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In today’s world, changing your last name after your wedding can feel less like a “must-do” and more like a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong way to proceed, but many couples look forward to taking the leap because it confirms the united front of their marriage from its very beginning.
“I personally think it symbolizes a union of two people who love each other very much,” expert Colie Christensen says of the decision.
Legally updating your last name admittedly isn’t quite as fun as designing your wedding bouquet or deciding on your signature cocktail, but if you go into the process of understanding what to expect it can be less of a headache. Ahead, we’ve compiled all the necessary steps to changing your last name, including the most important documents to compile, the order in which to handle things, answers to frequently asked questions, and many expert tips for making the cumbersome process a little more streamlined.
Meet the Expert
- Colie Christensen is the founder of NewlyNamed, which offers personalized name change kits that can save hours of time while navigating the name-changing process. She is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- Jamésa Alexander is the founder of Jayne Heir Wedding and Events. She is based in the Washington, D.C., area.
How to Change Your Name in 14 Steps
Make a list of every place your given name appears. It’s time to officially change your last name!
1. File for Your Marriage Certificate
In all the chaos (and the magic!) of the wedding day, it can be easy to overlook completing the legal paperwork—especially if a friend is serving as your wedding officiant or you’re conducting a self-uniting ceremony. But don’t forget to obtain the proper signatures on your marriage license so that you can proceed with the crucial first step of changing your last name: obtaining your marriage certificate.
“The marriage license is the document that provides the couple with authorization to legally wed, but the marriage certificate is the document certifying that a couple is legally married,” explains wedding planner Jamésa Alexander. “It serves as proof of marriage, and is obtained after the license has been filed at the local courthouse of the county in which the couple legally wed.”
It is typically the responsibility of your officiant to file for the marriage certificate. The number of days after the wedding the officiant has to file the certificate varies from state to state, but you’ll want to do it as soon as possible. “I recommend the first business day following the ceremony,” says Alexander. That said, a couple may opt to file for the certificate themselves because it presents a logical opportunity to take on step two in the name-changing process: obtaining certified copies of your marriage certificate.
2. Obtain Certified Copies
Almost everywhere you’ll need to officially change your last name will require proof of your marriage in order to accept the name change. That’s where certified copies of your marriage certificate come in. While the original version of your marriage certificate will likely stay on file with the county you married in, the county can provide you with goverment-issued duplicates that will be accepted by other government entities and financial institutions as official proof of your marriage. These can be purchased through the county clerk’s office where you filed your marriage certificate.
“I recommend obtaining at least three copies of your marriage certificate,” says Alexander. “Keep one copy in a safe place and use two copies for the entities that will need it to update your marital status and name change.”
3. Update Your Social Security Card
Your Social Security number is a unique nine-digit number used for identification and tax purposes. “Every federal and state entity links your identity to your name on file with the Social Security Administration,” says Christensen, so this is the first place you’ll need to update with your new name. “If the name on your SSA records doesn’t match the name you’d like on your new driver’s license, your new driver’s license will be denied. The same goes with your passport.”
You can apply for a new Social Security card by mail or in person. (To find your nearest Social Security office, click here.) If you plan on applying in person, you can expedite the process by filling out the application in advance. There is no charge for updating your Social Security card, but you’ll need to bring the following documents along for the appointment:
- Proof of name change. If you’re simply taking your fiancé(e)’s last name, a certified copy of your marriage certificate will do the trick.
- Proof of citizenship. A valid passport, your birth certificate, or a certified copy of your birth certificate will work.
- Valid photo identification. This can be a driver’s license, unexpired passport, military I.D., or state-issued I.D. card. The I.D. will have your original last name, and that is totally fine.
- Your current Social Security card. (You’ll keep the same number after your card is replaced.)
If you are not a U.S. citizen but will become a permanent U.S. resident after your wedding, this link will provide more information about the documents needed for your next steps in the social security process.
4. Get a New Driver’s License or I.D.
“In order to update your bank account, credit cards, investment accounts, etc., you will most likely need to show a photo I.D. in your new name,” explains Christensen. That’s why, after updating your Social Security card, the next place to change your name is on the form of I.D. you use the most in everyday life. For most people, this is your driver’s license, but a state or military-issued I.D. also works.
Wait at least 24 hours after changing your name with Social Security to change your name on your driver’s license. This will give federal systems enough time to update the change so that it can then be confirmed at the state level. Better yet: wait until you have your new Social Security card in hand so that there can be no questioning it.
Changing your name on your driver’s license must be done in person, so budget time to visit the DMV and, while you’re there, also get a new photo taken. Most states consider a name change to be part of the renewal process, so you’ll want to fill out the license renewal paperwork in advance to save time on your trip. Be sure to bring the following with you to the DMV:
- Your new Social Security card, or your receipt from the Social Security office.
- Proof of address, if required in your state. (This could be a bill or bank statement, insurance documents, a lease, or mortgage documents.)
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate. (This will be returned to you.)
- Multiple options for payment. Some offices do not accept credit cards, so you’ll want to have cash or a checkbook on hand in case.
5. Update Your Passport
If you’ll be heading out on an international honeymoon shortly after the wedding, it’s best to wait until after you’ve returned home from the trip to change your name on your passport. “The I.D. you’re traveling with has to match your boarding pass,” says Christensen. “If you have any travel booked in your given name, you won’t run into any issues as long as the name on your passport matches the name on your airline ticket.”
