Though the wedding planning stage is over, you can be confident that there will be plenty of things for you to do. Thank you notes should always be one of the first things on that list. Brides technically have a three-month window to get their thank you notes sent out, but your guests will be happy (and grateful) to receive them sooner rather than later.
Should you choose to do so, the next step on your to-do list as a newly married individual is to change your name. This is a big step in a woman's (or man's!) life. Our names are a huge part of our identity, and changing them should not be taken lightly. While the majority of married women still adopt their husband's last name, there are several alternative methods being used today. Some women choose to hyphenate their last name to include their maiden name and their husband's last name. Some men change their last names to match their wives'. Some women replace their current middle name with their maiden name and take their husband's last name.
Regardless of which name change route you choose, there are a few steps that must be taken to make your change name officially and legally. Here's the best way to do it.
Step 1 - Obtain Official Copies of Your Marriage License
Unfortunately, photocopying your copy of the marriage license won't be enough. You'll need to contact the county clerk's office where you applied for your marriage license in the first place in order to get official, certified copies of your marriage license. These certified copies will serve as legal proof of your marriage, which will make the rest of the name-changing process much simpler.
Step 2 - Update Your Social Security Card
The Social Security Administration should be the first organization you contact to update your name. This agency is the most important because discrepancies between your name and social security number can cause major problems with your taxes and retirement benefits.
In order to update your name with the Social Security Administration, you'll need to fill out Form SS-5 and file it with your local social security office. You can obtain copies of this form at your local office, or you can save time by downloading it online here and filling it out ahead of time. You will also need to provide proof of your age, identity, and U.S. citizenship. Your birth certificate and your driver's license should suffice.
Step 3 - Get a New Driver's License
Because driver's licenses are such a common, easy way to prove your identify, most people recommend updating your license next. Having a new copy of your license will make it easier to change your name everywhere else. Different states require different pieces of evidence in order to update your license, so be prepared. When you visit your local DMV, we recommend bringing your old driver's license, an official copy of your marriage license, your new social security card, and proof of your new address (if you and your spouse moved after the wedding).
Step 4 - Inform Your Employer
This step is pretty self-explanatory. It's important to let your employer know when your name has legally changed so that your paychecks and benefits will be in your new name. Small businesses may handle this type of change differently than large ones do, so check with your boss to see how to best make this change happen.
Step 5 - Change Your Bank Accounts
If your employer is going to be writing checks to your new name, it's important that your bank and/or credit unions are in the loop as well! This will probably be most easily done by visiting your bank in person. Bring an official copy of your marriage certificate and your new driver's license. While visiting your bank, go ahead and request new checks, debit cards, and any credit cards associated with your bank.
Step 6 - Contact Everyone Else
Steps 1-5 will make sure you contact the most important individuals or agencies first. Now, all that's left is to fill in the cracks. Sometimes, women are surprised when they realize just how many other people or companies there are to inform! Examples of other people to contact are:
- Post office
- Lawyers (to update any legal documents)
- Club memberships
- Voter registration board
- Insurance companies
- Vehicle registration
- Alumni associations
- Investment accounts
- Cell phone company
- Independent credit cards
- Home utilities
- Mortgage company or landlord
This may sound like a daunting process, but it's really not that bad. The hardest part (as with most tasks) is the act of getting started; once you get the ball rolling, however, the rest of the process follows pretty smoothly. If you don't feel up to changing your name yourself, there are several agencies that will take care of all the legalities for you (for a price, of course). Whether you want to change your name yourself or hire someone else to do it is completely up to you - there is no right or wrong answer!