(CNN) — Brittany Rist walked down the aisle in a dress and a white veil to the song, “Girl.”
“Girl, perfectly her, broken and hurt,” crooned artist SMYL in a falsetto. “Shake off the night and don’t hide your face.”
It was Rist’s wedding. But there was no beaming partner waiting at the altar.
Wearing a rose-colored dress, the 34-year-old read her vows alone in front of a mirror in her backyard. She’d accepted her own proposal and given herself a ring. Instead of a spouse, a red velvet cake awaited her, next to a bottle of Champagne.
Rist said “I do” to herself, and committed to loving herself for better or worse.
“I vow to never settle or abandon myself in a romantic partnership ever again,” she told her reflection in the mirror. “I vow to honor my calling and live life as a work of art.”
Rist did not have an officiant or guests at her self-wedding, and toasted herself at a solo reception.
Months before the event, which she calls a “soul commitment ceremony,” she had separated from her son’s father after nine years together. She’d started working on healing her inner self, taken a vow of celibacy and signed up for therapy.
And that afternoon in November 2021, at her home in Ozark, Missouri, she punctuated her self-love journey with a statement of self-appreciation.
“I realized (that) in love and in relationships with other people, I wasn’t fully showing up and loving myself through that process, which made it really difficult to receive love from others,” she says. “We pour all of this time and money and energy into marrying other people, and we don’t ever pour that back into ourselves.”
As part of her self discovery, she decided to commit to herself.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t I just buy myself a ring? Why don’t I just love myself fully during this time, and have a little ceremony?’ It felt empowering to sit in front of the mirror and feel that I love all of me and my scars and all that makes me feel unlovable.”
The practice is called sologamy. Its adherents may be on to something, this expert says
The concept of self-marriage, or sologamy, has been around for years. In a “Sex and the City” episode that aired in August 2003, Carrie Bradshaw seeks revenge on a frenemy by telling her that she’s marrying herself and is registered at luxury shoe store Manolo Blahnik.
No data exists on how many people celebrate sologamy with ceremonies, but the practice has been explored in a handful of recent news articles.
CNN talked to four women who’ve married themselves. They describe the act as a symbolic expression of self-love and an affirmation of a deep, meaningful relationship with one’s self. They also say it has nothing to do with swearing off future partnerships with a spouse, which they say is a popular misconception.
About a year after Rist’s solo ceremony, she tied the knot with her now-husband. She wears her self-marriage ring on her right hand as a reminder of the commitment she made to herself.
Critics have slammed the practice as narcissistic. Sologamy is not legally binding in the US and is not recognized by the laws of any country. But an expert says people who commit to loving themselves after working on inner healing are on to something.
“What stands out for me about this trend is that more and more people are realizing that they need to take responsibility for their own happiness — that they can have a satisfying, meaningful life without being in a partnership,” says John Amodeo, a therapist and author of “Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships.”
Amodeo describes it as a healthy form of narcissism. Without self-love, he says, people depend on others to feel worthy and valuable.
“It is actually a lack of self-love that leads to unhealthy narcissism,” he says. “We are then constantly needing validation from other to fill our inner emptiness.”
She had a big wedding complete with bridesmaids
Body image coach Danni Adams had planned to marry herself several years ago. She wanted a big party, filled with people she loved.
But then the pandemic hit, and she postponed her plans. Instead of a wedding, she turned to a therapist to focus on improving her self-esteem.
“I took a couple of years to really invest in myself, going to therapy, really digging deep into what it means to break generational curses, process trauma,” says Adams, now 30. “Then when I really felt good about myself, I told my therapist, ‘I think I want to get married to myself now.’”
And so she did, before about 40 guests in December at an outdoor venue in Sanford, Florida. Adams walked down the aisle to the song, “Self Love,” by Jayson Lyric, which contains the lines, “I been working on me / I been loving on me / I had to learn to love myself.”
The wedding cost about $4,000 and included nine bridesmaids, Adams says. A friend officiated. Like Rist, she read her vows in front of a full-length mirror.
As Adams walked down the aisle, she thought about what led her to this moment.
