Let’s set the scene. You’re getting married and want to know, what’s the deal with changing your surname? Well, here is everything you need to know in “How To Change Your Name After The Wedding” with me – Rachel from Fern Weddings!

It’s a common misconception that after you get married, your surname automatically changes to that of your spouse. That’s most definitely not the case. Of course, you can change your name on social media straight away, but that only makes it Insta official! There are a few things to know when changing your name after getting married in Australia, so let’s start unpacking.

Speaking of unpacking, before we get into the details around the name change, I want to bring one very important thing to your attention in case you don’t read all the way to the end. If you are planning on travelling overseas, remember your travel bookings and plane tickets MUST match your passport. If you’ve already booked international travel before you get married, it’s probably going to be easier to wait until you return before you change your name on your passport and other ID. These guys are strict on names matching, trust me!

Do you have to change your surname?

Absolutely not. It’s completely up to you whether or not you change your name. Some people keep their name, some change it, and some use their maiden name professionally and change their name for everything else. You do what works for you.

Who changes their surname?

Either party to the marriage can change their name. Once again, you do you!

What can my surname be changed to when I get married?

After your wedding, you can change your surname to that of your new spouse, or add their surname to yours in either order, without registering a name change. For example, if Alex Smith marries Sam Jones, Alex’s options are:

Alex Smith

Alex Jones

Alex Smith-Jones

Alex Jones-Smith

And the same options apply to Sam. The above is hereon known as the pre-approved list.

What if we want to choose our own surname?

It’s becoming increasingly common for couples to combine their surnames and create one brand-new surname. For example, Alex and Sam might want to go with Smones, or Jith, or Smithones or even Jonith. They absolutely can do so, however simply being married doesn’t enable them to do so. They will need to apply for a change of name.

You can find all the official guidelines on the NSW Government website, or on Google for other states.

What do you mean, apply for a change of name? Is that different?

Changing your name through marriage is different from a legal name change. When you get married, you can assume a new name through marriage as per the pre-approved list. However, the name that appears on your birth certificate will always be your name, and you’re welcome to go back to that name whenever you like.

If you decide to change your name legally, this is a different process and it means you will be issued a new birth certificate with your new name. In doing this, the old name you changed from is no longer your name, and you can’t go back to that name unless you go through a name change process again. This is where you’ll need to apply through the relevant authority in your state or territory.

You’ve decided on your new name, so let’s do it! 

Where do I even begin, I hear you ask!

Assuming a name through marriage – well, the pretty marriage certificate you sign during your ceremony? That doesn’t actually help a whole lot. In some circumstances, it will help to prove you’re married, but to change your name on official documents – and we’re talking about the pre-approved list of surnames here – you will need an official marriage certificate. Your celebrant may be able to order this for you when they register your marriage depending on which state or territory you get married in, or you can order one through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state or territory you were married in. A fee does apply.

Once you have your marriage certificate or new birth certificate, you can then begin changing your name. And boy oh boy, where do you even start? You need to contact every organisation you have a relationship with and follow their process. Your employer, driver’s licence, passport, ATO, bank, electricity bill… you’ll need forms forms forms, certified copies of your identification… ooh boy it’s time for a lie-down…

Hot tip #1 – there are companies out there – like Easy Name Change – who will do the leg work for you. They all have a range of packages and I highly recommend you take the top one within your budget. It will save you a lot of time, the time you could be spending reminiscing about your wonderful wedding day.

Hot tip #2 – if you are going to go your own way and create your own last name, it will be waaaayyyy easier if one of you changes your name BEFORE you get married and the other changes their name after the wedding. That means only one of you has to go through the name change process.

Hot tip #3 – if you plan on changing your name through marriage, during your ceremony you will sign your marriage certificates with your current name, not your new name. But don’t let that stop you from practising your new signature!

About Fern Weddings: Rachel Bracken from Fern Weddings is a marriage celebrant who brings the magic. Covering the NSW Mid Coast of NSW through to Sydney, creating ceremonies that just feel right.

Images throughout feature are of April & Brad’s wedding by Liam Jon