Last week, we shocked our family and friends by announcing we were going to get married on February 14th 2020. We have been together since November 2008 and have always gone backwards and forwards on whether we wanted to get married and usually swung to not wanting to.
As a historian and feminist, marriage to me has always seemed like a very archaic institution steeped in sexism and misogyny. Historically, a woman would be given by her father with a dowry (not unlike a sale tbh) and then would belong to her husband akin to chattel, with no legal rights over her own body or her own children. I belong to no one. I’m no one’s to ‘give away’ or to own and even though I know (most) people don’t believe that these days (don’t get me started on the new #tradwife movement), I can’t quite shake the historical beginnings of it all.
In addition to my concerns, we have never really had savings and didn’t want to get into debt for something that to us, seemed of little importance to us as atheists who are happy to ‘live in sin’.
Weddings these days seem to have become an industry within themselves. Apparently, the average wedding in the UK now costs £30,355, according to Bridebook. We couldn’t even justify (or afford) a 6th of that expense! As far as we are concerned, that kind of money would be much better spent on education, property and holidays. Not for a 1-day extravaganza!
So why now? What has changed?
Well, the biggest reason we have changed our minds is we have realised just how much we would be penalised by the law financially and legally if one of us was to die. I was doing some research for my blog post about pensions and came across information that I hadn’t realised the full extent of. This revealed to me that should anything happen to one of us, the other would be much more vulnerable than if we were married or in a civil partnership. Common-law husband/wife is a total myth. I knew that but I didn’t know all of this…
Bereavement Support Payment
You may be able to get Bereavement Support Payment if your husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017. You could be eligible if your partner either:
- paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks
- died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work
You’ll get a first payment and then up to 18 monthly payments. There are 2 rates:
If you get Child Benefit (or if you do not get it but are entitled to it), you’ll get the higher rate.
So if you are entitled to the maximum amount, that’s £9,800 you would lose out on. That’s a canny life insurance policy just for the sake of being married, isn’t it?
Marriage Tax Allowance
To be honest this is a bit of a joke. It only benefits where one half of a married couple or civil partnership is a basic 20% rate taxpayer and the other a non-taxpayer. As we both work it is of no benefit to us. If it does apply to you you can gain an additional £238 a year via an alteration to your tax code. David Cameron introduced this as a marriage incentive. The privileged prat couldn’t get anything right.
Inheritance – tax and property
When you are married (or in a civil partnership), you inherit your spouse’s estate and don’t pay inheritance tax. If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership then you don’t inherit anything automatically and if you do, you have to pay inheritance tax on it. Unmarried couples can pass assets valued up to £325,000 upon death via a will, but anything above this is subject to 40% inheritance tax.
If you jointly own your home, you may not even get their half of what your deceased partner has paid towards your mortgage! It all depends on how you own your property. If you own as tenants in common the property doesn’t automatically go to your partner if you die, if you are registered as joint tenants you have equal rights to the whole property, then the property automatically goes to your partner when you die. I didn’t even know that there were two types and have no idea which we have! Worth looking into if you are unmarried.
If you have children together, are unmarried, and die without a will, then your children will inherit everything that you own. If your children are under 18, then whatever they inherit will be held in a trust for them until they reach adulthood.
While this money can be used for your child’s benefit and education, it does mean that your partner won’t have direct access to what’s held in the trust. If your partner is financially dependent on you, this can cause serious problems for them in terms of what they can afford and their lifestyle.
Savings and investments
Of less concern to us is, if married, savings and investments can be freely moved between spouses – without any risk of later inheritance tax, or capital gains tax.
The ISA allowance itself can also be passed on to a spouse. So if they’ve £30,000 in ISAs when they die, you get this allowance on top of your own ISA allowance.
If your spouse or civil partner dies, you may be able to get extra payments from their pension or national insurance contributions, as long as you’ve not already built up the full basic state pension entitlement yourself, as well as inheriting some of their additional state pension.
Also, many workplace, personal and private pension schemes will only pass on benefits to a surviving partner if the couple had been married.
Next of kin
When married, your spouse will always have the authority to act as next of kin. If not married, it depends on the hospital etc whether they accept your authority as next of kin in a medical emergency.
