Tips for Unconventional Name Changes

Changing your name after marriage is a big decision, but it doesn’t need to be a complex process—even if you’re taking a nontraditional route.

Mandy Shunnarah
Samira and Matt Bartez changed their surnames—Azeez and Bartko, respectively—before their wedding so they and their daughter would legally share a last name without enduring complicated legal processes after she was born.

Brangelina, Bennifer and other celebrity name hybrids have graced the covers of tabloids for years. While these likely started as a joke by friends and fans, everyday couples are getting creative with their own last names by merging them in celebration of their marriage.  

Before Matt Bartko met Samira Azeez, he’d already changed his name once before: from Assung to Bartko, to honor his stepfather, who raised him.  

“I know some guys are really attached to their names, but I never really had that because I adopted it,” Matt says. “When we were talking about it, I asked if she was going to take my name or if she wanted me to take hers. That sparked the conversation of how we don’t have to be married––pun intended––to Bartko.” 

Samira always knew she’d change her name when she got married, partly because of tradition and partly because no one ever seems to spell Azeez correctly.  

“We toyed with the idea of Barteez, but that was really complicated. We considered Azko, but it sounded strange and didn’t roll off the tongue. Then we came to Bartez and stuck with it,” Samira says.  

Tyler Cordell and Alexandra Bassetti found their perfect portmanteau even as both stood by the elements they each wanted most out of a last name.  

Inventing a new last name, Corsetti, allowed Tyler Cordell (left) and Alexandra Bassetti (right) to each preserve the parts of their maiden names they liked the best.

“We were both pretty stubborn,” Allie says. “I didn’t want to lose my last name, Bassetti. I’m an Italian-American woman, and I love having the ‘i’ at the end of my name, so I wasn’t budging on that. Ty loves her last name and loves her initials, TLC, so she didn’t want to lose that. We didn’t want to hyphenate, and we want our kids to have the same last name. … It was a lot.”  

By choosing the name Corsetti, they both got to keep the parts of their names that were important to them. They married on Aug. 7, 2022. (See more from their wedding here.) 

“We both got to pick one thing we didn’t want to budge on, and it sounds really simple, but it worked out,” Tyler says.  

In addition to the way Corsetti rolls off the tongue, the combining of their last names just made sense.  

“It feels like we’re creating a new identity for our new family,” Allie says. “It’s us and it’s a part of our union, and something we’re really proud of.”  

Tiffany and Gabriel agree, though they chose a different method of combining their names after marrying on June 4, 2022.  

“You’re already combining your families, why not combine your names too?” says Tiffany, née Scheer and now Tiffany Scheer-Scherer. Both names are pronounced the same and are homophones with “shear.”  

When she and Gabe (née Scherer) first started dating, Tiffany thought he was joking when he closed out his tab at a bar and gave his last name.  

“I was like, ‘I didn’t give you my credit card. What do you mean Scheer?’ He said, ‘That’s my last name.’ What? We have the same last name?” Tiffany says, laughing as she recalls the story. “We’re definitely not related. We checked.”

Tiffany and Gabriel Scheer-Scherer leaned into their homophonous last names when they decided to hyphenate after marrying.

Going through the formal name-change process for a single letter seemed like a lot of trouble, so the couple came up with a better idea: hyphenate both of their last names.  

“It’s like, it’s just one letter and we’re doing all this work. Should I just keep Scheer? But no, I wanted to change it,” Tiffany says.  

“We thought it’d be unfair if one person has to go through this process, but the other person doesn’t. That’s the way it is traditionally, but we figured this would be a fun way to add to our relationship,” Gabe adds.  

While combining last names can be a rewarding experience, the technical process of changing one’s surname can vary depending on where you live and how quickly documents need to be changed. 

The Bartezes were on a happy deadline.  

“Because we were expecting, we wanted all of our names to be on our baby’s birth certificate as Bartez, even though we were having her before we were legally married,” Matt says.  

Samira and Matt Bartez displayed their new name on their cake topper.

This led the couple to change their last names to Bartez through the adult name-change process rather than presenting the marriage certificate as a means of changing one’s name. That process involves a brief meeting with a judge, who ensures the name-changers aren’t criminals trying to evade the law. Once the court order is in hand, you can change your Social Security card and driver’s license.  

“It’s a fairly simple process to change your name,” Matt says. “The hard part is everything else: Changing your cell phone, your utilities, your bank, all that stuff takes a long time. I think if you’re really on top of it, you can change everything in a couple of months.”  

The Corsettis had a similar experience.  

“They recommended that, because we were creating a name, that one of us should change the name first, then after we got married we could change the other,” Tyler says. “We could’ve easily done two name changes and just be the Corsettis without the marriage license, but a lot of people change their names because of being married, so if you want that then it makes sense that one of you would have the last name already.” 

Tyler and Allie Corsetti displayed their new last name in neon at their reception.

Tyler and Allie were surprised at how fast the process was, noting that the hearings for the marriage license and name change were about 10 minutes in total.  

The Scheer-Scherers are still in the process of legally hyphenating their last names. New procedures due to COVID have added some challenges to the process.  

“You have to send everything in through mail––passport, driver’s license, Social Security card, everything––and it can take months. We’ve got a cruise planned in January where we’re visiting six countries, so we can’t send our passports in yet,” Tiffany says. “Social media is easy, because you can just change your name. At work there was a whole process of requesting to change my name and verifying that Gabe was a real person.” (Tip: If you’re planning international travel immediately after your wedding, book the tickets with your maiden name and wait until after the trip to change your name.) 

Tiffany and Gabriel Scheer-Scherer leaving their reception.

While the process can vary slightly from county to county, changing one’s name always starts with the Social Security Administration, which tries to make the process as seamless as possible.  

“If individuals legally change their name because of marriage, divorce, court order, or any other reason, they must notify us right away to receive a corrected card—and for Social Security to accurately keep track of all earnings for retirement purposes,” says Eric Martinez, deputy regional communications director for the SSA.  

There’s no charge for a new Social Security card due to name change, and the process is the same for all genders. The SSA now has a new, much faster way to start the application process online: Individuals who want to change their name can visit, where they’ll be asked a series of questions to determine whether they can complete the application process entirely online. Alternatively, they may be able to start the application process online, then bring required documents to their local Social Security office to complete the application, usually in less time than it would take to do the entire process in-person.  

For those who need to visit their local SSA office to finish their name changes, Martinez encourages checking the SSA website to determine what types of documents they need to print, and to print and save the number on their online application once the application is complete. From there, they will have 45 days to visit the office to complete the process. Updated cards are mailed seven to 10 business days after the application is complete; from there, updates to driver’s licenses, banking institutions and more can be made.  

Though there are a couple of hoops to jump through, couples find that having a last name they chose together is well worth it.  

“It was our way of embracing both names and being equal,” Tiffany Scheer-Scherer says. Hear, hear!  

A version of this story first appeared in the spring/summer 2023 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in January 2023.