Congratulations on getting married! Congratulations on getting through the ceremony and dealing with all of the details that that sort of thing entails! Congratulations on joining your lives and starting off on this new adventure! Congratulations on all of the other cliché things that people are saying are happening to you right now! You're probably sick of hearing them, but they are still true. In fact, at this moment it is likely that you are so sick of wedding stuff that you don't ever want to hear the words "wedding", "ceremony" "bride" "groom" "decision" or "but what about… " ever again.
You probably just want it to all be done.
You've probably (hopefully) had a fantastic time on your honeymoon and now you are ready to just settle into the business of your regular routine again. Sure you've got some thank you notes to write but that has to be it, right? And really, you can do those in the evenings after work.
Not so fast!
Before you toss your tired body on to your couch, kick up your feet and declare yourself done, are you sure that you've taken care of all of the details that go into getting married? After all, the wedding and the thank you notes are just a part of it. There are also some legal things that need to be taken care of. For one thing, if you didn't keep your name, you have to make sure that you have your name legally changed on… well, as exhausting as it sounds, everything.
How Exactly Do I Change My Name?
First things first: you need to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate. This can usually be done by visiting your local records office and requesting a certified copy. It shouldn't take long for them to get it printed out and stamped for you. You might order a couple of them, just to keep your bases covered. They aren't usually expensive to have printed out for you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The fancy looking certificate that you signed at your wedding doesn't actually count as your marriage certificate. That is just for you to put up at home. The legal document you signed and turned in when you applied for your marriage license and that your officiant had to sign and turn in after the ceremony are what make your marriage legal and will result in the production of a marriage certificate. You probably already know that, but it seemed like a good idea to include that here, just in case.
The good news is that, in most states, all you have to do to change your name is decide what your name will be after you get married and include that on your marriage license. This isn't always the case, though. In some states you are still going to need to go in to the courthouse, with your certified marriage certificate, and meet with a judge to get the process finalized.
Once you've gotten your name legally changed and you have official and certified proof of the change you are ready to get rolling.
Changing Your Name: The Steps
There are three major steps involved in changing your name.
Step One: The List
First you need to make a list of everything that you have under your non-married name. This is going to get overwhelming and quickly. It is possible that you have things listed under your name that you've forgotten about. That's okay. For now, let's start with what you can remember.
Typically your list will include things like:
- Your ID/Driver's License
- Your Social Security Card
- Your Passport
- Your HR Information at Work
- Your Bank Account
- Credit Card Accounts
- Your rental agreement/Mortgage agreement
- The title and registration for your vehicle (if you have one)
- Your Library Card
- Your Gym Membership
- Store Discount Cards
- Magazine Subscriptions
- Online Profiles
- Any other thing you can think of
Step Two: Prioritize
Obviously it is going to be more important to change some of these things than others. Your legal identification (driver's license or ID card), and your social security card should be at the top of that list.
This is usually because, to have your name changed on other documents and accounts, you will need these things to display your new name as proof of your new "identity." In some instances the marriage certificate itself is good enough because it will contain your pre-marriage name. In other cases, however, like with gym memberships, prescriptions, etc—you will need a new legal photo ID to get that done.
Step Three: Take Action
While you are waiting to receive your new social security cards and photo IDs (this can take longer in some states than in others. In New York it can take a month. In Oregon it takes about a week), you can get the ball rolling with your employer and at places like your bank. These typically will accept the temporary ID issued to you by the DMV as well as your marriage certificate as proof of the name change.
When you have your new photo ID and social security card, you can start to change things like the name on your library card, your gym membership and the name on your credit cards.
How Long Does This All Take, Anyway?
This is going to take some time to complete, especially if you try to do it all by yourself. You can probably get to the DMV and the Social Security Administration in a day, depending on where you live and how busy these offices are.
It might also be worth it to change the name on your vehicle registration and title while you are at the DMV changing your name on your license.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You are allowed to mail in your marriage certificate and other information to the Social Security Administration to get a new social security card, it is just a longer waiting process for the new card when you do it this way.
From there it is mostly about how much time you have each day to devote to changing your name. You are going to have to pay a visit to your bank to have your name changed on your accounts and, potentially to order new checks (though this can be done at any time online). The same is true if you have a mortgage or auto loan—you'll have to pay a visit to those lenders to change your name with them.
Other things, like changing your name on your credit cards will need to be done through the mail or by faxing in a copy of your marriage certificate. You can do a few of these things each day so that it doesn't seem overwhelming.
Wow! That's a Lot of Work
It truly is a lot of work to change your name. Like planning a wedding, making sure you get it all done means being organized and making sure that you've got everything written down and a centralized location in which you can track your progress on each place in which you need to change your name.
The Good News
The good news is that changing your name doesn't have to be a completely overwhelming process. It's really just a matter of getting all of your ducks in a row and then just going down your list.
The Better News
There are some really great online tools that will help you streamline this process. This very website you're reading, for one, offers you a centralized online portal through which to track every thing you do not need to do live and in person. It offers you a simple step-by-step form in which to input your information and then you can print out the forms you need for each type of name change. It can even help you get through the submission process.
Hey That Sounds Like a Sales Pitch
It isn't. It is up to you to figure out how to do the work of getting your name changed. If you prefer to take care of all of the details yourself and feel more comfortable that way (type A's, we're looking at you), that's fine. It is definitely an option. If you don't have the time or inclination to do every little part yourself and in person, tools like our online name change service can be of major assistance in guiding you through the name change procedure.
To Sum Up
Changing your name is a huge process. Don't let anybody lie to you and tell you that it is easy. It is one of those things that, just when you think you've got everything done, you find a new account or a new piece of mail arrives that is still in your old name. It can be frustrating.
What matters is that you will get through it. Much like planning and carrying out your wedding, changing your name is something that you are more than capable of doing. It might not seem like it now but you had moments when you were sure you'd never get your wedding planned, right? You got through that! You can definitely get through this.
After all, what matters now is that you are married and you are starting a brand new adventure (stop gagging; it is true, you know that it is true and you love that it is true. It's okay to admit it)!