You’d think, with its deep historic roots, that changing a woman’s name to her husband’s name would be an easy feat. It is not. In fact, the directions are so convoluted that they may send you to a million different places in the wrong order. Or you might end up at the county courthouse with everyone staring at you, which luckily did not happen to me (thanks to a couple friends who’ve already jumped through the hoops ahead of me). But it almost did, and I don’t want it to happen to you. So here are the basics to changing your name, and (let me warn you right now) if you’re a guy it’s infinitely more difficult. Some couples decide which last name to take on or choose to come up with their own name. If you’re a male trying to change your name go straight for the courthouse paperwork. Alas, I cannot help you until after you get a judge to sign off on it. It stinks. It takes longer. Mi dispiace.
1. Send off your state marriage license request before your honeymoon. Most businesses give you 30 days to make changes for life events (marriage, birth, death, etc). About half of that time is spent waiting on the red tape paperwork to be processed. If you don’t get that form in ASAP you miiight just miss your deadline.
2. Make sure you have your birth certificate and social security card. If you were born before a certain year and have laminated versions…boy do I have a surprise for you. It’s invalid (even though it doesn’t say “do not laminate”). Request the new documents because you’ll need them. I strongly advise calling a parent to help. It’s easier for your mother to say, ” Yes, I gave birth to him/her/it/an idiot and need a new birth certificate” than scrambling around trying to prove you are you. They’re not very trusting.
3. The Social Security Office is your first stop. You’re going to need the state certified marriage certificate, government ID, and social security card. Just in case, I’d bring your birth certificate as well. Fair warning, social security is never open when you’re available. In fact, they’re open less than 40 hours a week, which is quite unfair because the lines are twice as long as my lunch break. Luckily, I’m magical and Dumbledore cast a spell of darkness upon my office building conveniently on a Wednesday. Or a thunderstorm knocked out the power. It’s debatable. Personally, I’d like to think it was Dumbledore, but I wouldn’t rely on him too much. I’d recommend saving a vacation day or “coming down” with the flu to get everything done at once because once you have a certified form with your new name on it you need to head on over to the DMV!
4. Oh, the DMV! The crying children, the teenage drivers trying to kill you in the parking lot, and the screams of the doomed who waited in line for an hour only to find out they left their proof of insurance at home. Welcome. Every state has a different way they distribute licenses, but you’ll need all the documents from social security plus the social security proof of name change form. I got another horrible picture of me taken and was given a supplementary slip of paper to keep with me until my license came in the mail.
Once everything ever arrives and you’re TERRIFIED of someone breaking into your mail box at any point because your whole identity is in the hands of USPS (who conveniently just discovered an employee hoarding 22,000 pieces of mail– IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOURS), you finally have your new name. (side note: where were they keeping all that mail?!?) Your name plate can be changed at work and benefits will recognize the existence of your spouse. Congratulations! Here’s to still receiving mail with your maiden name for the next decade!