Changing Your Name Through Marriage

In Australia there are two ways of changing your name
  • change of name by marriage, where either one of the marrying couple can change his/her surname to the other's. All couples can combine the two names in various ways, with or without a hyphen.
  • legal name change

Before the Marriage Act was changed to allow same sex couples to marry, the only option available to such couples was a legal name change, which retrospectively changes one's surname on one's birth record.

Change of name through marriage does not effect a legal name change, so it is relatively easy to do, and pretty much cost free.

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 is conflicting. According to the Passport Office, however, no legal name change is required so perhaps the best option is to change passports first in order to obtain photo ID in your new name.

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.

What if you got married outside of Australia?

If married in another country, your marriage will not be registered in Australia and there is no provision to do so. Most  institutions will  require an official change of name.  However, Queensland Transport will accept, as proof of change of name upon marriage, an official overseas Marriage Certificate  if you also present a category A document already in the married name or two category B documents in the married name. The overseas Marriage Certificate must show an official crest and be appropriately registered.

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 give your application to your celebrant to attach to the marriage papers, and the celebrant endorses the application, you do not have to send copies of ID documentation  I am happy to include your application for your marriage certificate together with your bank cheque, money order, or credit card authorisation.

Please be aware that payment of a priority fee only guarantees priority treatment of already registered marriages, and 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