Sex & Relationships

“I’m Not Looking for The One; I Am The One:” What It's Really Like to Marry Yourself

Women who took the plunge without a partner explain why it's a radical act

A bride topper on top of a wedding cake

(Photo: Getty)

When Adriana Lima married herself back in 2017, the collective internet rolled its eyes. But Alexandra Gill totally got it. Maybe that’s because Gill has been happily married to herself for the better part of 12 years—and she wouldn’t want it any other way.

Gill took the plunge without a partner on a whim. As she remembers it, one of her close friends loved to host elaborate parties that were mostly excuses just to get dolled up. The Vancouver-based food critic recalls one year when her friend, a corset maker with a closet of vintage wedding dresses, decided to up the ante and suggested they all wear one for a photo shoot in a local park. “Then someone else said, well, we’re all single so why don’t we just marry ourselves? It happened very organically,” says Gill.

And so eight female friends—who ranged in age from 25 to 50—decided to marry themselves in the park. The brides had their hair done, brought flowers and ordered a big cake. There were no wedding rings nor an officiant, but one friend, Tallulah (who goes by a single name), acted as the self-appointed Mistress of Ceremonies, calling up each bride one by one to recite her vows as her friends sat around her on the grass.

At first, Gill didn’t think she’d be married to herself forever. “Initially, I thought of it as making a commitment to yourself before you make a commitment to someone else,” she says. But over time, she came to see that particular commitment as the primary relationship in her life. “You’re the one constant,” she says. “Your parents will die, your children will grow up and your friends will move, but you’re always there. My commitment to myself simply means that I’m not waiting for someone else to fulfill me and there’s no other half I need to get on with my life.”

“I’m not looking for The One; I am The One.”

(Alexandra Gill, far left, and other brides in vintage wedding gowns from the self-marriage ceremony led by Tallulah. Photo: Courtesy of Tallulah)

“I’m not looking for The One; I am The One’”

It’s that mantra that led Gill to host a recommitment ceremony to herself in 2016 (her seven besties followed suit; none had married other people at this point) and then to launch Marry Yourself Vancouver, a self-wedding planning business, that same year with Tallulah. Marry Yourself Vancouver functions exactly like wedding planning for couples, assisting with everything from writing vows to booking a venue. The main difference? It deals strictly in solo weddings. “By marrying themselves, women can celebrate their independence and personal growth while making a sacred commitment to whatever responsibilities and promises nourish their uniquely singular lives,” says best friend-turned-business partner Tallulah.

Gill admits the business has been a tough sell. They’ve offered casual advice to a few women and were working on organizing a big wedding for one bride, but she got sick and ultimately was forced to call off the ceremony. “There is not—yet—enough demand from women who want to throw a big, splashy wedding for themselves,” says Gill.

The fairytale without the prince

Despite the tepid response to Marry Yourself Vancouver’s wedding planning business, self-marriage does appear to be gaining traction. When 36-year-old Lima announced on Instagram that she had married herself, she shared the image of herself wearing a diamond band with an all-caps message of self-empowerment: “What’s up with the ring? It’s symbolic, I am committed to myself and my own happiness. I am married with me.”

Four months later, another woman made international news when she became the first in Italy to marry herself. The ceremony and reception were described as lavish, with 70 guests, a tiered cake and bridesmaids. While the wedding is not legally binding—a marriage is still a contract between two parties—the bride was no less committed, telling the BBC: “I firmly believe that each of us must first of all love ourselves. You can have a fairytale even without the prince.”

Dominique Youkhehpaz, a woman in Northern California who describes herself as an “self-marriage minister” and counsellor (she has a B.A. from Stanford), started self-marrying people at Burning Man in 2011, and has since expanded her business to help women plan their own wedding ceremonies (including a 10-week preparatory course starting at $200 USD). Former journalist turned reality TV star Julia Allison (of Bravo’s short-lived Miss Advised) married herself at Burning Man a few years ago, reportedly guided by a “wedding doula.” She had sent out invitations with the following inspirational saying: “The journey of falling in love with ourselves is the most fundamental journey we take in our lifetimes.”

In most of these instances, the women were in their mid-30s or early 40s when they said a solo “I do.” For many millennials however, self-marriage can seem a bit passé, perhaps because they have a weakened commitment to marriage in general, delaying or ditching it altogether. (According to a recent Gallop poll, 59 percent of American millennials are single and have never been married.)