“Everything that has happened to me in my past as a child, all the things that have harmed me, I was like, this is a restart at life. I get to own my life, my own joy, my own choices. And that’s what it was about.”
After her self-wedding, Adams treated herself to a honeymoon in Tulum, Mexico. In addition to a ring, she also gave herself a necklace and two bracelets with the words, “beautiful girl, you were meant to change the world and focus on the good.”
Adams says critics have described her choice to marry herself as a cry for help.
“A lot of people have said that I have some type of mental health concerns that need to be addressed,” she says, adding she finds it interesting people “are weaponizing mental health at the time we’re saying everyone needs access to mental health services.”
Adams says if she gets married in the future, she’ll slip the wedding band right next to the one she gave herself.
“Everyone always asks, ‘Will I have to divorce myself to marry a man?’ But the real question is, ‘Why do I need to lose me in order to be married?’”
She married herself at age 77 – decades after her divorce
Dorothy Fideli never remarried after her divorce nearly five decades ago.
But this month, at age 77, she married herself in front of her three children and two dozen people at her retirement community in Goshen, Ohio.
Fideli wore a white gown, a short veil and white sneakers as she pushed her decorated walker down the aisle. Her favorite song, Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” played in the background.
“I felt beautiful, like I had won a lottery or something. I felt like a queen,” she says. “I felt important to myself … like I was somebody. It’s hard to explain the feeling – you have to feel it in your soul.”
Fideli had never worn a bridal dress. Her 1965 wedding to her husband was held at a courthouse and ended in divorce nine years later.
Fideli’s message to younger women struggling with self-esteem issues: It’s never too late to love yourself.
Her daughter, Donna Pennington, recalls the day her mother told her she wanted to marry herself.
“She didn’t have a lot of confidence growing up … But she’s come a long way in the last few years,” Pennington says. “There’s this feeling that came over her, this feeling that told her she’s enough.”
Pennington picked out a Goodwill dress for her mom and came up with a menu that included potato salad, punch and cookies shaped liked wedding bells.
The family worked with Rob Geiger, property manager of the retirement community, to plan and officiate the wedding. Geiger says he was stunned when Fideli, known affectionately there as Dottie, told him she wanted to marry herself.
“My eyes got real big and my mouth dropped open. I was like, ‘What?’ That was until she started explaining the reason why,” Geiger says. “Knowing Dottie and the challenges she had growing up, it’s like she finally discovered how to love herself, which most people do not discover in their lifetime. I took it as an honor.”
She plans to renew her vows to herself in a few years
Ena Jones married herself on her 50th birthday in September 2020. The three dozen guests thought they were attending a milestone birthday party. Then she emerged in a tiara and a knee-length white dress, carrying a bouquet of sunflowers, walking down the aisle on the arm of her husband’s father.
A three-tiered chocolate cake waited at the end of the aisle.
Jones says she’d wanted to marry herself since her husband died of cancer in 2016.
“Is it in the county marriage records that I married myself? No,” she says of her wedding in Kenansville, North Carolina. “But it’s something I felt I needed to do. This is my most important relationship … It symbolizes my love for myself for the rest of my life.”
Jones gave herself a sunflower ring. If she gets remarried, she’ll move it to the right ring finger and wear her new ring on her left hand. Either way, she plans to renew her vows on her 55th birthday.
Amodeo, the marriage and family therapist, says while sologamy can help people with their self-esteem it should not preclude connecting in a deep way with another human being. Self-love, he says, creates a solid foundation for intimate, healthy and more fulfilling relationships with others.
But the search for self-love is a lifelong process that doesn’t end with a self-marriage, he says.
“We don’t have to be perfect at it,” Amodeo says. “If we wait until we fully love ourselves before loving another, we might be in a nursing home before we feel ready for a deep intimate relationship.”
The women who spoke to CNN get that. They say they also recognize why some people don’t understand sologamy.
“I think often we are triggered or confused by things that we don’t fully understand because we haven’t experienced that,” says Rist, who now helps other women plan their self-weddings.
But she and the other women who spoke to CNN say they’re unfazed by criticism.
They say they’re proud of the inner work they’re doing to heal themselves – and they would marry themselves all over again.
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