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Changing your surname at marriage - legal choices in New York

New York marriage license signing
Think carefully before you go and apply for your marriage license. Both bride and groom will be asked if you are going to change your surname at your wedding. If you are NOT SURE, leave this section blank, because you can change your name/s later (if you have children, for example). The important rule is: Whether you decide to use or not use this option at the time of your marriage license application, you still have the right to adopt a different name through usage at some future date. However, your marriage records cannot be changed to record a surname you decide to use after your marriage.Here is another post with a few more points: Wedding Article: Changing your Name?

Here are your choices in New York, taken from the cityclerknyc.com/MarriageBureau/

"What are my surname options? A. Every person has the right to adopt any name by which he or she wishes to be known simply by using that name consistently and without intent to defraud. A person's last name (surname) does not automatically change upon marriage, and neither party to the marriage is required to change his or her last name. The bride and groom need not take the same last name.

One or both parties to a marriage may elect to change the surname by which he or she wishes to be known after the marriage by entering the new name in the appropriate space provided on the marriage application. The new name must consist of one of the following options:

* the surname of the other spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Couple can choose the new surname of Doe or Smith)
* any former surname of either spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Mary Smith was born Mary Brown and when she previously married Leroy Smith she adopted his name. She subsequently divorced Leroy Smith but she kept his last name. Couple can choose the new surname of Brown since it is the former surname of Mary)
* a name combining into a single surname all or a segment of the premarriage surname or any former surname of each spouse; (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Brown. Couple can choose the new surname of Down ("Do" from "Doe" and "wn" from "Brown") or Doebrown and so on.)
* a combination name separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of such combination surname is the premarriage surname, or any former surname, of each of the spouses. (e.g., John Doe marries Mary Smith. Couple can choose the new surname of Doe-Smith, Smith-Doe or Doe-Brown (since Brown is Mary former surname.)

The use of this option will provide a record of your change of name. The marriage certificate, containing the new name, if any, is proof that the use of the new name, or the retention of the former name, is lawful. The local Social Security Administration office should be contacted so that its records and your social security identification card reflect the name change. There is no charge for this service.

Whether you decide to use or not use this option at the time of your marriage license application, you still have the right to adopt a different name through usage at some future date. However, your marriage records cannot be changed to record a surname you decide to use after your marriage."

See also:
Should you change your name?