Women in the U.S. were expected to assume their husbands' surnames after marriage according to tradition. Nowadays, however, these kinds of old-fashioned etiquette rules have fallen to the wayside. The decision to change your name after you get married is now entirely up to you. If you've decided to change it, you've got a bit of paperwork ahead of you.
As with many legal matters, rules vary by municipality, so it's important to check with your local city hall to get the specifics on what you need to do. There are several steps anyone who wants to change his or her name will have to take, regardless of where they live. Use this general list as a guide to get the process started.
Before the Wedding
First, changing your last name requires a certified marriage license. It's always a good idea to request several copies in order to protect the original with the raised seal. Once you received your official document, you can tell the HR department at your place of work so they can change your email address, business cards, and other important files.
Inform your friends and family about changing your name as well, just in case anyone plans on giving you a monogrammed wedding gift. When making your honeymoon reservations, however, it's suggested to use your maiden name. This is because passports and drivers licenses take much longer to process, and you don't want to be in a situation where you're stuck with non-identifying or matching names before your special trip. In this scenario, wait until after the wedding to formally issue these types of documents.
After the Wedding
When your wedding day is over, it's time to organize your papers. The first order of business should be getting a new social security card. Once your marriage license arrives in the mail, which usually takes a few weeks, you can download and print a form from the Social Security website and fill it out. Once this is done, take the completed form, marriage license, and identification to your local social security office to get a new card. The number itself will remain the same, but the name will be updated. A new card should be sent to your home in the mail in less than two weeks. Keep in mind that if you've gotten creative with your last name, you may need to go through more formal name change procedures to seal the deal.
After your social security card is filed, it's time to get a new drivers license. Most DMVs will change it with a copy of a marriage certificate, although others may require you to wait until your social security card has been changed. Check with your local DMV for their rules before standing in that long line, as you may be required to bring forms of identification like your old license and a document with your current address on it. Being prepared will save you a lot of hassle.
Update Your Paperwork
Across the board, you're going to have a lot of changes to make once your name is legally changed. Use this name change checklist to make sure you cover all of your bases. Consider updating your banks, insurance policies, credit cards, and other documents with your full name on it.
A quick visit or phone call to these places with your new social security card in hand is the first step toward officially changing your name. Be aware that it may take a while to get used to your new name change, but using it everywhere will allow others to catch on. Courteously correct people when they erroneously use your maiden name and you'll be on your way.