Want to get married but there's no partner in the picture? Turn that frown upside down: You can always marry yourself, which is definitely a Thing. But you should be aware that you're no trailblazer and you're sure as hell not thumbing your nose at the system. You're buying into it.
Houston's Yasmin Eleby gave herself a deadline: find a husband by age 40. That didn't work out, but Yasmin wasn't going to call it quits, not exactly. So in a "fabulous, candlelit ceremony," she recently married herself. In the days since, the story has gone viral—but this self-marriage idea has has been done before, each time garnering significant coverage. It's become a burgeoning cliché for the 30+ and single crowd.
A brief and incomplete history:
2003: Jennifer Hoes married herself in the Netherlands; she was thirty at the time. She said of her decision, "I married myself at the moment I was prepared to embrace my own life and agree on the responsibilities that come with that."
July 2007: Of course Lifetime was on this idea ages ago. As you'll see from the trailer below, the made-for-tv movie I Me Wed is so well-written and features such powerful performances that it's no wonder some women were inspired to follow suit.
(If your appetite has been sufficiently whet, good news: You can watch the entire thing in full here.)
October 2010: Taiwan's Chen Wei-yih decided to marry herself—complete with a wedding planner, white dress, and full-blown banquet hall reception. The 30-year-old explained, "I was just hoping that more people would love themselves." Also:
"Age thirty is a prime period for me. My work and experience are in good shape, but I haven't found a partner, so what can I do?
It's not that I'm anti-marriage. I just hope that I can express a different idea within the bounds of a tradition."
March 2012: Nadien Schweigert of North Dakota married herself in a commitment ceremony at age 36. (She was divorced six years beforehand.) She said, "I feel very empowered, very happy, very joyous ... I want to share that with people, and also the people that were in attendance, it's a form of accountability." She went on Anderson Cooper to further explain:
October 2013: Another 30-year-old woman from Melbourne, identified only as Mary-Anne, threw herself a big fat wedding (she even arrived in a horse and carriage). According to news.com.au, "No details were spared with Mary-Anne sending out wedding invitations which explained that her 'knight in shining armour hadn't arrived' but that she was going to have a wedding anyway."
October 2014: 30-year-old Brit Grace Gelt married herself to celebrate her journey of "personal development." (Maybe relevant: She was inspired by the lyrics to Björk's "Isobel": My name's Isobel, married to myself.)
So, yeah, nothing new here.
There are two ways to look at all of this. The first was best articulated by former Jezebel staffer Anna North in 2010.
[These stories] speak to a desire to celebrate a certain level of self-actualization and maturity. But beyond bar and bat mitzvahs and other religious observances that usually happen at a younger age, one of the only ceremonies we have to mark someone's transition to adulthood is the wedding.
Grace Gelt's take on her decision to self-marry echoes this idea of self-actualization.
"I'd been essentially single for almost six years and built up this brilliant relationship with myself. Nevertheless, I was aware of getting into a rut, where a relationship with someone else seemed like too much hard work. So I really wanted to pay tribute to this adventurous period of self-discovery but, at the same time, look forward to a new phase."
You'd have to be a monster to hate on a woman's pride in achieving clarity, or her desire to celebrate her personal growth. These are important things. Very good things. And there really isn't any ritual occasion for a fully grown woman to celebrate her life, other than her wedding. So yeah, ladies, you go. You are free to do whatever you want.
The other, less-generous take has nothing to do with the celebration of self—it's how these women are going about it. Yes, a woman who decides to marry herself is theoretically making a conscious decision to thwart the rules of a culturally sanctioned, traditional event. She means to define marriage on her own terms and flouts the norms of a lifelong partnership. She is, in a way, telling the system to fuck right off. But here's the problem: Her means to this end, the self-marriage as an act of self-actualization, implicitly supports the very institution she's ostensibly trying to upend.
I don't think this is necessarily a matter of single women desperately needing to indulge wedding fantasies (though there may be a hint of that). But to "consummate" self-acceptance with an act of marriage, complete with a ceremony/wedding, endorses marriage as the ultimate act of adulthood (which, well, it's not). That's not flouting the bullshit pressure to marry; that's buying into the idea.
If you really want to break the rules, why "marry" at all? If you're looking to redefine a celebration of personal and emotional growth—and these women certainly are if they are literally redefining how a person may get married—why do it with a wedding? Fuck the wedding. Throw yourself a fabulous party celebrating yourself; the people who matter will be there for you. But don't call it a wedding, because doing so just gives the concept of weddings even more power. It furthers an inane and expensive obsession, and we really don't need any help with that.
Image via Shutterstock.