Just when you thought your To Do list was finished, it turns out that being a freshly minted newlywed comes with its own time-sensitive tasks. Merging two lives together creates a pile of paperwork, and mostly for the bride.
We rounded up a list of the 11 most important tasks to hop on once you’re back from your honeymoon and have opened all your gifts. Naturally, the first is to get started on all those thank you notes.
1. Write ‘thank you’ notes: The sooner you do this, the better. Ideally, you should send each note when the gift arrives, rather than waiting until after the wedding to write them, but it is also acceptable (and understandable) if you wait until right after your honeymoon to get to it. Buy some pretty (or custom!) stamps in bulk and carve out a block of time when you and your hubby are both available (it take two!). No matter how many notes you have to write (10 or 200), try to include a personal sentiment in each one. If you need the notes themselves, check out Crane’s classic stationery selection, or these fun, quirky ones from Minted.
2. Exchange/return gifts: It is likely (and socially acceptable) for you to have to return or exchange some of your wedding gifts. Before you start this process, make sure that all the original gifts are documented, perhaps in an Excel spreadsheet, so you don’t thank guests for the wrong items. You’ll most likely get store credit for the items, but some places, such as Crate & Barrel and Target, will also give you a discount on the remaining items on your registry.
3. Change your name (if you want): Changing your name involves a lot of paperwork and forms, and numerous copies of your marriage certificate. The first step is to get a new social security card (which is surprisingly easy, as there are shorter lines at the social security office than at the DMV) followed by an excruciating trip to the department of motor vehicles to get a new driver’s license (even if you don’t drive, you’ll need a photo ID with your married name on it to complete the next steps of name change process). The next step is to update your personal finances (credit cards and bank accounts), your professional identity (e-mail address, signature) and any other accounts you have under your old name — from direct deposits to student loans to health insurance, and more.
Exhausted yet? Luckily, there are now sites like MissNowMrs.com, which fill out all government forms for you for a flat rate of $29.95. Tip: Get several, certified copies of your marriage certificate in case you have to mail one out, such as to the passport office.
4. Apply for a new passport: The sooner you do this the better, even if you’re not a big international traveler. It’s always smart to have an updated passport because it serves as yet another form of government issued ID. You can never have too many of them, especially if you lose your driver’s license, etc.
5. Get your dress professionally cleaned: Cleaning a wedding dress is definitely not something you should DIY, despite the many websites that will tell you it’s easy. The dress material will be a factor in how much it will cost to clean, with fabrics like silk being more expensive. Call around, but it should run you anywhere between $100 and $500 to get the dress cleaned and preserved. Since stains can settle into fabric, get your dress cleaned within six weeks of your wedding in order to get the best results. The Knot has a great list, state by state, of reputable places that will clean and preserve a dress for you.
6. Re-sell the dress or donate it: Everyone says they want to give the dress to their daughter, but how many people do you know who actually wore their mother’s wedding dress? Who even knows if you’ll have a daughter? If you decide to part with your dress, consider selling it on one of the many trusted re-sale sites, like eBay or PreOwned Wedding Dresses (once it is cleaned). You can also go the altruistic route and donate the dress; check out Donate My Wedding Dress for for places who will take it.
If you’re really attached the dress, you could find a way to tastefully display it in your new home. Just maybe not in your entrance hallway.
7. Work out finances with your husband: Your new marital status means that you need to set up a joint bank account, get life insurance, a will, and other unsexy, but essential parts of getting married. Since the #1 issue couples fight most about is money, it’s important to sit down with a certified financial planner who can set up a financial road map for you so that you can get to your goals. Maybe that’s saving for a down payment for a house, setting up retirement accounts or funds for a new baby.
The financial planner will also make sure that you have adequate life insurance, which as a married couple you do need.
8. Update car insurance: Getting married really does lower your car insurance rates, sometimes by as much as 25%, depending on your driving history. Much like ironing out the health insurance, you have to call your insurance company for details and send in the proof of marriage. You’ve just spent a small fortune on your wedding, so getting a break on car insurance would be a nice bonus. Tip: Do this once your name change is official, because you’ll need that paperwork as well.
9. Change your W2/W4: You need to tell your employer when you get married because you’ll be filing your taxes jointly for the first time (they deduct certain taxes if you’re married or have dependents). Your employer should have the correct the forms to fill out. If you are self-employed, contact your accountant.
10. Talk about what your next big project might be — buying a house, having a baby, etc. Hopefully you and your fiance discussed life plans such as buying real estate and having children before you got married, just to make sure you were on the same page. Now that the behemoth of planning a wedding is over, you could start to plan for other milestones. From a financial perspective, this will come up when you meet with a financial adviser, but there are other factors to have frank discussions about, such as who would stay home with the infant, your views on a day care, etc.
Need more wedding advice? Check out 15 Songs Guaranteed To Get Your Guests On The Dance Floor, Beauty Treatment To Avoid Before Your Wedding and 10 Common Guest-List Questions Answered.