When it comes to getting married, there are a lot of big decisions to make. One of the many decisions is whether or not to change your last name. (Check out the audio podcast of this blog post!)
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I did. But I carefully weighed all of my options before deciding to change only my last name.
I’ll go over your options and give you an overview of how to change your name.
Name change options
There are basically six options when it comes to changing your name after marriage. They are:
1. Have two last names with a hyphen (such as Smith-White). Just know that if you choose this option, some computer systems, such as the one for the Social Security Administration, may have trouble outputting your name properly. If you don’t want to have to deal with that hassle for the rest of your life, consider ditching the hyphen.
2. Replace your middle name with your maiden name. This is becoming a popular trend. This way you get to keep both names and ditch that awful middle name you never liked. I liked my middle name so I didn’t choose this option.
3. Have two last names without the hyphen (such as Smith White). This takes the hassle out of using the hyphen and gives you the best of both worlds. Some people may want to put in a hyphen in your name, so expect that minor hassle. Otherwise, enjoy the name!
4. Take the new last name. This is the most common option and the one I used. Full disclosure: I wrote out all of my options and practiced signing my name to see which I liked best. I’m not saying you have to do that, but I’m a big nerd and that’s how I roll.
5. Create a completely new last name (such as Smyth) combing elements of both names. This works best if your husband is also willing to change his name. This can be fun if you’re both into it. If you choose this, be creative but not too clever or you’ll end up with a name no one can ever pronounce or spell. That’s a hassle you just don’t need.
6. Do nothing. This may be the best option if you’ve built a professional reputation with your maiden name. Or, perhaps, you simply don’t want to change your name. You see this often with celebrities, but you don’t have to be famous to keep your maiden name. In the end, it’s up to you!
Changing your name
There are a few steps when it comes to legally changing your name after marriage. If you decide to change your name, do it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may have to file separate court documents for a legal name change if you wait too long.
To initiate the name change, these are the general procedures:
1. Take a certified copy of your marriage license and any other documents (such as a birth certificate and driver’s license) to the Social Security Administration. You can print a form and mail it in, but you may be better served if you go in person. That’s what I did the day after I got married.
2. Receiving your new Social Security card, take that, along identity documents to your local department of motor vehicles for a new driver’s license. At this point, most states should be enforcing Real ID requirements as set forth by the Department of Homeland Security. Be sure to check with your state to have the required documents before you wait in line at the DMV! You’ll not only have to prove your identity, but also, usually, prove your residency in the state.
3. After that, change your name on your passport and any other legal documents which required a new Social Security card and driver’s license.
While it’s not a lot of things to do, it can be hard to remember every place you need to change your name.
That is why there are services such as Hitchswitch.com (affiliate) and Namechangekit.com (affiliate). Again, I did not use either service, but they may be a timesaver for you. For that reason, I recommend them. Remember, time is of the essence when you make a decision like this. So do it sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary hassle!