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name change options

There's more than one way to take your fiance's name. Consider these five scenarios:

  • You take his name: In this case, if Laura Walker marries Christopher Smith, she becomes Laura Smith.
  • He takes your name: Far less common, in this case, Christopher Smith marries Laura Walker and becomes Christopher Walker. Granted, it's a modern approach, but what's the difference between you taking his or him taking yours?
  • You hyphenate: You could add your fiance's last name to yours with a hyphen (Laura Walker becomes Laura Walker-Smith). Some couples decide to take each other's names and hyphenate both. The only drawback is that it can be taxing on the tongue, hand and even the ear, depending on the way your names sound together.
  • You make your maiden name your middle name: In this case, Laura Anne Walker becomes Laura Walker Smith. That way, she holds on to her family name. The one caveat: This option only works if you don't mind losing your middle name.
  • You keep your name professionally: This can be a nice compromise. Socially, you're known as a married couple but professionally you retain your identity. So Laura Walker legally changes her name to Laura Smith but keeps her birth name at work.

How to Change Your Last Name After the Wedding

Changing your name is simple. Just follow these easy steps.

Photo: Kristen Alexander

Just because you have a marriage certificate with your new last name doesn't mean you've officially changed your name. Sorry to break it to you but that's really just the first step. And you thought that was the hard part—wait until you see the lines at the Social Security office and motor vehicle bureau! There is a shortcut, though, you can make it easy on yourself and get our Hitchswitch Name Change service (our preferred name change partner!). Rather do it the hard way? See below:

Don't change your name before the honeymoon. Your new name has to match all travel documents, most importantly, your passport and processing name changes on passports generally takes anywhere from four to six weeks.

1. Get your marriage certificate
Before you can change your name, you'll need the original (or certified copy of) marriage license with the raised seal and your new last name on it. You can call the clerk's office where your license was filed to get copies if one wasn't automatically sent to you.

2. Change your Social Security card
Visit the Social Security Administration's website and fill out the application for a new Social Security card. You'll keep the same number -- just your name will be different. Take or mail in your application to the local Social Security Administration office. You should get your new card within 10 business days.

3. Change your license at the DMV
Take a trip to the local Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a license with your new last name. Bring every form of identification you can lay your hands on -- your old license, your marriage certificate, your passport, proof of residency (such as a utility bill postmarked within the last 60 days) and your new Social Security card.

4. Change your bank accounts
This one's a biggie, especially if you're setting up a joint bank account, or if you have one already set up. The fastest way to change your name at your bank is to go into a branch location -- bring your new driver's license and your marriage certificate. You should request new checks and debit and credit cards on top of changing the name attached to your accounts. Something to note: You might get hit with fees for requesting a new debit card.

5. Fill in the blanks
Once you have a Social Security card and driver's license in your married name, other changes should be fairly easy. Some places only require a phone call; others may ask for a copy of your marriage certificate or social security card. Be sure to notify:

  • Employers/payroll
  • Post office
  • Electric and other utility companies
  • Credit card companies
  • School and alumni associations
  • Landlord or mortgage company
  • Insurance companies (auto, home, life)
  • Doctors' offices
  • Voter registration office
  • Investment account providers
  • Your attorney (to update legal documents, including your will)
  • Passport agency

6. Ignore 2-5 and let us help
There is an easier way to officially change your name. Go to Hitchswitch Name Change and choose from two options: the DIY print at home service or a full-service package, which includes a complete and printed out name-change application. It costs $25-$50, but it's worth it since all you actually have to do is fill out one single form and you'll have access to their customer service team who can help answer specific questions. Find answers to your most commonly asked name change questions here.

-- Amanda Black

See More: Wedding Planning Basics