Changing your name is not easy.  It involves many forms to fill out, checks to write, and lots of waiting.  I hope this is the first and last time I ever need to do it.

For those that need to do it or are interested, here’s how to go about it.  (This is instructions for MA; I’m not sure if the rules change for other states.)

1.  Get your official copy of your marriage certificate, with the seal and everything.  You need the original to show to the Social Security Office.  They won’t take it from you.

2.  Make several photocopies; most places will change your name with just the photocopied version.  I had to copy mine on the lightest setting because there was a watermark that said “Copy” on it.  The first time I copied it, the only thing I could read was the “Copy” watermark all over the document.  After changing it to the lightest setting, I could then read the actual words on the certificate.

3.  The first thing to change is your name on your social security card.  You keep the same social security number.  Here’s the form you’ll need to fill out and bring with you. It takes about a week for them to mail you your new card.  Changing your name on your card is free of charge.  Make sure you bring your other IDs (driver’s license, passport, or other photo ID) to prove you are the person on your original social security card.  When I went, the clerk never even asked for a photo ID.  I could’ve been Suzy Q asking for a name change to Katherine Shao and they wouldn’t have known.  Good thing I’m not a terrorist or something like that.

4.  Once you receive your new social security card in the mail, go to the RMV to change your driver’s license.  This will give you your first photo ID with your new name.  (Check their website for locations and hours:  Request to keep your old card in case you need to prove your identity if anyone asks for it.  (I didn’t have to ask; the woman never asked for my old one back.  If they do take it though, it should still be fine.)  It’ll cost you $25 to get a new license.  You’ll have to wait another week or so for your new license to come in the mail.  They will give you a temporary paper license in the meantime.

5.  After you get your license in the mail, you can start changing everything else in your name – bank account, credit card, employer, passport, health/car insurance…

6.  I sent in to get my passport changed with a form on this website: I did mail them my old passport and my official marriage license.  I received both back in the mail.  They punch holes in your old passport to invalidate it.  Getting a new passport does cost a pretty penny ($110), but you can’t avoid the cost if you plan to travel abroad.

7.  I also faxed a copy of my new license to the airline that I have an account with so that my new name would show up on my account; otherwise I can’t book tickets using my new license and then I can’t get on the plane!

It’s a pretty tedious process, in the sense that you have to travel to all these places yourself and the first step is a prereq to the second and the second is a prereq to the third.  Though, once you get your social security card and driver’s license changed, you’re able to change anything else you need.

Good luck!  Let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks, Helena, for helping me through this process!