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Whether you're following tradition and taking your husband's name, hyphenating, or making any other change you want legally recognized, here are the steps you'll need to follow. (Of course, these same steps apply to him if he's changing his name too.)
The good news is that this is not yet another task you need to accomplish before the wedding. Until you receive your signed and sealed marriage certificate back from the registrar, you won't be able to begin the official name change process. (You could start in advance on minor things like changing magazine subscriptions and ordering new checks with your married name, but that's about all you'll be able to do without that certificate.) Given that fact, be sure to book all airline tickets for the honeymoon under your maiden name—obviously your ticket will need to match the name on your passport, and even if you're not travelling abroad, all airlines now require a photo I.D. which matches the name on the ticket.
Most states will automatically send you a copy of your marriage certificate by mail after it has been processed, which typically takes about a month after the signed license was filed following your ceremony. In some states you have to request a copy of the certificate; be sure to ask about the policy in your area when you check on other local Marriage License Requirements.
Official certificate in hand, the first step of recording your name change is with the Social Security Administration. Obtaining a Social Security card showing your new name (your number won't change) is free and fairly easy. You can download the required form, SS-5, along with instructions, from this page of the administration's website: ssa.gov/online/ss-5.html. Or you can pick up the form at your local office (call 800-772-1213 or click here to find your nearest office). Mail or bring the completed form, along with the documents specified in the instructions included with the form, to your local office. The administration will return your documents right away, followed in a couple of weeks by your new Social Security card.
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