It’s widely believed that the first year of marriage is the hardest. Some of the challenges revolve around learning how to properly communicate and cohabitate. Other tests are less about the emotional rollercoaster of marriage and more about the mundane yet complicated processes it can involve. Enter, legally changing your last name.

Engaged and newly married women who chose to do so, often learn that changing a last name is not always simple. It can be time-consuming and a headache if you aren’t informed. You’ll have to get a new social security card, license, and debit and credit cards. You’ll also have to change your name for frequent flier accounts and TSA pre-check or global entry.  It can feel like a never ending list.

To make it a little more complicated, you have several options to consider when it comes to a name change. You can adopt your spouse’s last name, shift your current last name to your middle name while taking your spouse’s last name, or create a hyphenated combo of both last names.

Apply for a Marriage Certificate 

Before getting married, every person has to apply for a marriage license. This is true whether you have a courthouse ceremony or a large wedding with family and friends. 

Again, education and being informed is key. The process to acquire your marriage certificate varies by state. You’ll want to contact your local government before you get married to learn about applying for a marriage license and how to change your name. 

After you apply for the marriage license and get married, your new name will be reflected on your marriage certificate. You’ll only need a court order if you want to change your first name, too, or if you want a completely unique last name. Note: Once the County’s Registrar’s Office issues the marriage certificate, you cannot make changes to the certificate.

Update Identification 

Once you have your marriage certificate that reflects your name change, you’ll request the name change on forms of identification like your social security card, your driver’s license, and/or passports. There’s no time crunch to run down to the DMV or your local Social Security Administration office. Your marriage certificate does not expire, and you can change your name at any time in the future. 

Keep in mind though, that once you start the process, it is important to change your name with all institutions as quickly as possible. The process can be time-consuming as you are required to take an authorized copy of your marriage certificate to each government agency where you need to update your ID or record.

Social Security Card

The good news is that you do not need to get a new social security number. You simply need a new social security card to reflect your new last name. Fill out the Form SS-5, and take it to your local Social Security Administration office. 

You’ll also need an unexpired form of identification and a marriage certificate. You must have the original marriage certificate – not a copy. The Social Security Administration will send you an updated card for free within 14 days.

Identification Card

The next step is to get your driver’s license update. Remember that once you start the name change process, you’ll want to change your name everywhere as quickly as possible. 

Head over to the DMV, and take your current driver’s license, your new Social Security card, and your marriage certificate. Each state has its own deadline of how quickly you must get your license updated. 


To update your passport, you’ll need to fill out the DS-5504 form. Mail it (or go in person) to the U.S. Department of State, along with your current U.S. passport, your marriage certificate, passport photo, and a check for the fees. The process typically takes six to eight weeks.

Once you have your driver’s license or passport in the new name, you can use that to change your name elsewhere (aka on banking accounts, credit cards, debit cards, etc). Other places you’ll want to update your name include: 

  • Local post office
  • State benefits programs
  • State taxing authority
  • Voters’ registration
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Credit card companies and lenders
  • Insurance carriers
  • Your mortgage holder or your landlord
  • Utility service providers
  • Healthcare providers
  • Your employer
  • Your will/powers of attorney/other estate planning documents
  • Schools
  • Your TSA precheck or global entry