This woman married herself and has never been happier
Sophie Tanner's big day had all the staples of the quintessential wedding; dressed in a gorgeous, flowing, white vintage gown, all eyes were on the then-36-year-old as she walked down the aisle with her teary father as all her family and friends watched. But there was one rather substantial difference: when she got to the end of the aisle, there was no one there to meet her. No one but herself, that is.
Sophie, a writer who lives in Brighton, England, married herself. Having been cheated on numerous times and grown tired of waiting for the man of her dreams to turn up, she decided to put a ring on it in a spiritual ceremony at the Brighton Fringe Festival back in 2015. But, as crazy as it sounds, she's not the only one. A number of people across the world - including Italian woman Laura Mesi and Japanese woman Tomoe Sawano - have tied the knot to themselves, thrusting the concept of sologamy - defined as marriage by a person to oneself - into the public eye.
The main question everyone has when it comes to sologamy is why? According to Sophie, it's all about self-love and celebration - and realising that you don't need a partner to complete you, because you complete yourself just fine. She told VT: "There's so much emphasis on romantic love and finding the one. Everyone praises you when you find the one, but what about finding yourself?"
Sophie, who is celebrating her third wedding anniversary this year, explained how she came to "re-address the rom-com narrative", stating: "I was lying in bed recovering from a really bad break-up and flu and had that horrible feeling of crying every day. Lying in bed, I was thinking 'it'll be so great start feeling happy again and just have myself back' and I felt my normal optimism coming back and started thinking that I actually hadn't lost anything: I'm happy with my life, I'm really grateful for all my friends, I loved my life and myself. I wish there was a way of celebrating it."
When it comes to sologamy, it seems as if there are two run-of-the-mill reactions. First, are the people who completely and utterly get it and are keen to fly the self-love flag. On the other (more cynical) hand, there are those who say "why do you need to marry yourself?"
A certain group of people on the internet have named sologamy as "the saddest trend in modern feminism" where "lonely (but totally empowered) women who can't seem to make it work with a man are now buying themselves wedding rings, white dresses, and renting out a venue for their weddings."
Having been labelled as a narcissist, an attention-seeker, a feminazi, a cat-lady and every other name in the book, Sophie - who releases her second fictional book about sologamy Reader, I Married Me, which is based on her life, in August - has encountered her fair share of trolls over the years. But the writer puts it down to a problem in society, telling her critics "it's not me, it's you".
She said: "I think that there is a very big thing of loving yourself being a dirty word. It's almost like it's vanity. Narcissists don't love themselves, that's the whole point: they're obsessed with their image and they need reassurance constantly and when you're a narcissist you don't have anything for other people because you're so driven by your own ego. Whereas self-love is about developing a sense of self-worth and security and self-love is the foundation for all other types of love. It means you have a lot more security to develop meaningful relationships. For me, it's almost like narcissism is the opposite of self-love."
Rather than being dismissive about sologamy, there are many out there who are simply bewildered by it. After all, we know the rules in two-partner relationships, but what are the rules when you enter a relationship with yourself? Is it cheating on yourself if you have sex with other people? Do you have to divorce yourself to marry someone else? Do you have to buy yourself an anniversary card and romantic dinner-for-one each year?
The truth is, you can have sex with, date or marry anyone you like while married to yourself as sologamy is not a legally binding contract. However, this doesn't stop the people you date from finding it a little strange. Sophie admits she has had a range of reactions - some good, some awful - from the guys she has dated since getting hitched.
"I've had some guys that have been weirdly angry about it," she continued. "I've had some be like 'what are you on about, you can't have your cake and eat it, you can't marry yourself and then expect to date other guys.' Looking back at it, I think some guys take it as an insult because they think you're saying you don't need men, but that's not what it's about...I had one guy who I had a little dalliance with saying 'you're just going to die old and alone.'"
But, regardless of what any potential suitors believe, the need for self-love continues - for both women and men. In spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people marrying themselves are women (most likely due to the cat-lady single girl vs the eligible bachelor stereotype), sologamy continues to be an issue for the 21st century.
Today, the number of singletons in the UK and the US — and many other nations around the world — is unprecedented, with millions fighting a losing battle to find "the one". Not to mention that the amount of people who are miserable with their long-term partner has reportedly doubled in less than five years, with 2016 data from the Office for National Statistics showing that more than a million people across the UK say they are trapped in an unhappy relationship.
Is marrying yourself the answer? Sophie - who is currently offering self-love sessions in Brighton based around themes like body confidence - says there's no one way of empowering yourself, but promising to love yourself for better, for worse, sure helps.
"Life isn't roses and you're never always happy, whether that's in a relationship with someone else or with yourself," she said. "You have ups and downs and I think making those meaningful promises to yourself can be really powerful when you are having wobbles because I do find myself thinking 'in sickness and in health.'"
Sure, you might still think marrying yourself is insane, but Sophie has a point. After all, every rom-com that hits the cinema teaches us to find someone who loves us just the way we are - and sologamy teaches us that we can be that someone.
If you're keen to hear more about sologamy, you can pre-order Sophie Tanner's second book, Reader, I Married Me, on Amazon.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu