Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

Name change business helps in the happily ever after

Potomac resident makes life easier for brides who take their husband’s names

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Potomac resident Danielle Tate started after running into roadblocks trying to change her name after marrying.
It was 2005 and Danielle Tate was newly married. Life was great, except for one small complication: She still hadn’t officially changed her maiden name to her husband’s name.

Busy with a medical sales career, Tate had put it off after hearing horror stories about the dreaded lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration. Finally, just this year, after several failed attempts, she decided to go through with it.

Turns out, the horror stores were true.

‘‘It took me three trips to the DMV,” said Tate, a Potomac resident.

Frustrated with the excess trips after presenting the wrong forms, the idea for her Web service,, was born. She wanted to create a service similar to the TurboTax tax filing software to ease the name changing process for busy brides. The service automatically fills in the appropriate forms, allowing for a bride to print, sign and send them to the appropriate agencies. All the new bride provides is a copy of a valid marriage certificate and the answers to a few questions, filled out via the Web. The service costs $29.95.

The startup costs for the company were split between Tate, her husband, Culin, and friend Mike Brandicich, a database developer. After three months, the group had recouped their expenses in new business revenue. Tate would not disclose the startup costs or profits to date.

The service is quick and simple, Tate said, even for brides who may have been putting off changing their name for a long time.

‘‘Our record was a bride who changed her name after 28 years of marriage,” Tate said.

Tate got the idea for the service in March, though the site launched in October. She spent the time researching the legal name changing process in each state. Drawing on her experience, she estimates the average amount of time a bridge will spend changing her name is 13 hours.

‘‘It just made everything easier,” said customer Amanda Katz, formerly Amanda McGoldrick, of Elkridge. ‘‘There were things I didn’t even think about that I had to change.”

The service, which recently celebrated its 12,000th customer, is becoming increasingly popular among new brides and people seeking an innovative bridal shower gift.

‘‘My cousin is getting married in March and I’m going to give her a gift card for her shower,” said Kristin Kern, of Reading, Pa., who used the service to drop her maiden name, O’Reilly.

The latest trend in name changing? ‘‘Hyphenating is a dying trend,” Tate said. More women are opting to replace their middle name with their maiden name, she said.

‘‘The important thing is that now, we have a choice,” said Judith Vaughan-Prather, executive director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women.

Vaughan-Prather said she hyphenated her maiden name and her husband’s name because she had established herself as a professional in her field prior to her marriage. However, looking back, she said she’s not sure if she would do it again.

‘‘It made life sort of unnecessarily complicated,” Vaughan-Prather said.

Vaughan-Prather said if she were to offer a professional tip, she would advise women to keep their maiden names.

‘‘You have to decide how important your name is to you,” Vaughan-Prather said. ‘‘And are you willing to take the risk that your name might change again?”

Tate said she’s had an increasing demand from divorcees seeking to return to their maiden name. A similar name changing service for these women may be in the works, she said.