Planning a wedding and a name change for the bride

When my now-wife and I were planning our wedding, the last thing on our minds was how, exactly, she would change her name to officially become Mrs. Urken. There were more pressing matters to worry about, like planning the ceremony, solidifying the logistics of our reception, and staying within our budget (that's me with Tiffany in the photo above at our September nuptials).

But, as we soon learned, when and how she handled changing her name could have a significant impact on our future finances, including buying a house and ensuring a speedy tax refund.

What's in a Name

About 80% of the 2.2 million women who get married each year choose to change their names -- and that means ordering a new driver's license and passport, updating bank accounts and changing countless official documents from employee and payroll identification forms to insurance policies and mortgages (see this comprehensive name-change list from wedding site TheKnot).

Dealing with all the bureaucracy can be a colossal hassle.

Jake Wolff was reminded of that when his law school buddy Josh Gelb, who was engaged to be married, complained about how much time the process was costing his fiancee. Wolff thought back to his own wife's frustration with all the official hurdles she had to clear. "Out of the blue she said, 'I wish I could pay someone to do this,' " Wolff recalled. "A light went off in my head."

That light turned out to be HitchSwitch, which Wolff and Gelb launched in 2009 to streamline the name-change process. Their template -- and others like it from MissNowMrs.com, for example-- promises to take the hassle out of name change for a fee. Fill out a brief questionnaire, and for $40, HitchSwitch will send you a packet of official forms with the required information filled out and envelopes addressed to the correct administrative offices. (The only document they can't take care of is a driver's license, which must be obtained in person.)

How Getting it Wrong Can Cost You

Time is money, of course, but there are also long-term financial advantages to nailing all the details when it comes to a name change. For example, here are a few things that can fall through the cracks:

Real estate transactions: It's not unusual for newlyweds to buy a house together. That's what Aimee Grove and her husband did after they got married in April 2004. But Grove, a marketing executive in the San Francisco Bay area, didn't change her name until March 2012, in anticipation of her son's starting kindergarten.

When the couple recently refinanced their mortgage, they ran into delays, since her new name wasn't on the old documents. "There were a few complexities in the paperwork, since my name had changed since the first mortgage and the name on the trust and deed," Grove said. This involved more administrative work and in-person trips to the bank.

Rewards programs: Megan Mayo Ryan, the tourism manager at the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau, got married in September. She started the name change process some three weeks after her wedding and has almost finished now, a month and a half later. But something almost slipped through the cracks: her frequent flyer numbers and loyalty programs.

While changing her identity, she could have unwittingly made herself ineligible for her miles or points by assuming a new name. Or, every time she tried to book a flight, she'd have to phone customer service to explain why the name on her frequent flyer account didn't match the reservation. To solve the problem, Ryan wrote a formal letter to various travel and accommodations services to get her name updated, which typically took about two weeks.

Employment documents: Name change is important for payroll purposes, so employers can properly issue paychecks. "I've been at my company for eight years and am established with my network under my maiden name," Mayo Ryan said. But she uses her married name at work to make sure her paycheck is on the social security record attached to her new official name.

Taxes: If you are hyphenating your last name (as my wife is) or taking your spouse's last name, you need to change your name with the Social Security Administration for I.R.S. purposes. If you fail to do this, the I.R.S. may not be able to match your new name with your social security number and could delay your tax refund.

My wife -- an actress who will be keeping her maiden name for the stage, as much as Urken lends itself to star quality -- is now eager to make her personal name change. Tiffany is particularly fond of tax refunds and wouldn't countenance a delay. In order to keep the peace in our first year of marriage -- and to ensure tax refund day happens as a happy occasion -- we will be using an expedited service for her transformation into Mrs. Urken.

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47 Comments

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Danila Vershinin

While changing last name, you can save time and money by using SimpleNameChange service at http://www.simplenamechange.com/ . It will save time on filling out all the forms needed

June 13 2014 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ssn

I think the business will not last long. More and more women/men do not change their last name. Among college educated women, 60% change. Few women who have phd with their names on publications change their names. It is kind of outdated. Almost all immigrants who do not have this tradition do not change last name.

November 28 2012 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stephenknudde

"handle"?

November 28 2012 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

I guess there IS one advantage to same sex marriage. I didn't have to change my name.

November 17 2012 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
balugablue21

if you ever recieve a invitation in the male for a credit card. your name is spelled in lower case letters, until you get that card. then it comes in uppercase letters. thus now you are a corporation by the means of capital letters. its the same when a couple marries. according to the IRS they form a bond and are recognized as a corporation.this is how they have pulled the wool over our heads for decades. your birth certificate show lower case letters. when ever you get a bill in the mail it's in upper case letters. when you were given notice in the old days for a SS number it was in lower case letters until you signed up for SS. but now they give you that number when you are born. you are corporate material for life.

November 17 2012 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to balugablue21's comment
Billcody

are you drunk? Your comment might make more sense if you understood the English language. I have never received (i before e EXCEPT after c) any invitation in the male. If I did, how would I get the invitation out? Would the male have to aspirate it? Or would I have to cut him open? When I get an invitation, it usually comes US MAIL. Capital letters mean nothing.

November 28 2012 at 7:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freeetob

Oh. As a postscript: The friend remarried following her first husband's death. And recalling the problems of her first name change fiasco, she kept her first husband's surname. After the divorce to the second husband went through, her lawyer asked her if she wanted to change her name from her second husband's. She explained that she had never changed her name to that of her second husband. The lawyer replied, "Maybe you didn't, but the state of Florida did. If you want to make it official, you have to file for the name change back to your that of your first husband."

November 17 2012 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freeetob

Back in 1971 a friend married for the first time at age 33. Prior to marriage she had paid off car loans and carried a mortgage. A week after the wedding she called Sears and asked to have her name on her credit card changed. She was told it couldn't be done. Her husband had to come in and sign for her credit. Furious, she called the loan officer at her bank and insisted that he arrange for her bank credit card to be reissued in her new name. He agreed. A week later her new card arrived embossed with the name "Mrs. John Jones." Ideally, women don't have to suffer those problems these days.

November 17 2012 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Amber Harvey

When I remarried I wanted my new husbands name, not my cheating ex. It was a pain to do, but my husband had never been married and I thought it would honor him by having his name. I always hated my maiden name too. If it doesnt work out I will keep this name due to the hassle of changing it. but I dont plan on that. He is wonderful.

November 17 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
d2a3v8i3d4

What you must avoid is the now way over done false ego trip of the hyphenated last name.This has become a cliche and a sign of disrespect both for yourself and your husband.This pointless gesture does not make you look "classy",the reason most people do this,it makes you look like a wannabe,and like trailer trash.

November 17 2012 at 8:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to d2a3v8i3d4's comment
cassandra

I have been thinking of hyphenating my last name and do not feel the way you do. You do not know the reasons why a person is doing it. My first husband passed away and I loved him with all my heart and would still be with him if he were here. My now current husband understands and respects my decision to keep his last name and add his, as I have a child with my late husband and it is in her best interest for me to keep her father's last name too. It does not disrespect my current husband and continues to show respect for my late husband. Everyone's reasons are different.

November 17 2012 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ccdae5

How old is the photo at the top of the article, 1976?

November 17 2012 at 7:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply