The 8-Step Guide to Changing Your Last Name

By Cathleen Freedman

You’ve sent out the embossed invitations, finalized the seating chart, and even selected the cake topper. Your wedding has been planned right down to the minutiae. There’s only one thing left to consider: your married name. While updating your Instagram handle is as easy as clicking a button and editing the profile, changing your name for all legal intents and purposes is a bit more involved. The ensuing bureaucracy is one of the more unromantic aspects of wedding planning. But if Jennifer Lopez Affleck and Sofia Richie Grainge managed, so can you. Here, we’ve broken down the steps of changing your name. It’s time to make things official.


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What’s in a Name?

Newlyweds may argue everything—or nothing—is in a name. It all depends on you. A married name is not a one-size-fits-all accessory. Everyone has different preferences, and some may not even change theirs at all. Sarah Jessica Parker is in good company with other working women who made a name for themselves in their careers—and chose to keep it that way after their wedding. In 2015, 20% of brides retained their maiden names. Some get even more creative. Hillary Rodham Clinton swapped her middle name out for her maiden name when she married in 1975.

Photo: Yumi Matsuo

Traditionally, brides shed their maiden name in favor of their groom’s surname. The unvarnished history behind this, however, is unsavory. The archaic laws of coverture dictated that a married woman became her husband’s property without her own legal standing in society. Modern-day couples reclaim this practice and instead adopt the groom’s name as a symbol of love—not subservience. Jennifer Affleck noted in an interview with Vogue that she took her groom’s name, knowing she is “very much in control of [her] own life and destiny” and still “feel[s] empowered as a woman and as a person.”

Meanwhile, other couples prefer to subvert the name norm. In 2022, Brooklyn Beckham took on his bride’s last name, so they can be Mr. and Mrs. Peltz Beckham. You may read “Beyoncé” and “Jay-Z” on magazine headlines, but according to their marriage certificate, they’re Mr. and Mrs. Knowles-Carter. Carlos Pena and Alexa Vega created their own married last name of PenaVega. Sometimes, the groom takes his wife’s name simply because he prefers it to his own.

Hyphenating the couple’s name has also become popular, especially for brides and grooms who want their future children to have both parents’ names. Other couples opt for a new last name altogether, allowing them to forge a new identity as spouses. This is particularly common for same-sex couples where there is no name-taking precedent. For those following in the PenaVegas’ footsteps, you will have to obtain a court order to form your completely original last name. Once acquired, you may proceed with the following steps outlined below. (Keep reading . . . )

“Née” or no née, there is no wrong way to change your last name. But be warned: some states don’t play the name game very well and pose finicky stipulations for what newlyweds can and cannot do. While grooms may take their bride’s name in Georgia, they are unable to do so in Ohio. However, if you and your spouse both want to hyphenate your name in Georgia, you’re out of luck. Check your state’s marriage requirements before embroidering towels with your carefully selected, inventive moniker. Without further ado, here’s how you change your last name.

1. Get A License to Wed

First, obtain your marriage license. Head over to the county clerk with all of your necessary documents in tow—you’ll likely need your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and a witness. Confer with your state’s guidelines for the full list. This license is not to be confused with the marriage certificate. One very important thing distinguishes the two: the license allows you to marry, while the certificate verifies that you are married.

OTM Bride Jodie Chan signs paperwork at her incredibly chic City Hall wedding. Photo: Mist of Morning Photography

2. Have Certified Proof

Your videographer’s film reel isn’t enough—the marriage certificate is the kind of legal proof you need to prove your wedding happened. Once the document is signed, sealed, and delivered, get a few certified copies. You’ll need at least two for all of the following paperwork, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few backups stored for safekeeping. If this sounds overwhelming already, don’t worry. There are services that simplify the name change process for newlyweds. For anyone who wants to save time and prevent confusion, definitely consider one of these streamlined kits.

OTM Bride Sarah Amanda Bray after her civil ceremony nuptials. Photo: Carly Tumen

3. Update All Forms of Identification

If you’re changing your name, all forms of identification should reflect your new identity. Start with your Social Security card. Your SSN will stay the same, regardless of the name change. Good news: there is no fee for updating it, but you will need to fill out an application and provide several documents. Consult the official site for further details.

It’s best to wait 24 hours for government systems to process your newly instated card before you update your photo identifications like your driver’s license. Go ahead and book an appointment at your local DMV—you have to visit in person to renew and update your license. Bring proof of your new Social Security card—if you’re still waiting for it in the mail, a receipt also works—and a certified copy of your marriage certificate that will be returned to you, in addition to your proof of address and payment.

4. Amend Your Travel Documents

International honeymooners, wipe off your rose-colored glasses and read closely: Wait until after your trip overseas to change the name on your passport. Whatever form of identification you travel with should match your boarding pass. Keep your travel itineraries under your maiden name to pair with your passport.

Once you’re back home, apply for a new passport. You’ll mail a completed DS-5504 or DS-82 form, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, your present passport, and a check to the U.S. Department of State. Then, you’ll receive your newly-minted passport. Should you or your spouse have any other passport questions, consult this guide here about the renewal process.

For pre-approved travelers with expedited clearance through Global Entry, you must visit a local enrollment center to provide your new passport number. If you have TSA PreCheck through your Global Entry membership, it will automatically be updated. If you don’t, call 855-347-8371 or query to have your name change reflected in the system. The Homeland Security site will have additional information.

OTM couple Chelsea Cozen and Marc Patijaud share the happy news of their recent vows. Photo: Sanford Creative

5. Inform the Masses

By now you’ve probably flipped through half of your proverbial Rolodex and told everyone you love the good news about your nuptials. But don’t stop there. Your HR at work should be informed, so they can update your payroll name. More importantly, ensure every insurance policy—whether that be home or health—reflects your last name. Marriage is a major life event, so you or your spouse can be added to health insurance regardless of an open enrollment period. Also, tell your attorney about your name change so any legal documents can be appropriately amended. Update your Netflix, Spotify, and other auto-pay accounts—or combine them. This can all be handled online, no marriage certificate necessary.

Craft an email to send to colleagues and debut your new name professionally, especially if you are changing your email address. In that case, automatically forward emails from your former account to your current one. For approximately six months after your wedding, it is customary to sign off on correspondence with your new name and former name in parentheticals—just to ease with the transition.

6. Update Your Voter Registration

Ahead of election season and before the deadline, please register to vote. You should always revise your registration if you move, switch party affiliation, and in your case, change names.

7. Alert Your Bank 

It’s time to find your bank’s phone number. The name-changing process varies by branch, so inquire for the full details, but make sure to get a debit card and checks with your new name printed on them. Reach out to your credit card company’s customer service next. You’ll need cards with your married name!

8. Refresh Your Social Media Profiles

With that bureaucratic rigamarole out of the way, take to social media and edit your profile accordingly as well. Why not post a throwback wedding photo while you’re at it, reminding friends and followers of your new name and awe-inspiring nuptials.