This question is no longer just for brides, but is becoming more and more a question for both brides and grooms. Due to the many issues involved the decision can be difficult. Some of the issues to consider include: sense of identity as a person and a family, future family relationships, future children, personal preferences and traveling out of the country (where husband and wife are expected to have the same last name). A friend of mine told me her husband wanted them to have the same last name to be considerate of others - so people wouldn't wonder if they were just dating or married (if they weren't wearing their rings). Another friend of mine warned that when her sister was traveling with her husband in a foreign country (I don't know where this could be in this day and age!) the hotel concierge gave them difficulties when they wanted to get a room together since they did not have the same last name and since they did not speak the language, they had a hard time explaining that they were married. However, there is a contingency of women who choose not to change their name once they are married. Some reasons for this include: they have established a name for themselves in a career that would make it costly and too difficult to change, they want their family lineage to continue, the couple prefers that the husband be the one to change his name.
While the procedures involved in changing your name can be time consuming, having the name you want is well worth the effort. If you are unsure of how you want to change your name, see the list of options below to help you decide which name-change (or not) is best for you.
When should I change my name?
You may prepare the forms anytime before or after getting married. We suggest that you save all your important mail in the few months leading up to your wedding so you'll have a comprehensive list (with addresses) of all the places you'll need to notify. However, you cannot process any of the forms until you receive your marriage license (after getting married). We suggest that you file the forms after your honeymoon (especially if you are leaving the country) to avoid any unnecessary inconveniences.
I'm getting married in a couple of months, what do I need to do to get my marriage certificate?
You must visit your city hall, with your fiancé, no sooner than 30 days before your wedding (this varies from state to state). Not all city halls offer marriage certificates so we suggest you call your city hall ahead of time to find out where to go. While there, you will be asked to fill out forms and make an oath before they give you a preliminary certificate. There is no blood test needed. You should bring this form to your wedding (or make other arrangements to meet with your officiator), and ask your officiator and a witness to sign it. Once this is completed, you can mail it in for your official marriage certificate.
Do I need to change my name if I am only hyphenating my name?
Yes, any modification of your name is considered a name change and the proper documentation should be processed in order to officially change your name.
What forms do I need to change my name?
For a comprehensive name-change you'll need the following forms: social security, drivers license, passport, voter registration, (IRS - address change only), vehicle title/registration, and a series of notification letters to your workplace, financial institutions, insurance, medical, utilities, frequent flier programs, magazine subscriptions etc. There are a number of online kits that have the forms you need (you can fill out forms online and download them from your home computer), and detailed instructions on where to send each form (or if you need to make a personal appearance) as well as what additional documentation you'll need.
Do I need to change my name in person everywhere?
The State level Department of Motor Vehicles, and some financial institutions, require you to make a personal visit. All other agencies allow you to change your name through the mail.
What are my options for changing my name?
Taking Partner's Last Name: This is the traditional method whereby the bride, traditionally, takes the last name of the groom in place of her last name. However, the groom may take on the bride's last name in place of his own instead. Some reasons for taking on your partner's name are: to have a reminder of your commitment to them, allow any existing or future children have the same name as their parents, and doing so reminds others that you have are a family, regardless of whether or not there are children.
Hyphenating: is the increasingly popular choice with couples today. One or both partners may hyphenate their last names and have the benefits of retaining their last name as well as the benefits of taking their partner's name.
Middle Name Change: One option is for the couple to replace their middle name with the last name of their partner. In this instance, Jennifer Diane Simmons would become Jennifer Smith Simmons, and Jonathon Taylor Smith will become Jonathon Simmons Smith. This allows for a sense of unity, while both partners are still able to retain their last names from birth. I'm noticing that more and more women are choosing this option, like the former First Lady: Hillary Rodham Clinton. The benefit of this name change is that can create a smoother transition because you'll always have proof of your maiden name. However, this doesn't always turn out to be the prettiest name and I know some women who did not choose this option because their middle name had a special meaning to them.
The following options require different procedures (filing a name-change petition at your local Superior Court).
Last Name Combination: This option allows each partner to bring part of their name into the marriage (and keep a form of their identity) while also gives a sense of unity between the couple. This choice is pretty rare, however.
Entirely New Last Name: Some couples choose a name that has a special meaning to them like choosing the name of a favorite, deceased relative or a parent. Middle names can be used as a last name, if you prefer. Yet another way couples can choose a last name is to choose something such as their favorite place or activity which defines their character. This is not common, but is chosen to allow couples to express themselves through their name.