Monday, 2 April 2012
What's in a name?
Changing my name to be the same as my wife's has always been one of the things I have most looked forward to about being married. There's something about a name that is quite special to me...you are born with one surname and grow up with it, proudly (or not!) belonging to the family into which you are born, and then changing your name to be that of your new spouse marks the new chapter in life into which you have entered. It is one of the ways that people quickly identify that the two of you have made those promises, to love, respect and cherish that one person forever more. I can't wait to be Mrs and Mrs....
But Mrs and Mrs what? Well the thing is with lesbian couples, there are no rules that we are expected to follow where tying the knot is concerned. Straight couples follow long held traditions that the daughter of of the family is married into and become the 'property' of her new groom's family. Long ago they would have been expected to live with the family, and become a dutiful wife and daughter to them all. Accompanied, of course by a substantial dowry, a payment given to by the bride's parents to the groom's family when they agree to accept the female into their home. Although the dowry tradition died out along the way, the majority of straight couples still follow practice of the bride adopting the groom's surname at the point of signing the register. This requires no deed poll, no other certification, it's just happens, and the marriage certificate provides adequate proof of the bride's new identity. It must be noted however that there is no legal obligation for either partner to change their name.
In many ways Civil Partnerships are no different; there is no legal obligation to change your name, and if one of you wants to adopt the other's surname then you can....the moment you sign the CP register is the moment you both become Miss and Miss So'N'so. You then have the option of also becoming a Mrs, as although this is traditionally the title used by married woman, many civil partners feel Mrs is more appropriate than Miss or Ms. Again, this does not need to be done through deed poll and will become your name the moment you sign the register, so Mrs & Mrs So'N'so it is!
The difference arises when neither of you are going to adopt the other's surname. This is the case for us, we have had many discussions about what we would like our name to be once married (I have to confess these conversations began about six months into our relationship!!) as we have always both been of the agreement that neither of us wishes to take on the other's surname. For us, it just wouldn't feel right. I would want to feel like we 'belonged' to one family more than the other, or that our children did.
Of course there is the option of double - barrelling your surnames, which is a popular option for many lesbian couples we know. This way you share the same surname, but are equally a part of one family as the other. If you choose this option then it does need to be done through deed poll to make it official (this is a requirement for straight couples who wish to double - barrel their names also). We talked about this option quite a lot, but our surnames don't sound quite right together (and we didn't really like the end product!!) so ruled this out.
So what next? Well you do have the option of creating a new surname altogether. We know a couple who chose to do this, as for the same reasons as us, they didn't want either of their surnames. They simply chose a surname they liked the sound of, and through deed poll, this became their name once married. Again, this didn't sit quite right to us. Your surname links you to your family, and having a brand new name, that nobody else has, seemed a bit too far removed from what we are wanting to create. We wanted a name that was unique, that was about the birth of a new family (and a different kind of family too), but also linked us in some way to the families who had born and raised us. We still had fun thinking up suggestions though....Mrs and Mrs Stripy-Zebra anyone?
So our solution...well we both like our mother's maiden names. But again were faced with the decision about which Mum do we go with? The other one would only be offended if we hadn't chosen hers. Luckily our Mum's maiden names sit nicely together, they flow together and sound like they were meant to sit side by side all along. So thus our decision was made.. a mishmash of families, but our own unique family name. A name our children and us will share, meaning we are very much the family the name is intended to give, but a hint to the beautiful women who raised us both. It also seems like quite a feminist angle to take, and we rather liked that too!
So having decided on the name we wish to share, and are very certain we will become Mrs and Mrs once married, the only thing left to do now is to apply for a deed poll certificate. If you are both changing your surname, as indeed we are, then you both have to apply for a name change. This can be avoided by one of you changing your name in advance of your ceremony, and then the other adopting this name by signing the register. We have chosen not to do this as we feel it spoils the magic of us both becoming Mrs and Mrs Stripy-Zebra the moment we become a married couple, but would be a money - saving option if required.
There is lots more information on the website of the UK Deed Poll Service here, including prices, application forms, expected times of returning the documents, plus more on the legalities of changing your name. But boring stuff aside, we are so very excited about changing our name, to reflect our new status as a married couple. But why does July 2013 have to be so blinking far away?!
Posted by Lauren And Sarah