Groom Duties

How To Change Your Name

Changing your name may be a simple 15-minute process you complete right after you get married or a months-long marathon of form-filling, court appearances—possibly even taking ads out in the newspaper. Fret not, though: Here’s everything you need to know about legally changing your name.

How to Legally Change Your Name after Marriage (for Most Brides)

As you fantasize about your wedding day, you may find yourself imagining a scene in which you enter the reception hand-in-hand with your new wife, your favorite song playing over the sound system—then going quiet when an announcement is made over the sound system: “Now presenting Mr. and Mrs….”

Historically, brides took grooms’ last names as a sign that they had become part of their husband’s family (i.e., they were no longer the financial responsibility of their father and mother). Now, a woman taking on the man’s last name is less a show of property transference as it is a deliberate gesture of love and devotion. Though several alternatives to the traditional name change have gained traction in the last few decades, it’s still the most popular option for women—nearly 80% of married women take their husband’s last name.

With popularity comes at least some level of convenience. Changing your last name after marriage is a relative breeze (if you’re female). Here’s how: 

Get Copies of Your Marriage License

You’ll need a certified copy of your marriage license to bring or send to the Social Security Administration office for your new Social Security card, to send in with your application for an updated passport, and to take to the DMV to get your new driver’s license. Avoid the possibility of being without your marriage certificate by requesting several copies from the clerk’s office—if you didn’t when you filed, that is.

“You can send several applications for your name change at once,” name change service provider missnowmrs.com founder Danielle Tate advises, “Rather than waiting to get your original back from each agency or, worse, losing it, get 2-3 certified copies.”

Apply for a New Social Security Card

Your Social Security benefits—the money you get from the 35 years of contributions you’ve made via paycheck deductions—are tied to your Social Security number (SSN). Your SSN doesn’t change when you change your name, but if you fail to notify the Social Security Administration about your name change, the W-2 forms you receive in the future may be incorrectly recorded—and that could delay or even reduce the amount you get back when you eventually retire.

To get a new Social Security card, fill out the Application for a Social Security Card form and either mail it or take it in to the nearest Social Security office along with your marriage license (or a certified copy) and your U.S. driver’s license, U.S. State-issued non-driver identity card, or passport. If you mail it in, expect your new card to arrive within 10 days. Go in person and you should have it within a day, though it could require a bit of waiting in lines. And it’s free.

Update Your Passport

Heads up, future honeymooners: Don’t book your honeymoon travel with her maiden name, advises Tate. If you need a passport when you arrive at your destination, give yourself some extra time between getting your wedding certificate and jetting off to paradise—it can take as much as 6 weeks to get a new passport. Alternatively, find a spot that doesn’t require a passport—like Hawaii—but take a copy of your marriage certificate to verify your new name matches what’s on your tickets. Otherwise…

If your current passport was issued within the past year, you can update (that is, “correct”) your passport for free. Otherwise, you’ll need a new passport book which costs $110—more if you’re in a rush and have to pay an expedite fee. All passport changes must be applied for by mail. You will need:

–        a completed online application via the US Department of State’s website’s Passport Wizard
–        a certified copy of your marriage certificate
–        your current passport
–        a check payable to “US Department of State” for $110 with your full name and date of birth typed or printed on the front
–        a 2×2-inch color photograph of yourself that meets passport photo requirements

Cost: $0-$110

Have a Global Entry card?

Once you’ve received your new passport, take it to an Enrollment Center to update your account information. A new card with your updated info costs $25, but isn’t necessary—you can use your old one so long as your name is updated in your account.

Cost: $0-$25

Have a TSA PreCheck Card?

Call 855-347-8371, then follow the prompts to speak to someone about PreCheck inquiries. You’ll get an email address where you can send a scanned copy of your marriage certificate so they can begin processing the change.

Inform Your Employer of Your New Name

Telling your boss, HR, and the payroll department that your name has changed is more than a courtesy—it’s a safeguard against missed or delayed paychecks and messed up Social Security.

Cost: free

Change Your Name at the DMV

Once you’ve received your new Social Security card, it’s likely time to visit the DMV—unfortunately, many states such as California require make the name change in person. The process and requirements vary from state-to-state, so go to dmv.org’s Address & Name Change page and click on “Name Change” for your location’s procedure. California’s Name Change page, for example, lists these steps for getting your driver’s license updated.

