Changing Your Name After Marriage

While it has been traditional in Australia for brides to change their surname to that of their husband, it is not compulsory. A bride may retain her own maiden surname or the surname that she used at the time of marriage, and a groom may change his last (family )name to that of the bride.  If you are a same sex couple marrying legally, either can change his/her surname to the other's. All couples can combine the two names in various ways, with or without a hyphen.

If you decide not to change your name

  • You will not need to present any documentation to keep using the name you used before marriage
  • you may be required to present a certified copy of a marriage certificate issued by an Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry to change your conjugal status in government and other records from never validly married, divorced or widowed to married.

If one of you wishes to change his/her surname to that of the other

  • You will need to obtain an official certified marriage certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the State in which the marriage took place
  • Many institutions/organisations will accept  a photocopy, certified by a JP or other official, of  the official marriage certificate obtained from an Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry,  as proof. 
  • The certificate presented to you on your wedding day (referred to by Centrelink and other agencies as the Celebrant or Church-issued certificate) will generally not be accepted by many institutions/organisations as it provides no proof that the marriage has been registered.

Using a combination or hyphenated surname upon marrying

If either of you wants to adopt a combination of both of your surnames, advice provided by different government entities can be conflicting. According to the Passport Office, however, no legal name change is required. And hyphenated names are so common that changing your name to one that is hyphenated won't raise any eyebrows!
HINT: If, when notifying a company or organisation of your name change,you are unlucky enough to come across someone who is unfamiliar with hyphenated names, ask to speak to their supervisor.

Choosing an entirely new name

Did you know that you can decide to mark the new chapter in your lives by choosing an entirely new surname for both of you? I've had one couple who both changed their surnames to the name of the street on which they met - luckily it was a perfectly solid surname-like sounding name. I wouldn't be too sure about a name like Scenic or Riverfront! If you decide to go along that route (bad pun) then you will have to do a legal name change with Births, Deaths, and Marriages in the state in which you were born - for which a fee is charged. If you were born outside of Australia then you have to have lived here for a certain period of time (in Queensland it is 12 months) before you can apply.
HINT: If you'd rather save a bit of money than keep your name choice a surprise, one of you should apply for a legal name change well in advance of your wedding. That name will be used on your marriage papers, so the other one can change your name "by marriage" without further cost.

What if you got married outside of Australia?

If you marry in another country, your marriage will not be registered in Australia and there is no provision to do so. Most institutions will require proof of a legal change of name. 

Applying for an official marriage certificate

Proof of Identity documentation required when you apply for an official certificate is at a higher level than the documentation required to get married. However, (in Queensland) if you tell me you want to order an official marriage certificate, I will tick the relevant box when I submit your marriage details for registration of your marriage and you will not have to send copies of ID documentation .You will be notified when your marriage is registered and will be sent a link to pay for your certificate.

If applying for a certificate yourself you need to be aware that there can be a delay of a number of weeks between submission of the marriage papers by the celebrant and actual registration of the marriage.

The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Phone: 1300 366 430 or +61 7 3035 1000 (international enquiries)
Physical Address:
Level 32, 180 Ann Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
(Office hours: 8.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday)
Postal address:
PO Box 15188
City East QLD 4002

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