What to Know About Changing Your Last Name

How to get through the most annoying post-wedding task with ease.

mr and mrs signs
Photo Credit: Ashley McCormick Photography

I always planned on taking my husband’s last name after we got married, but the sheer amount of paperwork and appointments required pushed it to the bottom of my to-do list… for almost three years. (Wasn’t it good enough to just change it on Facebook and tack "Klein" onto the end of my byline?).

But with a baby on the way now, it started feeling more important to me to finally make it official. I’m not going to lie to you — it’s just as much of a pain as I imagined. Here, a step-by-step guide that'll hopefully make the process a little easier for you.

Tip: Consider signing up for MissNowMrs.com, which walks you through the process and compiles all of the forms you'll need to fill out. It'll save you a massive headache, making it well worth the $30. 

The First Step: Social Security

Don’t bother trying to change your name by mail. Many sites recommend mailing in your social security application. Mine was rejected three times before I realized what they were asking for — they needed the original of my driver’s license, not a photocopy. Unless you can live without your license for a few weeks, plan to visit social security in person. Bring your original marriage certificate (not a photocopy), your driver’s license, and the application to your appointment.

Choose your time wisely. Social security is a busy place. The first time I made the trip was at noon on a Friday… and I was greeted with a three-hour wait. I tried again in the middle of the week right when they opened, and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes.

Thinking about taking your maiden name as your middle name? Check your state laws. In some, like mine (New Jersey), you can’t change your middle name on the basis of marriage; you’d need to petition a court in order to change it.

The Second Step: Driver’s License

You’ll receive your new social security card within two weeks. Armed with that and your marriage license, head over to the DMV to change your name there. This is also a good opportunity to update your address if you moved after marriage. You may also be able to change your voter registration, vehicle registration, and title at this time — check with your state DMV. If not, add those items to…

The Final Step: Everybody Else

Your new name is now legal — congratulations! Now comes the really fun part... alerting everyone under the sun:

► Employer
► Passport (you have one year from the issue date to do this for free; otherwise, you'll need to pay)
► Health insurance
► Auto insurance
► Doctor’s offices
► Bank
► Credit card
► Investment accounts
► Mortgage company or landlord
► Home owner’s or rental insurance
► Post office
► Your attorney (for any legal documents, like your will)
► Any organizations you belong to (house of worship, alumni association, etc.)

You'll need to contact each of these places to see what they require — do you need to make an in-person visit, or is mailing in a letter with a photocopy of your new license sufficient? 

And if your maiden name is in your personal email address, you’ll probably want to update that as well.

Tell us: Will you be taking your husband's last name?