Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms, name change

How to Change Your Name after Marriage, if you want to

Now that you are married, you might want to change your last name to your spouse’s, or both of you might want to change your last names.


You are not required to change your name after marriage; it’s a personal preference. Whatever last name you choose to use, recognize that changing your name is a process; everyone will need some time to get used to your new last name. Including you!

If you do want to change your name, be consistent. You don’t want to cause confusion or difficulties when you file your taxes, apply for a mortgage, open a bank account, or manage your credit.

You can manage the name change process yourself, or use a name change service/kit.

Regardless of your approach, you will need to:

  1. Obtain several copies of your marriage certificate from the marriage bureau where your license was filed.
    • What is a marriage certificate?
      The official document from the County that demonstrates that the marriage is on record.
    • Is the marriage certificate different from my marriage license?
      Step 1: You obtained a marriage license to get married.
      Step 2: Your Officiant signed and filed the license with the county, making the marriage legal.
      Step 3: Now you need proof that you were married legally, and that’s the marriage certificate (sometimes called the “certified copy of your marriage record”). An official marriage certificate has a raised seal on it.
  2. Change your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
    • Go to the SSA first, before you change your name anywhere else.
    • When you change your name at the Social Security office, they enter the name change in their database.  Many other places where you will change your name will check the SSA database.

Do it yourself: The following guides walk you through the name change process:

Brides Magazine’s Definitive, Step by Step Guide to Changing Your Name

LegalZoom’s guide to Changing Your Name After Marriage

Use a Name Change Service/Kit: (Note: I don’t endorse any of these in particular, and the names of these kits make me cringe. They each cost money and you still have to complete a bunch of forms. But, if they make it easier on you, go for it.)

Hitchswitch Name Change

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Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms, marriage license

How to Obtain a Pennsylvania Marriage License

The COVID pandemic has changed how Marriage Bureaus operate. Some require in-person appointments, others allow you to submit all your documents online and meet with an official virtually. Important: All Marriage Bureaus recommend applying for your license at least 4 weeks prior to your wedding date.

Here are the most commonly asked questions, and the answers, regarding obtaining a marriage license in Pennsylvania.

  1. Where do we go to obtain a PA marriage license? 

You can obtain your license from the Marriage License Bureau (part of the Register of Wills) in any Pennsylvania County, regardless of where in PA your wedding will be held. See below for locations and more information.

  1. When do we need to get our marriage license? 

A PA marriage license is valid for 60 days from the issue date, and must be acquired at least 3 days prior to the wedding date.

  1. Do we both need to be present – in person or virtually – to get the license? What do we need to bring or provide to obtain the license? 
  • You do both need to be present to get the license.
  • You will need a photo ID and your social security numbers
  • If either applicant has had a name change or a previous marriage, you will need documentation of these circumstances.
  • The county’s marriage license fee
  1. Where are the marriage bureaus near me? When are they open? Do any of them have evening hours?

Each County has its own application, fees, and hours of operation, though they are all similar.  Go to the county that is most convenient for you.

Philadelphia Register of Wills.  To arrange your in-person appointment with the Marriage License Department, email The Register of Wills is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:00 pm. Philadelphia requires you to make an in-person appointment. Philadelphia Register of Wills Address: Room 413 City Hall Philadelphia, PA  If you have questions about Philadelpiha Marriage Licenses, call (215) 686-2233. 

Montgomery County Register of Wills  During the COVID-19 emergency, all marriage license applications will be online and finalized during a WEBEX video conference. Applicants may login from different locations. Here is the Montgomery County online marriage license application.

Delaware County Register of Wills They offer 30-minute, in-person appointments for couples who wish to obtain a marriage license. Please call their marriage licenses front desk at 610-891-4416 to make an appointment. You will need to complete the Marriage License Pre-Application Form online before you go to your appointment. Note: The Delaware County Marriage Licenses and Records website includes many helpful links to guide you through the process.

Bucks County Register of Wills All appointments are being done virtually. Before you begin your application, it is important to watch this video tutorial. The tutorial can help you avoid any errors in applying.  Instructions for how to apply online and request a virtual appointment are in this document from the Bucks County Register of Wills. (Scroll down to the sections for Marriage Licenses.)

Chester County Register of Wills Marriage license applications are accepted in person by appointment only. Open Monday through Friday from 8:30am – 4:00pm and until 6:00pm on Wednesdays. Applications are accepted by appointment only. You can complete the Chester County Marriage License Appointment form or call 610-344-6395 to schedule an appointment. 

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Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms

When should we hire the wedding officiant?

