It's fun to watch people's faces when I announce brides and grooms' grand entrances at their weddings. Not everyone tells their friends and family if half of the couple is changing their last name. I used to give only my brides advice on how to handle this, but with the evolution of same-sex marriage, now it applies to both genders. And lots of my clients are still changing their names, even though some say the tradition is outdated.
Changing your name when you get married is easy. Take your new marriage license (the real one, not a copy) to your local Social Security office, along with two forms of identification. They'll file it and issue you a confirmation page that you'll take to the Department of Motor Vehicles, along with your marriage license, to get your new driver's license. Don't forget to change your passport too, as that can be a hassle if you forget and try to travel internationally. It's a simple 1-2-3 process with the third step completed by mail if your local U.S. Post Office doesn't provide on-site facilities.
Here are a few more tips to make changing your name less difficult personally and professionally:
1. If you're going to change your name, do it right away. Some states have time limits for filing it that easily. Also, if you're going to be adding one of you to the other's health insurance plan, it's much easier if you don't have to change that after you've done the paperwork.
2. Decide which name you will be using professionally and send an email to your work colleagues, clients, and vendors when you return from your honeymoon, re-introducing yourself with the name you are using. This is especially important if your company will be changing your email address to reflect your new last name. If you're not changing it, let them know that, too.
3. Consider keeping your "maiden" name as your middle name. My real middle name, for example, will always be Elizabeth to me. But for legal and paperwork purposes, I became "Sandra Nelson Malone" when I married my husband. This has proven invaluable over the years as I've discovered places I forgot to change my name — random car rental points or airline frequent flyer miles, for example. It's also important for reconnecting with old friends through social media.
4. Make a list of all your bank accounts, credit cards, insurance policies, and other important financial documents. Also, make another list of memberships, like the gym and airline loyalty programs. Check their websites — a few will let you change all of your information online. Most credit cards and financial institutions will require a copy or scan, and a name-change authorization letter, to each of them. If your bank is nearby, go in person. If you and your new spouse haven't already put your names on each other's accounts and changed your beneficiaries, turn it into a double-date adventure. It was fun to have my husband with me when I got my new driver's license with his last name on it!
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.