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What's in a name? A lot, actually. We are identified from birth by a name on our birth certificate that gets tied to our Social Security number, which eventually appears on our driver's license or state ID or passport, which links to our jobs, loans, education, banks and much, much more. So if you've just gotten married and are looking to take your spouse's name, you've just gone through a divorce, you're transitioning to a new gender, or you just want a new name for an undisclosed reason, there are multiple steps for making the "new you" a legal thing.

So...where do you start? Don't worry, we've got you covered! We won't sugarcoat it, though—changing your name can be a complicated and exhausting process and sometimes you may need to find a lawyer to help you with some legal matters.. Our suggestion: It might be a good idea to take a day or two off work to get everything figured out after you complete steps one and two. Ready to change your name? 

1. Get Your New Name Legally Approved

18073 justmarriedIf you've gotten married, the first legal document you need is a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Many county clerks will either automatically send you a copy after your wedding or ask you when you're applying for your license if you'd like to purchase a copy of the certificate. Get a couple certified copies of this—many places will probably only need a photocopy, but some might require the certified copy, so it's best to have a few on hand.

If you've getting divorced, you can usually ask the judge during the divorce proceedings to take care of that by making sure your maiden name appears on your divorce decree. For any other types of name changes, you'll need to fill out a Petition for Name Change and go before a judge to get a court-granted petition.

2. Head To The Social Security Administration

Your Social Security card is basically your link to obtaining your other legal documents. You can fill out an application on the Social Security Administration's website and take or mail your application to your local Social Security office. 

3. Take A Trip To The DMV

18073 DMVWe know, it's everyone's least favorite place. But you'll have to visit the DMV to get a new license or state ID. Check your state's DMV website for specific paperwork needed, but you'll probably need your old license, your marriage certificate, your new Social Security card, proof of insurance and possibly proof of residence (especially if you're changing your address as well).

4. Focus On Your Money

The next place to go with your name change is your bank and your employer. Likely your employer is already aware of your impending name change and will tell you what documents they will need and what forms you will have to fill out, but chances are they will need a copy of your legal document from step one and your driver's license. The same goes for your bank. Don't forget to get new checks and new debit/credit cards with your new name. Divorce might make the bank step a little trickier, so check with your lawyer before you do anything involving money.

5. Contact...Well, Everyone Else

Now comes the fun part—contacting anyone or any office you deal with that has your old name! Don't start on this step until you've gotten the documents from the first four steps. While not an exhaustive list, here's a good place to start:

  • Post office
  • Car registration
  • Insurance companies (health, renter's, home, life, auto)
  • Passport
  • Credit cards not through your bank
  • Utility companies (gas, electric, cable, phone, internet, water)
  • Voter registration
  • Landlord or mortgage company
  • Student loans
  • Doctors' offices
  • Schools and alumni associations
  • Investment accounts and wills
  • Subscriptions (magazines, streaming services, box subscriptions)
  • Social media accounts
  • Family

Whew, you made it! 

If the whole process is simply too overwhelming for you, there are services like I'm a Mrs. Name Change Service and HitchSwitch that will take care of everything for you—for a price, of course.

Changing your name is a huge decision, so don't rush the process. You'll likely run into hiccups along the way (misspellings, lost/forgotten documents, etc.), but just be patient. So what's in a name? As Shakespeare wrote, "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Or in other words: It's just a name. 

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Bridal showers are traditionally a time for the bride-to-be's close friends and family to "shower" her with gifts so that she may start her married life well-prepared with everything she needs for her home. With the rise of websites like Pinterest giving us all party envy, we want to throw the best bridal shower ever, and one theme that we love for that is afternoon tea. Bridal showers tend to occur in the afternoon with light snacks being served, and that's what afternoon tea is all about. Shower your guests with cute favors, food, games and decor that will make you feel like a proper British lady. 

Tasty Finger Food

17784 bridalshower foodObviously, you need a variety of tea to serve (it is a tea party, after all), but what about the food? Stick to the traditional finger sandwiches, scones, and petit fours, but feel free to experiment with miniature versions of the bride's favorite food or go with other decadent desserts like crepes, ice cream or pie. When it comes to the tea, don't just stick with English Breakfastlet guests choose from a selection of tea flavors, and if the party is outside and it's going to be hot, offer flavored iced teas.

Tea Cup Favors 

Let everyone bring the tea party home with these cute teacup candles. Simply melt candle wax, place the wick in the middle of the teacup, pour the wax in, and let it dry. Voila! A cute and functional favor to hand out that is so easy it won't be a Pinterest fail.

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Dapper Decor

17784 bridalshower teapotcenterpieceAfternoon tea is a relaxed but elegant affair, so keep your decor simple and classy. Start the tone of the party off right with pretty invitations in the shape of a teapot or teabag. White linen tablecloths, cute china and fun centerpieces are really all you need at the party itself, but you can add other traditional decorations like streamers and balloons. A great centerpiece idea is to take teapots and fill them with the bride's favorite flowers. The teapots should be fun and eclectic, so check out resale shops for unique designs.

