How to Get Through the Name Change Procedure

Hello My Name Is (Blank) Sticker

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.

If you would like to change your name online, you can make use of our name change application to complete the required forms.

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 updating 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)!

Do you plan to change your name?

Our online name change kit makes it easy.

Get Started

964 Comments

  1. Norah

    Hi. How many copies of my marriage certificate do I need to get? I mean certified copies. Can I just get one and use that for everything?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How many copies of my marriage certificate do I need to get?

      You'll need to get at least one. It has to be a certified copy or your original. Photocopies won't do for the majors (e.g., SSA, passport). When you send out your original, they'll mail it back to you after processing. So you won't end up losing it or having to acquire another one. For other organizations, such as your bank, a photocopy will suffice.

      The downside of getting only one copy is that you'll have to change your name one institution at a time, which'll increase the turnaround time. It's nothing really major, as it's still a quick process, but it's something to keep in mind if you're on a timeline.

      Reply
    2. elizabeth wilson

      when I divorced for the 3rd time, I had to jump through many hoops to change everything back to my maiden name. It took 6 trips to dmv because they didn't tell me I needed to get certified copies of all marriages and divorces to show all my last names.
      I had to show my ssCard which I didn't have. I had to send for my birth ceritifcate proving my name was "so and so", but luckily I had all my certified copies except for the last but anyway, dmv knew id made many trips back and fourth and they accepted all my forms. I just remarried recently but I think I'm gonna keep my maiden name for a while.

      Reply
  2. Christina

    I'm still a bit confused about what parts exactly of the name changing process this service helps with. You listed a lot of possible things that may need a name change and I'm wondering if I could get a better idea of which ones can be done with the service and which I'll have to do in person? Another question I have is will I need to change my name on credit cards that have went into collections if I'm including them when I file for bankruptcy? Thanks for all the great info, it's making this task seem slightly less overwhelming.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Christine. You can learn about what's covered on the get started page. You can update the name on your credit cards that are going into collection using a provided form letter, but it's worth contacting your bankruptcy attorney to see if they think it's necessary and worth the effort.

      However you decide to complete your name change, it's advisable to update your record with the SSA first and then follow-up with your various the financial institutions. Such requests can be done in writing when supplemented with a copy of your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  3. Blanca

    Hi my name is Blanca and I have been married for over a year now. we were married in Virginia and have moved since to Florida I'm going to Virginia for Christmas this year (2014) and was wondering if I should go and change my name On the Marriage certificate to start off? While I'm up there? ?

    sincerely, Blanca

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Blanca. Name changes on marriage certificates aren't typically allowed unless there's a mistake on it.

      Reply
  4. Kelsey

    When I mail in my Social Security paper for the name change, will a photo copy of my marriage certificate be sufficient?

    Reply
  5. Linda ruvalcaba

    Hi. I love in Georgia and got married 3 years ago. When I got married I told the officiant that I wanted to hyphenate my last name to add my husband's last name. However, I never changed anything. My husband asked me to update all of my documents to reflect my new hyphenated name recently. I was reading in to see what I needed, and I pulled out my marriage license and marriage certificate today and realized that EVERYTHING only says my first and maiden name. Nothing reflects my name as I wanted it to appear, hyphenated. At this point I wanted to drop my last name and just take on his, but nothing shows his last name as mine. It's almost as if I never got married. My name is Linda Ruvalcaba and his is Rene Heredia. I I requested my name to appear as Linda Ruvalcaba Heredia. But I just realized both the marriage license and certificate only say Linda Ruvalcaba! I'm devastated, what can I do to fix this because I know it's going to be an issue if I go to SSN and DMV to get new id's. I would really appreciate you feedback.
    Thank you!:)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Linda. You should be fine. The marriage certificate serves as proof of marriage, which allows you to change your name. Just take it with you to process your preferred name change, as you normally would.

      Reply
  6. Melissa

    I keep reading that I have to have my new name in some sort of publication for 5 weeks, is this true if I only want to take on my husband's name? Also we have been married for years and now I have decided to take on his name, will that be an issue?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Melissa. You can read further about publishing a name change notice in your local newspaper. But, since you're opting for a basic, marriage-based name change, you don't have to go that route. Acquire a certified copy of your marriage certificate to serve as the document that will facilitate your name change.

      Reply
  7. sherri Griswold

    I can go to my local clerk of court to get a certified copy even if I was married in a different county within the same state

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sherri. You have to get your certified copy from the county where the marriage took place. By the way, you don't have to travel in-person to your county clerk's office — you can order a certified copy of your marriage certificate by mail. They will charge a fee though, which is typically reasonable.

