Understandably, changing your name after marriage can feel like a daunting task. On the one hand, you’re making a big decision to change your identity. Your family and friends will call you by a new name — that’s big!
On the other hand, you’re wondering which documents and forms to fill out and what services you need to update. To give you peace of mind, I’ve created a complete guide of things to consider and steps to take to change your name. Let’s dive right in.
Before You Start: Decide What Name You Want
The first step is to decide what name you want. In California, you can change your last name, first name, middle name, or all three names. If you choose to change your last name, you can:
- take your spouse’s last name
- hyphenate your last name with your spouse’s last name
- keep your maiden name as your last name
- create a new last name altogether
There are a few things to keep in mind as you decide. First, if you have or plan to have children, consider what you want for them and whether you want your family to have the same last name.
You should also think about how changing your name might affect your professional life. For example, if you have a lot of name recognition in your field or built up a personal brand.
Once you’ve decided on the name you want, it’s time to start legally changing it.
Complete Steps to Legally Change Your Name
- Get (and safely store) your marriage certificate
- Update your Social Security card
- Get a new driver’s license or state ID card
- Update your vehicle title and registration information
- Update your Passport and travel documents
- Update your voter registration information
- Update your name with the United States Postal Service (USPS)
- Update your bank accounts and credit cards
- Notify your employer
- Update your insurance policies
- Update your cell phone and other utilities
- Update subscription services, social media, and memberships
1. Get (and Safely Store) Your Marriage Certificate
First, there’s a difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate:
Before you marry your spouse, you must secure a marriage license from the County Clerk. After the marriage ceremony, the officiant fills out the license and sends it back to the county to get officially recorded. Only then can you request a copy of your marriage certificate from the Country Clerk, proving that you are married to your spouse.
In California, fees and processes will vary based on county. For example, you can get your certificate in Los Angeles County for $17.
The key is that you’ll need your marriage certificate to file a lot of the following name changes, so store it safely.
2. Update Your Social Security Card
The next major step is letting the government know about your name change after marriage. Other government institutions may not acknowledge your name change unless your Social Security card has been updated, so this is the best place to start. You need to apply for a new card, which you can do both in-person or mail.
- Proof of name change (your marriage certificate)
- Proof of identity (shows your name, age or date of birth, and a photo)
- Proof of citizenship (e.g., passport, birth certificate)
- Your current Social Security card
When applying by mail, send the same documents to the office.
3. Get a New Driver’s License or State ID Card
You can take a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for your new license after receiving your new Social Security card. The California DMV has to electronically verify your details with the Social Security Administration (SSA), so wait until they have your new name on file before submitting your name change application.
You should also consider upgrading your license to a REAL ID, which will be necessary for domestic air travel by 2023.
4. Update Your Vehicle Title and Registration Information
If you own a car, you’ll also need to update your registration. This process varies by state, but in California, vehicle registration changes are also handled by the DMV.
5. Update Your Passport and Travel Documents
In the current COVID climate, you’ll need to update your vaccination card as it’s often required for travel. You can request a new card from your state health department or the health care provider who administered the doses. You’ll need to show a copy of your marriage certificate and your original CDC vaccine card.
If you’re planning to honeymoon out of the country, consider updating your name on your passport first. Here’s a simple summary of the U.S. Department of State’s name change process:
- Submit DS-5504 if your passport is less than a year old.
- Submit DS-82 if your passport is more than a year old, undamaged, was issued when you were over 16 years old, was issued within the last 15 years, and was issued in your current name.
- Submit DS-11 if your passport doesn’t meet the conditions for DS-82.
Note that you must pay in person, and processing can take three weeks for expedited services and up to six weeks for standard services, so plan accordingly. Bring your updated marriage certificate and social security card for additional proof.
Similarly, if you have TSA Precheck, Global Entry, or another expedited security screening card, change your name with each Trusted Traveler organization. For TSA Precheck, you can call (855) 347-8371 on weekdays from 8am – 10pm or start the process with an online form. Global Entry and other programs may require in-person visits, so remember to bring your marriage certificate and social security card to your appointment.
6. Update Your Voter Registration Information
Updating your voter registration is relatively simple. Go to vote.gov and follow the registration instructions for your state, or by mailing in the National Voter Registration Application to the address listed under your state. Remember to submit your changes before your state’s registration deadline, which could be up to 30 days before the election.
7. Update Your Name With the United States Postal Service (USPS)
If you’ve also moved after marriage, you’ll need to update your address, so you can simply change your name online through the USPS change of address system.
8. Update Your Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
Requirements vary among banks and investment firms, but most will ask you to make name changes in person. You’ll likely need to bring a copy of your marriage certificate, your new identification (e.g., Social Security card, driver’s license), and proof of address (if you moved after marriage). Remember to request a set of new checkbooks and payment cards.
If you have credit cards issued by other banks, you can call the number found on the back of the card and inquire about the name change process. Typically, you’ll be required to email or mail a copy of your marriage certificate and identification. Some issuers, like American Express, let you do the entire process online.
9. Notify Your Employer
Swing by the HR department and let them know about the name change. If your company issues email addresses based on employees’ names, you may need to use a new email address. Be sure to let both coworkers and clients know of the change so that they can update records on their end as well.
10. Update Your Insurance Policies
Update your health insurance information as early as possible, as you can’t anticipate when health issues may occur. If you’re insured through your employer, reach out to HR for details on how to change your policy. You have a chance to change or combine your coverage because marriage is categorized as a major life event, so you don’t have to wait for the next open enrollment period.
For home and car insurance, submit your name change and consider combining policies (e.g., as permitted drivers) from the same company for potential cost savings.
11. Update Your Cell Phone and Other Utilities
Update the account and payment information that your cell phone, mortgage, rent, or utility companies have on file. To prevent missed payments or service interruptions, update your name as soon as possible. This can often be done through the services’ online portals.
12. Update Subscription Services, Social Media, and Memberships
Make a list of your online subscriptions, social media accounts, and memberships. Updating your information is often as easy as opening up the online portal and entering your new account name and payment information (if necessary). Here’s a list of accounts to help you get started:
- Personal email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.)
- Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus, etc.
- Amazon Prime membership
- Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates
- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube
- Gym memberships
- AAA, OnStar
- Alumni associations
- Loyalty programs (airlines, hotels, car rentals, retail stores, etc.)
Making a name change after marriage is definitely a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort to have peace of mind in the end. With this guide, you’ll be able to tackle each name change systematically and have the most important documents updated. And once you’re done, take the time to celebrate the work done and enjoy life as a newly married couple.
If you haven’t gotten married yet, check out these helpful resources on prenups that will foster important conversations around finances to help kickstart your successful marriage.