Honestly, it wasn’t that bad for me. It’s time consuming and involves calling a lot of customer service people, but it’s not horrible or hard to figure out. I had almost everything done within one month. It helps to make appointments at the SS office and DMV to cut down on time spent waiting in line. Also either set aside a few hours on some weekend to make a bunch of phone calls all at once, or spread them out, whichever way you prefer.
Start with the SS office. You need to bring your marriage certificate and a photo ID. If you are a naturalized citizen, also bring either your naturalization certificate or passport. Fill out and bring this form – http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf They will issue you a new card (it will arrive by mail after a few weeks) and will also give you a piece of paper that confirms that they changed your name and what they changed it from and to. They don’t charge anything.
Go to the DMV. Bring your marriage certificate, license, and the piece of paper the SS office just gave you. If you own your car and have the title, bring that too. You will need to fill out forms to apply for a new license and to change your name on your registration and title (if you have the title). You can also fill out a new voter registration form while you’re at it. Check your state’s DMV website for the forms if you want to save time and fill them out before you go. You will have to pay the fee to get a new license. They will give you a temporary license and proof of registration and mail everything else to you.
Go to your bank with your marriage certificate (you can bring the piece of paper from the SS office too, just in case). They will change your name on your accounts. If you want to add your husband to your accounts, you can do it then too.
Call or email your credit card/department store card companies. Some of them will want you to mail a photocopy of your marriage certificate to them, others will take your word over the phone. Some department store cards just let you change it online.
Contact your HR person at work to have your name changed on your tax documents and any health insurance or retirement accounts you have through work. They might want to see your marriage certificate or a photocopy. You don’t need to notify the IRS directly until you file taxes, but there is a form you can send if you want to (I think it’s the address change form).
Call your non-work health insurance, car insurance company, and any financial accounts you have that aren’t through work or a regular bank (like Vanguard, for example). Again, some will take your word over the phone, others will want you to fill out a form and mail or fax proof.
Call your utilities (I didn’t have any in my name, so I don’t know how necessary this is or what they ask for. The other bees might be more helpful on this point.)
If you have automatic billing set up on anything and you changed the name on the credit card you are using to pay, update the billing information so it matches.
if you feel like it, you can change your name at your doctor’s office, the gym, online shopping accounts, facebook, email, etc. You can also just wait to do it the next time they have to bill you for something. You shouldn’t have to notify the post office, but if you want to or run into problems, you can fill out a change of address form.
To apply for a new passport you will need to fill out the passport renewal form, take new photos, pay the renewal fee (unless you just got a passport in your maiden name less than a year ago), and mail your current passport and a CERTIFIED copy of your marriage certificate (they will mail it all back). Unless you plan on traveling really soon, you can put this one off until a couple months before you actually need the passport. They are good for 10 years after you get them, so if you’re not going to use it for years and years, you might as well save your time and renewal fees.
I also wouldn’t recommend changing your name on anything until after you get back from any international honeymoon trips because you probably won’t have time to get all the new documents made before traveling and having some documents in one name and some in another could cause problems. Book your honeymoon travel in your maiden name if you are going right after the wedding.
No one, other than the DMV and the passport people, should be charging you anything.
All of the sites that offer to simplify the name change process charge you fees just to fill out the various forms for you. You still have to mail the forms, go to the SS and DMV in person, and make your own phone calls. I personally wouldn’t bother with them, but if paying for getting forms filled out is worth it to you, go for it. Just make sure that they treat all your personal information with the proper privacy.