You walked down the aisle. You said, “I do.” You kissed, you danced, you tossed the bouquet. And now you’re ready to settle into life as a newlywed. However, there’s still one little bit of wedding business to take care of: changing your name. If you plan to take your spouse’s name (or they’re taking yours, or you’re creating a new name together), here’s what you need to know.
Get Ready: It’s a Marathon
Changing your name seems simple in theory. You had one name, signed the marriage license, and presto—the new name is yours! However, it’s actually much more complicated. Changing your name requires you to update many companies and government offices. With some folks, the name change may happen in a snap, but other companies may take several months. At any rate, strap in and get ready for the long haul.
Don’t Wait Too Long!
You can change your name at any time, but the easiest time to do it is just after getting married or divorced. Just head to the appropriate offices (the DMV, social security office, etc.) and present your marriage certificate as proof of your new name. While that is simple, I suggest doing it ASAP; if you wait too long, the business of life piles up and you may just forget!
You’ll Need to Tell EVERYONE
There are certain offices that you know will need your new name. You’ll have to tell the DMV to update your license. You’ll need a new social security card and a new passport. But don’t forget the other companies who have your name on file: cell phone and cable companies, the credit card, car insurance. It’s also important to update any tax documents you have on file with your employer.
Have Your Marriage Certificate Handy
If you change your name after you get married, everyone will want to see some proof. Thankfully, you get some proof on your special day—your marriage certificate! Make sure you keep this somewhere safe during the name-changing process, as it’s your official proof that you’ve tied the knot and can change your name without a court order. You may even want to order multiple copies just to be safe.
Be Prepared to Pay
Changing your name isn’t cheap. Well, it’s cheaper than throwing a wedding, but there are a few costs involved. Most states will charge a fee for your new driver license, and you’ll certainly be charged to update your passport ($30-$140, depending on your passport type). Fees vary from state to state, so make sure you do your research. You don’t want to be taken by surprise at the DMV window!
AND Be Prepared to Wait
Even after you’ve filed all the proper paperwork and paid all the necessary fees, you may find yourself waiting for everything to arrive. Passports, for example, can take up to six weeks for processing and delivery! During this time, you may experience a few confusing and irritating moments (try buying a bottle of wine when the names on your license and credit card don’t match), but just stick it out!
Your Name Can Be Anything (Within Reason)
Remember that scene in Friends when Phoebe changed her name to “Princess Consuela Banana Hammock”? Well, that scene isn’t too far from reality—in some cases. You can change your name to anything you want, provided it isn’t a trademarked name, a symbol or number, or something obscene.
And once again, state laws vary; in New York state, you can only change a name by marriage (and without appearing in civil court) if you hyphenate or drop your maiden name. Changing your middle or first name wouldn’t qualify—sorry Feebs.
Double- And Triple-Check Your Spelling
According to the folks at I’m a Mrs. Name Change Service, there’s one little detail that several brides forget every year: how to spell their new name! The company claims that they get multiple inquiries every year from newlyweds needing to amend their name change due to a misspelling. This is a huge hassle, and it will cost you even more, so do your best to avoid it! Double-check every document you submit.
You Can Get Help
If all this seems a bit too overwhelming, you’re not alone. In fact, there are several companies out there established specifically to help married couples navigate the name changing process smoothly. If you’re starting to feel in over your head, reach out to the folks at HitchSwitch, I’m a Mrs., or any other name change assistance company. These folks can help make getting a new last name a stress-free process!
It Takes Some Getting Used To
After all the hassle, all the papers you sign, and all the time you spend waiting for your new ID, you’d think you’d get used to your married name in no time at all.
But here’s the truth: you’ll sign the wrong name on the restaurant bill, you won’t respond when the doctor calls your new name in the waiting room, and you’ll introduce yourself with your maiden name for a while. That’s totally normal! Eventually, you’ll get used to your new name. But in the meantime, don’t worry about it. Just enjoy married life with your new spouse.