Changing your name the ins and outs, the hows and whys

When most women take their vows, they also take their new husband’s family name. It’s a time-honored tradition that still suits many brides, but it is also a choice that means you should consider all the legal requirements of a name change well before the wedding day.

According to the experts at, if you decide to change your name begin using it immediately (and consistently) after the wedding. Use your new name whenever possible. Liberal doses on business cards, in introductions and with friends and family members will get the word out.

But when you receive your marriage license, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security offices to obtain new identification cards. has a Web page that lists the contact information for each of the 50 states so you can begin the process of obtaining new IDs. It’s located under “Name Change” in the “Bride & Groom” section of the Web site.

In some states, if a bride changes her name to anything other than what is legally her groom’s last name at the time of marriage, she may be required to pay a fee.

Be sure to ask your county clerk about the specific laws governing your area.

There are plenty of institutions and government agencies that will need the updated name information. They include:

• Employers, 401(k) or retirement accounts;

• Banks, stockbrokers, credit card companies;

• Post offices, utility companies;

• Voter registration, U.S. State Department (Passport Services);

• Mortgage, deed or lease companies, insurance companies;

• Personal memberships such as health or athletic clubs, schools and alumnae associations.

By the way, avoid a common pitfall that could spell disaster for your honeymoon trip if it includes foreign travel. In our post-Sept. 11 world, the name on your passport must match that on your airline ticket (and your photo identification card). Make sure your passport passes muster, or consider changing your name after the trip.