- Before you contact banks or Government departments or agencies you will need an Official Marriage Certificate. This isn't the commemorative certificate you sign at the ceremony. You will need to apply to BDM for a full marriage certificate. Your Celebrant can do this for you at the same time as they register the marriage, and it will be a lot less trouble for you and will generally come much quicker. If you need it urgently (for example, for applying for travel visas) let your celebrant know. I usually register marriages within 24 hours of performing the ceremony and apply for the full marriage certificate at the same time. It generally comes by registered mail within 4-5 days. The fee currently charged by BDM for issuing this certificate is $60.
- Don't give your official marriage certificate to anyone, or it will cost you $60 every time you apply for another one. Make a few copies and get a Justice of the Peace to certify them as true copies. If your Celebrant is a JP (as I am) they should certify some copies for you.
- You should let Roads and Maritime Services know so they can change your name on your Drivers Licence. You will sometimes need photo ID in your married name, so this should be the first thing to change.
- If you're planning to travel soon make sure you check if the name on your passport needs changing. This could affect any visas you've already applied for, so make sure you check with the embassies or consulates of the countries you're travelling to if you need to do anything.
- Next you should contact your bank and insurance companies about whether you need to change your name on bank accounts, insurance policies, etc. Don't forget to contact the Tax Office (ATO) as well.
- Remember, if you've adopted your partner's surname your birth-name is still a legal name and you can continue to use it, even if you also use a married name. You may wish to continue using it for professional and club memberships for example.
So, you've decided to change your name after your wedding, either by adopting your partner's surname, hyphenating or merging names. or taking a brand new name. Regardless of which option you go with, you will need to let people know about the change. Here's a handy check list.
In my previous post I listed some options for changing your surname after marriage (or not). In Australia, while it has traditionally been women adopting their husband's surnames, the rules have always allowed either party to adopt their partner's name. Now that the Marriage Act has been changed to allow two people to marry regardless of gender the same rules apply i.e. either party can take on their partner's name without having to apply for an official name change. According to the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (I'll call them BDM from now on) "If you were married in Australia a formal change of name is not required if you wish to take your spouse's surname. A standard marriage certificate is usually sufficient evidence to have personal documentation such as your driver's licence and passport changed to your married surname." You can still legally use the name on your birth certificate, so, for example, if you want to open a bank account in your new 'married' name you will have to provide the bank with a copy of your Marriage Certificate, but if you also want to join a professional association using the name on your Degree (the name registered at birth) you can use that name as well (and, if they need ID, you can use your birth certificate or any other official document with your birth-name). The change-of-name-by-marriage rules apply to hyphenated names as well (e.g. Smith-Jones), so if your surname is Smith and your partner's name is Jones you can add your partner's name to your own (Smith-Jones) without having to do anything, but will need to provide the Marriage Certificate as evidence of a change of name when applying for a bank account, passport, etc.
But what if you decide to adopt a new name? Let's say that neither of you like Smith, Jones or Smith-Jones and you decide to take the surname "Sydney" because that's where you met and fell in love (ah yes, Sydney has so many awesome people a lot of us fall in love here!). There are a couple of options for changing your name. After your marriage you can both apply to register a change of name with BDM. You will have to meet certain requirements (e.g. you must have been born in NSW or lived here for 3 years if you were born overseas - if you were born interstate you will need to contact BDM in that State) and pay a fee (currently $190). The application form is here. Another option would be for one of you to officially change your name before the marriage, and then the other can adopt that name by marriage. For example, Peter Smith and Gary Jones are getting married and both are planning to adopt the name "Sydney" after the wedding. If Peter changes his name to Peter Sydney before the marriage, Gary still has the option of becoming Gary Sydney, Gary Sydney-Jones, or remaining as Gary Jones. You will save $190 but the downside of this is that when you exchange your vows during the ceremony Peter must give his name as "Peter Sydney" and this may confuse a lot of your guests who know him as Peter Smith!
There are some other restrictions on changing your name so if you're thinking of taking a new name you should check first with BDM. The relevant page on their website is here.
Who do you need to tell that you've changed your name? I'll cover that in my next post.
While around 80% of Australian women follow tradition and take their husband's surname after marriage (according to 2016 figures) the trend could be changing. I am often asked by brides how they go about changing their name after the wedding. I've writen about this before, but with changes to the Marriage Act it's time to chat about it again so this will be the first of a short series of posts about changing your name. What are your options, and what do you legally have to do?
Now that the law in Australia allows same-sex couples to marry it will be interesting to see over time what most couples decide to do about surnames. In the next couple of posts I will also look at the options for same-sex couples changing names.
So, for both straight and same-sex couples the options are pretty much the same:
In my next post I talk about the legal requirements for changing your name.
It is my great pleasure to introduce to you, for the very first time as husband and wife, Mr and Mrs ..."
Those words signal that the formalities are over and my job as a Celebrant is done (as least from the guests' perspective, I'll come back to that). While it has been customary for the bride to adopt the groom's surname as her own, that tradition is changing and hyphenated surnames which combine both family names (Brown-Jones, for example) are becoming more common.
So too is the trend towards grooms taking their bride's surname as their own.
Like many other decisions which need to be discussed well before marriage, such as whether or not to have children, or how many, whose career will take priority if a job opportunity comes up interstate or overseas for one of the partners, you shouldn't leave any discussion about surnames until the last minute. As a Celebrant I always ask the question when we are planning the ceremony, and am sometimes surprised that it's not something the couple have actually thought about. Before discussing the pros and cons of the various options, let me first clear up the question about legalities. Under Australian law either the bride or the groom, or both, can change their name once married, without having to go through any "deed poll" or other formalities. A Marriage Certificate is sufficient for either or both partners to change their name. Your options are:
1. The bride takes on the groom's surname
2. The groom takes on the bride's surname
3. Both the bride and groom combine their surnames and adopt a hyphenated form
4. Both the bride and groom keep their surnames and nothing changes
All four options are legal, and nothing needs to be done to make it 'official' once you're married. You will need to let banks, employers, the tax office, etc, know about the change, and they will probably want to see a copy of your Marriage Certificate (and, as a Justice of the Peace, I can certify copies for you to make the process easier).
If you decide that the groom will adopt his wife's surname, or you are going for a hyphenated combination, you should also think about how you will announce this to your family and friends. An introduction by the Celebrant of "Mr and Mrs [Bride's surname]" has been known to prompt an audible gasp from the guests, especially the groom's family! Do you want to surprise them in that way? Perhaps you do, but you should at least think about their reaction first - you don't want anything to spoil your special day, especially a long lecture from Uncle Bob about the distinguished history of your family name!
There is an interesting article here from the perspective of a groom who decided to adopt his wife's surname. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:
Coming back to my comment that once I've introduced the couple as "Mr and Mrs" my job as Celebrant (from the guests' perspective) is done, I should point out that there is still quite a bit for me to do. I have to register the marriage with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM), submit all the required documentation to the Registry, order and pay for a full Marriage Certificate from BDM, check it once it arrives (you don't want an error on your Certificate as it makes it extremely difficult later to get a passport and can effect other legal documents that require a Marriage Certificate to be sighted), get the full Certificate to the couple, and store all the documents in a secure place for the next 7 years. Some day I'll post a list of all the things a Celebrant has to do in addition to turning up and performing a ceremony!
Stephen Cook is an authorised Marriage Celebrant and a celebrant for all life's special occasions