Changing Your Name: What I Wish I Would Have Known

Our newly married writer wishes she had had a crib sheet for this process.


It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that I really liked most of the wedding planning process. I certainly liked getting married: I liked our ceremony, our party, our honeymoon. I was, for the most part, excited about every part of becoming a Mrs.—except for the long series of adventures involved in actually becoming a Mrs. And by that I mean the official changing of my name.

Like a lot of brides, I ended up deciding to take my husband’s name for several of my own reasons (for one, it meant something to him; for another, I want to share my children’s name; and last … I just think his surname is sort of pretty), but I will freely admit that the work involved in name-changing is not part of that whole magical wedding moment things. And in fact, this un-magical moment is really more like an un-magical several weeks.

My friends advised me to hire one of those companies who can do everything in a day (seriously—for a fee, you can outsource this stuff), but I figured a few phone calls and a trip to the DMV weren’t that big of a deal. Aaaand, six months later, I’m still recovering. And so, in the interest of saving you, dear readers, even a little bit of the turmoil I went through, here’s what I’d have done differently, had I known.

  • I’d make one giant master list, remembering that my name isn’t just on credit cards, my passport and my driver’s license. It’s also on insurance policies, bank accounts, work accounts, prescriptions and lots of other things.
  • Then I’d proactively call all those people instead of trying to deal with it as it comes, which is not fun when the line at CVS is 10 people deep and you’re trying to prove your identity with every fact they might have on record. Or when a last-minute trip comes up, and your passport doesn’t reflect who your driver’s license says you are. Trust me.
  • I would not pay for three certified copies of our marriage certificate (one to send off to the U.S. Passport Office; one to the DMV; one to have one extra in case anything else comes up, which was just silly). I would order and pay for one copy, and go to the DMV in person with it. Then I would go mail that copy to the passport people. Turns out, they send that copy back. You only really need one certified copy outside the original.
  • I would clear one full day in my life to visit the Social Security Office (easy!), the DMV, the bank, call the pharmacies and doctors and insurance and 401K people, call the credit card people, and fill out the paperwork for the passport stuff. I did it little by little, and thus it dragged on forever.

If this all sounds like an endorsement for not changing your name, well, I don’t mean it to. Despite the effort, I’m happy to have done it—well, mostly to have done it. If we’re being honest, I’ve still got about three calls and a trip to the DMV to make.

Anyone else out there have any good tips for making this a less painful process? We’ve got to share the wealth! Let us know in the comments.



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