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How to Officially (and Legally) Become a Mrs.

Congratulations! If you are reading this, then you are probably on your way to getting married! Or maybe you are a recent newlywed. Marrying your beloved comes with a lot of excitement and joy, but it also requires taking care of some business.
Before we get into this conversation, let’s fully acknowledge that there are women who opt not to take on their husband’s (or spouse’s) last name. Changing your name is not a legal requirement. In fact, according to a 2015 New York Times article entitled ‘Maiden Names, On the Rise Again’, almost 20 percent of women who have married in recent years have kept their last names.

But for those who do opt to take on their spouse’s last name, however, here are some basic instructions to help you navigate this process (this includes hyphenating or making your maiden name your middle name).

1. Get Your Marriage License

This first step is the most important step with regard to your name change. You have to get certified copies of your marriage license, and you can get them at the county clerk’s office where your license was filed. Please be aware that some states have a short-form marriage certificate and a long-form marriage certificate. Make sure that you have the long-form version, which you will need when you go to the Social Security Office.

2. Gather Your Patience and Pay a Visit to Your Local Social Security Office

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Visiting the Social Security office can mean sitting through a long wait, so going as early as possible is always a good idea. Another great way to shorten your visit is to download the required SS-5 form online and complete it in advance (click here for the online form). This form is an application to update your Social Security information, and in addition to it, you will need to bring the following supporting documents (make sure they are originals, not copies):

  • Proof of Citizenship
  • Proof of Identity
  • Proof of Age

Please be advised, if you are not a United States citizen or you don’t have legal work authorization, you will have to provide a valid reason for submitting your application. This is something that you should research in advance so that you are fully prepared.

If this process goes smoothly, the Social Security Administration will notify the Internal Revenue Service of your name change within 10 days. The IRS needs to know about this change so that there won’t be any problems when you file your taxes.

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3. Update Your Driver’s License and Important Accounts

After your name change has been made official through the Social Security Administration, your next visit will be to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that you can update your driver’s license or state identification card. Just like the Social Security Office, you could be in for another long wait, so go early! You can go to your state’s DMV website to download the necessary forms prior to your visit (click here for the main DMV site).

Don’t forget to bring your marriage license with you, as it will serve as proof of your new name. You will most likely have to fill out paperwork to make changes to your vehicle title and registration, and if you are still paying for your car, your license holder will also have to be officially notified. The DMV will be able to assist you with this process as well.

Once you receive your new identification card, you can start the process of changing the name on your accounts. Here is a list of possible places you will need to notify of your name change:

  • The payroll office at your job
  • Bank accounts
  • Post office
  • Utility companies
  • Cell phone provider
  • Credit card companies
  • Landlord or mortgage company
  • Insurance companies
  • Doctor’s offices
  • State voter registration office
  • Attorney
  • Passport office

If you are feeling overwhelmed, just remember, this is all because something wonderful is happening in your life! Take a deep breath, take one step at a time, and start gathering those documents. For the bride who feels that she does not have the time or interest to do any of this, there are services that will handle your name change on your behalf (for a fee, of course). Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company, though. The last thing you want to do is give your money, not to mention all of your personal information, to a company that is not legitimate. However you decide to make this change, the end result will be that you get to share your new spouse’s last name.

Best wishes on your happily ever after!



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