Welcome to the joy of wedded bliss! After the vows are spoken, the cake is cut, the party has wound down and the honeymoon is over, it’s time to take the last step to make everything official. It's time to change your last name via a legal name change.
Does your name automatically change when you get married? No, there are steps you have to take.
You’ve lived for so long with your maiden name that it can be hard to know where to start — provided you do, in fact, want to change your married name. It's becoming increasingly common for women to keep their maiden name, change their name to a hyphenated combination, or even for men to adopt their wives' last names upon marriage.
However, if going the traditional route is for you, there are fortunately a few simple steps to changing your surname after marriage. These steps will help you navigate from the county clerk's office to probate court to everywhere else you may need to go for your name change. Yes, it's a lengthy process that sometimes poses complications, but if changing your name is important to you, then any challenges will be worth it. Here are the steps on how to change your name after marriage.
What Do I Need to Change My Name After Getting Married?
Step 1: Get Your Marriage License
The first piece of this puzzle is your marriage license. You might be wondering, is there a time limit to change your name after marriage? There is no time limit, which is good, because you may end up with a lot of paperwork from your wedding that could take some time. The most important piece of paper is the marriage license, which is signed and embossed by the Justice of the Peace. Getting the license is usually a big part of your wedding preparations, even if your ceremony is officiated by a priest or an ordained friend or colleague.
Depending on the state in which you reside, you may have to make a visit to a marriage counselor in order to receive your license from the courthouse. In some areas, you may be able to complete this pre-marriage counseling online, so make sure you look into the options available to you in your state.
Hang on to your marriage license. It will be the key to making the rest of this transition easier. In fact, now is a good time to pinpoint the location where you're going to keep all of your important documents, like your license, your birth certificate and your spare credit card.
Step 2: Change Your Name With Social Security
The second step to successfully changing your name after marriage is to change your name legally with the Social Security Office. If you're wondering, how do I change my name on my Social Security card, you will need the following:
- Your marriage certificate. Note: This is different than your marriage license!
- Your driver’s license or other proof of identity. This will still have your maiden name on it, but that’s not a problem.
- An application for a Social Security Card. You can pick this up at your local office or print it out from your home computer.
You can mail your application to the Social Security office, but if you choose to do that, remember you need to send your original documents with your application. They will be returned to you, but there is always the risk of such documents getting lost in the mail.
If you have the option, stop by your local Social Security office. They will be able to go over your application and verify your documents in person, then you will then receive your new updated Social Security card in the mail, generally in seven to 10 business days.
The next step will have to wait until you’ve received your updated Social Security card. Make sure you hang on to your marriage license while you wait.
Step 3A: Change Your Name On Your Driver’s License
Once you’ve received your new, updated social security card, your next step is to head to the DMV to update your driver’s license. If you’ve updated or changed your ID in the last few years or had to fly anywhere in the same period of time, then you are probably familiar with the Real ID program.
It was designed by the Department of Homeland Security to increase the standards for driver’s license issuance. For most people, it just means you need a lot of extra paperwork to change, update or renew your driver’s license. This list might vary from state to state, so make sure you check with your local DMV, but in general, to change your name, you’ll need:
- Your marriage license.
- Your birth certificate — make sure it’s a certified copy, embossed by the Department of Vital Statistics for the state where you were born, or it will not be accepted.
- Your updated social security card.
- Proof of residence — one or two pieces of mail or bills that are less than 60 days old that include your name and address. When you change your name, these can usually have your maiden name on them, as long as that information matches what’s on your current driver’s license.
- Your current driver’s license and/or passport.
Take all of that information to the DMV, stand for a picture and you’ll have your new driver’s license with your married name before you can blink. Just don’t blink for your license photo.
Step 3B: Change Your Name On Your Passport
If you have a passport you use to travel, now would be the time to change your information on that as well. How you do this will depend on how long you’ve had your passport. If you’ve had your current passport for less than a year, you’ll use the form DS-5504, and you will not be charged to update your name. If you’ve had it for more than a year, you’ll need the form DS-82 and will need to pay the standard renewal fee.
For both of these forms, you will also need to submit:
- Your current passport.
- Your original marriage license or a certified copy. Again, make sure it has that embossed seal from the court where you received it, or it will not be accepted.
- A color passport photo.
This name change has to be submitted by mail, and it can take anywhere from four to six weeks to get your updated passport and any original paperwork back in the mail. If you need it in a hurry, you can pay extra to have the process expedited, which cuts down the wait time to two to three weeks.
Step 4: Change Your Name at Work
After you’ve returned from your honeymoon, it’s time to get back to normal and for most people, that means going back to work. Updating your name at work occurs in two parts — reintroducing yourself to colleagues and clients with the new name you’re going to use and updating your work paperwork to reflect your new name as well.
The first part of this is easy — simply send out a new “introduction” email, letting everyone know you have returned but your name has changed and you will be going by “Mrs. [blank]” from now on.
The second part might involve a visit to HR to get all your paperwork updated. Whether your workplace requires you to show proof of your name change will be up to them, but we would suggest bringing your new social security card and/or marriage license with you when you make the appointment to update your paperwork.
If you are an employee, make sure you update your tax paperwork as well. You will need to fill out a new W-4 with your updated name so your taxes can be corrected attributed to you. If you’re planning on filing your taxes as Married Filing Jointly in the future, you will want to note this on your W-4 paperwork as well.
Thankfully, this step is fairly easy. It’s no more complicated than the paperwork you fill out when you start a job — all you need to do is change your name.
Step 5: Change Your Name On Everything Else
This is the fun part — figuring out everywhere else where you will need to submit copies of your marriage certificate in order to change or update your name. This will vary depending on your own personal needs, but, in general, you will probably need to change your name on:
- Bank accounts — check with your bank to find out what it needs. Most will only need to see or receive a copy of your marriage license and your updated social security card to update your information.
- Credit card accounts — similar to banks. Any student loans should also fall under this category.
- Car registration and titles — if you don’t think to update these when you’re at the DMV updating your driver’s license, you will need to update both of these items with your married name.
- Mortgage or lease — make sure your bank or landlord is aware of your name change.
- Utility bills — again, you will probably just need to submit a copy of your marriage license to get these changed to your new married name.
- Insurance — your homeowner's insurance, auto insurance and health insurance will all need to be updated with your new name. If you haven’t added your new spouse to your accounts or been added to their accounts yet and you’re planning on combining accounts, now would be the time to do that too.
Keep an eye out for mail that you might receive that comes in under your maiden name — it might be something as simple as a magazine subscription, but it will let you know if there are other accounts that you have forgotten to update.
If we haven’t said it yet, congratulations on your recent wedding! Hopefully, these steps make it a little easier to navigate the waters of how to legally change your name after marriage. They’re not terribly hard, but they are time-consuming and can get confusing if you do them out of order. For now, though, enjoy your honeymoon and wait to worry about paperwork until you get home.
Sarah Landrum is an expert career blogger and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog helping professionals create a career they love and live a happy, healthy life. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.