As cultural and traditional norms continue to evolve, the practice of sologamy – or self-marriage – has been growing in popularity. But what is sologamy? In this article, we’ll take a look at what sologamy means, both literally and on a personal level, how to marry yourself, and what it means to be a sologamist in a world where views on marriage are still very traditional.
We also talk to writer and PR consultant, Sophie Tanner, author of Reader, I Married Me, about her experience of marrying herself and her reasons behind the decision.
What is sologamy?
Sologamy is the act of marrying yourself. Reasons for choosing self-marriage might include wanting to affirm your relationship with yourself or to express how being single doesn’t mean being incomplete or lonely. While there is some controversy about self-marriage, sologamy continues to grow in popularity around the world, particularly among women.
Since 2014, a travel agency in Kyoto, Japan, has been offering two-day solo wedding packages for women. Some choose the ceremony to feel like a bride for a day, while others have already been married and are unsatisfied with their wedding experience or their choice of partner. More recently, blogger and influencer Kshama Bindu married herself in India’s first sologamy marriage, stating that she always wanted to be a bride but not a wife.
For many, being single is a positive and not a problem that needs solving. People can feel perfectly happy with themselves and their lives as an individual without the need for another half to make them whole. While there are a lot of pros to the support and companionship of a partner, solo living can offer a lot of freedoms, giving you the opportunity to travel, have new experiences or simply do nothing without having to compromise. Although being in a relationship doesn’t mean that travelling solo is off the table, it’s certainly easier when there’s only one person to consider.
Can you legally marry yourself?
Self-marriages are not legally recognised anywhere in the world, so don’t expect any additional legal rights if you opt to say “I do” to yourself. However, the people who choose sologamy do so as a symbol of commitment to themselves and their personal growth. It’s the act itself that’s important. The fact that the ritual isn’t legally binding doesn’t detract from that.
In conservative parts of the world, and those with a very strong religious presence, there is some controversy around the practice. When Kshama Bindu opted to marry herself at a Hindu temple, it sparked outrage and the threat of protests, so she opted to change the venue to avoid any further trouble.
How to marry yourself
As it’s not a legal ceremony, you can choose to marry yourself however you want. From a private ritual just for you to a full-blown traditional wedding with guests, a cake and a first dance, the options are endless. Unlike a wedding or civil partnership, there’s no need to give notice of your intent to marry, so it can even be a spontaneous decision.
The lack of legal formalities also means that you don’t have to stick to a licensed wedding venue, opening up the choice of locations to just about anywhere. You can marry yourself in a place that holds special meaning to you, whether at home or abroad, without having to head to a registry office afterwards to make things official. And, better still, if your self-marriage doesn’t work out, there’s no need for a divorce.
A proud sologamist’s happily ever after
In 2015, writer and PR consultant Sophie Tanner married herself in a cultural ceremony, taking vows of self-commitment in front of her family and friends. This has since been released in her novel Reader, I Married Me, based loosely on her own experience of sologamy.
We spoke to Sophie about what self-marriage means for her self-worth in an age of choosing yourself.
Tell us a little bit about sologamy
In a nutshell, sologamy is the act of marrying yourself. It’s not legally recognised but you can have a cultural ceremony during which you make vows of commitment to love and respect yourself until death do you part. You can tailor the size and format of the ceremony to suit you. I chose a big public affair, with all the traditional elements of a wedding including a wedding dress, ring, celebrant and first dance. But other people may prefer to perform a small ritual as a private event. Sologamy has happened all over the world, and each individual has their own unique reasons for saying “I do” to themselves.
As I see it, the Western world doesn’t have much spiritualism, which is a shame because ritual is fundamental to human growth, identity and development. Other cultures have coming-of-age ceremonies which act as a gateway to adulthood and independence. In Britain and the States, many people are choosing to marry later in life or not to marry at all, which means they have nothing to mark their personal milestones. A self-wedding offers an opportunity to officially recognise a feeling of personal growth.
Why did you choose to marry yourself?
