For being so accustomed to handling things "my way", I gotta say - the process of changing my name was not something I wanted to deal with. Don't get me wrong, my hesitation had nothing to do with my new moniker. It just had everything to do with changing a quarter century of personal identity and establishment...and having to deal with government agencies to do so.
But alas, I've made it through the process relatively unscathed. And since I longed to have someone direct me to do exactly what I needed, I want to spread the love and share my findings with you. Hopefully you'll find this helpful and guiding. Knowledge is power.
If you happen to be a fellow Marylander, you've hit the jackpot. If you live in a different state, the name changing process is likely not too much different from what I did, but it wouldn't hurt to parouse the internet and do a little research on your state's standards before you take my advice verbatim.
1. Pick your new name.
Sounds obvious, right? It kind of is and most people have this part figured out way before their wedding day ("Mrs. Prince Charming" notebook scribblers, you know who you are), but for some it can be a challenging decision. There are actually a few different ways you can alter your name, and it's fairly important to have this figured out before you embark on the name-changing process. Let's pretend that Jane Anne Doe finally marries the man of her dreams, John Deere. Get it?? Like a female doe and a male deer + the anonymous Jane 'n John Doe + the famous John Deere agricultural equipment supplier + the weird connections that my brain makes. Anyway, so when Jane changes her name, here are some of her options:
Jane Anne Doe
(no change at all - you can get married and still keep your name the same, ya know)
Jane Anne Doe-Deere
(you can hyphenate your last names together - you can also drop the hyphen and just have
two last names, "Doe Deere")
Jane Anne Deere
(you can drop your maiden name, keep your middle name, and adopt your husband's last name)
Jane Doe Deere
(you can replace your middle name with your maiden name, and take-on your husband's last name)
I have married-friends that represent all four of these options, all chosen for various valid reasons. Some ladies are established in life, and prefer to keep their name unchanged for convenience sake. Some gals are business fiends and choose to adopt their husband's name while still keeping their maiden name in tact for easy correspondence with clients. And some squirrels just plain like the ring of a certain name combination. I personally adopted the last option with the intention of bestowing my dropped middle name (which is my Mom-mom's first name) upon a maybe-one-day baby squirrel of mine, assuming I'm ever that lucky. But overall, it's important to remember to choose the option that makes you the happiest as you're the one who has to use it, say it, and write it for the rest of your life. Oh, the sweet song of commitment.
2. Change your name with Social Security.
It's actually not as painful as it sounds. The Social Security Administration has an awesomely straight-forward page on how to change your name with Social Security, which you can find here. For convenience sake, I'll divulge the instructions here too. First thing you need to do is fill out an Application for a Social Security Card form, which you can view in writable PDF form here. Once you've filled out the form, print it and take it to your local Social Security Administration office. You can use this link to enter your zip code and find the SSA office nearest you - be sure to make note of their office hours, as they can be somewhat limited. BEFORE you go to Social Security, be sure you have all of the following to make your transaction as easy as can be:
- Completed Application for a Social Security Card form
- Marriage document - I called ahead and found out that my marriage certificate was gravy. Please note, the copy I used was signed by my Minister, and NOT a court-certified copy of my marriage license (you will need one or more of these later in the name-changing process).
- Your current Social Security card
- As many other forms of ID that you can bring (i.e., drivers license, passport, birth certificate)
My local SSA office was open until 3:30, so I left work and arrived around 2:30. When I walked in the office, I entered my name and SSN into a computer, which then granted me a numbered ticket. I then took a seat and dabbled on Pinterest while I patiently waited for my number to be called. To my surprise, I only had to wait about 15 minutes before my number was called. I approached my designated window and presented the teller with all of my supplies. To be honest, they only really looked at my application and marriage document, but to be safe, I'd still bring all of the required documents that I mentioned above. I was told that my new Social Security card would arrive in the mail within the next couple of weeks, but I received mine in about 2 days. My sister-in-law didn't receive hers for a few weeks, so I wouldn't rely on my unusually short waiting time as a standard. Social Security will also tell you that you need to wait about 48 hours before heading to MVA, as it takes a couple of days for the system to show your name change. All in all, the "official" name change with Social Security took me less than half an hour to complete.
3. Change your name with MVA and update your license.
This was actually the toughest portion of my name game adventure, but hopefully I can keep you better informed so you can avoid the same mishaps I had.
