Some of you may have noticed that I got married four short months ago by the change in my byline to Katherine Ritz Hahn. That was the easy part. What wasn't so easy was the decision that led me to that name.I've always held many traditional values. So for me, taking my husband's name was never a question. That is, not until a month before my wedding. I hadn't expected the sadness that overcame me when I realized I would be losing the family name that had defined me for more than three decades. I had been a Ritz for thirty-some years; I couldn't just stop being a Ritz!

Hyphenating just wasn't for me-too contemporary. Besides, I liked the idea of sharing the same last name with my new family. As I did research online to find out how to go about changing my name I found an option that intrigued me: changing my middle name to my maiden name and taking my husband's surname as my own.

What I also discovered is that changing my name would be a lot more leg-work than I initially thought. There were at least 27 agencies or businesses I would need to notify of my name change, and I'm sure there are a few I still haven't thought of.

Surprisingly, making the changes wasn't as tough as I thought it would be. I started with printing out the forms from the DMV's website that I would need to change my name on my driver's license. I sent it off with a copy of my marriage certificate and the ball was rolling.

Next was the Social Security card. After hearing nightmare stories from co-workers and friends who had stood in line for hours at a Social Security office, I read the fine print in the form's instructions. Many people don't realize that, if you can live without your ID temporarily, you can mail it to the Social Security office with the form instead of showing up in person during the week inside of regular business hours. What really amazed me is that I got my ID returned to me in just three days, along with a letter stating that I would have my card within two weeks!

Then there was the bank, employers, retirement accounts, voter registration, mortgage, credit cards, utilities, insurances, car loan, the post office, magazine subscriptions, frequent flyer clubs and other memberships and doctor's records. Me consuming. All I needed was a book of stamps and several copies of my marriage certificate. But new brides who haven't gone through this process and is planning to may want to spend a few extra bucks and order a marriage record from the county. It's different than the decorative marriage certificate signed at the wedding and it bears a seal, which some businesses, like banks, might request.

Besides changing my name on paper, I had to relearn how to use my new name introducing myself to people on the phone and leaving voicemail and learn how to sign my new name on everything needing a signature.

So was it worth it? Absolutely. To me, it's part of the bond between a husband and his wife. Besides, I no longer mistakenly get phone calls meant for the guy at my day job with the last name "Ritts!"

Kathie Ritz Hahn is a Berks-Mont Newspapers correspondent. Her column appears monthly.

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