How to change your name on your California driver’s license or ID:

–        Bring your old driver’s license and the original or certified copy of your marriage certificate
–        Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application (currently unavailable online)
–        Give your thumbprint
–        Have your photo taken
–        Surrender your old license
–        Pay the fee, $28 for a driver’s license, $30 for an ID card

Cost: $28-30

For California, you don’t need to necessarily provide your new Social Security card, but having it with you is a good idea if you’re planning to go soon after receiving it—occasionally the Social Security database is slow to update and the DMV may not be able to access your new information online.

How to change your name on your New York driver’s license or ID:

Complete an Application for Driver License or Non-Driver ID Card (PDF download)

–        Bring your old driver’s license and the original or certified copy of your marriage certificate
–        Surrender your old license
–        Pay the fee, $13 for a driver’s license, $5 for an ID card

Cost: $5-13

How to change your name on your vehicle title and registration:

Once you’ve secured your new driver’s license, you need to update your vehicle title and registration records (if you own a car). In California, for instance, updating your title and registration can be done in person at the DMV or by mail. You’ll need your original vehicle title with your new name printed above your old name and a completed registration/title application. If you do not have your original title and need a duplicate showing your new name, you’ll need to fill out a different form and pay a duplicate title fee.

Cost: varies, possibly free

Change Your Name at the Bank

Your bank accounts should be updated with your new name, especially if you’re going in on a joint account with your new spouse or have one set up already. You can easily change your name on your accounts by visiting a bank branch where they may request a copy of your marriage certificate. Depending on your bank, you may get free checks and debit cards or you may be charged fees for them.

Change Your Name On Your Credit Cards

After you’ve changed your name with the SSA, DMV, and your bank, you should update your credit cards with your new information. Most credit card companies provide self-service options online. Alternatively, you can call the numbers on the backs of your cards to reach customer service representatives who help.

Change Your Name With…

Going forward, the process of completing your name change is simple, if time-consuming. Here are some of the institutions and professionals who should be informed of your new name either online, via email, or over the phone:

post office
– electric and other utility companies
– schools and alumni associations
– landlord or mortgage company
– insurance companies (auto, home, life)
– doctors’ offices
– voter registration office (check usa.gov’s Election Office finder for yours)
– investment account providers
– your lawyer (to update legal documents, including your will)
– airlines (to transfer over your miles)
– IRS (use IRS form 8822)
– gym membership
– social media

Cost: generally free

Total cost of name change after marriage: $28-$186+

Name Change Alternatives to Taking Your Spouse’s Last Name

Traditional may work for most folks, but there are other ways to recognize your new married status with a less common name change:

–        Both last names without a hyphen
–        Both last names with a hyphen
–        Maiden name as second middle name
–        Replace middle name with maiden name
–        Combine last names (California): “If you’re a Greenberg and she’s a Goldwich, she could be a Greenwich—just make sure it’s on your marriage certificate,” Tate says.

Changing Your Name After Marriage (for Grooms and Some Brides)

The process of changing your name can be fairly involved and may include filing a petition in court, taking out a newspaper ad to publicize your petition (to ensure you’re not changing your name to throw the IRS and FBI off your trail), and notifying any individuals who would be affected by the name change.

Tate recommends legalzoom.com’s $139 Name Change service to husbands and more complicated name changes for women—hyphenating last names, for instance, isn’t as simple as taking the husband’s last name in many states. Even with this service, though, you’ll still need to pay the petition filing fee and for the newspaper ad. The filing fee for the name change petition varies by state: it’s $65 in New York City; $150 in Massachusetts; $200 in New Jersey; $435 in California.

Cost: Variable

There are nine states that recognize a man’s right to change his name after marriage. They are:

–        California
–        Georgia
–        Hawaii
–        Iowa
–        Illinois
–        Louisiana
–        Massachusetts
–        New York
–        North Dakota

For these states, the process of changing your name is the same as your wife’s—just make sure to include your new name on your marriage certificate.

How to Change Your Name Online

It is possible to change your name online—mostly. Hitchswitch streamlines the process by providing and filling out the required paperwork on your bride’s behalf. She’ll still need to sign and send the forms off as well as make the dreaded trip to the DMV, but for $29 you can get the Print At Home Package which will save your wife as much as 13 hours of form-filling; for $69, Hitchswitch will print and send the forms to you for her signature—pre-stamped envelopes included.

As you have likely figured out, there is no official hooray when it comes to changing your name. A new Social Security card is the closest you can get to an official recognition of your new name, your new driver’s license and new passport further proof of your updated identity. But you’ll invariably receive junk mail addressed to your old name—all the more reason to get on a Do Not Mail list.

Bottom Line

This is a gigantic process that can be crazy complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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