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.
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:
- You feel strongly about gender equality and see no good reason why a woman should change her name once married as this smacks of "ownership".
- If you are well known in business or academic circles do you want to risk losing recognition by changing your name?
- If you actually hate your current surname (it's awkward, difficult to pronounce, or just sux) then this could be the ideal opportunity to lose it for good! This applies to the groom as much as to the bride.
- Perhaps your partner has a distinguished, famous, or interesting surname and you would like to adopt it. Again, this applies to the groom as well as the bride.
- You just like the sound of a hyphenated name.
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!