Can a Man Legally Take His Wife’s Surname?

20 December 2018

A man is legally entitled to take his wife's surname upon marriage. Although it is still not considered to be the traditional approach, the number of men adopting their wives' surnames is reported to be on the rise. In addition, many other couples are choosing to either merge their two names together or double-barrel them.

The Increase of Men Taking their Wife's Name

A study carried out by the London Mint in 2017 revealed that more than 1 in 10 men are now taking their wife's surname when they tie the knot. The study was conducted as part of the commemorations around Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's 70th wedding anniversary.

The Queen famously rejected Prince Philip's surname of Mountbatten when they married, instead retaining the name Windsor for herself and the couple's children. This was a dramatic break from tradition back in the 1940s.

While it does remain the norm for a woman to take her husband's surname, there has been a noticeable shift over recent decades. More and more women are now keeping their maiden names, more men are adopting their wives' names and there's also an increase in couples combining their surnames.

Today, just 72% of couples decide to share the groom's surname when they wed. For married couples who are over the age of 55 this figure is much higher at 97%.

Why Are More Men Adopting their Wives' Names?

There could be any number of reasons for this. With the Queen and Prince Philip it came down to continuing the royal family name of Windsor, but today people are citing a number of factors when deciding what they will call themselves after marriage.

It may be that the woman wants to retain her name either for professional or personal reasons, and her husband wishes to share the same surname with her. It may be that the woman's family name is at risk of being lost if it does not get passed onto the couple's children, while the man's name has already been continued by other family members.

If the woman has a child from a previous relationship which shares her name, then it might be more straight-forward for the new step-dad to adopt that name. That way the whole family can share the same surname without needing to change the child's surname. Or it could simply be that the woman's name has a nicer ring to it, so they both want to share that name.

For some it may be that they just don't agree with the implications of the woman taking her husband's name in marriage. Of course every couple is different and there are a whole host of other reasons why couples may choose to take this path.

How Can a Man Legally Change His Name to His Wife's?

The process for a man legally changing his name after marriage is exactly the same as the process for a woman. According to the Deed Poll Office (which is the government body that administers name changes) all UK Government bodies, including the Passport Office and the DVLA, will treat married men in exactly the same way as married women when changing their name.

For this reason, the Deed Poll Office recommends that formal identification documents such as passports and driving licences are updated first. These documents can then be used to facilitate the name change with other organisations, such as banks and insurers.

Similarly, if the couple get divorced in the future, the man can decide whether to revert to his original name or continue using his married name, just as a woman would be able to. For more information, see Can I Keep My Married Name When I Divorce?

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