Sure, planning a wedding requires a lot of time and energy, but the thing which had me the most anxious was something entirely different: changing my name. With a maiden name that’s more commonly thought of as a woman’s first name, I’ve always had the intention of taking my maiden name as my middle name and changing my name upon marriage.
It wasn’t having a new name that had me worried. When I noted my intentions, I heard so many friends tell me this wasn’t something you could do in New York City. A number actually just kept their original middle name because they didn’t want to go through the process to change it to what they really wanted. It used to be that taking your maiden name as your middle name required that you petition the U.S. court system for a name-change.
That process sounded annoying but, even more than that, I was not willing to do the steps required to finalize the change. The process as the court system summarizes it requires posting a classified ad in the paper disclosing your home address, your birthdate, and your wedding date. I won’t elaborate, but for security purposes, I wasn’t comfortable doing this – so there was a period where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep my maiden name in my legal name.
I decided to give it a try, and see if I could make it work. I committed to this fully before our wedding day. When I signed our marriage license, I did not even put in a middle name or initial – not wanting anything to substantiate my original middle name.
You will have to do these in stages, as all require your marriage license as supporting documentation for the name change. One way around that would be getting an additional copy of your license, but I wasn’t that concerned so spread this out in waves.
To start, I updated my name with the Social Security Administration. I figured if they gave me any issues, I would know whether I could continue on this path. I was extremely nervous, but this step was quick and painless.
Next, I updated my info on my U.S. passport. This is all done via the mail, so you don’t get that immediate gratification, but I knew having the new social security card with the updated name should work in my favor. Didn’t hurt that the marriage certificate also didn’t have any mention of my middle name.
Finally, the biggie: the DMV. This used to be the big hiccup, as they wouldn’t allow you to fill in the details of your full name – only the last name. Now, they do. This change came out of a legal case and was aided by similar preference in married name by women such as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Coretta Scott King. I followed this order though so that all of my supporting identification would line up with the name I was choosing, just to try to make sure I had the best chance of success.
I was so worried I was making a mistake sticking to my original desire here, but am so glad I didn’t let that fear change my course. Hopefully this is helpful for others thinking through a similar change.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! It’s such an exciting time and a big change to go with a different name, so hope this helps you too go with the name you desire.