Now is a good time. 🙂282_Braun_2019

Once you set your wedding date and have a venue confirmed (or a general idea of where you’ll be married), go ahead and hire your wedding officiant. Flowers are beautiful, food is yummy, music gets you swaying. But if you don’t have an officiant to write and conduct your ceremony, or sign your marriage license, you’re, well, not married. (Ok, in PA, you could self-unite, but you could still use someone to write and conduct your ceremony.)

Pre-COVID, couples generally started considering who you want to hire as a wedding officiant 6 – 12 months before their wedding date. In 2020 – 2021, with wedding dates shifting frequently, it’s best to hired an officiant as soon as you decide to get married. If you hire me, I’ll happily work with you to create your ceremony even if your date shifts multiple times, or if you decide to change the size and location of your wedding.

Popular officiants get busy, especially during the Spring and Fall wedding seasons, so you will want to book them early.  Plus, you will likely want to meet a few officiants, to see who you feel most comfortable with and who will honor your ideas and traditions.

If it’s 3 months before your wedding date and you don’t have an officiant yet, now’s the time.  If it’s 2 months before, you may have to do a lot of phone calling to find someone. If it’s one month before, yikes.  I did get a call once to replace an officiant who was unable to officiate – on the morning of the wedding!  I happened to be available, the couple had a draft of a ceremony, and we pulled it together.  But, this is not my recommended timeline.

You want your officiant to get to know you, to prepare a lovely ceremony, and to conduct the ceremony professionally.

Quality takes time, and you want quality.  Right?

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Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms

Would you like to have an at-home wedding?


Getting married at home has become much more common in the time of COVID. It’s safer, ususally easier, and definitely less expensive than going to a wedding venue.

Even before COVID, for couples who have been together for a long time, own a house, or want an intimate wedding, getting married at home was an appealing option.

You and your guests feel comfortable in your home.  You might have the ceremony inside in your favorite room and the reception outside where guests have more space to roam.

An at-home wedding gives you a chance to have many of the frills of a wedding in a bigger venue, on a smaller scale.

Here are some items to consider if you want to get married at your home:

  • Do I need an officiant if I’m getting married at home?

    Of course! To make the marriage legal, you need an officiant.  More than that, having a ceremony that is professionally created for you will make your wedding day special.  (In Pennsylvania, it is possible for couples to self-unite, which is an option for at-home weddings, too.)

    • One couple asked their friend, a Celebrant, to conduct the wedding. This friend had introduced the brides to each other 20+ years ago.
    • Another couple worked with their rabbi to conduct the wedding at home, enabling them to bring their connection to their synagogue into their home.
    • A third couple has moved their wedding date multiple times due to the coronavirus and decided they wanted to have a mini-ceremony with just their immediate family. Home was the right spot for them.
  • Is our home ready for a wedding? 

    When you look around your house, do you have enough space to hold the number of guests you want to invite? Do the rooms need a new coat of paint? Do the carpets need to be cleaned? Can you have the wedding outdoors?

    • One couple decided to renovate their guest bathroom in time for the wedding. A risky venture, and one that added expense to the wedding. However, they enjoyed the design process and their guests welcomed the updated facilities.
    • Another couple didn’t have enough room in their own backyard, but their neighbors did and were willing let them get married there.
  • How many guests do we want to invite?

    Some couples invite only their immediate family and a few friends when they marry at home.  For other couples, or for couples with a lot of space, inviting a larger guest list might be in order. Given health and safety concerns, you might want to have a small ceremony now, and a larger celebration when it’s safer, later.

    • A few years ago, one couple invited over 100 guests to their at-home wedding. The ceremony and reception were held outdoors, with a tent on the deck in case of rain. Their guests had been in their home many times and the wedding added to their happy memories of the home.
    • Another couple, pre-COVID, squeezed their 36 guests into their den. Cozy and intimate, if a bit cramped.
    • Another couple invited only two friends and a guitarist to witness their wedding, along with their two miniature daschunds, of course.
  • Should we have the at-home wedding catered? 

    IMG_7708 If you can afford to, sure, have someone cater your wedding.  Even if you and your spouse are chefs, you will want your wedding day to be about sharing your love with each other and your guests rather than ensuring that the food is cooked through.

  • Should we have a wedding cake?

    Absolutely! Your caterer might do wedding cakes. Or, if you’ve always wanted to have a cake that captures your relationship, now’s the time.

  • What should we do about our beloved dog/cat/ferret during the wedding?

    In most cases, it is best to have your pets kept safe in a room or an off-site location during the wedding.  No matter how well trained a pet is, having people in their home may make them skittish.  If your pet has always been part of every celebration you’ve had, consider including the pet in the ceremony, then moving the pet somewhere else during the reception.

