When comes time to tackle this complicated post-wedding task, follow this handy guide.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated May 08, 2019
Credit: Christopher Stevenson/Getty Images

Of all the post-wedding to-dos you need to handle, changing your last name might be the most daunting (closely followed by penning hundreds of thank-you notes). We don’t blame you if you’ve been stalling—maybe you’ve heard tales of this notoriously headache-inducing process from your married friends and family. But your name-change experience doesn’t need to be like that—promise.

If you’ve chosen to take your new spouse’s last name, or otherwise combine, alter, or hyphenate your monikers, you’ll want to make it legal ASAP. Why? “Most people will need to update their name in over 20 places, which takes the average person a few months at best,” warns Colie Christensen, founder of online name-change service NewlyNamed. So where do you even start? Let’s take it step by step.

Get Your Marriage Certificate

This is very first thing you need to do. (Note that a marriage certificate is different from a marriage license—that thing your officiant had to sign and register at the county clerk’s office after your “I dos”). A marriage certificate is your legal proof of marriage that you’ll need throughout your entire name-change process. It’s typically mailed to you within a month or so of your wedding, but if you’ve already misplaced it, don’t sweat. You can buy a certified copy from the courthouse or county office in your wedding location (fees vary by state).

Update Your Name With the Social Security Administration

Before you can update anything—even your passport and driver’s license—you need to update your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA), says Christensen. Download and fill out a name-change application on the SSA website (being careful not to misspell anything—it’s a pain to fix).Then either mail it or drop it off. “In two weeks you’ll have your new social security card!” Christensen says. How exciting is that?

Insider tip: “The SSA office and DMV are notorious for long lines,” Christensen says. “Your best chance to avoid them is by showing up 10–15 minutes before the doors open. Another thing you can do for DMVs and banks is to schedule an appointment—although the next slot may be weeks out.”

Update Government Issued Documents

With a brand-spanking-new social security card, you can start the process of changing the name on your government-issued documents like your state ID or driver’s license and passport. Make sure you bring original copies of all your documents—no photocopies or digital copies. “Many people get turned away at the DMV for not having the right documentation or not presenting original documents,” Christensen says. “Visit your DMV’s website or call ahead to verify you have the proper documentation.” Tackle these government IDs first, because you’ll need them to swap your name out elsewhere.

Insider tip: Applying for a new passport before your wedding? Delaying your name change might make you miss a chance to update your passport for free! “If you apply for a passport in your old name, you have 12 months from the time your passport was issued when you can update your name for free,” Christensen explains. “After 12 months have passed, you'll have to pay a passport renewal fee of $110.”

Tackle the Rest

You’ll likely think of more places as you go, but the big name-changes to handle first include things like your voter registration info, banks, credit cards, investment accounts, utilities, and other personal accounts, and any subscriptions or memberships.

Insider tip: Use a name-change checklist or kit like NewlyNamed to streamline the entire process and save you a ton of stress. “You can find name-change checklists online [that] have already done the hard work for you,” Christensen says. “They include a checklist, filled-out applications, and personalized instructions for your social security card, driver’s license, passport, and personal accounts.”