The Name-Change Game

WORDS BY Rebecca Mitchell + PHOTOGRAPHY BY Katy Gray

After months of focused planning, your wedding day is a great success. From ceremony to reception, your attention to detail paid off and your day passed as a remarkably memorable event. Ahh … you can finally exhale. But wait! You’ve decided to change your name after marriage, which means you have one last hurdle to overcome before you can kick up your feet and reflect on your new life as part of a married couple.

Knowing when and how to change your name can save you time and headaches. Begin the name-changing process after you are married. While you may want to get a jump-start on what can be a lengthy course of action, starting before you are officially married is a waste of time. Once you are legally wed, obtain at least two certified copies of your marriage certificate and make several noncertified copies, too.

According to Leah Ingram, author of Plan Your Wedding in No Time, the best advice for accomplishing the name-changing process smoothly is this: Tackle the most important entities first and then work your way down the list.

The most important item to change is your Social Security card. Do this first, as you will need your new card to change other forms of identification and open a bank account using your new name. Plus, roughly ten days after the records at the Social Security Administration are changed, your Internal Revenue Service records will be updated. According to the Social Security Administration, failure to report a name change to them can delay future tax refunds and jeopardize your wages from being correctly reported, which may lower your future Social Security benefits.

To change your name on your Social Security card, you will need to complete Form SS-5 and submit it, along with proof of your U.S. citizenship, identity, and legal name change. You must submit original copies of documents like your birth certificate, passport, and/or driver’s license. While this can be unnerving, and though instances of lost items have no doubt occurred, in my case I received my original documents back from two different governmental agencies with no problems.

To obtain Form SS-5 and get further details on acceptable documents of proof, visit or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213.

Next on your list is updating your driver’s license, which requires a visit to your state’s department of motor vehicles. Bring a certified copy of your marriage certificate and your current driver’s license. You will likely have to pay a fee for your new license, so ask if it’s cheaper (and acceptable) to pay a “duplicate” fee as opposed to a new license fee. And while you’re there, update your vehicle registration with your new name.

Now that you have an updated Social Security card and driver’s license, it is a good time to update your passport. Be sure to complete this prior to any international travel, as having a passport in one name and a driver’s license in another can cause you problems abroad. There are two different processes for updating your passport with a name change—one for name changes occurring within one year of passport issuance, and another for name changes occurring more than one year from the issuance date. Each situation requires a unique application form (either DS-5504 or DS-82), both of which can be obtained online at The completed form, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, one recent color photograph (two-inch-by-two-inch), your current valid passport, and any required fees must be mailed to a processing facility, the address of which is found at the above-referenced website. The normal turnaround time is ten to twelve weeks, but if you need to receive your passport sooner, you can pay an additional $60 per application, plus delivery costs, to have it expedited. This reduces the turnaround time to two to three weeks.

If you are employed and have company benefits, such as health insurance or a retirement account, you’ll need to update those plans with your new name and any new dependents and/or beneficiaries. These tasks can likely be completed by your company’s human resources or accounting personnel.

The remainder of your list should include personal accounts like credit cards, banks, mortgages, investments, insurances, utilities, and personal memberships. Be sure to update your will and other legal documents, medical records, and voter registration. And, let the post office know your new name, so mail can be correctly sorted. It’s a good idea to contact the credit bureaus to make sure they are reporting your new name. Typically, the credit bureaus track people by Social Security number, so the change should take effect automatically, but it never hurts to double check when it comes to your credit history.

From personal experience, I know that each entity has its own name-changing policy, which can include fees to process. Some require a written request with proof of name change, while others allow you to make changes on the back of a current statement. For those that require written notification, I suggest you use the name-changing form letter provided online at Personalize it by entering your specifics in the red areas, and have several copies on hand for quick name-change requests.

If the name-changing challenge sounds too daunting for you to handle on your own, numerous name-changing services and kits are available—you can find them by performing an online search.

Local Information

The Wyoming Department of Motor Vehicles, located at 1040 Evans Road in Jackson, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed noon to 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The phone number is 307/733-4571.

The Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles, located in the Sheriff’s Building in Driggs, is open Monday through Friday; call for hours. The phone number is 208/354-8785.

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