Brides being pulled in a carriage

(The brides from the 2006 Vancouver self-marriage ceremony arriving at their recommitment ceremony in 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Tallulah)

Does the trend have staying power—in sickness and in health?

Still for some millennials, like Angela Livingstone, a law student in Ottawa, the idea of “self-commitment” has an appeal. “I view the commitment to one’s self as a commitment to listening to your own mind, your own needs,” says Livingstone. “Being kind to yourself is hard. Narrowing in on what you genuinely want out of life, and then having the strength to follow that path is hard. So while it may seem sort of ridiculous to express a commitment to one’s self, I support anyone who believes that this expression will help them to be happy and comfortable with themselves.”

But she’s conflicted about this particular trend, particularly buying into the pricey display. “The consumerist element troubles me,” she says. “On the one hand, it seems like this is simply another example of people convincing themselves, and others, that they need to buy invitations, buy dresses, buy decorations, and so on. [But] on the other hand, I think most people need to involve others when they are making a big life change.”

With an actual marriage, the focus is on two people coming together to form a union in sickness and in health. But solo ceremonies are all about prioritizing the self and finding strength in being your own person. It’s this self-empowerment message—the concept that no woman requires a partner for completion—that’s been eagerly commodified.

Consider I Married Me, a set of online merchandise designed for the solo bride or groom developed by California-based husband and wife, Bonnie Powers and Jeffrey Levin, who have administered a number of self-weddings—including their own. I Married Me’s self-wedding in-a-box kit, ranging in price from $50 USD to $230 USD, includes a ring (available in sterling silver or rose, white or yellow gold), ceremony instructions, vows and 24 affirmation cards with sayings like, “I believe in me.”

According to I Married Me’s creators, as stated on their website, the self-marriage kit can serve as “a roadmap to more positive experiences” with yourself. The site also quotes Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh: “Everyone knows that peace has to begin with oneself, but not many people know how to do it.”

The significance behind certain wedding symbols 

While it’s easy to scoff at DIY self-wedding kits, there is a natural gravitation toward symbolism—such as the rings couples commonly exchange when they get married. Before meeting her boyfriend, Isabel Slone, a 28-year-old journalist in Toronto, went through a phase where she was obsessed with buying vintage gold jewelry on Etsy. “I knew no paramour of mine would be buying gold jewellery for me any time soon, so I just decided to buy it for myself,” she says, perceiving it as a form of self-marriage. “The act of purchasing [gold and diamond jewelry] for myself on a timeline that’s completely unrelated to marriage was important to me in a way I’m not even sure I can wholly articulate. I guess it was taking a dominant approach and fulfilling my own needs by myself.”

(Alexandra Gill, centre, around brides who took part in a self-marriage ceremony. Photo: Courtesy of Tallulah)

While there’s still disagreement about the commodification of self-marriage or whether it’s really a growing trend, there’s one aspect of solo weddings we can’t ignore. At its roots, self-marriage is still a form of self-empowerment, a radical exhibition of self-acceptance wrapped up in an important ritual. It’s a validation of life as a single person, a ceremony that declares a sense of completeness rather than a holding pattern awaiting a second half. And while self-marriage isn’t the exclusive domain of women—many solo wedding officiants do not specify gendered services—it has become associated with a specific type of female rebellion.

“It makes sense that people are hungering for a different type of ritual,” says Sasha Cagen, the California-based self-married author of Quirkyalone, a manifesto of sorts for people who prefer being single. “I think a lot of women contort themselves to prioritize romantic relationships and their own sense of self gets lost. [Self marriage] is about saying that who I am and what I need is important.”

Gill echoes this sentiment. She believes that using marriage as a touchstone—as opposed to inventing a wholly new ritual—makes clear the significance of the event. “The ritual itself is important, and there aren’t a lot of rituals left in life,” says Gill. “We’re reclaiming it.”

Happily married to herself for over a decade now, Tallulah has her eye fixed on cementing her commitment with a Cartier Trinity ring, which retails for more than $1,000. “I think it would serve as a talisman, a reminder that I can rely on myself and that things will be okay,” she says. “We’re trying to rewrite the fairytale, the fallacy that there’s only one way to do things.”

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