Gay Marriage Name Changes

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LGBTIQA+ couples getting married have a slew of traditions to wade through to decide what works for them. But gay marriage name changes are possibly one of the most significant of them.

The question of whether—and how—to decide about a name change is still tough for same sex couples getting married. So in this post I am just going to lay out the options, and then make some suggestions for making that decision.

The options

You always retain the right to use the name on your birth certificate. If you have previously legally changed your name, that name always remains your right as well. When you get married, you also gain the right to use the family name of the person you marry. You can replace the family name on your birth certificate or change of name certificate with it, or you can use it in addition to your previous name.

If you decide to use both names, you can use them in any order you choose. For example, if Micah Mallett marries Juniper Jones, Micah’s married name options are:

  • Micah Mallett
  • Micah Jones
  • Micah Mallett-Jones, and
  • Micah Jones-Mallett

And Juniper’s options are:

  • Juniper Jones
  • Juniper Mallett
  • Juniper Jones-Mallett, and
  • Juniper Mallett-Jones

And your partner’s choice has no effect on yours.

An additional option I have assisted couples with is taking on a new name. This option is available to anyone; however, it cannot be done in unison with your marriage. One or both parties to the marriage would need to change their name directly with the registry office before the wedding. The new name can be declared as part of the wedding ceremony.

My suggestions

Many gay couples getting married are simply not changing their name, and there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, having taken my husband’s name, I love referring to my “maiden name” and watching people take a moment to process that (it’s one of the few examples of gendered language in English that works in women’s favour).

Some options to consider include:

Double barrell

I love double-barrell names, as you might be able to tell from my own name! I love the fact that the change reflects a change in your status. Nonetheless, there are distinct inconveniences in them:

  • they make long signatures
  • they’re hard to spell for people who dont know you
  • children may have a challenge to live with them.

You may also worry about trying to decide which name goes first if you double-barrel them. Fear not! You can actually have inverted double-barrel surname. This is what my husband and I did: our surnames are in the opposite order from each other (I’m Skillicorn-Chilver; and he’s Chilver-Skillicorn).

Flip a coin

One option I would love a couple to take is a flip of the coin as part of the ceremony! This would be a great option if you are both fine with either surname (it would also be great for a hetero couple!).

Combine your names

Some couples choose to take an informal approach and combine their names. A Prakash marrying a Crawford might choose to adopt the name Crawkash or something along those lines. This name is not the legal name of either party before the marriage, so it would take more than the marriage paperwork to make it legal. Still, it may be a fine option for some couples.


Whatever you decide, it is wise to consider the impact a name change will have on:

  • your professional profile
  • children, if you hope to have them
  • your signature, and
  • conducting ordinary business.

Whatever you decide, own it! Marriage equality was hard enough to achieve not to make the most of it!

If you need help with the process of changing your name after marriage, check out my post Changing Your Name After Marriage in Victoria.

Published by Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver

Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver is an authorised celebrant, a playwright, a teacher and quite a few other things!

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