When three men told us why they took their wife’s last name, other readers got in touch to share their experiences. Here two of them explain how it turned out to be way more difficult than they had imagined.
‘My boss refuses to accept my new name’
Wayne Harding, né Nell: I married my wife Debbie in July 2016 and changing my name from mine – Nell – to hers – Harding – caused a big stir among my family and at work. The decision was a no-brainer for me. Debbie has a daughter from a previous relationship and we wanted her to have the same name as the rest of the family. I remember my stepdaughter saying to me that she didn’t want to go to school with a different name, and I completely understood how she felt.
I am South African and most of my family still live there and weren’t able to fly over to Cyprus, where we had our wedding. I didn’t mention my plans to change my name – I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only when I changed my name on Facebook that my dad and my brother found out. They weren’t happy. “It’s just a name really, Dad, it’s not the end of the world,” I said to him on the phone. He told me it was the biggest slap in the face for him and the family. “It really cuts deep, son,” he messaged me later.
But the most surprising reaction came from my workplace. I am a property manager, I deal with about 100 leaseholders living in blocks of flats. When one of my bosses discovered I had changed my name he said I should have consulted him first because it could cause repercussions for the business and its clients. He said people would assume I was in a same-sex marriage and that I would need to make it clear in my email signature that I had married a woman. It was offensive and I felt like he had singled me out.
Apparently they had complaints – although nobody ever said anything to me directly. Eventually the HR manager told me to take that explanation out of my email signature because it was unnecessary. My boss still refuses to accept my new name and insists on using my maiden name instead.
When I changed my name at the bank there were problems too. “We’ve never done a guy before,” said the bank teller in disbelief. The branch manager had to speak to me and then he had to call head office to check changing my name was something they were allowed to do. We spent about 20 minutes discussing it all but eventually it got sorted out.
Surnames seem to matter more to the older generation and I am seen as someone who has broken tradition – but look at the Queen. I had to do a Life in the UK Test to get my citizenship in 2000 and one of the questions was about Elizabeth II keeping her surname, Windsor, while Prince Philip dropped his paternal name and changed it to his mother’s, Mountbatten. A lot of British people don’t know that.
It isn’t the first time I have changed my name. My first name is actually Terrence, Wayne is my middle name, but when I immigrated over to the UK in 2000 I quickly adopted Wayne because Terrence tended to be shortened by British people to Terry, and I didn’t like it. My dad said it upsets him that he can’t call me TW (Terrence Wayne) any more. We don’t talk much but he tends to bring it up whenever we do.
My father-in-law says he is really proud of me and what a nice thing it was for me to do that for his daughter. I’m sorry it has upset my own family, but I don’t regret my decision.
“I absolutely live for filling in the Maiden Name box”
Wyn Tingley (né Davies): My wife Katy and I got married in 1989, when a husband taking a wife’s name was completely alien. For me it was about keeping my wife’s surname, Tingley, going. I was a Davies, a pretty common Welsh name, and keeping it just never seemed important to me. In fact, it has been several decades since I’ve given that decision any thought.
We knew we didn’t want to have different names and we weren’t keen to double-barrel. We did very briefly contemplate merging our names and becoming Dangleys. I never actively told my family and I think they assumed we were double-barrelling our names. After the honeymoon it gradually leaked out.
My brother and sister found it all particularly odd. Because my parents had divorced by then, there was some comment about me disowning the family by cutting off the name. It certainly wasn’t the case that I was ashamed to be a Davies, but I was excited to be doing something different. In the end I retained Davies as a middle name, and gave our son Davies as a middle name too.
Apart from changing my name, the wedding was quite a traditional one. We got married in a village hall decorated by our families and our trip from the church was in a horse and carriage. My crowd were from Wales and the north-west of England – Katy’s were from Surrey. Our very different families seemed to get along, but it was very much tinnies [of beer] versus champagne flutes on the top table.
I started using my new name straight away – it felt odd, a little bit “naughty” perhaps and it was definitely strange practising a new signature. But it was a novelty that turned into a rude awakening as banks, the passport office and driving licence authorities made a bigger deal out of it than I had imagined. When I walked into the bank and explained why I’d like to change my name their first response was: “Wait, what? But why?” I had to get a deed poll and “live with the name” for two years before my bank would officially recognise me as Mr Tingley.
I have always been very single-minded and I absolutely live for filling in the Maiden Name box on forms. Once you’re aware of it you realise just how much the need to fill in a maiden name crops up. I now work in pharmaceuticals and go to lots of conferences, where there are always registration forms and inevitable security questions, including questions about previous names. I have ended up being put in an all-women session on more than one occasion because, combined with having a maiden name to declare, they think my first name, Wyn, is a woman’s name.
As for Katy, she stills thinks it’s a “sweet thing” to have done and I think she would reject any suggestion that it was because she wears the trousers.
Sometimes when we book into hotels the receptionist will automatically turn to Katy and ask for her maiden name. She gets a kick out of replying, “Tingley”. It’s funny how normal it seems to take your husband’s name but not the other way around.
We are 53 and 52 now and we’ve still never known of any other couples who have done the same as us. I wonder if it is an age thing – people over 35 are potentially more traditional in their views and upbringing. By contrast, our 20 year-old son doesn’t give it a single thought.
Despite the administration headaches and the occasional stupid comment, I don’t regret it one bit and would have done anything to make my wife happy. It was no sacrifice and it is a real pleasure to be Mr Tingley.