Unlike brides of an earlier generation, the question of taking your husband's surname after marriage is as much an issue of retaining your individual identity as it is expressing solidarity with your romantic partnership. If you opt to be a changer versus a keeper--and this moniker advice applies to new husbands as well--the paperwork should start as soon as you return from your honeymoon.
Obtain several certified copies of your marriage certificate from the clerk's office of the county in which you were married. File one of them in a safe place wherever you keep your most important documents. Most government agencies will only accept certified documents as proof of your marital status. You'll also need to have a valid driver's license, passport or government issued photo ID card to establish your identity.
Contact the U.S. Social Security Administration and your state's department of motor vehicles first because virtually every other entity you contact for a name change will require these two pieces of identification. Social Security and the DMV have online forms you can fill in and print out in advance of your scheduled appointment. This must be done in person. Take the form, photo ID, a certified copy of your marriage license and the prior cards issued to you by these two agencies.
Financial and Business Entities
Provide your banking institution, credit card issuers and insurance company with copies of your marriage license. While banks and insurers require certified copies of your license, credit card companies generally accept photocopies and completion of their own forms to update their records. If in doubt, call each entity's customer relations office and ask what they require as well as whether you must appear in person. Name changes on utilities, cable services and club memberships can usually be done over the phone.
Notify your medical providers of your name change. In addition to your physician, dentist and eye doctor, you must contact the administrative offices of your health insurer in order to receive a replacement card reflecting your new surname. In most cases, a photocopy of your marriage license as well as a photocopy of your existing membership card will suffice.
Obtain appropriate paperwork from your company's HR department to officially change your name. At this time, you'll also likely change your tax withholding status as well as designate your spouse as your legal beneficiary.
Surrender your current passport by mailing it to the U.S. Department of State address listed on the DS-5504 or DS-82 form that applies to your situation. You also must submit an original or certified copy of your marriage license, two headshot color photos, and applicable fees. Processing time is about six weeks, although expedite service of two weeks is available for additional fees. Your old passport will be voided and returned to you along with the new issue. If you plan to honeymoon abroad, federal law prohibits you from being issued a passport under your married name until the marriage has actually taken place.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.