Becoming a Kirkwood: one woman's quest to change her last name after her wedding

Becoming a Kirkwood: one woman's quest to change her last name after her wedding

Alyce and her bestie Colette are wedding photographers and Alyce is also now a wife. She was married last year and recently went through the rigmarole of changing her last name, so, I asked her to share her story below. Thanks Alyce! The feature image in this post is from her wedding and it’s by Byron Bay’s Jonas Peterson.

‘Alright, let’s see here’ The post office dude said as he began thumbing through my meticulously presented passport application.

I was perhaps a little smug as I produced document after document out of my gold folder – birth certificate, marriage certificate, drivers license, current passport. I’d been through this rigmarole just one year ago prior to our honeymoon and now I was back with the paperwork to change my surname. This was me being uncharacteristically organised. Look at me with all my shit together. In a motherflippin’ gold folder, no less!

Holzberger has never been an easy surname in this country, especially not for a chubby red-headed freckled kid. ‘Freckleberger!’ was a favourite taunt in the school yard. As was Horseberger, because I liked horses. Logical. Aside from the primary school teasing, it’s impossible for people to spell. In a lot of ways I was sad to be saying goodbye to my Germanic heritage but also welcomed the ease-of-use of my new surname of Kirkwood. Holzberger was always –

‘Holzberger?’ The post office dude said, interrupting my train of thought. ‘I thought you were wanting to change your name?’
‘I am!’ I replied cheerfully. ‘To Kirkwood.’
‘Well, you’ve got this all wrong here.’
He began crossing shit out all over the place.
‘This is wrong too. Wrong date.’ The post office dude briskly scrawled a different date. ‘Initial here.’

I don’t get things wrong. With each strike and monotone ‘initial here’ I sunk a little more into my sneakers. I died a little more inside. I wanted to grab post office guy by the lapels, shake him and yell ‘I HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE YOU KNOW! THIS FORM DOES NOT REPRESENT ME!’

The perfectionist in me wanted to slink back home and re-sit the Passport exam. I had failed, miserably. Okay, so maybe I’d raced through the form at like, 2am or something one weeknight but hey – it’s wedding season. I’m busy.

Changing Your Name: The Procrastinator’s Guide
Spoiler alert: changing your surname after marriage is not the most fun part of getting married. I know, I’m sorry if you’re shocked. It’s tedious. It’s confusing. Prepare to roll yourself up in red tape, then roll through a forest of red tape, only to be caught up in a net of red tape. Many times I wondered if it was really worth it. But the problem is once you’ve started, you’ve just gotta keep going.

Your drivers license is an easy place to start. As are your bank cards and credit cards.
Your medicare card is a minor pain in the ass, because you have to queue up at Centrelink/Medicare/Human Services and fill out a confusing form. Pro tip: take your married partner, because then you get to apply for a card that has both your names on it. Super fun.

Then there’s the passport. Don’t expect to nail it first go, and apparently it’s okay to cross half of it out, write on it, and initial it and that’s acceptable (this is TBC – I am still unable to lodge my form as I don’t yet have enough bits of plastic verifying my new name). Leave your passport name change until last.

There are of course a whole army of other places where you will need to change your name, I’m not there yet though. One confusing form at a time, people.

My tip for all the new(lywed) kids on the block would be to set a date to get this shit locked down. Like a bandaid, just do as much as you can at once. Take your pompous gold folder of documents, your partner, and go hit all the fun places where you have to present your 100+ points of ID to change your name. Then, take an interval and go get a beer. To break the monotony of filling out forms. Of course. Extra tip: only one beer. For now. And don’t lose your marriage certificate.

Leaving Your ‘Old Self’ Behind
Anyone who knows me knows I’ve just ticked over 13 months married, so it’s not like I couldn’t have got my act together sooner. Nothing like an international flight in 8 weeks to make me jump into action. Perhaps I am a little sentimental, perhaps I’m just disorganised, perhaps I don’t yet identify with my new name. It’s a strange experience to suddenly have a different name. It’s like you’re leaving a little bit of yourself behind. It’s not that I don’t totally love my husband and the family I’ve married into… but I kinda like being called variants of ‘Elise Holtzenheimerhosenhousen’. There isn’t another Alyce Holzberger out there in the world – not that I’ve been able to find. I kinda like that! I’m like the last unicorn, baby.

I think the name change meant more to my husband Shaun than it did to me. Perhaps if my maiden name wasn’t such a Waltz through the forests of Bavaria I wouldn’t change it at all. There is a part of me that wants to resist the old-school patriarchy, but that’s not really what this is about for me. Shaun and I are a team, two equal players. It’s a tricky subject to grapple with, and the answer is different for all of us. Hyphenating (Holzberger-Kirkwood) was not a practical option – I’m not such a fan of babies but I don’t resent my future children that much. I tried to float the idea of merging our surnames to create a whole new one but Kirkberger didn’t go down so well.

For Shaun though, this was us becoming our own family. Me becoming ‘Mrs Kirkwood’ was the thing he was most excited about in our marriage. It sounded so legit. The more time I spent thinking about it, the more I’ve realised this isn’t about a loss of identity for me. Changing my name wasn’t something worth mourning, but another step forward in our collective story. The change in name for me marks our next chapter. It means so much to Shaun that I like him (and his user friendly Anglo surname) enough to take it on. To see him beam with pride as each hurdle is cleared, as another piece of plastic or paper arrives at our house for ‘Mrs Alyce Kirkwood’, I know that all the red tape tangle is worth it.

All about Name Change in Queensland

The following info if provided by for readers!

There’s a range of feelings associated with ‘the announcement’ at the reception. It may be a stuffy tradition, or you might find it really exciting to be officially introduced for the first time as a new couple. Either way, this is often the first time you need to make your new name sound somewhat official.

So you’ll be announced as Mr and Mrs, what exactly? Well, that depends on you. You don’t have to take your husband or wife’s name, and you don’t need to have the same names.

Here’s the choices for your new name;

  • Take his or her name (Mrs Pitt)
  • Take his or her name on all ID and accounts, but continue using your birth name when you please (eg: keep your name at work while changing names everywhere else).
  • Hyphenate both your names (Mrs Jolie-Pitt). Typically the husband’s name appears last but the order is up to you. You can also use a space instead of a hyphen, but data entry people who help set up your account can get the second part of your surname mixed up as a middle name.
  • Leave your name as it is (Mrs Jolie). Surprisingly less than 15% of brides keep their name.

And here’s how to change it:

Name Change Tips:

  • Always take your original BDM certificate when updating names in person
  • If you don’t aim to get your name changed everywhere in a relatively short time period you can have issues proving your identity.
  • Set aside the day to get all your name change research done at once
  • Too busy for research and paperwork? Order a time saving kit from Easy Name Change and get all the procedures and paperwork you’ll need in one swift maneuver.