Whether or not you change your name after you get married is a personal choice, and there’s a ton of different totally valid options for how to proceed.
In my particular case, I chose the traditional route, and took Chris’ last name when we got married. I ‘legally assumed’ his last name, which means I didn’t change my name on my birth certificate. This is the most common approach for a name change due to marriage in Canada.
In reading about changing my name, I found mountains of helpful information for our American neighbours to the the South, but I found very limited information about changing your name in Canada. This may not be the most exciting post, but I thought it might be helpful for anyone in Canada who’s starting the process of changing their name. I will also add the full disclosure that I’m in Ontario, and some of this information will vary province by province.
Here’s the steps I went through:
First, I had to get a marriage certificate. This is not something that is automatically issued, contrary to popular belief. After your ceremony, your officiant should submit the paperwork that you complete during the ceremony to the province. This will then take 10-12 weeks to process. After the 10-12 weeks are up, you can go on the Government of Ontario site, and fill out the online application for a marriage certificate. The current fee is $22. You can access the online form here. Once you’ve completed and submitted the form and paid the fee, they will process your application and mail you a certificate. If at any time you lose or damage your marriage certificate, you can follow these steps again and quickly and easily get a new one (although you will have to pay the fee again).Once you have your marriage certificate in hand, you’re ready to start changing your name.
The first step should typically be to change your name on your everyday ID, like your driver’s license and health card. You can do this by going in person to a Service Ontario office, with your current ID and your marriage certificate in hand. They will have you fill out some paperwork, and show them your marriage certificate as proof of name change. A word of warning: they will also take new photos for your license and health card, so be prepared! They will then issue you temporary IDs in your new name, and invalidate your old IDs. You should receive your new cards in the mail in a few weeks.
From here, the order you do things in is pretty flexible.
The next step for me was changing my name with my bank. This was pretty straightforward, as I have all of my main accounts (savings, chequing, RRSPs, student line of credit) in one place. I simply walked into my branch with my new provincial ID, and my marriage certificate, and they were able to change everything over in person. It took about 5 minutes and was the least painful of all of the name change steps I went through.
The one annoying catch though, was that I couldn’t change my credit card over in the branch, even though my card is associated with my account.
In order to change my credit card (a Mastercard), I had to call the company. They gave me an address and a list of items that needed to be included in a signed letter. I wrote the letter, which I then had to send to the address they gave me, along with a photocopy of my marriage certificate and another piece of my ID showing my new name. This will vary depending on your bank and credit card company, so it’s best to call your individual company for instructions.
Insurance and Loans
My next call was to my insurance companies. Despite their bureaucratic reputations, these were surprisingly easy! For both car insurance and tenants insurance (Belair Direct and Cooperators), I simply had to call them and tell them I’d changed my name, and they updated my account over the phone.
Next on the list was student loans. As I’m done school, all of my loans are held by the National Student Loan Service. If you pull out any paperwork you have from them, it should have a 1-800 number you can call, as well as your loan ID number. You’ll need that number, and your Social Insurance Number when you call them. Similar to the credit card company, they will give you a fax number or mailing address, and give you instructions for a letter you need to write confirming that you’re changing your name. You will need to fax or mail that, along with a photocopy of your marriage certificate and your SIN card.
Bills and Utilities
For utilities, I only needed to change my name on my hydro account, as the rest are in my landlords name. For Hydro, I simply had to send a letter to the company requesting the change. They didn’t require any proof. This will likely vary from company to company.
Phone and internet aren’t in my name, so I didn’t have to change these. I would imagine they’d be similar to utilities though.
To change your SIN card, you can either print a form off their website and mail it, or go into a Service Canada centre in person. You can get more information about that here.
You’ll also need to change your name with the Canada Revenue Agency for tax purposes. I actually forgot about this before tax season, so I ended up just doing the paperwork with the accountant while I filed my income taxes this year, but you can do this anytime by calling the CRA. More details here.
The one step I still need to complete is my new passport. There’s no way around it, the only way to change your name on your passport is to start the process over and get a new one. Not a renewal either, a totally new application (complete with guarantors and references and new photos). It doesn’t matter if you got a new passport 6 months ago, you still need to start the process over again and pay all the fees if you change your name. You will need to submit your marriage certificate (the original) by mail, or submit your application in person at a Passport Canada office and show them your certificate when you do so.
The last big area, and this is a very 21st century thing, is changing your name on your online accounts. For me, this included changing my email address, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and my log in information for a variety of different sites that I use regularly. It also meant updating my PayPal account, and my usernames and log in info for a variety of online shopping sites (like Amazon and Etsy). I’m still occasionally stumbling across accounts where I haven’t changed my name yet, but I’m gradually finishing this process. Thankfully, in most cases, it’s very easy to change your name online. On most sites, you simply go to your account settings/preferences and change the name on the account.
And then there’s the miscellaneous things that you’ll think of on a case-by-case basis and that vary widely person to person. This could include memberships (gym memberships, clubs, sports, Air Miles, library), your hospital card if you have one, changing your name with your doctor’s office, optometrist, dentist, lawyer, or any other professional services you use, changing your name for any subscriptions you may have (such as magazines), and little details like that. Most of these are easy to change, and simply involve a quick phone call, an email, or in the case of services, telling them in person next time you’re in the office and potentially showing a piece of your new ID.
In the 21st century, a lot of people will find out about your name change simply by the shift in your online presence. By changing your name on your email account, Facebook, Linkedin, or other social media, you’ll communicate clearly that your name has changed. You can also communicate your name change to people who attended your wedding by signing your new name on thank you cards after the wedding. Closer friends and family will often ask you in the lead up to the wedding whether or not you’re changing your name, and once a few people know, the word often spreads quickly. Offline, you will also want to inform your employer about your name change, as they will need to update your files, and possibly update your email account and business cards, as well as your company benefit plans.
I’m not going to pretend that this is a totally comprehensive list. I’m no expert on name changing, but I did think it might be helpful to pull together a list of all the places I needed to change my name, and a brief overview of what the process was for each change. It’s not a particularly quick or efficient process, but a little organization goes a long way!