Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Price of Marriage

Long post ahead for everyone bored at work....

They say marriage isn't simple. It may be simple for guys, but us women over here go through a lot to change our names! I had a slight idea of what was needed. A marriage license? Is that the same as a certificate? Social Security, DMV....

(disclaimer: each state has different processes for marriage licenses, certificates, name changes, etc. this is just what I went through)

To begin with, you need to obtain a marriage license. This is your "permit" to get married. The law in most states is that you need to apply for a marriage license EITHER in the town that your wedding takes place, OR in the town of the Bride's residence. You both need to be present, and you need to bring your passport.

Well, I had moved back home until the wedding, and my husband wouldn't be in town on any days that we could go to City Hall (coming in town for a Shabbos didn't leave any work days), and our wedding was in a location we wouldn't be at until the wedding.

We weren't so sure how this worked, but on one trip to [current town of residence] we almost headed downtown to 'get married' - which doesn't work how we thought it did. We thought we could just get married that day. But we ended up skipping it because then we weren't sure what would happen with our taxes, health insurance, etc. until the wedding.

So of course, we waited until we were married nearly 3 months.

You can't just go downtown and get a paper signed that says you're married (well, if you have an appt with a judge, etc etc you can). First you go down to city hall and fill out paperwork -which includes your parent's SSNs and place of birth. You learn some interesting things filling out these forms, for example, my fathers in law's country of birth doesn't even exist anymore. It split into two countries. But which current country was the actual location??

[The Dept of Vital Records is only open until 3:40 M-F, I work until 2 and don't back it back to town until 3:40, and my husband has yeshiva at 3, so it took some time to get down there. Plus parking is impossible, but we found a lot and parked there ($7). ]

Once you fill out that paperwork, you hand it to the lady behind the counter in the ancient building, along with a drivers license, a passport, and a check or money order ($40). She then uses a typewriter and prints up a form with three signature locations.

1) Officiant or Clergy member - is it a civil or religious ceremony? (sig, name, address)

2) Witness 1 (sig, name)

3) Witness 2 (sig, name)

After you get this license, it is valid for 3 months, and you can use it at your religious or civil ceremony (even if you go down/up to Atlantic City you need a license).

So we head down to yeshiva after Maariv and ask the Rosh if he can sign the paper. I wait in the car just in case I'm needed. I am. So I head into the building, and we grab two yeshiva guys from the hallway. The Rosh tells us that the State doesn't recognize our chassunah as a valid ceremony since we didn't have our license yet (yeh, we understood that) So, he preforms another wedding, with the two bochurim acting as witnesses and aidim (which i know are the same thing, but technically here they weren't). I even got a new ring out of the deal. I also got married in a slinky skirt and a snood. Then the Rosh and two guys sign the license (in black pen only), and we stick it in an envelope and send it back to City Hall.

But then you need to go downtown to pick up the Marriage Certificate, so you need to give things a few days because you had originally mailed it back, then i'm sure there's processing time involved.... Meanwhile, we weren't sure if we were legally "married' yet or not without the certificate. But again, Dept of Vital Records is only open until 3:40... Plus, the SSA office is a few blocks away, (open til 4), and I wanted to get both things done at the same time. Parking downtown is a big pain, most spots near the buildings are 15 min parking, or Permit Only (government ppl) and the meter maids stalk the meters. Many cars have orange tickets on their windows...

So I decided to drop my husband off at Yeshiva on Tuesday so I could run downtown and take care of everything. Of course we got a late start, and I left yeshiva around 3:15, but decided to go for it anyway. That morning at work, i printed out all of the forms I would need (available online) and filled them out a head of time.

I drove downtown, tried 2 diff parking spots with unclear "parking/no parking" signs, and finally got a 30 min spot right across from City Hall at 3:20 ($0.50). I ran inside (literally), and filled out the request form. Luckily there was no line, so i went up to the counter with my passport and license and another check. Each marriage certificate costs $20, but if you take more than one at a time, its $20 for the first, and $15 each additional. I took two copies, so that I would have one to send off to the Passport people. ($35).

Then I walked across the street to where I thought I saw the SSA building on a previous trip. I was wrong, so I quickly walked back to the car. I found the correct building (further than I thought) and actually found parking close by! ($0.50). (3:45 p.m.)

The building was a Federal bldg, so when I entered I had to go through security, I felt like I was back in Israel. I took the elevator up to SSA and walked into a huge room with about 2 other people waiting and a few "tellers" open. I took a number and was called right away. I walked up to the counter and handed her my marriage certificate, completed name change form, license, and passport. I learned the lingo by this point, I was applying for a "name change due to marriage". I also asked how the name change worked, could I keep my maiden name intial as a middle name? No problem! Within minutes, she had printed out my receipt and told me I would receive my new card within a few weeks. (FREE) I asked if I had to wait for the new SS card and bring it to the DMV but she said as long as it was after 24 hours, I didn't need it.

