Let's just tell it like it is: changing your name is a giant pain. Especially now that we all have multiple email addresses, user ids, etc. People are so aware of what a pain it is that there are now services that will do it for you! I looked into those, but y'all, it is a little scary to give ALL of your personal information to some stranger on the internet. I said a big fat no to that option. So I did it myself.
And I learned that it isn't quite as straight forward as one might think. Different choices trigger different paths. It's kind of like one of those choose your own adventure books you might read as a kid. Pick this version of your name and you get this ending; pick another one and you get an entirely different outcome! There isn't one place where all this information is located. This blog post isn't a definitive list either because it will vary by state and definitely by country. But here are the steps I recommend when changing your name after marriage:
- Decide what you want your name to be. Congratulations, you're engaged! Now's the time to figure out what you want your name to be. Don't want to take his name? Awesome, you don't need to read on. But if you want to make any changes to your name, get ready. You need to know what you want your name to be before you go in for the marriage license, because you have to sign your new name on that license. Want to go by Princess Consuela Banannahammock? Go for it, but get ready to jump through some hoops! In our state (Oklahoma) changing just your last name is fairly easy, but anything else (like changing your middle and last name) requires a bit more work.
- Reserve your new email address/Twitter handle/etc If you know what your new name will be, then go ahead and set up your new name online. This sounds crazy, but I didn't wait until we got married to get my new email address. Pretty much as soon as James and I started talking about marriage, I reserved my new email address and Twitter handle. I ended up not using the Twitter handle so I let it go, but there is a limited number of good handles and email addresses out there. And a surprising number of people with the same name as me! I knew there were a lot of Jennifer Bryants, but I wasn't prepared for so many Jennifer Robbinses too. Also, it is confusing to do the plural of Robbins.
- Get your marriage license. When the time comes to get that marriage license, be ready with your new name! You may have to sign it in the court clerk's office when you pick it up. If not, you will sign your new name after the wedding. So congrats, now you're married! Now you get to wait impatiently for that marriage license to arrive in the mail. Ours took 15 days to arrive, but obviously it depends on when you or your officiant returned the license to the state. Also, if you get married around any national holidays, that may slow things up too. Once you have the license in hand, head back to the court clerk to get your certified copies. In Oklahoma they are $2 each. You'll need quite a few because they are required to change your name on your passport, Social Security card, etc.
- Change your name with the Social Security Administration. This one is a biggie and therefore is just as big a pain. To save yourself some time, print off the form and fill it out before you even go to the office.
- Change your driver's license. I expected this to be a fairly easy step and I was WRONG. Because in the state of Oklahoma, you can only change part of your name at the tag agency. If I'd become Jennifer Renee Robbins or even Jennifer Renee Bryant-Robbins, I could have done it quickly at the tag agency. I would've just handed over my old driver's license and a copy of my marriage license and the tag agent would've done all the paperwork, snapped a mediocre picture, and printed out the new license. But because I decided to become Jennifer Bryant Robbins, I had to go to one of the 3 driver's license testing facilities to meet with an official examiner. What should've taken less than 10 minutes ended up taking about 3 hours. I had to drive to the facility, wait in line (despite having an appointment), talk to the examiner and get all the paperwork filled out, drive back to the tag agency, fill out more paperwork, have a photo taken, pay my $20, and then I finally got that new license. So it was a giant pain, but it was necessary for the next steps.
- Change your name with your bank. I had three bank accounts when we got married. (One with a big national bank that I opened up when I lived in Dallas, one with a smaller bank that had branches in my hometown and OKC, and one with the bank I currently work for.) So this was no small task. The bank I currently work at was pretty easy. They made a copy of my new driver's license and marriage license and I had to sign a few papers. I also added my husband to my account which added some extra paperwork, but I was in and out of there with 10 minutes. Your bank may be different, but overall it shouldn't be too painful.
- Change your name on your credit cards/PayPal. Every card is different. Some require you to fill out a form and mail it in along with a copy of your ID showing your new name. Some simply have you fill out your information on their website and submit. Some make you call. You'll need to check with each institution to see what they require. I know that American Express requires you to fill out a form and submit it along with a copy of your new driver's license while Victoria Secret just wants you to hit submit on the website after filling out your new name. And don't forget PayPal! They require a copy of a valid photo ID along with a copy of the marriage license!
- Change your name on your student loans. This will depend on who your loan is through. Changing my name was really easy for my loan - it was just filling out the form online and hitting save.
- Change your name on your vehicle registration/insurance. Changing my name with my insurance company was easy because our agent is on the fire department with James, but it should be fairly easy for you as well. Just contact your agent and ask! As for the vehicle registration, that is a little trickier. Like everything else, it varies by state. Most states don't require you to change it immediately, but don't leave it too long. You'd hate to have to delay selling your vehicle down the road because you have to change your name on the title first.
- Change your name on utilities. Actually, I almost forgot about this step. But if you have any utilities in your name, it's a necessary one. (Utility payment info will show up credit reports, so it's important to make sure everything is in the correct name.) Like banks and credit cards, each company handles it differently. Here in Oklahoma, OG&E requires you to call in and confirm the last 4 of your SSN to change your name while the gas company requires entirely different information. For those with AT&T, you have to call in and have them send you a PIN so they can confirm you are who you say you are before they will change the name. Also, if you have wireless and U-verse service, it is a multi-step process. You must talk to someone in each department.
Did you make it through? Then pop the champagne because you deserve it. And congratulations! :)