Changing Your Last Name

by | Mar 24, 2023 | Marriage, Marriage Prep, Questions

Weddings are a lot to plan. You have to think about venues, aesthetics, décor, catering, drinks, dresses, flowers, and even napkins! There seems to be no end to the work from the day after you get engaged to the day you get married. After the wedding, the work keeps going. Changing your last name can be daunting, and we’ve all had friends who stalled in the process early on and then found themselves still working on it a year later.

Luckily, we’ve managed to make a checklist to help the ladies go through this as painlessly as possible!


Step 1: Obtain a Certified Copy of Your Marriage License

You never know what agency will request that you send them your marriage license. Social Security may ask you to mail them your original copy. DO NOT DO THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

We’ve had friends who never got their marriage licenses back, and you need it for several name change purposes. You may also be required to submit a copy of it in the event your spouse passes away and you need to take sole control of your assets.

To obtain a certified copy, go to your local courthouse. Even if you got married in another city, state, or country, there will be an office for marriage/divorce in the place you live. Bring your original marriage license and ask them for a certified copy.

There will be a small fee that varies by location, but this copy will have the courthouse seal and be considered acceptable for all legal purposes.


Step 2: Change Your Social Security Card

The Social Security office should be your next stop. It usually takes the longest to update, so get it going quickly.

Social Security will need your original card and the copy of your marriage license. They’ll put your information on file and usually keep your original card with your maiden last name. With your marriage license, they can update your name to be any combination of available options: your husband’s last name, a hyphenation of your husband’s name and your name, a hyphenation of your name and then your husband’s name, or your maiden name as a new middle name and then your husband’s last name.

A new card with the updated last name should be sent to you within two weeks. If it does not arrive, go bother them! You’ll need this.


Step 3: Update Your Driver’s License

If you’re moving into a new home together, you’ll be able to update your name and address at the same time (bonus!). You’ll have to go to the DMV in-person as opposed to doing this process over the website. Your certified copy of your marriage license will come in handy again, allowing you to update your name as you desire. They’ll need a bill sent to your current address as proof of residency (a utilities or gas bill will do nicely).

They’ll update your name, address, AND picture—be photo ready! I personally left the DMV with my new card and they cut my old one but some of my friends had to wait for a mailed copy.

Social Security will not affect this process, nor will driver’s license affect Social Security. These two can be done in either order, but SS takes longer.


Step 4: Update Work and School Accounts

This obviously varies depending on your career and education status. As soon as your name is updated with SS and the DMV, you’ll be able to easily update your information for work, IRA, health insurance, or university. You can also be added to your spouse’s insurance and as a benefactor of his IRA.


Step 5: Change Your Bank, Financial, and Medical Information

Getting a joint bank account is actually very easy! Whether you are staying at the same bank you’d been using or switching to a new one, joint accounts are simple to set up with a manager in-person after you update your last name. You’ll probably need to initiate a wire transfer from your old bank to move your funds.

It’s also easier to get your financial assets in order once you share a bank account you can both access freely and control. Life insurance, IRA, investments, stocks, etc. can all be moved to a shared account.

Medical information can be updated as needed, such as the next time you go to the doctor. You can add your spouse for HIPPA, for Power of Attorney, and as an Emergency Contact.


Step 6: Update Email Accounts, Subscriptions, Social Media, Etc.

You can change these at any time, as you can put any name on these accounts. I listed it last as a matter of priority. Have fun going through all your contacts and accounts and everything tied to your maiden name! Maybe put on a movie in the background. It’ll take a bit.


Step 7: Update Your Passport

Ahhh, finally! You updated your last name on magazine subscriptions, your driver’s licenses, student loans, credit cards, payroll and retirement plans, bank and other financial accounts, doctor records, and insurance policies! It’s a long and daunting process! Maybe you should celebrate in Bora Bora for a job well done, right? …GASP! Your passport! Another document to change!

This can be a lengthy and expensive process so be sure you plan accordingly.

The fee to change your name on your passport can vary. It’s usually anywhere from $110 to $150. If you need the expedited service, that might be an extra $60. The application takes approximately four to six weeks to process. Requesting expedited service will hopefully bump it up by two to three weeks.

When I went through the process, I was curious if I could transfer my stamps. Those stamps are well-earned, and I wanted it displayed in one passport book! Unfortunately, The State Department does not transfer stamps.

Typically, you will have to fill out a form or two to request your name change. You will need evidence that you did in fact change your name (use your marriage license), a new passport photo, and your current passport to turn in.

The US Passport Service Guide is a great resource and will walk you through the process, step by step.

After you get your new, shiny passport be sure to book that long-overdue international trip! You deserve it!


Step 8: Have a Glass of Wine!

Whew—changing your last name is a long process. But honestly, the faster you get on it, the faster it’s over! Good luck!

Co-Authored with Ashley Ruybal

Michelle C. Martin

Michelle graduated from Texas Tech University with her husband, Joshua, in May 2021 and married him in June on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has a degree in Communication Studies and has loved growing in knowledge of healthy and authentic relationships during her time in college and adulthood. Michelle and Joshua currently reside in Lubbock, TX where he works as an architect and she loves life as a stay-at-home wife and mother to their new son, Stanley Peter.  


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