I was out of there by 4:00. While I waited in the car to pick up my husband from Yeshiva I called all of my credit card, insurance, etc companies to notify them of my name change, and request any necessary paperwork that needed to be completed.

Now I needed to change my drivers license and passport. The DMV here is open until 3:30.

Thursday I was off work because of July 4th weekend (and we don't work Fridays in the summer), so I decided to take care of everything then, since it was all closed on Friday due to the holiday. I had to be somewhere by 3:15, so I decided to leave my house no later than 11. That left an hour for passport pics, an hour at the dmv, and an hour to get to the post office and send in the application (that's how my mind works, i think too much ahead, and my day is split up into hours instead of 15 min increments or anything else).

I got to CVS just before 11 to take new passport pictures, which of course the passport agency had issues with because they were partially yellow in the background. ($9)

Then I went to the DMV. Which wasn't listed in my GPS, so I called a friend of my husband who had a local license to find out where it was.

Where I'm from, our DMV was a pretty small room... A "long" was was 30 min, and there were 2 lines - license new/renewals, and plates/registrations. The MAIN DMV office that you take your exam and road test at was a bigger building, not HUGE but still big, the main office, etc. with maybe 5 orderly lines and a room in back for exam takers.

This place was GIGANTIC!!!!!!!!!! they had a million different counters for different actions. Plates, Licenses, Exams, CDLs, Camera, Handicap Permits, and I can't even remember what else.

You walk in and "check in" at the information desk (and it's not obvious that you need to check in). The Info Guy hands you a ticket with your number.

So I go to check in and the guy asked what I was there for. Very officially I answered, "Out of state transfer with a name change due to marriage". I present my certificate, license, etc. and he asks if SSA gave me a print out with my new name and #?

I replied that no, that did not, I only received a receipt (without name and # on it) and they told me as long as it was after 24 hours I was fine to go to the DMV.

But this wasn't "fine" to DMV Info Guy, so he sent me (on foot, specifically) about 8-10 blocks away to the closest SSA office, where i took #66 (they were on 58 i think) and waited on the chairs next to a bunch of legal or illegal immigrants without their proper paperwork.

Finally I got my little paper - which wasn't even a print out - it was hand written!!! -- And walked back to the DMV. I checked in with Mr Info Guy again, and he handed me my ticket with my # on it.

Here, the tickets worked differently. You were assigned a letter as well as number.

A B C D E or F followed by ###. Then you sit (or stand, as there was no room) and wait.

Apparently F stood for one thing, A's were written exams, C's might have been CDLs, etc. B was license renewals (including "out of state transfers with name changes due to marriage").

I was B179. But they don't call B100 then B101, then B102... instead D and B (maybe other letters too) shared a few counters. So they would call out C242, D453, B165, F243, D454 .... you have no way of knowing how long its gonna take! For an hour no B's were called, and the last B was B155 or something.

I was there for 2 hours.

I finally get called after some D's and F's and it went quickly from there. I handed in my old license, marriage cert, SSA 'print' out, proof of current address, and check ($31.50). Then he directed me over to the camera lady, where I wanted briefly until she called my name.

Unfortunately, i didn't get to keep my old license :( sniffle. They gave me a temporary license, a computer printout with a pic.

Of course, instead of expiring in 5 years or whatever the usual expiration date is on a 21+ license, it expires same time as my old license since that one hadn't expired yet - 9/5/2009 - that means in a year i have to deal with going back to the DMV and renewing! I hope its a different city at least!!

I left at 1:30 and drove to the post office to deal with my passport.

I had already filled out paperwork and printed it out, but I wasn't sure about attaching the pictures and if I should send it express mail since the next day was a legal holiday anyway, but on the application for expedited service it instructs the applicant to send it express, to a 2nd address for expedited service.

Regular applications/renewal have an expected 6 week wait period, but there has been a backup with all of the new travel laws and we were considering a summer trip to Canada so I wanted to use the expedited service, which was an expected 3 week wait. ($149.85)

After waiting at an empty counter forever the lady shows up and criticizes CVSs bad photography skills (or lack there-of) but says we will try it and see if they accept the pictures. She stuck the pictures in a little jacket made for passport applications (and not included online!) and said to mail it Priority ($4.80) instead of Express, since they wouldn't work on it until Monday anyway, and address the application to the main address since it wasn't being sent by Express mail, but to purchase delivery confirmation since it contained my passport, etc. ($0.75)

Then she sealed the application, pictures, old passport, check, and marriage certificate in a Priority Mail envelope, and stamped it.

When it came time to pay, i used a credit card. She looked at the back of my card and asked to see my ID "since the signature is worn off."

I said "uhhh, well... i have this temporary ID from the DMV, but it has the NEW last name, and my only other piece of ID with my old last name is my passport which you just sealed in that Priority Mail envelope... "

She laughed, and let it slide (especially since she just saw my passport), but it was pretty ironic...

