Once the wedding is over, many brides are faced with a huge decision: Should you change your name? And if so, what's the best way to start the process?
This week we're talking to Danielle Tate, the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, MarriageLicenseNow.com, and MarriedNameGame.com, all of which help brides save time, no matter what type of name change they choose. Keep reading to learn more about Danielle, the inspiration behind her businesses, and her advice for brides and grooms!
Can you tell us about yourself and how you came up with the idea for MissNowMrs.com?
I got married in 2005 and took a day off of work – I sold cancer diagnostic equipment to hospitals – taking a day off work never happened, so it was very planned out: I had all my forms, I had a list of everywhere I was going. I went to the DMV and I live in the D.C. area, waited in line for about two hours, but I had my form and when I got up there, they said this is an outdated form. And it was the form on their website, which was very frustrating.
So I got to the back of the line and had obviously plenty of time to complete that as I sat there for another hour or so, and when I got back to the clerk, she told me this is the right form, but you brought your marriage certificate and not your certified marriage certificate, I can't process your name change request.
It took me three trips to get my state driver's license, and I was so frustrated, I burned an entire day of vacation and still hadn't processed any part of my name change. I came home and complained to my husband, "why isn't there some sort of service, like TurboTax for name change, I would do anything to not deal with this," and he looked at me and said "You should do that."
My personal frustrations sparked the idea for an online name change service for brides.
What sorts of things did you have to do before the launch to prepare?
First I wanted to see the population I was working with. In my research, I found that 2.3 million marriages occur in the United States annually, and of those women that get married, 88.6 percent of them change their name in some way, whether it's hyphenation, two last names, maiden to middle, or just taking their spouse's name. So I realized I had a very large segment of the population that was experiencing the same pain point that I had just experienced, so I embarked on calling every DMV in all 50 states to understand their filing process and forms.
I think my whole time ended up being something along the lines of three days total when you added it all up. So as you know, it's one of the best parts of MissNowMrs.com, is having the correct forms, but also getting those instructions that I wrote instead of a bank of lawyers, so it's sign here, date here, here's a bulleted list of what you need to bring, and here's all the prompts to get to a human being if you have a question. I feel like that's one of the strongest features of the service, because yes, you could figure it all out and fill out all the paperwork yourself, but it takes a long time and there are a lot of weird loopholes and things that are easy to miss on your name change if it's not something you do for a living.
You mentioned that when you went through changing your name, you had an outdated form. Is it tough to make sure everything is up to date for all the states all the time?
We have a monitoring software that tells us when any changes are made, and with over 250,000 customers, we hear back immediately if something as small as a fee changes by a couple of cents. So we're very much on the pulse point of any changes and pride ourselves on being up to date.
How has the business grown or changed since 2007?
In 2007, I think our biggest challenge was educating brides that there was a problem and there is an online service. People knew that name change was difficult, but nobody knew that there was something out there to save them 13 hours of hassle, so just getting the branding of MissNowMrs.com out was our initial challenge.
And as technology changes, as brides change, as the industry changes, we've come up with more and more ways to interact with brides, so we launched the Married Name Game – it's an interactive quiz for brides, and the goal of it is to educate them about their name change options. Like I personally would have taken my maiden name as a middle name if I had known that option existed. So we had a patent pending on the algorithm behind the game, and it's basically using the data that we've collected from 250,000 customers to be able to pinpoint the different life factors that influence their name change and their name change choices. It takes into account state law – some states don't allow maiden to middle name change, for example – and it's just to get them talking about it and thinking about name change during the wedding planning process.
So often, it's at the end or just sort of falls off the wedding planning process, but it's important and it's, quite often, one of the first newlywed fights after the honeymoon. If you can avoid that by having a discussion with your partner, then that's something we hope to educate them [about] and help them understand. You've got options, there's definitely the choice of not changing your name. I'm not the person who thinks every woman should change her name, I'm the person who says if you're going to change your name, don't spend 13 hours reinventing the wheel.
Do you have any other advice for brides who are considering changing their names?
I think if you're going to change your name, the sooner you do it, the better. And if you're going to do it, pull the trigger and take care of everything. We've had different phone calls over the years to customer support about "I changed my driver's license but I didn't change my passport, and now my husband booked this trip under my married name, but I fly under my maiden name" – my suggestion is if you're going to change your name, just do it.
We just launched another website/tool for brides in the planning process; it's called Marriage License Now – that was another point in the whole process. Depending on your state, sometimes you're required to write your maiden name on your marriage license, sometimes you're supposed to write your intended married name. And in those states, what you write on that marriage license can be binding. We wanted to create a free tool for brides when you're looking for "How do I file for my marriage license?" it's very confusing, and you're digging through county websites and your death certificate information is right next to your marriage certificate information.
It's just not pleasant, so we created Marriage License Now as a tool that gives you exactly what you need to know in your county very succinctly. And we actually have a message board component, so brides can post, "Hey, I went and I park here," or "I worked with this clerk and they were really helpful," or conversely, "They were very difficult." Just sort of another way to smooth the transition into newlywed life.
I had also read about GetYourNameBack.com – can you tell me a bit about that and why that would be helpful for some people?
After founding MissNowMrs, our support staff fields phone calls, live chats, emails about every sort of name change question, from "I don't know if I should change my name, what do you think my best option is?" to "I'm a dual citizen and need to change this part of my visa," but a question that just kept coming in and coming in was "Can you take me from Mrs back to Miss?"
There was enough interest that I did the research – my poor husband came home and I had "Divorce for Dummies" propped open! – it is a very similar process. It's the same forms, but you use your divorce decree – there's a name change order within your divorce decree that acts the same way a marriage certificate does. It's your legal document that allows your name change.
Other than your businesses and your websites, are you involved in the wedding industry in other ways?
That is primarily my plug-in to the wedding industry. I go to some entrepreneurial events and, of course, run into some entrepreneurs in the wedding community, but that is sort of the extent of my involvement in the wedding industry … I also own a Megaformer Pilates studio and I have a 5-year-old, so I'm a busy lady!
Do you have any advice that you would give planning brides and grooms?
Yes, it was really good advice that was passed down to me, actually. Just remember that your wedding is a day, and your marriage is a lifetime. So while it can be very stressful and exciting and overwhelming to plan a wedding, it's the marriage that's important. So if something goes wrong or your colors are off, it really doesn't affect your marriage. Enjoy your wedding, enjoy your day, but realize it's just one step in your marriage. That little bit of perspective helps a lot, I think.
Be sure to check out the MissNowMrs.com blog, or find MissNowMrs.com gift cards in 4,700 Rite Aid Pharmacies across the country. We'll be back soon with more vendor spotlights, real bride interviews and money-saving tips that will help you plan and keep you sane.