Let's face it: Changing your name after you get married is a pretty big decision. After all, a name signifies your identity. If you decide to take your spouse's last name, take a few steps to make the name-change process run smoothly.
The first step is obtaining an official marriage certificate. Obtain this record in person from your state's Department of Health and Human Services; there's a small fee that varies from state to state. Your state may house these records in a different department.
Once you have your marriage certificate, get a new Social Security card. Updating your Social Security card will allow you to change your name on other important documents, such as your driver's license. It's also important to report your name change to the Social Security Administration (SSA) so you can receive tax refunds without any delay. (If you file a tax return using your new last name before you change it with the SSA, Internal Revenue Service computers would have trouble matching your new name with your Social Security number.)
Updating your Social Security card allows you to change your name on other important documents.
Filing for a new Social Security card is a simple process. Fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). After you complete this form, you can either mail it or bring it in person to your local Social Security office. You'll also need to include identification documents (such as a driver's license or passport) as well as your original marriage certificate.
There's no fee for a new Social Security card if you're changing your name after you get married. The process may take longer if you mail your documents; however, it's a one-stop process if you visit the local office with your documents in hand. Your new card will have the same number as your previous card.
Once you have a new Social Security card, you can change your name on other important legal documents. The first document you should change is your driver's license. When you visit your Department of Motor Vehicles, bring your current driver's license, original birth certificate, and marriage license. You'll need to fill out a name change form at the DMV to complete the process.
The last step in the name-change process is to notify all other institutions of your name change. Update your work records and benefits with your employer so your paychecks reflect your new name. You also should update your passport for future travel. Notify your financial institutions of your name change; this may require an in-person visit. You also need to change your name on any credit cards. Let your landlord, doctor's office, post office, and insurance company know about your name change as well. Finally, if you're a licensed professional, change your name with the licensing board and any associated organizations.
If you're still not sure about taking your spouse's name, consider other options.
option 1: keep your last name
This is the simplest option, as it requires no paperwork at all. Another advantage of keeping your name is that you can maintain your established identity in your professional life.
option 2: make your last name your middle name
This option lets you keep some of your established identity. You could change your middle name to your original last name and then take your spouse's last name. This option seems like a win-all, although it might cost extra to legally change your middle name; some states do not recognize this as a standard married name change.
option 3: create a new last name
Hyphenating your last name is a clear compromise, and is common. You would still need to go through all of the steps of changing your last name but, with this option, you could keep your last name for personal or professional reasons while sharing the same name as your spouse and any children you have in the future. Keep in mind, though, that hyphenated last names can cause trouble within certain computer systems. For example, hyphenated last names don't always work well at the self-check-in kiosks at the airport.
Hyphenated last names also can cause uncertainties with medical records and things of that nature.
a few other things to consider
Waiting too long to change your name after getting married causes the process to become more difficult, and you'll most likely be required to change your name using a court process (which includes a fee).
If you do decide to take your spouse's name after getting married, make sure you complete the process in a timely manner in order to avoid any hassle. In the end, make sure that you (and your spouse) are going to be satisfied with whatever choice you make so you don't have to repeat the name-change process more than once.
And if the marriage eventually dissolves and you choose to change your name back to your previous name, you'll again need to file a name change with the Social Security office.