Witnesses at court
If you’re an unmarried partner, you can be called as a witness for or against the other partner in both civil and criminal cases. You can be forced to appear and give evidence. If married, you can be called as a witness against your spouse in some cases but you can’t be forced to appear as a witness for the prosecution in a criminal case against your husband or wife (there are some exclusions for this).
Now we know…
So whilst I knew we didn’t have exactly the same rights, I didn’t realise the full extent of the financial and legal limitations we face for not being married. Even though we own a house, car and have 2 children and have been together for 11 years. For more information about unmarried/married couples/civil partnership rights see the Citizens Advice.
Now that we do know, I feel as though we are tempting fate. Hence us wanting to get married as fast as possible. Once we decided to do it (a mutual decision via email, we didn’t do proposals) we booked the first appointments to give notice and one of the first appointments we could at the registry office.
Doing it our way
So we decided that we should get married almost as an insurance policy in case anything happens to one of us, especially whilst the children are young. BUT we are going to do it our way…
Valentine’s Day wedding
We have decided to get married on Valentine’s Day. Firstly, because of the reasons we are getting married we thought why hang about?! Secondly, we have always made more of a fuss of Valentine’s than our anniversary (as our birthdays are just a day apart and our anniversary is less than a week afterwards so we have usually given/eaten/drank everything we want to by then). So normally we do nothing for our anniversary and instead do something for Valentine’s Day. Neither of us wanted an additional day to remember and celebrate. Plus it saves us having to figure out what to do on Valentine’s this day!
This means there will be 37 days from deciding to get married to doing the deed. 28 days is the minimum time that you can give notice for and we got the earliest appointments we could from deciding. There were none left that would allow us to make the 28 day minimum actually, we had to squeeze in by going in separately to give notice on different days! There will be 30 days between us giving notice and getting married.
Registry Office wedding
Initially, we decided we would just do the simplest registry office option and nothing else but then we thought we would have parents as witnesses and then felt bad that we would drag them there and then do nothing so we will be having a meal for immediate family afterwards.
We have booked a private dining room in a hotel in Newcastle. We’ve also got a fancy pants hotel room for afterwards. We are having just parents (and partners), siblings and their kids. It will be a party of 12 adults and 6 kids. Whilst I would have liked to open it up to cousins and aunties/uncles it would have just become too expensive for us. Guests wouldn’t have to pay for food at a regular wedding so we don’t want them to have to pay for this.
We did consider having a big party for our wider families but with two young kids, we just couldn’t justify the expense when it could go towards their education or family experiences for us. This way is much more us too. We don’t want a big fuss, we just want it to be low key and chilled out.
Then afterwards, later in the evening, we will get changed and meet up with some friends for regular Friday night drinks at our favourite bars in Newcastle. Including the one where we had our first date.
No rings, no name change
We won’t be doing rings. I won’t be changing my name. I know the historical connotations of those as signs of women essentially being chattel belonging to their husbands and I’m not down for that tradition. Also, I live to physical a life for jewellery. I also won’t be referring to myself as Mrs. I’ll remain Ms. If men have one Mr marker through their life that doesn’t change based on marital status then neither should ours.
Accidental wedding dress
I wasn’t going to wear a wedding dress but then I tried on my mam’s 1982 wedding dress out of curiosity and posted a boomerang on Instagram and I had hundreds of you all telling me I HAD to wear it so now I will be. It’s totally over the top for the kind of wedding we will be having but it’s free, meaningful and it has a motherfucking cape y’all. So I’m wearing it.
But first, the hen do…
So if you excuse me, I’ve rather a lot to sort over the next 3 weeks! Saturday is my hen do which is going to involve axe throwing (I like to be different, what of it), a meal and drinks, and then indie nights at my fave pubs in Newcastle. I know I’m not being traditional but a hen do is an excuse to have a piss up with your mates so unsurprisingly I’m down for that bit!
If you want to see more of what’s going on, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook. My pals on Instagram have been helping me make all my decisions via polls – from the dress to my golden wedding boots!
If you want me to do a blog post about the wedding day after it’s happening then let me know in the comments!