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After the “I Do”: Changing Your Name at the DMV After Marriage

By: Lauren HannulaNovember 30, 2015
With some solid planning, changing your name after marriage can be a piece of cake.
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  • Social Security
  • I.R.S.
  • U.S. Passport
  • Drivers License
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Voter Registration

Ahhh, marriage. One of the most joyful occasions a couple can experience together. But after the toasts have been given and the cake has been cut, there’s one thing that—should she choose to—the bride is left to do on her own: change her last name.

As a newlywed myself, I’ve recently had to complete this often tedious task undertaken by so many brides before me. And because I want to help a fellow sister out, I thought I’d give you the skinny on what I did to make changing my name at the DMV a piece of cake. (Really, it was!)

Here are my top 3 tips for changing your name at the DMV.

A WORD TO THE WISE:

Before you attempt to change your name ANYWHERE—be it with the DMV, your bank, your insurance company, or anywhere else—you’ll need to have it changed with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in order to have your Social Security number (SSN) reflect your new name.

The SSA gives clear instructions on what to do and bring, and it generally takes 24-48 hours for them to update your Social Security number with your new name in their computer system.

1. Make an Appointment with Your DMV

If your state DMV gives you the opportunity to make an appointment for your service, DO IT... and do it early. Give yourself plenty of time not only for them to fit you into an appointment slot, but also for the time it will take AFTER your appointment for you to receive your new driver’s license (hint: it will probably be at least a couple of weeks).

California, my state of residence, has an Appointment System that makes it relatively easy to search online for appointment dates and times—many states have something similar, but you can always call your local branch as well. When I did my search, the soonest they could get me in was a week and a half out.

When I arrived at my local office, I walked up to what I thought was the general line—which, at 8:40 a.m., was already 40 people deep. Just to be safe, I approached the front door to see if there was any signage giving specific directions... and lo and behold, an entirely different door was marked “Appointments,” and there was no one in that line.

Making an appointment easily saved me 45-60 minutes of simply waiting in line, before I even got into the building. I was able to walk right up to an employee and begin my name change process.

ANOTHER WORD TO THE WISE:

Try your best to get an early appointment slot as close to the office’s opening hours as you can. This will not only give you the ability to go about the rest of your day, but it will also save you from falling victim to your appointment being delayed because of other people’s issues piling up before you even get there.

2. Preparation Is Everything

I’m one of the lucky ones—my state of residence is very clear about everything I needed to bring in order to complete my name change. Make sure to do your due diligence and research the required paperwork you’ll need at the same time that you make your appointment.

Because I was über-prepared with all of my documents in order, by the time I was in front of the DMV clerk, all I needed to do was take an application and step off to the side to fill it out (California doesn’t let you print and fill them out beforehand—if your state does, DO IT!). On the other hand, I saw the clerk next to her turning people away because they hadn’t brought the right proofs of identity, residency, etc. for whatever their particular task was. Talk about a day wasted!

I was then able to pop right back into that same line (still no one else in it!), hand my paperwork to the clerk so she could make sure I had filled everything out properly, and in turn receive a number to indicate when another clerk could see me to actually process my new driver’s license.

4. Kill ‘Em with Kindness

One of the biggest stereotypes circulating about the DMV is its reputation for surly, overworked employees who simply want to make your day as excruciating as possible. And sure, there are some people who live up to that stereotype in any profession—but you have a secret power in your back pocket that can usually combat any kind of bad mood you might run into. That power, my friends, is called “being a nice person.”

When my number was called, I approached a window where I encountered another woman who had clearly already seen her fair share of disorganized people that day, and was likely expecting me to be another. The greeting I received wasn’t rude by any means, but it was certainly less than enthusiastic.

But with just a couple of genuine smiles on my part, plus some “pleases,” “thank yous,” and a neat pile of paperwork completely organized, filled out, and ready for her to process, her demeanor switched like a lightbulb. She was incredibly friendly and pleasant for the rest of our interaction. All she had to do was punch in some information into her computer, verify my address, and send me over to the photo station to have a new picture taken.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, my trip to the DMV to change my last name took me less than 30 minutes, from the time I got out of my car to the time I drove away. Much of this is simply because I had prepared beforehand as much as possible, and I was a friendly, polite patron during my appointment. At least from my DMV experience, a little bit of homework plus a smile and a polite word or two went a very long way to making my name change smooth sailing.

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