Wednesday I received an express mail envelope and got worried that my passport was returned to me because of the pictures, or it was sent to the wrong address, or I didn't really exist....

But inside was my brand new passport!!!! They had Mon/Tues to work on it, and it had to have been mailed (express obviously) by Tues to arrive on Wednesday! I guess the $150 was worth it.

About $300 later, I'm officially a married woman with a new last name.

I have no idea how everyone does this - especially those that get married and move to Israel right away.

(for Serandez:)

Hours Spent: 40*
Money Spent: $300
Being Married: Priceless.

*i dont know if it was 40 - serandez made that up.


  1. A Rav performed at your wedding without you already having a marriage license?

    My understanding was that is a rarity these days, seems I am misinformed.

    --are we strictly using the married last name or a hyphenated combination???

  2. My fiancee (we got engaged on shabbes) has a hyphenated last name, and there is no way that I'm taking it. He might take mine, which is an ADDITIONAL crazy amount of paperwork, as some states don't have a place for a man to change his name.

  3. Not a rarity at all, I know lots of people who didn't get civilly married until months (or years) after their actual wedding.

  4. Add to that the cost of marrying a Canadian, and I was cheap and did all the paperwork myself. I believe it was all about $1500 in fees. Marriage is expensive. Immigration is even more so.

  5. First of all, i can't believe anyone read all of that!
    I only posted because Ezzie said to!

    G -
    Yeh, my husbands rosh came in from Israel and was mesader kiddushin....

    But i have also heard that certain rabbis won't preform one without a license.

    the two last names together? Hashem yishmor! We're not talking "Klein-Stern" here!

    (although where I work it's very common for wives to keep their own names, except one couple where they BOTH took each others last names - and we're talking Rosenfield-Katzenstein types of names.)

    I did keep one letter for my middle 'name' though. (that's another, much shorter, story)

    Annie - it's called the SSA...

    Apple - for sure the longer you wait the more the rates increase, like postage! It was a whole cent cheaper when we got married uncivilly. But since we waited so long... ;)

    Moshe - yep, know what your future wife must endure!!

    COJ - Seriously! A cousin of ours had some bad luck with the paperwork and his wife got stuck in canada from Pesach until last week!

  6. It can get worse Stam. I went through the rigamarole you went through to get all the name changes done. But I missed one. I had attended college and grad school under my maiden name. Dozens of years later when I needed a copy of my undergraduate transcript they wouldn't give me one because my name didn't match the record I was trying to get sent. And no, the social security # wasn't on the first record, just a student ID #. And at that point I had no proof to show who I was many years ago. I finally took my mom and my citizenship papers and went to the school personally. They made my mom sign an affidavit that she was my mother and was vouching for my being her daughter. They charged me for that affidavit and then charged $25 for the transcript, and it took weeks. Isn't beaurocracy wonderful?

  7. profk- yeh i still haven't completed the paperwork for my prestigious thomas edison degree.... sigh.

  8. i remember going through all the name change stuff...the summer that i got married i left the house at 9am armed with my marriage certificate and went all over the city changing my name on various documents. for my passport, however, i filled out a form and sent in my passport, and had my name changed on the ammendments page. i was kinda annoyed cuz i had new pictures taken and everything and when i called up the passport agency, they told me i couldn't get a brand new passport because it didn't expire for about 5 years. anyhow, i feel your pain, but be happy that you got it over with!

  9. Ha, I had to walk up hill, in the snow, both ways, to the drivers license office...

    Seriously though, being in Israel is seems just about anything you want to do, like getting a drivers license, takes that much effort!

    The American process is downright efficient in comparison. Really. Seriously.

  10. rivky - thats so interesting, i dunno how long ago that was, but theyre really strict now with all the new travel laws. I think it might also be because they issue newer electronic passports.... ? (they're really pretty!)

    akiva - it's not that i don't understand the system, it's that it's a lot of work/time/energy/money.

  11. And the new passports have MICROCHIPS!

  12. and u have to flip a page to get to the holder's information/picture instead of just looking inside the cover.

    but every page has a pretty background and historical quotes about the country.

  13. Thanks for sharing the story. :)

  14. I got the marriage license prior to my wedding. We forgot to get it signed at the wedding, so we went to a Rav who attended the next day and he signed it. The process was painless. I work in SSA, so I just brought some documents to work and gave it to the right people and they did all the work for me. The only "headache" was my driver's license. I tried to do a change of residence (from out of state) and name change at the same time. They told me I had to fill out 2 forms and file them the same time instead. They took my passport and just stamped the name change in the back of the passport and mailed it back a couple weeks later.

  15. Little - Yeh, teh DMV - out of state transfer with a name change due to marriage, same thing. but they just had one form for me there.