If you or your spouse are planning on changing your surname after marriage, firstly - congratulations on your upcoming, recent (or not so recent) nuptials! Secondly, the following information is intended to assist you in this process.
In order to:
Change your surname to your spouses,
Your spouse's to yours, or to
Hyphenate your surnames (combined with the same spelling)
You will need a 'Standard Marriage Certificate' from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
P.S. If you are creating a new surname, or creating a 'portmanteau", you will need to take some extra steps, possibly including an official name change process. See the Service NSW Website on Changing Your Name (for adults and children), or get in touch to ask some more questions.
What is the certificate we were given on the day of our marriage ceremony?
The Marriage Certificate that your celebrant provided you with on the day of your ceremony, is not the certificate that is needed to change your surname, i.e. it is not the 'Standard Marriage Certificate'. However, it is still important that you keep and store this document in a safe place. You may even like to frame it!
This certificate is known as the "Form 15". As part of your marriage ceremony, the couple, two witnesses and the celebrant need to sign it - and the celebrant is required to give it to the couple (it will usually be presented in an envelope with the Australian Coat of Arms on it, but you do not need to keep the envelope if you don't want to).
Form 15s come from a special printer in Canberra, each certificate has a unique 'serial' number on the back, which means it is specific to you and cannot be replaced if it is lost.
So how do I get a Standard Marriage Certificate?
A Standard Marriage Certificate is issued by NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and looks more like a birth-certificate-type-document:
To obtain this, you need to Apply online with Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) (linked).
Alternatively, you can attend your local Service NSW.
The application can be made after your celebrant informs you the marriage has been registered with NSW BDM, or after two weeks. This is because celebrants are required to register marriages within two weeks of the ceremony date.
I aim to register marriage as soon as possible and always send a follow-up email to let the couple know they are now able to apply for a certificate.
But do not stress, there is no rush to make this application if you haven't decided if you'll change your name, or if you're off travelling straight after the wedding.
The cost of your Standard Marriage Certificate will depend on the type of postage you choose (express or normal), or if you desire a special design - but the standard option around $60.00.
Now I have the certificate, what should I do?
Unfortunately, the Standard Marriage Certificate does not function as a magic wand that will immediately change your name in all places and across all documents. In short - the process you will now have to undertake involves providing a copy of your certificate to all offices, organisations, email lists etc. that record your name. The exact process and requirements will be different for each organisation.
The big ones to focus on might be your ID documents, MyGov services, bank details, insurance providers, super fund and employer. But you'll be surprised at how many places your name is stored!
There are some fantastic blogs written online, that provide template checklists of places to change your name. But you will know your situation best, so it's a good idea to set aside some time to brainstorm.
It's very likely you'll be going by two names for a period of time.... your old name might even pop up years later in a place you forgot to change.
But this is ok - the Standard Marriage Certificate is an official government document, that lists what your name was, and who you married to make your name what it is now. You might even choose to go by your original surname at work, but your new surname is on your ID documents. Every situation is unique.
Best of luck!