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The tradition of a wife taking on a husband’s surname surfaced in English common law in around the 9th century. Under the ruling, women had no independent legal identity apart from their spouse, and were required to assume their husband’s surname as their own.

These days, things work a little differently. And all around the world, women (and men) make this choice for themselves. While here in New Zealand, it’s not a legal requirement for newly-weds to take on their partner’s surname after marriage, many still choose to do so.

If you are considering changing your surname after getting married in New Zealand, it’s a relatively easy process. Here’s what you need to know. 

A straightforward process

When you get married – or enter into a civil union - in New Zealand, you don’t have to fill out any forms in order to change your surname. You can start using your spouse’s surname right away. And you can change it back at any time.

Using your married name

While you can still travel on a passport or with your drivers’ licence in your original surname, if you do want to apply for new documents (or any other paperwork, bank accounts, etc.) with your new surname, you can use your marriage or civil union certificate showing your spouse or partner’s surname as evidence of your new surname.

Changing your last name

There are plenty of options for you to consider when deciding whether or not to change your name:

  • Keeping your surname is the least complicated option. If you’re both keeping your last names, there’s no need to update your personal, legal or financial documents.
  • Keep your surname professionally: if you’ve built your career or business around your name, it makes sense to keep your professional identity separate from your married identity.
  • Make your surname your middle name and take your partner’s name as your surname.
  • Hyphenate one or both names: a common solution to the name change issue. Either one or both partners hyphenate their last name with their partner’s surname.
  • Change your name to your match your spouse: the most traditional option. Usually, a bride takes her husband’s last name. However, these days some grooms choose to take their partner’s last name. 

What to think about

When deciding whether or not to change your surname after your wedding, here are some things you may like to consider: 

  • Do you want to change your surname? Not every woman (or man) does and that’s fine. We’re fortunate to live in a time where it’s no longer necessary for women to take their husband’s surname.
  • How would a combination of both surnames sound? Would you consider a double-barrelled surname?
  • Would your partner consider taking your surname? Or a combination of both surnames?
  • How will your name change impact your career? Or your reputation? Many doctors and other professionals choose to keep their paternal name.
  • Are you planning to have children and if so, what surname would you want them to have? Or if you already have children, will they change their surname?

Planning a wedding in New Zealand over the coming year? Be sure to book your celebrant in good time. Use the helpful search function on the CANZ website to find a celebrant to fit your requirements.