How To Change Your Last Name
The traditional way to most officially become a Mrs.
There are two types of brides reading this article; brides whose weddings are a few months away and brides who are now newlyweds, perhaps a couple months in.
The former are the starry-eyed, slightly panicked ones, the ones who are nailing down last minute details like flowers, bridesmaids gifts, the getaway car, hotel reservations for the wedding night, etc.), and they've realized that they actually don't know what the legal process of changing their last name to their honey's is like. They're being proactive in their research! The latter is (hopefully) in a dazed sort of happiness, maybe a little stressed as they adjust to married life but mostly thrilled that their big day was so much fun and that they get to spend forever with the love of their life, sharing everything...and then they realize that they really do want to get around to the name change process so they can officially share that, too!
Whichever bride you are, you've come to the right place - Kadlee knows exactly how to do it, and we'll tell you! But first, three things to keep in mind.
Number one, you don't have to adopt your husband's last name fully. It's the traditional route, but it's 2019, and many brides are opting to keep their maiden name or hyphenate (if you're hyphenating you'll still have to change it, though). We're assuming you're reading this because you want to, so we won't belabor the point, and we are pro-whatever-you-and-your-husband-want-to-do, but keeping your name doesn't make you any less legally married!
Number two, we recommend staying away from any apps or websites that promise to do this for you, like hitchswitch - even though it was recommended by The Knot. We've done our homework... most married ladies say that the process isn't as hard or expensive as you've heard, and that the only thing websites/apps does, for a fee, provide you with the documents that you can get yourself for free. It's time consuming either way, but it's not as bad as you might think, so just buckle down and do it yourself! Save those pennies for an anniversary vacation or that one item on the registry you secretly really wanted but no one bought.
Number three, state laws vary, so, this process might look different for everyone. If you have a criminal record, in some states it might take longer....if you haven't been living in the state for a certain amount of time, you can't change your name until you've established residency....etc, etc. So just be prepared for the fact that your state may make it harder
Step #1 – Verify residency requirements
There's no point in doing the rest of the steps yet if it turns out you have to wait a year to change your name, which, unfortunately, may be the case - if you just got married in your childhood hometown in Tennessee and then moved to North Carolina for your new job, for example, you probably can't change your last name right away. You can contact the local county court clerk's office to find out, or google it, or you can find your state's law here!
Step #2 – Gather documentation
If you're ready to start the process, find your Social Security card, valid birth certificate, driver's license, and especially your marriage certificate & license (with the raised seal), and passport, if you have one, and put them all in the same place (a folder or something secure where you won't lose them; you should keep these for a few years just in case something happens and you need to prove that you once had a different name!)
*Important: please don't misplace the marriage license. It'll make the whole ordeal less of an ordeal. There's no time limit on changing your name, and you can get another marriage license, but it's just a headache so avoid it by being responsible and getting a folder!
Step #3 – Change your Social Security card
Go to the Social Security Administration's website and fill out the application for a new card (you'll still keep the same number!) You can mail in your application, and they'll send you a new card within a couple weeks.
*Note: you will have to provide your old driver's license information, but don't get confused, this is okay!
Step #4– Change your Driver's License
This is the part everyone hates, but it's just part of the process! Go to the DMV and bring your document folder (you should have everything just in case they ask for it - there's nothing worse than having to make two DMV trips on the same day), but especially your new Social Security card, your current license, and your marriage certificate, and two forms of proof of residence (depending on your state). We recommend visiting their website or calling them to avoid making multiple trips!
*Note: While you're there, change the car registration, too, and save yourself time.
Those are the major ones! After that, there are more loose ends to tie up, but if you've done steps 1-4, you can officially officially consider yourself "Mrs. Whatever-His-Last-Name is".
Here are the other loose ends, some more important than others! Some we gave directions on, but for most, it's as simple as just contacting the people in charge with a phone call:
- Bank account (especially important if you have a joint account). All you have to do is go into the bank branch with your marriage certificate and new driver's license, let them know the account name needs to be changed, and get new checks/debit cards with your new moniker.
- Passport (this actually may be more important, especially if you're traveling soon). Just visit travel.gov and follow the directions on form submission!
- Legal documents and wills
- Voter registration
- Credit card
- Utility companies
- Post office
- Employer (for tax purposes... just visit HR and they'll set you on your way!)