Legally Wed: A Guide to Wedding Paperwork
Wedding vows are written, invitations are sent, and it’s just about go time. In the midst of all the planning, though, you may have overlooked some important, albeit less fun tasks, like getting all the necessary paperwork together.
Don’t forget to cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s by planning ahead to make sure everything goes smoothly on the big day and the days after as you start your new life together.
Get all your ducks in order with finances and assets
A lot changes after tying the knot. As you’re sending in deposits and writing checks out to vendors, be sure to sit down with your beau to discuss the nitty gritty details of finances.
Besides things like whether you’ll share a joint banking account, which can be decided after the wedding, think about things like prenuptial agreements and changing beneficiaries on insurance policies. They’re not exactly the most fun topics, but thinking ahead can help avoid headache later down the line.
Apply for your license to wed
A ceremony isn’t complete without a marriage license, the legal document granting you and your partner the right to marry. Across the country, couples generally need to apply in person a county clerk’s office, at least a day before the wedding.
While you may be eager to get your marriage license, most are only good for a certain number of days, often 30 to 60 days before the ceremony.
To ensure the license doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, wedding planner Emilie Duncan of Emilie Duncan Event Planning recommends couples get all their documents ready and apply the week of the wedding.
Keep in mind that licenses need to come from the county in which you’re getting married, regardless of where you might actually live. If you’re local, Duncan recommends going to the issuing office earlier in the week since people coming into town to marry often apply on Thursdays or Fridays.
Officially become the next Mrs (or Mr) …
Once you say, “I do!” make sure you follow through with steps to ensure your marriage is actually legally documented. The newlyweds, along with witnesses and the officiant, usually sign the license right after the ceremony for the officiant to file. You’ll receive the actual marriage certification in the mail, and that’s when you can start trying out your new last name (if you so choose).
While several companies offer name-changing services, like Hitchswitch or I’m A Mrs., changing your last name is really “more simple than most people realize,” according to Duncan. The wedding planner recommends first getting a copy of the marriage certificate and filing a name change with the social security office. From there, a new social security card should provide proof for changing your name on everything from driver’s licenses to bank accounts.
Keep in mind that your name change isn’t official until it’s changed with the government. That means that until it’s official, you should stick to your maiden name.
“You don’t want that plane taking off without you because your reservation doesn’t match your ID!” Duncan says.
Decide whether to combine things like taxes and insurance policies
After the wedding and honeymoon, it’s time to think about the future. Will you file taxes jointly now, or separately? How about combining insurance providers or changing beneficiaries? Helena Swyter, owner of Sweeter CPA in Chicago, says that in the eyes of the IRS, anyone married by Dec. 31 is considered married the whole tax year.
“Except in very specific circumstances,” Swyter says, “filing jointly provides a better tax outcome because filing separately prohibits you from taking certain credits and deductions.” Most tax professionals or programs can walk through both options to help you decide which is better for your new family, she says.