Changing your name after marriage is a big decision, whether taking your spouse's last name, hyphenating, or creating a new last name. Yet it need not overwhelm you.
This quick and easy guide will show you how to complete the marriage name change process with precision and in proper order. Get ready to change your last name with confidence.
Authorization to legally change your name
Legally changing your name after your wedding is a hefty legal task. So focus on bite-sized chunks. Begin with a new social security card. Then a new driver's license. Persist.
There are three prevalent name change events:
- Court order
And each has a related legal name change document:
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree (with restored name order)
- Court order (with name change order)
The name change process using your marriage certificate works the same when using a decree of dissolution or judge's order, which decrees or orders your name changed.
Civil union and domestic partnership name changes use the same process as changing your name by marriage—using their comparable certified documents.
Name change through the marriage process
If your marriage certificate says your new last name will be XYZ, you may only shift to that name. Otherwise, pick whichever last name you decide works best, within acceptable limits.
Within acceptable limits refers to default social security rules for surnames:
- Take your spouse's last name.
- Hyphenate your last names (or use a space).
- Take half of your spouse's hyphenated last name.
You may also replace your middle name with your maiden name (or birth last name), alongside changing your last name. Or add another name to your middle name.
Tip: If you want to change your name without reading this detailed (yet well-written 😉) guide, our secure online name change kit is a great time-saver.
Is name change after marriage automatic?
Your last name will not automatically change after you get married. There are legal steps and forms to fill out. You must alert multiple government offices to make it legit.
Likewise, your name will not revert or switch by itself after divorcing or completing a formal name change petition. You must put in the work.
So if you plan to change your name after marriage, get ready to review your name change checklist, sorted by priority.
The name change process begins now…
1. Get your marriage certificate
The first step to changing your last name is to get your marriage certificate. This is one of your most important legal name change documents. You cannot move forward without it.
You can use an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate to change your name after marriage among government agencies.
But you must apply for a marriage license to get a certificate. New England states, NY, and NJ, visit your city or town clerk. Others, see your county clerk's office or county courthouse.
Either you or your officiant must return your completed license to the issuing office for recording after your wedding. Get your certified certificates from the same office.
Marriage license vs. marriage certificate
People often mix up the marriage license and certificate. But there is a key difference:
- Your marriage license allows you to marry.
- Your marriage certificate proves your marriage occurred.
Depending on where you live, your marriage license and certificate may be the same document; only the status shifts after your ceremony takes place.
Get your marriage certificate as soon as possible
You can get certified copies of your marriage certificate delivered straight to your mailbox; just preorder copies when you apply to get married. Yet a quicker way exists…
Many couples assume only their officiant may send back their marriage license. Not true. You may return your own marriage license after getting married.
You may obtain your marriage certificate fastest if you:
- Return your marriage license in person.
- Get certified copies before leaving the clerk's office.
One certified copy of your marriage certificate will cost between $5 and $25. Fees each state levies vary. Yet most hover around $20. (They will often discount extra copies.)
Consider getting no less than three certified copies of your marriage certificate. This saves time when changing your name across multiple entities.
2. Update your social security card
Your name change becomes legal once you update the name on your social security card through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
You can view our extensive social security name change guide, which covers filing options, identity documents, name change possibilities, turnaround times, etc.
In short, submit SS-5 by mail or in person with a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and proof of ID and citizenship (e.g., birth certificate). Your new card will show in 7–14 days.
Your local social security office will mail back any ID, certificate, or personal document included with your paperwork. They will get delivered before your new card.
Your updated social security card will print your new full name, but your social security number (SSN) will not change.
3. Update the IRS
The SSA will alert the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of your name change. File your tax returns in your new last name to avoid delays in processing and refunds.
You must mail IRS Form 8822 if your "home mailing address" changed. Note prior names for both you and your spouse. You need not attach proof of name change or photo ID.
4. Update your driver's license or state ID card
Note: We will use DMV as shorthand for your state's Department of Motor Vehicles office. State acronyms vary—e.g., BMV, RMV, SOS—but their offices are equivalent.
You must first update your name with the Social Security Administration before changing your name on your driver's license, REAL ID, state-issued ID card, or learner's permit.
