Some women (and men) choose to change their surname after they are married, and some don't. Others choose to hyphenate both surnames or use their husband's surname as their middle name, and some keep their maiden name except for official documents. Whatever your choice you need to think about it carefully and make a decision based on what you want to do.
If you do decide to have a name change to your husband's surname, once you're married, be prepared for a time consuming and long administrative process! While it isn't a hard process it is a long and arduous journey - and nothing like changing your mailing address.
While the process of changing your surname may seem boring and not nearly as exciting as planning your wedding it is important and really monumental!
More than 2 years on from my own wedding I am still getting the odd piece of mail, and an email here and there, with my maiden name - mostly from the companies I don't hear from that often. And while I like to think of myself as fairly organised maybe I'm not, as I still haven't changed my passport to my new name!
In hindsight, here is my practical step by step guide to a surname change after marriage (in Australia) to help keep you on your 'wedding high':
- Start early - The administrative fun can start long before your wedding! If you're super keen and way more organised than me, you can start collecting or making a note of all of the companies, organisations and individuals who send you letters and emails. You will be surprised at how much mail you receive and the key is to make a note of the letters you get only once in a while, like your annual reminder from the dentist or optometrist.
- Get yourself a new email address - Before or after you're married you can create a new email address for yourself if your existing address has your maiden name in it. You may not need to do this though if your surname is not within your email address.
- Official paperwork - Once you're home from your honeymoon and back into the reality of life your first and most important step is to get your official marriage certificate from the relevant Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages - you will need to apply for this using the paperwork you received when you got married and it may take a few weeks to get. You can start using your new surname whenever you like, and you don't actually have to change your name on any documentation if you don't want to, this is called 'name by association' and is perfectly legal. However, if you want to change your surname officially you need your marriage certificate first.
- Make a checklist - If you haven't already, make a list of all the companies and organisations that may have your details on file, check your emails and make a list of all the newsletters you subscribe to and the companies that post letters to you and email you. Check your purse and add any membership cards (e.g., clothing store cards or membership reward cards).
- Get the golden ticket - If you have a driver's licence go to your nearest motor registry with your official marriage certificate and get your licence changed first - this is the golden ticket! Once you have changed your licence it will make changing your surname elsewhere a lot easier. If you don't have a licence make the first change to your passport or medicare card.
- Photocopier fun - Make multiple copies of both your marriage certificate and driver's licence (or passport or medicare card) and get a JP (Justice of the Peace) to witness each copy. You will need more copies than you think. This can be a big job so try and find a JP with an authority stamp which makes it all a lot quicker. Many companies need authorised copies before they will make the change - some may even want to see the original marriage certificate.
- Tick by tick - Start to progressively go through your list, but if you start with the big ticket items first it will tend to flow a lot more smoothly and it is more important to get your bank statements and letters from the Australian Tax Office correctly addressed than the ad hoc fundraising appeal you get from Oxfam. Another way to do it is to change your surname as you receive mail or emails and then tick them off the list - this could end up taking a lot longer though.
- Figure out the process -Most of the bigger company or government department websites have information on changing your surname with them. Go to their website to find the info or do a search in Google e.g., 'Medicare, changing surname' - I found that process a lot easier than trying to navigate my way around some confusing websites. Smaller businesses will usually allow you to change your surname over the phone or during your next visit with them, but often with the bigger companies it will be a process filled with completing forms and sending copies of your marriage certificate and driver's licence. Sometimes though you can get away with just calling them up and asking to change your surname.
- Double check - With my bank I had to go into a local branch twice to get my surname changed. They mucked it up the first time and didn't change my surname across my four accounts. Make sure you double check with the person changing your surname that they have done it correctly. You don't want to have to call or visit them again - it takes long enough as it is!
- Don't forget your boss - An easy one to tick off the list is your employer - tell them that you're changing your surname early on (maybe just before you get married) so that they can start their own internal processes of changing your business cards, email address, etc while you are on your honeymoon.
- Remember your email subscriptions - If you're like me and get lots of emails you'll need to apply the same process to all of your email subscriptions. Some automated email newsletters have functionality that allows you to change your email address only, rather than unsubscribing and subscribing again with your new email address, but more often than not you will need to go through the manual process of unsubscribing and subscribing. You may also decide not to worry about some of the subscriptions because it doesn't really matter what surname they have for you (if you are keeping your original email address).
- Don't forget the websites you are registered with - You may find that some websites don't allow you to change your surname as that is your original registered name, for example, PayPal won't allow me to change my original registered name with them but I have been able to create a secondary profile with my married name using my original account and login. Alternatively I could create a completely new account with my married surname.
Some extra tips:
It sounds obvious but it's important that you make your honeymoon reservations in your maiden name, as you won't have changed any of your identification before you go on your honeymoon and your tickets and proof of purchase will need to match with your ID.
To get you through the surname changing journey you could use a Name Change Kit to do most of it for you. I didn't feel it would capture all of my mail and email subscriptions but if you're interested in a kit just do an online search and you'll find one.
Most importantly, start using your new surname! It will sound funny at first but you will get used to it and everyone will start to adapt to it.
And after all of this, maybe you won't ever end up changing every single piece of mail you get. The odd one might float in with your old surname when you least expect it and as for me, it's nice to see it sometimes - it's just like seeing an old friend.
If you have any of your own tips or questions about changing your surname after your wedding let us know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this important administrative process!
Rhonda (the new girl at MW) 🙂
p.s My wedding gown was designed by Yulia Mc Couture, photos by Raoul Tackelburg Photography and flowers by Merci Bouquet. We had our wedding ceremony at St Spyridon Church in Kingsford and our reception at The Tea Room in the QVB, Sydney.