Congratulations! You’re engaged to be married and about to embark on one of the most exciting journeys of your life.
Yet, before you can walk down the aisle and begin your happily ever after, there’s a little housekeeping to attend to, first.
With color schemes, cake menus, and playlists crowding your mind, it can be easy to forget some of the other steps required at this time. This includes taking care of the legal processes that must be in place before you exchange vows.
Today, we’re taking a look at five key things you’ll need to attend to as soon as possible. That way, you can anticipate the big day with confidence, knowing that all your important legalities are covered.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.
1. Apply For Your Marriage License
You want the state that you live in to recognize your marriage as legally binding, right?
Before that can happen, you’ll need to apply for an official marriage license together with your fiancée. Keep in mind that there is no standard procedure for this step. Instead, you’ll need to follow the specific processes and requirements for your state.
Most will require that you visit your local Register of Deeds to apply for the license. Be sure to bring along your proof of identification, along with your Social Security Number.
One thing to remember: Don’t wait until the very last minute to apply for your marriage license. Some states can take a few days to process your license, so you’ll want to allow plenty of time before your wedding day.
2. Make a Decision about Your Last Name
Before you get married, both you and your spouse will need to make an important decision together: Will either of you change your name? Understand that you aren’t legally required to do so, although it is customary for the bride to take her spouse’s last name as her own.
If you decide to go this route, you can do so after the wedding. To complete your name change, you’ll take your marriage certificate to certain agencies and organizations, including:
- The DMV
- The Social Security office
- Your bank
Once you’ve successfully completed your name change there, making the rest of the updates should be easy. Don’t forget to inform these other places about your new moniker:
- Your employer
- Credit card companies
- Utility companies
- Insurance companies
- Doctor’s offices
- Schools and alumni associations
- Your attorney
- Voter registration offices
These are just a few of the entities to notify. Feeling overwhelmed with all the steps? Make it easy on yourself and hire a name change service to take care of the legwork for you.
3. Discuss Debts and Assets
Do you live in a community property state, such as California or Texas?
Not only will this geographic distinction affect your tax returns, but it will also influence your pre-wedding checklist.
Residents of community property states will amass the debts and assets of each spouse upon marriage, turning them from individual possessions into joint marital property.
While this might be ideal when you’re married, it can become a challenge during a divorce. At that time, you could be forced to split the property 50/50 unless you have a prenup arrangement in place. This is why it’s important to discuss both your debts and assets with your fiancée before the wedding.
During your discussion, cover both your past and current spending habits, as well as your long-term investment plans for the future. Even if you don’t live in a community property state, this is still an important discussion to have. Important assets to talk about include wages, properties owned, and any investment interest earned.
4. Talk about a Prenuptial Agreement
Speaking of prenups, they might sound like something that only rich celebrities create, but that isn’t the case. They’re also decidedly unromantic, but they’re a practical and critical consideration at this juncture.
Any time that you have individual property that you or your spouse wants to protect, a prenup can be an important document to have on hand. If you and your spouse had children together before you got married, a prenup can also direct their custody in the event of a divorce.
You can contact a local family law attorney to create your prenup. Doing so could save you from expensive and difficult litigation down the road.
5. Choose Your Officiant
Sure, your best friend might be desperate to perform your wedding ceremony. However, while it might be sweet, it won’t be official unless that friend is legally permitted to perform the act.
Most states have strict laws surrounding who can legally perform a wedding ceremony. In most cases, this honor is limited to officiants such as judges, clergy people, or ordained ministers. However, other states are more flexible and will allow anyone with an ordination to take the stage, even if it’s obtained over the internet.
Before you hire someone for the job, check with your state to make sure the person you have in mind can legally fill the role.
Complete This Checklist Before Getting Married
When your big day arrives, you want your mind to be clear and your nerves to be relaxed. You shouldn’t have to fret about last-minute administrative duties that can avert your focus and derail your momentum.
That’s why it pays to take care of these five important steps as early as possible after you get engaged. That way, you can devote the rest of your planning time to the more fun parts of getting married!
As you begin down this checklist, we’d love to help. Contact us to make your wedding name change a breeze. Our personalized name change kits take the guesswork out of the process, so you can embrace and enjoy this new, joyous season!