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Can You Change Your First Name When You Get Married?

When couples get married, one of the key decisions they face is what to do about their names. For many brides, taking their husband’s last name is standard practice. However, more women, and some men, today are also pondering if they should or can change their first name when they get married.

Changing any part of your name during marriage often takes extra legal steps beyond just acquiring a marriage license. While focusing on your new shared last name is common, altering your first name is a more intricate process. Here is a closer look at everything you need to know about the ins and outs of changing your first name due to marriage.

Why Would You Want To Change Your First Name After Marriage?

There are a few key motivations that prompt some brides to consider tweaking their first names when they get married:

Making a change – Your first name has always been different than on your birth certificate and now is finally a good time to make that change, along with your last name change.

Honoring family – You may change your first name to pay respect to family members like your grandmother or the maiden name of your mother or grandmother.

Correct the spelling of your first name – Since you’ll be updating all your ID and Official Records for your last name change anyway, this is the perfect time to correct your first name to the way you want your first name, for every legal purpose.

Avoiding confusion – If you have a very common first name, altering it can help differentiate you from others.

Sounding more elegant – Some first names just pair better with new last names from an aesthetic standpoint.

Easier pronunciation – A new first name can resolve inadvertent mispronunciations.

The Legal Process For Changing Your First Name

The legal process can be complicated, so consult with a name change specialist or professional about this process if you can. While simply starting to use a new first name informally is easy, legally changing it requires formal steps:

Petition the court – You must file a petition with your local county court and pay any fees.

Submit documentation – This includes a completed set of court forms and may also include proof of identity, proof of residency, proof of service or publication, and copies of your marriage certificate.

Attend a court hearing – A judge reviews and approves or denies the petition.

Publish intent – Local newspapers can publish notice of your name change hearing if required.

Court order – If approved, the court issues a name change order.

Update documents – Update your driver’s license, passport, social security card, accounts, etc.

The process varies slightly depending on your state’s laws. The court wants to ensure you aren’t changing your name for fraudulent reasons. The whole process can take several weeks or up to 6 months, and incur fees like professional assistance, publishing, process serving, court costs, new IDs, etc.

Determining Your New First Name

If you are going to legally take a first name you’ve already been using in real life, then your choice of a new legal first name is already locked in. If you decide to legally change your first name to something new to you, put plenty of thought into choosing your new name. Look at these factors:

Proper full name flow – Make sure your new first and last name sound good together. Avoid anything that seems off.

Personal meaning – Pick a name that resonates with you deeply and reflects your story.

Honoring family – As mentioned, you can pay homage to relatives. Just avoid confusion with siblings.

Professional image – Ensure your new name projects confidence and gravitas if used in your career.

Nickname potential – Will your new first name allow for natural short nicknames?

Initials – Be cognizant of how initials like “B.J.” come across.

Future children – Consider how your name will flow with kids’ names.

Also give thought to how long you’ve identified with your current first name. If you’ve used it for decades, a new name may feel foreign at first. Legally changing it is a major move, so ensure you’re fully comfortable with the change first.

Pros of Changing Your First Name After Marriage

Some notable advantages do exist if you legally change your first name during marriage:

You’re already making changes – The biggest advantage is that you will likely be changing some of your name now anyway. This is the perfect time to make ALL the changes in your legal name that you will want in real life going forward. Even though you’ll have multiple changes to your legal name, you’ll only need to update once for each different ID and Official Record.

Fresh start – Having the first name you always wanted will go well with the married name you want from now on.

Family cohesion – Having the whole name you want, first and last, can make you feel more connected with your new family unit.

Escape baggage – Some shed their old first and last names to leave negative associations behind.

Reinvention – It can empower you to reinvent your personal narrative and image.

Boldness – For some, altering their first name is a bold move. If the new, married you is to be in a new section of life, maybe a new first name to match is just the right way to point the way.

Cons of Changing Your First Name After Marriage

Of course, some downsides also come with changing your first name during marriage:

You have a lot going on – If you aren’t going to be taking your spouse’s last name, then maybe you don’t want to fix your first name at this particular moment, with all the events and emotions of marriage going on. You can change your first name when life calms down a little later on.

Adjustment period – If you’re going to take on a brand new first name, it takes time to adjust and take on a totally new name.

Lose identity ties – Your old legal name may be bound to accomplishments and experiences that are positive and important, so care should be taken to keep them connected..

Costs – Court process costs and professional fees,

Paperwork and extra time – Extensive petition paperwork must be completed and several weeks to as much as 6 months of time has to be budgeted to complete a first name change.

Temporary confusion – Friends and family will inevitably slip up at first. That condition passes quickly, but some of your oldest friends and relatives may never adopt your new first name, which is usually fine.

Personal reactions – Some may question why you changed your first name in marriage.
Future challenges – Name discrepancies on records can cause questions, but your court order will answer them all, when necessary.

Questioning choice – You may later regret choosing a name you didn’t use in real life before taking it legally.

Remember there are no rules requiring you to tweak your first name when getting married, even if you might have wanted to do that for many years before marriage. This is your life, so do what seems right for you.

Maiden Name Considerations

If you want to alter your name but feel unsure about a first name change, consider options with your maiden name:

Become hyphenated – Rather than change your first name, simply hyphenate your maiden and married names.

Make maiden your middle – Keep your first name and replace your middle name with your maiden name.

Children take maiden – Have future kids take your maiden name as their middle name.

Professionally remain the same – Keep your maiden name for professional matters only.

Legally take spouse’s name – Change only your legal name, but continue going by your maiden name informally.

These options allow you to freshen up your name while still retaining ties to your pre-married identity.

Talk With Your Partner

Remember to extensively discuss name change options with your spouse. Get their input on your ideas for altering your first, middle, and/or last names. Open communication ensures you both feel your new names reflect your future family appropriately.

In conclusion, know that it is indeed permissible to tweak, fix or completely change your first name when you get married. Consult a name change specialist to find out what the first name change options and requirements are where you live. Take time to thoroughly research and consider all pros, cons, and alternatives first. Changing such a core part of your identity should not be taken lightly. A first name change can be every bit a life-changing event as a last name change. But with planning, self-reflection and discussions with your partner, you can arrive at the name change choice that seems truly right for your new journey and family life together.

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