    • One couple with two dogs chose to keep them upstairs during the wedding and talked about how important the dogs were to the couple during the ceremony.
    • Another couple hired a pet minder to allow the dog to be at the ceremony, but not the responsibility of the marrying couple.
  • Should we have a photographer or videographer at our at-home wedding?

    Definitely.  No matter how many of your guests say they’ll take photos and share them, it’s likely that you won’t get the photos you want this way. Especially if you’re having a very intimate wedding, you can have some beautiful shots that you wouldn’t be able to get or have time for in a more formal setting.

    • One couple chose not to have a professional photographer, relying instead on their nephews to take photos and film the wedding.  The film came out well, the photos not so much. Many of the friends and relatives who attended were not in the pictures.
    • Another couple had full-on makeup done and a professional photographer for a wedding in their living room.
  • How can we ensure that our older relatives from farther away can attend our wedding?

    • To bring the guests to you in person, one couple hired a bus that picked their relatives up at two locations, brought them to the wedding, then took them home.  The cost was less then having the relatives stay in a hotel and ensured that everyone arrived on time and made it home safely.
    • Now that we’ve lived through the COVID-19 time, most couples include their guests via Zoom or other video service in their wedding.  Your videographer might be able to help you set this up.  As an officiant, I can incorporate these family members or friends in the wedding ceremony. Let’s talk about this.

An at-home wedding is the most intimate way of incorporating your friends and family into your life as a married couple.  Throughout your years together, your guests will remember being at your home and will continue to feel the special bond you created. When your home becomes your “wedding venue”, you deepen your connection to each other and to your home.

Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms

Do I need to hire a wedding officiant?

2019-07-11 18.04.18

Did you forget to hire a wedding officiant? You’re not alone. Many wedding checklists omit “Hire an Officiant”, even though in most states, an officiant is legally required to sign your marriage license.

A wedding officiant is responsible for creating and conducting a ceremony that speaks uniquely of you, and/or that follows your religious traditions. Getting married is a solemn decision, and you want a ceremony that acknowledges and honors that decision, right?

The marriage laws in Pennsylvania, Keep reading…

Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms, marriage license

How to obtain a NJ Marriage License

Each State’s marriage license laws are different, so it is important to check with the State in which you will be married to determine how to apply for a marriage license.

Here is the information about Applying for a Marriage License in New Jersey


If either of you live in New Jersey and will be getting married in New Jersey, go to the Local Registrar in the municipality where you live. You can use the license in any county in New Jersey.

If neither of you live in New Jersey but will be getting married there, you will need to go to the Registrar in the municipality where the marriage ceremony will be performed. The license will only be valid in that municipality.

You will need to have a witness with you who is over 18 years of age.  In addition, there is a set of required documents, and a fee, to obtain the license.

You must apply for the license at least 72 hours before your wedding date. The license is good for 6 months from the issue date.

You are able to apply for a NJ Marriage License virtually. Refer to the Virtual Marriage Application FAQ document for more info.


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Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms, marriage license

What is a Pennsylvania Self-Uniting marriage license?

adult beverage black coffee breakfast
Photo by Burst on

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is legal for couples to unite themselves in marriage, in front of witnesses, without an officiant needing to sign the marriage license.  Blasphemous?  Exactly the opposite.  Self-uniting marriages have been an accepted means of getting married for Quakers in Pennsylvania since 1682. Quakers believe that marriage should be between the couple and God, without needing an intermediary.   So, what is the difference between a self-uniting marriage license and a regular marriage license?

When you go to the marriage bureau to get a license, tell them that you want a Self-Uniting license.  These licenses sometimes cost a little more than the type that requires an officiant.

A Self-Uniting License requires both members of the couple plus two witnesses to sign the license on the day of your wedding.

Some couples self-unite by creating and conducting their own ceremonies.  Other couples ask a friend or relative to create and conduct the ceremony as the couple self-unites.  (A caution: Not all friends or family members are good at conducting ceremonies.)

If you do want to self-unite, consider asking Celebrant Robin to create your ceremony or guide you through the writing. Then, you can use that ceremony as you unite each other wherever and whenever you choose.

Posted in Guides for Brides and Grooms

Should we hire a musician?

arc art bass bowed string instrument
Photo by Pixabay on

Hiring a musician takes your wedding – any event really – from good to great.

Here’s an intimate guide – only 99¢! – on Kindle that answers 10 questions about hiring a musician for ceremony music.  It’s written by an actual musician – a harpist!

From Here Comes the Bride to There Goes the Groom

by Diane Michaels


Questions answered include:

  • Why have music?
  • What instruments should we choose?
  • When should music play?
  • How much will this cost?


What do you want the soundtrack for your wedding ceremony to be?



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