Personal Finance 

Changing Your Maiden Name After Marriage

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One of the tricky things about being “recently married” is that the missus was in name limbo. “Technically,” she’s my wife with my last name (that’s right!). “Legally,” she still retains her maiden name until she goes to the Social Security Administration to change her SS card name and the DMV or MVA to change her license name. So what happens when we get a check written out to her new name? Trickiness! Headaches! But not to fret, I’ll try to capture everything we’ve done so that it can be as painless as possible for all you newlyweds out there.

First, just to cover the check situation, she just needed to sign her new name (what the check was made out to) followed by her former name (the name on the account), to deposit the check. In reality, unless the issuer contests it, chances are anything reasonable would’ve worked.

Now, onto the name changes…

Marriage License

This is the linchpin of the whole name changing operation. Everything requires this and no names can be changed without the signed marriage license or certificate. The fact that it’s been issued is proof enough that the state recognizes the marriage and the signature is proof that the marriage went through, the document was never notarized, as is required of many legal documents, but having a notary there probably would’ve killed the mood.

Driver’s License

You’ll need to go to the DMV/MVA (whatever the place is called in your state) to make this name change request. In Maryland, you’ll need to go to a full service location with your marriage certificate and current license. Like every other trip to the DMV/MVA, I’d budget a healthy few hours and a few dollars to take care of this but somehow my wife was able to get in and out on a Tuesday morning in about half an hour (they run two different queues and the driver’s license queue was ridiculously short that day). The great thing about this step is that you are immediately issued a new license, there’s no need to wait around for one to be mailed to you.

Social Security Card

Changing your name on a Social Security Card is a bit trickier and the Social Security Administration provides this guidance, which is essentially you need to fill out a new application. You can mail in the application with the original or certified copies support documentation (proof of citizenship, legal name change, and proof of identity), but I would just go into an office rather than risking the mail. One gotcha here is that you need to bring proof of your old name too, so an expired Passport will do nicely.

Your Company HR

This step is crucial after you change your name with Social Security because your employer will be reporting Social Security payments. Depending on your company, this could be a pain or this could be a cinch. Either way, contact HR about changing your name and you will need, at most, the same documents you used for Social Security.


If your passport was issued within a year of the marriage, you’ll need to fill out a Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement Form: DS-5504 and send it in with two Passport photos, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and your old passport (and $60 if you want expedited service). If it was more than a year, you’ll unfortunately need to apply for a totally new Passport with Form DS-82 (and pay $60).

Online Accounts

Strangely enough, changing your name on online accounts turns out to be a bigger PITA than anything. For example, we are both members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer program and for her to change her name, she needs to send the request in writing along with a photocopy of the marriage certificate and her driver’s license. At first I thought, “why the hassle?” until I realized it was all in the name of security, and rightfully so. I recommend starting this process as soon as you get the driver’s license because the processing time could be a few weeks.

{ 33 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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33 Responses to “Changing Your Maiden Name After Marriage”

  1. CK says:

    Jimbo- curious to know what you 2 are doing for health insurance now? are you both still with your seperate policies or is she moving to yours or viceversa?

  2. Rick Morley says:

    Ah, sounds like a wonderful problem to be having. I wish I had a wife to have this problem with…

  3. I seem to recall that in California at least, you had to do SSA first before you could do anything else, including DMV.

    Like you, I didn’t trust the mail and went in person. For fellow Californians: when you go to DMV, MAKE AN APPOINTMENT!!! It saves such a huge headache.

  4. Let me clarify that second paragraph: I went to the SSA in person b/c I didn’t trust the mail. I got my new card pretty quickly, if I recall correctly. Then I went to DMV, again in person, where I was able to bypass the miles-long line (maybe hours-long would be more accurate) thanks to my appointment.

  5. jim says:

    CK: I went on her policy, her company pays for it all (very nice!)

  6. fefotz says:

    I recently got married too and it was a real hassle to get my name changed. I live in California and had to change with SSA first before DMV. As CFO mentioned making an appointment with DMV saves alot of time. ALso one thing to note is that titles of vehicles under the old name needs to be changed too… this is not taken cared of by changing name on the driver’s license alone.

  7. Penelope says:

    OMG! I just sat at the SSN office for TWO AND A HALF HOURS yesterday! Make an appointment with them too and save yourself the time and hassle.

    OTOH, DMV took 15 minutes tops…

  8. donna jean says:

    online accounts are a pain, i realize I still haven’t done ING and hope that doesn’t cause too much turmoil this tax season as my name now doesn’t match the 1099 I got.. oops, guess it’s about time to finally get that taken care of.

  9. savvy says:

    When I changed my name, I found that (somewhat alarming) some companies didn’t require any verification (i.e. marriage license or new DL). I called and asked my name to be changed and they did it. That said, I still haven’t changed my name with ShareBuilder because they wanted a notarized form and I didn’t feel like bothering.