A name change on a passport is considered a correction, and the change needs to be applied for by mail. Use the U.S. Department of State’s interactive tool to help you select the proper form for your circumstances, then mail the below to the National Passport Processing Center:
- Completed DS-5504 or DS-82 form
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate
- Your current passport
- A check for the fees, if necessary. Make the check payable to “The U.S. Department of State,” and include your full name and date of birth in the memo line on the front of your check.
“If your most recent passport was issued less than 12 months [prior to the requested change], you will be able to update your passport to your new name for free,” says Christensen. “If your passport was issued more than 12 months ago, it will cost you $130.”
6. Update Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Your new passport will come with a new passport number, and you’ll need to provide that number to the Global Entry offices in order for your account to stay valid. Unfortunately, this update cannot be done online, and you will need to visit a local Global Entry Enrollment Center in order to make the change.
After the in-person visit, you will retain your same Global Entry number, which will now be linked to your new passport. If you’d like to receive a new Global Entry card with your new last name, you can order one online through your account, but it is not entirely necessary. (What matters most is the digital data linking your passport number to your Global Entry number.)
“If you receive TSA PreCheck through your Global Entry membership, your TSA PreCheck membership will be updated automatically after you update your name with Global Entry,” says Christensen. If you have TSA PreCheck but not Global Entry, call 855-347-8371 or submit an online query to begin the name change process.
It’s best to change your name on your Social Security card, driver’s license, and passport all at once and back-to-back. To ease stress during the process, wait until after you’ve caught up on any work or personal projects you put on hold during the wedding or honeymoon before tackling these tasks.
7. Change Your Name on Your Bank Account
Each bank will handle this process differently. Some will ask for an in-person appointment, while others may allow you to mail in or upload documents, but they will all require legal proof of your name change. Thankfully, the required supporting documents will be things you’ve already obtained: a certified copy of your marriage certificate, your new Social Security card, your new driver’s license or state-issued I.D., etc. Once the update is complete, be sure to order a new debit card and checks bearing your new last name.
8. Change Your Name on Your Credit Cards
As with banks, different credit card companies will have different processes for updating your new last name, and most will likely request supporting documentation confirming the legal name change. Call the customer service phone number listed on the back of each of your credit cards to determine next steps.
9. Update Your Insurance
To avoid any unintentional lapses in coverage, update all of your insurance policies (home, health, auto, etc.) with your new last name as soon as possible. Different providers will have different procedures, but count on them asking to see your updated I.D. and/or a certified copy of your marriage certificate to validate the claim.
Because marriage is considered a “major life event,” you can be placed on your spouse’s health insurance, or vice versa, without having to wait for an open enrollment period. To avoid any headaches, be sure your name has been legally changed with Social Security and on your driver’s license or state-issued I.D. before combining coverage.
10. Update Major Independent Payments
This includes your mortgage, utility companies (gas, electric, water), car payments, student loans, etc. Most of these updates can be made under your account info in an online portal.
11. Update Your Work HR
“Notify your Human Resources department of your name change so they can update your payroll and employer-sponsored benefits programs such as health insurance and 401(k),” says Collie.
12. Make the Announcement Professionally
If email is your main source of communication at work, send an email from your updated address to all of your regular contacts letting them know that you’ll be using the new email address featuring your new last name going forward. Set email from your old email account to automatically forward to your new email account for six months to one year. Anytime someone writes to your old account, reply to them from your new account.
Adjusting your email signature for a period of time can also help contacts grow accustomed to using your new last name. Christensen recommends signing your name as “FirstName NewLastName (OldLastName)” for at least six months after you marry. If, for example, your name is Jazelle Williams, and you marry Erik Ford, you’ll change your email signature to “Jazelle Ford (Williams).”
13. Update Social Media Channels
Take the same “FirstName NewLastName (OldLastName)” approach to the name line on your Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts, and leave it up for about six months. If you’re turning your original last name into your new middle name, you may also opt to permanently adjust the name line to “FirstName OldLastName NewLastName.” Either approach will give followers ample time to adjust to your new last name.
14. Update Loyalty Programs and Autopay Accounts
This includes streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix, as well as rewards accounts with grocery stores and chains such as Sephora or Ulta. Updates to these accounts can typically be handled online, and likely will not require a certified copy of your marriage certificate to validate the change.
FAQs About Changing Your Last Name
Ahead, find all the answers to common name-change questions.
When Should I Change My Last Name?
“Your marriage certificate doesn’t expire, so you can actually wait as long as you’d like before starting the name change process after you get married,” says Christensen. “The best time to start the name change process is after you return from any scheduled travel in your given name.”
What Should I Do With my Original Last Name?
Whatever you want! Many people opting to take their spouse’s last turn their original last name into their middle name. While there is sentimental value in this approach, it also has practical benefits. Down the line, you may interact with a business or entity that still has your original last name on file. Having your original last name as part of your new legal name might help smooth any bumps in the process.
Will the Process Be Different if I’m Hyphenating My Last Name?
No. “Hyphenating your last name is considered a traditional marriage last name change in all 50 U.S. states, so the process is the same as if you were taking your spouse’s last name,” says Christensen.
Will The Process Be Different If I’m Choosing an Entirely New Last Name?
Yes. “If you’d like to create an entirely new last name, you will need to obtain a court order through your county courthouse first,” says Christensen. Once that court order has been obtained, you can proceed with the steps outlined in this article.