Photo by Becca Sabot
Name change documents | Photo by Becca Sabot
My biggest wedding meltdown didn’t happen before the wedding. It happened after—months after—when I was preparing to change my name.
After a few decades of use, it was hard not to feel attached to my maiden name. So when it came time to make the switch, I did what any self-respecting writer would do: I filled out three separate forms and hoped inspiration would strike before I got to the front of the line at the DMV. It didn’t. As I tearily shuffled between each of my three options (Emily Elizabeth Sefton, Emily Howald Sefton, or Emily Elizabeth Howald Sefton), the lady behind the desk pointedly asked me why I hadn’t thought through my future identity before waiting in the hourlong line. I mumbled something about hoping it would strike me in the moment. And then I went to the back of the line for another hour of pondering.
Don’t be like me. Once I finally settled on a name, it took months to change all my documents: my driver’s license, social security card, bank accounts, etc. Instead of dragging your feet, make the transition to Mrs. Hislastname an extension of your planning process. If you tackle it with the same organized ferocity as you did the seating chart, two years from now you’ll be thankful when you’re not scrambling to update your passport—trust me. So here are a few plan-of-attack tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Start with the marriage license.
You’ll quickly find you can’t do anything official without that pesky document declaring you a Mrs. You need to purchase the license at least five days before you tie the knot, but it’s good for six months, so you may want to tick that task off the to-do list well before your wedding month. Make sure you ask about how to order your actual marriage certificate once the deed is done—and request more than one copy. You’ll need it more than you think.
2. Get social.
With your marriage license in hand, head to the social security office with the application (form SS-5 at ssa.gov) already filled out. You will also need proof of citizenship (a U.S. passport or birth certificate), proof of legal name change (your original marriage license), and identification (your driver’s license or passport). Having your old social security card can’t hurt, either. Give yourself some time—like at most government offices, the line is typically long and slow moving.
3. Your license comes next.
This one is surprisingly easier than you think—unless you have a meltdown like yours truly, which can delay the process. Bring $26.25, an original copy of your marriage certificate, and your old license to the DMV. (Note: Some daring brides claim to lose their license on the way to the DMV and use their passport for this secondary identification. Holding on to your maiden ID may prove beneficial but is technically against the law, so proceed at your own risk.) Also, note that if you’re switching to a Minnesota ID from another state, you’ll have to take the written driver’s test. Practice versions are available online and are strongly encouraged.
4. Finally, make it personal.
Undoing two or three decades’ worth of your formerly known self takes time, so be patient. You’ll want to notify your HR department at work, update your voter registration, and change your health records, medical documents, last will and testament, and any bank accounts in question. Your passport is the final piece to the puzzle, but be sure to wait to change it until after your honeymoon if you’re traveling internationally. (You’ll want to book any immediate travel in your maiden name.) It may be fun to call yourself by your married moniker at the airport, but when the time comes to show your ID at security, you want to be sure you’ve got the right documentation, with the right name, in hand. The last thing you want to have to do before heading on your honeymoon is try to convince the TSA you are who you say you are.