Well, the idea actually came to me as I was turning 30 and recovering from a bad break-up. It wasn’t the first time I’d been cheated on but this time it sent me into a bit of a downward spiral. When the person you thought knew you inside-out breaks an agreement, you can’t help blaming yourself, right? I kept comparing myself to the new girl and feeling like a massive failure.
Then, one morning, a few months down the line, I woke up and was so relieved to feel my usual sense of optimism returning. The sun was streaming through the window and I looked around my bedroom and realised that I wasn’t the loser. I had a great life – I loved my family, friends, home and, most importantly, myself. I wanted to jump up and celebrate the realisation that I could be blissfully happy without another ‘half’ to complete me. In our culture, people applaud you when you announce you’re ‘in a relationship’ but you don’t get nearly the same reaction when you decide to focus on your relationship with yourself.
In fact, everyone treats you with unspoken sympathy when you’re single: “don’t worry, the right man is just around the corner”. Sod that; I decided it was time to rejoice in my wholeness – and what better way to celebrate self-love than with a wedding?
Is sologamy a feminist statement?
It can be, yes. Women get the brunt of the stigma surrounding being single — bachelors are eligible but spinsters are ‘crazy old cat ladies’. Historically, a marriage’s success depended on the woman’s willingness to subordinate her selfhood for the good of her husband and children. Today, when a woman has a wedding without a husband, it is an empowering response to a society that tells her she needs a man to live happily ever after. She refuses to feel ashamed, rejected or ‘left on the shelf’. She is choosing life – she is choosing herself.
In the same way feminism isn’t just for women, sologamy is, of course, an option for other genders, too. In our society, men are often raised to be less able to openly demonstrate emotion and are often hamstrung by their inability to deal with their situation. There’s a growing need for individual self-care and self-worth across all genders.
Critics say sologamy is narcissistic — is it?
Narcissists don’t love themselves; quite the opposite. In Greek mythology, poor old Narcissus became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool, staring at it until he lost the will to live and died. Narcissism is a fixation with your physical appearance and public perception of you. In psychoanalytic theory, traits of narcissism include insecurity, difficulty with empathy, and inability to sustain satisfying relationships.
In contrast, marrying yourself has nothing to do with vanity or seeking adoration. Sologamy is committing to being responsible for your own happiness and, as a result, becoming more emotionally available to accept and understand others. Developing a sense of self-worth, as opposed to insecurity, allows you greater capacity for human connection.
Through sologamy, I’m saying that self-love is as important as romantic love – but they can both feature in my life. I think it’s an important skill to learn to be happy on your own. Even when you are part of a couple, it’s liberating to seek solitude and enjoy your own company.
When you marry yourself, you’re creating a standard of what a happy relationship is, meaning you don’t settle for scraps. Feeling secure and content should mean that you’re able to recognise what you deserve and are capable of more generous, fulfilling relationships. You can only truly love someone else when you know how to love yourself.
What’s your advice for anyone feeling lonely?
The difference between loneliness and solitude is so interesting. Loneliness is an emotional response to feeling unloved; you can still feel lonely when you’re in a relationship or in a crowded room. I think the best way to deal with loneliness is to recognise it and treat yourself with kindness. Stop the negative self-chat and know that you are not alone, everyone feels unloved at some point in their lives. The more self-compassion you develop, the more empathy you have for others – which is a good start in making human connections.
What does self-love mean to you?
For me, self-love is about more than taking a hot bath with a glass of wine or chocolate. It’s about paying attention to what’s going on in your body and mind. And it’s about acknowledging that there are some things you can change and learn from, and others that are out of your control. I think self-love is also about gratitude and being ‘happily ever now’ – it’s important to want what you have and not always have what you want.
The fact that I’ve had to fight to defend my position as a sologamist has made me even more of an ambassador for self-love, and I’ve met some amazing people on my journey. I will never regret marrying myself. And, in a serendipitous turn of events, I’ve also been able to achieve one of my greatest dreams which is to write a novel. Reader, I Married Me was released in 2019 and is based loosely on my own experiences. It’s been an amazing opportunity to explore the many different layers to self-love.
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Images: courtesy of Sophie Tanner and Unsplash