You cannot change the name on your driver's license by mail or online. Complete this corrective renewal at your local DMV. And factor in potential deadlines.
Come prepared to take a new photo and pay a renewal or reissue fee. Bring cash or a personal check. Offices accepting credit card payments may add a surcharge.
On May 3, 2023, the oft-delayed REAL ID deadline goes into effect, requiring adult air travelers to own a REAL ID compliant driver's license, enhanced driver's license (EDL), or other valid ID to fly within the United States.
Documents needed by the DMV
Bring your current driver's license, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and proof of residence (e.g., utility bill, bank statement) to change your name with the DMV.
You will need to show proof of your full SSN, such as a:
- Social security card
- Pay stub
- W-2, or
- 1099 tax form
The DMV will not keep your certificate, but may retain your old license and issue you a temporary ID. Your new license will arrive by mail.
You do not need to bring a social security office receipt of services rendered.
SSA to DMV verification (mind the 24 hour gap)
The DMV will confirm your name change with the SSA Online Verification System (OVS) by querying their database. This search requires your SSN.
Wait at least 24 hours between your social security card and driver's license name change. This gives the SSA database time to propagate new data before getting queried.
The new name on your new driver's license must agree with your SSA "Numident" record. This explains why your SS name change precedes your DL name change.
You can visit the DMV to update your license without waiting for your new social security card to arrive.
5. Update your car title and registration
You must update your vehicle title and registration when your name or address changes. You can often complete this process online, by mail, or by filling out papers at the DMV.
The procedure for car title and registration changes varies across states. You should consult your state's DMV website for precise details.
At a minimum, you must hand in your current vehicle title. Both your new title and registration should arrive by mail within a few weeks. Your title should come last.
Revising your vehicle title and registration is not a DMV role in every state. Most states assign this task to an approved license plate agency.
6. Update your passport
You may change the name on your U.S. passport with the U.S. Department of State before, during, or after changing your name with the SSA or DMV.
There are two feasible passport name change scenarios:
- Change the name on your current passport.
- Get your first ever passport under your married name.
Choosing the right passport application
There are three core passport forms (DS-5504, DS-82, and DS-11) and one conditional (DS-62). The upcoming three subsections will explain which one you should fill out.
But, first, three vital notes…
If you have a passport, forfeit it with your completed form. You will get your old passport back by mail, albeit voided with a hole punched through or stamped "cancelled" inside.
For all filings, attach a certified copy of your marriage certificate as proof of name change, requisite payments, and a recent 2-by-2-inch color headshot.
Pay by check or money order. Payable to "U.S. Department of State." File at a U.S. embassy or consulate if outside the U.S or Canada; both accept credit cards and exact cash.
Now, onto the forms…
Which date was your passport issued?
A. Issued less than one year ago
Mail DS-5504 with your current passport if it got issued less than a year ago. This application offers filings free of cost. There is no book, card, or processing fee.
B. Issued between one and 15 years ago
Mail DS-82 with your current passport if it got issued between one and 15 years ago. The passport book costs $130. The passport card costs $30. You may get either or both.
C: Issued over 15 years ago, lost, destroyed, or first-time
- Over 15 years old
- Damaged, or
- Nonexistent, since this will be your first passport
You may get a passport book for $130, passport card for $30, or both for $160. The acceptance facility will charge a $35 execution fee to process your application.
You must attach DS-64 to DS-11 if your passport becomes lost, stolen, or damaged. This combo is required regardless of your passport age.
Passport processing times
Routine passport turnaround time is 7 to 10 weeks (application received to delivery by USPS Priority Mail). Adding $60 expedited processing drops the wait to 4 to 6 weeks.
If you need to travel right away, urgent or emergency travel options exist. Urgent means within 14 calendar days. Emergency means within 72 hours.
Traveling under your maiden or married name
The name on your passport and airline tickets must match when you leave the United States. This detail may get overlooked during the wedding and honeymoon rush.
If you cannot get a new passport before departing, book your plane tickets under your maiden name. You can update the name on your passport when you get back.
If you cannot alter your boarding pass to match your new passport, show the airline your marriage certificate linking your old and new name.
7. Update your bank accounts
Steps to update your legal name differ across financial institutions. Your bank or credit union may let you change your name online, by mail, by phone, or in-person visit.
