Muller Marginalia

How To Change Your Name in New York After Getting Married

Published: Mar 30, 2023  |  

Writer, editor, performer and self-producer

Image of marriage certificate

1. Decide what you want your name to be

Agonize about your name change. Write about it for the magazine you edit. Consider whether you should take your husband’s name, or if this makes you a bad feminist. Consider a hyphenated name, but determine that, as an editor, you cannot abide by the stylistic clunkiness of a hyphen.

Further determine that, as a poet and lyricist, the last “r” in your name followed by the first “r” lacks musicality and flow. Reflect on the fact that you have all the social media handles and a weekly column under your current name. Conclude that you can adopt your husband’s surname by adding it before yours as a double last name. Resign yourself to the fact that everyone is going to think this is a middle name or will incorrectly hyphenate it and move on.

2. Enter a new surname on your marriage certificate

Make an appointment online for your wedding certificate and ceremony using New York City’s adorably branded Project Cupid—which belies a bureaucratic hellscape. Enter the new name you agonized over with confidence, not knowing you are signing yourself up for a world of pain.

3. Get married

Get married after snagging a first-come-first-served appointment for a marriage ceremony through the still-adorable Project Cupid. Spend way too much money on dinner with friends at the nearby Wu’s Wonton King to celebrate afterwards, feasting on a live crab they offer you to hold up before killing and cooking it three delicious ways.

Feel mildly disturbed, but not disturbed enough to become a vegan or enjoy how delicious the crab is any less. See the market price of the crab on the bill and realize it has taken its revenge. Thank your higher power for the generous friend who offers to pay for the giant crab as a wedding gift. Spend the next weeks forgetting about the rest of the name change stuff and go get ceremonially married in Puerto Rico. 

4. Sign up for a name change service

Return from your wedding to a work shitstorm, and spend the next weeks catching up, thinking all the while, “shit, I need to do that name change stuff.” Instead of doing this, or putting away any of your wedding things, watch Netflix and/or drink wine and/or stare at a wall in exhaustion.

Sign up for a “platinum” name change service that promises to make it “easy” to get through the overwhelming task of changing your name on everything that exists. Surely, this will be worth it!

5. Get a new social security card

Receive the “platinum” package of name change materials, which is essentially a folder and some stamped envelopes, and a printout of some forms you could find online yourself. Realize that this is essentially just a checklist of things you have to do in order, and that this will, in all likelihood, still be a tremendous pain in your ass. Resign yourself to this fate and tackle the first thing you must do before you can do anything else: update your name on your social security card.

Make an appointment online and schlep downtown to the financial district, bringing the forms and your marriage certificate. Feel refreshed and encouraged by how easy this was! Receive your new social security card in the mail a short time after. Realize the next step is to update your passport, and feel the dread return.

5. Take a new passport photo

Keep the passport forms on your desk, haunting you daily, but avoid them, because you feel fat right now from Christmas and don’t want to immortalize your bloated face from this life moment.

Note the irony that part of you was actually relieved that you just missed the one year deadline of updating your passport to your new last name with the existing photo, because the last passport picture you got from that random shop on Broadway near 135th Street was so painfully unflattering that you actually left, got eyelash extensions, and returned for a redo, and you still looked bad because the man taking it insisted on making sure your hair looked un-cute and your face looked sour and that he’d shoot you super close from a poor angle.

Celebrate the fact that, with the “premium” name change service, you get to take your own passport photo at home through their collaboration with an online company. (Realize that, yes, you also could have done this on your own, but oh well.)

Get to a point where you feel your face looks acceptably unbloated and endeavor to take your passport photo. Ask your husband to help. Hate absolutely every picture he takes. Eventually hide yourself in the bathroom and take a selfie. Hate it, but less than others, and much less than your last passport photo, which is literally one of the only bad pictures of you that exists, because up until this moment you have been gifted with being naturally photogenic. Submit the photo, and receive it in the mail.

6. Get a certified copy of your marriage license

Staple your somewhat acceptable photo to the passport forms and fill them out carefully. Realize that it’s asking for “a certified copy” of your marriage certificate and panic. The social security office just looked at your marriage certificate and gave it back. You can’t mail that to someone.

Search online for instructions through the city clerk’s website. Find yourself completely confused by the following text on their site: “You may obtain a Marriage Record from 1996 to present [the following in gray] in person at any of our office locations. [in red] by mail only.

Try calling the city clerk’s office to get clarification, so you can avoid going all the way downtown to be told you can’t get it in person. Realize after multiple attempts that no one is ever going to answer the phone.

Email your “premium” name change service to see if you can, indeed, submit the request for a copy in person—yay, you finally used the service for something!—they confirm, yes you can. Schlep downtown before the office closes at the unreal time of 3:30PM.

Get told once you have arrived that you are supposed to make an appointment for the records room, which you did not see anywhere in that confusing text.

Realize that this must again be through Project Cupid, which you find much less charming now. Write a pointed email to your “premium” name change service. Decide to mail the form instead because you don’t want to schlep again, then return to Puerto Rico for your mom’s birthday celebration.

Return from Puerto Rico to find what you think is your certified copy of your marriage certificate in your mailbox. Open it to find it is your check and form returned to you, with a form letter reply stating that you did not enclose the right amount (you double check: a check for $15—yes, you did!) and that you did not pay correctly.

Feel enraged and confused, then infuriated when you read, “all fees are payable by United States postal order or money order/certified check drawn on a United States bank or other financial institution and payable in U.S. currency. Personal or business checks are not acceptable forms of payment.” Scream to no one, asking why a regular check wouldn’t be accepted. Resist the urge to throw yourself out a window.

Return to Project Fuck You Cupid in a seething rage. Find “records room” at the very bottom of the list of appointment services. Regret that you did not attempt to find this sooner, but blame the “premium” name change service for not offering you that premium advice.

Schlep to your appointment. Feel relieved that you are able to pay with a credit card. Pay for an extra certified copy, because God only knows who else in this ongoing saga of name-change hell will require one. Wonder how a city as grand as New York could be this supremely dysfunctional. Reflect on the fact that, due to hegemonic marital norms, few men will ever know this aggravation. Resign yourself to injustice and return to your checklist, because this is now your life, just endlessly filling forms with a half-changed name forever.

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