One of the many things couples have to worry about during the wedding planning process is how to obtain their marriage license and- if you’ve decided to- how to change your last name. Surprisingly, these are easy things to do, but they are oftentimes confusing or overwhelming to think about doing on top of all the wedding planning. So, here’s how to do it in New Mexico:
Obtaining a Marriage License in New Mexico:
The first thing to do, is to figure out where your County Clerk’s office is; this is the same office that you go to to register to vote, pay your land taxes, and other such tasks. If you don’t know where your office is located, you can find their contact info here.
Once you’ve done that, both you and your fiancé need to make arrangements to appear in person together. You need to bring your government issued ID, Social Security Card, and $25.00 check, cash, or credit/debit card with you.
You’ll be asked to fill out a form listing both of your information, which will then be entered into the system by the County Clerk. You will then be given your form back, along with your actual marriage license. Your marriage license is immediately valid for use, and has no expiration date, however, it must be returned to the Clerk’s office within 90 days of your ceremony to officially record your marriage.
Bernalillo County has a great page of Frequently Asked Questions on New Mexico marriage laws. It can be found here.
Changing Your Name in New Mexico:
If you’ve decided to change your last name in New Mexico, this is actually the tricky part of getting married. Here’s what you need to do.
Gather together all of the following documents. You may or may not need them, but it’s always better to have them and not need them, than have to come back another day and wait in line again.
Current Driver’s License
Current Social Security Card
Marriage Certificate- after it’s been returned to you from the County Clerk
Your first stop is the Social Security Office. I know the one in Albuquerque likes to change places, so here’s a link to the official website that is updated with accurate contact info. You’ll have to take a number and wait in line for someone to help you. When you finally do get to the window, tell them you’re there to change your name after your wedding. They’ll have you fill out a form with your requested new name, explain that your new card will be mailed to you in a couple weeks, and issue you a notarized letter requesting your name change. That letter is GOLD. Make sure you don’t lose it.
Next stop is the Department of Motor Vehicle- the very same place where you usually get your license renewed. You can also go to an MVD Express for this- they’re just more expensive. When you get called up to the counter, tell them you’re there to change your name because of your recent marriage. They’ll ask for your marriage license, current ID, NEW social security card, and birth certificate. This is where you give them that notarized letter from the Social Security Office. They’ll accept that in lieu of your new social security card. They will then help you through the process of getting a new driver’s license with your new name on it.
After you’ve done these two things, and gotten the new versions of your cards, you can work on changing everything else your name is on, from credit cards to bank accounts, car registrations, and so on. All of these offices will ask for a combination of your new IDs and your marriage license. Some may even ask for your birth certificate. Most will accept copies mailed to them.
I would encourage you to legally change your last name as soon as possible, so that you don’t encounter confusion with people and official offices. I would also encourage you to change your name on as many accounts and investments (I.e. your house and car) as quickly as possible once you do start the process, because it’s confusing when you’ve only changed half of your stuff, and if you wait too long, people may refuse to speak with you about your own accounts because your name doesn’t match.
Well, that’s about it. I know this legal stuff is never fun to deal with, but this legal stuff is what actually matters most. You can host a wedding, but with out a valid marriage license, you’re not legally married. You can start using a new name, but without legally changing it, you have no actual claim to it.
Good luck, and if you need help with this process, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most of us never actually learn how to do this until we’re going through the process the first time.