      Reply
  8. Youri

    I live in New York and I am planning on turning my maiden name into my middle name and taking my (future) husband's surname. However I am planning to do this after our honeymoon. I am confused because New York gives you the option of changing your surname when you apply for the marriage license, but does not let you change your middle name with this application. Should I put the surname change in the license application, or should I keep my maiden name there and change everything (with SSA, DMV, etc.) after the honeymoon?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Youri. When submitting your application, you can go ahead place your new surname choice in the provided space. New York doesn't provide the option of switching maiden with middle, although some folks have asserted creative ways to make it work.

      Reply
  9. Anita Nathan

    I was divorce and remarried and when I applied for the license I told the clerk drop my first husband name and use only my maiden name along with my now husband and he used my the name from my previous mariage and put it in front of my maiden name. How do I correct this

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Anita. You can try returning to the clerk and request it be amended or reissued, citing their mistake.

      Reply
  10. Jill Nailon

    I'm trying to change my ss card online, they said they need the originals of my marriage license, DL, and birth certificate. How do I get an original copy of my DL to send to them? Obviously, I can not send my actual DL, I'll need it.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jill. You can submit in person by locating the SSA office closest to you.

      Reply
  11. Carol

    When I got married, I did not include my husbands name as my newly legal name on the marriage certificate (in San Mateo County, CA). Do I need to get a name change (via the courts) in order to change my name to my husband's name? or can I just go the SSN/DMV offices with a certified copy of my marriage certificate to change? Thanks in advance for your help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Carol. While you may not face difficulty with the SSA, you may with the DMV looking to apply such a standard.

      Reply
  12. Cierra

    If I change my last name on my marriage certificate do I have to legally change my name on all other documents?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Cierra. No, it's optional. You can choose not to change your name.

      Reply
      1. Amanda

        I had the same questions. Will I had issues in the future if my marriage license says a different name than my legal one that I never ended up changing? Thank you, this website has been very useful.

        Reply
  13. Taylor

    Hello!

    My fiancee and I are planning on going and getting married 2 years prior to our actual ceremony, and don't really want to inform anyone else about it. We have already agreed upon a name that we want to legally change our names to, but do we have to do all of this name changing documentation right when we get our marriage license. Can we put it off for two years, or do we need to do it right away? I really want to go ahead and put the name we want in the future on the marriage certificate because I don't feel like we can go back and change our mines later. Any advice would be appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can we put it off for two years, or do we need to do it right away?

      Sure, you can put off changing your names until later.

      Reply
  14. Stephanie Garcia

    Hello my question is, do I really have to change my last name to my husband last name? On my marriage license has only my husband last name. I don't know if it's a requirement to do so. We just got married 5 months ago.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      do I really have to change my last name to my husband last name?

      No. It's completely optional.

      Reply
  15. Meena Salama

    Hello, my fiancée and I have applied for a marriage license but her last name on the certificate is her maiden name, she is planning to change her last name to mine. My question is does her name on the certificate need to match the name she wants or can she still just use the marriage certificate as proof to change her name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Typically, it serving as proof of marriage is sufficient, but some states (such as California) want the name on the certificate to match the eventual name change.

      Reply
  16. Ethan

    Hello, I have a question so I'll do my best to sum this one up for asking. A bit complex, at least to me lol.

    So my wife and I have been married for nearly 5 years, we both never really took each others last names but on the certificate it lists her taking mine. I don't know why but out of the blue I really wanted to take my wife's last name instead. So I guess you can say this is the instance in which I wish a time machine were invented so I could go back and tell myself to take her maiden last name.

    Will this be a problem in changing my last name now? I currently reside in Florida, in the Coast Guard full active duty. And full Florida Resident. We got married in Lake Tahoe, CA.

    Is there a website in which I could order all the paperwork or something? Thanks a million! :D

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ethan. You would have to petition the court to take your wife's name.

      Reply
  17. Christine

    Hi there – I just read through all of the questions to see if mine was asked already, but my case is a bit different so didn't see it covered here. I was married in Oklahoma 6 years ago, and did not intend to change my name, so only my first, middle, and maiden is listed on my marriage license. Now, 6 years later I want to change to my husband's last name in the state of Virginia and had a few questions:
    – is my marriage license with my maiden name sufficient to change my surname after this much time?
    – is it possible to have a (non-hyphenated) double last night with my maiden and spouse's last name, or – if I still want to hang on to my maiden name somewhere – would it be better to add my maiden name to my middle name instead?
    – once a SSN is changed to a new name, is this sufficient proof to change other identification documents that might have different standards (e.g. marriage license must state married name, etc)?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      is my marriage license with my maiden name sufficient to change my surname after this much time?

      Yes, you can still change your name after several years have passed. You'll want to get a certified copy of your Oklahoma marriage certificate though.

      is it possible to have a (non-hyphenated) double last night with my maiden and spouse's last name

      Double-barreled surnames are possible, but you'll still want to contact a driver's license office to confirm if they'll recognize and apply it.

      or – if I still want to hang on to my maiden name somewhere – would it be better to add my maiden name to my middle name instead?

