Lindy Cooke Celebrant


Changing your name BEFORE marriage is a decision some people make for a variety of reasons. This process allows a person to be known by a new name for all legal (and day-to-day) purposes and will be the name that is recorded by the Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages in the state in which their marriage takes place.

An official change of name is a different procedure and this varies between the states and territories. Most states will only register a change of name for a person whose birth has been registered in that state or who has been resident there for a certain period of time.

The following information relates to those born in NSW only as this is where the majority of my weddings take place. For anyone born in other states or territories of Australia, it is recommended you check the process with your relevant office of Births Deaths & Marriages.


Completing a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM)

When lodging a NOIM with your celebrant, one of the things you will be asked to provide is evidence of your date and place of birth (either via a birth certificate or passport.)

If, however, you have had an official change of name since birth, you will need to provide either a Change of Name certificate and/or a new Birth Certificate (depending on whether you ordered one or both) to prove your date and place of birth.

If you only have a change of name certificate in your possession, this is sufficient evidence of your date and place of birth which is connected to your new name. This name will then appear across all your marriage documents (the NOIM, the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage and the three certificates of marriage that are signed on the day) as well as any certificate/s that are ordered from Births Deaths & Marriages after the marriage has taken place. It is important to provide a chain of evidence linking all your names. For this reason, this name should also be the name that appears on your photo ID as proof of your identity. There are various means by which you can provide photo ID to your celebrant but the most commonly used ones are a current driver licence, a passport, proof of age card or, less frequently, an official identity card.

If you have applied or wish to apply for an official change of name but evidence of this is not available when you complete a NOIM, your current name must be used on the NOIM. Once the certificate arrives before your marriage, your celebrant can make the relevant change to the NOIM and you and they should initial the change. Any subsequent marriage documents and the name your marriage will be registered in can then be completed in your new name. Here is a link to further information on the change of name process and the Application to Register a Change of Name For an Adult in NSW.

If evidence of your requested change of name does not arrive before your marriage, the legal names you and your partner currently use are the names which must be said at least once during the ceremony. They are also the names which must appear on the marriage documents you sign and which are ordered after the marriage and they will also appear in the register kept by Births Deaths & Marriages.

If a person has changed their name by usage and has evidence of this change (such as a driver licence and a Medicare card in that new name), they must still use the name on their birth certificate when completing the NOIM. If they do not wish to do so, they can apply to BDM in the state or territory in which they live or were born for a change of name certificate to be issued to reflect the name that, through usage, they have been known by. At all times, the celebrant must be satisfied that the documents they sight relate to the person in front of them.

If a person does not wish to apply for a change of name certificate, and insists on using the name/s they have been known by, the Celebrant should advise the person that, while this is possible, it may cause issues for them in future e.g. when applying for a passport, accepting an inheritance etc. For this reason, it is not best practice. Should such a discussion occur, it is recommended that a record of it be emailed by the Celebrant to the person concerned so that there is proof that the discussion took place. This record should be kept on file by the Celebrant should any questions arise in future.


Legal Vows

The full name which appears on the change of name certificate or the new birth certificate and all the marriage documents which the celebrant produces is the name that both parties must use when the legal vows are said during the ceremony (unless they are said, at least once, by them or the celebrant elsewhere, before the legal vows are said, in the ceremony.) If the full names are said elsewhere in the ceremony, the parties may state their first name only when saying the legal vows.


Thinking Ahead

Where you, as a couple, are planning to marry and both wish to change your names to something other than your partner’s current surname or a combination of both surnames after the marriage, it makes sense for one of you to change your name before the marriage as this will involve only one fee with Births Deaths & Marriages. The other person can then legally take their partner’s name after marriage and, should they wish to do so at a later time, that person can revert to their birth name without going through the official change of name process.

In NSW, it currently costs $214 (or $273 for a priority service) to register a change of name and to receive a change of name certificate. If you request a new birth certificate too, it currently costs an additional $65 for a standard service or $96 for a priority service.

Processing of a change of name application begins when BDM has received your complete and correct application. The birth certificate/change of name certificate you currently have must be returned to BDM before the process can start.

When applying online, a standard service will take up to 5 weeks to complete, or up to 3 weeks if you choose a priority service.

When applying by post or if you apply through a Service NSW representative, a standard service will take up to 6 weeks to complete, or up to 3 weeks if you choose a priority service.


Further information

The Guidelines on the Marriage Act provide further information on this topic. Sections which may be of interest include:

4.5.7 – Recording the names of the parties on the NOIM.

4.5.9 – When can a person use a different name in the NOIM to the name on their birth certificate? This includes change of name by usage, change of name by deed poll (which was the process prior to the late 1990s and was replaced with the current change of name process) and change of name by marriage.

4.5.10 – Refusal by a person to use the name on their birth certificate.

4.7.1 – Frequently asked questions.



112 – 31/05/2024 – ©Lindy Cooke Celebrant

Related Posts


What Constitutes Consent In the Lead Up to a Wedding? When it comes to planning a wedding, it’s likely that there’ll be a lot of

Read More »