Many brides assume that changing your name after marriage equates to taking on your husband's name. It doesn't have to be that way. You have the following choices regarding name changes after you get married:
Take on your spouse's last name.
Hyphenate your surnames (ie Jones-Smith), which only approximately 5% of newlyweds do.
Double barrel your names (ie Jones Smith).
Drop your middle name and replace it with your maiden name, then take on your husband’s name as your surname.
Make up a new surname that is a combination of your maiden name and spouse's name.
Make up a totally new name.
Keep your maiden name.
But you have to fill out a whole lot of forms and call a billion people, right? Not really. You can start using your new name 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’. If you want to change your name on your identity documents, eg. drivers licence, passport etc, however, you will need to fill out a whole lot of forms and call a billion people.
You can go through an official name change process which you can of course do at any time. You do not need to be married to do this. You can even change your name to your future spouse's name in this way if you want to. The traditional way of taking your spouse's name however is to use a Marriage Certificate, and of course you won't have this until after you get married.
There may be some exceptions, for example your doctor and dentist (and other similar service providers) may not require proof of identity and may update your details in advance. In these instances however, you should make sure that the name on your medical receipt is the same name that you have on your Medicare card to avoid claiming hassles later on.
There are no legal time limits that you need to adhere to when changing your name... except with most motor registries, which require you to let them know within 14 days if you intend to change your name. As for everyone else, you can take your sweet time.
In fact, you may end up with 4 different marriage certificates. But only one of them is the real thing! Confused? Let me explain.
Form 15 is one of the documents you will sign on your wedding day and the document that your celebrant must give to the relevant parties. It is evidence that you are now married and that your legal status has changed. Sometimes it's called Form 15, sometimes it's referred to as a marriage certificate.
Your celebrant may also present you with a commemorative cerficate. It will be a pretty little thing in it's own envelope. Read more about commemorative certificates here.
The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages are the only ones who can supply you with an "official Marriage Certificate". This is the certificate that proves that your marriage had been registered, and it is the certificate that most organisations will want to see. It's official and boring looking. If you want a prettier one, most state's registries also offer commemorative certificates where you can choose from a range of designs that look a whole lot better framed.
That's right, procedures can differ, even within the same company! When I was changing my name after I got married I remember my bank telling me over the phone that they required a certified copy of my registered marriage certificate, but the teller at the same bank was happy to accept an uncertified copy of my commemorative certificate. Also, a lot of employees of organisations that I came across were aware of the procedures, but they did not know what a registered copy of a marriage certificate looks like, or what they should be sighting to make the name change official. When researching this kit I found that procedures would change from state to state, and sometimes from day to day depending who I spoke to!
My advice is to be patient, and be armed with all the pieces of information that they may require – just in case!
80% of brides that we surveyed last year wish they had practiced their signature more. Read more here.