We’re dedicated to doing the absolute utmost to ensure that you have your perfect wedding. Whilst we can help with most of the fun and material aspects of a wedding (and many administrative ones), we encourage you not to get too carried away without preparing for the legal marriage changes that may occur before, during, and after your big day. As much as it’s the last thing you’ll likely want to think about, a wedding ceremony is as much of a legally binding event as it is a fun and sentimental one.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to compile, some of the legal issues that you’re most likely to come across in the run-up to the big day. Although we understand that what you’ll have to deal with will differ depending on your individual circumstances, we see no harm in offering a general guide, starting with the big name change…
Legal Marriage Changes – Changing your name
First of all, decide if you want to change your name or not. As the tradition stands, the wife will adopt her husband’s surname once married. Should you wish to stick to tradition, fine! If not, there are various other, lesser-known options that you can select from, or you can refrain from changing your name at all.
If you do choose to take your husband’s surname, this often proves to be the most convenient option in terms of making financial, legal, and social agreements – even more so, if children are involved. To change your surname, you send off your marriage certificate (plus a covering letter, explaining that you want the change of name) to any departments that will have to update their records – things such as the DVLA, Passport Office, etc.
Another option that is quickly becoming popular amongst couples is to double-barrel their surnames. For example, if a Mr Jones married a Mrs Smith, both of their surnames would then become Jones-Smith, or Smith-Jones, depending on personal preference. In this scenario, the husband would normally change his name to the double-barrelled version by Deed Poll, and then the wife would go through the normal name changing procedure after the wedding.
Whichever option you decide to go for, you must remember to then change your name on all of your important documents – anything from your driving license, to any bank accounts, to a place of education or work. If in doubt over whether you need to change your name on a document or not, contact the relevant organisation – the answer will most likely be a ‘yes’.
Whilst you’re in the midst of deciding what to do with names, there are still plenty more things to be arranged…
Legal Marriage Changes – Prenuptial agreements
Prenuptial agreements aren’t a necessity or legally binding as such (apart from in Scotland), but they are massively beneficial in terms of conflict resolution should anything go wrong in the future.
We know the likes of divorce and separation aren’t exactly something you want to be dwelling on whilst preparing for your wedding, but you never know what may happen in the future. We’re sure that you’ll agree that it’s probably better to make weighty decisions regarding property and finances whilst you and your partner are getting along, as opposed to during what is already a stressful and emotive separation process.
They aren’t without their disadvantages, mind. As aforementioned, it isn’t exactly the most romantic of things to discuss, but you may also find that the timing isn’t right. You may not be at a point in your lives where you know how much some of the issues that may be mentioned in a prenup are going to affect you. To combat this, you can create postnuptial agreements (postnups?), but you may need help from a solicitor, as the legalities are different from prenups.
If children may be on the cards for you in the future, it’s worth bearing in mind that a prenup cannot include anything concerning child support or child custody issues – the court always has the final say in most of these things. As well, a prenup cannot include personal preferences regarding children – things such as where they will spend holidays, or what chores they have to do. Including anything such as this in a prenup – even amongst the necessary financial issues – will often have the judge become uncomfortable, and may even drive them to deem the document as trivial and a waste of time.
We’re going to look at one last topic. Again, it isn’t exactly something you want to think about before your wedding day, but we see it as an essential thing to think about before tying the knot.
Legal Marriage Changes – What getting married means to your will
Not the cheeriest of topics, we know. Unfortunately, you must remember that any will you may have made previously is automatically revoked once you are married – unless you make EXPLICIT instructions within this will that marriage is about to take place, and that you wish for the will to remain valid afterwards.
Things such as mutual and mirror wills are possible, but they involve many more pitfalls and loopholes than a regular will would. There’s the possibility that one partner may revoke the will whilst both partners are still alive, and would not have to inform the other partner. If you choose to make a mirror will, you can only give away what you own and not what your spouse owns.
Unless you want to leave your children, spouse, or other entity with very little after you’re gone, we recommend having a long think about the topic before your big day.
If all of the above is a bit much to take in on top of the usual wedding preparations there are skilled solicitors available to go through these legal marriage changes with you.