Changing Your Name After Marriage: Everything You Need to Know

Changing Your Name After Marriage: Everything You Need to Know

Do I have to change my name? What can I change my name to? How do I make my new name official? Who needs to be notified and when? Changing your name after your wedding is a big decision and the process to make it happen is even bigger!

Our guest author Genevieve Dennis from Easy Name Change is answering these questions and more for couples getting married in Australia, USA, Canada and the UK to help you make the best choice for you and your family. 

Hey nearlywed! This article is sponsored, but we only recommend businesses we believe will add to your wedding experience. It also contains affiliate links, so if you choose to make a purchase, we’ll receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Does my name automatically change when I get married?

No it doesn’t, but that would certainly save a lot of paperwork! 

What’s the process for changing my name after marriage?

There are two parts to the name change process. 

1. Get proof of your entitlement to be known by a new name. 

For anyone married in Australia, that’s just your marriage certificate (the one issued by Births, Deaths and Marriages, not the ceremonial certificate). 

If you live in the USA, Canada or UK, you can use a legal marriage certificate issued by any recognised authority worldwide. 

2. Update your personal records with government agencies and organisations. 

This can be very time consuming because every business has a different process and it can be hard to find this information. You’ll need to send a range of forms, letters and emails, visit two or three places in person and log in to a few online accounts. You’ll also need to provide some photocopies, certified copies and scans of your marriage certificate, as well as photo ID where required. 

Do I need to change my surname after marriage?

There’s no legal requirement for either spouse to change their name after marriage. No matter if you live in USA, Canada, Australia or the UK, both spouses have the right to take the other’s surname and to not have the same surname. 

Can I get married and change my name later?

You can use your marriage certificate to change names no matter how much time has passed since your wedding.

What are the options for changing my name after marriage?

There are a number of name change options you can consider, depending on how you wish to identify yourself and the new family unit you’re establishing with your partner. 

1. You take your partner’s surname or your partner takes your surname

This comes down to the attachment you each have to your respective surnames. Cultural heritage, family lineage, professional identity, personal experiences, spelling and pronunciation are all factors in choosing one surname over another. 

Even if you take your partner’s surname as your married name, it doesn’t mean you have to use it everywhere. You may still use your former surname in any setting, including at work, even if all of your identification and accounts have been changed. 

2. You hyphenate both surnames

Connecting your present surname with your partner’s surname may offer the best of both worlds, though it can get a bit lengthy at times! If you’d like to take your partner’s name but you’re not ready to give up your own name, this is a great way to honour both families. The only decisions you need to make are which name will go first and if the two surnames should be separated by either a space or a hyphen.

3. You blend your surnames to create a new family name

If neither of you wish to retain your present surnames, you can create a new name to mark the beginning of this next chapter of your lives together.

The process for this type of name change is a little different. One partner will need to undertake a legal name change to the blended name before applying for a wedding license. Then when you receive your marriage certificate, the other spouse may assume the new surname without any extra red tape.

4. You keep your present surname as a middle name

If you live in the US, then you’re in luck! This is the only country allowing spouses to move their surname to become a middle name, but there are slight differences between jurisdictions. Some states may require each spouse to list their future married name on their wedding license, so you need to be prepared before applying. 

Washington is the only US state not allowing newlyweds to move their present surname to become a middle name. This is also the case for Canada, Australia and the UK. As a result, you’ll need to apply for a legal name change in these locations. 

5. You use your present surname publicly and married name privately 

If you have an established professional profile that could be impacted by a name change, you may prefer this option.

If you are in Australia, Canada or the UK, a married name is an assumed name, meaning the name on your birth certificate, or your legal name, never changes. 

Even if you have taken your spouse’s surname, you can go back to your former name at any time and for any reason, no matter what your personal situation. This is why it’s perfectly legal to be known by your birth name at work, even if you have updated all your records.

It’s a bit different for couples living in the US. Once you have your marriage certificate, you can request to change names on all your records, however you can’t change back to your former name without either being divorced or filing for a legal name change. This means once you take your married name, it becomes your only legal name.

What are the benefits of changing my name after marriage?

Though there’s no tangible or legal benefit from having the same name, it can make it easier for you to be identified as a family unit without having to pull out the marriage certificate! And there can be some small wins, like getting a room key from the hotel front desk because you can show ID in the same last name as the booking. 

What are the negatives of changing my name after marriage?

A common concern is the loss of individual identity. And understandably, there is some resentment for the administrative hassle of changing names. You have to find a bunch of forms, wait on hold, visit banks during office hours and find someone who can provide certified copies of your ID. It’s not fun or sexy! (Thankfully, Easy Name Change can help with all this.)

How soon after getting married can I change my name?

You can start changing names as soon as your marriage certificate arrives. Most couples complete the name change process within a few months of their wedding.

What order should I change my name after marriage?

If you live in Australia or the UK, there’s no specific order you need to follow for changing your name. Photo ID can be done first, last or anywhere in-between. 

Couples in the US will need to send in the SSA name change form first, wait for proof of the change, then attend a DMV location in person to update their driver or non-driver ID card. 

Newlyweds in Canada will need proof of their name change on any provincial ID (e.g. driver license or heath card) before updating their passport. 

Aim to have all name change requests sent out within a few weeks so you don’t run into trouble proving your identity or get frustrated by the process dragging out for too long!

Who needs to be notified when I change my name after marriage?

You need to notify every organisation where you have an account, membership, policy or identification, which can be anywhere from 10 to 60 different places. 

Common organisations include the tax office, driver’s license, passport, health care, banks, credit cards, insurance, pension plans, subscriptions, utilities, phone, internet, loyalty clubs and more. Click on your country to see the full range of companies as there’s usually a few that are forgotten!

Changing Your Name After Marriage: Everything You Need to Know | Photography: Jenny Smith & Co. via Ruffled
Photography: Jenny Smith & Co. via Ruffled

How long does it take to process a name change after marriage?

It all depends on how organised you are, as well as the processing times of different organisations. Some companies update your name on the spot, while others can take weeks! 

Research and paperwork takes around eight hours to complete, or a service like Easy Name Change can help cut this down to about 15 minutes. You’ll also need a few hours to visit your bank and state licence issuing centre. 

If you live in Australia, you’ll also need to get certified copies of your marriage certificate and then make scanned copies, unless you purchase a certified kit which takes care of all that for you. 

Thanks to Easy Name Change for these invaluable insights. If you’re planning on changing your name after your wedding, they can help you cut through all the form-filling red tape so you can keep enjoying your newly wedded bliss! Don’t forget you can save 20% off their standard kit or the same dollar value on any other kit with the code WEDDINGPLAYBOOK, valid until 31 December 2022.

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