It's All Fun And Games

17784 guessing teabagsHalf the fun of bridal showers is seeing what gifts the bride received; the other half is playing games. There are tons of different games to play, but what we're focused on is the prizes. Make your centerpieces pull double duty and give them away to the winners of the games. Make tea the center of one of your games by filling up a glass pitcher with teabags and letting the guests guess how many teabags there are. Whoever is closest to the actual number without going over wins the glass pitcher. 

 

Would anyone like a spot of tea?

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An Atlanta, Georgia bride couldn't imagine her family wedding photos feeling complete without her eldest son, Lake. Unfortunately, he had passed away six months earlier from leukemia. Luckily Anna Bozman Thompson enlisted the help of her friend, photographer Brandy Angel, to photoshop Lake into her photos when she married longtime boyfriend Travis Thompson. 

17028-atlanta-brides-wedding-photos-remember-late-son-1Photo Credit: Brandy Angel

It was not an easy task, but it was worth it.

“There’s not really a word for this experience,” Angel said. “It makes me feel good to make her feel better, even if it’s in a little way.”

In an interview with ABC News, Thompson said she felt comforted with the feeling that Lake was watching over them, and that “we are still a family of five even though there are only four of us here.”

Photo Credit: Brandy Angel


Expensive-WeddingHow pinning inspiration can hurt your wedding budget.

Social media is great. Who doesn't spend time scanning their Pinterest page or thumbing through their Instagram account to find inspiration for the house, a new workout to try or a fun new meal to whip up? We have neatly compartmentalized our lives and upload what inspires us to be better to any number of social platforms.

About three years ago, when Pinterest was starting to catch on, those in the wedding world started noticing brides were e-mailing a link to their wedding pin boards. What at first seemed like a genius idea, quickly spiraled out of control.

While it provides a clear vision of what the bride wants for the wedding, it also sets up unrealistic expectations. After all, these are images of completed weddings, not a catalog. There are no price tags or costs on the pictures. The problem is, the images rarely feature run of the mill average-budget weddings. 

Are brides setting their wedding expectations so high through these virtual inspiration boards that their vision is practically unattainable? It all puts a lot of pressure on the wedding vendors to maintain the "look" while still trying to keep within the family's budget.

Has Pinterest Compromised Creativity?

We are inundated with inspiration. All of those Instagram feeds with gorgeous table settings and Pinterest boards filled with ideas can literally leave a bride feeling over-inspired. 

Has all of this beauty stifled our ability to create a vision for ourselves? Bridal magazines, wedding blogs and even Pinterest are meant to inspire. But we've become so reliant on instant gratification that it is easier just to recreate, rather than innovate. Florists, photographers, caterers, and event stylists are all artists. You are paying them the big bucks to let their artistry enhance your vision. Don't stifle their creativity by giving them too many photos. Chances are, you will get something better than you imagined if you let the photo be an inspiration instead of a template.

Can You Afford Your Dream Wedding?

Can you afford the inspired-bouquet of peonies mixed with roses, the $10,000 Monique Lhuillier dress, the mile-long banquet table dressed in sequins, each name beautifully handwritten, Chiavari chairs, filet mignon, Dom Perignon champagne, and a to die for signature cocktail? What about the perfect setting with tables out in the open air in the middle of a vineyard? Is it visually stunning? Yes! Have I set myself up for failure? Maybe, a little bit. Is there anything wrong with pinning these images? Absolutely not. Just know that the average budget wedding is usually just that; average. It may not make the rounds on Pinterest, and it may not get picked up by the hottest blog or magazine, but that is just fine. Remember, you are getting married, not getting published.

Social media can be a helpful tool in planning a wedding. Knowledge is key to being a smart consumer. Research design elements that you love and make sure they align with your budget. Challenge yourself to be original. Bring in elements that truly reflect you and your fiancé. People are at the wedding to celebrate you, not your Pinterest board.

 

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In preparation for their big day, most couples fill out countless wedding registries with items which, let's be honest, will end up gathering dust in their cupboards. Leigh McManus and James Clark Jr., who decided to have their wedding ceremony on Sanibel Island, Florida last July, wanted to do something different and give back to the community by asking their guests to commit acts of kindness instead of bringing gifts. 

In an essay penned for the Huffington Post, McManus wrote, "As our wedding approached, we wanted to do something to give back. The world had given us something we both spent a lifetime looking for -- true love. How could we not show our appreciation and gratitude for the happiness we'd found?"

Responses came pouring in, and McManus says she's still floored by the heartwarming stories she's getting even over a year later. Her favorite acts of kindness range from a childhood friend bringing frozen yogurt to the security guard at her London office (photo below) to a bridesmaid getting her whole family involved in donating supplies to a local women's shelter to a friend paying for the dinner of a random couple at a restaurant.

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As for the newlyweds' act of kindness, McManus says that she and Clark Jr. donated their wedding flowers and decor to local hospitals and nursing homes.

McManus concluded, "The best way we could share our love with the world was by spreading it through kindness onto others."

Photo Credit: Miranda Lawson Photography

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