“I literally had the idea when I was lying in bed recovering from flu and a bad relationship,” 38-year-old Sophie Tanner told The Independent. “Everyone celebrates getting together with someone and becoming married, but there’s no milestone in society that celebrates escaping something awful or returning to your own happiness and contentment.” And so Sophie decided to mark that milestone herself. On May 16, 2015, she went to Brighton’s Unitarian Church in the United Kingdom and got married...to Sophie Tanner. That's right: She married herself.
At the time, her sologamy—the act of marrying oneself—made headlines. But in the years that have passed, we’re seeing it more and more. It’s not commonplace by any means, but it’s certainly less shocking as time goes by. Just last week, Laura Mesi married herself in Italy in a wedding with 70 guests and everything you would expect from a traditional wedding, except a partner.
So where has the trend come from? You probably remember sologamy’s early tongue-in-cheek appearance on Sex and the City. Carrie, sick of buying engagement gifts, wedding gifts, christening gifts, and every other gift under the sun, decides to register for an expensive pair of shoes (Manolos, of course) after announcing her recent marriage—to herself.
It can feel unfair as we shovel over money for friend’s bachelorettes, weddings, babies, and more with nothing coming back our way if we've yet to tie the knot; no celebration, no acknowledgement, no donations toward a European adventure. Instead, society rewards certain, scripted life plans—engagement, marriage, baby—but not others. And sologamy is, in part, a movement against convention. But it’s also more complicated than that. Here’s what you need to know about sologamy, because you may be seeing a lot more of it.
It’s Not (Always) a Replacement for a Partner
While some self-marriage proponents are bound to keep flying solo, many who choose to self-marry by no means plan on being alone. It’s not about replacing or preventing a potential partner. It’s not about being alone—it’s about being enough. “I think it’s hard not to adopt whatever society’s messages are…and I certainly think that one of the messages is, ‘You are not enough if you are not with someone else,’ ” Erika Anderson, a New Yorker who self-married, told The Independent. And that’s a message a lot of women are sick of. Sologamy is about saying, “I am enough.” For some people, a partner is a lovely bonus—but that doesn’t mean that they’re half of a whole. It means they were whole to begin with. “I think women marrying themselves might seem incredibly threatening because it looks like we’re saying men are irrelevant,” Anderson tells Vogue. “But we’re actually just saying that we matter.”
A Change of the Times
Another factor in the rise of sologamy is that we’re starting to realize that traditional marriage doesn’t work for everyone. “We’re all familiar with the fact that 2.4 children don’t always work out,” Tanner explains. “I think mum might quite like me to find a nice man and be happy, but she knows from experience that things don’t always end up like that.” For some people, traditional marriage is great. But it’s harder and harder to peddle it as the solution for everyone when there are such high levels of divorce and marital dissatisfaction. Who’s to say that sologamy wouldn’t be a better option for some people? The great part about being a modern woman and, maybe, a modern bride is that you have choices—and that includes the choice to publicly acknowledge a healthy, satisfied, relationship with yourself.
It’s Not About Narcissism
Finally, the biggest criticism of sologamy is that it’s narcissistic. That it’s a woman standing up and saying, “I want a whole day about me! Nobody in the world is as amazing as I am so I’ll have to marry myself!” This is incorrect on a lot of levels. First, lots of traditional brides want the whole day to be all about them (ahem, most). Second, there’s a huge amount of misogyny loaded into this criticism. Those practicing sologamy are largely women—and women who demonstrate that they are happy on their own are all too often vilified. While men are perceived as happily independent as bachelors, women are seen as spinsters, desperate, or, now, narcissistic for remaining on their own. As a society, we are critical of women who are single. We are wary of women who claim to be happily independent. Sologamy is a way for women to break away from those stigmas.
It’s hard to imagine sologamy taking off and reaching the popularity of traditional marriage, but it does seem to be making headlines more and more. Any woman—or person—who’s seen their friends acknowledged and celebrated over and over for life choices they have no interest in making will understand the desire to mark her happy, whole, existence on her own. For some, sologamy is an important way to mark that occasion. It says that, no matter who you may or may not be with in the future, you know that you’re enough just as you are.