First of all, you will likely need a certified court copy of your marriage license. If you live in Maryland, you definitely need a court-certified copy of your marriage license. This is where I screwed up. I assumed that since my marriage certificate (as signed by my Minister) was good enough for Social Security, it was probably good enough for MVA. Oh so foolish of me. I had to find out the hard way that the state of Maryland requires a court-certified copy of your marriage license in order to process your name change with MVA. I'm not sure what credentials you'll need in other states, but you can easily find out by visiting your state MVA/DMV website, or by giving them a quick ring on the phone.
The person who marries you should tell you how to obtain a certified court copy of your marriage license (if needed) when they sign your marriage certificate. In Maryland, you need to contact your county courthouse for all the required deets. In my county, I had to submit a written or in-person request for a certified court copy, and pay a required fee of $5.50.
My ultra-special court copy arrived in the mail within a few days of my written request. So it was back to MVA I went, where I was finally successful. They made a copy of my certified marriage license copy, which was nice because I needed the coveted court copy again later on.
A couple MVA-related tips:
- Visit your state MVA/DMV website for the location nearest you and their corresponding hours. Maryland has smaller, express locations which are intended to process common transactions quickly. I called ahead and verified that I could visit an express location to change my name and update my drivers license.
- Plan on going to the DMV on a day where you can look "cute" as they'll likely retake your license photo. Be sure to style your hair down, as most MVA's will make you take your hair down for pictures. Wear normal, everyday makeup (i.e., don't test drive any flashy-bright fuschia lipstick that day), and remember to mind your apparel because whatever your shoulders are donning matters.
- Try making the trip at the beginning of the month, as MVA/DMV locations are typically much busier towards the end due to last-minute people who need to renew their expiring registrations and licenses.
4. Change your name with your bank(s) and credit cards.
If you can go in person, it's pretty darn easy. You can visit any one of your bank's branch locations and have a mini pow-wow with one of their representatives. All you need is your old name, account number or credit/debit card, and something that shows your new last name (i.e., your new drivers license or updated social security card). I went in person and it took me a mere 5 minutes. Be aware that some banks will also require you to contact their credit card department after you change your name on your account; you'll need to do this to request a new credit card that reflects your name change. You'd think that you'd automatically get one upon changing your name on the account, but they can't make it that easy. But no worries, this step wasn't too stressful either. I simply placed a call to my credit card company and they mailed me a packet with a postage-paid envelope to mail in my required documents (which were the standard drivers license, social security card, marriage license, etc). I made my copies, filled out the provided form, and popped the request in the out-going mail. My new credit card came in the mail a of couple short weeks later.
5. Inform your insurance carriers and mortgage company.
I feel like this is something that's easy to forget, but it's still very important. You can find the appropriate contact numbers to reach a customer service representative who will assist with your name change. This was pretty easy and didn't require much time or effort. I happen to have a bank account with my mortgage company, so I was able to complete this step in person at my local branch. They required my new drivers license, as well as a court-certified copy of my marriage license. Easy peasy.
6. If you want to change your personal email, do it now.
If your personal email address has nothing to do with your name and everything to do with cute animals and random numbers, you can probably skip this step. But many people have emails that reflect their name in the address, so if you would like your email to represent your new name go ahead and make a new account. I personally have chosen to keep my email the same, even though it has my maiden name in it. I just don't care that much.
7. Let your workplace know.
Here's to keeping your creepy coworker's unwanted advances at bay. Just kidding (kind of). Advise your work's Human Resources department that you've changed your name. This is important for tax information relating to your pay. They'll also hook you up with a new work email, business cards, etc. If you have an email signature, you may opt to put your former last name in parenthesis following your signature so that your email recipients know who you are, i.e., Jane D. Deere (Doe). It doesn't have to be permanent, but it helps to keep to your coworkers and clients updated on your name change.
8. Update any and all online accounts to reflect your new name and/or new address.
Insert Facebook joke here. I'll be honest, Facebook was the very first stop for me on my name changing adventure. It's not supposed to be critically important, but somehow it is. Anyway, be sure to make a point of visiting any websites that you have accounts with and update your name and personal info accordingly. Such websites include social media outlets, retail websites, online software access, etc. Don't let this process get overwhelming - you can start by making a list of accounts you know off the top of your head, or you can opt to update as you go along. Keep in mind, if you have credit card or billing information automatically saved to a retail website account, be sure to update it so you don't have any snafu's the next time you impulse buy that really-awesome-super-kewl-only-one-left thing.
9. Own it.
Your new name is your new swagger. Rock it with confidence. And while you're at it, go ahead and treat yourself to a cute new accessory, conveniently branded with your new monogram. You deserve it.