Show proof of name change, such as a marriage certificate, or a new social security card, driver's license, passport, military ID card, or government-issued photo ID card.
It is possible your bank may request both a marriage certificate and updated photo ID showing your married name.
Expect to at least supply your old and updated name, account numbers, and IRS W-9 Tax Identification Number (TIN).
Your TIN is a:
- Social security number (SSN)
- Individual tax identification number (ITIN), or
- Employer identification number (EIN) (for businesses)
When updating your name at a local bank branch, bring certified or original documents. Photocopies or scans are often fine for mailed or uploaded online filings.
Specify if you need new:
- Deposit slips
- Credit and debit cards
You may order new checks any time online from either your bank's website or a third-party check provider. (This could serve as your first official name conversion.)
If you ask, various banks may let you keep cashing, depositing, and writing checks in your old and new name. They may have you sign two signature cards.
8. Update your credit cards
You should update the name on your credit cards to match the name on your social security record. Your marriage certificate can serve as proof of name change.
You may make account changes by calling the customer service number on the back of your credit card or visiting a nearby branch location. (Assuming one exists.)
The process varies per creditor. Some allow you to change your name by phone, mail, fax, online chat, official mobile app, or online account area.
Various credit card issuers may allow the display name on your card to differ from your new legal name. For example, you could continue using your maiden name.
The three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—will automatically update the name on your credit report once you change your name on one or more credit cards. (No need for you to contact them.)
9. Update your employers and HR
Notify the Human Resources (HR) department where you work that you have legally changed your name. HR must update payroll records to equal what the SSA has on file.
The IRS requires your name match between your social security card, W-2, and W-4, for payroll taxes. Your marital status may impact employer-based health insurance and W-4 allowances.
Inform HR if you have opened a new joint bank account with your spouse to ensure direct depositing of your wages proceed without interruption.
Ask your employer for a corrected W-2 if your issued W-2 shows your old name. The IRS may intervene on your behalf if a current or former employer does not comply.
10. Update your name with the USPS
You should alert the United States Postal Service (USPS) if you have changed both your name and mailing address to set up and schedule mail forwarding.
Filing separate requests in your maiden name and married name is key. (Plus every other prior name you have held.) See our USPS name change guide for instructions.
11. Update your voter registration information
You may change the name on your voter registration by mail using the downloadable, federal National Mail Voter Registration Form. (It supports 21 languages.)
U.S. citizens living in the country (or with a U.S. address) may use this document in four ways:
- Register to vote.
- Report a name change.
- Report an address change.
- Register with a political party.
Caveats: This document will neither work in Wyoming nor North Dakota; WY law blocks it, while ND does not register voters.
12. Update or notify everyone else
After you change your last name on legal documents, deal with these key leftovers:
- Business documents (e.g., DBA, LLC, corporate charter)
- Business relationships (e.g., attorneys, accountants)
- Clients, customers, and vendors
- Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and therapists
- Email accounts (name and signature) (e.g., Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook)
- Gym memberships
- Insurance policies (e.g., auto, home, dental, life, health)
- Mailbox services (e.g., PO Box, PMB)
- Mobile apps (bio or profile name)
- Mortgages, deeds, and leases
- Payment services (e.g., PayPal, Venmo, Zelle)
- Professional licenses and degrees
- Retirement and investment accounts (e.g., 401(k), IRA)
- Ridesharing profiles (drivers and riders) (e.g., Uber, Lyft)
- Schools (yours and your children's)
- Social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, TikTok)
- Streaming profiles (e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+)
- Trusted Traveler Programs (e.g., Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, SENTRI, NEXUS)
- Utility companies (e.g., gas, electric, water, phone, cable, Internet)
- Wholesale retailers (e.g., Sam's Club, Costco, BJ's)
- Wills and powers of attorney (POA)
Create a list of who else to update about your new last name by reviewing your email inbox and sent folder, phone contacts, and postal mail pile.
After getting married, many couples want to change their name. It is not as hard as you may think. Your marriage certificate is your name change checklist starting point.
If you want an easy way to make these changes, consider using our name change kit. It can streamline the time-consuming process of changing your name after marriage.
We hope this article helped you understand the steps needed to make your name change possible. If you have questions, ask us in the comments section below.