms and letters you’ll need to send out to change your details. So, all you need to do is sign them and pop them in the post! Just remember to leave enough time for this process and to order new passports if you’re booking honeymoon flights in your new name.
NameSwitch is currently offering Guides for Brides couples a 10% discount on many of their packages. On their Digital Packages, use GFBDIGITAL. For Print Packages, use the code GFBPRINT. On their new Deed Poll Premium Print Package, get 10% off with GFBDEEDPOLL.
So, take the time to make a decision that feels like a perfect fit for you – and then let NameSwitch take care of the rest!
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