Wondering how to apply for your marriage license? Confused on how to change your name after the wedding? I was too when I was engaged, and my local court websites just made it more confusing. So I am here to break it down step-by-step! Please note, these details are specific to Maricopa County, Arizona and I am unsure how much of it carries over to other counties or states.
MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICATION
You must have a marriage license by the time of your wedding ceremony in order for your marriage to be legally recognized by the state.
Apply for your marriage license no more than one year before your wedding ceremony. You want to apply for your license in advance but keep in mind it is only good for one year before it must be turned in after the marriage.
To apply for your marriage license, visit your local Clerk of the Superior Court office. You and your partner must be present with your birth certificates and government issued photo IDs.
As of right now, state offices are allowing online applications for marriage licenses due to COVID-19. I have no indication of whether this will remain a permanent application option or if this is simply temporary during the pandemic. Click here for the online application page for Maricopa Country, AZ.
You will have to wait to receive the official marriage license in the mail so be sure to start the application process far enough in advance to allow for the government's slow processing and snail mail.
Decide on your officiant for the wedding ceremony. Keep in mind, this person must be a licensed ordained officiant through your state. This person will sign your marriage license immediately after your ceremony.
Decide on your witnesses to sign your marriage license. You must have two people who will be at your wedding ceremony sign your marriage license as official witnesses. These people can be family or friends, the choice is yours; there are no special conditions. Keep in mind, your witnesses' signatures will be on your license forever.
Immediately following your wedding ceremony, you, your partner, your officiant, and your witnesses will sign the marriage license. Do NOT sign your marriage license before the ceremony!
Your marriage license will come as one piece of paper perforated into two sections. Turn in the bottom portion of your marriage license to your local Clerk of the Superior Court office. The top portion is for you to keep. The bottom portion will be certified and returned to you via mail. Know that the bottom certified portion will always be the "official" marriage license you need for records and verification (but of course still keep the top portion).
NAME CHANGE (marital name change)
If you are changing your last name to your partner's name or vice-versa, the process is considered a "marital name change" and is very easy.
The person changing their name must complete form SS-5 through the Social Security Administration applying for a new Social Security Card.
Go to your local Social Security Administration office and bring the following: SS-5 application, certified marriage license, government issued photo ID, and proof of citizenship (ex. birth certificate, social security card, etc.).
A new social security card will be mailed out, but the SSA will provide you with printed documentation to use in the meantime for verification.
Wait at least 24 hours after completing the name change through SSA and then go to your local MVD/DMV and apply for a new photo ID. Bring the SSA provided verification document, certified marriage license, and government issued photo ID.
A new photo ID will be sent out via mail.
Change your name with relevant institutions (school, work, bank, utilities, etc.).
NAME CHANGE (legal name change)
If both you and your partner are changing your last names to a new family name as opposed to just one changing their name to the other’s, there are a few additional steps as it is considered a "legal name change" as opposed to a simple "marital name change" and requires approval from a judge.
Go to your local Superior Court office and turn in either the Change of Name for a Family form or Change of Name for an Adult form. You must also bring your certified marriage license (for Change of Name for a Family form) and government issued photo IDs.
You will be told to wait at least 3 business days to call in to schedule your court hearing. The hearing will be extremely quick and the purpose is basically to verify that you are not attempting to change your name in order to commit fraud.
Attend the scheduled court hearing with proper paperwork as instructed by the court clerk. Due to COVID-19, most court hearings are being held virtually.
Once approved, you will be given documentation from the court with a judge's written approval and signature. If your hearing is done in-person, you will be given this documentation immediately. If your hearing is done virtually, the documentation will be mailed to you.
Go to your local Social Security Administration office to apply for new Social Security Cards. Bring the following for you both: SS-5 application, court documentation with judge's approval seal and signature, government issued photo IDs, and proof of citizenship (ex. birth certificate, social security card, etc.).
New social security cards will be mailed out, but the SSA will provide you with printed documentation to use in the meantime for verification.
Wait at least 24 hours after completing the name change through SSA and then go to your local MVD/DMV and apply for new photo IDs. Bring the SSA provided verification document, certified marriage license, and government issued photo ID.
New photos IDs will be sent out via mail.