Double-barrelling surnames is becoming normalised – but how do you do it?

If you think double-barrelled surnames are still only heard when the butler is announcing arrivals at Lady Octavia's annual Christmas ball, you'd be wrong. It's becoming increasingly common to double-up surnames and for good reason. Find out more about who can choose to combine their names, and how you do it.

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Are double-barrel surnames posh?

In the not too distant past, we’d only expect to hear double-barrelled surnames in the UK on a segment about pheasant hunting on Countryfile, or a period drama when there’s an obligatory visit to the local manor house. Those days are rapidly fading, however, as double-barrelling surnames is becoming a much more popular option for couples and families.

In 2017, 11% of newlyweds were choosing to combine their surnames after marriage. In the years following, it seems to be steadily increasing. With surname combination becoming much more normalised, with the frequency of couples deciding to adopt each others name going up, the perception of the double-barrel surname is changing.

The idea that having a double-barrel surname is posh is fading. Well, the concept is, but I suppose it also partly depends on the names themselves. It’s hard not to imagine tweed and plus fours when you hear a name like Chessington-Smythe (apologies to any Chessington-Smythes out there), but in general, it’s no longer considered the reserve of the landed gentry. Good show!

Can I double-barrel my surname?

Yes, anyone can choose to do this. Whether you’re married and want to take each others surname, you’ve decided you want to have both of your parent’s surnames or you just fancy changing it! There’s no rules on who can or can’t choose to double-barrel, or what you can change it to.

There’s a whole host of reasons why married couples are changing things up when it comes to wedding traditions, including a push for gender equality, a wish to retain links to their heritage or simply wanting to stay close to their nearest and dearest through their name. Surnames can mean a lot when it comes to family bonds.

Can I double-barrel my child’s surname?

Of course. You can choose to do this when they’re born and register them with a double-barrelled name, even if you and the child’s other parent aren’t married. You may even decide to give them a combination of your own parents’ surnames, it’s completely up to you!

If your child isn’t a new-born, don’t worry. You can still change their surname! This is common in blended families where parents want their children to all share a common surname. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to complete a Child Deed Poll on their behalf, if they’re under 16.

You will need to have permission from all adults who hold parental responsibility for the child in order to change their name after birth. To figure out who has parental responsibility (PR), read more on our Deed Poll FAQs.

Does a double-barrelled surname have to be hyphenated?

The answer is no. It’s completely up to you if you choose to hyphenate it or not, there’s no hard and fast rule. The positive of having it hyphenated however is that it will indicate more obviously to people that both of the names are your surname, and one isn’t omitted.

For example, you might choose to have your name as “Hollie Madison Jones”. If you don’t hyphen your surnames, there’s a chance it might be misinterpreted and Madison taken as your middle name. This could result in Madison being abbreviated to an initial, so your may see “Hollie M Jones”. Which would be annoying!

Some people just prefer their double surname without the hyphen though, and that’s perfectly fine.

How to double-barrel a surname in the UK

There’s technically two ways you can go about the paperwork but it all depends on your circumstances. If you’re newly married and want to change one, or both of your surnames, you can sometimes just use your marriage certificate to request the update. Although you’re able to do this in some instances – for example HM Passport office are starting to make it easier to double-barrel a surname with a marriage certificate – it’s not always the case.

For example, if you go to the local branch of your bank or your GP surgery, and asked them to update their records in this way, it’s likely that you’ll get “computer says no”. Even though it is becoming more popular to double-barrel surnames, the processes have yet to catch up. The teller at the bank or the receptionist at your doctor’s surgery will want to see a document which shows your name exactly as you want it on your account or record.

So what can you do to make sure things run as simply and smoothly as possible? Or if you’re not married and want to change your surname anyway, or change your child’s? Easy, you just get yourself a Deed Poll. You can apply online in as little as 10 minutes and we guarantee any Deed Polls we issue will be accepted by all UK companies and organisations.

This will save you figuring out who will accept your marriage certificate, who won’t, explaining how you want your name to appear on your accounts or even being turned away by people who don’t understand processes. Trust us, this happens all the time.

If you have your Deed Poll, it’s all there in black and white, officially bound and legal. You can update your passport, driving licence, GP records, bank accounts, whatever you need!

So are there double-barrel surname rules in the UK?

Not really, no. Your name can be practically anything you want it to be in the UK (though obviously if you choose something offensive or politically spicy, you’re not going to have a good time having it accepted for ID applications). You can choose your original surname and your partner’s, or two completely new ones. Anything goes as long as you have the document to support it!

The biggest question is: which name comes first? Well that’s a tough one and one we can’t really answer here. Try the names out both ways, see which flows best? If it comes down to “mine should be first” and you and your partner can’t agree, our professional recommendation is to flip a coin. It’s a time-honoured method for resolving any conflict, from name changes to who does the washing up that evening.

Whether you want to take a partner’s surname, a parent or ancestor’s surname or even just adopt one you like the sound of, you can double-barrel with a Deed Poll. Still got questions? Just get in touch with our friendly team who are more than happy to advise you. You can call us on 0330 088 1142, email us at certificates@vitalcertificates.co.uk, chat to us through our live chat system, or text us on WhatsApp.

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Melanie Clarke

Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.

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