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Wedding planning 101: how to legally change your name

Choosing your bridesmaids was probably a no-brainer, but the decision to legally change your name may be a bit harder to make. Although a larger percentage of brides are keeping their maiden names or choosing a hyphenated option, the tradition of adopting a married name is still going strong. Regardless of whether you are changing your legal name altogether or going the hyphenated route, there a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your name change is legally recognized.

The process for name change varies by state, so it is recommended that you ask a lawyer about the specifics that apply to your scenario, however here’s an essential name change checklist of what you’ll have to do:

1. Apply for your marriage license

Before actually changing your legal name after marriage, you need to get your marriage license. On your license application, you’ll be able to designate what you’d like your married name to be, whether you are choosing your spouse’s name or creating a new combination of surnames. Some counties may allow you to apply for a marriage license online, but most require you to appear in person. Whenever possible, we recommend making an appointment beforehand.

Quick Tip: Some states have different rules for husbands or same-sex couples to change their names, so be sure to check with your county clerk and/or ask a lawyer about how you should navigate the process.

2. Order copies of your marriage certificate

Once your marriage license has been issued, you’ll be able to have your legally-recognized marriage ceremony. After the wedding, your officiant (i.e.: the clergyperson or otherwise authorized individual) should complete your marriage license and return it to the County to be recorded. In some cases, you will have to request and pay for certified copies of your official marriage certificate. We recommend ordering two or three copies, here’s a sample of the marriage certificate request letter that you can use.

3. Change your social security card and notify your employer

To change your name on your social security card, you’ll need to fill out this application and take it or mail it to your local Social Security office. You will be required to provide an original copy of your marriage certificate to prove your name change. Once your application is processed, you should receive your new card within a matter of weeks. After you’ve received your new card, it is important to notify your employer, so that they can update their payroll system with your new name. If there is a mismatch in information between the Social Security Administration and your company, you may experience issues with income reporting or your tax refund.

4. Update your driver’s license and voter registration

With your updated social security card in hand, you can visit the DMV and update your driver’s license and voter registration. We recommend setting an appointment to make your experience easier and faster. Bring your marriage certificate and your new social security card with you, along with a proof of address, if you’ve moved.

Quick Tip: If you’re leaving for your honeymoon right after the wedding, book any travel plans with your maiden name. Even if you’re traveling domestically, the name on the ticket should be the same as your ID.

5. Update your passport

The process of changing your legal name on your passport will depend, among other things, on how long ago your passport was issued. The State Department has all of the information you need to know about getting a name change on your passport based on your particular situation.

6. Change your name everywhere else

Now that the government has officially recognized your name change, you can go ahead and update all of your other accounts and information. In most cases, you can use a Name Change Notification Letter, or stop by in person with your appropriate identification. Here’s a short list of other individuals and places to notify of your name change:

Financial service providers: Your bank, credit cards, mortgage, insurance, student loan, and investment accounts
Other service providers: USPS, your doctors and dentist, your attorney, your gym, your library
Organizations: Schools, alumni associations, professional licenses and associations
Consumer accounts Utility bills, subscriptions, rewards programs.

7. Update your legal documents

While not required, you may also want to update your legal documents to avoid future confusion. This includes updating your Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, and Living Trust. Outside of just changing your name, a major life event like marriage is an excellent time to review your legal decisions and make sure that your wishes have not changed. If you have questions about creating or updating legal documents, you can always ask a lawyer.

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