Changing your last name

Changing your last name

The decision to change your name is highly persoanl. Many women can't wait to take on a new, married name. Others view swapping their maiden name as giving up a piece of their identity. If they've established themselves at work, they might be loath to tamper with their professional standing. 

One popular compromise is to retain your maiden name as a middle name or hyphenate the two names. If you both choose to take on the hyphenated name, which many couples do nowadays, your names will math your children's, cutting down on confusion. The drawback is that hyphenated names can get cumbersome. 

Another compromise that some women choose is to keep their maiden name professionally but use their husband's name in social situations. 

The most radical choise of all is for the couple to adopt a new name altogether. Egalitarian-minded couples going this route often combine their last names to create a new one. Some take a name that has a special meaning to them. If you haven't decided if you're going to change your name, you can, of course, wait until a later time. However, if you wait, the only way to alter it down the road is through an official name change, which costs hundreds of dollars (and yet another visit to the county clerk). So, if you can figure out what you'd like to do before obtaining your marriage license, it'll save you time and money down the road.

After you are married, and once you are ready to change your last name, if you didn't request certified copies when applying for your license, and your officiant/trusted one that returned your license didn't request these for you, you will need to start here. Go to the County Clerk (it MUST be the county in which you applied and your license was filed), find the Vital Records Department and request certified copies of your marriage certificate. Prices vary by county, the first typically costing around $20 and the remaining costing around $10. You will want 3 copies.

Now that you have proof of your marriage, you'll need to let the government know which name you'd like to go by. You can either apply for a new social security card by mail or in person at your local Social Security office. Find your nearest location here.

If you plan on going to the Social Security office in person, save yourself some time by filling out the application for a social security card in advance. You will also need to bring the following documents:

  • Proof of Citizenship: your valid passport or a certified copy of your birth certificate. Don't have your Birth Certificate and need to request a new copy? Click here

  • Proof of Name Change: a certified copy of your marriage license. (You will most likely get this back, so you can use it again!)

  • Proof of Identity: this must show your name, date of birth or age, and have a recent photograph. That could be a valid driver's license, your valid passport, a valid state-issued identification card, or a U.S. Military identification card.

  • Your current Social Security card. You will keep the same number when your card is replaced. Don't have your Social Security card? Click here to request a new one.

  • Not a U.S. Citizen? This link will help you determine which documents you need, based on your citizenship status.


After you've gone to the Social Security office, wait at least 24 hours before going to the DMV. You do not need to have your new Social Security card in hand to update your driver's license, but the 24-hour window will allow enough time for the system to update with your new name.

Updating your driver's license with a new name must be done in person. Most states consider this change a part of the license renewal process, so you will need to take a new photograph, as well as pay the renewal fee. Visit your state's DMV website to print the renewal application form. Again, filling this out in advance will save you time once you get there! Some DMVs also accept appointments, which will speed things along. When you go to the DMV, bring the following documents with you:

  • Your receipt from the Social Security office (just in case!) or your new Social Security card if you already have it.

  • Your current driver's license.

  • Proof of address, if required in your state. This could be your lease or mortgage documents, insurance documents, or a bill or bank statement that is mailed to your home address.

  • A certified copy of your marriage license (which, again, you will most likely get back).

  • Your checkbook or cash: most DMVs charge a credit card processing fee, so you'll save money by paying with cash or a check.

Whether or not you plan on traveling abroad after marriage, you should still think about how to change your name after marriage on your passport. To change your name on your passport, you actually have to apply for a new one. You’ll need to consider your upcoming travel plans to figure out if you’ll need to expedite the process by applying in person or if you can wait several weeks to receive your new document.

If you’re traveling in less than two weeks and need a new passport, you should make an appointment at one of three passport agencies in Houston, Dallas, or El Paso. You’ll need to pay $60 for this speedier process and show proof of identification, name change, and your travel plans.

But if you have the time to handle this process by mail, it’s definitely easier. Use the Department of State’s website to download and fill out all applicable forms, and mail it to the National Passport Processing Center, along with your current passport, certified copy of your marriage certificate, and passport photo. There is a fee associated with applying for a new passport and the recommended shipping, but this varies, so be sure to read the forms carefully before sending in your application packet. This process will take four to five weeks, or shorter if you pay for expedited service.  

Don't forget to alert your employer so you can update all records there, your email address, email signature, business cards and W4.

Switch your name on other documents and with other providers.

Now that you’ve changed your name on your most important legal documents, you can breathe a sigh of relief—but your work’s not done quite yet! You’ll need to change your name in several other places, including, but not limited to:

  • Your bank and credit card companies

  • Immigration documents

  • Lease agreement

  • Loans

  • Car title and registration

  • Insurance

  • Mortgage

  • Deeds

  • Utility companies

  • Doctors’ offices

  • Voter registration

  • Social media accounts

  • Investment companies

  • Post office

  • Anyone you have an account with (cellphone, electric gas, water, cable, airlines, hotels, magazines, streaming TV, professional associantes, health club, gym, library card, school and alumni associations)

  • Will/Living Trust/Living Will

  • Stock and Bond Certificates

  • Power of Attorney form

Don't forget to order a new return address stamp, here are some of my favorites. 

You can also order new stationery!

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