“What’s in a name?” wrote William Shakespeare, in the tragically beautiful tale of Romeo and Juliet.

We’re given one at birth, we’re allowed to change it by deed poll once we’re 18, and we can also get a brand new surname when we’re married, if we choose to.

The latter point is the one I’m going to focus on. So, how do you change it? Here’s your definitive guide.

Organising your paperwork

Your celebrant will send you a link to order your marriage licence online. The licence is what gives the celebrant authority to marry you. During the ceremony, you will fill out two copies of the Copy of Particulars. One of the copies will be given to you after the ceremony by your celebrant; the other copy the celebrant will keep to lodge your marriage with Births, Deaths and Marriages. Your copy is a back-up copy, so ensure you keep this.

When you order your marriage licence, you can also order a marriage certificate at the same time. These are different documents, not one-in-the-same. Your licence arrives before you get married, the certificate arrives within 10 working days after you’re married – once your celebrant has lodged your marriage.

Hopefully things are a bit more clear about which piece of paperwork is which.

Changing your name

So, when can you start using your new name?

It actually happens within your wedding ceremony. It’s during the Intention: the “I do”, “I will”, etc. That’s when you’ve verbally agreed to marry your partner. Once you fill out the paperwork (Copy of Particulars), that’s ‘sealing the deal’, and that’s why at the end of the ceremony, your celebrant will most likely introduce you as Mr and Mrs, Mr and Mr, Mrs and Mrs – or, maybe even legally married. Whichever you prefer.

When your marriage certificate arrives, it will still have your birth-given names on it. Your surname will not be changed on this document. The best way to think of it is, your birth name (or the name you have changed it to by deed poll) will always be your name. When you marry someone, you acquire their surname – if you wish to use it.

If you do choose to change your name there are four variations of surname you can have. Let’s use surnames Brown and White as an example. You could be Brown, White, White-Brown, Brown-White.

Or, for fun, you can merge your names together, again by deed poll, and make it Brite or Whown. Or whatever you like, really.

“When can I start using my new name?”

As soon as you’re married! You can change it on social media and emails straight away. Some places may accept your Copy of Particulars as legal proof, others – like bank, passport etc, will require your marriage certificate.

My personal opinion is to wait until your passport etc expires before you change your surname, as they will charge you for a new passport.

If you have any questions regarding paperwork, flick me a message. Happy to help!