  10. Lau says:

    After all the fun to look forward to, I wonder why I never changed my name!
    Hubby’s not too happy about it, but its such a hassle…

    Thanks for the list though. If I ever get to it, I’ll know exactly where to and who to call 🙂

  11. Yvette says:

    I’m always shocked to learn that women are still changing their names after marriage. I would think we would have abandoned that patriarchal custom long ago.

  12. thomas says:

    my wife’s grandmother still writes us checks with my wife’s maiden name. I have yet to run into a problem with a bank not cashing the check.

  13. Ricardo Roman says:

    My daughter is asking me for my SS# in order to change her name. She said it was for reference??? Anyone ever heard of that one before? Please, I’d like to know.

  14. Jessica says:

    @ Yvette: In Chinese culture women don’t change their surnames 🙂

  15. Linda says:

    My husband wants me to use his last name for daily stuff including on my drivers license, but doesnt care about my banking etc etc,…

    Does any one know if i will run into a problem if I put my maiden and married name on my DL maybe hypenated, AND on my passport, but NOT change anything with SS or anyone else? I was going to change the DL and passport to his last name only.. but then what if I didnt change my banking and then they ask to see my ID… the names wouldnt match…

    I think the name change is totally over rated, but I dont really mind… but I dont want to change it on everything… I’m a notary and have a professional license etc and when I started looking at having to change everything it made me sick lol

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ricardo – they ask for parents SSN but it is NOT required – at least not in CA.

  17. Stephanie says:

    In Maryland, I changed my name with no problem at the Social Security Office where they only required my marriage lisence and drivers lisence.

    However when I went to the MVA right aftewards, they told me I had to wait 2 days after changing my name w/ the social security offfice before I could change it w/ MVA.

    I mention this because the MVA website does not mention this technicality. It only says to bring your marriage certificate.

    So don’t try to do both in the same day like I did!

  18. rameshraju says:

    In many traditions women are considered as family’s honor and pride in the society. Most people believe that when a woman replaces her maiden name with her husband’s name, it symbolically resembles that she has started new family and that she has taken the responsibility of conserving her family’s honor and pride in the society. It is a common idea that this tradition keeps unity and feeling of oneness among the family members. Many people say that the adaptability, nobility, sacrifice nature and love on husband of a woman are revealed by this tradition.It is believed that traditions of this type strengthens the family system. This tradition mainly helps to identify a person in the society, like ‘to which family he/she belongs’ etc. Since husband is head and eldest of the family, his father’s family name is taken as the title of the family and all of his members like wife and chlidren bears the same title. However the birth of feminism and women empowerment have resulted in the decline of this tradition presently.This tradition preserves the proper structure of a family system.

  19. Liz Kay says:

    @rameshraju, I like it when couples combine their names to represent the new union of their families/identities. Unfortunately my best example of this practice is the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who ended up cheating on his wife, the former Ms. Raigosa. California used to let women change their names for free, but would charge men $$$ to file the paperwork if they changed their names … now I think that’s changed.

  20. Manda says:

    I was married about a month ago. My husband is very excited about me having his last name… but this just sounds like too much work! I think I’ll just keep my maiden name!

  21. jennifer says:

    I just recently got married and I am confused on the whole name change thing.

  22. Sarah says:

    Take a few hours off from work and get it all done in that time. Visit each office and make sure to have your real marriage license – no copies. It is worth it. You feel more like a family, a union, a whole! 🙂 Also, everything is free except for the RMV and the time off work. GO FOR IT!

    *It is pretty important to most guys and it isn’t all about you anymore. Compromise!

  23. Bride in 2005 says:

    I was married in 2005 and I still have not and probably wont be changing my last name. My husband is not at all bothered by it. It just seems like such a hassle especially in CA.

  24. Allison says:

    I got married about 6 months ago and I didn’t change my last name then. I have since changed my mind and want to change it to match my husband’s. How would I go about actually changing it (I’m pretty clear on the stuff that comes after like the DMV and SS office and other accounts). I live in NY.

  25. Heather says:

    I’ve already told my boyfriend that when we get married both he and I will be changing our names, to represent the combination of both our families and the start of our new family. I’m excited to take his name but don’t want to lose either my maiden name or my middle name. I also don’t want to emasculate him by making him hyphen his last name, but I want him to have just as much hassle when we get married as I will. So we are going to use my maiden name as a second middle name for both us and our future children. Just my idea.

    • Jim says:

      Why do you want to have him have as much hassle as you?

      • Heather says:

        I think the act of changing or altering yourself (by taking on your spouse’s name) is very important in cementing the permance of this commitment. And I want him to be affected by having the hassle of paperwork & having to jump through hoops in order to change his name just like I will.

      • Rachel L says:

        I must agree with Heather about one thing, guys do get off easy in this process.

        And thanks Jim for the tips, especially the passport one. I didn’t know I’d have to order a brand new one. Yuck!

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