Alistair Westcott

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- Working in Gauteng and surrounding provinces -
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Quite a lot, it would seem, judging by the number of women who in recent years have decided not to adopt the name of their new husband, but rather to keep their original surname. With couples today tending to marry more often in their late twenties and their thirties, many brides have built up a career for themselves by the time they marry, and for professional reasons they may not wish to part with their name. As recently as a decade ago, although it had become acceptable for women to retain their maiden names, it was certainly not a common occurrence. Of late, though, it is becoming increasingly popular for brides to opt for a double-barrelled surname, using both their maiden name and that of their new husband.


I was amused to read an article recently about an American couple who could not agree as to whose name the bride should adopt after the wedding. As this was causing a lot of friction, they decided to leave the outcome to fate by playing five rounds of the age-old children's game Rock, Paper, Scissors - with the winner's choice prevailing. For this couple it seemed to be the only way to come to a decision that would keep everyone happy, though I'm not sure many brides would follow their lead. (Having said that, I have since found out that numerous couples favour this method when making important decisions!)


When popular TV anchor Riaan Venter (known as 'Die Nutsman') married wildlife journalist Michelle Garforth, they decided to combine their names. I heard Riaan being interviewed on the subject and he explained that, in order for Michelle to continue using her family name, he had agreed to add her name to his and to be known as Riaan Venter-Garforth.


I was fascinated to read about the wonderful American abolitionist and suffragette, Lucy Stone, who, when she married Henry Blackwell way back in 1855, refused to take his name. According to the American laws that applied at that time, women lost their legal rights upon marriage. Lucy became the first married woman in America not to assume her husband's surname, and ever since, women who follow her example are said to be adopting a 'Lucy Stoner'! Her daughter, who wrote a book about her incredible mother, used both her mother's and father's surnames and went under the name of Alice Stone Blackwell. What to name the children? Brides who choose not to adopt their husband's surnames will, however, usually register any children they have in the father's surname. They could also follow the example of Lucy Stone and use both parent's surnames.


One of the entrants in an online Win-a-Wedding Competition I recently organised, stated that the reason she should be chosen as the winner was because winning the prize meant she would finally be able to change her maiden name, which she disliked intensely. (She did, however, state as an afterthought that winning would also mean she got to marry the man of her dreams!)


It is clear that when a woman marries a man she may take on his name, or she can retain any of her former surnames. A man, however, does not automatically have this right. He must apply to the Director General of Home Affairs for a change of surname. A married woman can confirm her change of surname by making application for a new identity document reflecting the surname of her husband. She requires her marriage certificate and needs to complete form BI-9. It apparently takes two to three months to process the application and the cost is minimal. Should a husband wish to take on his wife's surname (or should any person wish to change his surname for whatever reason), he must apply to the Director General of Home Affairs for permission to do so. For this he requires an affidavit indicating the reason for the requested change of surname, and he must complete form BI- 196. The cost involved is substantially more. It takes approximately 8 to 12 months to process the application.


While many brides are keen to use their new title, if you are planning to fly anywhere on your honeymoon, it is important to note that you must book your air tickets in your maiden name, as you will be unable to change the name once the ticket is booked. Due to the time constraints, it is impossible to go on honeymoon immediately after your wedding with your passport in your married name, as what is sometimes forgotten is that the Department of Home Affairs will not issue you with a passport in your married name until after the marriage.

Article written by Pam Black owner of Celebration House, Cape Town's unique wedding information centre.First published in Die Burger Leefstyle newspaper.

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