      That's a viable option. See the maiden to middle name article for further information.

      once a SSN is changed to a new name, is this sufficient proof to change other identification documents that might have different standards

      It primarily impacts your driver's license. The driver's license office may query the SSA database for a name match before processing a name change on their end. For other documents, you'll use your marriage certificate as proof.

      Reply
  18. Stephanie Jackson

    I am trying to change back to maiden name, but i dont have a copy of my original marriage license. Do i teally need it to change my name back?

    Reply
  19. Lisa

    Hello…I've been married for 3 months now, and have not changed any documents except my health insurance card, as I joined his. On our Marriage license I opted for the drop your middle name, use the last name and added his surname. I felt like that was the least painful, and since I have grown kids, would like to keep the last name the same as theirs. I honestly don't want to lose my name, change everything, and it's stressing me out, wondering if I'm going to get into some kind of trouble, later!! What would happen if I DONT change all of my IDs, bank account, car title, house title?? Is it legal to use that surname only for some things but not for others?? If something happens to my spouse, would I have trouble proving I'm his wife?? HELLLLP!! Lisa

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisa. Name change is optional. As long as you use your actual legal name on legal documents/context, you'll be fine.

      Reply
  20. Mika

    Hi! I got married in 2011 and left the NEW NAME on marriage certificate blank. In short I did not change my name. Now, I want to have my husband's last name, so I want it from
    FIRST MIDDLE MAIDEN to
    FIRST MAIDEN HUSBAND'SLASTNAME.

    I went to SS office, showed them my marriage certificate and they had no problem changing my records. Now I went to DMV (I live in CA) and they did not accept my marriage certificate saying it was too old. They said I have to have my records changed (or that blank filled up). Should I have to go to court??

    I was thinking too, maybe I should change my name first in my military ID (husband's in the Navy) and then go back to DMV for a new card. Do you think they would accept that? Because I've checked their website and it's stated that I only have to show them a document with my new name. Would really appreciate your help.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mika. Contact the DMV to determine if your updated military ID and/or updated social security card would be an accepted document. They said you could try to have your certificate modified to fill the blank space? You could give that a try, but amendments to such records are typically not allowed unless it's a clerical error. Contact your county clerk for guidance about having it changed. If none of that works, then you're likely looking at having to go to court.

      Reply
  21. Keri

    I got married in NYC and did not opt to change my name at that time. My marriage license listed my maiden name and my husbands name. I live in New Jersey and I am not ready to change my name at the Social Security office. Will they accept my husband's last name, even though I did not legally change it at the time of marriage in New York?

    Reply
  22. Gessenia

    I got married in Buffalo, NY 3 years ago. My husband has 2 last names cause he was not in Puerto Rico and I only wanted to take his first last name. When I went to fill out the marriage license they told me I had to put both of his last names for legal reasons. When I did my research after I got married I found that info was incorrect. If I try to change my name now with my marriage certificate that shows both my husband's last name will it cause legal issues if I only use his first last name?

    Reply
  23. valerie ornstead

    HI,
    Live in SC and got married in NV. I was wondering if I change my name by hypenating it, do I have to change every document or just DMV and SS? I am assuming that since I will be keeping my last name first-his name that I wont have to change mortgage documents etc

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Valerie. You don't have to update additional documents, although it's generally a good idea to eventually have your remaining documents synced with your new name.

      Reply
  24. Sara

    Hi,

    I am about to get married in NY, and I am moving to PA immediately after the wedding. I'm not sure if I want to change my name yet and if I were to change it I'm not sure what I would change it too (ie. hyphenate or use just his). If I keep my maiden name for now and change my mind in a few months can I change it then? Would a NY marriage license without the name change listed suffice to do all the paperwork in PA?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I keep my maiden name for now and change my mind in a few months can I change it then?

      Yes, you can change it later. There isn't a time limit attached to changing your name.

      Would a NY marriage license without the name change listed suffice to do all the paperwork in PA?

      Yes, your NY marriage certificate would be usable.

      Reply
  25. sandra

    Hi,

    Just to clarify. I know you mentioned that a marriage license once it has been signed by the officiant and returned, is technically considered the certificate. Is this correct? I live in the state of Texas. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Also, do you recommend going to the SSA office or the DMV first? Or does it really matter which one is done first?

    Thank you!
    Sandra

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I know you mentioned that a marriage license once it has been signed by the officiant and returned, is technically considered the certificate. Is this correct?

      In some regions, that is the case. The document can be the same. It's just the status that changes. The document returned to you following the marriage ceremony is what's considered your certificate.

      Also, do you recommend going to the SSA office or the DMV first? Or does it really matter which one is done first?

      SSA first, just in case the DMV queries their database for a name match/mismatch.

      Reply

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