These days, there are so many versions of the marital name-game that it can be dizzying to consider all of the possibilities. Should the bride keep her maiden name or just use it professionally? Should both husband and wife hyphenate-for-the-heck-of-it-even-though-their-future-children-will-hate-them-for-it? Do you want to stick with convention and share the groom’s surname, or totally buck tradition and have him take the bride’s? Whatever you choose, if it requires either or both of you to change any part of your name you will be required to jump through several logistical hoops in order to satisfy The Man. The whole process can be a bit overwhelming, so I have laid out a few key steps to get you going. Also, I’ve provided information about a couple of websites out there that are set up to help you get the job done efficiently. And don’t worry, because even if both of you change your first and last names to “Agent X” and move to Siberia, your Siberian Eskimo postman will have to tromp through the snow in his mukluks every day to deliver at least eight pieces of junk mail addressed to your former name. It will always be out there, and it will be offered several new credit cards daily.
Step 1: Get married! Or not!
You don’t actually have to fill out a marriage license to change your name, but since you’re presumably headed down the aisle anyway (or just like reading wedding advice), this is an easy way to go. For the bride, there will be a place on the marriage license to write in her new name. Depending on where you get married, there may be a place for the groom to do that also. Otherwise, he should contact a local attorney or courthouse to find out about legally changing his name.
Step 2: Get A LOT of copies of your marriage license
Seriously, this is going to have to be mailed out or shown to practically everyone that you’ve ever met (including most of the agencies and companies listed below) in order to get things straightened out.
Step 3: Contact The Agencies of “The Man” This includes the Social Security Agency (1-800-772-1213), the Passport Agency, and the Agency of Waiting In An Uncomfortable Chair For Three Hours Only To Be Told Condescendingly That You Didn’t Bring The Right Paperwork With You (otherwise known as the DMV). You can change your driver’s license, car registration and often voter registration records there. Be sure to call the agencies before you show up, to make sure you bring along everything you need. (Hint: this can include birth certificate, marriage license, social security card, passport, and I always throw my 5th grade class photo into my purse for good measure – you just never know).
Step 4: Contact anyone else who you’re involved with financially
This includes your bank, credit cards, insurance providers, utility and mortgage companies, loan companies, frequent flier programs and, your employer or school.
Step 5: Get in touch with Family and Friends
You can send out a group email, especially if you’re changing your email address to reflect your new name, or you can send snail-mail cards indicating your name change. Kill two birds with one stone and include the information in your thank-you cards for wedding gifts. If you’re also changing addresses after marriage this is a good time to let them know that information too. Also, all of the above government and financial agencies will need that information as well.
Step 6: Keep an eye on your mailbox and your inbox for the next year or so
There may be other people or companies that come up along the way that you need to notify. Decide for yourself if you want to change magazine subscriptions (My important news magazines with headlines such as “Hollywood’s 100 Hottest Hotties” still come to my maiden name – that way I can claim to the neighbors that they were delivered to us by mistake) or other mailing lists. And, as I mentioned above, the junk mail will keep rolling in to your former name until the end of time.
Step 7: Get Help
The website MissnowMrs.com offers a name change service that will do a lot of the legwork for you, for a small fee. Also, the steps that you need to take are laid out on ehow.com, in a much more detailed and organized way than I have done here. Finally, you can download name change forms for each state on the following website.