Changing your surname after you get married

Information regarding changing your surname after you get married

Many people believe that when you sign your marriage certificates on your wedding day that you sign your new ‘married name’ – Not True!

You and your partner/spouse/fiancé are two seperate identities with your own legal names until such a time as you physically change them (if you choose) – AFTER you are married.

If you want to use your partner’s surname, you can – at any time.  It’s called ‘common use’ and you don’t need to do any formal paperwork to use it.  However, some places like the Australian Passport Office, the Driver’s Licence people and banks will ask you for official proof of ID and this is where it gets a bit tricky if your current ID (and therefore you legal name) is still in your maiden name.

If this doesn’t bother you, then you don’t need to do anything… live your life… you do you, but if you do choose to change your name, here is a bit of info to help you understand the process:

When you lodged your Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form with your celebrant you will have used one of the following surnames:

  1. your surname from birth
  2. your current married name if you’ve been married before and have kept using that married name
  3. your new legal name if you’ve legally changed your name for whatever reason

This is the name that you will sign on all your marriage documents.

Changing your surname after you get marriedOn the actual day of your ceremony, you will receive the ‘pretty’ marriage certificate that you keep as a memento of the day – this is a numbered/registered legal document that can not be replaced or reissued (so take care of it) however you CAN NOT use this certificate as proof that you were married in order to change your name.

Once you are married and your marriage has been registered with the BDM – Births, Deaths and Marriages (your celebrant organises that part) then you must apply with the BDM in the state you were married for an official (BDM stamped) copy of your Marriage Certificate.  In WA, the current charge is $53 for this certificate – it’s like applying for a copy of your birth certificate.  Once you have that in your hot little hands, then – and only then, can you start the journey that is officially changing your surname.

PLEASE NOTE: It is not a legal requirement that anybody change their name after marriage.  It might be something that you choose to do so that your family all have the same name.  Some people continue to use their maiden name for business and married name in other places.  It is also not an automatic thing in an heterosexual marriage that it must be the woman who changes her name.  Either partner can change their name.  It is a personal decision so, do what’s right for you.  

What names can I change to?

If you are Morgan Brown and you marry Taylor Jones then you may change your names to:

  1. Morgan Jones & Taylor Jones
  2. Morgan Brown & Taylor Brown
  3. Morgan Brown-Jones & Taylor Brown-Jones (with or without a hyphen)
  4. Morgan Jones Brown & Taylor Jones Brown (with or without a hyphen)
  5. Keep your own names and don’t change them at all
  6. Change your surname for your personal life and keep your maiden/birth name for your business life.

If you and your partner decide to choose a different surname other than the choices above (or you want to change your first and/or middle names), then you’ll need to do what’s called a “Legal Change of Name” and that’s different to taking a name due to marriage.  This also costs money… currently in WA the cost to do a ‘Change of Name’ is $185 for the application & $53 for the Change of Name certificate.

Where you
 married in a country other than Australia?

If you were born in Australia, and got married in a foreign country and now you are trying to change your name after marriage in Australia – you will also need to go down the route of the “Legal Change of Name”.

Why? I hear you ask…

Well, Australian Government Offices ie: Passport Office, Department of Transport, etc… will only accept Australian issued official marriage certificates as proof of marriage and as your marriage has been registered in the foreign country you were married in, issuing a second marriage certificate in Australia is impossible – so, it’s the Legal Change of Name Certificate for you.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing – if you speak to me before you go overseas, I will always suggest that you do the legal part of your marriage on Aussie soil and then party on with an overseas, non legal ceremony… doing this will make things a lot easier for you when you get home in regards to accessing copies of documents, and changing your name.

If you were born overseas, live overseas and were married overseas…. but became an Australian citizen before the marriage occurred, then your (legalised) overseas marriage certificate may be accepted – read the info on the passport office’s website for more information.

So… 

If you do decide to take your partner’s name through marriage, here’s what happens:

  1. You apply to BDM in the state that you got married for a BDM stamped copy of your official Marriage Certificate.  In Western Australia, this can be done online, by post or in person. The document shows the details of your marriage and also has the Registration Number of your marriage in the top right corner.
  2. Click this link for the application form that you can fill in online & print out for postal or in person applications.
    NOTE: if you’re posting your application, you’ll need to attach 3 pieces of certified ID
  3. Once you receive your BDM stamped copy of your official Marriage Certificate, you present that document as proof of your marriage at all the government offices, businesses and companies where you’d like to change your name.

Tip: change your name on your passport or driver’s licence first, so that you can use that photo ID to change it on the other ones more easily.

Passport Tip: you can change your passport into your new married name as long as you have more than two years left on it before it’s due to expire (the expiry date will stay the same as your old one) but you still have to put in a new passport application and provide photos. You will also have to surrender your old passport – so keep that in mind if you are planning to go overseas.  If you have less than 2 years until expiry, or your passport is damaged, you’ll need to apply for a whole new passport – and pay the costs that go with it.

Travel Tip: if you are planning to travel immediately after your wedding or before you officially change your name, book your honeymoon in your maiden/current name (name before marriage).  Your passport must match your tickets/travel documents otherwise you’ll end up having to honeymoon in the Departure Lounge!

Name Change Kits:

There are plenty of them out there on the internet to choose from.  Some people may find them worth the money, but they still require you to get your official BDM marriage certificate and are essentially a mail merge to help you write the appropriate letters to send to organisations along with a certified copy of your BDM marriage certificates. Changing your name is a fairly simple thing to do, but it can be tedious and time consuming, but please note that in Australia, every single government department (Tax Office, Medicare, Centrelink etc) will require you to provide the appropriate documents (BDM Marriage Certificate) in person to change your name in their database, as will banks, superannuation, and some utilities.

Useful links with more information:

Passport – Australian Passport Office – https://www.passports.gov.au/passports-explained/how-apply/eligibility-citizenship-and-identity/names

Driver’s licence / Vehicle registrations – Department of Transport WA – https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/licensing/change-my-name.asp

As an added service… I can include your application for your official marriage certificate to the BDM WA along with certified copies of three pieces of ID (I will certify them for you) when I send in your marriage documents to register your marriage.  This way you don’t need to think about it and your official marriage certificate will just appear in the mail about 2-3 weeks after your ceremony.  Let me know BEFORE your ceremony if you’d like me to do this.

  • Attached is a handy list of all the places you might need to change your name.  It’s a long list, and not everything will apply to you and there are some black spaces to add your own personal ones that I didn’t think of.
  • Please feel free to copy this list and use it to your heart’s content!